Crying Out Loud

I had lunch with a good friend today. (She’s the one who’s always encouraged me and continues to support me during the roller coaster ride of trying to become published and I love her for it. ) We started talking about the fact that we both seem to cry more over fiction (books, movies, tv, commercials) than we do over reality.  I joked that it probably says something horrendous about our psyches, but this afternoon I looked into it and found articles that suggest otherwise.

My friend and I aren’t monsters who fail to care about our loved ones. For one thing, we’re both moms and have had our fair share of being strong for our children and husbands and families. It’s hard to cope with a situation when you’re having to stop and wipe the tears. So, in reality, we suck in our emotions and deal with whatever emotional situation that’s arisen, be it the death of loved ones, or kids in trouble, or financial hardships or exhaustion. Whatever the case, we are present for the moment. Usually the tears will come later.

Tears over fiction are immediate. Earlier today I finished my favorite author Jennifer L. Armentrout’s THE PROBLEM WITH FOREVER. It was released last year, but I put it off because I knew, I knew it was going to make me cry based on the subject matter alone. But I wanted to read it for several reasons: I adore her writing, I need to read more contemporary work, and my recent manuscript touches some of the same subjects as this one does. (Though in a much different way.) Luckily I have learned to finish books in the privacy of my own home. Where the tissue boxes are plenty and the gaping uncomfortable stares are few.

I was right. I bawled like a baby off and on for the last fiftyish pages of the book. But it was a good cry. This book had an amazing ending. It was very well done. And that’s why I cried so much. I FELT it. I felt what the characters were feeling and it knocked in the gut. This is most certainly a nod to her talent as an author, as well as evidence of my ability to connect with people who aren’t real.

Research shows fiction, in both literary and cinematic forms, greatly improves people’s capacity for empathy. It has to do with the production of oxytocin in our brains. I read an article listing an experiment on oxytocin production. To sum it up, when the participants were exposed to a video depicting an emotional scenario (child speaking about his cancer) their oxytocin production increased 47% over those who were shown a scenario in which the same child visited a zoo. The experiment went on to reveal that those who’s oxytocin had increased were shown to be more generous to strangers and give money to charity.

I find that all very fascinating.

And a bit validating too. I mean, anyone who’s seen a movie with me can testify that I will likely be a blubbering mess. And as I read the last half of ALLEGIANT? Please. It took me almost an hour and half to read Four’s POV chapters after [SPOILER HAPPENED.] I had to stop and wipe away my tears too many times.

I think the tears we cry over fiction can be our emotional release so that when an emotional crisis arises in our reality, we can deal with it. That doesn’t mean we won’t cry when bad things happen in real life. I do. Frequently. But I think my ability to connect with fictional characters and feel their pain (especially when I’m reading an amazing author!) makes it easier for me to deal with real life emotional situations.

Now before someone starts throwing bananas at me (because that would be a far worse fate for me personally than throwing tomatoes), I’m not saying that crying over fiction makes us the superior of the species. I know many people who don’t feel emotionally connected to fiction who are loving and empathetic people. I married to one of those people. But as I said to my friend today, I kind of feel sorry for those who don’t feel emotion that stems from fiction. I am encouraging everyone who is worried about being ridiculed for crying over books or movies (Young adult books, even? GASP), don’t. It’s okay to let those tears flow. Increase the oxytocin. Let it out. I’ll be here with my ample supply of tissues.

BOOK REC: If you’re looking for something to increase your oxytocin, I will wholeheartedly suggest THE PROBLEM WITH FOREVER by Jennifer L. Armentrout. Even though I passed high school age many moons ago, I still FELT with these characters. It’s not typically the type of book I’d read, but I didn’t put it down once I began reading. The subject matter is dark and unfortunately all too real, but this hit all the right emotional notes with me. Jennifer is amazing and this book is worth the time.

For more info about Jennifer and THE PROBLEM WITH FOREVER, visit her site here.

My research source article can be found here.

Query Trenches

I’m in the query trenches again. This is what it feels like:

happyscared

Most days I’m feeling pretty good about my manuscript, then suddenly I’m hit with the thought that I sent it out and it’s wrong.  IT’S ALL WRONG!

Of course, the panic passes, but boy does it feel real in the moment.

