My Pitch Wars Experience (& Why You Should Enter!)

We’re just a few days out from submissions opening for Pitch Wars 2016. Wahoo! In case anyone is still on the fence about entering, I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts about my experience, which in case it’s unclear from the blog post title, was awesome.

I stumbled onto Pitch Wars while searching for revision strategies in the spring of 2014. I’d been querying a MG fantasy novel for the first time. My query returned two full requests and nine form rejections. The full requests also turned into rejections, although one was a very encouraging personalized e-mail with an invitation to resubmit if I revised. I very much wanted to do this, but I wasn’t sure where to start.

Enter Pitch Wars. (Sort of.)

When the mentor bloghop went live, I spent hours narrowing my choices, agonizing over wording and minute differences in mentors’ tastes. (Like most writers, I have a tendency to overthink things.)  I watched the MG fantasy mentors on Twitter and had a few interactions with several of them, though as a Twitter newbie I didn’t interact as much as I could have for fear they’d think I was sucking up. (See above, re: overthinking.)  I sent in my query and first chapter, and when the mentor picks list went up, my name wasn’t on it.


Two awesome things came out of 2014.

1.) Feedback. The mentors aren’t required to send feedback, but two of the four I submitted to did. (I ended up becoming CPs with one of them later.) While overwhelmingly positive in tone, they pinpointed issues with that particular manuscript that I hadn’t seen at all. In this case, it led to me shelving the manuscript for now. But that’s totally fine because…

2.) I wrote something new. I actually started writing it while waiting on the mentor picks to be announced, which is THE BEST POSSIBLE THING I COULD HAVE DONE. It was a great distraction, and when I wasn’t chosen, it lessened the sting. I had something else to work on PLUS I used feedback from my other novel to (try to) avoid problems in the new one. I wasn’t always successful, but even from the first draft it was far stronger than it would have been otherwise.

Fast forward to Pitch Wars 2015. I entered again, this time with the brand new manuscript I’d started in 2014. Because of my 2014 experience, I was a little more confident this year. I had a lot of fun interacting on the Twitter feed, especially after finding a few people who share my sense of humor. I also started writing another new manuscript because I still believe that’s the best way to distract yourself. (At least, for me it was.)

This year when the mentor picks went up, my name was on the list, chosen by the amazingly funny, wise, and talented  Wade Albert White (with whom I’m co-mentoring this year!) But getting in was really just the beginning. It would take multiple blog posts to describe the awesome rollercoaster of the next few months, so I’ll summarize what I gained:

1.) I learned more of my own writing pitfalls–not little things like crutch words or too many adverbs, but big picture things like why my plotting falls apart or my pacing stalls as well as strategies to identify and fix the big picture pitfalls.

2.)  Revising under time constraints is a skill worth acquiring, and Pitch Wars helped me develop it. Two months doesn’t seem like a very long time, but I’ve heard from several of my friends with contracts that it’s still longer than their publishers gave them. Completing two revisions passes in two months (plus a third pass for little inconsistencies, typos, etc.) helped me develop a strategy I’ll hopefully need in the future. *fingers crossed*

3.) An awesome agent–Elizabeth Kaplan 

4.) Community. The writing community I gained through PW is awesomely supportive. The PW Class of 2015 is still going strong and pulling for the Class of 2016!

So if you’re on the fence about entering, hop on over! You have nothing to lose and lots to gain!



Send Your MG Fantasy This Way!

WARNING: We have it on good authority that you are trapped in a Matrix-like reality. There is no escape. This has nothing to do with Pitch Wars per se, we just thought you’d like to know.

A little bit about us:


Timanda is a middle school science teacher with a love of animals, coral reefs, and sports, as well as a wicked Broadway obsession. Her greatest achievement (of the last month) is rapping along to “Guns and Ships” without messing up more than five or six times. She grew up and still lives in Maryland just outside Washington, D.C.

Wade is from Nova Scotia (Canada). He’s a stay-at-home dad, teaches part-time when the opportunity arises, and spends ten minutes every day vowing to clean his office and the rest of the day not doing it. His first book, The Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escapes, a middle grade fantasy and science fiction blend, is due out September 13, 2016, to be followed by a sequel The Adventurer’s Guide to Dragons (and Why They Keep Biting Me) in the fall of 2017.

