Guest post by Jessica Vitalis
The application for Pitch Wars mentors is opening soon and if you are an agented or published writer, you may be wondering if you should apply. As a six-time mentor who has had the pleasure of helping eight mentees sign with agents (yes, eight—two years I was lucky enough to mentor two writers!), I’m here to share my experience in order to give you a better idea exactly what you’d be getting into.
Obviously, I wouldn’t have mentored six years in a row if I didn’t believe in the Pitch Wars mission––to help writers improve their craft, find a community, and move them closer to their publishing goals. It’s a great deal for mentees, but what do the mentors get out of it?
I’m glad you asked!
First, Pitch Wars is an incredible community of like-minded and very talented writers. Other mentors and mentees have become some of my best friends, treasured critique partners, and even helped further my career. In fact, after I parted ways with my first agent, another mentor passed my manuscript on to her agent––we ended up signing together and a short time later, I landed the two-book publishing deal of my dreams.
Mentoring other writers has also improved my understanding of craft and forces me, every year, to level up my skill set so that I give my mentees the very best I have to offer—this, in turn, improves my own stories. This is true not only of the mentee I select, but also in the selection process itself; in reading dozens (100+) queries each year, I’ve come to understand what makes a query and a pitch work––and what doesn’t. This inside look at how agents and editors might go through their inbox has undoubtedly strengthened my understanding of the market and how to best position myself for success.
I don’t want to get too sappy on you, but there’s also the intrinsic satisfaction of knowing you’ve helped another writer move closer to their publishing dreams. As a writer who worked thirteen years for a book deal, I love knowing that my skills can (hopefully) shorten another writer’s journey.
That’s not to say that mentoring is for everyone: it’s a big commitment. A huge commitment, in fact. Every year, I get between 80 and 120 applications. That’s a pitch, a synopsis, and ten pages to read from every applicant. And then there are the partials and fulls I request in an effort to narrow down my choices. Even if I only received half the applications and/or even if I split some of the reading with a co-mentor, it still adds up to reading what amounts to several full manuscripts in a single month. And that’s only the beginning of the work! After selecting a mentee, you’ll need to write an edit letter (which may mean re-reading the manuscript), guide your mentee through revisions, and the re-read the manuscript at the end of the mentoring period––not to mention help them prepare their submission materials. How much time and effort mentors put into all this can vary—I typically brainstorm extensively with my mentees, help them put together an outline, read each act as they revise, and then line edit at the end.
I share all of this not to scare you away, but so that if and when you apply to mentor, you’ve done it with your eyes wide open––you’ve assessed your current commitments, your level of enthusiasm for helping a fellow writer, and the skill set you bring to the table in terms of craft.
If you’ve read all this and still feel the call to mentor, then I wholeheartedly encourage you to submit an application. And whether you’re selected or not, you can still join the community by signing into the forum available on the website (Pitchwars.org) as well as following the #PitchWars hashtag on Twitter. See you there!
JESSICA VITALIS is a Columbia MBA-wielding writer. As an active member of the kidlit community, she’s also passionate about using her privilege to lift up other voices. In addition to volunteering with We Need Diverse Books and Pitch Wars, she founded Magic in the Middle, a series of free monthly recorded book talks, to help educators introduce young readers to new middle grade stories. Her debut novel, The Wolf’s Curse, comes out with Greenwillow/HarperCollins September 21st with a companion novel releasing in the fall of 2022. Learn more at jessicavitalis.com or connect on Facebook: @jessicavauthor | Twitter: @jessicavitalis Instagram: @jessicavauthor YouTube: Magic in the Middle
Check out Jessica’s upcoming release THE WOLF’S CURSE …
Grim Reaper reimagined in enchanting middle grade fantasy — and includes a surprising choice of narrator
After 13 years writing, debut author Jessica Vitalis lands six-figure, two-book deal
Waterloo, ONTARIO – For thousands of years, legends of the Grim Reaper have terrified children around the world. But what if, instead of an ominous cloaked figure, Death is simply a tired wolf in search of relief?
Landing a six-figure, two-book deal just three weeks after the story went on submission, debut author Jessica Vitalis has penned a gorgeous, voice-driven fantasy for middle grade readers. Addressing significant themes like death and the afterlife while perfectly balancing a macabre and endearing tone, “The Wolf’s Curse,” (Sept. 21, 2021, Greenwillow/ HarperCollins), offers an unflinching depiction of death while serving as a multilayered meditation on grief and loss.
Newbery medalist Erin Entrada Kelly praises the book, saying, “I am obsessed with this story!” And readers will undoubtedly be just as obsessed; fans of Lemony Snicket’s distinctive voice and “The Book Thief’s” melancholic storyteller will soon find a new favorite in Vitalis’ unlikely pick of an omniscient narrator: the Wolf.
Set in a world where stars are believed to be lanterns lit by loved ones when they reach the Sea-in-the-Sky and sail into eternity, 12-year-old Gauge embarks on a quest to avenge his grandpapá after a mythic wolf steals the old man’s soul. But the superstitious villagers believe the boy to be in league with the Great White Wolf and put a bounty on his head. A young feather collector named Roux offers Gauge assistance, but soon, the two orphans are forced to question everything they have ever believed about their town, about the Wolf and about death itself.
Vitalis’ debut novel is a vivid, literary tale focusing on family, friendship, belonging, and grief, wrapped up in the compelling narration of the sly, crafty Wolf. Fans of award-winning titles like “The Girl Who Drank the Moon” and “A Wish in the Dark” are sure to be captivated by “The Wolf’s Curse.”
“The Wolf’s Curse”
Jessica Vitalis | Sept. 21, 2021 | Greenwillow/HarperCollins | Middle Grade Fantasy Hardcover | 9780063067417 | $16.99 | Ebook | $8.99
The Wolf is not bound by the same rules as you are.
The Great White Wolf is very, very old. And she is very, very tired. For hundreds of winters, she has searched for someone to take her place. But she is invisible to most people. In all those years, only three have seen her. One died young. One said no. One is still alive — a 12-year-old boy named Gauge.
Everyone in the village thinks Gauge is a witch. He’s been in hiding half his life, all because he once saw the Wolf — and right after that, the Lord Mayor’s wife died. Now his only protector, his beloved grandpapá, is dead, too.
The Wolf visits the boy again, this time with an offer. She can save him the pain of growing up. Now that he’s all alone in the world, it may be the only way to escape the bounty on his head. If only his grandpapá’s last words hadn’t been, “Stay away from the Wolf.”
Praise for Jessica Vitalis and “The Wolf’s Curse”
“A lyrical tale of loss and survival, tradition and belief, in which tension and secrets build like a towering wave. The Wolf’s Curse is a story of many layers. Young readers will treasure this beautiful debut and hold it close to their hearts.”
— Diane Magras, author of “The Mad Wolf’s Daughter”
“A fable as polished and timeless as a fine wooden toy.
Readers will root for spunky heroes Gauge and Roux while keeping watch for a certain mysterious wolf who’s not what she seems . . .”
— Catherine Gilbert Murdock, author of the Newbery Honor book “The Book of Boy”