Friendly-Fire-Feedback no3. YA Contemporary – Comments Welcome

First Page Workshop – no.3Twin_Scythes___Fire_Circle_by_MattTheSamurai

Today we have the last of our three blog posts under the Friendly-fire-feedback banner. Please note, I am in Australia so we are (currently) 14-hours ahead of the USA EST, so, depending on where you’re located, you may see this on the evening before.  Below you’ll see the fist page without my notes and then with my suggestions beneath that. This way you can read the 1st page without my notes interrupting your rhythm.

And of course, comments are most welcome, in fact I insist! (lol) – please note, comments will be moderated, so play nice! 

28th July

Category/Genre:  YA Contemporarytumblr_mzsnmcm69L1sner72o3_400

Word Count: 60,000

Last night, someone accused Gabbie Vanhout of having sex with Mr. Stevenson.  It allegedly happened backstage after the drama club meeting on Thursday. It’s all over Trumbullconfessional.com.   It’s an anonymous gossip site made by a couple of seniors from back
when the Internet was still dial-up. Mostly it’s just bullshit, people looking to score drugs, find the latest party, or just spread lies.  But sometimes you hit confessional gold.  Gabbie always has hair that looks like she stuck her finger in an electrical socket before coming to first period.  She wears steel-toed combat boots, all black clothes, and barely speaks to anyone.  There are rumors she drank bleach after taking finals last year.

The gossip is intriguing is because she likes to flirt with Mr. Stevenson.  You can only catch it if you’re paying attention.  She’ll stay at his desk a little too long—sometimes she’ll drop a piece of paper, a pencil, and fumble to grab it in a short black skater dress.  Of course online, the conversation quickly veered towards the obscene, but the fact that someone else noticed what I had known for a while was interesting.

I brush foundation on my face, sweep blush over my cheeks and bronzer in the hollows of my neck and on my forehead.  Sometimes I am so pale I worry people will think I’m albino.  My vanity lights don’t help anything either.  Gold eyeshadow, black eyeliner, and black mascara make me look somewhat more presentable, and concealer covers the dark circles under my eyes.  I skip drying my hair and braid it into a fish thing I read in one of my sister Steph’s old magazines.  I shimmy into jeans, a fitted tank top, and grab a granola bar- I never really was a breakfast person. GYBeiUq

I pour myself the last bit of coffee from the pot my mom made probably two hours ago, and nuke it in the microwave.  My shiny white phone bleeps.

Anything interesting on the tangled web last night Birdie? Jack Stewart always calls me Birdie even though my real name is Melissa. He says it’s because it’s always good to have a little birdie tell you secrets.

Just Gabbie Vanhout drama I answer.  Pouring milk into my coffee I quickly scroll through morning status updates. “Ugh Halzer’s comp sci test.” is the only one I identify with.

Debrief at lunch? Jack asks and I roll my eyes.  Sometimes I think he thinks we’re like detectives or something, trying our hardest to find the juiciest school dirt.  And in a way we are.  Jack likes to be in the know on everything, even though he doesn’t run with “the core” the popular crowd’s self-imposed nickname.  Jack’s a Junior too.

I answer Jack: kk.  I swallow my last sip of coffee before I hear Delilah laying on the horn.  I grab my backpack from the front door and race down the sidewalk. She has a cute boxy Jeep to go with her small frame and big personality.

 hunger-games-katnissWith my Notes:

Last night, someone accused Gabbie Vanhout of having sex with Mr. Stevenson.  It allegedly happened backstage after the drama club meeting on Thursday. It’s all over Trumbullconfessional.com.   It’s an anonymous gossip site made by a couple of seniors from back when the Internet was still dial-up. Mostly it’s just bullshit, people looking to score drugs, find the latest party, or just spread lies.  But sometimes you hit confessional gold (love this line!).  Gabbie always has hair that looks like she stuck her finger in an electrical socket before coming to first period.  She wears steel-toed combat boots, all black clothes, and barely speaks to anyone.  There are rumors she drank bleach after taking finals last year.

The gossip is intriguing is because she likes to flirt with Mr. Stevenson.  You can only catch it if you’re paying attention.  She’ll stay at his desk a little too long—sometimes she’ll drop a piece of paper, a pencil, and fumble to grab it in a short black skater dress.  Of course online, the conversation quickly veered towards the obscene, but the fact that someone else noticed what I had known for a while was interesting. (have you noticed I’m not making many comments? That’s because this is working for me. It has voice and cheekiness and it has a direction; I already trust the author)

I brush foundation on my face, sweep blush over my cheeks and bronzer in the hollows of my neck and on my forehead.  Sometimes I muttationsam so pale I worry people will think I’m albino.  My vanity lights don’t help anything either.  Gold eyeshadow, black eyeliner, and black mascara make me look somewhat more presentable, and concealer covers the dark circles under my eyes.  I skip drying my hair and braid it into a fish thing (again, this is great, I can totally imagine this – great showing!) I read in one of my sister Steph’s old magazines.  I shimmy into jeans, a fitted tank top, and grab a granola bar- I never really was a breakfast person.

