Monthly Archives: March 2019

#WriteMentor Children’s Novel Award – THE SHORTLIST

After 7 reads in round 1, and another 4 reads in round 2, we feel confident the 6 selected novels for our shortlist really deserve it!

Of those 6 selected, they had either 10 or 11 YES votes from their 11 readers.

So take heart if you’ve missed out this time – there’s 11 people in my writing group and I’d guarantee you that Harry Potter would not get 11 YES votes from them!! 😂

And remember also, that every entrant will get their feedback, both from round 1 and this latest round of reading (unless you’ve made the shortlist).

Those on the list, are now being sent onto our judge, Chloe Seager, to read and consider, before choosing her winner. The date for this is not finalised, but we will keep you informed.

Well done once again, to all 6 who have made the list. As usual, please don’t attach your name to your title, but do feel free to shout about making the SL everywhere. Celebrating your successes (which are few and far between) is what we want, and it’s what other people who follow you also want to hear.

THE SHORTLIST

DANCE, DANCE, DIE!

The Curse of the Weird Wolf

The E.G.A. (Exceptional Gamers Academy)

The Shape of the World

Whisper Pier

WISHYOUWAS


Sarah Barkoff Palma – #WriteMentor Success Stories

Congratulations on signing with Evernight Teen for you novel, THE WANDERERS! 🎉

Sarah, what about Brandy’s bio convinced you to sub to them? 

Well, I was looking for someone who was offering a full manuscript package, because I’d been through several rewrites on my own at the time of applying. I knew I needed someone to take me step by step through several problems I was having with the plot. After Brandy hosted a Q & A session on Twitter, prior to the time of application, we went back and forth with tweets–I liked her vibe and felt like we were old friends right off the bat. She answered any questions I had, and I knew I’d be in good hands with her. Plus, in her bio, she mentioned liking gritty and emotional books, so my story fell into that category.

Brandy, what made you fall in love with The Wanderers?

I knew it was something special right away. The emotions it drew forth were both gritty and raw, and once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. I think I read the entire manuscript in the space of one afternoon. It had that vibe of a Girl, Interrupted with some deep family mystery thrown in, and of course, a sweet Southern boy, which was the cherry on top of the sundae for me.

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

Easy. The people. Prior to #WriteMentor, I hung in the background on Twitter, kept my profile private, and basically just followed a few agents and publishers I was interested in working with. I had no idea there was this whole community of people. Still, it was hard to put myself out there and make my profile public. I still remember switching that button over–Ha! I was nervous to be exposed. But from the time I applied for #WriteMentor and to when the mentees were finally selected, I’d met so many awesome writer friends. When selection day for mentees came, I remember thinking–Even if I don’t get picked, the people I’ve met along the way have made it all worth it. After being selected, it was just the icing on the cake.

Brandy, tell us what it was like working with Sarah.

Sarah was a dream! I felt like we had instant rapport, and I immediately recognized her working style was very similar to my own. She was diligent and a super hard worker, even revising while packing up the family and making a major move! I feel like through the process we became friends and remain so today. 

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

The most surprising part was how emotional draining it was from beginning to end. Almost as soon as the real work for #WriteMentor started, I was moving from New York to Ohio with two toddlers while my husband had to work up until the day before our big move. Even though I knew the timeline while applying, when I was chosen and it all became real, I felt a mounting pressure like no other. All I wanted to do was get to work on my book, but I had to unpack an entire house once we arrived in Cleveland and get my kids settled in while my husband started his new job. My parents came to help me several times while I worked on my rewrites, but I honestly wasn’t sure I was going to finish the edits in time for the agent round. The whole summer was a blur, but somehow I finished in time, and when it was all over, I was so glad I fought for it.

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

The revision process was beyond intense, but I knew going into it that it wasn’t going to be an easy rewrite. I knew major parts of my book would be rewritten from scratch, and I think I ended up rewriting everything but that last 50 pages. Brandy’s editorial feedback was spot on, and as soon as I read the edit letter and spent a few days mulling over ideas, I knew what had to be done. But that doesn’t mean I sat down and rewrote this thing while the words flowed like an ocean! Nope, nope, nope. Some of her ideas posed major issues later on in my book, but with several phone conversations, Brandy and I brainstormed until we came up with the right solutions. Still, throughout the process, there were days when I thought I’d never find the missing puzzle pieces and that I should just quit. But I’m no quitter, and quitting was never an option. On the hard days, I took it one page at a time, sometimes one paragraph at a time, and on really challenging days, one sentence at a time. My advice to future mentees is to go into it knowing it’s bound to be emotional for a whole host of reasons, but never stop fighting for it. It’ll be worth it if you keep at it. 

