November 3, 9:00 a.m. I'm sitting in my car in the parking lot of the Flyways Waterfowl Museum and Laser Arcade (yes, you read that correctly) in Baraboo, Wisconsin. At this time of the year, the building is boarded up. Sheets of cardboard cover the glass entrance. Unmarked snow covers the ground. The bare-limbed trees, abandoned parking lot, and gaping holes of the museum's second-story windows make this the perfect setting for a slasher movie. But I'm feeling fine.
My college friend and I have just finished a weekend in Devil's Lake State Park, where we camped in an outrageously spacious nine-person tent, hiked through snow, and slept in too many layers to count. The trip was a success, and I'm prepping for my drive back home.
I turn on my phone. Dozens of notifications pop up. And I remember: today is the Pitch Wars announcement day.
Except it wasn't. Evidently, Pitch Wars was announced the night before, while I had my phone turned off to save battery power and to embrace the rugged adventure of snow camping. The notifications quickly filled me in on what I'd missed.
A lot, apparently. Because I won Pitch Wars.
For those not in the know, Pitch Wars is a contest that matches experienced mentors with unagented authors looking to polish their manuscripts and get them query-ready. Following an intense, three-month revision period, these manuscripts appear in an agent showcase. Ultimately, Pitch Wars is an opportunity for mentees to secure an incredible writing community, gain crucial revision skills, revise manuscripts until they shine, get these manuscripts in front of key industry professionals, and, potentially, get offers of representation.*
It's an incredible opportunity. And it's mine.
I scramble out of the car and jump up and down in the parking lot of the Flyways Waterfowl Museum, Laser Arcade, and Slasher-Film Set. My friend jumps up and down with me. We squeal. We hug. I get in my car and alternately scream and sing at the top of my lungs all the way home.
My writing journey has had its ups and downs. I've written two novels and a novella previously. I've received countless rejections. I've experienced the ecstasy of landing an agent and the heartbreak of parting ways with her. I've gotten an offer of publication and then made the difficult decision to let it pass, knowing with certainty that it wasn't the right home for my book.
And now I have this opportunity with a manuscript that is so near and dear to my heart, it might as well be my heart, held out with shaking hands.
I began brainstorming A VERY STRANGE ENCHANTED in August 2018, after I graduated from my MFA program. I finished the first draft during NaNoWriMo and have fully revised it twice.
That last revision really took it out of me. I felt hollowed out. Expunged. In mourning. In Joy. And at the same time, there was a fullness in my chest that I simply couldn't bear.
Now I get to go through that process again, doing another round(s) of revisions with the help of the phenomenal Olivia Hinebaugh. I'm thrilled, daunted, and so damn grateful for this opportunity.
I want to share these characters with the world. I want to hold them close and never let go. There's so much heart to them. So much wanting and courage and tremulous hope.
I can't wait for you to meet them.
In the meantime, here's an aesthetic board that Olivia made for AVSE!
*You can check out the full list of mentors and mentees Pitch Wars 2019 here.