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What does broccoli have to do with #PitchWars?

So, what does broccoli have to do with #PitchWars? I’m so very glad you asked!

Broccoli. It’s a vegetable. My son used to call it ‘trees’ when he was a toddler. Some people love it, some people hate it. I took a poll on Twitter last week, and here’s what I found:

Survey says

That’s great, you say. But who the heck cares about broccoli? I’m here for the #PitchWars stuff.

Fair point, so let’s get to it.

  1. Broccoli isn’t for everyone. And that’s okay. It doesn’t mean that broccoli is bad, or a lesser vegetable than peas, or doesn’t deserve a spot in the garden next to the rutabaga. It just means that some people are going to pass on the broccoli.

    Translation: Not everyone is a fan of fantasy featuring honey badgers. And that’s okay. It doesn’t mean fantasy featuring honey badgers is bad, or any less valuable than a fantasy featuring –mole rats, let’s say, or that it doesn’t deserve as spot on a shelf at your favorite bookstore.

    Unfortunately, even though mentors created wish lists to let potential mentees know they were looking for broccoli, they still got some peas, carrots, and potatoes au gratin–excellent vegetables, sure, but not what the mentors asked for.

  2. Not all broccoli is prepared the same. You can bake it, boil it, steam it, fry it, cover it with cheese, eat it raw with dip, or blend it into a creamy, cheesy soup in a bread bowl…So many possibilities. As you can see from the survey above, 38% of the people polled like broccoli as long as it’s cooked a certain way.

    Translation: Not all contemporary romances are written the same way. You can first person, third person, past tense, or present tense ’em. You can have multiple POVs, or sprinkle in epistolary sections. Prose can be rapid or literary, with a hefty helping of voice…

    So, even if you subbed a broccoli dish to a mentor asking for broccoli, there’s still a possibility it wasn’t prepared a certain way. Did you add some special spicy red pepper flakes and they’re wimps? Are they lactose intolerant and can’t sample your cheese sauce? Or maybe that broccoli casserole over there compliments their main dish.

    There’s a good chance that not being selected has nothing to do with the quality of your broccoli. If you love your broccoli dish, there’s a really good chance that other people will, too. Go ahead and query agents who are looking for broccoli. Do not toss your broccoli dish in the trash and end your broccoli-cooking for all time!

  3. Sometimes, even if you love sauteed florets, the broccoli recipe isn’t quite right. Maybe a little less salt? A little more cook time? Some more experimentation in the kitchen might be needed. Or maybe the mentor has a cold and can’t taste it, so they aren’t quite sure how to help season it?

    Translation: Mentors want to help, and they want to help as much as they can. If a mentor isn’t sure how to help or worries they may do more harm than good, they might pass. They might also pass if it looks like it hasn’t been proofread or it’s still in the early stages of inception. Or they might pass if it’s so close to query there’s nothing for them to do but say, “Bon appetite!”

    Whether you’re selected or not, surrounding yourself with trusted taste-testers who love broccoli is key! Critique partners and beta readers can help you tweak the recipe until you’ve hit a broccoli creation worthy of Goldilocks.

  4. Serving size is important! Most restaurants serve similar sized sides. If you order a side of steamed broccoli, you don’t expect a dime-sized floret. Or a 10-gallon pot of cream of broccoli soup.

    Translation: Know the appropriate serving size for your category and genre, and do your best to stick to it. For example, YA contemporary tends to run 50,000-80,000 words. If you have a 10,000 word manuscript or a 250,000 word manuscript, it’s going to be hard to sell, especially if you are a debut author.

  5. Don’t give up on your broccoli. Maybe you had a rough growing season. Maybe you under-cooked it. Maybe, you cooked the crap out of it and it’s a charred rock of bitter disappointment. It happens! But the awesome thing about broccoli is that there are tons of broccoli seeds available to replant if the crop was decimated. If it’s under cooked, toss it back in the oven. Over-cooked mess –take it back a few drafts or chalk it up as experience.