Sarah, after #WriteMentor, you signed with Evernight Teen. Give us all the details of “The Call.”

Well, there wasn’t a call. It was an email and I got it while watching The Bachelor at 10pm!! I almost died, honestly. My husband said I went into shock. I was shaking and couldn’t believe what I was reading! I’d waited for that moment for so long, and when that breakthrough came, it didn’t seem real. The email said they wanted to publish my book. I’d been talking to Haleigh Wenger (Brandy’s other mentee) earlier in the day and kind of lamenting about nothing happening. So when I got the offer, she and Brandy were the first people I told. I emailed each of them and said, “You’re never going to believe this! I got an offer!!” Then, over the course of the next few days, I received several other offers. I was floored, humbled and honestly so thankful. I’ve been at this a long time.

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

S: My writing snack is exactly the same every single time. Because I exclusively write while my kids are napping, which is typically around lunchtime, it’s a cup of coffee with Italian Sweet Cream coffee cream and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten anything different.

B: Are we talking about regular writing or stress writing/editing, because those are two very different answers! LOL For the most part, I try to eat fairly healthy, so on a good, easy writing day I’d say some carrots and hummus or a cheese stick. There’s also the morning and late afternoon writing sessions with a nice, hot cup of coffee with Oreo creamer. If it’s a stressful day? I’ll be the first to admit I’m an emotional eater so if there are Cheetos, Cheez-Its, or Pringles in the house, they better watch out because Brandy’s coming for them! 

What fictional character would you like to spend a day with?

S: Jo March! I’ve loved her ever since I read LITTLE WOMEN in the 4thgrade. She’s my spirit animal with her big opinions, passionate writing aspirations, and stubborn demeanor. I feel like we’d be besties. 

B: Truvy, Clairee, and Ouiser from Steel Magnolias. I mean, come on, how much fun would that be? Can’t you just imagine all that juicy Southern gossip and laughing all day? 😊

What author has most inspired you, and why?

S: This is hard, but probably Jeffrey Eugenides. After I read MIDDLESEX, I knew I wanted to write a book and I knew I wanted some of it to take place in Michigan where I’m from, much like Eugenides did in MIDDLESEX. I love his writing style and voice.  

Tell us about your favorite writing spot.

B: Oh my gosh, I have so many! If I say my favorite, I’d have to claim that as my front porch swing. It really gets those Southern vibes going. If I say the place I get the most quality rhythm going, I’d say my designated home office space. And if I say where I actually do the most of my writing, then that’d be the school car line!

What fictional world would you most like to live in?

B: I’m not a fantasy reader, so can I go with another time period? 😊 Because I’d definitely love to live in the 1950’s and 60’s at the birth of rock-n-roll and drive-ins and American muscle cars.

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

S: With fear of being super basic, GONE GIRL. Whoa. That book floored me. Gillian Flynn’s voice stunned me from page one. Amy Dunne was a wicked bitch, but I swear I couldn’t help but love her all the same. The book just freaked my freak in a way I can’t even explain. I. Couldn’t. Put. It. Down.

Where does your inspiration come from?

S: It comes from all sorts of random things, but mostly television, films, and music. Honestly, with two little kids, I watch a lot of Disney movies and have seen Toy Story and Finding Nemo dozens of times. Though I studied Creative Writing in college, I’ve learned so much about storytelling, plot structure, and character development from watching those two films. Both movies are so tight, and in my opinion, flawless in terms of story and character.

Also, the songs America by Simon and Garfunkel, There Is A Light That Never Goes Out by The Smiths, and Into The Ocean by Blue October greatly inspired this book. I spent a lot of time on walks with my kids and dog, listening to those songs and plotting out THE WANDERERS. 