I pour myself the last bit of coffee from the pot my mom made probably two hours ago, and nuke it in the microwave.  My shiny white phone bleeps.

Anything interesting on the tangled web last night Birdie? Jack Stewart always calls me Birdie even though my real name is Melissa. He says it’s because it’s always good to have a little birdie tell you secrets. (again, I’m convinced that Birdie is a great nickname, given
what I already know)

Just Gabbie Vanhout drama,” (don’t forget this is Dialogue) I answer.  Pouring milk into my coffee I quickly scroll through morning status updates. “Ugh Halzer’s comp sci test.” is the only one I identify with.tumblr_m37r81Cvbu1qbojrlo1_400b

Debrief at lunch? Jack asks and I roll my eyes.  Sometimes I think he thinks we’re like detectives or something, trying our hardest to find the juiciest school dirt.  And in a way we are (I’d remove this, it’s telling, and it’s kind of obvious & it’s not needed).  Jack likes to be in the know on everything, even though he doesn’t run with “the core” the popular crowd’s self-imposed nickname.  Jack’s a Junior too.

I answer Jack: kk.  I swallow my last sip of coffee before I hear Delilah laying on the horn.  I (comma) grab my backpack from the front door and race down the sidewalk.  (consider removing the extra “I” – you’re going to have a lot of “I’s” because of the present tense, remove wherever you can. Plus this becomes a more active image) She has a cute boxy Jeep to go with her small frame and big personality.

B0nJldxNOTES:

Well, I don’t know about others, but I’d pick this up and keep reading in a heartbeat! Yes there are changes I’d make and the author will likely do more work after feedback, but, if this turned up in #Nestpitch, I’d be voting for it!

Friendly-Fire-Feedback no2. Adult Psychological Thriller – Comments Welcome

ImageProxy.gif 20jun

First Page Workshop – no.2 Today we have the second of our three blog posts under the Friendly-fire-feedback banner. After this there will be one more in the 28th, another YA (contemporary). Also please note, I am in Australia so … Continue reading

Friendly-Fire-Feedback no.1 Young Adult Magical Realism – Comments Welcome

catfightFirst Page Workshop

For those of you who submitted their first pages and/or those that didn’t but are following this blog, you’ll know that today is the first of three blog posts on 1-pages feedback. There will also be one on the 21st and the 28th of July. Just a quick reminder, I am in Australia so we are (currently) 14-hours ahead of the USA EST, so, depending on where you’re located, you may see this on the evening before.  I have selected 2x YA and 1x Adult, all in different genre’s, in this way I hope more people will get something from the feedback. I have included the 1-page without my notes and then with my suggestions below. This way you can read the 1st page without my notes interrupting your rhythm.

21st July will be an Adult Psychological Thriller  &  28th July will be an  YA Contemporary

And of course, comments are most welcome, in fact I insist! (lol) – please note, comments will be moderated, so play nice :)

14th July

 Category/Genre: YA Magical Realism

Word Count: 77,000

Colton ditched me for his girlfriend when we got to the party. I pulled down the service trail we used to sneak into the beach at Hanna Park, and I’d kept my headlights on to keep from scraping my car on the palmettos. The low beams swept across the row of cars and the tree line to land on her short, tanned legs.

She dragged Colton out of the car the second he opened the door, and they disappeared before I even cut the engine. That feeling of abandonment burned. Now I had to show up alone. People only invited me to these parties for two reasons: 1. Colton was my best friend, and 2. I came in handy as a designated driver because my liver’s shot from this genetic disorder.

I headed down the wooded path toward the yellow-orange glow of the bonfire. When I topped the dunes, my feet sank into the dry sand. Hanna Park was protected from the condos farther south, making it a refuge for locals, and the memory of coconut sunscreen clung to the breeze. Off to my right the party raged, a jumble of bodies around the fire and a bad playlist blaring from mini speakers. But to the left the night was all black water and white moonlight catching on the breakers.

I kicked off my shoes and walked to the shoreline, but my toe caught when I crossed onto the hard-packed dampness. I pulled a thin red ribbon from beneath my foot. It slipped from my fingers and caught on the wind, swirling toward a girl sitting alone on a rental chair.

I should’ve gone to her. Taken my chance to talk to a girl one-on-one. But a jab of knuckles hit me square in the back as Jake Morgan jogged past. I gritted my teeth and tried not to flinch.

“I thought I felt my gaydar going off! Glad you could make it, Evan Evans.” Jake’s high-pitched laugh rang in my ears as he pulled a piece of driftwood toward the fire.

“I’m gonna punch you in the ovary, Morgan.” It was a quote from the movie Anchorman, and a fair comeback, but some girl shot me a dirty look.

