Jun 2, 2017

QK Round 1: I Kissed My Step-Nephew vs Cheshire πŸ’œs Alice

Title: Relatively Okay
Entry Nickname: I Kissed My Step-Nephew
Word count: 80K
Genre: Jewish Ownvoices YA Contemporary

Query:

Sixteen-year-old Mia’s sphere consists of two key things: her ongoing research into her French-Jewish family’s history, and her close relationship with her thirty-one-year-old brother, James. In a home where their entertainment executive parents can hardly spare a minute to say hello, James has always been Mia’s caregiver and confidant. And the feeling is mutual—Mia has supported James throughout his slow recovery from a suicide attempt that landed him back home. But when James gets engaged to an old high school ex, Claire, Mia’s life is thrown into chaos. Because along with Claire comes Claire’s teenage son, Landon—the same Landon that Mia was a few dates away from introducing to her family as new boyfriend. The Landon who is now her future step-nephew.

When financially unstable James chooses his family’s offer to pay for his wedding over his previous promise to accompany Mia on a research trip to France, Mia is crushed—and decides something must be done about Claire and James. She convinces Landon, who is equally as unhappy with the new arrangements, to help her push their respective family members to break up. As James and Claire are driven apart, Mia realizes her plan may not be flawless: James is distancing himself from her, and alarming signs of his depression are returning with a vengeance. With James unwell, Mia faces a difficult choice: if she drives Claire away for good, she’ll knock her fragile brother’s support system down by one, but if she doesn’t, she’ll lose the one member of her family she cares about most.

First 250:

Miscommunication has always been a problem in my family. Like the time my brother didn’t tell my parents he was going on a spring break trip to Copenhagen and my parents found out when he posted a photo online. Or the time my other brother didn’t tell anyone that he rescued a pregnant wiener dog and I came home to find the dog giving birth on my bed.

Or, you know, this afternoon, when I found out my parents had lent my car to my stupid holier-than-thou older brother Arthur who was home from college for the weekend. One second everything was perfectly timed for me to get to the local In-N-Out for the most important ambiguous study date/hang out with Landon Foster of my life, the next I found my side of the garage was empty.

It was futile, but I still found myself screaming, “MOM!” like I was seven years old again.

No response. I glanced over at my parents’ spots in the garage, and sure enough, they were empty too. It was 3:20, our date was for 3:30, and the restaurant was ten minutes away. There was no way I’d walk several miles to a date.

Who was still at my house? James, my oldest brother, should already be at work at this hour. Riding a bike would be an option if my mother hadn’t forbidden me from doing so ever since I ran into our neighbor’s holiday manger display. My phone dinged.

Arthur: I took your car if you’re wondering.



V.


Title: FEMSLASH
Entry Nickname: Cheshire πŸ’œ's Alice!
Word count: 70K
Genre: YA Contemporary (ownvoices)

Query:

Rhodes Ingram never thought she'd peak at seventeen. She's dedicated six years of her life to her artistic education at Alabama Fine Arts Academy, but depression threatens to undermine all her work. With an empty portfolio and plummeting grades, Rhodes has one last shot at success: The Birmingham Arts Collective's New Horizon Scholarship.

Iliana Vrionides has spent the last two school years struggling to prove her worth as an AFAA student. What she lacks in technical ability, she makes up with a ferocious commitment to creative expression. But when her parents lose her college savings in bankruptcy court, a last-minute scholarship may be the only chance she has left.

By day, Iliana and Rhodes tear each other down to the studs as they compete for the same scholarship. By night they unknowingly piece each other together again through Slashspot, their school’s anonymous fan fiction community. Worlds collide when Iliana’s laptop is stolen and an online bully threatens to make their identities — and their steamy relationship — public knowledge. The senior show looms on the horizon, the scholarship hangs in the balance, and the girls must reconcile their love for each other online with their combative relationship in real life.

First 250:

My name is Rhodes Ingram.

I’m blowing my senior year, and I am screwed.

