Pitch Wars 2018 Wish List

2018-A-Mentor-BANNER

Hello, Pitch Wars hopefuls. So happy you’ve stopped by!

I’m Susan (Sus to almost anyone who’s known me longer than five minutes). I was a mentee in 2014 (with the book that got me my agent and two-book deal with St. Martin’s Press) and have been a mentor since 2016 (both of my previous mentees are agented, and one had her PW book debut this year). And I am thrilled to be back mentoring again! I hope you find this community as magical as I do.

Penelope_Magic

If you have an Adult Magical Realism, Contemporary Fiction, Women’s Fiction, or Light Sci-Fi/Fantasy book, and it’s fresh and shiny (by that I mean a fairly polished manuscript, not first draft) and you’re ready to do some major work on your manuscript, PRETTY PLEASE SEND IT TO ME.

WHY YOU SHOULD PICK ME…

I know you’re really here to see if your book matches up with the specific stories I’m looking for, but before you scroll down, please give me the chance to tell you what I can give you as an Adult mentor…

  1. A critical eye on character motivation, stakes, and consistency (and a whole mess of other topics!). I ask a lot (like hundreds) of questions in a manuscript I’m critiquing. I nickpick tiny details that can throw a reader and I also look at overall character arcs to ensure there is growth, both emotionally and story-wise. It will be intense. And it will mean cutting some darlings and writing whole new scenes and rethinking the core of your manuscript at times. If you’re open to that kind of whole-book makeover, it will be worth it. I’ll give in-documents comments and track changes as needed and I’ll also provide an edit letter of sorts early on with an outline of what I love and think is working well and a detailed discussion of what I think needs to be reworked. It will be lots of emails and phone/Skype calls (if needed/wanted) after that as we work through the manuscript. It’s a definite team effort. I have a day job and a husband that require my attention, but I will give you as much of my time as you need during our few months together.
  2. Brainstorming and discussion. I know writing can feel like something that’s done in a vacuum, but there are times when bouncing ideas off someone is exactly what’s needed to get the creative juices flowing again. So, if I comment on something you don’t agree with or aren’t sure how to tackle, we can talk about it and find a way to make it work. It’s not an all or nothing situation with me. This is your book, not mine, so we’ll work on issues together until you are satisfied with the end result.
  3. An insider’s perspective. As I mentioned above, I’ve been both a mentee and a mentor before. I cannot stress this enough, Pitch Wars will be HARD. And it will go by so fast you’ll wonder how you’ll ever get done in time. I know how that within two weeks of starting on your revision with me you might be cursing my name and wondering why you ever thought you could handle something as intense as Pitch Wars. Believe me, I’ve been there. And I got through it. I’ll make sure you do as well, with your sanity intact and (hopefully) with a manuscript you love even more than when we started.
  4. A cheerleader beyond Pitch Wars. I’m in this writing life for the long haul. And I fully believe that one of the best ways to continue to grow (and stay sane) is to have a community of writers who support and love you and buoy you when it all feels like too much. Once Pitch Wars is over, I will still be here cheering from the sidelines, offering advice (when asked, of course!) and celebrating the victories. (Or, like with my last mentee, randomly texting about our new favorite CW show or brewery we went to.)

WHO I AM…

Crispell_Full_Size_for_Printing01I live in Wilmington, North Carolina with my husband and our orange tabby cat, Pippin. Aside from writing, I obsess over swoony fictional boys and baked goods; spend all my spare money on books, art, and going to hard rock concerts; and fangirl over quirky TV shows, most of which got canceled way before their time (and I have a wax lion to prove it!). My drinks of choice–depending on the time of day–are coffee with cream and sugar, a good saison or other Belgian style beer, and bourbon on the rocks.

I write magical southern fiction, including THE SECRET INGREDIENT OF WISHES (Sept. 6, 2016/Thomas Dunne Books) and DREAMING IN CHOCOLATE (Feb. 6, 2018/St. Martin’s Press). I am represented by Patricia Nelson at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. I earned a BFA in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and love that I can truthfully say I use my degree for my day job (I’m a proposal manager for a clinical research company) as well as being a published author.

