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Writing

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! I’ll be back to my regular rambling programming next month.

 

Our First Meeting!

 

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?

 

We will not be mentoring:

 

A few of our favorite books that reflect what we’re hoping to see in our inbox:

 

Still with us? Fantastic!

 

YOUR POTENTIAL MENTORS!

Twin Peaks!!!

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?

Your co-mentors!
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?

Heather

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 shy but also very loud and giddy once I’m acquainted with new friends and I’d LOVE it if you said hi, either on Twitter, Instagram, or Tumblr.

 

 

 

Rachel

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.

I’m rather friendly and love meeting new people, so come say hi on Twitter and Instagram!

 

 

And, finally, head over to Rachel’s blog to find our word for the scavenger hunt!

 

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An Essay on What I Didn’t Know Was Bipolar II

My first semester of grad school, I took Forms of Creative Nonfiction. Apart from blogging and an accidental memoiristic short story I wrote in undergrad, I had little experience writing creative nonfiction. The class was intensive, invigorating–my favorite part being the weekly creative samples.

In one particular instance, I was told to write a narrative “about a conflict from three different voices.” I can’t recall the specifics. I think one voice was supposed to be my own, close and intimate, revealing. The other empathetic to the others, and the third removed, report-like. I might be remembering this all wrong; it doesn’t matter.

9 degrees. this is what a bipolar brain looks like, or what my bipolar brain looks like from the inside.

I’ve never been good at following rules: I showed up to call with a two part narrative. The first part was from my perspective, my voice, closer to how I journal than anything else. The second part was third person, with the close interior from my  dad’s perspective. A creative essay depicting a conversation in a crowded car about me and mental illness and Snapchat. In class, the professor and a fellow grad student read this essay out loud. I scratched my hands and listened. Outside, it was -40F with an extra windchill. And after class, I walked home, my own words itching.

Farmer's Loop.

A year later, I returned to the essay. A year later, I knew I wasn’t staying in Alaska, wasn’t staying in the program, and I figured I ought to submit something somewhere while I was in grad school for an MFA. And, hey, while I’m at it, why not go for the flipping moon? I’ve always loved The Rumpus. And when I thought of this little sad essay, I thought of the Rumpus. I could only submit it to The Rumpus. It was a long shot, an improbable shot; immature and native. A whatever. My I love you, The Rumpus, read my whiny writing, thanks, please.

So, on a Saturday night after midnight, I submitted the essay to The Rumpus. I woke the following Monday morning with an email from Tracy Strauss. She liked my essay. Would I be interested in doing a revision?

I am always interested in a revision.

We did a week of back and forth of edits, some big, some tiny. Within days, the essay was officially accepted. And now, some two months later, the end result is published at The Rumpus. My first piece of creative nonfiction published. I doubt it’ll be the last.

Please read it here:

Sitting on Something

I’m proud of “Nothing’s Changed” and I’m scared of it and I’m screaming to the skies that it exists and it takes me back to the episodes of Alaska, to what I lost and gained and forgot. I’m medicated now. We’re still figuring it out. I’m safe. I think I’m safe. My psychiatrist in Fairbanks quit on me a week after The Rumpus accepted the essay for publication, which felt funny, felt ironic. But I’m stable, mostly. I have an appointment set for once I arrive in Seattle. Though in some ways, it does feels too late. What could I’ve stopped, calmed, had I not waited until it got so bad that I was scared of my own brain?

Would it be weird if I did a sort of acknowledgements now?

Thank you, Tracy Strauss. For your elegant, keen eye, and for hearing my voice and giving me a platform to tell this story. Thank you, Daryl Farmer, for pushing me to write outside my normal genre, allowing me to bend rules, and reading my work out loud in class–along with Whittier Strong–in such a way that I couldn’t get the words out of my head, in such a way that I was led back to it.

And I’m grateful to my mom and dad, who have always listened, who have never doubted. I’m thankful to my dad especially, in regards to “Nothing’s Changed.” The revised, published version doesn’t include his side–the bits of his life that aren’t mine to share, his love and patience and understanding and urgency to defuse a wound, all the elements and more that make him such an incredible father.

