Meet author and Pitch Wars mentor Susan Gray Foster. Susan is a YA novelist striving to spin words into magic. She also enjoys tea, songwriting, reading, and hanging out with her dogs. She believes in creativity and empathy. She’s represented by Caitlin Blasdell of Liza Dawson Associates
Tell us a little bit about the book that got you into Pitch Wars in 2014. What was it about and did anything specific inspire it? How to Make a Heartbeat is a YA contemporary-with-a-twist about a teen genius who brings his former best friend back to life after a prom-night accident, and then struggles with his feelings for her and with the consequences of what he’s done. Very few people know that it was actually inspired by a piece of choreography on the reality TV show, So You Think You Can Dance. The dance featured a beautiful girl raised from death, and I couldn’t get that image out of my mind!
As a child WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS by Rawls captured your heart. Have you read any books as an adult that managed to capture a piece of your heart too? Definitely yes! Anytime I’m reading and I get the feeling that someone else understands a thought or an emotion I’ve never even put into words; when I suddenly understand a point of view that’s completely unlike anything I’ve experienced in my own life; or when I gain new insight into what it means to be a human being, to be alive, to love; or when I’m in the midst of a world I’d like to stay in forever; or I care about a character as if she’s a close, personal friend—that book captures my heart.
What made you decide to become a book coach and offer editing services? I love beta-reading and critiquing for other writers, and helping others create the book they’ve envisioned, so why not do it professionally? Also, I’ve learned so much as a book coach for Author Accelerator. I especially love their Story Genius workshops, based on the book by Lisa Cron, which I find tremendously helpful in my own writing, too.
As a Pitch Wars mentee in 2014 Mónica B.W. was your mentor. Despite all the work you put into your book during Pitch Wars revision period, you took time after the contest to focus on a new project before going back to your Pitch Wars MS and doing more revising. What kept you motivated to not give up on the book? I’m passionate about How to Make a Heartbeat, and I’ve never seriously considered giving up on it. After revising so intensely during Pitch Wars ’14, I felt I needed a little break from the manuscript so that I could view it with fresh eyes before polishing it up and querying.
In the end your hard work paid off and you found representation with Caitlin Blasdell. Any advice to other authors on how to tell if an agent might be a good match during “The Call”? My advice is to be sure to discuss and consider the agent’s vision for your manuscript, keeping in mind that the easiest path may not be the best one. Also, I often see advice about the need to “click” with your agent on a personal level, but I suggest also keeping in mind that you’re not looking for a bff, you’re looking for a professional who has the knowledge and skills to give your manuscript its best chance.
You stayed in touch with your mentor Mónica B.W. and mentored as a Pitch Wars team with her. Have you stayed in touch with any of your past mentees? Yes! I’ve only mentored once so far. (I sat out PW 2016 since I was doing heavy revising and also going through a job-change at the time.) I adore Kerbie Addis (who is co-mentoring with Mónica again this year). She is an amazing person, writer, and critique partner!
What’s the most challenging part about being a Pitch Wars mentor? I’d say the biggest challenge is going through the entries and choosing just one! It gives us a tiny little taste of what it’s like for agents, some of whom receive that amount of queries every day.
On your blog you’ve mentioned how you take inspiration from the TV show PROJECT RUNWAY because you relate to the creative process and the creative challenges the designers face. If you got involved in a similar show but about writing, what would you name it? I guess PITCH WARS is too obvious an answer? I would love it if there were a TV show like that (although viewers might be bored to death by watching someone like me hunched over her laptop). I think I would name the show WRITE ON! Oh, and I would love to be Tim Gunn—he’s such a wonderful mentor.
Want to know more about Susan? Visit her website.