Monthly Archives: November 2018

Katie Bono – #WriteMentor Success Stories

Katie, what about KC’s bio convinced you to sub to her?

41GO1z9kSKL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgKC mentioned in her bio that she was good at tough love, which is exactly what I needed. I was desperate for someone to tell me how to fix my manuscript, and I could tell that she would be the one to do it.

I was also wowed by KC’s resume.  She was working toward being a certified book coach through Author Accelerator (which she’s completed, by the way!), she’s been through #pitchwars as a mentee, and she’s taken Lisa Cron’s Story Genius classes. She was more than prepared to understand what I was going through and guide me through this process.

KC, what made you fall in love with LEADING OFF?

I saw so much potential in Katie’s writing. She had wonderful characters just dying to tell their stories, but they lacked backstory and depth. Katie reminded me so much of myself and the struggles I had with my own writing that I couldn’t say no to her. I wanted to be there the moment Katie had her own “aha moment.” Katie’s main character, Alex, is such a strong, positive influence for girls. She’s on the men’s baseball team and does Jiu Jitsu. She’s a fighter, the kind of girl we need in YA. I couldn’t wait to dive in!

Katie, looking back, what was your favorite part of the #WriteMentor experience?

the-aha-moment-orlando-espinosa.pngMy favorite part was the moment everything finally clicked. I was over halfway through my rewrite, when suddenly, my characters actually felt like real people to me. This had never happened before, and it’s exactly what was missing from my writing. From that point on, everything just made sense.

I also love the connections I made through #WriteMentor. KC has two other mentees, and they’ve both been a huge help and offered tons of encouragement. Plus, KC has been with me every step of the way, and I couldn’t have done it without her.

KC, tell us what it was like working with Katie.

Right before the #WriteMentor mentees were announced, I sent Katie an email asking her if she had the stamina, emotional capacity, and timefor a major rewrite. Three months flies by, especially when I considered the amount of work Katie needed to do. Her reply was fast and certain: I absolutely do.


We gutted Katie’s manuscript. I think parts of the first chapter stayed, but the rest was a complete rewrite. She reworked her characters, the plot, and the point of the story. And she worked HARD and lightning fast. She churned out pages faster than I imagined possible. I’m still not entirely sure how she managed it (some black magic was surely involved), but she impressed me every time. She never flinched, not even when I told her to rewrite something again (or again or again). She was the ideal mentee. She listened, she digested, and then she worked.

Katie, what was the most surprising part of the #WriteMentor experience?

The biggest surprise was that the homework KC made me do (from Story Genius) helped. A ton, actually. It took the entire first month to complete, which made me anxious because I had such a huge rewrite to work on, and all I wanted to do was get started. But KC said to trust her, and I did. Once KC felt I was ready to start writing, it was easier and went faster than I expected. And my final product had a plot with important backstory weaved throughout, which I was lacking before.

Katie, the revision process is only three months and can be intense. Tell us about your revisions and how you dealt with constructive criticism from KC.What advice do you have for future mentees?

I ended up deleting the majority of my manuscript and taking it in a different direction. What I had originally wasn’t working, but I loved my characters and knew they had a story to tell. KC guided me through the Story Genius process of making sure every scene left had a purpose, and the ones that didn’t were cut as well.

I went into #WriteMentor wanting to make big changes, so I actually looked forward to KC’s critiques. Which brings me to my advice for future mentees—don’t go into this secretly hoping your mentor will tell you that everything is perfect, and you shouldn’t change a thing. Be open to honest feedback so your manuscript can improve.


Katie, after #WriteMentor, you signed with Scott Miller and Kristin Cipolla of Trident Media Group. Give us all the details of “The Call.”

I spoke on the phone with Kristin, and she let me know from the beginning of the call that they were offering representation.  She discussed what they liked about LEADING OFF and a possible change for the ending, which I agreed with.  She was so nice and answered all my questions, and I’m looking forward to working with them.

What does your writing process look like?

Katie:I used to write without plotting everything out first but realized through this experience that this doesn’t work for me. So from now on, I’ll be using Story Genius for every manuscript I write. It goes beyond plotting and has you write out complete scenes (including the ending) before you start page 1. I really struggled with it at first but now am a huge believer.

