Pitch Wars 2017 Mentor Bio: Stephanie Scott and Erica Chapman

Pitch Wars Revision Warriors

Stephanie and Erica at RT Con 2017

Stephanie & Erica at RT Con’s 1920s party!

 

Welcome to the Pitch Wars Mentor Bio for Erica M. Chapman and Stephanie Scott, co-mentors for Young Adult!

If you’re thinking of entering Pitch Wars and want help with your unpublished young adult manuscript, you’re in the right place!

Erica and Stephanie both grew up in Michigan and even lived in the same city, though (sadly!) not at the same time. Our debut books released the same month – last December – and we’re both included in Eric Smith’s upcoming YA adoption-themed short story collection Welcome Home releasing by Flux Books in September.

We’re ready to find a manuscript to help shape up. We’ll work hard to get you ready for the agent round! 

 

About Erica:

So excited for Pitch Wars. I took last year off and I’m thrilled to be back co-mentoring this time with the incredibly talented Stephanie Scott!

Tina and Amy Hey Girl

I’m SO proud of all my past mentees and have been so fortunate to work with all of them. My most recent mentee (I co-mentored with PW founder Brenda Drake) was the talented Jenny Chou who signed with Steven Chudney! Before her, I had the pleasure of mentoring Whitney Taylor whose amazing debut Definitions of Indefinable Things released this year with HMH!

Previous years I worked with more amazing writers. I even had a sister duo! Leah and Kate Rooper were so much fun to work with and their debut Jane Unwrapped released with Entangled Teen Crave! I also had an excellent experience with my very first mentee, Linda Budzinski. You can read our story here and her awesome novel The Funeral Singer!

My history in publishing…

I’ve been writing for over 11 years in total! My YA debut Teach Me to Forget is out now with Simon Pulse!

My writing is represented by the always awesome and patient Christa Heschke of McIntosh & Otis. I began in publishing as an intern for the incredible Louise Fury of The Bent Agency. Louise taught me a lot of what I know about the industry and writing/editing. I was also an associate editor at Entangled Publishing where I had the opportunity to work with amazing authors and editors including the talented Liz Pelletier and Stacy Abrams. I’ve learned a lot over the years about publishing, queries, voice, and most recently, story structure that I’m eager to share with my mentee(s). I’m an SCBWI member and I love the Detroit Lions and University of Michigan football, alternative music, going to concerts, singing, reading, good movies, golfing, running, and yoga.

 What I’d love to see in the YA category…

This is always the hardest part. The truth is… I don’t know. I know what my tastes are like. I love YA contemporaries, a great sic-fi or thriller. I love stories about football, music, love interests who antagonize each other then fall for each other. DIVERSITY – Multicultural, QUILTBAG, disabilities – physical or mental, whatever you got. There has to be TENSION and STAKES, CONFLICT. A good romance is always fun to read. That doesn’t mean have them kiss on page 14. Have them almost kiss a few times then kiss somewhere around 60% or so, then tear them apart [insert evil laugh]. I want to stay up late reading your story. Torture me. Make me angry at you for not giving me what I want right away. Make me CARE about your characters. MAKE ME LAUGH. I love laughing so if your MC is funny AND has emotional baggage that’s a total win for me.

Am I crying or laughing?

Please no verse or lots of world building. And keep the info dumps in those beautiful brains of yours. Nothing really scares me off except people eating people. Horror – yes, Thriller- yes. Fantasy – yes, Sci-Fi – yes. I do love Dystopian but agents are shying away from it right now, so… unless it breaks the mold completely, I would submit something else. Same for paranormal romance. As I say every year, GREAT WRITING trumps anything I write in this bio.

STILL VALID —> My ideal love interest –  Stiles Stilinski from Teen Wolf (if you’re not watching it, you’re missing out)

Stiles from Teen Wolf

Why do I love him? Stiles is goofy, funny, sweet, loyal, smart. He’s kind of the whole package, folks. He makes you love him. Also, throw in some Mr. Darcy and you’ve got a dangerous combo.

My mentoring style…

I’m pretty blunt when it comes to editing. I will say exactly what I think is missing and what I believe will help, even if it’s something that seems ridiculous (like changing your love interest – it happened, ask Linda). This doesn’t mean you need to change anything. Feel free to tell me no. If I strongly believe something will help your story, I will encourage you to try to think differently. That’s our role–to guide you through this process. Many have encouraged me to explore other opportunities in my stories. Sometimes I listened, sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes I was wrong and ended up changing it later. I will mostly point out big picture stuff; motivations, plot holes, structure issues, character arcs.

As I say every year I do Pitch Wars, this will be a partnership. I want to work with you to make your story the best it can be.

Some of my all-time favorite books:

GOING TOO FAR by Jennifer Echols (really, anything by her)
AN EMBER IN THE ASHES by Sabaa Tahir
The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare
SECOND CHANCE SUMMER by Morgan Matson (anything by her, but this is my favorite)
The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo
UNDER A PAINTED SKY by Stacey Lee
THIS SHATTERED WORLD by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater
OPEN ROAD SUMMER by Emery Lord
THE 5TH WAVE by Rick Yancey
HOW TO LOVE by Katie Cotugno
JELLICOE ROAD by Melina Marchetta

Some New Faves:

GIRL IN PIECES by Kathleen Glasgow
WHY I LOATHE STERLING LANE by Ingrid Paulson
THE WAY I USED TO BE by Amber Smith
STALKING JACK THE RIPPER by Kerri Maniscalco

How are we doing? Take a quick break and –

treat yo self

About Stephanie:

While Erica has been with Pitch Wars since its origins, I’m here for Pitch Wars cuatro! That’s a four-peat, folks.  My last year’s mentees, twin sisters Sasha and Sarena Nanua, signed with an agent this spring!

