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My experience reading submissions as a Pitch Wars Mentor- 2015

Last year, as a Middle Grade mentor,  I only got 5 submissions on the first day, 40 total.

This year, I got 28 submissions on day one and I LOVED eight of them. That's nearly a third of my submissions! I was like, holy ####, I’m gonna be in trouble if this continues. 

I expected to get more submissions than I had last year since YA is more popular than MG, but I wasn’t anticipating how much higher the quality was going to be.

I’m not sure if the quality difference was because I changed to YA, or if it was chance, or this year was just extra competitive and you guys are just getting better!

I do want to say that I had a lot of great subs last year, and I still LOVE my picks from last year (I’d pick you guys again in a heartbeat!) It’s not that my best subs this year were better than the ones last year—it’s just that, this year, nearly all of my subs were great! They all could use a little work, some more than others but overall I was shocked at how many I found myself wanting to take on.

I requested 9 fulls for myself and one for another mentor. No, I didn’t read them all. I couldn’t. I did read SOME of all of them.

What made me request? Potential and connection. Most of them weren’t perfect by any means. Some of them I requested because I *wanted* to fall for them and wanted to see if I could find that connection in the next chapter or two (I asked for the full and synopsis for all of them because that was easiest for me). Some were just fantastic and gave me that fuzzy feeling when I read them. Two of my short list had first chapters so fantastic I felt like I was reading a published book (only one of those 2 got picked. The other is my big regret. I still love you <3)

Did I request all of the great submissions I got? NO! I really did have to get picky there and only pick stories that I knew, if I found that right spark in those pages, I could potentially love and champion and read more than once. It had to fit ME. That’s the part that’s hard about Pitch Wars but it’s very similar to finding an agent. A lot of agents pass on good manuscripts all the time, because they will never do justice to stories they aren’t committed and connected to. You have to find the right agent.

During the mentor blog hop I had some writers ask if I’d really consider fantasy as much as contemporary. Well, here’s my short list break down.

2 high fantasies
2 paranormal/supernatural
1 magical realism
2 (contemporary) thrillers
1 historical
1 contemporary

The only thing I found myself having trouble getting into was sci-fi. I did get one really super cool sci-fi that I knew I wouldn’t take—so I passed it along to Sharon Johnston and Stacey Nash. I knew they liked unique sci-fi so I thought it might have a shot with them—it did!
At this point, I knew I could pick within my own submissions because I had so many of quality but I couldn’t help but take a peek at a few of the submissions other mentors were passing around. I read the query for several and saw that they really were great but I didn’t LOVE most of them so I didn’t request. But I did get one. Wendy Spinale sent me a sci-fi Thriller that she pitched as a YA Bourne Legacy with a kickass heroine and, guys, I was so legit hooked! I knew I wanted this manuscript as soon as I read the first chapter. SO GOOD.

But there was a problem. This manuscript hadn’t been submitted to me so anyone who it WAS sent to has dibs and there were a few still reading. Most were happy to step aside when I expressed interest because they had others they wanted more. But one mentor read the query and fell for it the same way I did. OH NO!  I was almost half way through reading it at this point so I stopped, knowing that not only am I not allowed to fight this mentor for it, but I shouldn’t. She has EVERY right to want to take it on.

Plus, I hadn’t finished looking through my own requested material so I put that manuscript to the side and continued with my own pile.

Some of those requests got snapped up by other mentors so I didn’t need to pursue them further, some I knocked out of the running because I just couldn’t find that spark.  Then I took a look at a contemporary thriller I had, it was one that I was mostly curious to see where this went. There was *something* there, I just needed to find out if it was enough to hook me. Then I read the synopsis. At the end there was this reeeeally cool twist. That’s when I was hooked for the second time. I read into this manuscript knowing it was going to need a decent amount of work and no matter which MS I took, I would probably help this writer revise because I really wanted to see this potential be realized.

Well, from here lots of things happened. I passed around some of my other lovelies because I wanted them ALL to find homes, and some of them did! My one contemporary got picked up, both paranormal/supernaturals got picked, the other thriller got picked and the Magical Realism was sooooo close (I was so sad when I found out it didn’t end up with a home but at this point I had two I was committed to.) 
Eight of my 65 submissions made it into Pitch Wars. Two were submissions I hadn't considered, three if you consider the Sci-fi I passed along.

Eventually, the mentor considering the sci-fi thriller told me I could have it if I wanted it because she had two others she loved as well, but I was a bit torn between my top two.

Then Brenda offered to let a few mentors take on two submissions. SOO many mentors were DYING to get an extra spot it was actually hilarious to watch. There were bribes and threats and all kinds of shenanigans (this is really a testament to the quality we found. Not getting picked really doesn’t mean very much!)  Brenda had a drawing for who would get to take two and I WON!!!

So I took on both!

Mind you, I’m completely insane because I also have to draft a new novel for my publisher, due November 1st but it’s totally worth it.

So my shiny new mentees are:

Amanda Searcy and her Contemporary Thriller TRUTH IS
Anissa Malek with her Sci-fi Thriller I AM SARIN.


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