KC:I’m a firm believer in doing a lot of “pre-writing.” As Katie mentioned, I love the principles of Story Genius. Once your character is solid, you can build a story that’s tailored to them. So, I prewrite, I make a two-tier outline (what happens and why it matters for every scene), and then I write. Everything is moveable, however. I don’t always follow my outlines to perfection. I usually find myself about 2/3 of the way through a manuscript when I have to go back to the start and revise in order to make it to the end. I like have a guide, though. I always know where I’m starting and where I’m ending even if the middle is still muddy.

You’re on deadline! What are your go-to writing snacks?

Katie: Strawberry Crystal light (with caffeine!) and popcorn.

KC: Diet coke, coffee, tea, and keto chocolate.

Tell us about your favorite writing spot.

Katie: Anywhere quiet! I can’t write when there are conversations going on around me, so I do best at home when my kids are sleeping.

KC: I have a home office with a huge (messy) desk. I do best in a bit of organized chaos with the door closed.

What have you learned from this process?

Katie: I learned how important it is to have another author critique your writing. KC’s suggestions made LEADING OFF what it is today, and I can’t thank her enough. I’m thrilled that she’s working as a freelance editor now and will without a doubt hire her to do a developmental edit of my next book. (You should consider using her—check out more information).

KC: #WriteMentor taught me that writers with a dream are resilient. I learned just as much from my mentees as I hope they learned from me!


Katie Bono is a Young Adult author. She’s also a registered nurse and mom of two high-energy kids.

When not writing, she loves practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and photography. She lives in Overland Park, Kansas.


KC KarrK.C. Karr writes about brave teenagers and unfortunate situations. She’s an editor with Author Accelerator, a proud YA mentor in the #WriteMentor contest, and a longtime member of the critique group Flint Area Writers and SCBWI.

A Flint native residing in metro Detroit, K.C. hopes to one day live on a houseboat off the coast of a tiny island. She’s a sonographer by day, coffee junkie, and a 24/7 cat lover. When she’s not writing or devouring books, K.C. enjoys camping, travel, and spending time with her husband and son.

Amy McCaw – #WriteMentor Success Stories

Amy, what about Marisa’s bio convinced you to sub to her?

Marisa’s bio immediately made me think that we would work well together. She has a lot of writing experience and has spent time and effort developing her craft. I thought her mentoring style sounded perfect, in terms of providing a good balance of areas for development and strengths. Her manuscript wish list of dark and twisty novels and murder mysteries sounded like a good fit, and when she mentioned thinking that vampires are still cool, I was sold!

Marisa, what made you fall in love with EMPIRE OF THE DEAD?

Amy’s story was a salute to the 90s when I was a teenager and her first chapter referenced most of my favourite movies of that time. She actually made me go hunt them down and watch them again! She evoked in me that delicious fear of reading vampire books and I’ve always been disappointed that more aren’t out there. Her first line and page drew me right into the story with an enticing creepy vibe. And such a good title!


Amy, looking back, what was your favourite part of the #WriteMentor experience?

The whole process was amazing. I’ve never felt so motivated or well-supported, and the best thing was knowing that Marisa was there to thrash out ideas or offer feedback. I’ve also become part of a brilliant online community and found some good friends and trusted critique partners because of this process.

Marisa, tell us what it was like working with Amy.

Amy was so hard working and never complained about anything I asked. She saw the value in additional exercises that I passed her and threw herself into craft books and other material I recommended. She put a lot of work in behind the scenes as I saw her manuscript develop and grow after digesting and applying this material. She used it in the correct way and her story really came alive. Amy takes criticism well and understood why I highlighted certain parts to develop.  I’m sure she cursed me one or twice under her breath (lol) but she embraced the whole process enthusiastically and her book is so much stronger.

Amy, what was the most surprising part of the #WriteMentor experience?

I think I was surprised at how much I accomplished by the end of the process, which I couldn’t have done without Marisa’s support and the rest of the #WriteMentor community. By the time the program finished in September, I was ready to query and felt a lot more confident about my writing.


Amy, the revision process is only three months and can be intense. Tell us about your revisions and how you dealt with constructive criticism from Marisa.What advice do you have for future mentees?

The process was intense, but I found that really motivating. I sent a few chapters to Marisa at a time and she offered feedback about those chapters and the whole manuscript. The main things I had to work on were characterization and filling plot holes. I don’t mind receiving constructive feedback, especially when it’s as kind and astute as Marisa’s suggestions.

My advice for future mentees is to start this process with realistic expectations. It was a hard three months, juggling intensive edits at the same time as a full-time job. It was also the most valuable three months of my writing career. I’ve never made more progress in such a short time and this is the best manuscript I’ve written. After #WriteMentor, I felt ready to seek representation and got my offer less than two months after it ended.