In general, though, here’s a random list of people and things I draw inspiration from: Ani DiFranco, Cameron Crowe, M. Night Shyamalan, Fiona Apple, HBO Girls, Breaking Bad, Paul Simon, Joan Didion, New York City, Fleetwood Mac…and the list could go on and on!! 

B: I think life begets art, and, in turn, great art begets other forms of art. That’s all a really romanticized way of saying that my inspiration comes from real life and other forms of art. My stories don’t start out so much with a concept as they do with an emotion, and from there, the story blossoms. Music is a definite inspiration for me, and more than once, a favorite song has spurred an entire idea that built and built until it became a story. November Rain was a huge inspiration while plotting MEANT TO BE BROKEN and Incubus’s Drive was a pivotal song I played on repeat while plotting my newest novel AS MUCH AS I EVER COULD.

Sarah Barkoff Palma

Sarah Barkoff grew up in Detroit, Michigan, but spent most of her childhood traveling the United States as a child actress in various Broadway tours. A former New Yorker for nearly seventeen years, she earned her BFA in Creative Writing from the New School and studied musical theater at the American Musical Dramatic Academy, both in NYC. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two kids.

Brandy Woods Snow

My name is Brandy Woods Snow, and I write YA contemporary and contemporary romance. I’m one of those people who always knew she wanted to write, even from the time I was six years old, though when I went to college, everyone told me that I was crazy to major in creative writing. You can’t make a living writing books! (That’s what they all said.) So, I diverted paths a bit, majoring in English and minoring in Writing/Journalism. For 19 years since, I’ve worked a slew of writing jobs, from international corporations to my own clients in a small LLC, with my work falling into the marketing, PR, and business development categories. During those same 19 years, I’ve freelanced for many magazines, including Greenville Business, Columbia Business, Home Design & Décor (Charlotte, Raleigh), and Delta Sky. Despite the extensive career in journalism, creative writing has always been my first love. I wrote my first book in 2015, a YA contemporary romance MEANT TO BE BROKEN, and it was published in 2018 with Filles Vertes Publishing. My second book, a YA contemporary romance AS MUCH AS I EVER COULD has an offer on the table, and I’m 50,000 words into my newest WIP, a YA contemporary.

Hannah Kates – #WriteMentor Success Stories

Interview by KC Karr

Congratulations on signing with your agent!

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

Thank you for the kind wishes! At the time I submitted to #WM, I had just lost my first published book deal. I was reeling. I didn’t think I had the strength or the stamina to start from square one. 

Then I read Marisa’s bio, and I saw she’d gone through something similar and triumphed in a blaze of glory. I was floored. Marisa had a strength about her that I didn’t see in myself. Her resilience, enthusiasm, and attention to craft yanked me straight out of mourning. 

Marisa, what made you fall in love with Sweetblood?

The MS Hannah subbed was actually different to the one we ended up working on together. She subbed a kick-ass MG that, after losing the publishing deal, had left her deflated. But in those pages was another character that needed her own story at the YA level. Gilly is a tough, but damaged heroine who is so different to any characters I’ve come across in a long time, I knew I had to meet her. Hannah took a vampire trope and turned it on its head, and I’m a sucker for vampires at the best of times (ha ha ha).

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

The people. Far none.  I not only connected with beta readers and critique partners—I met writers who became lifelong friends. I wouldn’t be anywhere close to where I am without them. They coached me line by line, talked me down from hysterical meltdowns, and challenged me to develop my craftsmanship. The folks in the #WM community are the most gracious, giving people I’ve ever met. 

I don’t feel like I’ve achieved anything. I feel like my team boosted me past the goal line. 

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

Hannah was such a joy to work with. She took everything I had to say on board and never complained. Mostly. Snarf. Sometimes she’d have a meltdown and we’d brainstorm ideas and have a back and forth until she felt comfortable with the direction we were taking the novel. And writing something entirely from scratch during the process was great as we got to work with a blank canvas. She’d give me chapters as we’d go, and I’d suggest which areas needed work and give her exercises to help drill into her weaknesses, all which she tackled with grace and positivity. 

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

How cool the people were. Honestly! I know I keep harping on this, but I had no idea Marisa would go through, chapter by chapter, as I wrote an entire book. The other #WM mentees surrounded me with love and support, editing, critiquing, and helping me prepare for submission. This team invested hours of their own time to help me reach my goal. I’m so thankful to be a part of this family. 

