Two questions with… Janet Walden-West

 

I’m especially excited to host my wonderful critique partner, Janet Walden-West, on my blog today in the second instalment of our “Two questions with…” blog tour.

Right, while Janet’s distracted pouring another round of coffee, I’m stealing that last slice of cheesecake…

 

Anne,

Thank you for inviting me to drop by for bottomless cups of coffee, cheesecake, and a chat. Now that the cheesecake is gone, let’s jump in.

 

  1. Why do you write?

I always joke that it’s to get the voices in my head to shut up. But that flip answer really is kinda true on one level.

 

My stories tend to slam into being as 3D, surround-sound, hi-def scenes. Vivid and difficult to ignore. Those images spark something, and next thing I know, I’m losing sleep and adding to the original scenes. Daydreaming at work about what my characters can get into next. When you have an addictive personality, well… The obsession to see where those scenes go is real.

 

I’ve learned not to ignore those bursts of imagination. So for me, the best way to deal with that creative impulse is to get the story on paper. I empty my head out and get to create new worlds.

Oh, and finally get some sleep!

 

  1. Do you see any issues in your genre and how are you addressing them?

I’d love to paint a hearts and rainbows picture, but reality and all.

 

One issue that crosses genres is representation. What stories get told, and who tells them. On the plus side, I think publishing is having a moment. It’s examining the fact that it isn’t diverse and that it is a top-down problem, from publishers to editors to agents to writers. That lack of diversity and representation is robbing readers of so many new, gorgeous stories and experiences.

 

My best practices for myself is to think about what I’m writing and why. About whether someone else can do it more authentically if given the chance, and to take every opportunity to signal-boost marginalized writers instead.

 

My bookshelf is far richer for it.

 

 

Janet MeCC

Janet Walden-West lives in the southeast with a pack of show dogs, a couple of kids, and a husband who didn’t read the fine print. She has an unseemly obsession with dusty artifacts, great cars, and bad coffee. A founding member of the East Tennessee Creative Writers Alliance and The Million Words craft blog, she is also a member of Romance Writers of America member. She pens Urban Fantasy that escapes the neat confines of the city limits in favor of map-dot hillbilly towns, and inclusive Romantic Suspense and Contemporary Romance. A #PitchWars alum, her first short story, Road Trip, is included in the Chasing the Light anthology.

Find Me At:

Website: http://www.janetwaldenwest.weebly.com

Twitter: @JanetWaldenWest

Instagram: janetwaldenwest

 

Read on for an excerpt of Janet’s short story, Road Trip, in the Chasing the Light anthology.

Once upon a time, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Faith Hunter and award-winning authors David B. Coe and John G. Hartness agreed to mentor a group of rising authors—the Roaring Writers. Chasing the Light—with tales across the spectrum of science fiction and fantasy—is their celebration of success.

It is also a tribute honoring Melanie Otto (AKA Melanie Griffin), one of the founding authors, who died unexpectedly in 2016. Melanie critiqued many of these stories at the Roaring Writers’ annual writing retreats, and the authors will never forget Melanie’s sparkling eyes and delighted laugh as she found passages she loved in each. With this collection, including stories by Melanie, the Roaring Writers share her light with readers everywhere.

Thanks to the generosity of their mentors and contributors, all profits from the sales of this anthology will be donated to help Melanie’s lifelong partner defray medical and legal costs.

AMAZON

 

Chasing the light

 

Road Trip

Janet Walden-West

 

Chapter One

I kicked the bejesus out of my tire, wishing the rubber was something more flesh and blood to vent my irritability on. I had missing campers, a possible will’o’wisp to blame, and no backup.

And my last temporary-partner possibility had just called from the hospital, beat to hell by a poltergeist, with a “Sorry, Samantha, I’m out.” Although she’d taken the initiative, sending me a replacement.

Hard to say which pissed me off more—not having help or getting set up like that one friend who can never find a date on her own.

I paced around the truck, swatting gnats and no-see-ums. The tail end of September, and Tennessee hadn’t gotten the memo it was pumpkin spice and cozy sweater time.

The minutes ticked by, dread climbing up my spine and raising the hairs on my neck, like a late-season tick crawling up my leg. Two separate, experienced hikers had disappeared in southeast Georgia over the last week. The only survivor of the latest disappearance swore his missing friend babbled about lights in the forest before they bedded down for the night. The next morning—no friend.