Amy, after #WriteMentor, you signed with Sandra Sawicka of Marjacq Scripts. Give us all the details of “The Call.”

I pitched to Sandra at YALC in July and she loved the idea, so I sent my first few chapters and then the full manuscript.

I finished work one Friday and found an email from Sandra saying that she wanted to speak with me. I happened to be visiting London the next day so we arranged to meet. I was cautiously excited but tried not to get my hopes up.

As soon as we started talking, we clicked and it was clear we had the same vision for my edits and publication journey. Sandra made an offer in person and I accepted straight away. I think it was the most exciting meeting I’ve ever had!

What does your writing process look like?

Amy– I’m a combination of a plotter and a pantser. I usually start by plotting and doing research, then start writing when I have enough material and can’t wait any longer. My plot changes a lot when I write and I often plot out difficult scenes when I come to them.

Marisa– Usually a new idea will strike at random and I get that excited tingly feeling that I know it’s going to be more than just a book. For about a week, I let it float around my head, seeing if it’s a character or the plot that speaks to me the most. Then I start jotting down notes. After a couple of weeks of that, I usually have a pretty good sense of who my MC is and what I’m going to put them through. I plot as much as I can, usually on a spreadsheet, a chapter by chapter and scene by scene thing, but sometimes I do get stuck. Those are the times you have to write your way into it. And things always change as I write. When the story and characters start to come alive, they have their own input. I think listening to that instinct is vital for me. Ironing out any issues can come later in the dreaded editing rounds.

What author has most inspired you, and why?

Amy – Laini Taylor is my favourite YA author. Every sentence is beautifully crafted, her plots are thrilling and the characters feel like real people. I find Laini inspiring because she has amazing attention to detail and takes time to make her books as good as they can possibly be.

Marisa– I’m going to go with Dean Koontz. He’s been my favourite author since I was ten and continues to be. His ability to build tension without anything actually happening is second to none. He can handle a wide cast of characters and make you care about all of them. What brings his stories even more to life to me is that when I lived in California, he lived in the same area, so I knew exactly the locations he referred to. I’ve devoured every single one of his books and it’s where I turn when I need inspiration or comfort.

Tell us about your favorite writing spot.

Amy – I write in all sorts of places. Sometimes, I’m at my most productive in a busy coffee shop with a regular supply of tea and chatter around me. I also like writing on the sofa, in bed or at the dining room table. I have a beautiful old-fashioned writing desk but it’s often too cluttered to do any writing on it!

Marisa– I move around a lot. We moved house recently and I haven’t been able to write in the study as it’s dark and dingy, but when we re-do the house, I’m excited about making that room mine. I have back and neck issues so I move from couch to desk to kitchen. Sometimes I’ll go to a coffee shop or work in the restaurant in my gym. I like the buzz of different places and they can make you feel a different vibe. I tried writing in the garden once but had to keep running away from the dive-bombing bees (not a fan).

What is your favorite book (or series). Why?

AmyThe Northern Lights trilogy by Phillip Pullman came out when I was eleven and I’ve loved it since then. As a child, I related to Lyra and wanted to go on adventures like her. As an adult, I appreciate the layers of meaning, the incredible scope of the world and the subtlety of the characterization.


Marisa –There’s no such thing as one favourite book. (How did you do it Amy???) I’ll second Amy’s answer. That trilogy has stayed with me and has a special place in my heart. I also fell in love with The Hunger Games and Twilightseries. And if I refer to Dean Koontz, my favourite of his is The Watchers, which is fittingly about genetic modification as that’s what my own debut is about! I love Stephen King and my favourite of his is Salem’s Lot. I also loved The Helpand The Homecoming of Samuel Lake. I better stop here…

Where does your inspiration come from?

Amy– My inspiration for EMPIRE OF THE DEAD came from the setting, New Orleans. When I visited a few years ago, I knew I’d write a story about the intriguing history and mythology. Usually, my ideas come from a question. What would happen if…? What kind of person would…? If a question like that occurs to me, and suddenly I’m hooked by trying to answer it, then I think it’s an idea worth exploring.

