Pitch Wars 2017!!!
Dear lovely regular blog readers: this post will be an abstraction from my usual personal musings (and sorry I’ve been MIA this summer! THINGS are happening!) as it’s PITCH WARS time. This year I’m mentoring with the fantastic Rachel Griffin, and this post is dedicated to our wish list (thus the “we”). If you’re a writer with a completed, nearly ready to query manuscript, do check out this fantastic contest!
Welcome to the mighty co-mentoring team of Heather Ezell and Rachel Griffin. We are SO EXCITED that it’s finally the time of year when life takes a full swing into PITCH WARS MANIA.
If you’re looking for relentless enthusiasm, excessive capitalization, and a ton of exclamation points, you’ve come to the right place! Especially if you write young adult because that’s all we’re accepting. 😉
THE WISHLIST OF WONDERS!
What do we want?
- Your gritty, raw contemporary YA. We like it dark, we like it twisty, and we like it real. Life is messy and unpredictable, so show us that in your novel.
- Dark contemporary not your style? No problem, because we have a soft spot for light hearted reads. Make us smile so hard our cheeks hurt!
- We also LOVE to take our contemporary with a side of something extra: magic, the supernatural, the absurd, and more. Send us your speculative fiction, light/contemporary fantasy, and magical realism. We want magic rooted in the world we know, that could potentially pass as our own if we turned our heads upside down and blinked twice.
- We want to SWOON. Send us all your romance, whether it’s the primary thread or a subplot that leaves us weak in the knees. We want it.
- We don’t know a many people that made it through high school without some form of a friendship breakup, and we yearn to see this in YA. If your novel features a crumbling friendship, send it to us!
- ATMOSPHERIC NOVELS YES PLEASE. If your setting is so alive that we can feel and see it, and feel strongly about whether or not we want to visit, we neeeeeeed it.
- You’ll have us staying up into the wee hours of the morning to read your manuscript if it showcases an unreliable and/or unlikeable narrator. A lot of this comes down to voice, so hook us right away and reel us in!
- We ache for subtle lyricism and gorgeous prose that have us reaching for a pen to underline.
- YES to diversity, especially more f/f representation.
- We crave HIGH STAKES that make us desperate to read to the end. Set ‘em up early and keep upping the ante the whole way through.
- Sister stories. We have them. We love them. We want them.
- We want to fall in love with characters who are deeply flawed BUT TRYING. We’ll follow them to the ends of the earth.
- Hi. Hello. We both desperately want a book version of the movie Saved! If you can comp it, we want to see it.
- We love quirky, whimsical novels and voices and want them both in our inbox!
- We’re suckers for natural disasters, survival stories, and apocalyptic settings (not dystopian), especially when disaster drives the plot in unique and vivid ways.
- We want ALL the weird structures! Did you write your novel backward with 27 POVs and some diary entries thrown in there? WE WANT TO SEE IT. (Okay, maybe not 27 POVs, but you get the idea.)
We will not be mentoring:
- Anything that isn’t YA
- SFF/high fantasy. We love it, but we’re not the right mentors for it.
- Historical fiction. Again, adore it, want to read it, but we’re not the right gals.
- Horror. Rachel doesn’t like being scared.
- We love heavy books with lots of layers but aren’t looking for anything that would be categorized as an issue book, or one that specifically features self-harm or suicide.
- Abuse as a central theme: sexual, substance, or abuse toward animals.
A few of our favorite books that reflect what we’re hoping to see in our inbox:
- This Is Not a Test and Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
- A Million Junes by Emily Henry
- Up to this Pointe by Jennifer Longo
- If I Stay by Gayle Forman
- The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee
- One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus
- The Walls Around Us and Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma
- Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano
- Far From You by Tess Sharpe
- I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
- The Weight of Feathers by Anna M. McLemore
- Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
- You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone by Rachel Lynn Solomon 🙂
Still with us? Fantastic!
YOUR POTENTIAL MENTORS!
We’ve both been through Pitch Wars as mentees (Heather was Rachel Lynn Solomon’s alternate in 2014 and Rachel was Heather’s mentee last year!) and made it through to the other side, both with stronger manuscripts, agents, and incredible friends. We’re utterly passionate about this contest, this community, and helping other writers, and we both have backgrounds in teaching. Mentoring is a fabulous way to tap into that love for both of us. We can promise you that when we fall in love with your manuscript, we’ll be your fiercest champions and most loyal fangirls.
We were snooping on the #PitchWars hashtag and saw that some hopefuls want to know what our strengths are, so here you go:
Heather is great with emotional arcs, atmospheric writing, building up your setting so it jumps off the page, and helping writers develop and grasp their voice.
Rachel is great with pacing, getting your hook in deep and early, setting up stakes, and character motivation.
Which is a great segue into our mentoring style.
We’ll both be involved with all elements of the process, from big developmental edits, all the way down to line edits. We’ll push you harder than you thought possible, and we’ll make you work. We won’t sugarcoat anything, just like we won’t hesitate to tell you how much we utterly LOOOOOOOVE something. We’ll cheer you on the entire way, pick you up when you’re down, and give you all the pep talks when you need them. And, come November, you’ll have a stronger manuscript and an incredible sense of accomplishment. We want to make you feel damn proud of the work you did during your two months with us, and we hope you love your manuscript more than you ever have before.
ARE YOU OUR MENTEE?