Maybe this is cheating but I’m compelled to share the original ending to “Nothing’s Changed”–an essay that was once two parts and now is only one. Sharing the original final overly-dramatic paragraph in honor of my dad who has seen me at my worst, and supported me even from there, who has loved me and held me even when flailing.

Like I said, fuck the rules. Here’s to breaking them.

He understands the pain is real, that something isn’t right. But when driving a full car down the I-5 on Thanksgiving Eve, he only wants to laugh. Wants to warm what’s frosting in the back. He doesn’t want a reason for the middle sister to cry, so he tries a joke instead. He understands we hurt, I hurt. The thing is, though, he’s only seen possession of a diagnosis worsen scars. It’s just a word, he says. It’s only a word. You’re human. You’re human. You’re human. This is his way of saying we’ll be okay. I’ll be okay. This is his way of saying, it’s okay, you’re still you, you’re here. You’re safe. You’re human, he says. He’s saying, you’re doing just fine, he’s saying, you’re doing great. You’re human. I love you. I hurt too sometimes. We’re okay.

Cheers to The Rumpus and mental illness awareness. Cheers to stable days and the hope of better health care, the hope of sanity, the hope of peace.


Let’s Rock 2016 Pitch Wars!!!

Hello, hello, hello! IT’S FINALLY TIME FOR PITCH WARS TO GO INTO BEAST MODE!

As a Pitch Wars 2014 Alternate Alum (did I order those words right?), I’m THRILLED to finally pay it forward as a 2016 YA Mentor. Pitch Wars drastically changed my life by leading me to a book deal and connecting me to an incredible community of writers, many I now have the privilege to call close friends.

PITCHWARS PITCHWARS PITCHWARS OH GOODNESS.

I’m excited. Are you excited? If you want a relentlessly enthusiastic mentor who may overuse capitalization, hey hey, I may be your girl… If you write YA. I’m only accepting YA!

 

miss bellatrix

my pup is EXCITED

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go over the logistics.

 

WISH, WISH, DO YOU WISH TO READ MY WISH LIST?

Okay. That was a lot but, hey, now you know how to truly pique my interest!

I am NOT the best mentor for high fantasy, science fiction, and historical fiction. LET ME READ IT SOMEDAY (I devour all of it) but you deserve a mentor who knows those ropes better than me. 

…Still with me?

SOME OF MY FAVORITE BOOKS THAT MATCH MY WISHLIST

Ignore the fact that a few listed are not YA, also this list is SO not close to complete.

SOME OF MY FAVORITE TV SHOWS
(though I admittedly don’t watch much TV at all–feel free to recommend some show to me!)

And if you can comp the movie Swiss Army Man (2016), YOU BETTER AS HELL SEND THAT BOOK TO ME.

 

MENTEE, MENTEE, WHO WILL BE MY MENTEE?

You are dedicated, self disciplined, and ready to push yourself past your limits while having a good time. You think your manuscript is nearly there but know it’s not perfect and recognize it may need some serious revision time. While you know the heart beat of your novel, you’re open minded to new ideas, dramatic cuts, extreme changes. You care. I’ll never demand you agree or complete a specific edit, but I do want you to think it through and be ready to answer questions! You must believe in your writing, be committed to your manuscript, know your story’s core. You’re ready to work. Seriously. You might not “win” Pitch Wars, might not even receive an agent offer, but your manuscript WILL be stronger and primed for querying.

 

backyard

 

Also, obviously, I would love it if your friendly! Like, not weirded out if I constantly announce that I’m sending you hugs and tweet at you on a regular basis.