I wish I could say I’ve blown it fabulously, that I’ve been riotously drunk and skinny dipping in Peavine Falls. Or ignoring homework to chase after the dance track girls in their pretty buns and soft looking legwarmers. Or blowing off class to pursue my One True Craft, out tagging buildings Banksy-style and creating the kind of organic art that pays no heed to formal artistic education.

Unfortunately, none of this is the case.

Truthfully my senior year is going out with a sigh, rather than a bang: Most days bleed together, bored and flat and entirely lacking in inspiration. Nothing clicks; nothing flows. Nothing is sticking — facts, figures, formulas. I either sleep too much or not at all, stare out windows, daydream about everything and nothing.

My sketchbooks are empty. My grades have hit crisis mode. The visual arts track faculty advisor is officially Alarmed, and by the end of third period I’ll know whether my SAT scores will cover my ass where my GPA won’t give me a candle’s chance in hell.

But first, I need to survive the next twenty minutes.

Studio B’s windows are wide as they are tall, bathing the room in glorious, priceless natural light. The room is cold with air conditioning that rattles in the exposed pipes overhead, and Iliana Vrionides' breath curls hot in the shell of my ear.

20 comments :

  1. Judges, please leave your comments and votes as a reply to this comment. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I Kissed My Step-Nephew:

      The query does a good job of establishing character, plot, and stakes, but if anything it feels too long and too over-loaded with detail for a query. Some of the details of Mia's past with her brother, for example, can probably be saved for the book itself.

      The opening paragraph of the first 250 starts off funny but also realistic, and gives the reader a good idea of the family at the center of this story.

      I might like to see a little more urgency regarding the date... could she not just text Landon and ask him to pick her up? It feels like a relatively small problem to start the book with... so I'd like to get a better idea of why it's NOT small from Mia's POV.

      Cheshire ��s Alice:
      I love the query! It gives me a great sense of what both characters want, and what they have to lose. The voice comes across well, especially in the third paragraph. My main concern as an agent (I'm not an agent, but if I were) might be that it sounds TOO similar to Simon Vs?

      The opening pages basically work for me as well. You've managed to introduce the long-term problem, an immediate problem, and the narrator's voice.

      Is this going to be dual POV? I'm curious!

      I honestly loved both of these entries and would really like to see them both advance, but for a more focused query,

      Victory to Cheshire ��s Alice!

      Delete
    2. RELATIVELY OKAY

      Query:

      I like the set up here and the role reversal with Mia having to care for James as he recovers from a suicide attempt. The ages of everyone threw me. If James is 31, and dated Claire in high school, and Mia and Landon are 16, then that would mean Claire would have already had Landon when she and James dated. (Assuming Claire is also 31, she would have had Landon at 15.) If this is intentional, I would like to see this mentioned even in passing. (For ex., did she and James break up because she got pregnant w/some else’s baby etc.)

      Another thing I’m curious about: can her and Landon not date now? Are they keeping their relationship a secret? If so, why? The way it reads now, she is trying to break James and Claire up solely because of jealousy, is that intentional?

      I wouldn’t use “she’ll lose” because its unlikely that in reality she would lose him if she didn’t break them up. She might THINK she will, which seems like the driving force of the story, but saying “she’ll lose” makes it sound like a done deal. Maybe something like “she may” or “she could.”

      Also, I didn’t realize there was a second brother until I read your 250. Since this is a family drama, I would mention him as well in the query.

      First 250:

      Your opening paragraph is wonderful! Great voice and already telling us a lot about their family dynamics. The line about riding her bike into the manger cracked me up also. I’m not sure why she couldn’t just ask Landon to pick her up though!


      FEMSLASH

      Query:

      I don’t think you need to say artistic education, because it’s implied by being a fine arts academy. I don’t understand how the scholarship is a shot at success though? Art colleges are extremely competitive, can she really get into college with an empty portfolio and terrible grades, even if she has the money? We’d benefit from a line explaining the scholarship, and how it will help the situation.

      Iliana’s need for the scholarship is much more clear. I would bring that sort of clarity to Rhodes’ paragraph.