    Translation: Don’t give up on your writing! Maybe the #PitchWars experience has been rough. Maybe your name isn’t on the list of mentees. It’s okay to be disappointed, but please remember, you aren’t a failure. You put your words out into the world. That’s BRAVE! That’s BOLD! That’s BADASS!

    So, maybe you have to go back and cook your manuscript a bit longer. Sprinkle on more seasoning. Remove excess fat. Maybe the broccoli has had its day in the sun and it’s time to plant a new crop of seeds that will be stronger and better for the experience. Maybe it’s time to try out that green bean recipe you clipped from a magazine a few years back.

    Just. Keep. Writing.

The thing with #PitchWars is that mentors can only chose one. And speaking as a mentor, choosing one manuscript is an incredibly complicated, painful, and humbling process. #TheSquad received so many amazing submissions. I am in awe of the talent in our inbox, and so very grateful to those of you who chose to share your work with us. It has been an amazing broccoli buffet!


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2017 PitchWars Co-Mentor Bio & Wish List

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Hello! If you’ve found your way here, you’re either scoping out the mentors to see who you might like to work with for PitchWars, or you accidentally fell through the Internet rabbit-hole and are really lost. Either way, welcome!


I flew a plane!

Now that you’re here, please secure those tray tables, return your seats to their upright positions, and buckle up for a fun ride!

I’m Katrina, and this year I’ll be co-mentoring in the young adult and new adult categories with the fabulous Diana Gallagher. Diana and I go waaaay back to 2014, when I was a PitchWars hopeful. She selected me as her alternate mentee for a NA contemporary rom-com, and has been a friend, critique partner, and all-around supporter ever since.

You can find a bit more about me here and below, but as far as writing goes, I spend my time in the contemporary and historical YA and Adult romance arena. I tend to veer more towards sweet romances (think Hallmark-movies), and my main characters are often smart and spunky. I would love to write a murder mystery someday. Occasionally, I scribble poems and short stories.

As for my PitchWars history:

2012: What is Twitter?
2013: I joined Twitter and entered PitchWars with a NA time travel romance. Spoiler alert: I did not get selected!
2014: I tried again with a NA rom-com manuscript, and was chosen as an alternate (see above).
2015-2016: I cheered on from the sidelines, jealous of other mentor-mentee teams.
2017: I’m a co-mentor!!!! Woo hoo!

So, the cool thing about a co-mentor team is that we each have different skill sets, so we can bring you the ultimate mentee experience. Sure, our wish lists are a bit different (you can check out Diana’s here), but ultimately, Diana and I will work together find the best fit for all.

What I’m looking for:

  • Smart protagonists
  • HEAs or HFNs (A must, especially if you’re writing romance)
  • Humor – dark, light, punny, witty, wry. Make me laugh!
  • Voice/quirk- I love characters that jump off the page
  • Totally cool with multiple POVs/time periods
  • Contemporary and/or historical YA or contemporary NA
  • Epistolary is fun, if it’s done right
  • Heists/cons/good-to-be-bad stories a la WHITE COLLAR or HEIST SOCIETY
  • Female MacGuyver/Sherlock Holmes/James Bond-types
  • Fantasy along the lines of CARAVAL or AN EMBER IN THE ASHES
  • A mentee who is positive, energized, and open to revisions/suggestions

I’m NOT the mentor for:

  • Anything requiring an entire Kleenex box (I don’t mind crying, but not tears for years).
  • Fantasy featuring honey badgers (Is that even a thing?)
  • SciFi
  • Characters who are “cured” by falling in love
  • “Preachy” or “message” stories
  • Horror/gore
  • Manuscripts with graphic sex, rape, explicit violence, or drug use.
  • A mentee who’s looking for a proofreader or a ghostwriter, or who isn’t serious about their MS.

