Pitch Wars Interview with Mentee Ashley Leath and Her Mentor, Kim Graff

3 Nov

We have an abundance of wonderful Pitch Wars mentees this year, and I volunteered to host interviews for a few mentees who didn’t get on Brenda Drake’s site before the glorious agent round began. Enjoy learning about these awesome teams!

This post includes…

Mentee Ashley Leath

Ashley Leath






Twitter & Website

Mentor Kim Graff

Kim Graff






Twitter & Website


Ashley, why did you choose Kim?

As soon as I read the words “[Kim] has an undying love for all things murderous, mayhem-y, and mysterious” on Kim’s PW Wish List, I knew I wanted to work with her. Cat’s bio mentioned her experience with plot and pitches, and these are two areas where I felt like I could improve. Add to this the fact that they were seeking LGBTQ characters, and I was really excited. When I examined their game plan for editing and working with their mentee(s), I was sold.

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#PitchWars and Taking Care of Yourself

16 Aug

ChocolateYes, it’s important to take care of yourself when you’re involved in a contest as emotional as Pitch Wars. On the hashtag, I see a lot of people doing this with food and alcohol. Chocolate and wine are delicious ways to deal with those good and bad emotions. But here’s the thing. I’ve been there. As much as I hate to say it, I’m here to tell you that too much chocolate, wine, or [insert your favorite treat] can 100% be a bad thing, especially when it comes at the expense of healthy food.

Many readers know me as a 2016 Pitch Wars hopeful, but I was also a mentee last year, with a different manuscript, and the marvelous mentor Rachel Lynn Solomon. A few things have come up on the hashtag and in our 2015 mentee Facebook group that made me think I needed to write this post. Continue reading 

2016 Pitch Wars Potential Mentee Bio

24 Jul

Hey, Pitch Warriors! Some of you know me from last year, when I was mentored by the amazing Rachel Lynn Solomon. I’m still unagented, and I have a new manuscript, so I’m back, with a vengeance. Not really about that last part, except my book’s title is VERA WITH A VENGEANCE, and I love making punny (or not-so-punny) jokes.

For real, I loved partipating in Pitch Wars last year. I had a great experience working with Rachel and found a lovely community in a group of my fellow mentees in Facebook (I’m still on there every day!). It’s a little weird to be back this year, and I wasn’t sure that I was going to do it, at first. Then the mentor wish lists came out and I swooned about all of the amazing mentors. Still unsure, I did what I always do, when I have a writing quandary: I posted about it in the 2015 Pitch Wars Mentee Facebook Group, and asked Rachel. They encouraged me to enter again, so here I am!



Vera with a Vengeance

Here’s the deal about this year’s book, a 78,000 word young adult contemporary novel: 

VERONICA MARS meets Courtney Summers when a seventeen-year-old girl starts a business to sell revenge. 

Vera Davis grew up overshadowed by her basketball-superstar brother. When a car accident paralyzes him and kills her parents, she’s suddenly in charge of his medical bills, the mortgage, and her own anger and helplessness. Vera’s always been good at getting back at people who hurt her, from ex-boyfriends to jerk bosses to cheating classmates. But she can’t exactly get revenge on the curve in the road where her father lost control of the car.

Meager insurance payouts leave Vera desperate for money, so she starts a business to help other people get revenge. Word spreads, and she’s soon busy wreaking havoc on cheats, liars, and thieves of all stripes. The only snag is that Vera’s mega crush thinks her style of vengeance is morally wrong. He’s her brother’s best friend and totally off-limits, so she doesn’t let him stop her. Even if he might be right that fighting nude picture with nude picture makes the whole world naked on the internet. 

 In the course of investigating a case for a client, Vera finds new evidence about her family’s accident. Turns out there is someone for Vera to blame, but the perpetrator had her own reason to seek revenge. Now that Vera can finally get vengeance, she must decide whether she still wants it. 

[Mad thanks to Alana Saltz. I met her when we both entered Pitch Wars last year. I think we emailed about that pitch eleven-and-a-half million times? Also, the picture of the basketball players in my collage? That’s Jon Scheyer and Gerald Henderson, who inspired the male characters in VERA. I had huge crushes on them when I was an undergrad at Duke!]


