Lisa Leoni

Romance writer and rad humanoid

Category: Pitch Wars

The writing community got me through the worst year of my life

This past year was significantly shitty. On a scale of “I stubbed my toe” to “my nosehair is growing at lightning speed,” I’d say it was “I’ve had hiccups 24/7 for three months.”

The reason I’m here today with a smile on my face and joy in my heart is in large part to the writing community, and the friends I’ve made here. Starting with Pitch Wars.

Pull up a chair because I’m going to tell you a word vomitty story. May 2016, my uncle was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The same cancer that killed his (and my mom’s) mom. We don’t like that brand of cancer in our house one bit. I was in a rocky place, and I kept writing and writing until I finished my book. My parent’s pet died that month as well. Terrible month for our family.

Mid-July 2016, I learned of Pitch Wars. I had just finished my first complete book and some revisions. A social media manager by day, I took to Twitter to connect with other writers. And holy moly did I meet them. I met people to swap queries with, first chapters, brainstorm, commiserate, cheer each other up, talk about regular life stuff. This was ALL through #pitchwars and the #pitchwarriors Facebook group (and an adult romance group a few of us made). This community was EXACTLY what I needed to cope with caring for my terminally ill uncle (and my parents, who were also caring for him).

Meanwhile, my darling nugget of a dog took a turn for the worse and I realized I needed to put him down. I made the vet appointment for the day before I entered Pitch Wars. The community (and the contest) were the distraction I needed, and gave me focus instead of becoming a sobbing vegetable. The love, support and gifs got me through. Most of these folks didn’t know me, but they helped me more than I can ever explain.

I miss waking up to that face.

I didn’t get picked for Pitch Wars, but I got one hell of a community out of it. Sure, I was bummed, but that was just one bump on a long road. A road that also included my own three-year cancer remission scans (that ended up all clear, woop! My four-year scans are approaching as I write this. Gulp). Through Pitch Wars, Twitter, contests, CP matching events – I made more friends and CPs and built a network.

Labor Day 2016—my uncle died. I was devastated. My parents were devastated. My new writing friends (and CPs <3) were there for me. Strangers were there for me when I tweeted about my pain.

My uncle and I were adorbs a few decades ago.

In late October 2016, I realized an immediate family member was in the midst of a major manic episode due to bipolar disorder, which led to a psychotic break and hospitalization. Even as a writer, I don’t have the words to explain what last fall was like. I didn’t interact as much on Twitter because I was barely hanging on, but lurking gave me such an escape. To see people celebrating finishing books, signing with agents, publishing deals, new pets, getting out of bed in the morning—it helped so much. Seeing life continue as normal while mine felt like it was falling apart? Friends, it was amazing.

Eventually, my loved one got better (so much better!!!!!!!). I returned to the land of writing and Twitter early this year. I did further revisions on my book thanks to my incredible CPs and beta readers. I strengthened friendships and met new people. I made it back to an RWA national conference after a decade away. I made it through losing a job and a home to finding a better place to live (still working on that replacement second job).

I’m stronger and happier thanks to the people I’ve met through writing and the Pitch Wars community.

Part of why I wrote this way-too-long blog post is to encourage others to engage with the writing commmunity (whatever form that means for you). Right now, for many, that’s the Pitch Wars community on social media. Make friends, find CPs, use the amazing new Pitch Wars forum. Put yourself out there and remind yourself this doesn’t have to be a solitary journey. In fact, it shouldn’t be.

I also wanted to write this as a thank you to all the people (whether you realize it or not) who got me through this past year. Massive hugs to you!! Yes, you!

Here’s hoping this next year is better (and my cancer scans come back clear in a couple of weeks, eek!). If I can gather the funds, you’ll find me celebrating my five-year remission (the year they deem you cured) in Scotland.

Me at my favorite place in Scotland – Bostadh Beach.

Round-up: Pitch Wars mentor blog posts

Anyone familiar with Pitch Wars certainly knows by now how incredible this community is. One of the reasons can be credited to the mentors who give of their time and knowledge. This post is a round-up of craft/advice/cheerleading blog posts by the 2016 mentors. If I’ve missed one – please post a link in the comments or let me know on Twitter.