Check out my social media to get a better idea of what I’m like in real life:
WebsiteTwitter | Facebook | InstagramPinterest

WISH LIST…

If you stuck with me through all of that, thank you! If you skipped the getting to know me stuff, that’s okay. I totally get it. (We can still be friends, right?) So, here’s where I tell you what specific kinds of stories I’m interested in for Pitch Wars…

Daisies books

Magical Fiction/Magical Realism: Yes, there is a difference between contemporary magical fiction and traditional magical realism. I love both! Give me your whimsical, quirky, fairytale-esque, magical stories. This means anything similar to Sarah Addison Allen’s books, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Landline by Rainbow Rowell, Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan, and The Weight of Feathers by Anna Marie McLemore (but for adults!) If you have something like the movie Penelope, I need it yesterday.

Contemporary Fiction/Women’s Fiction: Give me relatable characters in difficult emotional situations. Especially when in combination with small towns. I’d love to see books like Come Away With Me by Karma Brown, Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley, April & Oliver by Tess Callahan, Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. Also, Gilmore Girls, Everwood, Hart of Dixie, Pushing Daisies, This is Us, and The Good Place are high on my TV fangirl list, so anything in the same vein (family drama or friendships that feel like family) will make me swoon.

Romantic Storylines: I’m a sucker for love stories and HEAs (or at least happy for now). It’s not a deal breaker, but for me there’s not much better than wanting to hug a book when I’m through with it because I loved it so much. Bonus points if you can make me cry from the epicness of the relationships! This can mean romantic women’s fiction like Amy E. Reichert’s novels and The City Bakers Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller, as well as contemporary romance/rom coms like The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang, The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, and Netflix’s Set It Up. Medium heat level, please. I blush easily, so graphic sex isn’t my thing. LBGTQA relationships welcome.

Light Sci-Fi/Fantasy: I’m also very open to fringe-y sci-fi stories like Fringe, Orphan Black, Doctor Who, Haven, the 100, and Lost. But make sure the focus of the story is on the characters–how they relate to each other and how the weird brings them together. I read a lot of YA fantasy (Leigh Bardugo, Maggie Stiefvater, Laini Taylor and Sarah Rees Brennan, to name a few) but not as much in the adult arena. When it comes to my strengths in these areas, I’m more of a weird science in our reality or an alternate universe kinda girl rather than a high/epic fantasy kinda girl. (No creatures/shifters/aliens or made up languages or names I can’t pronounce, sorry.) Other mentors are much better suited to those epic worlds than I am. If it’s recognizable as our world with a twist, I’m all in. *If you’re not sure if yours fits this category or if you want to clarify the “creatures”, send me a Tweet or use the AMA in the forums and I’ll try to answer as best I can.*

Random Things I Love: stories that feed my love of food (magical food all the better!), music (hard rock is my genre of choice, but music of any kind in stories steals my heart), sisters (or sibling) stories, life in the South, the beach, and fandoms (I’m a Marshmallow, a Ravenclaw, a Pie-holer, a Whovian, a Browncoat, and too many more to name) will probably grab my attention even if they don’t fit neatly into one of the categories above.

Hart of Dixie

But if it helps clarify things a little more, I’m NOT looking for memoirs, graphic novels, thrillers, suspense, mysteries, horror, historical (unless it’s magical), inspirational or religious, hard SFF, urban fantasy, or erotica. I’m just not a good fit for those types of stories as I don’t read much in those genres. I’m willing to look at NA submissions, but I’d probably ask the mentee to age it up to adult.

I am however ALL FOR diverse books and #ownvoices stories. Stories featuring diverse cultures, LBGTQA, disabilities? Yes, please!

To sum it all up, the books I’m most drawn to have a voice that jumps off the page, complicated relationships, big hearts, and stunning words. Give me layered friendships and family drama and characters I can root for, flaws and all. I particularly love stories that include food, magical realism, and strong women. Most of all, I want to be awed by your book.

If you’re not sure, give me a try. I’m open to having my mind changed by spectacular writing and unforgettable characters.

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Pitch Wars 2017 Mentor Blog Hop: Make Me a Match

It’s that time of year again, my friends. Pitch Wars. I was a mentee in 2014 (read my success story here) and a co-mentor in 2016 (read our mentee’s success story here), both with the amazing Karma Brown. Now I’m mentoring all on my own. But don’t let that scare you off. I’ve been through this on both sides of the fence so I promise I know what I’m doing.