Of all things, I came up with the idea for VERA after I asked a guy to stop smoking (hate it!) at the dog park. He wasn’t so happy about my request, and blew smoke in my face. In real life, I left the dog park. In my imagination, I fantasized about how I could get back at him. Then, I realized that he was probably having a crappy day, and really needed that cigarette. If I got revenge on him, I would be a jerk, too. Vera’s business, and its potential for moral complications, came into my mind as I walked my dog home.

I had to wait a long time to start writing VERA—extensive revisions for Pitch Wars last year came during my final year of grad school. I taught college classes for the first time, and wrote, designed, and self-published a collection of short stories for my MFA thesis. As soon as that book was at the printer and out of my hands, I started writing VERA. I wish I had started earlier—it’s true what everyone says, that writing a new book is the best therapy for the stress and emotional roller coaster that comes with querying. Writing VERA was better than chocolate therapy, retail therapy, and therapy therapy. Okay, maybe I lied about the chocolate.

I only finished VERA this month, so it is still an early draft. Right now, I’d call it draft 1.5, since I already cut two characters, and fixed some obvious editing and consistency problems. My critique partners have read several chunks of it, and I just got some AMAZING feedback on the full from a sensitivity beta reader. By the time the submission window rolls around, I’ll be on a solid draft 2. While I’m nervous about submitting such an early draft, I’m excited to have energy and relatively fresh eyes to revise during Pitch Wars, if I am chosen.

VERA is my third novel. The second was my Pitch Wars book from last year, which is still searching for a home with an agent and/or publisher. The first will forever be in a drawer (or maybe, one day, completely rewritten). I’ve learned a lot about writing from my experiences drafting those novels, in my M.F.A. program, and working with Rachel and other critique partners. I hope that learning shows through in VERA and I’m looking for help making it my strongest book yet.


I hit the jackpot last year with Rachel, who has become a trusted critique partner and friend. I would love to be so lucky again. VERA is more twisty and turny than anything I have written before, so I would love to work with a mentor who is awesome at figuring out when to reveal which information for maximum suspense. VERA also deals with a lot of very sensitive issues: disability, the morality of revenge, sexual assault, race, religion. The number of ways I can offend readers is scary. I have sought/am still seeking sensitivity readers, but I would love a mentor to help me check my privilege and write about those issues with the sensitivity and complexity they deserve.

I haven’t spent as much time as I like polishing VERA yet, because I don’t want to spend hours agonizing over a sentence when I might delete the whole scene. I’d love a mentor who understands that and points out patterns of weaknesses that I can work on when it’s time for me to obsess about every word. Don’t worry—I LOVE obsessing about every word. But sometimes I waste time by doing that too early!


I wrote a lot about my revision style (and my life) in my mentee bio last year, and that’s all still true! Except lots of wonderful things have happened since then. I’m engaged to my then-boyfriend (for some reason he stuck around despite being completely neglected during Pitch Wars), and I have my Masters of Fine Arts degree (though still no full-time teaching job). I’m loving teaching writing at the University of Baltimore, freelance editing, and dreaming up writing classes for my business, Sounding Sea Writers’ Workshop. I also get to read amazing books and help authors with marketing in my internship with literary agent Carrie Pestritto, of Prospect Agency.

I’d love to chat books, feminism, wedding planning (so! much! work!), self-publishing (also so! much! work!). Hit me up on Twitter, @tracycgold, and to my fellow potential mentees, good luck!

News: Interning for Literary Agent Carrie Pestritto

6 Jun

For a while, I’ve been hoping to intern with a literary agent to learn what the publishing industry looks like from an agent’s perspective. I linked up with Carrie Pestritto at Prospect Agency through meeting her wonderful colleague, Linda Camacho, at my regional SCBWI conference. Carrie needed help, I had just graduated from my Master of Fine Arts program at UB, and it was a great match!

So far, I’ve been reading manuscripts, helping authors with marketing, and helping with submissions. I’m excited to learn more about what makes a great book, as well as how books go from drafts, to publishers, to readers.

Here’s Carrie’s post about the internship.

New Story Published in Youth Imagination

21 Apr

I have exciting news today! My short story “Impossibly Back” is now live on Youth Imagination, and it is free to read. 

In this story, when a horseback ride goes wrong, a girl must try to save her best friend’s life, and their endangered relationship.

This story has an interesting origin, so I thought I’d fill you in on where it came from.

