Monday, March 16, 2015

Pitch Madness Interviews Pt. 2 - Oh Captain, My Captain

This is the second in my interview series with a few of the people behind the Pitch Madness contest. If you're new to the series and/or unfamiliar with Pitch Madness, please see part one. Yesterday we met slush-reader extraordinaire, K.T. Hanna. However, slush readers are just one vital part of the Pitch Madness process. Team captains are the next part of the equation.

Each of the four teams has two captains and together they comb through the slush and the slush-reader recommended entries searching for pitches to fall in love with. But whether or not they actually get to keep their favorite pitches is another matter entirely. All four teams compete against one another in a draft for their favorite entries. Think football draft but with more laughter, threats and a more diverse and intriguing entrant pool.

Part of the fun of Pitch Madness is watching the Twitter feed and seeing the team captains post obscure and maddening tweets about their picks. It's even more fun when they begin taunting one another and attempting to hoard favorite entries for themselves. Their sense of playfulness and their camaraderie spill over to those entering the contest and it makes for an amazing community experience.

Can I Get A Captain, Please
Among the team captains this year was Sharon Johnston, a PR maven, publishing intern, veteran blogger and pitch event expert. In addition to Pitch Madness, Sharon is also a Pitch Wars mentor and helps with the Nest Pitch and Pitcharama pitch events. A native Aussie, Sharon has several published short stories and a keen eye for novels that will appeal to agents.

Approximately how many hours did you spend reading entries for this year's contest?
Sharon: I seriously lost track of the hours. Trying to balance work and family and reading entries was hard. I ended up staying up to the wee hours of the morning and reading as I wanted to read every single entry – and I’m pretty sure I did.

[Note: There were 915 entries and only a week or so to go through them all. That's a lot of reading.]

There was a bit of competition for some of the entries among the team captains. Who made the best threats and were they carried out?
Sharon: Becks’ team was by far the most threatening because you couldn’t tell at all what entries they were considering with their tagging system in the Pitch Madness inbox. They were first in the draft and they picked one we all wanted: Decoy Royale.

[Note: Decoy Royale was beloved by the agents in Pitch Madness as well and received the most agent requests.]

How many years have you been helping out with Pitch Madness and how did you first get involved?
Sharon: I’ve been hosting Pitch Madness for about three years now. It started because I noticed that one of the hosts was stepping down and I offered Brenda the use of YAtopia. However, with YAtopia being a group blog it didn’t work the best as we couldn’t have any other posts while the game was on, so it moved across to my personal blog.

What was your favorite moment in this year's contest?
Sharon: The reaction of everyone on the Google chat when they found out I had covertly been taking photos on the chat on my phone. It was priceless. There were really so many favourite moments – every time I read a pitch and it gave me goosebumps or I was like “I HAVE TO READ THIS.” Every time a team stole an entry from another team’s wish list and the groans that ensued. Every time I see a bid on my team, or an entry I loved on another team. Every time I see a tweet where people have become friends/betas/CPs though Pitch Madness. Yes – a lot gives me the warm and fuzzies.

If you could give one piece of advice, and only one, to writers out there in the query trenches right now, what would it be?
Sharon: Write your pitch/query keeping in mind the person reading it knows NOTHING about your book. Test it on people who know NOTHING about your book and take this feedback into account and be prepared to rewrite your pitch/query based on that feedback. Yes, pitches need editing and redrafting too.

Silly question time. You have a magic pencil and the ability to rewrite any book ending you like. Which book and what do you change?
Sharon: Gone Girl – (if you haven’t read it – LOOK AWAY NOW. I mean it. Stop reading this if you don’t want spoilers). I wanted Nick to outsmart Amy. I didn’t like that he was caught in that marriage. I wanted him to beat her at her own game and set her up the way she set him up.

Special thanks to Sharon for answering my questions and volunteering her time. Follow her on Twitter @S_M_Johnston or at her website,

Tune in tomorrow for an interview with Pitch Madness creator, Brenda Drake.

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