So, that contest I was gabbing on about, Pitch Wars? Well, my young adult novel, THE ACCIDENTS, was one of 126 novels chosen out of 1,600 entries. This caused lots of squealing, jumping up and down, chocolate eating, wine drinking, and dazed looks when I was anywhere other than at my computer, hard at work. After three years of laboring over this novel, this was an amazing vote of confidence.
Alas, being chosen for Pitch Wars was only the (glorious) beginning. The hardest work was ahead of me. Or as Daft Punk would say:
“Work it harder, make it better
Do it faster, makes us stronger
More than ever, hour after
hour, work is never over.”
Best Mentor Ever
Luckily, I had the brilliant, comforting, hilarious mentor, Rachel Lynn Solomon, on my side. Rachel was the one who picked my book out of her 145 submissions (yup, still pinching myself). She had a four page edit letter ready to go the night I was chosen, and we chatted for three hours one night (2.5 hours of which was talking about our dogs—am I kidding? You may never know). Then, I made a seven-page revision plan with detailed notes about every scene, we kept in touch every day, and I started kicking my novel’s butt into shape.
Before Pitch Wars, over the course of two summers, my wonderful and supportive MFA professor Jane Delury read and critiqued THE ACCIDENTS more times than I can count. Jane and I were working on fixing a sub plot problem and pinpointing the right ending, but man, was I stuck. Rachel honed in on the same problems, and helped me find some “ah ha” solutions. Working (and becoming friends) with Rachel has been more awesome than eating chocolate icing with a spoon every night, or even every hour, and that’s saying something.
Here’s the next super-exciting part: On November 3rd, the pitch Rachel and I put together, along with my novel’s first page, will go live on the contest organizer’s blog, along with teasers for the other finalists. Over forty literary agents will be clicking through, requesting to see more when an entry catches their attention. That could eventually lead to an offer of representation from that agent. Whoever gets the most requests technically “wins” the contest, but I’m hoping that every single one of my mentee friends will get a request.
Then, after that round, I’ll be sending queries out to non-Pitch Wars agents I am excited about. Getting a literary agent is the first step to getting published (well, after writing and revising a novel). It’s impossible to even get in the door at many established publishing houses without an agent, so the stakes for these efforts are high! As my fellow mentee Brian Palmer writes, “But that’s what we signed up for: a chance to have the agents come to us for once rather than the other way around, and see what happens.”
Inspiration Blog Hop
And wait! There’s more! In addition to all of this amazingness, I’ve also been keeping in touch with the other mentees via a Facebook group. Today, we’re all posting the inspiration for our Pitch Wars projects. Here’s mine!
When I was applying to MFA programs, I worked with a tutor from the Gotham Writers’ Workshop, Polly Bresnick. She gave me a simple prompt: “Write about a day that goes from bad to worse.” My main character, Olivia, popped into my head, and I followed her through her awful day. The resulting story helped get me into MFA programs (including, of course, UB, where I am now). It was also published in YARN, and in a feminist anthology from Shade Mountain Press called THE FEMALE COMPLAINT.
Funny enough, the feedback I got from Polly and from Diana Renn, an editor at YARN, was that the story’s ending wasn’t quite sticking its landing. Olivia’s story stayed in the back of my mind, until I read this horrifying article in Cracked about the “troubled teen rehab industry.” Perhaps, I thought, the ending wasn’t feeling right because the story wasn’t over.
I dove into research about these centers, and thought their story should be told. Then, while I was walking my dog in Patterson Park, I got ideas for how Olivia could end up in one of these centers, and her relationship with her nemesis Bethany became more fleshed out in my head. Thus, THE ACCIDENTS was born. Two years and endless revisions later, here I am, ready to take the first major step toward getting THE ACCIDENTS out in the world. Hopefully my next revisions (because they truly never end) will be with my agent and/or editor!
That’s it from me—check out some of the other mentees’ stories here! Their support has been so integral as I’ve fit two rounds of revision of my novel into my life these few months. I’m so excited for them to sign with agents and send their amazing stories into the world.