Diana, you, and I will make a great team if you are:

  • Enthusiastic
  • Open-minded
  • Humorous (we take silly seriously)
  • Serious about your writing journey
  • Able to take feedback and run with it

Why you want to work with us:

  • We have first-hand insight into all aspects of the publishing industry, from the very first query to having a book on the shelf. We’ve been through the amazing ups and the crushing downs, and we’ll be here to support and guide you after the agent round concludes.
  • We’ve worked as a team before, and we rocked at it!
  • Two sets of eyes are better than one.
  • We both write professionally; along with our author lives, I’m a technical/scientific report writer, and Diana teaches writing and works for PS Literary as a Literary Editorial Assistant.
  • Diana and I will provide you with track changes comments/light edits in your manuscript, as well as a combined edit letter with our in-depth thoughts and suggestions.
  • We’ll help you with your query letter, synopsis, and pitch!
  • We love to brainstorm.
  • We’ll support you during and after the contest!

Wow, that’s a lot of information! Are you still with me? Good. To give you an idea of what I like to read, some of my recent favorites have included:

  • CARAVAL by Stephanie GarberIMG_0371
  • LESSONS IN FALLING by Diana Gallagher
  • THE HATE YOU GIVE by Angie Thomas
  • KILL THE BOY BAND by Goldy Moldavsky
  • SOME KIND OF MAGIC by Mary Ann Marlowe
  • AMERICA’S NEXT REALITY STAR by Laura Heffernan

Want to see a full list of what I’ve been reading over the past few years? You can check out my reading lists for 2014, 2015, 2016, & 2017.

When I’m not writing, I enjoy:

  • My family & kids –I have a baby girl and a 5-year-old boy starting Kindergarten in August, plus I live with my hubby and father-in-law.
  • Chemistry/science–I work as a technical expert/consultant and have a Ph.D. Most of the time, I review data and then write/compile technical reports for food/ingredient regulation.IMG_0549
  • Cooking/baking–someday I will make a pie crust that isn’t a failure!Image
  • Gardening–I’m still trying to figure out how to do this in a SoCal dessert environment, having lived in the North East/Mid West most of my life.SONY DSC
  • Crafts–sewing, knitting, crocheting, etc. If it involves a trip to Jo-Ann’s, I’m game.SONY DSC
  • Traveling–I’m more of a “let’s go see ALL the museums, historical places, etc.” kind of traveler, but a white, sandy beach and some palm trees work, too.
  • Murder mystery TV shows–Murdoch (swoony sigh), Murder She Wrote (that Angela Lansbury!), Miss Fisher (she’s so fab!), NCIS, Elementary, etc.

If you still aren’t sure if we’d be a good fit, check out our #PitchWars Query Workshop or if you have any questions about #PitchWars, or just want to connect, you can find me on Twitter @KatrinaEmmel. [Please keep it in the feed and don’t flood my DMs].

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Writing Jargon: A Quick Reference

Writers love words, so it’s no surprise that a bunch of writing-related acronyms and terms have cropped up. You’ll notice them tossed around on Twitter, Facebook, and other publishing-related sites. And if you’re participating in #PitchWars, you’re sure to see many of them in the mentor’s wish lists posts. Since not everyone has the same background (and might not necessarily ask for clarification), I’ve decided to channel Noah Webster, and put together a short, and by no means all-inclusive, dictionary of common terms.

A          Adult

ARC     Advanced reader copy; early copies of books used for publicity and review

Beta    A reader familiar with your genre who gives overall feedback on a polished MS. Is not necessarily a writer. I usually think of my betas as test subjects. They can be a one-time reader or help with multiple projects.

Bio        A 2-3 sentence background on the author.

Blurb   Promotional quote

CB        Chapter book

CP        Critique partner. Another writer, familiar with your genre, to exchange scenes and/or manuscripts with, who provides detailed, honest feedback. CPs tend to dig deeper and provide more in-depth feedback.