As it happens, we share the same agent, Elizabeth Kaplan of the Elizabeth Kaplan Literary Agency.

What we’re looking for?

In terms of age range, we’re mentoring Middle Grade.

In terms of genre, we’re primarily looking primarily for fantasy and science fiction. Within that scope, however, we’re open to pretty much anything, from High Fantasy to Gaslamp to Magic Realism on the fantasy side, and from Space Opera to Cyberpunk to Time Travel on the science fiction side. Just don’t send us vampires unless you’re Joss Whedon. And if you are Joss Whedon: 1) Uh…why are you here? and 2) Would you bring back Firefly already?

What we’re not looking for:

Um, anything that isn’t Middle Grade fantasy or science fiction. Really, that about covers it.

What should you expect if we end up working together?

Expect a ton of work. Like, a literal ton.

Here’s the thing: none of us are our own best editor. No matter how polished we feel our book might be, it will always benefit from having a fresh set of eyes on it (or in our case, two fresh sets). We’re going to go over your manuscript with a proverbial fine-toothed comb, so expect a lot of feedback, both on what we feel is working and what we feel isn’t quite there yet.

For the more Zen among you: writing is editing is writing.

Specifically, if we pick you as a mentee, here’s the plan:

We’ll be doing two passes: a “big picture” pass to address any major plot and/or character, and/or world building and/or pacing issues and things of that nature (you’ll have roughly a month or so to complete those edits), and then we’ll do a second, more detailed pass that focuses on narrative flow, word choice, and the like. You’ll receive notes from each of us on both passes (although Wade will probably take point on the first pass, and Timanda on the second, just because of our work schedules).

What do you need to have ready?

  1. a completed manuscript polished to the best of your ability
  2. a 1–2 page synopsis (available upon request)
  3. a query letter

What we read:

Timanda’s fantasy journey began with The Chronicle of Narnia and Lord of the Rings, which will always hold a place in her heart. Some of her favorite more current MG fantasy writers include J.K. Rowling, Shannon Hale, Megan Whalen Turner, Tamora Pierce, and Grace Lin. She enjoys wordplay, irony, and clever humor, preferring Monty Python or Douglas Adams over Dumb and Dumber-style comedy. In tv/film, she adores most things Joss Whedon and loves Star Wars (Episodes IV-VII) despite the fact that battles in space would really produce no cool laser sounds.

Wade grew up on Anne of Green Gables. He’s also a big fan of various UK writers (think Douglas Adams, J. K. RowlingTerry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, David Gemmell, and Eoin Colfer), but also very much enjoys works by such writers John Scalzi, Elizabeth Bear, and N. K. Jemisin, Leah Bobet, Isaac Asimov, and Nnedi Okorafor. To this list he would add graphic novels such as Ms. Marvel (the new one), Gunnerkrigg Court, Scary Go Round and Bad Machinery, Questionable Content, The Order of the Stick, The Walking Dead, xkcd, El Deafo, and Hellboy. Also, for what it’s worth, he loves Star Trek and Star Wars equally and does not see this as a problem.


Thanks so much for reading. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section on either blog or find us on Twitter at @wadealbertwhite and @timandajwertz (please though, no requests for critiques or pre-pitches at this time). We wish you all the best in both this contest and your writing goals in general.

To visit Wade’s page, click here

To visit the other mentor bios clink on the links below:

































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In which I try this blogging thing (again)

I tried blogging several years ago. I never was very consistent in posting, but I’m giving it another whirl.

Back when I started blogging, I was an elementary school teacher (first grade, then fifth grade) who loved her job. I was writing MG fantasy and unagented. A couple of things have changed since then. I still love my job, but now I’m teaching middle school science. I’m still writing MG fantasy, but last year I got into the fabulous Brenda Drake’s Pitch Wars. After spending a whirlwind couple of months revising under the mentorship of Wade Albert White (whose Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escapes you simply MUST READ when it comes out in September), I signed with Elizabeth Kaplan of the Elizabeth Kaplan Literacy Agency.

I’m hoping this blog will document more of my writing journey, but I’ll probably stick in some teachery and life stuff too.