      I like the idea of them unknowingly bonding over fanfic. I have seen this plot before though, so I’m curious about your specifics-- why the bully wants to go public, and what the risk to that is? Wouldn’t the bully need both of their laptops to identify them both? Why would people (beyond Rhodes and Illiana, who will clearly be shocked/upset at the reveal) care they are (sort of) together? If its because of homophobia or something along that line, I would mention that. Could that also impact them getting the scholarship? Is the bully trying to sabotage them so that THEY can have a better shot at the scholarship?

      I’m not completely clear what’s at stake here, and you’re going to have to add more details to make it stand out from other similar stories.

      Also, is this dual pov? Your query setup made me think it was, but it was never specifically mentioned.

      First 250:

      I really like Rhodes’ voice, particularly in the 3rd paragraph. I think you do a great job setting up the problems you mc is facing right off the bat. I’m sorry I don’t have much feedback here, it is such a strong opening!

      This decision felt impossible, I’d like to see them both advance. In the end, there can only be one so…

      Victory to: FEMSLASH!

      Delete
    3. Professor McGonagallJune 3, 2017 at 7:51 PM

      STEP-NEPHEW: (I think the real title is very clever!). QUERY: The conflict, character introductions, and plot are well written here. Great job! I’m wondering if the paragraphs could be split up a bit to make it look not so heavy in two big chunks. Also, a question – I’m not sure how the wedding money and the France trip are connected. Is it the money? The dates? I wasn’t sure. A nitpick – in the last sentence of the 1st paragraph I think it should be “as a new boyfriend.” Just missing the “a.” FIRST 250: I like Mia’s voice and think there’s some really funny stuff here! A few questions: This sentence: “One second everything was perfectly timed for me to get to the local In-N-Out for the most important ambiguous study date/hang out with Landon Foster of my life, the next I found my side of the garage was empty.” is a little confusing. I think Landon’s name should come in at a different place, like maybe “One second everything was perfectly timed for me to meet Landon Foster at the local In-N-Out for the most important ambiguous study date/hang out of my life, the next I found my side of the garage was empty.” What do you think? Also, I’m wondering, do teens say, “at this hour?” ☺ Great entry! Good luck!

      CHESHIRE HEARTS ALICE: QUERY: This is such a strong entry! I like the premise, I like the writing. QUERY: A very strong query with good conflict and character building. In the third paragraph one thing isn’t clear. If they are “unknowingly” helping each other on-line, how does the last sentence work? How do they reconcile their on-line love with their real life combative relationship? Does the bully tell them each who the other one is? FIRST 250: This is so strong. I don’t really have anything to suggest! Great job, and best wishes.

      VICTORY TO CHESHIRE HEARTS ALICE

      Delete
    4. Lumpy Space AuthorJune 4, 2017 at 1:57 PM

      STEP NEPHEW
      QUERY
      When financially unstable James chooses his family’s offer to pay for his wedding over his previous promise to accompany Mia on a research trip to France [this sentence fragment is really convoluted. I’d break it up into two sentences]

      This is a really intriguing query because the MC sounds like she does some extremely unlikable (in a very realistic way) things, but I’m assuming she learns her lesson. What an important book! And it has some other really captivating elements as well—the step-nephew angle (LOLYIKES) and the own voices angle. I think you’ve got a good thing going here.

      250
      Great voice, great setup (I’m getting an INSTANTLY clear and captivating notion of this family), but I’m wondering how she knew her brother had borrowed her car if her parents weren’t home to tell her and her brother just now belatedly thought to mention it?

      CHESHIRE
      QUERY
      Wow on like six levels. Lots of important feels here. Just reading the query makes my heart beat faster, and ache.

      250
      Great writing. Superb writing. You’ve set up your characters and your world perfectly.

      This is effi’n silly hard, y’all. Both of these entries are flat out amazing. I would read both of them. And, to make matters WORSE from the perspective of choosing, both of them are own voices.

