It's no secret, I know, but this year I am an MG (middle grade) Pitch Wars mentor. And very privileged I am to be a part of this fantastic writing contest.
(If you don't know about Pitch Wars, you probably should, so go here and have a read!)
Contest feels like the wrong noun; it's more of an opportunity, because everyone who gets involved has the chance to win in some way. I entered last year, wasn't picked, didn't even get a sniff, but connecting with the other hopefuls and mentors opened more doors for me this past year than I'd ever expected. And look, I'm now a published author (the same book I entered), 2015 mentor, and happy editor helping and making a bunch of new writer friends every day. RESULT!
Dan Koboldt, an author and fellow mentor, kindly put together some Pitch Wars statistics.
1591 people entered, 16% of which were middle grade authors.
Of those middle grade entries, I received 64 submissions! 64! What an honour. Thank you to everyone who considered me suitable.
And I can honestly say, not one, not a single one, didn't have potential. Every premise was exciting, all the writing was of a high standard, and every author clearly has major talent and drive to succeed in this industry.
It was a difficult two weeks reading through the subs and narrowing down my picks. Seriously, I revisited my UNSURE folder more times than any other. I didn't want to say no to anyone, but least of all the submissions I engaged with that ended up here. But gradually I had to. There could be only one.
It came down to personal connection in the end. And there was one book that took up most of my thoughts and I knew, eventually, this had to be the one.
Delayed by Judy Roberts is the most nail-biting, hair raising mystery I've read for this age group in a long long time.
Five kids, one bus driver, two unscheduled stops, one plastic bag.
I realise mystery might not be on the top of agents' wish lists, but when Judy and I are done with polishing up this book, no one will be able to put it down. I am that confident.
And in a surprise Brenda THE HAIR Drake twist that we've all come to expect, us mentors had our names chucked in a virtual hat, then some were randomly selected to have the chance of taking on another mentee!
Thus were born THE WILD CARDS!
And I was one of them. But stop...no one said I had to do this alone, so I enlisted the assistance of one of my gorgeous writer friends (who's written one of my favourite books ever) J.C. Davis. It just so happened that the two of us had a mini showdown over this book during the early stages of the consideration period. (Not so much showdown, as a 'how amazing is this book' polite conversation.) She loved it as much as I did.
So my, our, second lucky mentee is Stacey Goldstein, author of Nerd Army. This is an hilarious contemporary dealing with bullying and friendship. It's beautiful and heart-warming and real, and is sure to be a huge crowd pleaser.
I am also working with both of my mentees to up their online presence. Judy is still working on this, so keep an eye out for my tweets introducing her to the world, but Stacey has already arrived! Check her out here.
Now the hard work begins for Team Llama (Me and Judy) and Team Llama Hedgehog Breath (Me, J.C. and Stacey). We're gonna rule the agent round, ALL the requests will be coming our way, so agents reading this, be prepared for our awesome.