Hannah, 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?

I have to be painfully honest. My experience wasn’t like most mentees. I didn’t end up submitting the book I queried. We wrote a completely new one. 

So here’s me, moving halfway across the world from France to Savannah, Georgia, trying to wrap up a novel in a genre I’ve never written before. It was the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, but Marisa was with me every step of the way. Chapter drafts, rewrites, outlines, character arcs—she gave me feedback on everything. Her guidance made it possible to put such a massive project together in such a short amount of time, but there was also a point where I had to let go of my own pride. 

I’m not naturally gracious. I’ve had to learn how to take criticism. There was a point (I remember very distinctly—it was in the airport.) where I had to decide: Am I doing this to get better, or am I doing this for validation? 

The answer made all the difference. I’ve never looked at feedback the same, and I am infinitely better because of it. My advice to future mentees is to question your motivations each and every day. I know I have to.  

Hannah, after #WriteMentor, you signed with Lynnette Novak of The Seymour Agency. Give us all the details of “The Call.”

Let’s set the scene: I was sitting in a rental apartment wearing a pair of fake eyebrows while a life-sized Deadpool mannequin leered over my shoulder. 

Antiheroes aside, I had just taken another call that didn’t end the way I’d hoped, so I was super nervous. Like, pee my pants nervous. But as soon as I got on the phone with Lynnette, I knew it was a perfect partnership within ten minutes of our conversation. 

She started her introduction by discussing my author career goals, then immediately dove into how much she loved the book. I was floored. My crippling self-doubt kept telling me it was too good to be true, so I piped up with parts of the book I thought needed work. (Awkwardly shirking compliments is always a failsafe defense method.) 

Lynnette wasn’t having any of it. She stopped me dead in my tracks and asked, “Will you let me talk for a second about how much I love this book?” 

I started laughing. I couldn’t help it. Her insightfulness and expertise were exactly what I needed. Lynnette is an unparalleled professional, a razor-sharp editor, and a tireless champion for the work she represents. I’m so honored to be a part of her team. 

What does your writing process look like?

Hannah: Ha, ha, ha. (Syllables. Not laughter.) 

I write fast. I write often. I write whenever I have a waking moment to spare. SWEETBLOOD took me a bit under ninety days, then I turned around and wrote SKIN AND BONES in twenty. The SWEETBLOOD rewrite set a new record—80k in fourteen days. 

I’m naturally a fast worker, but in order to keep quality up with quantity, I create full, excruciatingly-detailed outlines by hand. 

I believe significant amounts of my brain have since oozed out my ears, but as Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “Quantity has a quality all its own.” 

Marisa: Well. It’s absolutely changed over the years. When I’m planning a new book, I let the idea circle in my head for a couple of weeks before I write anything down. Usually either a plot or character will come to me and I pull at the threads for a while. I spend another couple of weeks making notes, giving a general outline and getting to know my character. After that I spend some time on a spreadsheet planning out each scene. This is never set in stone, and things always change, but I love to have a guide to follow and it allows me to get down a heavy word count. For instance, in my latest WIP, I’ve recently discovered my MC has mild depression, which I didn’t know until I started writing! Hannah and I are very similar with our productivity. I can write up to 10k a day, but sit more comfortable between 3-5 and will often write a first draft in a few weeks. I don’t get hung up on the quality and let the creativity take over. 

What fictional character would you like to spend a day with?

Honestly? Edward Cullen. Give me 24-hours with that sparkly nincompoop. 

Firstly, we’d discuss how stalking your partner is not romantic, how it is NEVER okay to take away someone’s decision because you don’t think she’s making the right one, and how breaking into a seventeen-year-old’s bedroom to watch her sleep is both illegal and creepy.

Then we’d sit down and hash out a five-year life plan. I mean, the poor kid’s lived for a century and all he can do is go back to high school? He needs guidance. 

Marisa: So many! But I think I’d go for Hannibal Lecter. The criminal mind has always fascinated me. I studied psychology at university with the view to get into criminal profiling (Didn’t quite go to plan) and once tried to get work experience at Britain’s most notorious criminal mental asylum. I’d love to sit there like Jodi Foster did in Silence of the Lambs and pick apart his brain. 

What fictional world would you most like to live in?