A sweep with Search and Rescue dogs, and the forest service hadn’t turned up a trace or a body, same as the first disappearance. With Fall Break approaching and leaves coloring up, people would turn out for day hikes on those trails, or weekend camping trips.

Boozy, happy, oblivious prey.

And I was standing around useless, waiting on some asshole hunter with time management issues.

I whirled for another go at my innocent tire. A gleaming gold and white SUV wheeled in, gravel spitting, taking the turn to the deer camp too fast.

The Escalade settled in a cloud of gray dust and pinging rock.

My irritation turned darker. I shook my arms out, shaking away tension and loosening muscles. Popping the knives from each forearm sheath, the hilts hitting my palms but hidden under my sleeves.

My supposed backup took her time, flipping the visor to check her lip-gloss. She finally popped out and surveyed me, a critical sweep from head to toe.

We’d never met, but I knew all about her. Hard not to. Not many creatures dared hobnob with human hunters.

Like she read my mind, this one smiled, showing unusually square, perfectly white teeth. “Well, as I live and breathe. It is the infamous Sam Vasquez. I thought Andi was pulling one of my legs.”

The Kelpie might not be living and breathing long.

“And what are you going by these days?” Not that I expected her true name.

“Rachel Alexandra.”

If you were going to use the moniker of famous female racehorses as your alias, why not go with the best?

“Go away, Rachel Alexandra.”

“Fact—you needed a second. Fact—I owed Andi a favor. Fact—here I am.” She checked the cuff of her suede blazer, tugging it straighter.

“Fact—I don’t know you, I don’t want to know you, I don’t trust you. Bye.”

Big liquid-brown eyes narrowed. “Fact—monsters never put their killing sprees on hold until your preferred backup gets her casts off. This creature isn’t going to hold off snatching tourists because you’re a snippy bigot.”

True, but I wasn’t hunting one supernatural with another breathing down my neck. Especially this one. “There are no swim-up bars or suites at the Bellagio for you to crash in where I’m going. You aren’t qualified to help.”

She smiled, slow and ugly. “I was a predator before your grandparents were born. I’m also difficult to kill. Say what you mean—you won’t deign to hunt with me because I’m not human.” She crossed her arms and stared me down. “And you’ll sacrifice innocent lives for your bigotry.”

I swore, fingers closing over the knife hilts until my knuckles creaked. I doubted her generosity came from giving a damn about human lives as much as it did the burning need to discharge whatever obligation she’d bound herself to.

My obligation was to oblivious people out for a weekend of fun and fresh air.

But she wasn’t wrong. I chewed on the inside of my cheek and rolled the idea around, poking for weak spots. Andi had been my last resort, and Kelpies probably had little to fear from wisps. The incorporeal elementals used compulsion to mesmerize the unwary and lead them away. Kelpies shared a similar form of psychic suggestion. Maybe they were immune.

“I hope you’ve got something you can actually hike in.” I eyed her Prada flats.

 The Kelpie would make an acceptable stalking horse for this job. I just had to survive working with a creature who won human trust, then carried them to a watery death.

 

If you want to read more, pick up a paperback or e-book copy here. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07D9N12GD

 

You can also follow our tour to learn about Melanie’s influence and see excerpts from the other stories in our anthology.

http://ken-schrader.com/2018/06/11/chasing-the-light-remembering-melanie/

 

 

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Two questions with… Pat Esden

Dear readers,

I’m so excited to be hosting Pat Esden on my blog today for our “Two questions with…” blog tour!

Take it away, Pat…

 

Hi everyone—and a huge thank you to Anne for inviting me to be here today. My name is Pat Esden. I’m the author of the Dark Heart series and the Northern Circle Coven series. My novels are contemporary paranormal for adults with a touch of darkness and strong romantic elements.

 

  1. Why do you write?

Publishing can be a very stressful industry. But when I’m in the zone writing and lost in my stories, it’s quite the opposite. It’s energizing and a more immersive form of stress relief than watching TV or reading. It’s a way to pretend I’m someone else and get lost in as wild of adventure as I can dream up. Perhaps most of all, I can write stories I would like to read with endings of my making.

