Trygve Faste, Brigitta Blair, and Alondra Araujo are three KCU members who submitted their work to Pitchfest last year.
We asked them to tell us about their experience with Pitchfest 2022, how it impacted their careers, and their advice for other creators.
Please give us a little background about yourself. How did you get interested in creating GNs for kids/teens? Do you consider yourself a beginner, or have you been doing it for a while? What’s your journey been like so far?
I’ve always been interested in drawing graphic novels, but only started doing it with the serious intention of publication recently. I consider myself a beginner, though I’ve been drawing professionally for many years. I took the KCU Comics Intensive twice, and it was incredibly helpful in finding a literary agent to represent my work.
I’m an author-illustrator graphic novelist with a sweet spot for middle-grade and young-adult contemporary fiction and a penchant for fantasy.
I’m currently agented by the wonderful Chelsea Eberly, and am working on my debut graphic novel, CRAMMING, that comes out from Little Brown in 2027. It’s a story about a middle school girl named Ari who navigates the challenges of fitting into school, sports, family, and a scoliosis brace.
Growing up, I devoured chapter books, manga, and video games. I would make fanfic comics inspired by characters from manga like Naruto, or video games like Zelda. When I was at a stable point in my tech career, I wanted to devote my free time to something else I enjoyed… which led me back to my love for storytelling. This time, I wanted to make stories that made an impact and could help readers the way stories helped.
At first, I pursued picture books, but kept getting feedback that my style was better suited for graphic novels. After taking a graphic novel 101 course, I fell back in love with making comics. From there, I started brainstorming books I wish I had as a kid and several ideas were born — including CRAMMING!
During my adolescence, I read so many comics as a form of escapism and often found myself writing and drawing comics of my own.
At this point of my journey, I am currently working with my agent to finish a sample script to officially go on submission. It’s been a long journey this past decade of taking the craft much more seriously, but it’s been rewarding to go through the various challenges and becoming involved with the comic community.
Tell us about your pitch for 2022 Pitchfest. Is it the same as what you’re working on now, or different? How has your focus evolved since then?
The pitch for 2022 was part of my children’s seafaring mystery. I had made many pages for this project in the KCU Intensive class, and my pitch was a new sequence of pages.
Yes! I’m working on the book I pitched for the 2022 Pitchfest with my amazing editor.
The feedback I received during the KCU Pitchfest live call was also super helpful and guided me when making revisions.
I pitched my graphic novel pitch “Mi Tio Hernan.” I am updating some parts of my pitch, and I am almost ready to officially go on submission.
My focus has shifted in being more open to editorial feedback and to be less perfect with my writing — my agent is my partner on this project, and it’s helpful to know that I’m not alone in putting this story together 🙂
In what ways, if any, did participating in Pitchfest 2022 help you in your career as a graphic novel creator?
It was a good experience, and I was fortunate enough to be recognized with an honorable mention. This encouraged me to take the KCU Intensive class a second time, and also resulted in a couple of literary agents reaching out to review the project.
While these agents did not decide to represent my work, their feedback was helpful for me to eventually find an agent.
Placing second in the 2022 Pitchfest attracted several editors from notable publishers, which eventually led to an auction (when multiple publishers bid on your book).
Through Pitchfest, I was also able to connect with other creators who are friends to this day.
I had about three literary agents and about four editorial directors reach out to me to learn more about my pitch. Shortly after the new year, I met my now agent, and I have been able to improve my comic’s story with her help.
Not only that, but I also met new friends in the kids comics field through this event! Pitchfest 2022 really helped me get to where I am now.
What would you tell someone thinking about submitting to Pitchfest this year? Who would benefit from it, and why?
If you want a reason to motivate yourself to create some awesome GN work, this is a great venue to share your project. You will get a good sense of what other creative people are doing and be able to get feedback on your work from friends and the community.
If you have finished a pitch package and are looking for a great platform to pitch, this is the pitch event for you! It’s a great way to reach notable graphic novel agents and editors in addition to seeing if your pitch is working.
Even if you’re not pitching, it’s a great resource to research what pitches do well and learn why they are appealing to agents/editors.
If you are wondering whether you should submit or not, I’d say go for it. Not only did I receive feedback on my pitch, but I also got to connect with other kids comic creators through this event, and I find that connection and comradery in having participated in this event really strengthened my resolve to help other comic creators tell their stories.
We’re all navigating this field together, and I continue to share my Pitchfest 2022 experiences with my peers to provide advice and encouragement.
Is there anything else you’d like to say to fellow creators? Any advice, things you’ve learned, or words of encouragement?
The more time and energy you invest in learning your craft, the closer you get to seeing it out in the world. Go for it!
Rejection is redirection; take rejection as a stepping stone to where you need to be.
ALONDRA ARAUJO :
Give it a shot! I came really close to not submitting since I was on a very short time crunch to polish the pitch, but I am so glad I decided to see it through; I didn’t think I would be in the top 5, let alone 1st place, and I wasn’t confident in my craft.
Chances are others see the beauty in your work more than you give yourself credit for.