Welcome Pitch Wars hopefuls!
We’re so glad you stopped by! Make yourselves comfortable and let’s chat about mentoring, wishlists, and why we love Pitch Wars so much. For those of you who don’t know about it, Pitch Wars is a mentoring program where published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each to spend three months revising their manuscript. It ends in February with an Agent Showcase, where agents can read a pitch/first page and can request to read more.
First, let us introduce ourselves.
Hi! I’m Kara! I was born in the mountains and raised in the desert, and I spent my childhood swimming, boating, and making up stories in my head. Now I live in Mesa, Arizona, where I divide my time between writing, baking, and playing board games with my husband and three young sons. I was a Pitch Wars mentee in 2016 under the mentorship of Brenda Drake and Heather Cashman with the manuscript Just for Clicks, a YA contemporary that was released in February 2019. My sophomore novel, a contemporary rom-com called One Way or Another, releases from Scholastic on October 6, 2020. One Way or Another has also sold translation rights in several foreign territories and will be available in Dutch, Italian, Romanian, German, French, and Czech. I credit Pitch Wars with changing my writing life: it taught me how to revise a manuscript, it introduced me to a writing community, and it served as a small window into the publishing industry as a whole.
Kimberly is a 2019 debut author, a middle school literacy teacher, and a mom of three. She likes to think of herself as a perpetual juggler (like most writers). If juggling is her super power, laundry is her nemesis, her Achilles heel, and she will do just about anything to avoid it. In 2016 she was a Pitch Wars mentee under the guidance and mentorship of the lovely Dawn Ius. That manuscript eventually became her debut, Every Stolen Breath, a YA thriller that released with Blink/HarperCollins in November 2019. It was a 2020 Junior Library Guild Selection and earned the ILA 2020 Children’s and Young Adults’ Book Award in young adult fiction. Kimberly fervently believes Pitch Wars was her springboard into the publishing industry. It’s one reason she loves this community so much and why she’s chosen to mentor for her third year in a row. Pitch Wars is also where she met some of her current CPs, including Kara McDowell.
We met in the 2016 Pitch Wars group and became critique partners after being reunited in the Novel Nineteens group. And because we couldn’t get enough of each other, we are co-mentoring for the first time this year.
So, the nitty-gritty, what are we looking for?
Basically we want anything with a great hook and the potential for tension. We love a high-concept elevator pitch that can be boiled down to one or two sentences. If you have that, send it to us! We’re also both suckers for romance and chemistry of all shapes and sizes. Whether that’s a contemporary rom-com, a paranormal romance, or a thriller with a romantic subplot, (or something else! We love to be surprised!) it doesn’t matter to us. As long as there’s a romance for us to get invested in, we’ll be happy!
We firmly believe that characters are the heart of stories, and we want a manuscript that has a diverse population of characters we can fall in love with! While we will absolutely be working on strengthening characterization and arc, we want characters we can root for with all of their flaws and imperfections. We want to read about people who feel real, the kinds of characters you’re excited to tell your friends about, and we absolutely, always welcome #ownvoices stories!
Let’s elaborate, shall we?
Kara and I read a lot of genres (a lot!). Right now, we are particularly drawn to high concept contemporary. If you have that, we would love to take a look. And if it has romantic tension in there, well that happens to be our personal fav. (Slow burn romance is one of our all-time favorite tropes!) We don’t need big, bright happy endings (though we do love them!) but we do want a story that ends with at least a note of hope or optimism. This year, we probably aren’t the best mentors for serious or heavy issue-driven contemporary.
Thrillers are of course on our list. If we should be biting our fingernails in anticipation and dying to turn the pages, then we’re absolutely looking for it. We love gripping, heart-racing, well-written stories that make us sit at the very edge of our seats, but we’re not looking for super dark. Don’t get us wrong, Kimberly’s been known to kill off characters, but if it’s too gritty or gory or lacking that element of hope, then we’ll pass. We’d love something in the vein of Karen McManus or Kit Frick.
Magical realism? Absolutely! We love books that bend the rules in fantastical ways. Paranormal? Definitely! We would love to read something with ghosts, vampires, or the like. We mentioned “light” fantasy. Both Kara and I love to read fantasy, but complex world-building is not our strength. We also love retellings in any of the genres previously mentioned!
What we don’t want to see, and please respect this: We love tension, but we can do without the gratuitous gore all over the page. We also can’t handle young kids dying, school shootings, or animal torture, and while we’re not afraid to tackle important issues like sexual abuse, we’d prefer it happened off screen.
We don’t need or want perfection. We’re looking for potential here. Yes, pay attention to spelling and grammar, but it’s fine with us if you haven’t quite nailed the voice, ramped up the suspense, completed each character arc, or figured out pacing. We can help with that!! In fact, we think those are some of our strengths. We want to help you mold and shape and polish your book until it’s what you envision it to be. YOU. We want to be clear on that. Our job is to help you execute your vision!
Kara and I are excited to work with you on your book! We’ll expect you to work hard (anticipate at least two edit letters and if there’s time a third read-through before we hit the agent round) and to be open to learning. We will push you, but we will do so with encouragement because we believe in you and your manuscript. We also promise to do so always—always—keeping your vision in mind.
For the last two years, Kimberly has watched and celebrated as her last two mentees signed with fabulous agents. This year, she and Kara are hoping to do the same. But success in Pitch Wars will not just be about what we bring to the table. At the end of our three months together, success in Pitch Wars will be a result of your hard work and all the fun parts that go along with that—sweat, grime, tears, resilience, patience, level headedness and a never quit, never give-up attitude. (Are you seeing a theme yet?) Your readiness and your willingness to work hard will be something we’re looking for in our mentee.
This industry is tough. We want to help you navigate it—and we’re in it for the long haul. BUT…if we’re not the mentors for you, no hard feelings. We wish you luck and much success. There are a lot of fantastic mentors doing Pitch Wars this year, the list of whom you can find below. (But, um, if you have an awesome YA thriller or high-concept contemporary with romantic elements, we’d really love to see it.)
One final note, we’ve put together a list of books we love (and potential comp titles we’ll be looking for), over on Kimberly's website here. Hop on over there to get a better sense of the books that keep us turning the pages in anticipation!