Anger knifed its way through my chest. I shoved my hands in my pockets and stared at the crashing waves. I don’t know why I thought senior year would be different, but two weeks in and it was all the same. I had no real friends except Colton. I’d never had a girlfriend. No wonder people thought I was gay. It was time I walked out of the shadows. Before the night was over, I had to ask a girl out. A little liquid courage seemed like a step in the right direction.

I cut through the crowd of the party, fished a can from the cooler, and cracked it open before my conscience could stop me.

“Dude.” Colton appeared from nowhere and grabbed my arm. “What are you doing?” 

With my Notes:

Colton ditched me for his girlfriend when we got to the party. I pulled down the service trail we used to sneak into the beach at Hanna Park, and I’d kept my headlights on to keep from scraping my car on the palmettos. The low beams swept across the row of cars and the tree line to land on her short, tanned legs.

She dragged Colton out of the car the second he opened the door, and they disappeared before I even cut the engine. That feeling of abandonment burned. Now I had to show up alone. People only invited me to these parties for two reasons: 1. Colton was my best friend, and 2. I came in handy as a designated driver because my liver’s shot from this genetic disorder. (I’d recommend not telling us everything instantly, by finishing on Liver’s Shot, it has the reader thinking and making conclusions. It doesn’t matter if they are right or wrong at this point, only that they become invested)

I headed down the wooded path toward the yellow-orange glow of the bonfire. When I topped the dunes, my feet sank into the dry sand. Hanna Park was protected from the condos farther south, making it a refuge for locals, and the memory of coconut sunscreen clung to the breeze. Off to my right the party raged, a jumble of bodies around the fire and a bad playlist blaring from mini speakers. But to the left the night was all black water and white moonlight catching on the breakers. (nice line, very good imagery)

I kicked off my shoes and walked to the shoreline, but my toe caught when I crossed onto the hard-packed dampness. I pulled a thin red ribbon from beneath my foot. It slipped from my fingers and caught on the wind, swirling toward a girl sitting alone on a rental chair( I have no idea what a RENTAL CHAIR is?)

I should’ve gone to her. Taken my chance to talk to a girl one-on-one. But a jab of knuckles hit me square in the back as Jake Morgan jogged past. I gritted my teeth and tried not to flinch.

“I thought I felt my gaydar going off! Glad you could make it, Evan Evans.” Jake’s high-pitched laugh rang in my ears as he pulled a piece of driftwood toward the fire.

“I’m gonna punch you in the ovary, Morgan.” It was a quote from the movie Anchormanand a fair comeback, but some girl shot me a dirty look.

Anger knifed its way through my chest. (Why is Evan angry? I got lonely, frustrated, irritated, but I didn’t get angry?) I shoved my hands in my pockets and stared at the crashing waves. I don’t know why I thought senior year would be different, but two weeks in and it was all the same. I had no real friends except Colton. I’d never had a girlfriend. No wonder people thought I was gay. It was time I walked out of the shadows. Before the night was over, I had to ask a girl out. A little liquid courage seemed like a step in the right direction.

I cut through the crowd of the party, fished a can from the cooler, and cracked it open before my conscience could stop me.

“Dude.” Colton appeared from nowhere and grabbed my arm. “What are you doing?”

1303815445_bunny-noseFinal thoughts:

If you mix this up a bit then you can finish with Evan ignoring his *medical advice* of never drinking… opening the can and having Colton come over.

Over all, I liked this. I liked the MC and the way you were weaving him through the crowd of people, but I’m a little worried it does sound like “the lonely outsider with the most popular kid in school best friend” which is why I’d recommend taking out the genetic thing in the beginning and adding it later on. I know it might seem it should be the other way around, but think of it this way.

That first para or two should be the meet&greet of the MC. Let the reader invest in them and/or the story (each genre dictates different things). Once you get to para 3/4/5 there should be a hint of what’s to come, or who else might have a stake in this story. By the time you are on page 2, the reader should get a feel for what makes this MC different/believable/interesting enough to care.

If you give too much in para 1-2, it can be information overload, and the reader may well forget something vital. But if you give nothing by page two that makes the MC unique and/or interesting, the reader may think the story is a rehash.

It is a balancing act, and it is also very much individual taste/personal opinion – it’ll be interesting to see what other’s think.

#Nestpitch 2014 – Success Story No.2

thebestdayyetHello all,

Well, as most of you know, we’ve already announced one #nestpitch success story. And I’m sure many of you have seen the tweets about the second one also.  And if you missed it, let me introduce you to Niki Cluffphoto

Niki entered Nestpitch 2014 with her YA Magical Realism pitch… and we all loved it. In fact, Niki was one of very few who used the 2 pitches entry rule; and we loved both pitches! This told us a lot. After some tossing and grabby-hands, the wonderful Amanda Foody got to be Niki’s Mentor and from that, Niki got three agents requesting pages.