      My vote in this matchup is going to be a symbolic one. I only feel comfortable doing this because, one, I’m supposedly anonymous (lol- actually not the first consideration) and, two, I know neither of these are going to have ANY trouble finding success.

      There is one of these own voices entries with which I identify on a personal level, and would be more apt to choose for that reason. So, counterintuitively, I am going to choose the other.

      With this vote, I am making this statement: gatekeepers. With own voices books, we need to try especially hard to identify with things that are outside our own experience. That is what own voices is all about - readers stepping into situations they are unfamiliar with, and perhaps uncomfortable in, and learning something. It is not about the author somehow making outsiders comfortable, and going out of their way to make others relate to that experience, because I have found that almost always involves toning the character and/or narrative down, or censoring it in some way.

      So with all love to Cheshire, I’m voting VICTORY TO STEP-NEPHEW.

      Delete
    5. I KISSED MY STEP-NEPHEW

      Query: Great hook. So I was actually confused and thought that James was dating one of *Mia’s* exes from HS, so I would sub “his high school ex” for “an.” (Obviously this would not be kosher or legal, but the wording confused me.) I think the whole first paragraph is totally solid. Nice work.

      The second sentence in the next paragraph is too wordy for me and confusing. I’d rework. I’d actually consider making it less specific and more general in terms of why Mia is unhappy. Honestly her being upset over him paying for his wedding over a trip to Europe makes her sound kind of, erm, spoiled and selfish to me, which may be true for her, but I think it lowers the stakes in a query. I think if you describe it more generally, such as that James begins to spend more time with Claire as they’re planning their lavish wedding, ignoring Mia and shirking promises he made to her, that makes her anger more understandable. Nice stakes. I’d try not to have two sentences with colons back to back.

      250 looks good, although I worry that your protag comes off as too bratty (even though her anger is totally fair). I might try to rework it a bit to make her sound less, well, like the seven-year-old she admits she sounds like. This is tricky because it sounds like your MC goes through a nice arc of growth, which I respect, but especially in the first chapter, I think it will be important to balance some likeable moments too. I loved the first paragraph. I’d consider tightening and condensing 2nd-4th. I think we just need one line about thoughtless, holier-than-though Arthur, and maybe something about him screwing her over *yet again.* I think that section also felt a little repetitive. Then you’ll have a few more words leftover to add something else. Loved the manger line at the end.

      CHESHIRE HEARTS ALICE:
      Query: Nice first paragraph. Very clear. In the second paragraph, you’re missing the word “for” as in “she makes up for with.” Third paragraph: I’m sorry, I don’t understand what exactly they’re doing via Slashspot. Could you make it clearer?

      Overall, I feel like several sentences are missing from the 3rd section. I want to know more about the girls’ online relationship, and why it’s so important for both of them. I actually didn’t realize they even knew each other in real life until I read your 250, so I definitely want to know a little about that too, and how it compares to their online relationship.

      250: Great voice. Overall I think it works really well, and don’t have much feedback for improving. One small thing is that the Banksy-style sentence feels really long and could be simplified.

      OVERALL: This is seriously the hardest vote I have cast yet. By far. Overall, I think STEP-NEPHEW has a stronger query, with clearer stakes and clearer character development and conflict, but I think CHESHIRE has a stronger 250. However, I need to choose one, and since this is Query Kombat….

      VICTORY TO I KISSED MY STEP-NEPHEW!

      -Molly Millions

      Delete
    6. I KISSED MY STEP-NEPHEW
      Query: This is a really well-structured query – Great job! You could perhaps trim down some of the details a bit, to really drive home the conflict and stakes. Also, I feel like the great teen voice in the 250 is missing from the query to a degree. My only other thought would be to consider rewording the last sentence a smidge: “…if she drives Claire away for good, she’ll knock her fragile brother’s support system down by one” I’d cut “by one” – it sounds less dangerous if he’s just losing one person, vs. having is support system ruined – makes the choice less dramatic. Also “she’ll lose the one member of her family she cares about most” – I’d change this altogether because to me it reads that the “one person” is someone other than her brother. I was confused. (I’m easily confused though…) :)