So, if you have an Adult Contemporary Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Magical Realism or Light Sci-Fi/Fantasy book, and it’s fresh and shiny (by that I mean a fairly polished manuscript, not first draft) and you’re ready to do some major work on your manuscript, PRETTY PLEASE SEND IT TO ME.

I know you’re really here to see if your book matches up with the specific stories I’m looking for, but before you scroll down, please give me the chance to tell you what I can give you as an Adult mentor…

  1. A critical eye on character motivation, stakes, and consistency (and a whole mess of other topics!). I ask a lot (like hundreds) of questions in a manuscript I’m critiquing. I nickpick tiny details that can throw a reader and I also look at overall character arcs to ensure there is growth, both emotionally and story-wise. It will be intense. And it will mean cutting some darlings and writing whole new scenes and rethinking the core of your manuscript at times. If you’re open to that kind of whole-book makeover, it will be worth it. I’ll give in-documents comments and track changes as needed and I’ll also provide an edit letter of sorts early on with an outline of what I love and think is working well and a detailed discussion of what I think needs to be reworked. It will be lots of emails and phone/Skype calls (if needed/wanted) after that as we work through the manuscript. It’s a definite team effort. I have a day job and a husband that require my attention, but I will give you as much of my time as you need during our two months together.
  2. Brainstorming and discussion. I know writing can feel like something that’s done in a vacuum, but there are times when bouncing ideas off of someone is exactly what’s needed to get the creative juices flowing again. So if I comment on something you don’t agree with or aren’t sure how to tackle, we can talk about it and find a way to make it work. It’s not an all or nothing situation with me. This is your book, not mine, so we’ll work on issues together until you are satisfied with the end result.
  3. An insider’s perspective. As I mentioned above, I’ve been both a mentee and a mentor before. I cannot stress this enough, Pitch Wars will be HARD. And it will go by so fast you’ll wonder how you’ll ever get done in time. I know how that within two weeks of starting on your revision with me you might be cursing my name and wondering why you ever thought you could handle something as intense as Pitch Wars. Believe me, I’ve been there. And I got through it. I’ll make sure you do as well, with your sanity intact and (hopefully) with a manuscript you love even more than when we started.
  4. A cheerleader beyond Pitch Wars. I’m in this writing life for the long haul. And I fully believe that one of the best ways to continue to grow (and stay sane) is to have a community of writers who support and love you and buoy you when it all feels like too much. Once Pitch Wars is over, I will still be here cheering from the sidelines, offering advice (when asked, of course!) and celebrating the victories.

Here’s a little bit about me…

I live in Wilmington, North Carolina with my husband and our orange tabby cat, Pippin. Aside from writing, I obsess over swoony fictional boys and baked goods; spend all my spare money on books, art, and going to hard rock concerts; and fangirl over quirky TV shows, most of which got canceled way before their time (and I have a wax lion to prove it!). My drinks of choice–depending on the time of day–are coffee with cream and sugar, a good saison or other Belgian style beer, and bourbon on the rocks.

My debut women’s fiction novel THE SECRET INGREDIENT OF WISHES released Sept. 6, 2016 and DREAMING IN CHOCOLATE releases Feb. 6, 2018, both from Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. I am represented by Patricia Nelson at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. I earned a BFA in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and love that I can truthfully say I use my degree for my day job (I’m a proposal manager for a clinical research company) as well as being a published author.

Check out my social media to get a better idea of what I’m like in real life:
WebsiteTwitter | FacebookPinterest

If you stuck with me through all of that, thank you! If you skipped the getting to know me stuff, that’s okay. I totally get it. (We can still be friends, right?) So, here’s where I tell you what specific kinds of stories I’m interested in for Pitch Wars. As it turns out, I like a lot of things…

Contemporary Fiction/Women’s Fiction: Give me relatable characters in difficult emotional situations. Especially when in combination with small towns. If the stories are offbeat, whimsical, quirky, magical, fairytale-esque, that’s even better! In books, this means anything similar to Sarah Addison Allen, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley, April & Oliver by Tess Callahan, Attachments and Landline by Rainbow Rowell, Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan, and The Weight of Feathers by Anna Marie McLemore (but for adults!) If you have something like the movie Penelope, I need it yesterday. Also, Gilmore Girls, Everwood, Hart of Dixie, and Pushing Daisies are high on my TV fangirl list so anything in the same vein will make me swoon.

