Meet author and past Pitch Wars 2016 mentee Anna Brittain.
You were a Pitch Wars 2016 mentee. Your manuscript FEMSLASH was a Contemporary LGBT own voices story. Do you plan to write more own voices novels?
Great question!! I think the thing about own voices for the people that are writing it is, it’s not just an identifier for our work – it’s a reflection of the world we particularly live in. I write to process things, so I can’t imagine not writing characters who share the same intersections I have.
In your Pitch Wars novel, by day, Iliana and Rhodes tear each other down to the studs as they compete for the same scholarship. By night, they unknowingly piece each other together again through their performing art school’s anonymous fanfic community. Do you have much fanfic experience and what made you decide to include the fanfic bit in the story?
Oh my gosh, yes. My first experience with fandom was Sailor Moon when I was 12-13. It was totally self-insertion Mary Sue shenanigans, but learning to draw anime and learning to write to contribute to fandom made Sailor Moon this completely immersive creative experience in my life during a particularly difficult period in my family’s history.
Do you think fanfiction is a good way those interested in writing to test the waters?
Okay, so, when I was an art major, one of the things we did a lot was go to the Birmingham Museum of Art and draw pictures of the artwork on display. The prevailing idea is that there’s a sort of learning-by-doing that happens when you do that, where you absorb bits and pieces of the master’s craft – and the logic behind their work – into your own subconscious. It’s like bowling with the gutter guards down – it gives you the freedom to explore your own line work, value, and understanding of color theory because the framework of someone else’s work is already there.
I see fan fiction the same way – by working within someone else’s world, with their characters, and their story arcs, it gives writers the opportunity to explore their own craft in a way that removes the pressure to ~create something new~ and perform.
When you entered Pitch Wars, what were you most nervous or worried about?
I think, like most hopefuls, I was most afraid of not being picked.
If you had to redo your Pitch Wars experience, is there anything you’d do differently?
No, actually. I got everything out of it I ultimately wanted – I broadened my community, and oh my gosh I can’t even begin to tell you how much my writing has grown. I’ve made some great professional connections – note that I didn’t mention representation, or a book deal, or any such sort of thing (probably because at the moment I don’t have any of those things, ha!). I think that’s the thing I’d like to remind hopefuls: If you set goals based on personal growth rather than career milestones, you’re going to get everything you want out of Pitch Wars.
Snagging an agent and/or a book deal is such a subjective, variable thing, and if you focus your energy on the agent round, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Rejection doesn’t end with agent rep: I know agented people who have already shelved their Pitch Wars manuscript after going on submission didn’t work out for them. I know people who have already parted ways with their agent, and people who are *still* revising, six months later, and haven’t been on sub yet. There are people like me, who performed well during the agent round and *still* don’t have representation. Of course, there are also people who already have book deals, and we are all over the moon for them, too!
Did anything about your Pitch Wars experience surprise you or wind up being harder than you expected?
I think the thing that surprised me the most goes back to my last point a bit – there are literally no promises with the way the agent round is going to go. Me? I had 25 requests. TWENTY-FIVE! I didn’t think I’d still be here a year later, but you know what? FEMSLASH wasn’t ready yet. It was a hard way to learn that lesson, but ultimately I’m grateful for it because it came with a lot of insight on ways to make FEMSLASH better.
Any advice to new writers unsure about entering writing contests like Pitch Wars?
I think the biggest thing is this: Learn radical acceptance now. Find a way to see the blessing in where you are, at this very moment, in your writing journey. The sooner you learn not to ‘should’ yourself to death or compare yourself to the people around you who are hitting milestones quicker than you are, the sooner you develop into the writer (author!) you are meant to be.
Again: Learn to identify the blessing of where you are.
Are there any published Contemporary LGBT own voices books you’d recommend?
DO I EVER!
History is All You Left Me – Adam Silvera
Queens of Geek – Jen Wilde
Style – Chelsea Cameron
Not Otherwise Specified – Hannah Moskowitz
Ramona Blue – Julie Murphy
Want to know more about Anna? Visit her website.