Pitch Wars Mentor Wishlist 2017

It’s that time of year again, aren’t you excited? Team oMG is!


You can find team oMG on Twitter at @C_B_Catalano and @shaunaholyoak

Before we dive into our wishlist *rubs hands together* we’d like to tell you a little about ourselves, and why we can’t wait to pay it forward, and help a fellow writer out.

So, I’m Cass *wave* and this is, oh, possibly my 4th time revising this bio post. Revisions are crucial in all aspects of life, and most definitely in this contest, keeping this in mind, if you’re willing to get down and dirty with us, like kill your darlings –even the one you swore you never would– read on!

This is my first year as a Pitch Wars mentor. I am thrilled to be entering this new world with the most amazing, absolutely awesome, co-mentor Shauna Holyoak! We met a few years ago during another Twitter pitch event, and joined a group of similar contest hopefuls. And thank the stars I did because they are some of the most supportive, caring writers and CPs I’ve ever met in this journey!

PCC for life!

Let me say, (and I cannot stress how important this is), the friends you find in the writing community, especially from events like Pitch Wars, are worth their weight in gold.

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If you manage to make even one friend during Pitch Wars, trust me when I say you are the ultimate winner already. Now, back to business 😉

Meet Shauna:

My name is Shauna Holyoak, and I expend roughly 25% of my energy writing and 50% of my energy resisting the urge to hunt down and consume all the frosted sugar cookies. I made a chart.


Writing MG is my favorite. My debut novel MY PAPER ROUTE AND OTHER DEADLY THINGS will be published in spring 2019 by Disney-Hyperion. Half of my writing time is currently spent pinching myself about that last part (please don’t turn that into a story problem for me to solve—it will break my brain).

I live in Idaho Falls, Idaho with my game-board designing husband, six of our children and two naughty dogs. Amy Poehler makes me happy, and Leslie Knope makes me happier.

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I grew up on Ramona and Fudge books, which instilled a love for spunky, strong characters (also, see above).


And then Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry taught me just how powerful middle-grade fiction could be. So I tend toward contemporary, but MG fiction with strong characters and all the feels is ultimately what gets me.

I am so excited to be co-mentoring with Cass (she is AWESOME!) for this year’s Pitch Wars. It was my entry last year to Brooks Benjamin and Caroline Thompson’s team (spoiler alert: I didn’t make it) that got me the feedback I needed to shine up my manuscript and win a slot in #PitchSlam. That led me to the best agent (shout out to CARRIE PESTRITTO!) and then a pinch-worthy two-book deal!

Pitch Wars is a tremendous opportunity, and I’m so grateful and excited to be a part of it. Also, I can’t wait to fight over entries!

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Hi y’all! I’m Cassandra Newbould aka C.B. Catalano, and I cannot wait to read all your words. And fight over entries with Shauna. We will duel to the death for a book we love!

Back in the day I was that girl who enjoyed being sent to their room, because hey! extra reading time! Anything from Little Women, to the Black Stallion. If I could hold it, I was reading it. My lust for all the words continued on through teenage-hood. That’s when I fell in love with all things fantasy, and would dive head-first into the lands of The Tortall Universe, Shannara, and Darkover to name a few. *Sometimes* when my sis and bff would sneak out to go party I’d stay home to read instead. They’d laugh, but there was nothing better than curling up with a good book, a good blanket, and a good dog in my opinion.

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*curling up with Jake Gyllenhaal wouldn’t be too shabby either 😉 *

When I had my kiddos, I would spend the evenings telling them the most outrageous stories I could make up in the hopes it would send them to sleep. Eventually, as they grew, they encouraged me to write them down and so my journey as a writer began.

Last year I entered another amazing Twitter pitch event called #DVpit and that is where I met my magnificent and stellar agent, Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary & Media inc.

She fell in love with my MG retelling of Treasure Island: THE MISADVENTURES OF JEM HAWKINS: staring Kick-butt hacker girls, and lady pirates, and all the adventure a girl could want.

Before that, I interned for a NY literary agency for 8 months. Also, I know the ways of middle graders well. My middle son is in the 8th grade this year and my daughter made it through without too many battle wounds a few years ago 🙂

Did I mention I love to write and critique queries? Yeah, I know. But I do, I swear, and I’m happy to say my #NoQS mentee went on to get an agent 🙂 GOOO VALARIE!! so, if you have any questions about how I work as a mentor ask @ValBodden on Twitter.

My husband, a computer engineer who has run the gamut: from MySpace and creating its Open Social platform to autonomous cars for Ford, and I met as teenagers, and had our daughter when I was 22. We have been married 17 years, moved over 21 times together in over 7 states, and have 3 lovely children, 2 awesome cats, and 2 Muppet puppies, otherwise known as Newfypoos.

Seriously, Muppets.


When I’m not writing, I’m probably playing with my children, playing poker (I want to be a professional poker player when I grow up) cooking with the hubs, painting, drawing, and/or drinking wine. I love everything Baz Luhrmann (he can seriously do no wrong) and am a die-hard *end of world genre* movie buff. For TV, I adore Outlander, Black Sails, Shameless and any and every cooking/baking show known to man. Also, I cannot stop watching the tiny houses shows. I’d love to, but I can’t bring myself to.