I’m not sure why it’s called the query trenches. That phrase conjures up images of war, guns, and olive green clad soldiers either clinging on for life or lobbing ammunition. Querying doesn’t have to be as bad as all that.

I’m approaching querying a little differently than I have in the past. Not in the process itself, as that has stayed the same for me, but in the way I’m thinking about the process.Going with the soldier theme, there are a few things I’ve discovered that writers must have in their arsenal when querying.

  • Belief in your manuscript. It may seem strange to say that, but I’ve known writers who’ve queried with the idea it isn’t really good enough yet, but I’ll take a shot. I will even go so far as to say I did that myself several years ago just moments I typed THE END. That didn’t get me anywhere. Now, I spend as long polishing as I do writing the first draft. I make sure that what I have is the best it can be. That doesn’t mean that some future agent or editor won’t have ideas for change. It means that I’m no longer revising scenes, substituting words, or throwing new ideas in. I believe my manuscript is good, it’s fresh, and is high concept. I’m not bragging, mind you. I’m believing in the story I’ve told. I’ve enlisted in this army of writers and I think my campaign will be a winning strategy.
  • A thick skin. Rejections aren’t fun. But you will get them. It doesn’t mean your manuscript is bad or that you’re not talented. It means you haven’t found the right agent for your manuscript. It took me a while to get to this point. In the past, I would sink into a depression with every rejection I got. Now, I’m a little bit better about it. Continuing with the theme, I’ve tried to adjust my attitude and look at finding the right agent as a game of Battleship. You know, the one where it was Blue vs.Red and the little plastic ships? ( Totally showing my age there. I think they’re actually electronic now.) But when I’m querying, I’m firing missiles at the board. The rejections, are misses.  Requests are hits.  From there, it’s just a matter of picking a few strategic shots to sink the Battleship. (Partial request, hit. Full request, hit. Phone call, hit.) YOU SUNK MY BATTLESHIP or YOU ARE MY AGENT!
  • Patience. This is tough. I am not a patient person by nature, but I’ve learned that Publishing is a long process and while some things can happen very quickly, the majority of the business doesn’t. I’ve found the best way to handle this is to keep writing. I’ve already started another project and that’s taking up a lot of my brain time. It keeps me honing my craft while I wait to hear back from my queries.

And now, off to practice some of that patience… and read a good book.

 

 

Red Spiral Notebook, a Substitute Teacher Story

I am a substitute teacher.  Here’s a story from my files.

When I arrived in Mrs. T’s 6th and 7th grade Science class, I found Mrs. T waiting for me. (She was only taking the afternoon off, so I was lucky to get her instructions in person AND I narrowly escaped cafeteria food!) She was speaking to a 7th grade boy and I approached to introduce myself. The boy’s eyes widened with fear at the sight of me. It was somewhat confusing because I’m really not all that scary looking. Mrs. T introduced me to “B” and told me that she was giving him permission to work on his special project after he’d finished the day’s assignment.

I said to B, “Sure! What’s your special project?”

Mrs. T explained. “B is an introvert.” Then she answered my question for him. “He’s writing a book.”

“Really?” I exclaimed. “Me too!”

Mrs. T chuckled, certain that I was pulling something out of the “Substitute Teachers Big Bag O’ Tricks” in order to put B at ease.  As you know, I wasn’t.  I told her, “No, I really am. I write YA.” Then I turned to B. “My latest book is about a boy band who are also ninja assassins. What’s yours about?”

Mrs. T was distracted by a commotion in the back of the room and left B and I staring at each other.

B blinked a couple of times, then he launched into a very detailed description of his manuscript. It’s about a 12-year-old boy who becomes a superhero. I’m leaving the description as vague as possible as to not betray his trust. However, B’s description of his manuscript was in no way vague. He explained a complicated plot involving the protagonist coping with suddenly becoming a superhero, living with workaholic parents (because he has to learn to solve his own problems, he said), and unearthing a dastardly plot put into motion years ago by the villain—all while impressing the girl.

While he spoke, a steady stream of students filed into the classroom. Almost every one of them stopped and listened as B outlined his work. By the time he’d finished, the entire class was enraptured. Several students applauded him. One boy slapped him on the back. One girl even hugged him.

While his ideas were fantastic, they weren’t the most fantastic thing about the unfolding scene.

