Meredith and Lauren, thanks so much for agreeing to this interview and congratulations on your partnership! To start, Meredith, I’d love to know more about your book and why you wrote it.
MEREDITH: Thank you so much for having us, Beth! And a special thank you for organizing and hosting the amazing event that brought us together.
SCATTERED is women’s fiction with a strong romance. The main character has to travel to Maine with the man who broke her heart—her brother’s best friend—to scatter her beloved brother’s ashes.
I’d wanted my children to see themselves in literature, as I never did, so the brother and sister MCs are half-Asian/half-white. I’d also been interested in writing a road trip story where the passengers hate each other and it wound up quite cathartic.
I wrote SCATTERED mainly to cope with the passing of my step-father following a two-year battle with myelodysplasia/leukemia. After my father was cremated, the story was born. I hope it will help readers in the future with the loss of a loved one. To not have it be a total downer, there’s a lot of dark/odd humor and romance. I knew it was going to be either hit or miss. Luckily, Lauren loved the story.
Lauren, what was it about this manuscript that sealed the deal for you?
LAUREN: There were so many factors, but I think the biggest was that even as I was mentally plotting out my editorial vision for it, I was ugly crying on my couch for an afternoon. I’m not an easy crier, so if I can critically analyze a novel but still be deeply moved, I know it’s a winner.
Meredith, how did you prepare this manuscript for submission? Do you work with outlines, schedules, or deadlines? Do you have critique partners and beta readers?
MEREDITH: Oh dear. It was around seven or eight weeks before #DVpit when I first saw your announcement of the upcoming contest. I had maybe 5K written/an idea rolling around my head. I’m a pantser with a logline, but I worked with my wonderful CP sending whatever I’d finished and roughly edited when I’d critiqued reading hers. We got it done, but I wouldn’t recommend that process. . I’ve since had it read by three other CPs and a beta reader.
And how was the #DVpit experience for you, overall? Expectations? Doubts? Disappointments?
MEREDITH: From the second I saw your tweet I knew it would be really special—and it was! I’ve never seen such participation from the publishing community—both in signal boosting by established authors, the agents piling on the favorites, and the editors retweeting. It felt welcoming, like people really wanted our voices and our stories. I wound up sending twenty #DVpit submissions and agents were so fast to read them and respond. But the best part was the new friends I made.
I will admit I had doubts in the lull between the initial requesting/signing frenzy and when I ultimately received my offer of rep. Three of my new friends were signed in that time. Silence causes querying writers to imagine that every agent is just figuring out a way to tell them they should quit and take up soccer. But obviously, everything was fine.
How was the experience for you, Lauren?
LAUREN: I thought it was a really incredible event. I don’t think anyone doubts how powerful a force the author community is in pushing for diversity in publishing, but #DVpit offered substantial proof that there are also many on this side of the desk who are eager to change the industry for the better. I found it to be a very hopeful sign that we’re making progress and that the future of publishing is going to look a lot more like the world does. I was a touch overwhelmed by just how many amazing pitches there were and of those, how many sounded like they could be really right for my list. I often find that Twitter pitch events skew toward categories that make up a smaller part of my list, especially fantasy, so I was really pleasantly surprised with this one how many things felt like a real fit for me. The toughest thing about #DVpit is having too much to read and hard choices to make—which is a really great problem to have.
Meredith, did you receive pitch help? Any words of wisdom you’d like to pass along to future participants
MEREDITH: I trusted my gut (I’ve had success with pitch contests in the past and understand the formula) but I did take up the lovely Kristen Ciccarelli, Kayla Whaley, and Mark O’Brien on their generous offers of help. My pitch advice is that comps often set a great scene, but you also want to be as specific in your stakes as possible.
And Lauren, do you have any advice for querying authors and/or for anyone planning to participate in a future #DVpit?
LAUREN: My best advice would be to really hone your query and manuscript in advance. The competition is fierce, maybe even more so than in other pitch events. Don’t feel like you have to rush to pitch a manuscript that isn’t ready. Focus on writing the best book you can write, not on an arbitrary deadline. Hopefully #DVpit will be around for years to come! And you can always keep an eye on which agents are requesting projects that sound like yours so you know who to query when you are ready.
Tell us about The Call, Meredith!
MEREDITH: I’m laughing and Lauren knows why. She emailed me to set up The Call about six weeks after #DVpit. I happened to be in California for a wedding so we tried to settle on a good time.
We picked Monday, June 6, at 12:30 PST but the thing is, I hadn’t really figured in travel time. I wound up running through SFO Airport on the most important call of my life. It was interesting to say the least!
Even with dragging luggage around, it was clear Lauren had such amazing insight and such a love for the work. Her vision for the manuscript was impeccable and even with pretty substantial edits she still wanted to sign me! I took the standard amount of time, was lucky to have many agents interested, but I signed with Lauren because of the thoroughness of her feedback, the strength of her reputation (her clients LOVE her) and the faith she had in me as an author.
Give us the pitch that hooked your agent!
MEREDITH: The tweet Lauren favorited was: “To get closure on her brother’s death Jocelyn must go on a trip w/Heath. Simple. Except Heath was the playboy who broke her heart. #DVPit #R”
Lauren, what was it about this pitch that caught your attention?
LAUREN: First of all, I love a road trip novel. Secondly, the hook, stakes, and conflict are very clearly encapsulated in so few words, which is a great sign. And, romance with diverse characters, especially own voices, is a really high priority on my list. Plus, I love when two characters who are ultimately going to fall for each other have a good reason to hate each other. I was hoping that Meredith was going to deliver a strong relationship that didn’t require me to flip from loathing to loving an asshole who wasn’t good enough for the heroine, and she did not disappoint! Jocelyn and Heath have a ton of drama between them, but they’re both flawed and wonderful characters. I don’t have to swallow my distaste for either of them to root for them to get together.
What else are you looking for these days? Is there anything specific on your wishlist that you’re hoping to find at the next #DVpit?
LAUREN: I’m open to so much (see my MSWL page here), but in particular, I’d love something own voices that sits on that upmarket commercial/accessible literary line in general fiction on the adult side. And I’m really hungry for contemporary, humor, and adventure middle grade. To get super specific, I’m on the hunt for stories with characters on the autism spectrum, MG/YA that explores code switching, and fiction from MG up to adult about Muslim protagonists. In all those, I’m especially eager for own voices.
And let me just take a moment here to say THANK YOU, Beth, not just for bringing us together, but for creating this incredible opportunity for the publishing community. I know it must have been—and continue to be—a ton of work, and it’s not like agenting is an easy 9 to 5 job. I’m so grateful to you for making all of this possible.
Warm congratulations to Meredith and Lauren for finding each other! I’m looking forward to seeing where they go next. Follow them on Twitter so you can do the same!
Meredith Ireland (@MeredithIreland) is a Women’s Fiction author, represented by Lauren Abramo of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. Born in Seoul, South Korea, she was adopted as an infant and raised in New York City. She currently resides in Upstate New York with her family and a goldfish named Emo who has lived a freakishly long time.
Lauren E. Abramo (@LaurenAbramo) is Vice President and Subsidiary Rights Director at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management, where she maintains a carefully cultivated client list with a heavy emphasis on middle grade, young adult, and adult fiction, and interdisciplinary, accessible adult nonfiction approaches to important issues in contemporary culture. In all categories she is especially interested in underrepresented voices.