Wednesday, January 31, 2018

TeenPit: mentoring, editing, support, and being taken seriously as a writer

Guest Post by Lyric Shard 

You know that feeling of having butterflies in your stomach? The first one flapped its wings when I saw my manuscript title by a mentor’s name, the second when I met my fellow mentees, the third when I received an email from my mentor where she said she loved my pages. Then it was continuous flapping, hundreds of butterflies all at once. I still can’t count how many are left flapping their wings in my stomach, because my TeenPit experience did not only last for the one month promised--it’s stretched until today and hopefully will remain forever.

TeenPit is a writing contest designed for high school writers, where the participants submit their first 250 words and a short pitch for a chance to be paired with a mentor. You can go here to read about all the details for TeenPit 2018. And hurry up, the very brief submission window opens on March 17th.

I first noticed a tweet from K. Hopkins, a PitchWars mentor, in early April about a contest for teens. It’s always hard to be taken seriously when you’re sixteen trying to find your way into the publishing industry. TeenPit sounded like the perfect chance where I could hear something more than "your writing is good for your age." I could get feedback about my writing as a writer, not as a kid, and go from there to improve.

I immediately checked it out, drafted my submission email (almost a month before the submission window opened since only first 200 entries were accepted). Then one month passed fast, and the submission day came.

Thanks to living on the west coast, the window opened at five in the morning, and more thanks to the flat tire in the middle of the road the night before, I’d just come home, meaning my brain was perfectly functioning. I was able to send the email… well, with one very embarrassing mistake which ate me up the entire time I waited for the results. I wasn’t going to be picked. I couldn’t be. I sent an email in Comic Sans. They would delete it before they read it. 

The mentor teasers started a few hours before the results were posted. My impostor syndrome, for those few hours, seemed weaker than my high hopes. However, my hopes were right. My manuscript title was there, in the list of those that made it to the mentor round.

A few rounds of screaming contest (to relieve the excitement) with my chickens later, I sat down to relax and take time to believe my eyes. Only then was I able to open the email from my mentor, Kristen Lepionka, author of the Roxane Weary mystery series. It was greetings, introductions, "I love your voice" and gifs. That was all that was needed, to know that the first two chapters of my manuscript and I were in good hands. The next thing I needed was to listen, understand, and be open to making changes in my manuscript.

That’s what I did. In between school, senior activities and tons of essays, I knew to give my manuscript some time to edit it. I read her notes and edited. And edited. Scenes, characters, lines—everything. It was sending those twenty pages back and forth, more polished each time until we both looked at it and thought, "That looks about perfect."

The final edits were sent in, and now it was time to wait again. The top picks were announced, they were going to go straight to PitchWars, where they’d work with mentors for two months before their entries went up for agent showcase.

I wasn’t one of them.

That was okay.

In that one month, and all the months afterwards, I’ve become friends with the mentees from TeenPit Class of '17, a group of talented teen writers who are still there for each other. In between edits and gifs, I realized Kristen was more than a mentor. Can I call her my fairy godmother? She’s there to help get me through--from her amazing feedback and edits, to fighting impostor syndrome, or whatever is in the way.

TeenPit is so much more than the contest itself. It is a community, filled with love and support that doesn’t go away when the contest is over.

Note from Dallas: I hope you enter TeenPit 2018! Here are all the details.

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