      250: I feel like I can already relate to Mia’s frustration at her family dynamic, and I enjoyed the writing. I have a few detail-y questions that took me out of the moment. Is Arthur a third brother, or one of the two mentioned in the first paragraph? Might be good to get their names in to avoid confusion and paint the picture a bit more. I don’t think you need to say “the local” before In N Out – we assume that already and it doesn’t sound right in her voice. Finally, I’d swap the order of these two chunks, for better flow: It was 3:20, our date was for 3:30, and the restaurant was ten minutes away. There was no way I’d walk several miles to a date. / Who was still at my house? James, my oldest brother, should already be at work at this hour.


      CHESHIRE HEARTS ALICE 
      Query: I think you’ve done a great job on this query and I feel I really have a sense of what happens in this story and what the stakes are. My only suggestion might be to make it clearer what makes Rhodes and Illiana different – I just wanted a tiny taste more of their personalities and a sense of why they’re fighting IRL (it seems like it’s more than just the chance of the scholarship, but also a personality clash.)

      250: I love the voice and the writing here – very funny and strong. I worry that it’s a bit too much backstory/info and not enough action at the top. I have a short attention span and want to know what’s happening right now – to be dropped into the action - and then have the backstory and woven in as we go.

      These are both such strong entries! But choices must be made! Victory to CHESHIRE HEARTS ALICE 

      Delete
    7. Title: Relatively Okay
      Entry Nickname: I Kissed My Step-Nephew

      Query Feedback:
      I think you do a good job setting up a complicated story. I think you have it really tight at 256 words, but there are some elements that I still wondered about -- what happened with her and landon’s relationship? Are they still attracted to each other? I get that it is secondary to the James relationship, but I am interested to know a bit more.

      I think that the detail about James choosing the wedding over the research trip could come out (mostly because I don’t quite understand how those 2 things are mutually exclusive, esp if he isn’t paying for the wedding? Were they supposed to happen at the same time? Is she really going to skip her bro’s wedding to do research? That doesn’t seem like a nice move…) … I think introing some personal stakes to open paragraph 2 will pack more of a punch,. Because, let’s face it, her trying to derail the relationship is the important thing that is happening!

      I think you can probably ditch the mention of the parents and them not having time for them, unless tell us how that really affects Mia. If you want it to build sympathy (which I think you need to do, considering that she is trying to destroy her bro’s love life, which is pretty manipulative and selfish at the surface) then really play that up! One or the other… the fact alone doesn’t tug the heartstrings, although the thought of a child ignored by her parents does help us understand why she would have abandonment issues.

      The only other thing I would suggest is something about the tone. I can’t quite tell if this is going to come across as lighthearted or dark or heartbreaking from your word choices.

      You have SUCH fabulous stakes here. And you are very close. I think playing up sympathy for Mia will help everyone get on board that much more :)


      First 250 Feedback:
      I get way more of a “family involvement” sense from this opening than from the query (she has another brother?). Also much more lighthearted feel. Is there a way to make them feel closer together in both aspects? I like this a lot! I think that the voice shines here.

      V.


      Title: FEMSLASH
      Entry Nickname: Cheshire ��'s Alice!

      Query Feedback
      I love this! It reminds me of Simon vs. (which i also love) so yay!!!! I really can’t even see any improvements needed.

      First 250 Feedback
      Ummm… wow. This is so good. Floored.THE VOICE *heart eyes emoji forever* I want to know this MC!

      Final
      Great work, both of you. Such awesome concepts!
      But, Yeah I have to go with ...

      Victory to Cheshire ��'s Alice!

      Delete
  2. Relatively Okay:
    Query: I’d separate this query into 3 paragraphs to get some more white space and make it easier to read. I feel like you’re trying to cram way too much info and too many names into this query and I’m kind hating Mia and thinking she’s way too selfish (at least based on the query).

    250: The first paragraph is cute but maybe there’s a way to make Mia more likable? And was it always her car, or was it Arthur’s before she left? I am getting her panic about her upcoming date—that’s coming through well.


