Meet author and Pitch Wars mentor Kit Frick. Kit Frick is a novelist, poet, and MacDowell Colony fellow. Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, she studied creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and received her MFA from Syracuse University. When she isn’t putting complicated characters in impossible situations, Kit edits poetry and literary fiction for a small press, edits for private clients, and mentors emerging writers through Pitch Wars. Her debut young adult novel is See All the Stars (Simon & Schuster / Margaret K. McElderry Books, summer 2018), and her debut full-length poetry collection is A Small Rising Up in the Lungs (New American Press, fall 2018). Find her online at www.kitfrick.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest @kitfrick.
Your book SEE ALL THE STARS is releasing summer of 2018. In it your character Ellory finds that the past is everywhere, including in the present. Is that a life lesson you ever had to learn yourself?
I think the desire to “leave the past behind” is something we’ve all experienced at one time or another—and found much easier said than done. In See All the Stars, Ellory struggles to come to terms with her guilt over the role she played in a painful and ultimately irreversible chain of events that tore her group of friends apart. For Ellory, moving on isn’t about forgetting—it’s about finally facing the truth.
I’ve certainly had experiences where I’d rather “just forget” something unpleasant and move on, but the past has a funny way of thwarting those intentions. As with Ellory, the desire to leave the past in the past is often rooted in an emotional or psychological un-readiness to face difficult truths that may be hiding there, and take ownership over the way in which past experiences have affected us on a deeply personal level.
In college, I was affected more than I was willing to admit at the time by an experience of near-sexual-assault. I told myself I was lucky—I had managed to deescalate the situation and get away from my assailant. But I then proceeded to lock the experience away emotionally, telling myself it was “no big deal” because I’d gotten away. Two years later, he cropped up again in an entirely unexpected way, and I was forced to actually deal emotionally with what had happened. I don’t know if this is so much a life lesson as it is a facet of being human—if he hadn’t emerged again in my life, something else would have triggered that delayed recovery process. The past has a way of reminding us of our demons, and compelling us to face them.
Was there any specific inspiration for the plot of SEE ALL THE STARS or the characters?
See All the Stars emerged from the ashes of two real-life relationships: the break-up with a boyfriend during my adolescence, and the even more devastating break-up with a close female friend in early adulthood. I wanted to write a character who loses several important relationships in one fell swoop and must come to grips with both her own culpability in what went wrong, and with the necessity to make peace with the past and move forward in the aftermath.
You are originally from Pittsburgh, PA (go Pittsburgh!) Now you live in Brooklyn, New York. Is there anything you miss about Pittsburgh?
Yes! After seventeen years in New York, I’m still a Pittsburgh girl at heart. Fortunately, my parents still live there, and my husband and cats and I travel home several times a year to see them and my beloved hometown. Some of my favorite Pittsburgh landmarks and traditions are: our championship hockey team (go Pens!), Light Up Night, the Eat ’n Park diner by my house, the aviary, the Mexican War Streets, the incline, Mr. Rogers, the Heinz plant…I could keep going. Black and yellow!
You wrote a blog post about leaving behind the day job to pursue writing and editing full-time. It’s a post that anyone considering doing so should read. What inspired you to finally take the step of leaving your administration job for a different day job that let you write more?
That was a fun post to write because it marked my one-year anniversary as a self-employed writer and editor. I think the desire to create a life that allows for more writing time is a very common one among writers, so I was happy to share my experience and some advice.
The greatest hurdle for me was leaning into the uncertainty: no amount of planning could guarantee that when I finally left my full-time job in academic administration, everything was going to work out. I’m a planner, and a fairly anxious person, so there was a point at which I had to say to myself, “I’ve planned as much as I can possibly plan. There’s a certain amount of risk involved here, and that’s not going to change. If this doesn’t work out, I can find another day job. I just have to dive in.”
In the past year, I’ve revised my debut and drafted two new books. I’ve also built up my editorial practice, Copper Lantern Studio, and work with a great group of private clients. I’m looking forward to the year ahead!
While in college you interned at Simon & Schuster. How do you think that helped shape your editing career?
My internship at Simon & Schuster was actually my second publishing internship; I first interned at The Overlook Press, an independent publisher in Manhattan. Both of these internships taught me a great deal about how book publishing works as an industry—how publishing houses function as businesses, what the various departments do and how they work together, the role of literary agents, etc. It wasn’t until I transitioned into a full-time editorial assistant position at S&S that I really dipped my toes into editing. I worked under a fantastic book editor, Leslie Meredith, and learned a ton about cultivating good author relationships, developmental editing, and line editing from her. As an intern, I had learned a lot about acquisitions. I read submissions; I wrote reports; I drafted rejection letters. Working with Leslie was really my first exposure to an editor’s role in the publishing process beyond acquisitions—and there’s so much beyond acquiring books for publication!
While my own path as an editor diverged fairly quickly from the major NYC publishing houses, I took a lot away from those early internship and job experiences that I’ve applied to my work as a small press editor at Black Lawrence, my work with private editorial clients, and as a Pitch Wars mentor! Importantly, I learned a lot about the publishing industry, which is wisdom that I’m now happy to have as an author myself, and that I can now pass on to clients and mentees with whom I work.