The bell rang and everyone took their seats except for the student Mrs. T had singled out as the responsible helper of the class. The responsible helper pulled on my sleeve and then whispered into my ear. “I’ve been in school with him for years and I’ve never heard him talk to anyone unless a teacher forced him. You got him to talk! Out loud!!”

All I had to do was show genuine interest in his book and he instantly trusted me.

That, my friends and readers, is the power of words.

I got the students working on their assignments and B approached me cautiously, clutching a red spiral notebook. Behind him, a couple students pointed and whispered. I thought, for a brief moment, I was going to have to admonish the students for making fun of B, but I didn’t have to do that. The two boys stared in disbelief as B handed me his notebook. “I’ll let you read it,” he said.

I took the red notebook from him. “Thank you,” I said. “I’m thrilled to read it.”

One of the whispering students spoke out. “No fair! I’ve been asking to read his book for months!”

B sheepishly shrugged at him. As a writer, I fully understand the amount of courage it takes to let others see your work. No matter how much you’ve worked on it or how good you think it is, it’s still sharing a part of your soul with someone. For B, who barely could share his voice, sharing his soul would be a monumental thing.

I explained to the whispering student, “I think he wants another writer’s opinion first, but once he gets everything the way he wants, he might let you read it. Be patient. It takes time to write an entire book. Right, B?”

B shook his head vigorously, acknowledging the effort writing takes and making a silent promise to the student,  then returned to his seat.

As the class worked, I read B’s story. Then I did what I’ve done for every one of my writer friends who’ve trusted me with their stories—I made notes.

I borrowed some post-it notes from Mrs. T, attaching them to appropriate places in the red spiral notebook. The first one said: Great opening line! You managed to nail the complex requirements of a killer opening line that hooks you instantly!

I scribbled on one post-it: Your opening scene gets right into the action. That’s good!

Next I commented on the voice of his manuscript—it sounded exactly like a 12-year-old talking to his friends about an impossible thing happening.

Then, I read in astonishment and made this note: This is based on a real-life event? You did your research! Now I’m even more intrigued.

I read on. It was close to ten pages, front and back. I didn’t get to all of it, but I got far enough along to feel his soul inside the words. There is no doubt this kid is going to be a writer. When I finished reading, I was  eager to get home and work on my own manuscript. That’s what good writing does for me. It lights a fire inside my little writer heart.

I returned the red spiral notebook full of yellow post-its to B. And I told him to keep writing. I told him not to give up, even when it gets hard. I told him there were things in his brain that the world needs to read. There are stories and visions and ideas that only he can share.

B smiled. Then he clutched the red spiral notebook to his chest. “I’m going to finish it, but I don’t know how to turn it into a real book that the library would have. I want my book to be in the library because that’s where I learned to love books.”

Me too, B.

So I gave the world’s most condensed version of “what literary agents do” explanation to B. He wrote some things down in the very back of his red spiral notebook. (The other pages, of course, remain blank, awaiting the words that he’ll conjure later.)

I wish I could’ve given B my email address so he could keep my updated on his progress, but substitute teacher rules strictly prohibit giving/receiving contact information. I’ll have to just keep an eye on the library bookshelves.

Riding It Out

Today was a good day. Today I:

  • Wrote a query letter for “Boyband” that I don’t hate
  • Wrote a 3-pg synopsis that can probably be trimmed to 1-pg if necessary
  • Researched (AND FOUND) a list of YA agents seeking boyband and/or humor MS
  • Boybanded by listening to One Direction all day (#inspiration)
  • Decided that “boy” and “band” could, in fact, be smashed into one word and used as a noun or a verb
  • Did I mention the query? Because I hate queries
  • Wrote a blog post about all the boybandy things I did today
  • Decided boyband can also adjective if needed

I’m not posting this list to brag or make other writers feel unaccomplished. Because yesterday I:

  • Spent two hours formatting my manuscript and I’m still not done
  • Whined to my Crit Partner about how much my manuscript sucked and how worried I was about it being too long and too over-the-top
  • Removed almost 150 instances of go-to filter words like: just, really, and smile
  • Agonized for far too long over the name of one of my minor characters. I still don’t have it right yet.
  • Considered abandoning my boyband manuscript because I can’t quite narrow it down to the proper genre and category yet

And that’s the life of the writer: up and down and up and way over there to the side, then up again, then down into the pits of despair, then up again.