    Femslash:
    Query: Ahh, it’s You’ve Got Mail + Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda!

    250: I get a great idea of who she is and I’d keep reading.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Relatively Okay:
    Query: I agree with Sarah--Needs much more white space. Also I'm not a fan of how Mia handles this situation. It's kind of terrible for her to break up her brother's relationship simply because she doesn't like it...You'll have to work hard to present Mia in a positive light to justify what she's doing. Is there something about Claire that Mia doesn't like? Is she trying to protect her brother, maybe? If not, I'd downplay the break up and really highlight that her actions have undesired consequences and she's scrambling to fix her mistake. You don't want to make her too off putting right off the bat!
    250: I like her a lot more here than in the query. I like the panic/frustration. What threw me off is the fact she had another brother. It was silly of me, but I was momentarily confused why her favorite brother would have stolen c=her car haha. But overall it was great!

    Femslash
    Query: I have no complaints. I feel like the story is going to be dramatic, but the good kind. I hope it's dual POV!
    250: Oh, not a fan of starting with "I am X" D: but that may be personal taste. I would much rather see this in scene, maybe she's lying in bed and can't get up, or trying to sketch something but can't. As-is, it feels like an info dump of everything we just saw in the query. But, that said, it's well written and the voice is clear. Definitely get more opinions!

    Good luck to both entries!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Kissed My Step-Nephew

    Q: Oh my, what a set up! All the family drama! That being said, I’m wary of a story about a teen girl that wants to rock the first stable thing in her beloved-brother’s life out of nothing but jealousy, but that’s completely subjective. If Claire was endangering him, stealing from him, lying to him or cheating, that would be something. But this feels like she’s doing it because she wants his attention without letting anyone else have him . . . If there are other reasons behind the relationship sabotage, I would clarify. Overall, the query does an excellent job of setting up the world and characters.

    First 250: Great voice in this! Though I think you could probably cut a lot of the opening examples and get straight to the car being stolen by her brother, that way we can get farther, faster.

    Cheshire πŸ’œ's Alice!

    Q: ONE-CLICK, ONE-CLICK, ONE-CLICK. Your query rocked, setting up the characters and stakes beautifully. I love the fan fiction angle! Though I would have liked to have heard more about the relationship they built through the site and how it progresses from friendly encouragement to falling in love.

    First 250: I’m loving your voice and descriptions in this! But . . . watch for Rhodes breaking the fourth wall, telling the reader about who she is and her life. I would encourage you to try to reveal this information more naturally through watching Rhodes interact with her world – she stops by a building and tags it, but sighs internally because she know it won’t help her failing art grade, etc., vs Hello, I’m me and this is my story. Probably subjective, but I feel like when the character is addressing me as a reader, it can take me out of the story bc it reminds me I’m reading. Other than that, lovely phrasing and set-up, and I’d still love to read the rest!

    Great job to both entries!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Ah, I love both of these so much! I’m going to go through and put brackets in with my comments so I will probably have to split this up into two comments.

    Title: Relatively Okay

    Query:

    Sixteen-year-old Mia’s sphere consists of two key things: her ongoing research into her French-Jewish family’s history, and her close relationship with her thirty-one-year-old brother, James. In a home where their entertainment executive parents can hardly spare a minute to say hello, James has always been Mia’s caregiver and confidant. And the feeling is mutual—Mia has supported James throughout his slow recovery from a suicide attempt that landed him back home. [I’d love to get this closer to the start as it is the hook/plot. Unless you have a one-sentence hook above it. Maybe swap the order of the paragraph? Start with the step nephew and back into the research and James’ suicide?] But when James gets engaged to an old high school ex, Claire, Mia’s life is thrown into chaos. Because along with Claire comes Claire’s [maybe “her” instead of Claire] teenage son, Landon—the same Landon that Mia was a few dates away from introducing to her family as new boyfriend [can you maybe simplify this? The same Landon who was about to officially become Mia’s boyfriend?]. The Landon who is now her future step-nephew.