This Is Us: The TV show This Is Us gets its own category because it is my everything lately and I would kill for a book like it. Emotional family drama with killer dialogue and intricate plot twists, yes, please!

Light Sci-Fi/Fantasy: I’m also very open to fringe-y sci-fi stories like Fringe, Orphan Black, Doctor Who, and Lost. But make sure the focus of the story is on the characters–how they relate to each other and how the weird brings them together. I read a lot of YA fantasy but not as much in the adult arena. When it comes to my strengths in these areas, I’m more of a weird science in our reality or an alternate universe kinda girl rather than a high/epic fantasy kinda girl. (Think V.E. Schwab rather than George R.R. Martin–though I love GoT!) Other mentors are much better suited to those epic worlds than I am. (But I would still LOVE to see them!)

Romantic Storylines: I’m a sucker for love stories and HEAs (or at least happy for now). It’s not a deal breaker, but for me there’s not much better than wanting to hug a book when I’m through with it because I loved it so much. Bonus points if you can make me cry from the epicness of the love story! 

Random Things I Love: stories that feed my love of food, music (hard rock is my genre of choice, but music of any kind in stories steals my heart), sisters (or sibling) stories, life in the South, the beach, and fandoms (I’m a Marshmallow, a Ravenclaw, a Pie-holer, a Whovian, a Browncoat, and too many more to name) will probably grab my attention even if they don’t fit neatly into one of the categories above.

But if it helps clarify things a little more, I’m NOT looking for thrillers, suspense, mysteries, horror, historical (unless there’s a magical/fantasy twist to it) or erotica. I’m just not a good fit for those types of stories as I don’t read much in those genres. I am however ALL FOR diverse books and #ownvoices stories. Stories featuring diverse cultures, LBGTQ, disabilities? Yes, please!

To sum it all up, the books I’m most drawn to have a voice that jumps off the page, complicated relationships, big hearts, and stunning words. Give me layered friendships and family drama and characters I can root for, flaws and all. I particularly love stories that include food, magical realism, and strong women. Most of all, I want to be awed by your book.

If you’re not sure, give me a try. I’m open to having my mind changed by spectacular writing and unforgettable characters.

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Pitch Wars 2016: You Might Be Our Mentee If…

Selecting a Pitch Wars mentor (or co-mentors in our case) can seem daunting. There are so many of us. And let’s be honest, everyone involved in Pitch Wars is pretty great. So how is a potential mentee supposed to choose?
Emerson Cod

Well, we’re here to make it super easy on you. Pick us! Okay, kidding. (Mostly kidding, anyway). But if you have a Women’s Fiction, Literary, or Magical Realism book, and it’s fresh and shiny (to be clear, to us “shiny” means polished, not first draft material) and you’re ready (we mean really ready) to get a solid critique, PRETTY PLEASE SEND IT TO US. No, really. Go to the submission form (on August 3rd), put Karma Brown and Susan Bishop Crispell down as a top mentors pick, and hit send. For everything you need to know about how to submit, including the amazing agents playing along, head on over to Brenda Drake’s blog.

Since you’re still reading, we’ll assume that either A) your manuscript fits one (or more) of the above descriptions or B) you just want to get to know us a little better. Either way, we’re glad you’re still with us. Especially because now we get to convince you why should you pick us:

1. You just might get the most thorough critique of your life. That might sound like an exaggeration, but we are seriously thorough. Between the two of us, your manuscript will get the full range of macro and micro edits. We’ll look at big-picture stuff like the story’s hook, pacing, tension, and characterization, as well as the smaller details like word choice, consistency, unnatural dialogue, and character actions that don’t feel organic to the story. When we’re done, we promise you a manuscript riddled with track changes. If that level of revision scares you, another mentor/team might be a better choice for you. But if you can handle tough but constructive feedback and are excited about taking your book to the next level, we’re all in. (Not sure if that much work is worth it, check out Susan’s success story when Karma was her mentor in 2014!)