I’m truly thankful that I’m along for the ride, no matter how crazy it is.

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all.

Decluttering

I just deleted twenty-seven emails. This may not sound like a blog-worthy task to you, but trust me, it is.

I tend to be a bit of a hoarder by nature—not one of the obviously-in-need-of-therapy kind that they do television shows about, but more of a save-this-in-case-I-need-it type. That mentality has served me well in the past because I’ve saved things that I did, indeed, need in the future. But oftentimes my “saving things” resulted in piles of (organized) stuff in many different resting places. We had so many saved things lying about our house that when we did need to find something, it took forever, or worse, we never found it due to the massive nature of our “collection.”

Because we had so little space in our cars when we moved back to Arkansas from Nevada, we ended up weeding out of lot of things just to make the trip back. That inspired me to make a major push to clean out some of “saved things.” (I refuse to call my stuff “junk,” okay?)  We cleaned out the garage, had a yard sale, donated carloads of stuff to Goodwill. It was liberating and I honestly feel better about decluttering (most of) my life.

However, it occurred to me that while my home was looking pretty spiffy, my inbox was a big ole’ hot mess.

When I started to seriously pursue this writing thing, I did what I think most newbie writers do—research. I went online searching for the best resources, reading the most popular blogs, registered for message boards and author newsletters, and followed every author, agent, and publisher I could on Twitter.  That resulted in a lot of information.

It also resulted in a lot of email.

There’s a lot to be gained by reading every scrap of information you can about the craft of writing. I want to be a successful writer. I want my manuscripts to appeal to readers, agents and publishers. I want to “get it right.”  Reading writing blogs and following agents is helping me to craft the best stories that I can. I can say with all certainty that my manuscripts are better off than they would have been if I had just started with no information, blindly jabbing at the idea of writing and occasionally landing on a good idea or well-written sentence.

I’ve noticed is that my writing suffers when I am actively trying to remember every nugget of information I have read on the craft of writing. Instead of writing my story I’m thinking, “Is this inciting event strong enough…does this character’s arc work…is this showing or telling…do I need that dialog tag…does this setting seem unique…” All of that bumbling around my brain when I’m trying to write a scene causes it to stall and it just gives me a lot of stress and doubt.  Instead I should be focusing on my character’s voice and how they’re going to deal with the thing I’m throwing at them.

I’ve had to actively learn how to keep what I know in the back of my head and let it become “white noise” while I’m writing. I wish I could tell you the steps to do this, but I can’t. It’s a daily struggle for me to “just write” instead of “write it, think about it, edit it, reread it, revise it, think about it, ask my crit partner about it, rewrite it again.”

Another issue I’m facing is that I’m working again, so my time is limited. I no longer have hours every day to read the blogs, author emails and spend more hours than I care to admit on Twitter.  I’m forced to make my writing “count” now.

With all that in mind, I decided one way to combat the issue of having too much in my head is to declutter my inbox. The twenty-seven emails I deleted were author newsletters, blog posts and book deals. Yes, I’d love to support every one of those authors, read every one of those books, and consider each blog post. But while I am doing those things, my manuscript is sitting there with a blinking cursor beckoning me.

I’m not going to ignore good advice from great sources, but I am going to attempt to maximize what I read for the greatest effect. Since I’m going to soon be querying a YA Historical Fantasy, I can put that adult romance author’s newsletter on the back burner. Because I’m working on a NA Contemporary Humor manuscript currently, I don’t necessarily need to read that blog about crafting the perfect Sci-Fi setting.  And do I really need to add another book to my TBR pile?

Okay, yes, to that one.

Hopefully the decluttering of my inbox will result in a little decluttering of my writer brain, and in return, yield some fantastic words. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Now I have to go find that box my husband was looking for last night and delete two more emails that came in while I was typing this blog!

 

 

 

 

What I Learned from Jason Bourne

…How to kick butt and look good doing it, obviously. But that’s not what I’m going to discuss today.

Readers of this blog already know I was an unpaid extra in Jason Bourne. I was fortunate enough to go to the Aria casino two days in February and witness the making of a big scene in the movie. Note: There will be NO SPOILERS here. Just generalizations.

