Hey gang – it’s been a while, hasn't it?. No, I’m not dead. Although coming out of Pitch Wars leaves you feeling like you might be well on your way. The funny thing is, you never think until it happens to you, how much more exhausting “good stress” can actually be.
The last time I posted was September 15th. Over two months ago. What have I been doing? Well, what haven’t I been doing? In-addition to everything Pitch Wars (which I will get into in a moment), I also work as a Youth Addiction Counselor, I got married, and I adopted two guinea pigs with my husband. They are called Brenda (no, not after Pitch Wars Brenda - happy coincidence!) and Gracie.
It can be inspiring, stressful, hilarious, exhausting and down-right discombobulating. It is exactly how I would imagine growing 10 years over night feels the next day. You’re left with a jet-lag like daze of, “What just happened?” At least, that’s how I felt.
When I wasn’t working a very demanding day job, I was editing and working closely with my mentors – Helene Dunbar and Beth Hull, who went above the call of duty to help me flesh out some important areas in my story where growth needed to happen. That’s the thing about a keen, objective eye. It sees everything you don’t. In the rare periods of time where I wasn’t editing or working or neglecting house work because I was catching up on sleep, I was able to connect with other mentees in the competition – probably one of the best things to happen in the competition as a whole. Throughout the crazy highs and the serious lows, the mentee group has maintained itself as an oasis for us all – and I have never, at any point, experienced anything negative from anybody in the group. The respect I have given, and been given in return, has been outstanding – and for that I will always be grateful as I write to you today with my sanity still intact.
You can only do so much work in two months, and Pitch Wars truly is what you make of it. I learned discipline from my mentors, and the willingness to ask my characters questions I had never thought of asking before. Like us, it can take a slightly different angle to get them to see where they are supposed to go. I fell in love with my protagonist all over again throughout this process, which sustained me in the lead up to the agent showcase. If no agent in the showcase wanted my story, my love for it would carry it to the place it was supposed to be.
The agent showcase was upon us, though. I initially thought I would be working, but the first day for YA landed on a Friday – my day off, so I naturally tried to clean the whole apartment. Emphasis on try. It didn’t happen. But the requests started to come in, and I was genuinely in shock when my number continued to rise. Over the course of the 5-day showcase, I managed to get 18 requests – including one from my over eager aunt who became this strange Pitch Wars ninja agent sensation within the mentee group. There have been memes created and talks of Agent Anne swag… I wish I was joking. She is famous and she has no idea, no matter how much I try to explain it.
So, you prepare for the worst and the opposite happens. I knew my mentors and I loved my story, and that we worked our asses off to make it the best it could possibly be in the time we had. But now others had expressed interest. People who could help raise this story even higher. Great people. Cue irregular heartbeat and hyperventilation… for somebody who suffers from an anxiety disorder – and even wrote a book about it – you could say I was handling it “moderately well”. In my world, moderately well translates to a stomach ache, lots of tears and the overwhelming feeling that I must have a collapsed lung from how short of breath I felt.
Brenda gave us word that we could send our manuscripts at 5pm EST on the Tuesday the showcase ended. Being on the west coast in British Columbia, that was 2pm for me – slap bang in the middle of my work day. Cue more hyperventilation… luckily somebody in the mentee group was coping much better than me, and mentioned Boomerang for Gmail as being a really great tool for scheduling emails to fly out at an allotted time. I had never heard of such sorcery before and was immediately convinced I would try to dabble in the dark arts and try it out.
With some crazy stroke of luck, it actually worked, and at 2:06pm email receipts started to roll into my inbox from the lovely agents who had requested. 5 hours after that, I received my first offer. I had to take a moment at work - locking myself in the toilet and quietly reading the email several times requesting a call. I text my husband, my mentors - and this is where your mentors really come into their own on top of helping you revise. I had no idea what I was doing.
One week later, I had a second offer. I couldn't believe it. I was hearing that some people in my cohort had more offers that I had fingers, but I was honestly overwhelmed and shocked at even getting one. That's not bullshit. I think fear had crept into my mind so much that I believed my own insecurity when the time came. The decision was really hard because you spend so much time as a writer wanting just one agent to love your work, and then two do. In late November 2017, I signed with Lauren MacLeod at The Strothman Agency - and it was like a dream come true. I remember being at home the day the contract landed in my inbox, and I look forward to the many more I get to spend working with her to make my book even better.