Marisa– Usually, they hit me like a thunderbolt; the character or the plot is delivered to me either in a dream, when I’m falling asleep or as a spark after a conversational snippet. With my own novel coming out, my brother is genetic scientist and we always talked about the risks of trying to produce a perfect race, where lines would be drawn. The conversations started after Dolly the sheep was cloned. And so I wanted to explore in a novel what the world would look like if there were no boundaries to genetic engineering.


Amy McCawAmy McCaw is a YA blogger and writer represented by Sandra Sawicka at Marjacq Scripts. She’s loved reading and writing YA since being a teenager and is thrilled to be getting her YA Gothic mystery ready for submission to publishers. If she’s not reading, writing or blogging, you can probably find her at a book event or talking about books on Twitter (@yaundermyskin).


Twitter & Instagram: @YAUnderMySkin

Marisa Noelle2Marisa Noelle lives in Woking with her husband and 3 children. She writes mostly YA SFF but also dabbles in mental health area as it’s an important aspect in her life and she wants to advocate for those who don’t have a voice. Her debut, a YA sci-fi called The Unadjusteds is coming out with brand new publisher Write Plan next summer. Still on the hunt for the perfect agent relationship, she is out there in the query trenches with her MG mental health book, Spectrum. When not cooking an array of different meals for complicated children and wondering how she might fit a dog into the family chaos, she can also be found standing on a soapbox about all the plastic in the ocean and supporting those causes.


Twitter & Instagram: @MarisaNoelle77

Facebook: &




Jenni Spangler – #WriteMentor Success Stories

Jenni, what about Lindsay’s bio convinced you to sub to her?

Lindsay’s description of her own experience and what she hoped to find in a mentor made me think we’d work really well together. Her book hadn’t been released at the time I applied, but the promo materials made me think I’d love it (I was right!) and there was definitely an aspirational element – I wanted to learn from someone whose work I admired.


Lindsay, what made you fall in love with The Orphan Thief?

From the first paragraph I knew Jenni was a talented writer. I didn’t even need to finish the sample to realise the story had great potential so I immediately asked Jenni for the full manuscript. It was the combination of characters, atmosphere, period detail, and the original magic system that convinced me this was the book I would love to work on. I was so fired up, I immediately decided to offer Jenni a full manuscript review rather than the first three chapters and letter I had originally signed up for.

Jenni, looking back, what was your favorite part of the #WriteMentor experience?

Impossible to pick just one!

Lindsay’s help was invaluable. Her fresh ideas made a huge difference to the book and there’s no doubt that the edits she suggested helped me get an agent. She was also a cheerleader for my work, and her belief was a confidence boost. Lindsay was also there for me during the exciting/terrifying two weeks of requests and offers, reminding me to keep my cool and ask all the right questions. I feel I’ve made a lifelong ally in Lindsay which is something we all need in this fickle industry.

Beyond our own mentoring relationship, the community Stuart and the #writementor team have built is incredible. So much love and support! I’ve made some friends and I’m looking forward to cheering every one of them over the publication finish line in the next few years.

Lindsay, tell us what it was like working with Jenni.

I’m not exaggerating when I say Jenni was a dream mentee. She was creative and flexible, open to big changes but thoughtful with it, considering carefully and trying my ideas out to make sure she was happy before implementing them. This was so important, and I was so impressed by the way she made the suggestions she went with completely her own. She worked quickly, and has great communication skills. I am so thrilled and completely unsurprised she gained so much agent interest and such speedy representation. I feel very lucky to have made a lovely new writing friend and look forward to us continuing to support each other in this wild and wonderful journey.

Jenni, what was the most surprising part of the #WriteMentor experience?

I’ve never been involved in anything remotely like this, so it was pleasant surprises all the way through. I’m delighted to have found such a friendly corner of the internet and to meet so many talented and dedicated people.

Jenni, the revision process is only three months and can be intense. Tell us about your revisions and how you dealt with constructive criticism from Lindsay.What advice do you have for future mentees? 

Lindsay made this easy for me – she had some amazing ideas and always supported the choices I made.

The biggest change to the book was turning the male villain into a woman, which brought fresh nuance to the character and the relationships in the book. It never even occurred to me, but as soon as I tried a few sample scenes I understood what she meant. Everyone who has read it since says ‘I’m SO glad you made that change!’

My advice to future mentees would be to go into the process with an open mind. Expect to make big changes. Don’t be too defensive or protective of your book – you can’t break it, and there’s nothing to stop you changing things back if they don’t work. That doesn’t mean you have to take every suggestion – just really consider everything thoroughly.

