Notes From a Pitch Wars Hopeful

A photo of Julie Artz
Photo (c) Gail Werner

I spent my young life sneaking into wardrobes hoping to make it to Narnia. Now that I’m a bit older, people think that’s sort of creepy, so I became a middle-grade author instead.

In all seriousness, every job I’ve had from my first work-study job as an editor in DePauw’s Writing Center, to working the children’s section of a small independent bookstore, to writing instructions for computer software, involved writing. And I’ve been an obsessive reader since I fell in love with The Fantastic Mr. Fox in first grade (My titilating review of said book still exists on wide-ruled paper. Just ask my mama).

So when our relocation to Helsinki, Finland in 2010 meant that staying at home with our two young children made more sense than me trying to work, I picked up the proverbial pen. This time, instead of blog posts, overly-emo poems, and half-baked attempts at short stories, I wrote Finding Gib, a novel about a twelve-year-old boy and his struggle to survive in post-apocalyptic Spain, as part of NaNoWriMo 2013.

A year later, I wrote another one, this one set in Finland and based on Kalevala, the country’s obscure, if magical, epic poem. Now I’m back in the United States and hoping to find an agent for my work. Although the limited agent/contest feedback I’ve received over the past couple of months on Quest for the Kalevala has been positive, I know the story’s missing something. Something that I truly believe a Pitch Wars mentor could help me identify and correct.

That doesn’t mean I’m looking for a magic bullet. I’m prepared to do the hard work necessary to get my writing to the next level of awesomesauce. But I would love a mentor to guide me.

I’m involved in this amazing writing community, which teaches me something new every single day. I blog for From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors. I founded and help run a critique group for MG/YA authors (shout out to Fellowship of the Pen!). I’m an active SCBWI member. I just put Finding Gib through its paces in the intense and amazing Speculative Fiction summer critique marathon over on Agent-Query-Connect. I attend several conferences and workshops every year to hone my craft and read countless books, articles, and blog posts on writing.

As you can probably tell from the above, I work at a frenetic pace. I can get a lot done in Pitch Wars’ two-month window (caffeine helps, as does a supportive family and insomniac work habits).

I am motivated, dedicated to craft, and in love with all things middle-grade. If you pick me, I promise to work my tail off to revise Quest for the Kalevala and to do so with a positive attitude, a sense of humility, and tremendous appreciation for all the hours that go into being a mentor. A special shout-out to Brenda Drake, who puts in countless hours to make this amazing event possible. Thank you!

Now for the fun stuff: I’m a Ravenclaw with Gryffindor aspirations. I’m one of the fangirls squeeing over the Firefly reboot. I cry when Thorin Oakenshield dies every time I read The Hobbit. I have read the Silmarillion more than once. I will write a novel-in-verse version of The Hobbit told from Smaug’s perspective before I die, even if copyright law prevents it from ever being published. I consume every Sherlock Holmes-related book, movie, or show I can get my hands on. I hugged my daughter’s signed copy of Flora & Ulysses when I finished reading it.

When I’m not geeking out over stories, I like to travel, go wine-tasting, garden, cook, cycle, run, play soccer, and hike. I’ve lived in England, France, Finland, and the United States, and suspect I’ll add to that list before I’m through. In another life, I was a Native Plant Master and Master Gardener in Colorado and wrote gardening-related articles for The Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News (may it RIP), and the Boulder Daily Camera. I’m loud, often inappropriate, and am prone to gesticulating wildly or breaking into song when excited.

My kids think I’m utterly weird and are constantly annoyed with me for beating them at Just Dance 2015, playing with their toys, stealing their books, answering their questions in song, and making up nutty stories about how eating their broccoli will give them superpowers, among other tragically-unhip parental flaws.

Don’t forget to read about the other amazing writers participating in Pitch Wars on the #pimpmybio blog hop.

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