Now to the exciting part. DUN  DUN DUNNNN

What we’re looking for in a nutshell.

Middle Grade.

Give us all the feels, all of them! While Shauna leans more towards contemporary and I, fantasy we both agree we’re down for either, and welcome them with open arms –with a few minor exceptions–

If your manuscript contains any of the following we’re probably not the best mentors for you:

Younger MG, sorry but upper MG is our jam



Hard Sci-fi

Novels in verse

Now, while we aren’t the best for these stories, as we wouldn’t be able to do them the justice they deserve, we are certain you and your amazing manuscript will be able to find another mentor who will help you achieve that next level of fantastic, and we wish you the best of luck!

So what else are we looking for? Well, if any of your books have the feel of these below send them our way. Please. Pretty please with a query on top?

A Snicker of Magic

The Girl Who Drank The Moon

A Wrinkle In Time


Counting By Sevens

The Thing About Jellyfish

When You Reach Me



Percy Jackson


Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events

The Gauntlet

Rules For Thieves

We joyously welcome diverse and own voices stories with open arms. *grabby hands*

Give us your girl mcs that aren’t afraid of what the world thinks of them. Both likable and unlikable. Give us Hermione Grangers stuck at sea, or Katniss with an obsession for oil painting. Give us your MG Inej Gahfas, Nina Zeniks, (and we can’t forget your Kaz Brekkers), all tied up in the ultimate group heist, if you please. Give us your STEM stories (please, pretty please?) Sibling stories or complex girl friendship stories are a quick way to our hearts! 🙂

We’re down for quiet stories that tug at your heart, or action packed fantasies where the world-building blows your mind. Re-tellings set in a modern world or contemporary dramas thrown back in time. Make us laugh. Or cry. Just make us feel like we never want to put your story down!

However, having said all that, if you have a story that doesn’t fit anything we’ve said above and you feel like you want us anyway, send your ms our way. We both love surprises and can’t wait to find out what we end up falling in love with!

What we can bring to the table for you:

Helping you find a killer voice, pointing out areas that could use work without taking over your story, tackling pacing issues, building complex and believable characters, DIALOGUE! and attention to detail, or lack thereof.

*warning* If you aren’t able to attack your ms with an open mind and willingness to rip it apart and build it back even stronger, perhaps we aren’t the right mentors for you. We will never demand that something be changed, it’s your story after all and you know it best, but you entered Pitch Wars for a reason and hopefully we can help you polish your shiny jewel even farther than it is now.

Good luck fellow writers, may the odds be ever in your favor!

Have you been sitting here wondering where you can find out more about Shauna? Well, here is the link to Shauna’s blog

Shauna’s amazingly awesome blog

Shout out to Brenda Drake for this opportunity for all of us, may your reign be long and fruitful!

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Main Blog Link

Links to the other spectacular mentors below:





































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7x7x7 challenge

Ms. @mmhoffman14 tagged me for the 7x7x7 challenge which is to go to your wip and go to page 7, go down to line 7 and paste the next 7 lines. Here is my sample from one of my wips- BAD BEAT

(It’s a YA Contemporary Thriller about a Las Vegas native teen, Sonja, who grows up hustling the casino poker rooms with the help of her fake ID, and her best friend, Kai. Until she wins a little too much, and happens to fall for the mob boss’s son– the same one who happens to be the one assigned to take her out… except this date doesn’t involve dinner.)



“Fine, fine, there’s a pinot noir in your parents liquor cabinet with my name written all over it anyway.” Silence follows, and I’m not sure if he’s joking or not. Please don’t let it be one of mom and dad’s special reserve.

The door opens a crack to reveal Kai’s brilliant blue hair and sugar-coated smile. A bottle appears. Good, not one they’ll miss.

“Honey, don’t you think I know by now what they’ll notice and what they won’t?” Kai unscrews the top and takes a swig. “Sip?”

“Nope. Gotta keep my mind in the game.” The idea of getting wasted before I’ve even played my first hand makes me wrinkle my nose. “Day drinking’s lame. Who wants to sport a hangover by two in the afternoon?”

“See, there is where you’re going wrong. The trick to avoiding that is to just keep drinking. Daddy always said he wasn’t raising a quitter. If he only knew how well I listened. Maybe he would’ve stuck around longer.” As he holds up the bottle, Kai swallows with vigor. “Probably should have followed his own advice.”

To see his shoulders droop in resignation breaks my heart. “You know he loves you. It’s not your fault. Sometimes people can’t make relationships work. Ya know?”

“But, if I’d been more manly . . . maybe.”

I reach out, grab him, and turn him until we’re eye to eye.

“You’ve got to be kidding me. You’re quarterback of our fucking football team. You’ve known how to change a tire on a car since you were thirteen, and you could probably handyman my entire house if it started falling apart. You’ve got to be one of the manliest boys I know. And if you think for one second the reason your dad left is because you happen to like guys, well . . . I don’t know what to say. Except you’re wrong.”

“Guess we’ll never know, will we?”


(I went over the 7 lines, whoops!)