    When financially unstable James chooses his family’s offer to pay for his wedding over his previous promise to accompany [this could be simplified too—maybe “When James’ chooses to spend money on a wedding instead of accompanying…”] Mia on a research trip to France, Mia is crushed—and decides something must be done about Claire and James. She convinces Landon, who is equally as unhappy [also unhappy?] with the new arrangements, to help her [maybe—help her break up her family members? Reminds me of reverse Parent Trap!] push their respective family members to break up. As James and Claire are driven apart, [This is passive. Can you use half a sentence to give us an idea of what tactics Mia is using to drive them apart?] Mia realizes her plan may not be flawless: James is distancing himself from her, and alarming signs of his depression are returning [Considering “with a vengeance” is in my book’s title, I feel a bit of a hypocrite saying I don’t think you need it here] with a vengeance. With James unwell, [Don’t need “with James unwell”] Mia faces a difficult choice: if she drives Claire away for good, she’ll knock her fragile brother’s support system down by one, but if she doesn’t, she’ll lose the one member of her family she cares about most. [This sentence confuses me, because basically she’s at risk of losing James either way—to depression/suicide or to Claire. Consider rewording?]

    ReplyDelete
  6. RO First 250:
    First 250:

    Miscommunication has always been a problem in my family. Like the time my brother didn’t tell my parents he was going on a spring break trip to Copenhagen and my parents found out when he posted a photo online. [I LOVE the wiener dog line—it is so funny! But it makes the Copenhagen line seem flat in retrospect. What if it was super pedestrian like accidentally buying double groceries? Also, I think you might want to name the brothers on first mention, because I got who was which brother confused] Or the time my other brother didn’t tell anyone that he rescued a pregnant wiener dog and I came home to find the dog giving birth on my bed.

    Or, you know, this afternoon, when I found out my parents had lent my car to my stupid holier-than-thou older brother Arthur who was home from college for the weekend. One second everything was perfectly timed for me to get to the local In-N-Out for the most important ambiguous study date/hang out with Landon Foster of my life, the next I found my side of the garage was empty.

    It was futile, but I still found myself screaming, “MOM!” like I was seven years old again. [So real!]

    No response. I glanced over at my parents’ spots in the garage, and sure enough, they were empty too. It was 3:20, our date was for 3:30, and the restaurant was ten minutes away. There was no way I’d walk several miles to a date. [At first it seemed like the restaurant was a 10 minute walk. Maybe say how many miles instead of how many minutes? And indicate that she would be too embarrassed to ask her date?]

    Who was still at my house? [I’m not sure you need this question here. Wouldn’t she know who was at her house? Because she just came from there?] James, my oldest brother, should already be at work at this hour. Riding a bike would be an option if my mother hadn’t forbidden me from doing so ever since I ran into our neighbor’s holiday manger display. [was she just forbidden or did she not have a bike? I think a mother forbidding wouldn’t be a real obstacle. Maybe she’s afraid after the crash?] My phone dinged.

    Arthur: I took your car if you’re wondering. [Nice ending line!]

    ReplyDelete

  7. FEMSLASH

    Query:

    Rhodes Ingram never thought she'd peak at seventeen. She's dedicated six years of her life to her artistic education at [You could maybe cut “artistic education at”] Alabama Fine Arts Academy, but depression threatens to undermine all her work. With an empty portfolio and plummeting grades, Rhodes has one last shot at success: The Birmingham Arts Collective's New Horizon Scholarship.

    Iliana Vrionides has spent the last two school years struggling to prove her worth as an AFAA student [maybe “prove she’s a worthy AFAA student.”]. What she lacks in technical ability, she makes up with a ferocious [you might be okay with just “makes up with ferocious commitment.”] commitment to creative expression. But when her parents lose her college savings in bankruptcy court, a last-minute scholarship may be the only chance she has left.

