It's been a few days since Pitchwars decisions were announced and I still haven't quite recovered from the sheer IT of it. This was my second year as a mentor and if it seemed huge last year, it was super huge this year. More authors, more mentors, more hopes and dreams and competition - more organization on both sides.
The amazing Dan Koboldt put together this groovy entry form that was directed straight to each of the four selected mentors inboxes. This kept Gmail from crashing, but also prevented some of the transparency of the previous year when we snuck into each other's slush. But that didn't stop mentors from suggesting manuscripts on our behind the scenes Facebook group. We were all cheering for our close but not quite our pick choices. Some successful matches were made that way to get stories into the best hands.
Then there were the videos, pre-videos, post-videos (sorry I missed out on that one Brenda Drake - but you are the bomb). The late night Google chat show put on by mentees. The late night live reveal that I hear involved a ferret and weird hats. Not to mention what seemed like a half a year of #pitchwars Twitter feed dreams and wishes. It was insanity in the best way.
I ended up with 60 entries in my inbox. This was down by three from last year, but I also requested one less genre (fantasy - so many more "accomplished with the genre" mentors requesting it). Still a massive number. My kudos to agents everywhere who do this on the daily.
Of those 60, I requested more pages from 12 manuscripts.
Of those 12:
1 was chosen as my mentee
1 as my alt
3 were chosen as mentees by another
3 were science fiction that I thought were very close but in looking at the agent wish list, sci-fi was only on the list of a few.
1 was a dystopian so well-written I didn't know how to mentor it & suggested straight querying - plus there's that whole dystopian is not selling thing.
1 was a paranormal, same market issue, and though fun to read, quite long for a contemporary at 100K.
1 was incredibly well-written but I was worried the hook wasn't strong enough.
1 had an amazing first chapter, but the pages weren't quite what I thought they were going to be.
So who did I pick?
Kristin A. Reynolds' historical magical realism manuscript, LE CIRQUE DU LITERATI, blew me away with poetry. She writes words wrapped in velvet and whispered with fireflies and oh my, scrumptious hug the book feeling. What writer anywhere wouldn't feel in love with a literary utopia in the sky where creative folk can escape the oppression of the Sleepers. Her manuscript affected me so that I cried last Saturday to R, "Why can't we just live in a place where people get it? Where they really get it?" R's response, "Is this because of the story you're reading?" Yes, yes, it is. Not only that, there is a beautiful deep love between two of the characters, Josephine and Nikolai, that left me with that Karou and Akiva feeling. We have some structural work to do, but this is a story that is worth the work. There are IMPORTANT things in these words. About society, about overcoming pain, and about the true meaning of love and self. I can't wait for the world to meet this book.
April Rose Carter's contemporary LGBT novel snagged me with the comps in her query, something along the lines of what if Rowell's Eleanor were to fall for Green's Margo. Then her words and story didn't disappoint. This is a story of hardship and poverty. It's a story of a passive mother and an abusive alcoholic father, and a farm girl hopeful that somehow life will take a turn for the better. Then Sarah meets Bonnie, brash and ballsy and everything Sarah is not. Their friendship slowly turns into romance and even though Sarah's never identified as a lesbian, her mother's suspected. The coming out scene between mother and daughter is one of my favorite scenes ever. So skillfully and thoughtfully done. This is a hard story, a sad story, a story for tears. But it is also a story for the sweet ache of new romance and finding yourself in a complete way that's never happened before. April's writing is as spare as Sarah's lifestyle and in her choices of phrasing and words conveys the cold, the poverty, and the hopelessness with skill, all colored with the red of Bonnie's hair and the heat of first love. This is a book I would pick up off the shelves and pass on to students. We're working on pacing and interiority but it won't be long before all the agents start requesting!
So here's my team! I personally think it's the best team and plan on blowing all those other teams out of the water. But, I'm also excited for my last year's alternate, Sarah Cannon, who was picked as Cat Scully's mentee this year with her quirky middle grade, Oddity, for #TeamScully. And my long-term CP, Kip Wilson, who was picked as mentee by Sarah Guillory for #TeamGumbo (that was HARD to keep a secret y'all, but I did!). And my longtime #wipmadness and occasional CP friend Shari Green whose middle grade in verse, was chosen by Stefanie Wass. Plus all the other talented writers out there.
For those of you who didn't make it onto a team. Remember this is a chance to learn, to grow, and if you manuscript is close, remember it's truly subjective. Straight up querying is still the best way to get an agent!