To refresh your memories, here is the Entry (without the first 300-words)

Title: SUMMONER BATTLES

Genre: YA Magical Realism

Word Count: 60,000

 Pitch: In a weaponless world, avatars are used for battle. 16 y/o Evie can’t wait for her avatar, but when it’s a human instead of a beast, she’ll discover the peaceful government has a secret.

Answer to qu:  My main character would be a jelly bean, you don’t know what flavor you’ll get.

Is that not a great pitch? It’s got voice and imagery and what’s at stake and what makes it unique… all in 35-words. That folks; is how you do it. And then, the answer to the question, “you don’t know what flavor you’ll get” – the mind boggles, and if you’re like me and don’t like liquorice, let’s hope it’s not the black one.

Without giving too much away, as Niki will fill us in below, the wonderful Cart Hart of Corvisiero Literary Agency found a match in Niki… and thankfully Niki agreed. To learn more about Cate Hart, here’s a link to her interview:  https://nestpitch.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/five-minutes-with-agent-cate-hart-corvisiero-literary-agency/  :)

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Getting to know Niki Cluff

Niki, aside from being an author, tell us a little about yourself, where you grew up, what you do that pays the bills, when and where you write, anything at all you’d care to share.

I grew up in Prescott, Arizona moving to Chino Valley, AZ before my freshman year of high school. Now I live in a mere 30 minutes away from both Prescott and Chino.I’m a stay at home mom of 3 kids (four if you count the Husband) and a dane mastiff. When I’m not being a mom I deliver news papers on an early morning route and I also intern for Margaret Bail reading through her slush pile. I write whenever I have the chance, whether it be in the afternoon while the kids are swimming in the pool, or late at night after the kids and Husband are asleep. I’m the queen of copy-cat recipes, my hair is rarely the same color (currently black with blonde beneath) and I love makeup and figuring out looks from movies and TV. (Note from Nik: that’s Niki’s dog, together with her daughter… I don’t know which one is cuter!)

 Qu1. Nik: As I said above, your pitch and first page instantly stood out, where did the idea come from?

Niki: Most of my ideas come while I’m on my paper route. I have about two hours of quiet where I can just think, something that doesn’t happen often during the day. I’m a video game addict and I love Japanese Anime. I wanted to write something that incorporated those loves. The idea of battling in a video game with holographic styled creatures really appealed to me and I wondered what a competition with these holographic creatures would be like. I’ve also wondered what the world would be like if there were no weapons. This was my solution for peaceful battles. I wanted to write something for the video gamers, like me, out there.

Qu2. Nik: Was this the first time you’d entered this manuscript into a pitch competition?

Niki: A year or so ago I stumbled across Twitter pitch parties and entered it a few times there, but this was the first time I’ve entered this manuscript in a contest.

 Qu3. Nik: Tell us about your experience with #Nestpitch and with Amanda, you’re Mentor.tumblr_m37r81Cvbu1qbojrlo1_400b

Niki: I actually came across #Nestpitch by accident. A woman I follow on twitter retweeted the competition and I had just failed making it into another earlier one. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try, so I entered two manuscripts (better odds). I’d just come home from my paper route when I checked the blog to see who the mentors picked. I assumed I didn’t make it. There was a somewhat negative tweet from one of the mentors about an entry that I was sure was mine. When I saw my name and pitch I nearly died. I quickly emailed the CP who helped my hone my pitch. Someone believed in my ms as much as I did. Amanda was amazing and extremely supportive. I can’t express enough gratitude for #Nestpitch and everyone involved.

 Qu4. Nik: You entered two manuscripts, how did you come to have two ready for pitching?

Niki: I started writing in 6th grade. My best friend and I wrote fan fictions to each other instead of taking notes in class, gradually moving to my own creations. Writing is something I always enjoyed doing, but I feared rejection. The last few years I got really serious about it. I wrote my first ms and queried it, learning the process, gathering CP’s and progressing. While I was querying agents and entering contests, I worked on something new. It gave me a chance to step back. I found myself fretting over every rejection and wondering what I was doing wrong. I needed a break. Writing something new gave me fresh eyes when I came back to the first and vice-versa. Through that process I was able to write two ms and edit them. Great CP’s helped me strengthen my pitches. It helps to have supportive people around.

Qu5. Nik: With regard to Cate Hart, how did the request go from partial to full? Did you do any research beforehand or did you already know of her?

Niki: I didn’t know who Cate was until I read the Five Minutes With interview on the #Nestpitch blog. I researched every agent participating in the contest. There were a few I already knew about since I was querying outside of contests, but Cate was new. Luckily she has a wonderful blog with great insight. As for the request, I received an offer from another agent. Out of courtesy I notified Cate. She replied asking for the full and a week. I willingly obliged. After reading her blog, I knew she was someone I wanted to work with. I secretly hoped that she would offer me representation, my fingers crossed the entire time.

