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!

2017 PitchWars Co-Mentor Bio & Wish List


No automatic alt text available. 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!


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].