 

  1. What is the hardest part about writing?

The hardest part for me (other than the first draft) is when I reach the point in revision where my instincts tell me something isn’t working quite right, but I can’t put my finger on it. Usually my instincts give me a general message like—something is off in the last quarter of this book or something about this character isn’t ringing true. Luckily, honest critique partners are the remedy for this. Sometimes it’s a larger issue, but more often it’s a small detail that needs adjusting.

 

 

PREORDER TODAY

HIS DARK MAGIC (Northern Circle Coven series book 1)

 HDM coming dec 11 copy

 Its power is legendary. It can fulfill every impossible magical desire. But for one young witch seeking redemption, the Northern Circle coven will challenge her skills—and her heart—beyond measure.   One tragic impulsive mistake made Chloe Winslow an outcast to her influential magic family. As a medical student, she wants to combine science with sorcery to heal those she hurt and right her wrongs. But brilliant, charismatic Devlin Marsh re-routes her plans with a once-in-eternity offer: membership in the exclusive Northern Circle, a mysterious Vermont coven known for pushing the limits.   Enthralled by Devlin and their mesmerizing mutual attraction, Chloe makes a dangerous sacrifice to help the Circle’s high priestess awaken Merlin himself—and learn his timeless cures. But a foreshadowing soon causes Chloe to doubt the Circle’s real motives, as well as Devlin’s . . .   Now Merlin’s demonic shade is loose in the human world, while Chloe and Devlin’s uneasy alliance will pit them against ancient enemies, malevolent illusions, and shattering betrayal. And with the fate of two realms in the balance, Chloe must risk her untried power against a force she can’t defeat—and a passion that could destroy her.

PREORDER NOW

|BARNES & NOBLE | KOBO | IBOOKS | AMAZON |

 

 

Pat Esden Headshot copy

Pat Esden would love to say she spent her childhood in intellectual pursuits. The truth is she was fonder of exploring abandoned houses and old cemeteries. When not out on her own adventures, she can be found in her northern Vermont home writing stories about brave, smart women and the men who capture their hearts.

She is the author of the contemporary paranormal Dark Heart series from Kensington Books, and the upcoming Northern Circle Coven series. Her short fiction has appeared in a number of publications, including Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, the Mythopoeic Society’s Mythic Circle, George Scither’s Cat Tales Anthology, and the Fragments of Darkness anthology.

WEBSITE |GOODREADS |FACEBOOK|TWITTER | BLOG |PINTEREST|

3 books plus ocean copy 2

 

And pop by my blog next Monday, 18 June, for Two questions with… Janet Walden-West!

~Raven

Two questions with… Blog Tour

Starting Monday, 11 June, I’ll be participating in a blog tour with three other wonderful authors. Each week, we’ll be answering two questions in a mini interview, hosted on our respective blogs.

 

I’m so excited to be hosting the following authors on these dates:

 

11 June – Pat Esden

18 June – Janet Walden-West

25 June – Ken Schrader

 

So, stayed tuned, and keep an eye on the tour for all the interviews!

 

~Raven

 

Where the Critique Partners are…

I recently posted my “How I got my agent” story, with all the gritty details. Soon after it went live, I got a few messages from lovely writers, and one of them asked if I was planning to do a post on where I found my CPs. I thought it was a brilliant idea, so here it is.

 

CPs, particularly great ones, are very hard to come by. There are lots of writers out there looking to connect, but the trouble comes in actually finding them. Then, once found, you have to see if you’re going to be the right FIT! For me, the search took many years—about seven in fact, with A LOT of failed attempts along the way—but, I’ve been very fortunate to find some truly wonderful writers. Here’s where I found them.

 

I discovered my first ever CP years ago when I had no clue how one actually went about finding such writers. So, I resorted to trusty old Google. This pointed me in the direction of Ladies Who Critique—which incidentally is not just ladies. I, uh, stalked a few profiles until I found someone who seemed like my kind of person. *Note, I did get propositioned by someone on this site who clearly did not understand what critique means, so watch out for those oddballs.

