There has been a mighty kerfluffle.
Founder Brenda Drake announced that there would be an entry fee for PitchWars on April 2nd (I guess? She has since returned to a no-fee policy). And, people had feelings. I’m one of those people.
This post is about my experience as a 2017 mentee. I’m sharing because the kerfluffle opened my eyes to some of the misconceptions running amok. And as PitchWars has been an invaluable aid to me as a writer, I can’t be silent.
Now I repeat. This is based on my experience. Mine. Not Brenda’s, not Heather’s, not the experience of a mentor. Mine as a mentee. As a black woman trying to live my publishing dream. It in no way discounts other experiences.
PitchWars is a mentorship program.
I don’t understand why people think it is something different.
Last summer, I heard of PitchWars for the first time. It sounded awesome – the opportunity to be selected by a mentor further along in the publishing process, to work with you over two months and help you improve your manuscript. Then, another opportunity to share your work with agents, who YOU WOULD THEN QUERY.
I applied. My awesome mentor selected my submission. She set a schedule and worked with me for free for two months. I worked my behind off making improvements and learning from her wisdom. Then came the agent round. I had four requests. (I’ve had more through Twitter events) Then I queried. And I am still querying.
Voila, my PitchWars experience in a nutshell.
As you can see, my participation in PitchWars did not automatically grant me an agent or a book deal. At no point was I promised that, nor did I expect it.
If anyone is telling you that it is something different, they have a disconnect with the truth. (that’s me being nice and not calling out liars)
So. On to Consistent Feminism.
When I read the initial post about the fee, my heart broke. Not because of this change, but because of the tone of the post. I saw two women having to pretty much beg for people to recognize that it is no longer sustainable for them to continue doing what they have been doing for free. Their energy, time and effort have value. This is non-negotiable.
Please note that I am not saying X person or group should bear the burden of that value. I am stating the fact that the work that Brenda et. al are doing has value.
Thankfully, we live in a time where voices for feminism are being given greater credence in the public arena. There is recognition for the fact that what has traditionally been women’s work (support, nurturing, education, community building) has been undervalued and taken for granted. And we as a society have been saying that this is no longer acceptable.
But then Brenda stands up and says, “Hey, I need help”. And many of the same people out here championing greater equality in publishing, turned right around and said, “NOPE”. And essentially, “How dare you have needs. How dare you want to have material resources up to the task.”
Do not “not all agents/editors/writers/bloggers” me. I’m on Twitter. I saw the unkind criticism and the snarky subtweeting.
I very, very seriously doubt that Brenda et. al came up with a fee solution overnight. Let’s respect their intelligence enough to imagine that they looked into other possibilities.
As I demonstrated above, PitchWars mentees do not get the red carpet treatment direct to agents and dollar signs. It is beyond disingenuous to assume that or propagate that idea. We work under the guidance of overwhelmingly female mentors working again, for free.
(I am not discounting the male mentors. I’m talking about feminism right now.)
So we need to decide. Does this work that these women are doing have value? Is it fair for them to devote hours of unpaid labor to furthering other people’s dreams to the detriment of time spent on their own? Should we give them the benefit of the doubt concerning their intentions? Should we recognize that they have helped and continue to help marginalized voices have a seat at the table? Do we want to keep our feminism consistent?