You’re ready to work. We’re not going to give you a few line edits and send you on your way. Nope. We’re going to pull your manuscript apart and help you stitch it back together. (Rachel started her edits last year by rewriting her entire manuscript in first person present, from its original third person past. And that was just the start. Then we did developmental edits, character arcs, subplots, and line edits!).
We’ve both been on the receiving end of many editorial letters, so we know how painful it can be to approach revisions and all that follows. As your mentors, we promise we’ll be here to support you, send love and make game plans, talk through the roadblocks and more. We will communicate primarily via email and, if you’re into it, text messaging (we’re into it, especially when it’s time to gush, share nerves, and burst into excitement).
You’re open to changes. We’ll never say you have to make a specific change, but we want you to really think through our suggestions and be ready to answer questions.
You believe in yourself and your writing.
You’re motivated and self-disciplined.
You’re awesome and friendly and won’t be weirded out by our constant enthusiasm and mushy tweets about how much we adore you.
STILL WANT TO KNOW MORE?
Considering this is my blog, you can find perhaps too much info on me if you want to, and there is obviously a bio page that gives you the run down of who I am, but hey! Hello.
I grew up in Southern California, visited my beloved Colorado Springs frequently through my teens until I settled there to earn my BA from Colorado College. I more recently spent two years in Interior Alaska for grad school and TAing composition until I jumped south to the PNW to escape Alaska’s sun (I’m not kidding). Teaching freshmen and sophomore composition is the best job I’ve had to date. These days I work primarily in freelance editing and book coaching. I occasionally pinch myself–working with fiction writers is as fabulous and rewarding as teaching disgruntled college students, plus I don’t have to change out of my lounge wear.
My own writing history? I penned my first novel at thirteen, revised for an agent at fifteen, wrote a second book at sixteen, and–though I didn’t sign with an agent until some eight years later–I was constantly learning about the industry and the craft through the thick of it. If you DO go back through my posts here on this wee site, you can read about my various detours of this long haul journey. But, ultimately, I signed with my agent Sarah Davies at Greenhouse Literary, and we sold my debut, NOTHING LEFT TO BURN, to Marissa Grossman at Razorbill-Penguin. It releases on March 13, 2018 (!!!!!!) and I’m still in disbelief.
I currently live in Washington State (only an hour or two south of Rachel depending on whether or not the I-5 behaves and 3 hours from ~Forks, WA~ [hey, guess what, Rachel and I both adore Twilight! the more you know!]). My apartment has a spiral staircase that leads up to a loft with lovely lighting, rain or shine–this is where I do most of my writing, whether at my desk or on the floor. If I cross the street, I can hop into a lush rainforest and, from there, I’m a mere fifteen-minute walk to an often stormy beach. I really, REALLY like that forest. All of this is very critical for you to know: spiral staircase and Twilight and all. I share my home with the love of my life, my family’s black lab, Bellatrix, and a guy named Regan, who is also pretty great. My professional bio states that I practice ballet and this is true in mind but *whispers* my trips to a studio have been on hold for a bit because BALLET IS PRICEY when you’re out of school. Please don’t tell my publisher (Ben or Marissa, hi, if you’re reading this, I should be back at the barre by NLTB’s release date, please don’t change the jacket flap!).
Some trivia: I moved fourteen (sixteen?) times between 2009 – 2016, don’t have a spleen, prefer -30F degrees to 80F, completed my BA in 2 1/2 years, started writing seriously after a fabulous stint of Harry Potter fan-fiction, can’t live in cities because of the stimulation, have an obsession/irrational fear toward natural disasters, and am terrified of the sun (but look photographic proof that I’m challenging myself these days!).
I’m a PNW native and absolutely looooooooove it here. LOVE. I graduated from Seattle University with a bachelor of science in diagnostic ultrasound because seeing inside the body is SUPER cool, but I never could outrun my love for writing. I wrote my first novel in the evenings and weekends while working full-time and juggling being on-call.
After a shoulder injury prohibited me from continuing my career as a sonographer, I became employee number six at a financial technology startup. I managed our customer support, brand personality, content creation, and social media, and eventually moved on to PR and marketing as well. I will always love that #startuplife.
That’s where I met my husband, my biggest support and absolute love of my life. One evening he suggested I quit my job to pursue this writing thing full time, and after a bit of coaxing on his part, I took the plunge and haven’t looked back. That was two years ago, and in that time I wrote my second book, got into Pitch Wars, queried agents, signed with the amazing Melissa Sarver White of Folio Lit, and got halfway through drafting my third novel.
Heather was the very first person to love my book the way I did. She understood what I was trying to do and just got it, and that changed everything for me. Not only did she help make my book SO MUCH STRONGER as my mentor in Pitch Wars, she also became one of my dearest friends and trusted CPs. Still to this day I thank my lucky stars she chose me. Not just because of the writing aspect, but because of how my better my life is with her in it.
I have a schnoodle named Doppler and I absolutely ADORE her. I love hiking, reading, drinking lots of tea and coffee, playing the flute, and playing chess. I looooove eating. Twilight foreverrr. I’m an optimist through and through. I have a twin sister who was my very first soul mate (I’m very lucky to have two!). My husband still gives me butterflies. I’m an INFJ and proud hufflepuff. I’m not a morning person. I love fashion and am a big fan of the King of Pop. I’m a big hugger, and if we ever meet in person, you should be prepared for that. I’m blessed beyond measure and love this beautiful life.