 

It took several more years before I found my next true CP, again with lots of failed attempts thrown into the mix. It wasn’t until late 2016 that I stumbled upon author Wendy Heard’s CP Match-up programme. Wendy’s matches are awesome! She matches writers based on category and genre, number of years spent writing, and a couple other preferences. Several months later, Wendy matched me up with another amazing writer, and we ended up in Pitch Wars together. I highly recommend signing up for her matches.

 

Early 2017, I found two CPs around the same time during a Twitter contest. These kinds of matches may not be as easy if, like me, you’re an extremely shy introvert. But they are so, so worthwhile. Following hashtags and connecting with other writers in those contest “trenches” has become a very popular way to find CPs. I found mine during the #RevPit contest, but there are loads of general hashtags.

 

Here are a few to look into:

  • #CPMatch – hey, look, a tag especially for those writers looking to find CPs!
  • #ontheporch – this was created by two authors, and it’s aimed at those who are figuratively “on the porch”, either waiting for a new contest, or queries, or just generally hanging out with other writers.
  • #MockPit – I’ve seen this one around lately, and it’s there for people to post their pitches for Twitter contests so other writers can offer feedback, but it’s NOT an actual contest.
  • #QuerySwap – created by The Manuscript Shredder, this is a bi-annual event where writers help each other out with their queries.
  • #amwriting // #amquerying // #amrevising – these are common enough in the writer community.
  • #PitchWars // #PitMad // #DVpit // #QueryKombat // #SunvsSnow – contests like these are gems for finding CPs, so connect with writers while you’re entering. Don’t be shy—writers generally don’t bite unless provoked.

 

Thanks to Pitch Wars, I’ve met a few more amazing writers that are morphing into CPs even as I type this. I know that only helps you if you make into Pitch Wars, but there are several of the mentees who found each other in the “trenches” before we were all picked. That said, if you do make it into Pitch Wars, connect with your fellow mentees!

 

I asked around in our group to see where they all found their CPs, and here’s a quick list of their tried-and-tested methods:

  • WriteOnCon (An Online Kidlit Conference).
  • Big Sur Writing Conference.
  • SCBWI (The Society of Children’s Book Writers) had a monthly email group where writers could join and connect.
  • Lit Reactor classes.
  • MWA (Mystery Writers of America).
  • RWA (Romance Writers of America). They do match-ups, but you can also find CPs in the forums and during contest. I also have it on very good authority that if you send thank you notes, sometimes co-ordinators/judges will offer their services.
  • Local writing classes and conferences—there are lots more than the specific ones mentioned above.
  • Like Wendy Heard, author Maggie Stiefvater does CP matches, but I believe it’s a little different. She’ll usually do a blog post, and writers find their perfect matches through there.
  • Goodreads—there are threads in the discussions/forums where you can find matches.
  • NaNoWriMo.
  • Libraries! One mentee works at a library and formed a critique group.
  • Twitter. Twitter. Twitter… as stated above, this really is the popular option!

 

Remember, every writer is different and looking for a different kind of critique / feedback. When you first connect with a potential new CP, make sure to be very clear about what exactly you are both looking for.

 

Good luck!

 

~Raven

How I got my agent…

DISCLAIMER: This post is long and rambling. I considered making it short and concise, but I also want any querying writers who might stumble upon it to know the full story.

 

As excited as I’ve been to write this, I’ve also been procrastinating. Why? I guess part of me still feels like it’s a dream and will all disappear if I blink too hard. 2017 was a whirlwind of major ups and downs. It was a complete rollercoaster from one end to the other, both personally, professionally, and writerly! I started writing back in 2010, and it quickly became an obsession for me. Seriously, I couldn’t stop, but I also knew very little since I wasn’t much of a reader until a couple years before that. I know, you can all throw your virtual tomatoes, I’ll wait.

 

Okay, that’s enough. Really.

 

I loved stories growing up, but I was usually playing pretend in the garden instead of curled up with my nose buried in a book. When I discovered my love of reading—extremely late, I admit—it was love at first book. Pride and Prejudice, to be exact. Perhaps cliché, but there it is. Fast forward a few years, and I began writing my own. Ah, sheer bliss. I loved it from the very first line I penned. I learnt a lot from those first few books, but that’s a whole different post, complete with querying WAY too soon and nearly getting scammed into a publishing deal from a company on Writers Beware before I was saved by my very first CP. Lessons learnt, I moved on to research as much as I could and gained a lot of knowledge, while reading and writing even more.

