Hi! Welcome to the wish list for the loveably-awkward mentoring duo of Kristen Lepionka and Ernie Chiara!
We’re interested in adult mystery/thriller/suspense/crime, literary fiction, and LGBTQ+ stories. If that sounds like you, read on.
First of all, the fact that you’re thinking about entering Pitch Wars is tremendous. If you go in with the right mindset and the right expectations, Pitch Wars can be life-changing—we both know this because we were both mentees before we became mentors (2015 for Kristen, 2016 for Ernie). The manuscripts we worked on during the contest were worked and reworked until they shined, and all that hard work led us to sign with our amazing agents through old-fashioned querying. It wouldn’t have been possible without Pitch Wars!
Here’s a bit more about us
Kristen: author of the Shamus Award-winning Roxane Weary mystery series, cat mom, queer, INFJ, Midwesterner, whiskey drinker
Ernie: artist, INFJ, freelance designer, Bostonian, father of three, Team Oxford Comma, PW Zero Requests Club, fan of naps, bedtime audiobook addict
What we’re good at
Kristen: I’ve mentored four awesome writers (including Ernie, my co-mentor!) over the past 3 years as a Pitch Wars mentor. That’s a lot of stories, voices, and words, and I love it. I’m strongest at: character development, dialogue, setting, spotting inconsistent character motivations and internal logic, and untangling messy plot knots.
Ernie: I’ve done a lot of beta reading and critiquing, and I am most effective at character development, dialogue, setting, structure, and identifying plot inconsistencies.
What we’re looking for most
VOICE! We want a manuscript with personality for daysssss. Everything else, even a crazy messy plot, can be fixed during Pitch Wars, but a strong voice and a solid concept need to be there to begin with. Keep on reading for specifics.
So what exactly does Pitch Wars entail?
Ernie: A LOT of work. When I was a mentee, I wound up rewriting about ⅔ of the entire manuscript during the contest for my mentor (now my co-mentor!), just as she had rewritten about ⅔ of her manuscript the year before for her mentor, Kellye. So we know big-time overhauls are possible, and we’ll be looking for a mentee who is open to making major changes if necessary. If you think your manuscript is perfect already, or if you have a long list of things you absolutely will not change about it (no matter the reason) then we may not be the mentors for you. We want to work with someone open-minded, someone humble and cool with a good sense of humor, and most importantly, someone who is willing to work hard. Otherwise, this amazing opportunity won’t help you. That being said, it’s supposed to be fun. And it will be! Inside jokes galore!
What we write
Kristen: I’ve been obsessed with all things mystery and suspense for my whole reading and writing life. I just turned in the manuscript for my fourth Roxane Weary mystery novel to my editor at Minotaur (holds breath). I can’t stop writing about complicated women and modern problems (so anyone who says the mystery-suspense genre is old-fashioned, think again)
Ernie: I love to write uniquely structured, genre bending upmarket and speculative fiction with dark themes, elements of suspense, and a touch of the inexplicable. Realistic, urban settings are definitely my jam, and I love me some great literary magical realism too.