The scene was the EXO-Con convention scene. In this particular scene a *thing* happened and chaos ensued. The first day that I filmed, there were about 300 extras in attendance. We were ushered into the room and filled in the seats at the front. We sat around a lot and then took our directions. (Those born in January, stand up when so-and-so is announced. Those born in Feb, boo when so-and-so is announced.) Then we played our parts as several actors—one of which was Oscar-winning Alicia Vikander—were introduced by the announcer at the Con. We cheered at the appropriate times, acted shocked at an announcement made, then we ran our little booties off after the *thing.*

And we did it over and over and over and over.

The director, Paul Greengrass, moved us all over that room. Some of us moved to the back, some slid over to the right, some stood up, some came in from the side as the scene was called.  He moved the cameras around just as much as he did the people. Each take was a different angle or different action by the crowd. It was fascinating to see how many different things he was doing with the same set of people and same set of words. We probably did the same scene upwards of twenty times on the first day. But that was just the first day. He did the same thing for the same scene for the entire week.

The second day I went to the set, Matt Damon was introduced into the scene. Because you can’t have a Bourne movie without Bourne, right? (We don’t talk about that “other” Bourne movie, okay?) I’ve already fangirl gushed over how awesome Matt Damon is, so I won’t do that again. But it’s important to note this was the same scene, only a few seconds after the *thing* occurs. On this day of filming there were 1200 extras in the building. Matt made the comment that it was the largest group of extras he’d ever worked with. So that’s a lot of moving parts and fangirly people hanging on his every word! But the filming was exactly the same as it had been. Only this time we got to watch Jason Bourne run around. Literally. And because he’s Matt Damon, the focus was completely on him the entire day. The scene stayed the same but he was the star. Just as you’d expect.

When I saw the movie, my friends and I scoured the scene, looking for my face. Sadly, we didn’t see me. (Though there will be a frame-by-frame investigation when the DVD is released!) What struck me as crazy was that very little of what he filmed that week actually made it into the film. Case in point: At the con, one of the actors gave a heart-felt speech in which he told the story of how he came to the conclusion to do this *bad thing* and why he did it and he ended up asking forgiveness in the end. It was probably a good 3-4 minutes long. On screen it was maybe 20 seconds.  The meat of his confession was left on the cutting room floor. But that didn’t matter because the viewer got what was going on with just that 20 seconds on the film. The extra 3 ½ minutes wasn’t necessary to understand this was a remorseful guy trying to make amends.

As I recalled all the fun (and exhaustion) from those days filming, I began to see where I could draw parallels from my experience as an extra and apply them to my writing.

CHANGE YOUR CAMERA ANGLES: Don’t be afraid to experiment with your scenes. Look at them from different angles. Would the plot be better served if someone else was speaking? Would the scene have more tension if it were outdoors while raining instead of on a comfy sofa? Would the character react one way externally and another internally? Move things around. Change things up. Look at your scenes through a close-up lens, then zoom out to wide angles to vary them.

USE YOUR STAR: I tend to love my supporting folks a lot—they’re the ones that typically share news the protagonist needs, or they argue with the MC, or simply add the comic flavor to a manuscript.  All that is fine, but don’t forget who your star is. Your protagonist’s reactions should be driving the plot. I mean, Jason Bourne needs to be taking out people with nothing but a bendy straw, not his best friend. (Well, if he had a best friend.)

EDITING IS CRUCIAL: That backstory about your MC scarred childhood when he stepped on a frog and is now terrified of frogs isn’t necessary. That is, unless he comes face-to-face with a hideous slimy frog. (Which is the worst thing I can imagine.) As writers, we bring our characters to life. And we often cannot do that unless we KNOW these characters. It’s fine for them to have a backstory, just keep mentions of it brief. If’ you can say it in twenty words as opposed to 350, then say it in twenty words. It makes things tighter and the reader will be less likely to wander away. Spend time really cutting out what isn’t competently necessary to drive the plot. Case in point: That car chase scene down the Las Vegas Strip? Paul Greengrass did not share why Jason Bourne took the particular car he did and the story of the guy he “borrowed” it from.What we say was Jason Bourne getting in the car and speeding away like a boss. That’s all we needed.

 

Keep writing and kicking butt like Jason Bourne!

