Pitch Wars Mentor Spotlight: Susan Gray Foster
Susan Gray Foster is mentoring for the second year in a row. In addition to writing YA, Susan is a teacher, a songwriter, and she also offers book coaching and editing services through Author Accelerator. You can find out more about her on her author website at susangrayfoster.wordpress.com.
Hi, Susan! This is your second time mentoring Pitch Wars. Publishing is subjective, but what (in your opinion) do the stand-out entries have in common?
Both the query and the opening chapter give a clear sense of the protagonist and the type of story, and make the reader care and want to read on. (Sorry, this is one of those deceptively simple non-answers, but it’s the truth!)
What part of the writing process do you find most challenging and how do you tackle it?
Drafting is most difficult for me. (Doing it now!) I have to force myself to power through to get to the point where I have a draft that I can mold into what I want.
The right research can make or break a story idea, but how important is it to research your genre/category?
Of course it’s essential to read in the genre/category you write. Why would anyway want to write a type of book they don’t read? At the same time, it’s impossible to read everything in a particular genre, and, even if you could, you’d have no way of knowing if a hundred other people were writing something similar to yours and were going to beat you to the punch. So, I guess my advice is to read the genre you love, and also read widely in other genres, and write your own unique stories, in your own particular way, to the very best of your ability.
What are you reading, or otherwise currently obsessed with?
I just finished NEVERWHERE (audiobook), which was fun because I’d actually never read anything by Neil Gaiman before (except CORALINE). I’m about to finish fellow Pitch Wars alum and mentor Rosalyn Eves’ THE BLOOD ROSE REBELLION, which is a lovely, unique YA fantasy set in Hungary. And I just started re-reading FRANKENSTEIN (audiobook). I read it a number of years ago, but holy crap, I’d forgotten that it opens with a TON of backstory. I can’t wait to get to the good part!
You were a 2014 Pitch Wars mentee and now you’re mentoring for the second time! Having participated in both roles, what advice would you give the mentee hopefuls for 2017?
Have an open mind, a positive attitude, keep a tight rein on your expectations, and get ready to work your bleep off! Also, keep in mind that every writer at every step along the way struggles with rejection, doubt, insecurity, jealousy, and frustration. Each writer’s path is unique, so, whatever happens, keep calm and write on!
What qualities will you be looking for in a mentee?
I would love to work with someone who is open-minded, positive, passionate about their writing, able to communicate honestly, and ready for an emotional roller coaster.
And finally, what advice do you have for writers who may be attempting a major revision for the first time?
Know what’s at the heart and soul of your story, and hang onto to that fiercely. Be open-minded and willing to consider changes to anything and everything else. Hit “save as” and then be fearless. You can always go back to an earlier draft, but if you don’t try, you’ll never know. Communicate with your mentor. Whether you have questions, uncertainty, confusion, a disagreement, or you’re stressed and freaking out, let your mentor know so that you can work through it together.
For those entering Pitch Wars 2017, Susan's MENTOR WISHLIST IS HERE!
If you have any Pitch Wars questions for Susan, please head on over to Twitter and tweet her at @susangrayfoster. And for even more Pitch Wars advice, be sure to check out her recent blog post: Finding and Working with a Mentor.
And, as always,