 

Fast forward a couple more years and a MS I loved and queried widely. It was a paranormal romance, and any writer in that genre will tell you how difficult it is to find a home for it. I spent two years querying my PNR, trying as hard as I could to make it work, but eventually falling into a writing rut. I didn’t know which way to turn, and then an idea hit me. I plotted for the first time in my panster life, then wrote the first draft in about a month, and edited my first ever romantic suspense. 2016 ended with a new CP (Amy), and a decent draft of IN THE NAME OF THE MOTHER, the book of my heart. I loved it and had a great deal of faith that it was the one. I felt like it was my best piece of writing/storytelling to date.

 

30 January 2017, I sent a bunch of queries—21, to be exact—and crossed my fingers. Of course the rejections rolled in, but this time with a smattering of requests. In March, I found another wonderful CP (Livi), which was quickly followed by a third amazing CP (Lucy), and more editing. We entered a Twitter contest together in April, #RevPit, but any hopes of getting in were soon dashed. I was pretty disappointed and still dealing with rejections from queries and full requests. The last rejection rolled in late June, but while the rejections stung, I’d also gotten some really helpful feedback from a few generous agents. While I was hacking at my manuscript, ripping chapters out and adding new ones, my lovely CPs mentioned another Twitter contest—#PitchWars.

 

I admit, I’d never heard of it. Yes, gasp! I mean, this is the big one, right? The contest writers drool over. Not that I knew that at the time. To me, it was another opportunity for rejection. Around this time, I found another incredible CP (Janet), number FOUR! I never dreamed of having four CPs I’d adore, but I was so lucky to have found them. Coincidently, Janet was prepping for—yip, you guessed it—Pitch Wars. I went back and forth about entering, one of the reasons being I’d just moved into a new house, and we were surrounded by renovations. The day job was already taking strain. I didn’t know if I’d even have the time, but after much encouragement from my mom and CPs, I decided to enter.

 

Choosing a short list of mentors to submit to was TOUGH! There were several I could have happily chosen, but I had to whittle it down to four. After reading bios and wish lists far too many times to count, I had my four. The submission window opened 2 August 2017 and, truth be told, I had very little faith I’d get in. Mentors were tweeting about how the quality of the entries was so high, and I thought I’d never make it. Then, a day later, I got a request for my full MS. Insert bouncing and screaming. I calmed enough to send my MS, along with answers to a list of questions. Six hours later, I had another request, this time a partial, from a different mentor team. Then I waited. And waited. 15 August came around, and I got another request, a partial again. I was super excited because hope had begun to dwindle. A few hours later, the same mentor team requested the full, along with some questions. *Tip for aspiring Pitch Wars mentees—be prepared to answer questions!*

 

Then something unexpected happened. 21 August, I got an email from a mentor I hadn’t submitted to, though she was definitely on my original list of potentials. I was thrilled she was interested in my MS, but a part of me was nervous because she’d also requested from a beloved CP—Janet. I didn’t want to “steal” her mentor (spoiler—this mentor totally picked Janet, and they had an awesome partnership and a happily ever after). At the same time, I was a little disappointed because I knew it meant one of my mentor picks had passed on my MS. The next day—yes, 22 August, literally TWO days before the picks were set to be announced—I got an email from Marty Mayberry, my future mentor and all around wonderful person! She’d received my MS from another mentor and was frantically trying to read it before the mentees had to be chosen.

 

As you can imagine, I had my doubts. It was SO CLOSE to the deadline. I was humbled by all the interest, excited I’d had more than one mentor even take a look at my MS, but I really didn’t expect to make it into the contest. 24 August, I waited for the picks to go live. I typed out thank you emails to all the mentors I’d chatted with, wishing them the best with their chosen mentees. I thanked them publicly on Twitter because they’d all been so lovely. And then the picks were announced.

 

I remember seeing Janet’s name right at the top, and freaking out for her. I was shaking as I scrolled through the list, almost in tears because she’d made it in, and I was soooo happy for her. Then, near the bottom, I saw my name. I couldn’t believe it. To make it crazier, Marty and her co-mentor Leonie Kelsall, had chosen FOUR mentees between the two of them—one they chose together, the adult scavenger hunt winner, and then two wild cards they each chose to mentor individually. I still think they’re crazy to take on so many, but I’m sure they’re very proud. Our little team of SIX people—#TeamFineWine—is doing rather well.