 Qu6. Nik: Now I know that while you were waiting to hear back from Cate, you also had interest from other agents. What was ImageProxy.gif 20junthe waiting like? What did you do while you waited?

Niki: The waiting was excruciating! At first I wasn’t sure what to do. I’d gone from constant rejections to a couple of offers in a matter of hours. I actually had to research proper etiquette in notifying agents with partials and fulls, what sort of questions to ask, all the important things I hadn’t considered. Once I knew what to do, I emailed Cate to let her know. Like I said before she emailed back requesting the full and a week. I would like to say that I patiently waited that week, but I didn’t. I checked my email every few minutes. I talked my husband to death with possible scenarios and squealed with giddy delight at the thought that I may actually get the agent I wanted to work with, Cate. Of course, my husband brought me back down to earth and I managed to refocus my energy on helping my CP’s, working on some new ideas and continuing to email other agents, just in case. Five days later she emailed me back wanting to set up a time to call. It was another email I received at 6 AM after doing my paper route. I actually jumped and did a fist pump in the air, carefully landing so I wouldn’t wake the rest of my family up. I won’t deny it.

ScaredQu7. Nik: OK, the one we have all been DYING to ask, tell us about THAT CALL, the one from Cate, and please don’t leave anything out.

Niki: Honestly, I couldn’t sit still once we set up a time. I went to my dad’s birthday party the day before and I squirmed in my chair the whole time. From the email to the day she called I had a couple days to sort through all the questions running through my mind and research anything and everything I would need to ask an offering agent. I wrote them down, knowing I was capable of forgetting everything once excitement got the better of me. I’m pretty awkward on the phone. When the call came I ran into my bedroom and locked the door so the kids wouldn’t interrupt. Cate was wonderful. She was kind as she introduced herself and informed me that she wanted to offer representation. I struggled to keep from giddily laughing (which probably would have come out more like the bray of a donkey in my excitement) and thanked her for the interest. We talked about the story, how unique it was and the way she wanted to present it. I asked her about edits and she gave me a good idea of things to work on and how to improve and let me know that she would send a more detailed email about the edits later. I asked her my questions, such as: was she more into traditional publishing, or digital and indie, if she was a hands on agent or not, was she Selena_gomez_falling_confettiinterested in representing me for my career or just the book, etc., things I couldn’t learn from her profile on Corvisiero’s website or through her blog. She patiently answered each and every one of my many questions without complaint. She walked me through the contract, explaining each and every section so I knew exactly what I was signing. I wanted to immediately say yes, but I also wanted to make sure there wasn’t anything else I needed answered, so I asked her for a couple days to consider and sort through any more questions I may possibly have. Cate was gracious enough to give me the time, not that it mattered. My gut told me Cate was the right agent, but it was really nice to make sure I knew everything I wanted to know before I signed.

NOTE FROM NIK: It’s so clear that Niki and Cate were looking to create the start of a long-term relationship. Look at the topics covered… and then take note for when your turn comes!

 hello kitty catQu8.  Nik: After having gone through the query process and the #pitching competition process would you recommend your aspiring author friends do pitch competitions? And what advice would you give them?

Niki: I would definitely recommend them, but not just for finding an agent. They’re a great place to learn. Each competition I’ve entered had mentors who gave their time freely to posting trends, statistics and other things they noticed while reading through the mountains of entries. They offer such great and valuable advice that you really can’t get elsewhere. Agents don’t always have the time to give that sort of insight. It’s also where I met my CP’s. They were in the trenches just like me. They understood what I was going through. It was nice to have someone waiting on the sidelines with me, but competitions aren’t for everyone. They do require some research before hand. I always read everything the host posts about the competition and research the agents involved. There is no point in entering a competition if every agent has already rejected you, or if there isn’t an agent representing what you write. Sometimes it’s hard to put your work out there, even behind a computer. That’s totally cool. For me, they were a great opportunity to grow and connect. Not to mention I got seen by multiple agents who actually liked my writing.

NOTE FROM NIK: Niki makes some excellent points here. #Pitch comps are about connecting as much as they are about *winning* – also, doing your homework and researching the agents, what genres they represent, etc. is crucial, as is being aware of who you have already submitted to. There is no value in entering a competition if all the agents have seen that MS; enter another comp or submit another MS.