A big part of being a writer is learning to step back from your work and not take criticism personally. You’ll get the most out of a mentor relationship (or crit partner/beta reader relationship) if you can both speak openly with each other about any issues with the work.

Jenni, after #WriteMentor, you signed with Lauren Gardner of Bell Lomax Moreton. Give us all the details of “The Call.”


I was lucky to get a few calls during that week, which was extremely exciting and slightly terrifying. Everyone was absolutely lovely and kind, and took the time to talk me through edit ideas and how the process worked. I panicked all week about how I would decide (I know I’m very lucky to have that problem) but when I spoke to Lauren I had a gut feeling.

We spoke via skype for about an hour and a half, at the end of which she hadn’t technically said the words ‘I’d like to represent you’ causing me to very sheepishly ask! It was an amazing experience to have someone speak excitedly about characters I’d created, and the ideas she had just felt right. We bonded over 90s movies (Hocus Pocus anyone?) and she talked me through some ideas about publicity which was a worry of mine. After the call I found myself grinning all day and that’s when I messaged Lindsay and said ‘Lauren offered and I think I’m slightly in love!’

What does your writing process look like?

J: Messy! I don’t love drafting so I try to make a rough outline and then draft as fast as I possibly can, so I can get down to editing, which is where the magic happens. I like to entirely re-type the book for every major edit otherwise I get lazy and miss things.

L: Similar to Jenni in some ways. I love to plan and make notes by hand to start with, toying with the plot, naming characters, building a cast list and getting to know them. Then I plan settings and gradually build the world enough that I begin to visualise the scenes like a movie. I tend to plot out a brief chapter plan, but I am also aware that this will change along the way. Then I’m ready to plunge into the cold mud of the first draft and wade through as quickly as possible, because I agree with Jenni; the editing is the magical part.

You’re on deadline! What are your go-to writing snacks?

J: Just keep the tea flowing and I’ll be happy!

L: Same. All the tea!


What author has most inspired you, and why?

J: In terms of my writing, I think I was influenced by reading Joan Aiken, Philippa Pearce and Frances Hodgson Burnett as a child. As an adult I’m most inspired by the writers I’ve come to know personally, many as-yet unpublished, because I get to see their writing process up close and feel their passion and dedication.

L: I don’t think I’ve been inspired by any one author as I admire so many, and I read and now write in so many different genres. Sorry – I can’t be pinned down on that one.

Tell us about your favorite writing spot.

J: I love the bustle of a coffee shop but it gets expensive fast. I’m lucky to have a box room of my own which I’ve painted a lush, calming dark green and I retreat there whenever time allows. Even better if the rain is thundering on the windows.

L: I have a lovely office where I often work particularly in the evenings with a scented candle lit, but I also like a lap tray on the sofa, and in cold gloomy weather I sometimes decamp to my bed with a hot water bottle. If I’m stuck with my writing a change of scene sometimes helps, and my favorite café is on a cliff-top with the sea pounding just outside the window.

Where does your inspiration come from?

J: The true-but-useless answer is ‘everywhere’. Some things give off a little glimmer of inspiration – the tiniest seed of an idea, or a little tingle at the back of the neck. It can be a photo, a news story, an overheard conversation. I collect them all up in a file called ‘Homeless Ideas’ and every now and then a few of these snippets will fit together and a story starts to form.

L: I wish I knew. Initial ideas appear from nowhere, and usually when I am doing something mundane. I have a whole book of ideas and then it’s when I develop them I start to link them to my experiences,  memories, and things I’ve read about, watched.

Jenni Spangler photo

Jenni Spangler’s first love was the theatre. Frustrated with the lack of juicy parts for girls, she began writing her own and never looked back. She writes stories which blend realistic settings and historical events with magic and mystery. The Orphan Thief was inspired by Victorian photography and a strange local custom of writing letters to rats.

Lindsay Galvin

Lindsay Galvin was lucky enough to be raised in a house of stories, music, and love of the sea. She left part of her heart underwater after living and working in Thailand where she spent hundreds of blissful hours scuba diving. Forced now to surface for breath, she lives in sight of the chillier Sussex sea with her husband and two sons. When she is not writing, she can be found reading, swimming or practicing yoga. She has a degree in English Language and Literature, is fascinated by psychology and the natural world, and teaches Science. Lindsay hadn’t written creatively since childhood until the idea for her debut novel The Secret Deep splashed into her mind, and now she’s hooked.

All my social media links are on the landing page of my website