 

I instantly sent a message to Janet to get her attention because she hadn’t seen the list yet. And then the site crashed due to the thousands of hopefuls trying access it, which meant she couldn’t get on. When she asked who’d made it, I practically yelled “YOU” at my phone, and I may have omitted that I’d gotten in, too. Needless to say she eventually discovered it on her own, and we celebrated like only internet friends can—with an exchange of GIFs. That same day, I got a very sweet congratulatory email from Janet’s mentor. I learnt how my MS had been passed around behind the scenes, and I was even more humbled that these wonderful mentors had cared enough to try and find me a mentor. I’m still really grateful to all of them. But I couldn’t be happier with Marty. We worked extremely well together through the entire process. I was hoping for a partnership, and that’s exactly what I got, and I’m happy to call her a dear friend.

 

The actual two months of Pitch Wars was crazy. Everyone worked unbelievably hard. The ups and downs were extreme. The mentees were really supportive, and I was incredibly lucky to have Janet along for the ride with me. I leaned on her heavily, even if it was just a message to say, “hey, you still editing?”, it felt good knowing someone else was right there with me. I was also super lucky to have unwavering support from Livi and Lucy. Through September and October we revised, polished, and perfected our MSs and our queries. I was fortunate Marty helped me with everything, including a rewrite of my synopsis. She was an absolute pillar of strength and knowledge, her generosity made even more incredible by the fact I was one of FOUR mentees she was helping.

 

1 November 2017, the agent showcase went live. *Another piece of advice for future Pitch Wars mentees, take that first day off work if you can!* I got nothing done all day. Our #TeamFineWine connected in a group Twitter chat, watching the site and waiting for requests together. I must say, being part of a big group was so much fun. I got to celebrate an insane number of agent requests. Two out of our four mentees got A LOT of agent interest. The downside, however, was that by the end of the day, my fellow teammates had up to 12 requests, and I had 1. It was tough. Full disclosure, I cried myself to sleep, feeling like a failure and a fraud. I thought my poor mentor must be so disappointed. And I didn’t tell a soul. I wallowed in my misery all by myself. Nope, didn’t even tell my CPs. *More advice, don’t do that.* I thought maybe it was time to put aside those dreams of being a real life writer. Maybe this was all a sign to say, and I quote Babe, “that’ll do, Pig”, and finally focus on something plausible.

 

By the next day, I felt brighter, and I got a few more requests, though still only a total of four. We had to wait until the close of the showcase before we could send our requested materials. While I waited, I made a list of agents I wanted to query and prepped to within an inch of my life. The showcase ended, and I sent off requests, soon followed by those shiny new query letters. And, you guessed it, the rejections rolled in once again. But then, one shining Thursday evening, 16 November, I got an email from one of the agents who’d requested my full during the Pitch Wars showcase. In total honesty, I read the opening of the email quickly—because I’ve discovered after many rejections to instantly find those little words that say pass so you can mourn and move on—except, this one didn’t.

 

In fact, this email said that the agent would like to chat with me. Around this time, I had a minor melt down. I could barely read the rest. I took a walk through the garden to calm down—yes, in the dark. Then I returned to my computer, and typed a response with shaking fingers. The agent in question, the wonderful Amanda Jain, was so lovely, and even realised that I was in South Africa and she was in the U.S., so we arranged a time to suit both of us for the following Monday—the week of U.S. Thanksgiving. That was the longest weekend of my life, but it gave me a lot of time to calm the hell down, because I was a wreck. Not even two weeks earlier, I was bracing myself to give up on the whole writing dream, and now I had my very first call with a REAL LITERARY AGENT!