CR        Contemporary romance

DV       Diversity

H/h      Hero/heroine

HEA     Happily ever after

HF       Historical fiction

HFN     Happy for now

HR       Historical romance    

MC       Main character

MG      Middle grade

MR      Magical realism

MS       Manuscript

MSWL Manuscript wish list; what agents, editors, or mentors are looking for in their inbox

NA       New adult

PB        Picture book

PNR     Paranormal romance

POC     Person of color

POV     Point of view

SFF      Science fiction and fantasy

Slush   An agents normal query inbox, filled with unsolicited pitches; also called slush pile

TL;DR  Too long; didn’t read. Can be used to point out passages that are too long or precedes a summary of a longer section.

UF       Urban fantasy

WC      Word count

WF      Woman’s fiction

WIP     Work in progress

WOC    Women of color

YA        Young adult


If you stopped by looking for a term that’s not listed above, please feel free to let me know so I can update the list!


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5 Reasons to Consider #PitchWars if You’re on the Fence

Hey, you. I see you sitting there (I can’t actually see you, that would be creepy), wondering if #PitchWars is for you. You have a manuscript you’ve been working on, and a publishing dream. Do you enter the fray, hoping you’ll snag one of the mentors (or co-mentor duos), and maybe, just maybe, an agent? Or, should you sit it out and see how you feel about it next year?

There are plenty of reasons to sit it out, and many of them are valid: you don’t have a finished manuscript; you don’t have a finished manuscript; you don’t have a finished…I think you get where I’m going here.

“But, still,” you say, finished manuscript staring at you from your hard drive. <-If this is you, read on, writer!

I was just like you once. I had a finished manuscript. I had a dream. (Now I have a bunch more finished manuscripts, and more dreams…funny how those things multiply like plot bunnies). I’ve gone from being a #PitchWars hopeful to being a co-mentor with the fabulous Diana Gallagher (who was my mentor in 2014). And while there are reasons to step back and let #PitchWars pass you by, here are five reasons why you should give it a go.

  1. The worst that can happen is no.’No’ hurts, and it sucks, and it makes you feel like the kid that’s never picked for dodge ball. But a ‘no’ isn’t the end of the world. Your writing career won’t come to a crashing halt. Your hopes of landing an agent or a six-figure contract with a Big Important publisher aren’t completely dashed. This is just one opportunity to get there, and sometimes it helps to get used to ‘no’ because there will be an awful lot of them on your journey.

    Way back in 2013, I was on the fence about entering. But for whatever reason, I drafted up a query and decided to hit send. Spoiler alert: I got no requests. The worst that happened was no.

  2. Practice putting your work (and yourself) out there.Ultimately, if your goal is to have your work published, you should to get used to the idea of showing other people (especially strangers) your work. This is scary, because words are personal. But it’s also necessary if you’re longing for that coveted end cap display at Barnes and Noble. No one can read your words (which is the dream, right?) if you don’t share them.
  3. Kick in the pants to get your stuff done.Unless you’re on contract, and have a defined schedule to publication, writing is mostly an open-ended endeavor as far as timelines go. This can be tricky if you’re prone to procrastination, or maybe the problem is you get to the 3/4 mark, and it languishes.

    Setting personal goals and “due dates” can help keep your projects on track. It can give you something to work toward. August 2, 2017 is a great day to keep in mind. That’s when the #PitchWars submission window opens. It’s a little under 2 months away (based on the date of this post), so if you’ve been procrastinating or languishing, you now have an end goal to get you back on track.

  4. Learning what works and what doesn’tThere are so many different learning opportunities in #PitchWars, I could go on for days.

    If you don’t make it in: You’ll be testing out your query to see if it resonates. You’ll be seeing if your sample pages make a reader sit up and take notice. Many mentors generously offer some short feedback on why they passed (if they offer, take them up on it!). Follow the Twitter feed to see what common issues were so you can spruce up your writing.

    If you do make it in: You’ll be able to get a different perspective on your manuscript. You’ll have a mentor who has faced many of the challenges you’re facing. You’ll learn how to take critiques and suggestions, and decide what works for you and your story.