Qu9. Nik: What do you say to people who dismiss the Slush Pile and/or #pitching competitions in general?agent cat rejection

Niki: I read slush. That’s what I do for Margaret Bail when I have time. I can honestly say that the slush pile does work. It takes time. There are thousands of people out there who want the same thing, who have a story of their own to share. It may take a while for an agent to find yours out of the many that don’t follow the guidelines or the mss that aren’t right for them, but they get there. Sometimes its about the right story with the right agent at the right time in the market and that can take a while to figure out. It’s easy to get impatient. #Pitching competitions are the same way. It’s all a matter of preference, as much as I hate to be cliché. So many people say that, but it’s true. Agents are readers just like us, it’s how they get into the business in the first place. They have genres they like and ones they don’t. Not every story that comes across their desk is going to be one they love. We don’t love everything we read either. These competitions are a great way to get your name out there, to have multiple agents see your pitch or first page. It’s exposure you can’t get otherwise. People get signed one of three ways: they meet an agent at a conference, they query or they pitch and everyone already signed worked hard to get where they are. Sometimes pitching is the only way to get your name, and writing, out. I didn’t have the opportunity to go to conferences since I do a paper route 7 days a week and people don’t like to sub routes. I also live in a slightly rural area and don’t have access to many conferences. #Pitch competitions gave me the chance I needed. I couldn’t be more grateful to the people who take the time to put the competitions together and volunteer to mentor. They really do make all the difference.

NOTE FROM NIK: As someone who lives in Australia,I can certainly understand not being able to attend conferences. Our other success story (thus far) lives in Japan… the beauty of online and email pitch comps it you can be anywhere in the world and still be a part of them.

 ImageProxyQu10. Nik: So what’s next, I mean after you’ve got over the giddiness and the copious congrats and thank-you’s, what happens now?

Niki: Editing. I get to go into my writing cave (which may or may not look like the Batcave) with all of Cate’s wonderful and insightful suggestions and edit my work as many times as it takes until it shines and we are both happy with the results. She gave me so many ideas that will strengthen my writing and the overall story. Then I’ll let her do her thing, from what I understand, and I’ll work on cleaning up another ms of mine and a new idea I got while traipsing around the French Quarter in New Orleans on vacation. I’ve hit the halfway mark. Getting an agent is definitely half the battle, but there is still a ways to go before I hit the finish line!

 Thank you so much for taking part in this Q&A Niki, I know the entire #Nestpitch Team are so very happy for you, and promise, when you have your first book deal, you’ll come back and visit (and share the cover too) :)

If you want to follow Niki’s progress, you’ll find her on blog here: nikicluff.blogspot.com & you’ll find her on Twitter here: @nikimcluff And don’t forget to congratulate Niki’s awesome agent Cate on her great taste and foresight! Cate can be found on Twitter here: @CateHart and on her blog here: catehart.com

Final thoughts: Pitch competitions DO WORK – period. No, they are not for everyone and no, not every pitch that is selected to be featured will result in an offer from an agent. Not even every pitch that has a request by an agent will end in an offer of representation, but as Niki pointed out, pitching competitions offer so much to all those who enter.  You *meet other authors, people with whom you can form relationships, some of whom will become friends/BETA readers/CP partners. You extend your contact list to include successful authors and not just successful but successful generous authors who give freely of their time, people who are there for you well beyond the pitch-faze. You increase your presence on social media. You develop confidence.

These are all intangible but invaluable benefits to entering pitching competitions. Oh yes, and you might get yourself an agent too! So, as you look at upcoming events (and there are several excellent ones in the next 6-months which I will be posting updates on), and as you scroll through the Mentors and the Agents, don’t dismiss the opportunity and positive effect of #Pitch Competitions.

#Nestpitch 2014 First Success Story

pinkie pie party cannonHello all, 

Well, I’ve been holding on to this news and been bursting at the seams to share… and at last I can; #Nestpitch 2014 First Success Story and I couldn’t be happier. So (whee I’m actually squealing here), let me introduce to you Ms. Kimberly Ito. P1020267

Kimberly was one of the pitchee’s in Dannie Morin’s Team, though her pitch had more than one or two grabby-hands from the other Mentors. Kimberly’s entry was one of the 2-3 LGBT entries we got and I have to admit, when I saw we had LGBT entries, I kept my fingers crossed that at least one would be a knock out – and it was. To refresh your memories, here is the Entry (without the first 300-words)

Title: THE STARS MAY RISE AND FALL
Genre: Adult, commercial fiction (LGBT)
Word count: 88,000
Pitch: In this LGBT retelling of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, a Japanese glam
rocker must re-examine sexuality, career, and ideas of beauty when he falls for a scarred, disabled composer with ghosts of his own.
Answer to question:
He’s a fuchsia malted milk egg: flashy outside, sweet inside, with a surprisingly strong core.

March-06-2012-17-18-53-tumblrltqwvxV4261qlcw7co1500Seriously, what’s NOT to like here? Not only did Kimberly follow all the guidelines (and people that’s a biggy) but she did exactly what a pitch should do. She told us enough to entice and created interest by showing what was unique. I mean come on, a re-tell of Phantom of the Opera, but with a Japanese Rocker and its LGBT, how could we not read on?