 

I freaked out all of Monday, 20 November—one exact month, to the day, before my 30th birthday. I was a mess. And then when the time came, Amanda and I had some technical difficulties thanks to my lack of skills with technology, but we finally connected about an hour after our scheduled call. Clicking that answer button was the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I had no clue what was coming. I didn’t know if it was an offer or a R&R, or nothing. I’d heard horror stories of agents calling to reject an author. While the odds were unlikely, it still played through my subconscious. But the call went so well. Amanda was so sweet, and she made me feel a lot calmer. The line was clear—which had been a concern because I was in SA and so far away. She could understand my silly South African accent, and didn’t even comment when I kept saying, “ja” (Afrikaans for “yes”), which I just knew was going to happen. But best of all, she answered all my questions before I even had to ask. I had my list all prepared in front of me—thanks to my amazing Pitch Wars mentor—but I didn’t need it.

 

We chatted about my MS—what she liked and what we could potentially make better. I jotted down notes, still unsure if it was an offer or a R&R. And then, about 20 minutes into our call, she said, “so, of course I’m calling to offer representation,” and I almost fell off my chair. “Of course,” I thought, giggling like a kid because, what was happening? I had an offer! When you’ve been querying for so long, and you finally hear those words—there is no way to describe it. Words fail, which is ridiculous for a writer. And then—this was what sealed the deal for me—she talked about a potential sequel for my MS, with a character I wanted to explore, and I knew she got me.

 

We ended the call, and the first thing I did was talk to my mom. I remember telling her that I already adored Amanda and that I wanted to just sign with her right then. But that’s not how it works. To make matters more complicated, it was the week of Thanksgiving in the U.S., so we arranged a two week deadline, giving other agents a chance to either offer or step aside. That was a long wait, especially when I was so excited. I didn’t get another offer, and while some might be disappointed, I was happy to have the choice simple. I knew Amanda was the right one for me straight away, so sending that acceptance email was such a relief.

 

4 December 2017, I accepted my offer of representation! Ahhhhhh!! Insert much screaming and excitement.

 

You’d think that would be the happily ever after, wouldn’t you? I sure did. I made my announcements, celebrated and chatted with Amanda. Early January 2018, I got to work on my first ever agent edits. It was terrifying and exciting. Then, something else unexpected happened. My agent decided to move to a different agency. Which meant that two months after I signed with her, we terminated our contract. Of course, agents move around pretty often, so it’s far from uncommon. But the last thing I thought might happen two months after signing, was to be technically agent-less again.

 

It was a mere week later when I got another email from her to let me know where we’d be moving—BookEnds Literary Agency. I was over the moon! I’ve had a little crush on their agency for a few years, so moving with my already beloved agent felt like the true fairy tale ending befitting a romance author.

 

There’s a lesson here, right from Pitch Wars to agent, which is why I included the whole long story in this post—expect the unexpected. It may be a cliché, but it’s true. Every writer’s journey is different, but allow yourself to be open to all types of possibilities. Without Pitch Wars and the wonderful mentors, I might never have found my agent. I couldn’t be happier, and I can’t wait to see where this journey takes us!

 

I’d also just like to add how much effort all the Pitch Wars mentors put into this contest. They give so much in exchange for nothing. More than that, Brenda Drake and her entire team deserve a million thank yous for all the hard work they put in. I’m eternally grateful!

 

Stats, because I believe writers want to know the stats. First, let’s do a *total for ALL queried manuscripts, and then I’ll do those specific to the manuscript that won over my agent.

 

Years spent writing pre-agent: 7

Completed manuscripts, excluding abandoned partials: 8

Queried manuscripts: 4

*Total queries sent: 126

*Total rejections: 125

*Total full\partial requests: 15

 

And the winning manuscript…

Queries sent: 53

Rejections\step asides (yes, they feel very different): 52

Full\partial requests (excluding Pitch Wars): 7

Pitch Wars requests: 4

 

Timeline: Note, this was a lot faster thanks to Pitch Wars…

Agent showcase: 1 November 2017

Requested materials sent: 11 November 2017

Request for call: 16 November 2017

Call/offer: 20 November 2017

Acceptance of offer: 4 December 2017

Signed with agent first time: 11 December 2017

Left first agency: 11 February 2018

Signed with same agent at new agency: 14 February 2018

 

I hope this gives some interesting insight to querying writers. It’s a long and often slow journey. Some authors get lucky and find their agent quickly and easily, but that’s the exception. And while Pitch Wars is an awesome opportunity—it has the power to completely change a writer’s life—it’s not the only path. Every journey is unique. Good luck with yours!

 

~Raven