2. We’re with you for the long haul. Pitch Wars is so much more than simply getting a solid critique of your book. That’s a huge (invaluable) part to be sure, but our cheerleading, advice, and all-around support can make the solitary act of writing feel much less lonely long after the contest has ended. We’ll be there to celebrate your successes (and tell the world about them too!), encourage you when the writing isn’t going as planned, and share our experiences working with agents and editors as well as all the roller-coaster of emotions that come with the pursuit of publication. To quote J.K. Rowling, “There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other…” Hopefully you won’t encounter a twelve-foot mountain troll like in Harry Potter, but if you do, we’ll be there for that too.

sookie

3. We’re firm believers that reading makes for better writing. We read a lot, and from a wide variety of genres. For one, we’re readers first, but also because we believe reading books — even those outside your particular genre or age category (or maybe especially those!) — is the best way to improve your writing. We both write upmarket women’s fiction (Karma’s books are realistic, heartbreaking yet hopeful stories of love and loss and finding strength amid it all, and Susan’s are magical and quirky and end with a happily-ever-after), but we read everything from young adult, to (light) urban fantasy, to thrillers, to everything in between. And each one of those books has something to teach us. Whether it’s about voice or world-building or plot techniques or creating an instant emotional connection to the main character. Then we take what we’ve learned and apply it to our books to continually improve our own craft. And that’s exactly what we want to help you do!

If you missed our Pitch Wars mini-interview you can check it out here.

Still want to know a bit more about us?

KarmaBrownKarma: I live near Toronto, Canada (if you would like to know the appropriate way to insert ‘eh’ into a conversation, I’m glad to help), am happily married and mom to a great, early-rising kid who has trained me well for my #5amwritersclub group on Twitter. I’m also an award-winning freelance journalist, a member of the Tall Poppies writers group, and am on the faculty of the Midwest Writers Workshop. When not writing you’ll find me reading, baking muffins, running, bing-watching Netflix, and adding items to my very long bucket list. I’m represented by Carolyn Forde at Westwood Creative Artists, and am author to the bestselling and one of Globe & Mail’s Top 100 Books for 2015 COME AWAY WITH ME (Mira/HarperCollins – 2015) and THE CHOICES WE MAKE (Mira/HarperCollins – July 2016).

Crispell_Full_Size_for_Printing01Susan: I live in Wilmington, North Carolina with my husband and our orange tabby cat, Pippin. Aside from writing, I obsess over swoony fictional boys and baked goods; spend all my spare money on books, art, and going to hard rock concerts; and fangirl over quirky TV shows, most of which got canceled way before their time (and I have a wax lion to prove it!). My debut women’s fiction novel THE SECRET INGREDIENT OF WISHES comes out Sept. 6, 2016 and THE PROBABILITY OF FATE releases fall 2017, both from Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. I am represented by Patricia Nelson at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. I earned a BFA in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and love that I can truthfully say I use my degree for my day job (I’m a proposal manager for a clinical research company) as well as being an author.

We haven’t scared you off yet? Fantastic! Now, for the part you’ve been oh-so-patiently waiting for…

In general, the books we’re most drawn to have a voice that jumps off the page, complicated issues, big hearts, and pretty words. Give us layered friendships and family drama and characters we can love, flaws and all. We particularly love stories that include food, magical realism, and strong women. Most of all, we want to be awed by your book.

Penelope_MagicSpecifically, what we’d love to see:

  • Women’s Fiction — think book club/upmarket (commercial with a literary feel): WHAT ALICE FORGOT (or anything by Liane Moriarty), AFTER I DO (Taylor Jenkins Reid), THE PILOT’S WIFE (Anita Shreve), ME BEFORE YOU (Jojo Moyes), WHERE’D YOU GO BERNADETTE (Maria Semple), APRIL & OLIVER (Tess Callahan).
  • More literary (still with a commercial feel) — LITTLE BEE (Chris Cleave), THE DINNER (Herman Koch), THE NIGHT CIRCUS (Erin Morgenstern), FATES AND FURIES (Lauren Groff), STATION ELEVEN (Emily St. John Mandel).
  • Magical Realism — books with charming towns and magical elements that are full of quirk and whimsy (and in a perfect world, magic AND food): GARDEN SPELLS (Sarah Addison Allen), LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE (Laura Esquirel), PRACTICAL MAGIC (Alice Hoffman), LANDLINE (Rainbow Rowell), OF BEES AND MIST (Erik Setiawan).

We’re not looking for genre books, so Fantasy & Sci-fi, Romance (though we do like romantic storylines!), and Crime are not for us. If you’re not sure, give us a try. We’re open to having our minds changed by spectacular writing.

Scavenger hunt time! This wishlist was brought to you by the letter O.

Don’t forget to check out the other mentors’ blogs — click below and start doing your homework …

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