Secret Wizards, or My #PitchWars Nightmare

Like many #PitchWars hopefuls last night, I finally puffed myself up and hit submit on my long-gestating query.

Were my pages good enough? Was that opening line the perfect balance between titillating and meaningful?

It turned out, to my subconscious mind, it didn’t really matter.

Why? Two words:

Secret wizards.

After falling asleep on the couch being tenderized by my parents’ cat, my fiendish mind conjured my perfect #PitchWars nightmare.

As it turned out, the procedure for selecting mentees had changed. No longer was this the friendly, twitter-based community I’d grown used to. Now the mentors organized their critiques around a forum, with groups of mentors ganging up on potential mentees to bombard them with dramatic insults as to their craftsmanship, and professionalism.

Each mentee was given a number (I was #19–I think I got this number from the example on the submission box). All five mentors I’d submitted to started a chat about #19, typing sentence-long reasons why this was the Absolute Worst Thing They’d Ever Read. How dare I? Did I even* read books? What did I think words were???

My submission was so awful, a mentor I hadn’t even queried chimed in to tell me how sub-par my efforts were.

I was devastated. I hadn’t prepared for this.

The worst thing about my MS, according to the mentors, were all the wizards. Why did one of the MCs turn into a wizard halfway through? Why did he have lightning powers?? Why did I have to list the entire rank and file of all the wizards on his wizarding council??? Why on the second page????

Wizards were so old hat.

But, I protested**, my MS doesn’t have wizards.

It was then I reopened the file I’d uploaded.

To my horror I discovered my MS was not only littered with secret wizards, but that five pages of it were taken up by wizard mugshots, each wizard council member lovingly*** illustrated in a small rectangle, his wizarding stats listed below. Wizards were nine to a page, all bearing the same purple robe and pointed hat speckled with stars, each with a long grey beard, and an identical Where’s Waldo-ian expression.

All my MCs were wizards. The plot was wizards. In fact, the plot was not so much a plot at all, as a collection of bad drawings of old white dudes at the same, three-quarter angle.

And that’s the end of my #PitchWars nightmare, a real dream I had that I’m happy to have suffered, if only so my pain can serve to uplift those awaiting judgement with me.

At least our manuscripts aren’t full of secret wizards.****

*Note to self–delete crutch words later.
**Replace with said.
**** Unless you do have secret wizards, in which case, um, I don’t really know, but that’s awesome.

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Onward to #Pitchwars 2015!

Where to start, and what to say?

My name’s Steve Westenra, and I’m an aspiring spec-fic author.

While I grew up in Canada, my family and I originate from England. The combination of living on an incredibly foggy, precipitous island, and being raised on Black Adder has resulted in the severely eccentric individual you (not-quite) see before you.

When I’m not writing, I’m either drawing, cooking, or reading. I’m passionate about animal welfare, and have three wonderful, slightly bratty, pet rats.

I completed an MA in Russian Literature from the University of Waterloo, with a focus on Mikhail Bulgakov’s GENIUS novel The Master and Margarita (it has a talking cat! Read it!). After that I went on to finish an MA in medieval studies at U of T, this time working on poisonous plants, and venomous animals. Because I love pain and suffering so much, I’m doing a third MA, this time in religious studies.

Most of my work has featured demons and the demonic in some form, though my last conference presentation was a BDSM reading of Genesis.

So yeah. Eclectic.

If, for any reason, you ever need to bribe me, vegan baked goods will always do the trick (bonus points if said goods involve lemons!).

Other things:

– queer
– manager of a hobby store (boardgames, comics, collectibles)
– kind of obsessed with spiders
– currently obsessed with Welcome to Night Vale
– has actual OCD
– is the geekiest thing (unless we’re talking computers)
– terribly long-winded (send help!)


Calling it “my book” sounds so strange. It’s always been “the story” (or at one point (Prologueyy22–I really have no idea, but yeah, file names).

I never like to read or write things that can be summed up, tagged and bagged. Now that I’m at the querying stage, this has proven to be quite the problem for me.

Taking as its inspiration the history and mythology of classical North Africa (esp. Carthage), my story is probably best classified as an epic fantasy, with low emphasis on fantasy. It’s dark, it’s long, it’s full of characters with deep, dark, terrible secrets and passions.

As a queer author, it was important to me that the characters be diverse, but I equally didn’t want the identities of the characters to define them. As such, there’s a lot of incidental queerness. If you love sprawling, dramatic fantasy, but are tired of European settings that only feature straight, white, able-bodied characters, then I’m the mentee for you! (:

Though the influences for my story are wide and all-encompassing (David Lynch, Revolutionary Girl Utena, Russian literature and history), my most accurate comps are probably Lois McMaster Bujold, Tad Williams, Robin Hobb, and GRRM.

My writing is maybe a bit more literary than you’d expect from an epic fantasy, but I hope you’ll give my characters and I a look! I swear only some of them bite.

As a Mentee:

Well, I haven’t been one yet, so we’ll see!


I can say I devour feedback–positive, negative, constructive…I want it all! I like to think I consider every piece of criticism I receive, and the more feedback my story gets, the better it will be. As someone who’s both taught at a university level, and received detailed feedback on academic work, I’m very used to the process (and actually kind of love it).

Whether I’m chosen or not, #Pitchwars has already been fun and informative.


Find me on twitter: @SteveWestenra

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