Pitch Wars

#Pitchwars: Quick thoughts before you submit (Jami Nord)
Cheat Sheet for my Future PitchWars Mentee (Michelle Hazen)
Answer to Random PW Questions (Michael Mammay)
#PitchWars Submission Window Advice (Mary Ann Marlowe)
How Does #PitchWars Work Exactly? (Mary Ann Marlowe)
How to Increase Your Odds of Getting into Pitch Wars (Leigh Mar)

#Pitchwars: What I saw in the submissions (Jami Nord)
It’s Almost #PitchWars Decision Time (Brighton Walsh)
Good News & Bad News: Trends in Pitch Wars submissions (Michelle Hazen)
Stats on Pitch Wars Submissions & Requests (Michelle Hazen)
Notes from the PitchWars Slush (Michelle Hauck)
The Awful Truth About Being A Mentor (Mary Ann Marlowe)
Pitch Wars Update (Michael Mammay)
Pitch Wars Questions & Answers Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 (Michael Mammay)
More About that #PitchWars Spreadsheet (Mary Ann Marlowe)
Thoughts (and some stats) from a PitchWars Mentor (Laura Brown)
Pitch Wars Pep Talk (E.B. Wheeler)
Etiquette and Survival in Pitch Wars (Amanda Hill)
Pitch Wars Mentor Musing (Sharon Johnston)
Confessions of a PitchWars Mentor (Carrie Callaghan)
PitchWars: Behind the Scenes (Judi Lauren)
More PitchWars Stuff (Judi Lauren)


Polishing & critiquing

Is This Any Good? (Michael Mammay)
How to Find a Critique Partner (CP) (Michael Mammay)
Critiques and Cultivating Self-Awareness (MK England)
The Importance of Critique Partners (Kelly Siskind)

Your 8-Step Plan Before Diving Into Edits (Kate Foster)
Final Editing Checklist (Kim Long)
F Words and Other Writing Mishaps (Jeanmarie Anaya)
Self-Editing Checklist (Brighton Walsh)

A Behind the Scenes Look at Pitch Wars (Michael Mammay)
More Pitch Wars Behind the Scenes Truth (Michael Mammay)
Pitch Wars Behind The Scenes Part 2: The Mentors Strike Back (Michael Mammay)


The business side

Writing a Synopsis with Voice (Laura Brown)
Pitch Wars: The Query…Simplified (Brenda Drake)
Pitch Wars: The Synopsis…Simplified (Brenda Drake)
Pitch Wars: The 35-Word and Twitter Pitch…Simplified (Brenda Drake)
Taking Your Query from Good to Great Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 (Amanda Hill)
Synopses are Actually Awesome (MK England)
Pitch Wars query critiques Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 (Kim Graff)

Being a Prolific Writer Part 1 | Part 2 (Lynnette Labelle)
Do you Want to Become a Prolific Writer? (Lynnette Labelle)

An Agent’s Perspective on Pitch Wars and Other Contests (Laura Heffernan)



Characterization-More than Paper Dolls+A peptalk for #pitchwars (Jami Nord)

Make Me FEEL It: Internalization (Amanda Hill)

Writing Sex and Violence: What your action scenes can teach your “getting action” scenes (Michelle Hazen)

Once Upon a Time…Opening with a BANG! #Pitchwars (Jami Nord)
Middles-Or how Point A gets to Point Z #Pitchwars (Jami Nord)
#pitchwars – THE END! (Jami Nord)
Tips on Strong Endings (Laura Brown)


Perseverance & inspiration

The Power of Perseverance (Brighton Walsh)
In Publishing, No News is Good News (Dan Koboldt)
What to Do if You Don’t Get Selected for Pitch Wars (Michael Mammay)
10 Things About Pitch Wars You May Not Know (Michael Mammy)
Why Pitch Wars? (Laura Brown)
On Rejection and Time Spent (Machinations) (Hayley Stone)
Hope in Careful Doses: Or (What I Didn’t Expect on the Path to Getting an Agent) (Margarita Montimore)
How to Deal with Frustrated Writers (1, Stop Saying “It Only Takes One Yes”) (Margarita Montimore)
A Message to the Incoming Pitch Wars Mentees (Michael Mammay)
Pitch Wars: What will you give up? (Elizabeth Leis-Newman)
Pep Talk: You Are More Than This Moment (Cindy Baldwin)
The Truth about #PitchWars Slush (Kim Graff)
Monday Musings: On #PitchWars and Why You Should Always Keep Writing (Amy Trueblood)
#PitchWars: The Window Closes PSA #1 All My Dirty Secrets Revealed… (Lisa Amowitz)



Writing Tips & Tricks Catch-All (Brighton Walsh)
How to Turn a Partial MS Request into a Full (Michelle Hazen)
Assortment of #PitchWars and Writing Advice (Mary Ann Marlowe)
Pitch Wars Homework Assignments (MK England)


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