MENTOR, MENTOR, HOW AM I A MENTOR?

hiking!I love and care with full force. I don’t do a thing half-hearted and if I choose you and your manuscript, you can bet that I will give you all that I have to help you, push you, to better develop your novel into a work of dynamite. You can bet that my feedback and critique letters will be just as !!!!!enthuuuusiaastic!!! as this blog post. I will fangirl like no other. But I will NOT sugarcoat and I won’t shy away from telling you WHAT I LOVE AND WHY I CHOSE YOU AND OH MY GOSH LET’S GET THIS THING OUT TO THE WORLD, just as I won’t hesitate to tell you what’s not working. I want your novel to GLOW and be sharp and tight and rock it at the agent round and subsequent submissions.

I’ve been on the receiving end of many editorial letters, so I know how difficult it can be to approach revisions (I still struggle! I still struggle A LOT!). As your mentor, I promise that I’ll be here to support you, to help you get off the floor, talk through the roadblocks and more.

We will communicate primarily via email and, if you’re into it, text messages and/or some form of instant messaging (Gchat, Skype, etc.). I’m not a huge fan of phone calls or video chats, but if you feel it’d be helpful–or we just get super pumped and need to shout and cheer together–that’s definitely an option.

Also I have a dog named Bellatrix who I very much I adore and I think it’s important that you know that!

 

STILL WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT ME?

Writing and reading (particularly YA) have been my ultimate passions for over a decade. I’ve been working with critique partners and editing and querying off and on since my middle school fan-fiction days. I wrote 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 through the thick of it.

If you go back through my posts here on this wee site of mine, you can read about my various detours of the long haul journey. But, ultimately, after battling as a Pitch Wars alternate in 2014, 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 last March.

(I’m still very much celebrating and, if the premise intrigues you, it’d make me smile if you added it on Goodreads!)

I earned my BA from Colorado College in English and Creative Writing, where I was known for my lengthy, enthusiastic feedback letters. I’ve completed 3 semesters of an MFA in Creative Writing, which is more noteworthy not for the graduate workshops but for the experience of teaching composition (which I LOVED) and tutoring at the campus writing center. I know how to work with all writers, all ages and levels, both in terms of idea and approach but also the technical and the flow. Starting in September, I’ll be teaching ESL in the Seattle area.

Wanna know non-professional me? Peruse my Twitter, my Instagram, whatever. Say hi. Though I’m often shy, I love love love new friends and adore being a part of the Pitch Wars community. You can also email me at heather.ez.pw@gmail.com.

 

La Push!

I will stand tall on driftwood for your book! And look happier than I do here! I promise!

Some trivia: I’m addicted to moving, a spoonie, don’t have a spleen, love tattoos and piercings (though my acquisition of them has slowed since entering my twenties), miss Alaska already, crave rain more than any weather (though a good snow storm does compete), have wild insomnia, prever -30F degrees to 80F, must live near mountains, adore hiking when my body is cooperating, completed my Bachelor’s degree in 2 1/2 years, started writing seriously after a fabulous stint of Harry Potter fan-fiction, lovelovelove ballet even if my floor work is atrocious, drink too much coffee, have an obsession/irrational fear with natural disasters, potentially allergic to the sun (or so I say), and am often too hyper.

 

Long story short: if you have a YA manuscript that’s compelling and you’re ready to work with a mentor who is eager and honored to dig into your work, do consider submitting to me!

 

 

 

 

THIS AUTUMN IS GOING TO BE MAGIC.

 

~~Please be sure to check out EVERY FABULOUS YA MENTOR’S BLOG BEFORE YOU SUBMIT!~~


BURN + RAZORBILL = !!!

Oh my gosh.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

NOTHING LEFT TO BURN WILL BE PUBLISHED BY RAZORBILL!

How do I even articulate myself right now?

NOTHING LEFT TO BURN (previously known around here as AFOT 1), the book I started writing when I was 13. The book I first queried at 14. That I revised and rewrote and revised and rewrote and put away and gave up on and picked back up again some thirty times. That first received agent interest at 15, and then again at 17, and again at 21, and finally at 23, which led to me signing with the inimitable Sarah Davies–who continued fighting for this book when I was close to caving, collapsed, eating tear-soaked cookies on my studio rug.

