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Arianne and Adrianna’s Pitch Wars 2018 Wish List

Hey there, all you awesome MG writers! Welcome to this year’s Pitch Wars mentor blog hop.

Team Fireworks!

Why the name Team Fireworks?

We’re looking for stories that surprise us, are fast-paced, and pack a punch! We promise we won’t set your manuscript on fire and blow it up…

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Who is Team Fireworks?

Arianne Costner

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Arianne is a past English teacher from Arizona. Other than writing, she enjoys playing and composing music, chasing around her two toddlers, and attempting to be a minimalist (still working on it.) She is an INFJ Huffleclaw who loves helping others bring out the best in their writing.

Adrianna Cuevas

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Adrianna is a former Spanish/ESL teacher living in Austin, Texas. Her 10-year-old son is her biggest writing inspiration and her excuse to make fart jokes every day. She loves cooking Cuban food and has a hard time not talking about pastelitos in every one of her manuscripts. When not writing, she practices fencing with her son, binge-watches The Office for the millionth time, and crochets blankets and scarves that are completely inappropriate for Texas weather. A true introvert, she makes jokes and laughs awkwardly when she’s uncomfortable, which means she’s an absolute dream at serious meetings and funerals.

We are both middle grade writers represented by agents we found outside the Pitch Wars experience. Arianne found hers through traditional querying and Adrianna found hers through an in-person pitch at an SCBWI conference. Arianne has a soon-to-be announced book deal for her debut and Adrianna will be going on sub with her debut soon.

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So what is Team Fireworks looking for in a mentee?

We’re looking for someone willing to take a step back and analyze the overall structure of their plot and character arcs. You will need to have enough emotional distance from your story that you won’t be afraid to make changes, big and small. We’re looking for an author who understands the heart of their story and can decide for themselves if the changes we suggest help them write the book they know they need to write.

Most of all, we’re looking for an author who wants to have fun! Pitch Wars can be a stressful experience. So if you need someone to keep you grounded, to help you look at the big picture, and to make you laugh… we’re your team! We hope to be there for you even after Pitch Wars to support you through the querying/publication process as much as we can.

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And finally, what is Team Fireworks looking for in a manuscript?

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Wait… that can’t be right. We do want humor, but…

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Well, we do want fast-paced, but that may be a little extreme…

Let’s try this–

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Team Fireworks (1)

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We can’t wait to read all your wonderful submissions! And congratulations on having a manuscript to submit! That’s a BIG DEAL! Good luck!

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How I Met My Agent

I’d been postponing writing this post because I was afraid I’d jinx myself! But I always love reading others’ stories of how they met their agent, so I thought I’d join in the fun and share my story 🙂

MY LIFE AS A POTATO is the first book I’ve ever written. (Well, not counting a couple sad attempts that never made it past the second chapter.) I was inspired to write this story while attending a volleyball game. I was sitting on the bleachers, watching the mascot cartwheel down on the court.

“What if there were a book about a mascot,” I said to my husband. “Like, with a really dorky costume, and he wanted to keep it a secret.”

“I heard they have potato mascots in Idaho,” my husband suggested.

The image cracked me up. I was sold. My 7th grade students were obsessed with potatoes. I HAD TO WRITE THIS BOOK.

I wrote feverishly and finished the first draft in less than three months, cackling loudly to myself as I drafted. I loved it! It was brilliant! It was gonna be a bestseller! I was ready to query!

Spoiler alert: It was awful and I was not ready to query, which I discovered dozens of agent rejections later.

Anyone who writes will not be surprised by this. Everyone’s awful when they first start writing fiction. ‘Tis the way that it is (that ’tis?). I had to learn a LOT about craft. I read some books, studied craft blogs, got several beta readers and critique partners. I deleted scenes, added scenes, rewrote my first chapter probably eleven times. I kept querying. I got a few bites, but no takers.

Enter: Pitch Wars.

My friend told me about this contest, and I thought “Why the heck not?” Shari Schwarz chose me as her mentee–lucky me! She really saw the heart of my story and helped me bring out Ben’s emotional arc. I revised the heck out of that thing and made wonderful CPs and friends in the Pitchwars community. Entering was the best decision for my writing career.