And we did, and so did a few of our Secret Bunny Agents. One of them, GinaPanettieri, President of Talcott Notch Literary Services, literary-agent-jessica-negronhttp://www.talcottnotch.net/ wasted no time in upgrading the partial to a full. She also passed on Kimberly’s full and profile to Jessica Negrón. When Kimberly emailed Dannie and me about the upgrade and Jessica, I remember nodding. Jessica is also Emmie Mears’ agent and I could see how Jessica’s taste and Kimberly’s style would work brilliantly together. It seems so could Jessica!

As it’s been just over two months since the requests went out, I expect to hear many more success stories after the (northern) summer, but for now, let’s woo-hoo Kimberly and Jessica and while we are at it, let’s get to know Kimberly better. (spoiler alert- some of you have surely seen the tweets about another success story – well it’s true! & we’ll have all the details in another Q&A soon)

Getting to know Kimberly Ito

Kimberly, aside from being an author, tell us a little about yourself, where you grew up, what you do that pays the bills, when and where you write, anything at all you’d care to share.

I grew up in the US, but I’ve lived in the Tokyo area for the past 12 or 13 years.  I’m primarily a stay-at-home mom, but I do some freelance work: teaching English (as a foreign language), editing, proofreading, and translating Japanese to English. I usually write at home, after my kids are asleep.  I P1020227don’t have a lot of time for hobbies, but I love cooking, butchering 8-minute-long power ballads at karaoke, and playing with my dog and kids. NOTE FROM NIK: take a look at how cute Kimberly’s dog – Holly – is!

Qu1. Nik: As I said above, your pitch and first page instantly stood out because it was so unique and yet also so universal, where did the idea come from?

Kimberly: Well, I’ve always been interested in PHANTOM – the book, the musical, quite a few of the movies – and Phantom retellings. Brian de Palma’s 1974 film, PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, has always been a favorite, and I just really enjoy seeing those themes explored in different eras and locations. As far as the setting, well, I live in Japan and actually met my husband in this particular subculture, so you might say it was a matter of “write what you know.”

NOTE FROM NIK: That last bit “write what you know” it may seem like a cliche but there was never been more truer advice, to make your scenes and character’s authentic you need to understand who and what you are writing about.

Qu2. Nik: Was this the first time you’d entered this manuscript into a pitch competition?

Kimberly: I had done a few Twitter pitch competitions, but this was the first and only time I did anything beyond 140 characters!

Qu3. Nik: Tell us about your experience with #Nestpitch and with Dannie, you’re Mentor.

Kimberly: I almost didn’t enter! My decision was really last-minute, and it all seemed to happen so fast.  I did have a lot of fun watching the slush pile readers and then bloggers give vague hints about what they were choosing, and even more fun reading the other selected pitches.  After a lot of querying and waiting, it was nice to feel like I was being active and DOING something to get my work out there.  Dannie was great.  She helped me fine-tune my pitch before it went live and was very encouraging and supportive throughout the contest, and beyond.

Qu4. Nik: I remember getting that first update when Gina requested the 25-page partial to a full and how happy I was for you. Tell us how it felt and (aside from doing a little happy dance) did you do anything before sending, like re-reading the manuscript?ImageProxy

Kimberly: Well, it was actually Jessica who requested the full, and I was thrilled and a little shocked (see answer #5), because she was someone I’d wanted to work with for awhile. As far as special preparation, I don’t think so.  I’d been kind of fine-tuning for a couple of months, so I was pretty confident that it was ready to go.  I emailed my CP to give her the good news, and then I attached the file and hit send!

NOTE FROM NIK: Again wonderful advice here folks. Don’t rush it, *if in doubt, leave it out* that goes for scenes and entering/submitting work.

Qu5. Nik: With regard to Jessica Negron, what was it like sending that first email to Jessica? Did you do any research beforehand or did you already know of her?

Kimberly: I had actually queried Jessica before!  It was a rejection, but she gave me some great feedback which I used to completely overhaul my book, deleting large chunks and rewriting others.  I remember feeling extremely disappointed at the time, because I really wanted an editorial agent, and felt like we would have clicked!  Fortunately, she remembered me and saw that I had taken her advice, and it ended up being a match after all!

Qu6. Nik: Now I know that while you were waiting to hear back from Jessica, you also had interest from other agents. What was the waiting like? What did you do while you waited?

Kimberly: Well, I did keep querying other agents, and I also started a second book, which is nowhere near complete enough to talk about… but I kept querying, and I kept writing, and stuck to my writer friends for support!

NOTE FROM NIK: And here is another example of Kimberly being proactive. Even though she had requests from Nestpitch, she understood a request is not an offer, as I’ve said several times “It’s a long way from bended knee to altar.” Do not do yourself a disservice and put all your hopes in one basket, if an offer does come through, you can (and always should) approach the agents with partials or fulls at that point. 

ImageProxyABCQu7. Nik: OK, the one we have all been DYING to ask, tell us about THAT CALL, the one from Jessica, and please don’t leave anything out.