Continue reading 

Book Blitz for C.H. Armstrong’s The Edge of Nowhere

19 Jan

Look at this gorgeous book! As I progress in my publishing journey, I’ll be sharing news from friends I make along the way. My friend from Twitter is doing a book blitz for her beautiful debut. Check it out and enjoy!

In bookstores and online today:



The year is 1992 and Victoria Hastings Harrison Greene—reviled matriarch of a sprawling family—is dying.

After surviving the Oklahoma Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, Victoria refuses to leave this earth before revealing the secrets she’s carried for decades.

Once the child of a loving family during peaceful times, a shocking death shattered her life. Victoria came face to face with the harshness of the world. As the warm days of childhood receded to distant memory, Victoria learns to survive.

No matter what it takes.

To keep her family alive in an Oklahoma blighted by dust storms and poverty, Victoria makes choices—harsh ones, desperate ones. Ones that eventually made her into the woman her grandchildren fear and whisper about. Ones that kept them all alive. Hers is a tale of tragedy, love, murder, and above all, the conviction to never stop fighting.



bloggingC.H. Armstrong is an Oklahoma native transplanted in Minnesota. A 1992 graduate of the University of Oklahoma, “Cathie”is a life-long lover of books, and staunchly outspoken on subject of banned and challenged books. The Edge of Nowhere is her first novel and was inspired by her own family’s experiences during the 1930s Oklahoma Dust Bowl and The Great Depression.






Recent Publications: Opinion on Public Housing Corruption, Two Stories, and Craft Article

13 Nov

I have been busy this fall with Pitch Wars, teaching college composition, and working on my MFA thesis. Somewhere in there, a few of my pieces have been published, and I’m tardy about posting them here. Without further ado, here they are, in reverse chronological order!

“Sextortion as Institutionalized Oppression”: My rant in What Weekly about the disturbing allegations that two Baltimore Public Housing maintenance men forced women into sexual acts in order to receive basic maintenance, and how conditions in Public Housing projects tie into other problems in Baltimore.

“Accident” published in THE FEMALE COMPLAINT: The story that inspired my Pitch Wars novel is now available in a feminist anthology from Shade Mountain Press.

“Parker” published in The Stoneslide Corrective: Honorable mention in The Stoneslide Story Contest, “Parker” is about a woman who must confront her grief for her late father in order to handle an emergency on her horse farm.

“43 Words and Phrases to Search for While Polishing Your Novel” published in Adventures in YA Publishing: This craft article covers words to kill in order to make your prose sing.


That’s it, for now! I hope you enjoy any of the works you choose to dive into!

Pitch Wars Update and Inspiration Blog Hop

30 Oct

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.

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Pitch Wars Potential Mentee Bio

12 Aug

My Twitter avatar, in case you forget!

Hello, lovely Pitch Wars people! Here’s the down-low on who I am, and how my manuscript got to where it is today. I’ve enjoyed connecting with all of you so much, and hope to keep in touch!



About Me: Work and Hopes and Dreams

Most of my working life is spent helping tech startups with marketing strategy and content. I also teach college composition and college prep. I work for myself, so I get to control my schedule, which is the best thing ever. Though sometimes my boss can be a real jerk.

World's best boss


One day, I hope to teach college creative writing. Days full of writing, inspiring students, and being inspired by students would be a dream.

Excuse me while I go cry

I also cofounded Sounding Sea Writers’ Workshop, which launched this summer with classes on non-fiction, fiction, publishing, and poetry, as well as individual writing coaching. We are based in Baltimore, and we are working on launching our first online class. We’re always open to pitches for classes, both online and local, if you’ve got a great idea you’d like to teach. If there’s a class you’d like to take, we want to hear that, too. But let’s talk about that after the Pitch Wars mentees are chosen, to avoid any conflicts of interest.


About Me: The Writer

Yup, I was that kid who was always sitting alone in the corner making stuff up. I had the absolute privilege of going to a Literary Arts magnet program for high school, Carver Center for Arts and Tech. The community of writers my amazing teachers helped to build—what can I say? My heart.

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Query Critique Blog Hop

23 Jul

I’m throwing my hat into the ring for a query critique blog hop run by the wonderful Michelle Hauck. I’m working hard to get my novel in shape for Pitch Wars, which starts in August, and I’d love your feedback!

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