But I only got two requests during the agent round. No big deal. I was a bit disappointed, but it could’ve been worse. I kept revising. Kept querying. And querying. And querying.

Here’s the funny thing: I first had contact with my future agent, Amber Caraveo, through a totally different manuscript. I uploaded my contemporary fantasy work-in-progress onto the Writeoncon forums in hopes to get some feedback from fellow writers. I got a surprise message in my inbox–Amber enjoyed my sample and wanted to read more! Unfortunately, it wasn’t near done (though I hope to finish one day), so I queried her with POTATO instead. About six weeks later, she offered representation!

After nudging agents with my full, I ended up with four agents offering to represent me–wonderful, amazing agents. I couldn’t believe it! But something felt so distinctively RIGHT when I talked to Amber on the phone that I had to go with my gut. I was thrilled to become a member of team Skylark Lit. And she has been amazing–a superstar agent.

So that’s where I have to end my story for now. I’m hoping to be able to update soon with good news.

Thanks for reading! And if you’re in the query trenches, or writing your latest novel, know that you’re not alone. Keep persevering and remember why you’re telling your story. Writing is freaking hard! Luckily, the members of the writing community are some of the most generous and supportive people I know. I wouldn’t be where I am without them.

There was a point after Pitch Wars where I commented on our Facebook group that I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep writing. I was so burnt out with revisions and rejections and it just didn’t feel FUN anymore. I’ll never forget what someone responded. She basically said, “If you need to take a break, do. But often, writers find that we can’t NOT write. It’s a part of us. It’s what we love.”

That’s so true. I took a break. But stories kept calling to me. And I kept writing them.

We do it because we love it.

Happy writing!

My Successful Query Letter

A fellow Pitch Wars mentor asked if we would share our successful queries, and I was more than happy to! It’s not perfect–but it landed me several full requests before I got my agent!

Dear ________:

After a hotdog-flinging mishap, twelve-year-old Ben faces suspension at his new school in Idaho. The basketball coach strikes him a deal: he may sidestep his punishment if he replaces the school mascot he accidentally injured. Problem is, South Fork Junior High has no ordinary mascot. They are repped by the seriously dorky Steve the Spud. A potato.

Ben agrees—but it has to stay a secret. Not even his best friends can find out. After all, no one wants to be known as Spudboy. Ben’s lies pile up as he juggles his two identities. If his secret comes out, he’ll lose not only his reputation, but his friends.

MY LIFE AS A POTATO (48,000 words) is an MG contemporary selected for Pitch Wars 2017 which may appeal to fans of MY SEVENTH-GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS by Brooks Benjamin and I FUNNY: A MIDDLE SCHOOL STORY by James Patterson.

I graduated with a degree in English Teaching and taught 7th grade Language Arts, where, for whatever reason, my students thought potatoes were hilarious. After seeing all the potatoreferences they snuck into their creative journals and assignments, I wanted to write a book even my reluctant readers would pick off a shelf.

I was additionally inspired by the stories of a friend from Shelley, Idaho, where the local school mascot is a life-sized Russet Potato.

–Hope that gives some inspiration, and happy querying!

First blog post

I have some exciting news!

I am so honored to have been chosen as a Pitchwars 2017 Mentee!

Pitch Wars is a contest where writers submit their manuscripts to published or agented author-mentors. Each mentor chooses one writer and helps them revise for two months in preparation for an agent showcase.

During the showcase in November, each mentee is featured on a post that includes their pitch and the first page of their manuscript. For more information, check out the Pitchwars website here!

My novel, The Not-So-Hot Potato, is a Middle Grade Humorous Contemporary. It’s narrated by a loveable troublemaker who agrees to be his school’s potato mascot in order to avoid suspension.

This manuscript has a special place in my heart and I can’t wait to take it to the next level!

My mentor is the talented Shari Schwarz, author of Treasure at Lure Lake, a Middle Grade Survival Adventure novel.

Check out her website here and buy her book here!