    Whatever happens, the important thing is that you will learn.

  5. CommunityThis is probably the most important reason to participate in #PitchWars, which is why I saved it for last. I have met so many fantastic through this contest. In 2013, I got passed over by the mentors, BUT I met one of my critique partners and a bunch of writing buddies who I still count as active supporters. In 2014, I ended up as an alternate, so I gained a fantastic mentor who has become an amazing critique partner and friend (and now co-mentor!!!!).

    Writing is a pretty solitary endeavor most of the time, but it’s fantastic to have a solid support system to help prop you up when the going gets tough and to be there to celebrate with you when you record a win. #PitchWars is a great way to build your network and connect with people who get what you’re going through. You can interact on the hashtag to find CPs, beta readers, or even agent advice.

    I want to wrap this post up by urging you to embrace the possibilities! #PitchWars is fantastic, and I am so grateful to be a co-mentor for the 2017 contest. Brenda Drake is unbelievable for organizing it. Please check out her website to learn more and support her!

    If you want to reach out to me, please do! The comments are open below, and you can always find me on Twitter @KatrinaEmmel or shoot me an email at: katrinaemmelwrites @ (without the spaces).


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Tenacity of the Shrew

I’ve always been stubborn. It’s my parents’ fault. They named me Katrina after Katherina Minola in Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew because she was headstrong, and willful, and occasionally obstinate to a fault. I’m sure there was a time or two over the years, when in the midst of teenage angst they might have rather had a Bianca under the roof, but I’m glad I inherited some of the tenacity of my namesake.

In seventh grade, I had a math teacher who thought that independent learning was the way to teach pre-pre-algebra (that’s the best description I can come up with). She handed out these worksheets with letters and numbers, and somehow we were supposed to work at our own pace to figure it out. I’d never struggled with math before, but I just couldn’t grasp how it was supposed to work on my own. I needed someone to show me the steps and explain it first.

I remember, very clearly, the day she pulled me aside, and showed me all the red marks on my worksheets. “Katrina,” she said. “Math isn’t for you. I think maybe you should work on figuring out how to count change, because you’ll probably end up working at McDonald’s.” I was all of 12 or 13, and all I could get out of it was that she thought I was stupid. It was crushing.

I know I cried. Instead of helping me figure it out, she’d already decided I was bound for failure. How dare she?

I was fortunate that my parents were supportive and I’m a determined sort, but I wonder how many other girls were sidelined by a similar incident–would-be doctor’s or engineers choosing a different path because of a short-sighted teacher.

Once I’d gone through a box of Kleenex and had my mom, a math teacher, help me figure it out, I decided that I wasn’t about to let some old, cranky lady dictate my future. I was going to do well in math just to show her I was more capable than she could even imagine. I took pre-Algebra the next year, and then Algebra after that. I went to summer camp at Mt. Holyoke College for math. Then, I took Algebra II and Geometry, pre-Calculus and Calculus. I was determined to be good at math.

You’d think that would be enough, but it wasn’t. That teacher also had a sign on her wall that said: “Good enough is not good enough.” Clearly, I had to go all the way to show her. I majored in Biochemistry in college, but there were plenty of math classes sprinkled in. It got to the point that it wasn’t so much about proving to her that I could do it, I wanted to prove to myself that I could go farther than even I thought possible. I enrolled in a Master’s program, and then I had to know: did I have it in me to get a Ph.D.?

Ten years ago today (!!!), I proved to myself–and the world–and my seventh grade math teacher, that yes, I did indeed have what it takes. I put on my puffy black gown and mortarboard, and officially became Doctor Katrina.

Thankfully, over the years, I’ve had plenty of supportive, helpful, caring teachers who encouraged me and nurtured me. And that darn Shakespearean stubborn streak to fall back on when the going got tough.

So, hey, seventh grade math teacher: what do you have to say about me now?


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