Pimpin’ My Bio for #PitchWars

Hey there! Though this isn’t Tuesday, I’m blogging for a specific reason today. Welcome to the #PitchWars bio of Michelle Collins, YA writer, voracious reader, occasional blogger, and fulltime fangirl of many things. To learn more about me, follow me down the rabbit hole yellow brick road cobblestone path strewn with boyband t-shirts, gerbera daisies, and zombies.

Follow Me Four

I’m a married mom of two kids who are older than I care to mention. We recently moved back home to Arkansas after a year of living in Vegas, where I got to do a lot of cool things. These things definitely do NOT stay in Vegas.

I met my favorite author, Jennifer Armentrout (and her hunka-hunka cover model and all-around delightful human being, Drew Leighty.)

Jen and Drew

I was an extra in a movie with my favorite actor, Matt Damon. MATT. FREAKIN’ DAMON. And I have to say, he definitely earned his reputation for being the nicest guy in Hollywood. He was super. (Look for me in the convention scene!)

Bourne movie

And I also got to finally meet one of my favorite bands, O-Town. Yes, O-Town from MTV’s Making the Band. (Nope. I do not consider my love of these guys as a guilty pleasure. Not even a little bit.) They’re the hardest working, most down-to-earth and appreciative band I’ve ever met. Go see them, if only for nostalgia’s sake. They do not disappoint. Townie for life!

Me and my boys

KMore about me: I’m a card carrying Sci-Fi geek (my complete collection of Empire Strikes Back collector cards qualify me). Some of my favorite fandoms are: Doctor Who, Firefly, Game of Thrones, Buffy & all things Whedon, Star Trek, The Walking Dead, Star Wars, Harry Potter, The Marvel Universe, X-Files, & The 100. Here’s where I come down on the important issues: Ten over Eleven (and light years beyond Twelve); Picard over Kirk; Spike over Angel; The Order of the Phoneix book, The Deathly Hallows movie;  and Bellarke forever.

My zombie apocalypse team would consist of Daryl Dixon, Jon Snow, and Spike from BtVS.  Yes, they will brood the zombies to death and finish them off with their hotness.

My favorite authors are Jennifer Armentrout, Veronica Rossi, Stephen King, Marie Lu, Madeleine L’Engle, and who doesn’t love JK Rowling? A favorite books list would include A Wrinkle in Time, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Divergent, The Lux Series, Brave New World, & To Kill a Mockingbird. I also adore the Shadow and Bone series, which I use as a comp for my #PitchWars entry.

I’m entering VALLEY OF MIST AND MEMORY this year. It’s a YA historical fantasy based on ancient Mayan culture that was inspired by a dream and an episode of Ancient Aliens. The manuscript is a magical retelling of the Mayan creation myth told in two POV’s—a girl from the valley who believes the Four Elements guide her and a prince from the mountain who’s directed by the stars. They must overcome their differences and team up to find the “somewhat disputed” thirteenth crystal skull before it falls into the wrong hands, specifically the prince’s crow of a brother, who’s determined to gain the skull’s power and destroy the valley.

Oh, and there’s kissing in it.

Hot kissing. We’re talking literal fire here.

(Because it is completely impossible for me to write anything that doesn’t have a lot of kissing in it.)

My Pinterest board for this manuscript is here.

For the pimp portion of your evening, allow me to sell myself to my potential mentors.

smooth move baby

Though I’ve been a writer since I could form coherent thoughts, I’ve been formally attempting this publication thing for about four years now. I’m an active member of SCBWI and have an awesome group of crit partners who dig this story! (That’s got to count for something, right?) I’ve done contests and have come close, but haven’t found the right agent yet. I’m hoping this MS is THE one. I have not queried this MS yet, so it’s shiny and fresh for everyone to see. (Or it will be!)

Personally I’m a quick writer, hard worker, and will give it my all (…Or nothing at all.  O-Town.) Though I’m a sensitive soul, I’ve always understood that honest critique is the best way to improve and I Want it That Way. (Backstreet Boys) I’m fully ready to receive any comments/suggestions/criticisms/gifs. My mentor can expect me to respond to these things with a good attitude/honest questions/my best effort/and possibly boyband lyrics.

And this has been my life and times. The truth is out there. So long and thanks for all the fish.

so long dolphin

WRITERS with polished manuscripts: You can find more information about Pitch Wars on the amazing Brenda Drake’s website. Check out potential mentors and get your pitches ready by August 3!