Hello out there!
Happy November! I hope October was as good to you as it was to me! I’ve been on a brief hiatus from social media for a few weeks because… I got married and went on a honeymoon! Aloha! It was a gorgeous time and of course full of love, but I’m happy to be back into all things books and writing; it’s truly my happy place. And speaking of writing…
2019 Pitch Wars mentees are going to be announced this weekend!
For those on the mentee side of this event, I know it’s been a long, stressful wait to hear news. The good news is that it’s almost over; in a few days, you will have answers and resolution no matter what. (The semi-bad news is that this process is almost identical to querying literary agents and being on submission to editors, minus the definitive deadline). Frankly, my dear friend and agent-sibling Maiya Ibrahim says it best: “Being a writer is a lot of ‘hurry up and wait.’”
I want to thank everyone who submitted their work to me for entrusting me with something so precious. I truly believe writing is a part of who we are, and am truly honored by anyone who would share that creative piece of themselves with me. As a thank you, I wanted to share some Behind The Scenes info about my mentee selection process. It was, to put it mildly, an incredibly difficult decision. I was fortunate to receive more than 200 submissions. Please find my official “stats” below:
261 submissions. That was my final count.
As you can see, the majority of my submissions were in the young adult age category (244), and the epic fantasy genre (202), which makes sense as that aligned with my wishlist. For what it’s worth, there were some New Adult manuscripts I loved and did request. There were also some stories in non-fantasy genres that kept me up at night reading. I really got lucky.
Now, a bit about my selection process:
Because I anticipated being out of commission during my wedding/honeymoon, I made the executive decision to read all submissions as quickly as possible. The submission window closed Friday, September 27th; by early Sunday, September 29th, I’d read all submission packages. (My neck and back were extremely displeased.)
My process was pretty methodical. Using a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, I filtered through each submission in rounds until I’d narrowed down a “Top Ten.” From there, I sent out requests for full manuscripts, and got to work reading. It’s worth mentioning that I was actually still reading manuscripts on the plane to Hawaii weeks later. Time management was key here.
In the end, selecting a mentee was incredibly fun, and also incredibly hard. There were so many outstanding stories sent to me. Ultimately, I asked myself 3 guiding questions to help me make my final decision:
Is this story “up my alley,” the kind of thing I’d naturally pull off the shelf at a library? That was really important because I knew I was going to be rereading the story I picked many, many times over.
Do I have a vision for this story, a clear idea of how I can help this writer improve not just their story, but their craft? Again, a really important factor. It doesn’t matter how much I love a story’s premise or writing style--I need to be able to clearly envision a way to help, or it’s not a good use of anyone’s time.
Is this mentorship what this story really needs? In several cases, I read stories that were already in a place where I felt the writer would be better off querying and working on changes with a literary agent. In other cases, I felt that a critique partner or beta reader would be more helpful to the writer.
I hope this small bit of insight into how I managed my Pitch Wars submissions is helpful. I am a Type A/ENFJ-A/Ravenclaw personality (as you can probably now tell), and for me, having as much information as possible gives me comfort. I realize, however, that for some of you, reading this may create stress or anxiety. That is the absolute last thing I’d ever want to do, so please consider these final words.
Every mentor is different. I just detailed my mentee selection process, but it is mine alone. The 2019 PW mentors used a plethora of strategies to pick their mentees, some are completely different from mine. (“But Ayana, are you sure?”) Yes, I’m sure, because we’ve been talking amongst each other and fretting just like you!
Pitch Wars isn’t everything. Look, Pitch Wars is a wonderful writing mentorship program, it is. But it’s by no means the only path to finding a literary agent and getting published. If you aren’t selected this year, it’s a bump in the road but not the end of the journey.
Being a writer is not a sprint, it’s a marathon combined with championship heavyweight boxing. You will get knocked down and face disappointment, every writer has (I have!), but get up again. Get up again because this is your dream, and no one can take that from you. Get up because somewhere out there someone needs your stories.
I’m cheering for you!