And Razorbill! You guys, Razorbiiiiiilllllllll, oh my, an imprint of Penguin Random House, but more importantly, an imprint that’s been publishing books I’ve been DEVOURING since I was a pre-teen.

Can I please go back to 2006 and tell fourteen-year-old me?

I’ve been holding tight to this incredible news since March 1st, after a sleepless night, after jumping at a call from my agent and hearing “you’re going to be published,” after being in such confusion and glee I couldn’t quite cry though I’d been so sure I’d cry and yes fine I did eventually cry (and later sobbed), after calling my mom and my dad, after sleeping for some forty minutes (because my body shut down at the shock) and then somehow managing to teach and not shout at my students to shut up shut up shut up you guys shusssssshhhhhhhh it’s happening!!!!, after devouring a giant sushi boat with my boyfriend in celebration, and subtweeting about the news, and watching Sideways and opening a bottle of delicious wine despite the near-rancid cork.

donut give up.

how many times am I going to post a variation of this photo? I DUNNO. this is a face of a sleep-depreived someone who, mere hours before, learned her dream was happening! and also yay SUSHI!!!

In March 2006, I finished the first draft of the first version of this absurd little book about passion/obsession and first love/lust and Orange County and FIRE (!!!!!). In March 2016, I sold it to a dream imprint and landed with a kick ass editor (we bonded over Gilmore Girls within minutes of our call, and later our shared crush over my very own fictional character *swoon*).

Over ten years. I’ve been pushing and running and kicking and dreaming for over ten years. If you count my kindergarten declaration that I wanted to be a writer, then, well, even longer.

I’m so, so glad I didn’t stop writing (and rewriting).

It feels mighty fine to finally share the news. Hopefully I’ll be sharing even more soon. And perhaps elaborating on what it took to get from there to here, and the work that comes next.

What comes next? I start writing and revising books FASTER.

 

Some related posts:

 

 

  1. NOTHING LEFT TO BURN was first A FEAR OF TEARS and then AUTUMN’S END and then AUTUMN SMOKE and then, because I was very confused about my book, SPARKLERS. Luckily, Rachel–BEST Pitch Wars mentor EVER–led me to the current title.

Warm.

It’s a warm January. A mild winter. We haven’t had a below 40 day yet and I want it. My students tell me shhhh, they tell me not to jinx it. But below 40 here is normal for winter. Not 20F. Not -2F. Not the smell of wet trees at 11 PM in late January. I crave normal, or rather the idea of it. And I want proof that Alaska isn’t already thawing. That the world isn’t melting. I want the freeze in my eyes, my nose, on my teeth. It feels like something special. Wakes me up.

LUNCH

I’m writing something new and it’s so odd to be writing something new. Attempting to write something new. That’s not true. I’ve written so many new things this past year but nothing big, nothing that feels so heavy it’s hard to think, difficult to see its core.

So much is happening. This spring will be rapid, rough, so light. It’s getting brighter every day. And every day, I wish I knew what to say that would articulate the change.

Creamer's Field

On Wednesday, I spoke on the phone with someone new. A business call that had me waking by the hour beforehand, a call that had me falling out of bed faster than I have since September. For the first few minutes, we small chatted about Alaska. Every phone call with someone new outside out of Alaska ends up entailing some talk of Alaska. This is especially true with customer service reps. When will the sun set? When does it rise? Is it dark all the time? How cold is it? What happens to the light? Why do you live there? Why?

The person I talked to Wednesday, not a customer service rep, this person who was so nice, she asked me about Alaska and I laughed and I said, “I don’t think I really like Alaska.”

And that’s not totally true. I’m infatuated and confused. I’m angry, exhausted. My nervous system is charred by the seasons’ swings that aggravate my own. I’m in love with the challenge and the extremes. I’m broken. Stuck on repeat: stating the same things. I’ll try to not write about Alaska and the weather and the light the next time I post an entry.

8th floor

But this new class I’m teaching? It’s a challenge too, but oy. My students (and me!) are rising to the occasion. I never thought I’d stay up late to read student writing, but that’s already happened more than once and it feels good.