The Shire from The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Pre-Saruman, of course. I would love to live in a world where I can settle in a hole, eat six meals a day, while away my evenings with a pipe and/or pint, and have virtually no expectations put upon me beyond the radical fireworks at my eleventy-first birthday party. 

I’m also 5’11” (180 cm), so I would SLAY at hobbit basketball.  Plus, I’d love to see Isengard. 

Marisa: OMG, Hannah – you went for REALLY hard questions! Fictional World…I’d like to think I was brave and kick-ass and could survive in something life Divergent or the Hunger Games, but in reality I’d need something soft and sweet that would be so boring that it probably wouldn’t even make a book! Westworld would be awesome – I’ve always been fascinated by AI, and it might be the topic of my latest book…

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

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman. *Squee!* I could pontificate for a whole article (http://evalangston.com/2018/05/13/the-graveyard-book/), but it’s the purest paradigm of children’s literature since THE JUNGLE BOOK. Here’s a perfect example of why stories must be beautiful, honest, scary, and maybe even sad. 

Why? Life is beautiful, honest, scary, and sad. 

Marisa: I’d choose either The Hunger Games of Phillip Pullman’s Dark Materials Trilogy. Both of them pulled me so far into the story that I forgot to even think about the writing. That’s true genius. Those rare books where you want to be in the world, be the hero, make it your real life. 

Where does your inspiration come from?

Childhood trauma. 100%. Looking back, my real life is far stranger than my fiction. Between being raised in the boondocks by a combat medic, serving as a naval warfare officer, living as an expat, and taking my current position at America’s most actively haunted mansion, I don’t have to stretch my imagination very far.

Do you find that as frightening as I do? 

Marisa: I actually don’t even know. Most of my book ideas come to me in a flash with a fleshed out plot just waiting for me. I’ve always been drawn to the dark and twisted. When I graduated from Nancy Drew, at age 10, I jumped straight into Dean Koontz, who remains my favourite author of all time. He is a master of pace, tension and character and I get completely swept away by his novels. I also love horror movies. Not bloody, slasher ones, more of the creepy spine tinglers like A Quite Place. I think I’ve read and watched so much of this genre over the years that it’s now just how I think and what I’m most comfortable writing. I don’t enjoy long, meandering, contemplative novels, but prefer to get right into action. The more supernatural and mysterious, the better. 

And like Hannah said, childhood experiences. I was shot at, my brother’s best friend was murdered, and I became obsessed at age 7 about a girl on the news who’d been abducted. I had huge abandonment issues and all of this leaks into my novels. 

Hannah Kates

HANNAH KATES is a young adult and middle grade author—but also a professional troublemaker. After graduating from the world’s premier military institute, she got out of war games and into the world of children’s literature, which she considers to be significantly more fun. An avid explorer, she’s chalked up all sorts of misadventures—from being shanghaied by the French Foreign Legion to accidentally being locked inside a medieval Montenegrin castle. As a wanderer, songwriter, and collector of stories, you can find her skulking around cemeteries or giving tours in America’s most haunted manor.  

Marisa Noelle

Marisa Noelle always has a story or two screaming to get out, but it wasn’t until she completed a few courses, including the acclaimed Curtis Brown Writing for Children, that she nabbed an agent here or there and her books began to get noticed. 

Her debut, a YA sci-fi, comes out with WritePlan publishing late next summer. She has been long and short listed in a handful of competitions and was proud to be part of the UK WriteMentor program in its inception year. 

She lives in the UK with her husband and three sons.

#PitchWM

When: Sunday 3rd March until Friday 8th March 5pm GMT.

Where: On Twitter, in reply to the pinned tweet on the @writementor account.

How to enter: reply to the pinned tweet, with your best twitter pitch (one per person) using the #PitchWM hashtag. You must also RT the pinned tweet to be eligible. Other genre/age hashtags are optional.

What do you win: There will be 3 winners prizes, selected by @StuartWhiteWM.

1 month free membership on #WriteMentor SPARK:

  • 1 x Level 1
  • 1 x Level 2
  • 1 x Level 3

Who is eligible: Children’s manuscripts. From CB via MG up to YA.

More information about the SPARK programme is here: https://write-mentor.com/writementor-spark/

Mentors: https://write-mentor.com/writementor-spark-mentors/