Kimberly: I think it was pretty typical, even if typical meant “terrifying” for me! Most of my writing friends I met online, so it had probably been a couple of years since I had actually talked about my writing, or even spoken my characters’ names aloud! But Jessica is SO nice, and that definitely calmed my nerves a little bit. The first thing I did was to give her a slightly more detailed version of the “how I came up with the idea” answer above. Then she told me what she liked about my novel, we discussed revisions, and then I had a chance to ask her some questions. I had a couple of days between when we scheduled the call and when it actually happened, so I had done my research, figured out what questions I needed to ask about her agenting style, and which questions could be answered just by reading her profile or existing interviews.  I was getting a little bit teary eyed at one point, when she said she loved one of my characters particularly (and we were on Skype, doing a video chat, so I was really fighting not to let it show!).  But other than that… Google “What to do when you get the call,” and that was pretty much what happened!

Qu8.  Nik: After having gone through the query process and the #pitching competition process would you recommend your aspiring author friends do pitch competitions? And what advice would you give them?Selena_gomez_falling_confetti

Kimberly: I would, if they feel comfortable with it. One of the main reasons I almost *didn’t* do NestPitch was because I’m just usually very private with my writing. It definitely made me feel exposed to have even a small excerpt out there!  So I do understand why some people don’t want to.  However, it’s also a really great way to meet other writers, to get your pitch in front of a variety of agents in one shot, and to get some helpful feedback from mentors.  The best advice I can think of (besides polishing your pitch to perfection, anyway) is to choose your pitch contests carefully.  I entered NestPitch because the majority of the agents involved hadn’t seen my query yet, and because a few of them seemed like they were interested in similar projects.  Don’t enter every contest you see, even if they’re legit!  Be sure that at least a handful of participating agents rep your genre and
category, and haven’t already seen your query.

Qu9. Nik: What do you say to people who dismiss the Slush Pile and/or #pitching competitions in general?

Kimberly: Wow, are there still people who dismiss the slush pile?  I’d say that every agented writer I personally know connected with their agent one of three ways: the slush pile, a pitch contest, or a conference.  I know that some writers get their foot in the door by knowing someone who knows samuel-l-jackson-catsomeone… but I think that’s actually a pretty small percentage.  Especially if you’re not able to make it to conferences because of location, like me, or for any reason, pitching and querying are the best ways to make it happen!

Qu10. Nik: So what’s next, I mean after you’ve got over the giddiness and the copious congrats and thank-you’s, what happens now?

Kimberly: Well, edits, first! Jessica has some great ideas to strengthen my novel and I’m going work through those first… and then maybe again, and again, until we’re both completely happy with it. And then I suppose I get to go back to book #2 while she works her submission magic? Signing with an agent is definitely a big milestone, and it feels a little like reaching a goal… but our work definitely isn’t over!

Thank you so much for taking part in this Q&A Kimberly, I know the entire #Nestpitch Team are so very happy for you, and promise, when you have your first book deal, you’ll come back and visit (and share the cover too) ;)96781-Anna-excited-gif-Imgur-Frozen-j9Hv

If you want to follow Kimberly’s progress, you’ll find her on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/KimberlyIto and her blog. Kimberly actually wrote a great blog post on April 17th just before she submitted to #Nestpitch as to why she entered with us. The blog post is called: In which I enter #Nestpitch – and its a really interesting read. Some of her answers above are covered in this post, but if you’re an aspiring writer, reading this from her prospective prior to getting an offer is extremely interesting; especially her point about judging if the agents represented are ideal for your manuscript. Kimberly looked at it from the “have I submitted to most of these agents before” prospective – a very important point. Other factors should be “are there agents in this competition that cater to my category & genre” and (also mentioned by Kimberly) “is my manuscript truly ready” – perhaps the most important point.

And don’t forget to congratulate Kimberly’s awesome agent Jessica on her great taste and foresight – you’ll find Jessica on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/JesNx and Jessica also has a great section on her blog on how to submit to her called “How to Submit to me” that you’ll find here: http://www.jessicanegron.com/2013/07/how-to-query-me.html

berry-break-018Final thoughts: Pitch competitions DO WORK – period. No, they are not for everyone and no, not every pitch that is selected to be featured will result in an offer from an agent. Not even every pitch that has a request by an agent will end in an offer of representation, but as Kimberly pointed out, pitching competitions offer so much to all those who enter.  You *meet other authors, people with whom you can form relationships, some of whom will become friends/BETA readers/CP partners. You extend your contact list to include successful authors and not just successful but successful generous authors who give freely of their time, people who are there for you well beyond the pitch-faze. You increase your presence on social media. You develop confidence.

These are all intangible but invaluable benefits to entering pitching competitions. Oh yes, and you might get yourself an agent too! So, as you look at upcoming events (and there are several excellent ones in the next 6-months which I will be posting updates on), and as you scroll through the Mentors and the Agents, don’t dismiss the opportunity and positive effect of #Pitch Competitions.

 

 

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