My own agent is Sarah LaPolla at Bradford Lit who I matched up with after a round of blog contests similar to Pitch Wars, but without the mentoring. I’m a member of Romance Writers of America and the YA chapter YARWA (say it like a pirate!). For the past five years, I’ve critiqued a TON of contest submissions for multiple Romance Writers’ chapter contests and for the national level Golden Heart and Rita awards. I also do mentoring with the Adventures in YA Publishing Blog’s monthly 1st Five Pages workshop. My debut ALTERATIONS is a finalist for RWA’s Rita award for Best First Book—a huge honor I’m still doing various versions of double-takes when I see my name on the list!

Other stuff:

I’m an Instagram addict, my TBR pile is out of control (in a good way), I do dance fitness, play video games like Fallout, Destiny, and Dragon Age, and I like to cook. I also like to eat, hence the dance fitness. I’m part of a tabletop gaming group for a game that’s like D&D in space, which, admittedly, I’m still getting the hang of, but I’ll roll for initiative and see what happens. Cones of Dunshire Parks and Recreation

What I’d love to see in the YA category…

Erica and I both write contemporary young adult, and while our books are quite different, our reading tastes overlap. I love a YA character with distinct interests, a hobby, or who plays sports. Bonus: layered friendships, complicated family dynamics, and a dash of romance.

We are both eager for stories written by authors from marginalized demographics.

We have our eye on high concept stories. High concept means you can pitch the story in a handful of words. If you can pinpoint your ideal reader (for fans of [example of a book]) this helps too!

Historical YA with an undercurrent of magic (think Iron Cast by Destiny Soria or Libba Bray’s Diviners) and contemporary stories with magical elements like The Raven Boys series. We may not be the best mentors for high fantasy with deep world-building (but plenty of other mentors are!). Same for paranormal. Mystery or thriller elements are welcome. I said this last year too, but a story with a Mr. Robot vibe is of interest!

My mentoring style…

I’d like to think my mentor style is to help writers shape their own voice. I give a lot of examples and detailed comments in the first pages/chapters and then trust the writer to implement changes using their own voice and style throughout. I provide suggestions on pacing, what to cut or build up on, and how to sharpen conflict and plot points. I always recommend Donald Maass’ books on writing, in particular Writing 21st Century Fiction and the more recent The Emotional Craft of Fiction, along with The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. Prepare thyselves!

A few newer favorite YA books:

BEAUTY QUEENS by Libba Bray (this is my mainstay fave!)

WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI by Sandhya Menon

I BELIEVE IN A THING CALLED LOVE by Maureen Goo

TEN THINGS WE DID (AND PROBABLY SHOULDN’T HAVE) Sarah Mylnowski

SOMETHING IN BETWEEN by Melissa de la Cruz

FALLOUT – LOIS LANE by Gwenda Bond

TINY, PRETTY THINGS by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton

Also: contemporary young adult romances by Kasie West, Jennifer E. Smith, Jenny Han, Morgan Matson, Miranda Kenneally. Ally Carter’s Embassy Row series, Also Known As by Robin Benway, The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. All of Nova Ren Suma’s books.

 Bonus Tips!

QUERIES – Read your query and pages out loud. Read it as a reader would on the back of the book. Would you want to read your story? What is it about your story that you like best? Use that.

  • Make sure to infuse your voice in your query (as hard as that is), that is what makes them stand out.
  • Choose what makes it unique and emphasize that. Remember agents/editors read a lot of submissions. Make yours one they won’t forget.
  • White space is your friend. Push that return button to emphasize an important line or phrase.
  • Pay attention to the structure. Don’t forget to tell us what will happen if the MC doesn’t reach their goal! Less is more.
  • The only purpose of a query is to get us to READ MORE. That’s it. It’s a sales pitch for your book. You don’t need the kitchen sink.

PAGES – Your first line should introduce your voice as well as the tone of the MS. Make sure you snag us right away. Don’t bog us down in description and info dumps; it’s okay if we don’t know your MC yet, we shouldn’t! Just make them interesting and unique enough that we keep reading.

  • Pay attention to the rhythm of the words too. Do they flow? Are there any awkward phrases? Look for sentences that are trying too hard, or repeat the same thing as the line before (I do this a lot).
  • Check your dialogue. Does it sound authentic? Do they sound like real people/creatures/robots etc.? Read the lines out loud too.
  • Make sure the actions you write are really possible. If you have your MC performing some crazy, flip-turn combo, make sure it’s something they can realistically do–in your world, of course.
  • Most of all, don’t censor yourself or think about someone reading it yet. That’s where a lot of writers get hung up. Just let your voice shine.

And that’s it!

We’re rooting for you and we believe you can do this!

believing intensifies

Watch for us on the #PitchWars twitter feed! You can find us at @ericamchapman and @StephscottYA

Here’s the link back to the blog hop!

Our books:

Teach Me To Forget by Erica Chapman

Alterations Stephanie Scott

Welcome Home Anthology

 

 

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