Would you suggest internships to others considering going into editing?
Internships certainly aren’t the only path to jobs in book publishing, but they remain a very common way in the door. The landscape has changed somewhat since I was an intern in the early 2000s. For one thing, at least some publishing internships are now paid, which was very uncommon when I was an intern. For another, virtual internships are now fairly widely available, especially at literary agencies, which provides increasing access to internships to non-New Yorkers. That said, internships still pose real financial challenges for many, and they’re not the only way to get into the business.
I’ll also say that one should not expect an editorial internship to teach you how to edit. Expect exposure to the inner-workings of the industry, expect to meet people and make connections, and expect to develop office skills. But don’t expect the Senior Editor or even Assistant Editor for whom you’re interning to sit down and teach you how to edit a manuscript. I think combining internship experience with classes in editing is probably an ideal path for those who can do both.
In 2015 you entered to Pitch Wars with Rachel as one of your chosen mentors. You didn’t get in, but found great connections among the community. Any advice to mentee hopefuls who might be scared to reach out to others in the writing community?
Don’t be scaaaared! We’re a friendly lot, and while Twitter can be a legitimately scary place, it’s also a great place to be for emerging and querying writers. There are fantastic, supportive hashtags like #OnThePorch and of course #PitchWars where writers hang out and support one another. When I was first considering entering Pitch Wars in 2015, I saw a lot of chatter on the hashtag about “the community,” but I wasn’t really sure what that meant. Like, was I actually going to make friends through this contest? How? Turns out, all it took was dipping my virtual toe into conversations on the Pitch Wars hashtag; people actually wanted to talk to me! I met writers who are now in my 2018 debut group for YA and MG authors, the Electric Eighteens. I met writers who are now publisher and agency siblings. I met writers who are now fellow Pitch Wars mentors. It didn’t take some heroic feat of “reaching out.” Think of it instead as simply joining the conversation.
Last year you mentored on a team alongside Rachel Solomon. How did you come to be a mentor alongside Rachel? Did anything about mentoring surprise you? Is anything about it different than the editing you do on a day-to-day basis as an editor?
I loved mentoring with Rachel! I submitted to her in 2015, and while she didn’t pick me as her mentee, we became friendly, and found ourselves querying at the same time (Rachel for her second agent; me for my first) soon after the contest. We bonded in the query trenches, and when I signed with my agent, Erin Harris, the following March, Rachel invited me to co-mentor with her in the next Pitch Wars. This year I’m flying solo because I knew I wanted to focus my wish list on a couple of specific YA genres, but you can be sure Rachel and I will still be comparing notes throughout the contest! We mentors are a close bunch.
In terms of the process of mentoring, I approach it in very much the same way I approach my editorial work with clients. The big difference is that I work on such a variety of manuscripts with clients with a variety of different needs and editorial goals in mind. In Pitch Wars, my editorial process starts with an editorial letter, which provides global (big-picture) feedback on my mentee’s manuscript. Then we do a second round of fine-tuning edits, and of course work on the query letter as well. What surprised me most about mentoring wasn’t really a surprise—it was an affirmation of how many super-talented writers with super-amazing projects are out there. And how fiercely competitive the book publishing industry really is. That’s why I make the commitment to work with my mentees beyond the contest itself. The agent round is a fantastic way to get exposure, and mentees do get scooped up by excellent agents through the agent round, but for many mentees, the agent round is just the beginning of the query process, and I’m there for my mentees for emotional support and guidance beyond the contest. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
On your blog for Pitch Wars 2016 you gave the mentees the great advice of not rushing to enter as soon as the submission window opened and to take their time. What are some of the best benefits of not rushing to sub?
Fewer mistakes! Seriously, I say this every year, and I’ll probably recycle that blog post again this year right before the sub window opens. It’s a window for a reason—mentors read Every. Single. Submission. It’s not a race. Take your time and make sure your materials are polished, you’re submitting to the list of mentors you planned to submit to, and your submission form is error-free. This contest is challenging enough to get into; give yourself a leg up by taking your time and getting your entry pitch-perfect! And good luck!
THEN They were four—Bex, Jenni, Ellory, Ret. (Venus. Earth. Moon. Sun.) Electric, headstrong young women; Ellory’s whole solar system.
NOW Ellory is alone, her once inseparable group of friends torn apart by secrets, deception, and a shocking incident that changed their lives forever.
THEN Lazy summer days. A party. A beautiful boy. Ellory met Matthias and fell into the beginning of a spectacular, bright love.
NOW Ellory returns to Pine Brook to navigate senior year after a two-month suspension and summer away—no boyfriend, no friends. No going back. Tormented by some and sought out by others, troubled by a mysterious note-writer who won’t let Ellory forget, and consumed by guilt over her not entirely innocent role in everything and everyone she’s lost, Ellory finds that even in the present, the past is everywhere.
The path forward isn’t a straight line. And moving on will mean sorting the truth from the lies—the ones Ellory’s been telling herself.