#PitchWars Mentee Bio!!

Once upon a time in a land far away there was a girl who lived with her wicked stepmother…giphy (2)

Whoops, wrong story.

Actually, My daughter and I are really close. Close enough to write a book together without strangling each other. Mostly. The day she was born I looked at her and said “We got this.”

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We also have an interesting family. My husband, her father, is bipolar. We decided to take what we’ve learned from life and create a story about a dysfunctional family. One told from the POV of a child with a bipolar dad. Who finds a way to still survive, usually through laughter.

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I’m a Stay-at-Home mom aka part-time wine imbiber

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When I’m not writing or driving my kids around (did I mention I was a chauffeur?)

I dream of doing awesome realistic things like running alpaca farms, becoming a poker player, or building an apocalyptic bunker full of my favorite books and endless casks of wine.

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I’m also obsessed with Best In Show and saddened by the lack of Gifs for that movie. If you get that humor you and I will be great friends. We can talk, or not talk forever.

And Niko is a 10th grade school-obssesed girl, part-time kickboxer, and all around badass. According to her mom, at least.

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Niko, when not hiding away with books in her room, taking naps, or snuggling any kind of animal, would easily be found talking about herself in the third person. Sort of like right now…

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She’s really into music of all sorts– especially grunge! She also has a soft spot for anything Harry Potter, Doctor Who, John Green, the Cornetto Trilogy, Community, Donald Glover, and Ryan Gosling.

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We reside in the gorgeous city of Seattle after years of moving around. We both are huge Seahawks fans, drink our weight in coffee daily, and Niko is obsessed with anything Nirvana-related. Cliche? Maybe, but we love our home and all the tropes it has to offer.

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We hope to form an awesome bond with our mentor that continues on beyond this MS and are ready and willing to have our MS beat into the best it can be. We aren’t fragile, we can take it.


If there’s one thing beyond all the amazing friends we have made, and hopefully will make through this adventure, it’s that if we can even reach one other kid who has a family like ours or our main character, Lani, and that kid says, “HELL YES! Finally, someone knows how it feels.” Then we will feel validated.

We want to give hope

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oh yeah, did we mention there’s a love story in our MS that gives you the feels like this?

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And remember mentors… We’ve got our own Harry Potter sending us extra magic when ours is fading.


Query and First 250 Of Signal Against Noise for The Writer’s Voice

Thank you for hosting http://www.kristavandolzer.com/ http://www.brenda-drake.com/ http://monibw.blogspot.com/ http://www.elizabethbriggs.net/ http://www.kimberlypchase.blogspot.com/ and http://nikkiroberti.com/  and for the opportunity at a chance in the contest.

Signal Against Noise


The only thing sixteen-year-old mutant-born Haley ever dreams of is the touch of her mother— that, and what it would feel like to melt down the compound she’s been raised in from birth. Add to the fact that Haley can retain first memories, and those consist of her mother’s screams; suffice it to say, Haley is slowly losing her mind. Especially when the voice in her head driving her to kill just happens to be her mom.

Haley’s an anomaly; as a blood-shifter she can heal or kill depending on her mood. When Haley finds a puppy who is also mutant-born everything changes. Coda shields her from the voices and keeps her urges in check.

Between the love and friendship she finds with her dog and meeting a strange time-traveling boy who swears he’s her brother Haley finally finds a purpose in her life. But when the boy suffers a near-fatal seizure and loses all memory of Haley, she becomes separated from Coda. Haley must learn to control her ever-evolving powers and the voices in her head before they take over completely or she’ll end up destroying the world she’s come to love.

SIGNAL AGAINST NOISE is a YA Urban Fantasy novel told from the viewpoints of Haley and KC. Complete at 80,000 words, it would appeal to fans of X-Men: First Class and The Mortal Instruments series. It stands alone but has series potential.

Thank you for your time. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely, Cassandra Newbould

First 250

Their first mistake was keeping me alive. Unfortunately for them, it wasn’t their last.

The thought runs through my head on repeat. I need to get out of here. Today! Now!

It’s a cadence that builds and ebbs like the tides of the sea. It’s starting to pull me out again. The last time I tried to escape the Front’s grasp they kept me locked and collared for three weeks. Three weeks without feeling. How do you escape the only life you’ve ever known? How can you stay in a life where you are not loved?

“Haley… Hey, Haley–where are you right now?” The sound of Ben’s voice soothes my soul.

My eyes try to focus as I inhale slowly. My nails are digging raw trenches into the palms of my clenched fists. Ben plops down hard on the bed beside me.

“You’re totally spacing out. Pretty soon we’ll need to leash you just to have a conversation.” The gentle pressure of his hand on my shoulder makes me jump.

“If you don’t watch it, Benni-boy, you’ll be conversing with my fist in a minute.”

“Man, you’re touchy today.”

I shrug in agreement. Stale air makes me crave the taste of a fresh breeze tickling my tongue. I want to hold the blue sky in my eyes, to get lost in the snow-white clouds; feel the multiple ice crystals converge against my skin until I fall to the ground, shattering on the humans below.

“I can’t take these walls anymore. They’re closing me in.”