Madi and Jessica, thanks so much for agreeing to this interview and congratulations on your partnership! To start, Madi, I’d love to know more about your book and why you wrote it.
MADI: Thank you so much, Beth, for having me, and a huge thank you for creating and moderating DVPit!
THE ANATOMY OF EVERYTHING is about a young doctor in the first year of her medical training at the fictional Philadelphia General Hospital. It’s basically a coming-of-age story in which the inexperienced, bookish protagonist, Norah, contends with questions of loyalty, morality, and being the “good Indian daughter” her family expects her to be. It masquerades as a love story, but really it’s about deciding what kind of person you want to be.
I did my medical internship in Philadelphia in 2003 and it was easily the most formative—and possibly most grueling—year of my life. I walked out of the hospital on the last day and thought I’m going to write a book about this someday. So many of the crazy situations that Norah faces in the book are based on things that happened that year. It was wonderfully cathartic to write.
Jessica, what was it about this manuscript that sealed the deal for you?
JESSICA: The pitch! I remember it so clearly, and I was ironically talking to a friend who had also seen the pitch and we both were immediately saying, “I NEED this project!”
Madi, how did you prepare this manuscript for submission? Do you work with outlines, schedules, or deadlines? Do you have critique partners and beta readers?
MADI: I would not recommend doing what I did: I pantsed the entire novel. I literally sat down one winter afternoon, while I was pregnant with my first child, and went “I’m going to write a book now!” and started typing. It took five years (by which time I had a second child) and many, many drafts to figure out the story I was trying to tell. Even then, I knew something wasn’t working, but I couldn’t figure out what that something was.
Then, the same week as DVPit, I entered the annual RevPit contest online and was lucky enough to win a developmental edit with a professional editor, Katie McCoach. I worked with Katie for four weeks, and she helped me transform my manuscript. For someone with no formal training (I’ve taken exactly one creative writing class, ever), I can’t even begin to describe how valuable it is to work with a developmental editor. From Katie, I learned things about storytelling that I will carry with me to every one of my future projects.
And how was the #DVpit experience for you, overall? Expectations? Doubts? Disappointments?
MADI: DVPit was such a fun experience! I loved seeing all the other amazing pitches. Writing can be so isolating—the hours spent holed up alone in front of a computer, wondering if anyone is going to care what you’re writing about—but on DVPit day there’s this excitement and energy that you get to be a part of, and it’s a wonderful feeling to know there are so many other diverse authors out there trying to tell their unique stories. The DVPit community is wonderful.
How was the experience for you, Jessica?
JESSICA: #DVPit is so much fun for me as well. It’s an act of pure restraint not going through and requesting ALL THE THINGS—and it feels wonderful knowing that the stories you see pitched are ones that are just waiting to be scooped up and helped into the world.
Madi, did you receive pitch help or tips? Any words of wisdom you’d like to pass along to future participants?
MADI: I participated in the preDV mock-pitch event a week before DVPit and got some helpful advice. I also “practiced” my pitch in a smaller pitch party event a few months before DVPit—that pitch didn’t get much attention, so I scrapped it and wrote a new one. My advice would be to make sure you have strong, current comp titles (or comp authors), and to put those titles at the beginning of the pitch. You can also search DVPit pitches in your genre from past events and see which ones got the most “hearts” and study those—what made them stand out?
And Jessica, do you have any advice for querying authors and/or for anyone planning to participate in a future #DVpit?
JESSICA: Honestly—just the fact that you’re putting yourself out there is such an accomplishment. I know if I were a writer, I would never let my work see the light of day (hence why I am an agent) so it always blows me away to see these creative ideas coming out into the world. I would say the other important things to remember are research who you’re sending your work to, and also realize that pitch contests are not the only way to get an agent/book deal/ what have you. It’s just another avenue, and everyone has a different path in this industry!
Tell us about The Call, Madi!
MADI: Jess actually reached out to me via Twitter DM a week after DVPit, asking why I hadn’t sent my manuscript to her yet. I was still working on my final edits with my RevPit editor and asked for a few weeks to complete them. She graciously agreed, and when I still wasn’t finished a few weeks later, she reached out to me again. Her enthusiasm for my book did—and still does—blow me away. Jess has championed this project from first tweet. When we had our call, I knew immediately that I wanted to work with her. I had a list of questions prepared, but she anticipated what I’d want to know and answered them all before I could ask. She had amazing ideas for revisions to the manuscript, and she really understood what I was trying to do with this story. I’m so happy with how the manuscript evolved because of her suggestions. Jess also has just the sunniest, most positive personality, and in the often rejection-filled world of publishing, I can’t imagine a better person to have in my corner, cheering me on.
Give us the pitch that hooked your agent!
MADI: “GREY’S ANATOMY x Sophie Kinsella. A love triangle, a medical error, a cover up, an autopsy, and a decision: will a brilliant young Indian doctor risk her own career to protect the man she loves and try to win his heart? #DVpit #WF #OWN #A”
Jessica, what was it about this pitch that caught your attention?
JESSICA: I mean, you read that pitch right? It’s like the golden goose egg of pitches! It has amazing comps so I immediately knew the tone it would have, in addition to intrigue, romance, an intern trying to make a name for herself in a male dominated field, it hits ALL THE THINGS I love in a book!
What else are you looking for these days? Is there anything specific on your wishlist that you’re hoping to find, maybe at the next #DVpit?
JESSICA: I for sure want more wonderful diverse romance and women’s fiction, and I would LOVE to see some really fun MG as well! Other than that—I really just want a kick butt story—I’m open to whatever finds me that just knocks me off my feet.
Warm congratulations to Madi and Jessica for finding each other! I’m looking forward to seeing where they go next. Follow them on Twitter so you can do the same!
Madi Sinha (@SinhaMadi) is a physician and writer who loves the nervous system, bookshops, tea with milk, and snarky conversations (but not necessarily in that order). She lives with her adorable kids and very patient husband in New Jersey.
Jessica Watterson (@jesswatterson) has been with the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency since 2013. She's a graduate of the University of California at Irvine, a former book blogger, and life long lover of books. Jessica is most on the hunt for all sub genres of romance, younger and feminist WF, YA, MG, and Cozy Mysteries.