    By day, Iliana and Rhodes tear each other down to the studs as they compete for the same scholarship. [great voice here!] By night they unknowingly piece each other together again through Slashspot, their school’s anonymous fan fiction community. Worlds collide when Iliana’s laptop is stolen and an online bully threatens to make their identities — and their steamy relationship — public knowledge. The senior show looms on the horizon, the scholarship hangs in the balance, and the girls must reconcile their love for each other online with their combative relationship in real life. [great summary of what’s going to happen here!]

    ReplyDelete
  8. FEMSLASH First 250. Love the voice here! A few spots to clean up. My gut says you definitely want to keep the sentence where we are seeing the scene as early as possible.

    My name is Rhodes Ingram. [Why does she need to say her name? The next sentence could be a funny start.]

    I’m blowing my senior year, and I am screwed.

    I wish I could say I’ve blown it fabulously, that I’ve been riotously drunk and skinny dipping in Peavine Falls. Or ignoring homework to chase after the dance track girls in their pretty buns and soft looking legwarmers. Or blowing off class to pursue my One True Craft, out [maybe cut “out”] tagging buildings Banksy-style and creating the kind of organic art that pays no heed to formal artistic education.[Does it pay no heed to formal education or formal conventions?]

    Unfortunately, none of this is the case.

    Truthfully my senior year is going out with a sigh, rather than a bang: Most days bleed together, bored and flat and entirely lacking in inspiration. Nothing clicks; nothing flows. Nothing is sticking — facts, figures, formulas. [would it be better if these were art terms?] I either [maybe cut either here as it disrupts the rest of the items of the list that don’t have either/or in them] sleep too much or not at all, stare out windows, daydream about everything and nothing.

    My sketchbooks are empty. My grades have hit crisis mode. The visual arts track faculty advisor is officially Alarmed, and by the end of third period I’ll know whether my SAT scores will cover my ass where [should this be “when”?] my GPA won’t give me a candle’s chance in hell.

    But first, I need to survive the next twenty minutes.

    Studio B’s windows are wide as they are tall, bathing the room in glorious, priceless natural light. The room is cold [Maybe just “the air conditioning rattles” to keep it more active.] with air conditioning that rattles in the exposed pipes overhead, and Iliana Vrionides' breath curls hot in the shell of my ear.

    ReplyDelete
  9. RELATIVELY OKAY
    Query: I'm confused as to why they aren't public about their relationship to begin with. Is there some Romeo + Juliet thing going on? Also, if Claire dated James when they were teens, and Landon is now a teen, that means she had her son when she was in HS... Is Landon James'?! Because that throws a WHOLE Star Wars feel into it. I found it difficult to believe that she would do that to her brother, endanger him. Why not just introduce Landon as her boyfriend anyway?

    These are things that maybe need to be extrapolated on or considered when rewriting this.

    250: There is definitely humour here. You DID have me chuckling at the family dynamics here though, and the manger line made me cackle. I'm confused about why she made such a big deal about the car though. Couldn't she just text Landon asking him to pick her up? Maybe you're trying to establish her as a strong independent woman, but it falls flat.

    FEMSLASH
    Query: This has a very SIMON VS meets YOU'VE GOT MAIL feeling and I LURV IT! My only comment on something I'd watch out for is the academic reiteration that everybody else has pointed out.

    250: THE VOICE!!! Omg, this is SUPERB! Just, absolutely, I have no complaints. LIVE FOR THIS AND LOVE IT! I SERIOUSLY hope it gets agented in the next round and published fast because I LOVE and NEED this!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I Kissed My Step-Nephew

    Query:
    While I appreciate the clear stakes here, I'm a bit concerned about Mia's motivations. I understand where she's coming from, but all I can think about is how selfish she is. I do hope there's a redeeming quality for Mia in the story that I'm not seeing here.

    First 250:
    -I'm surprised about the mention of all the brothers in the opening. From the query, it sounded like she only had one brother, at least one who was around while her parents aren't.
    -I'm also thrown by how she doesn't seem to like Arthur in the first 250, when the query made it sound like they were two peas in a pod.
    -Other than that, this is an enjoyable opening!


    Cheshire πŸ’œs Alice

    Query:
    -I'm really into the premise here; the stakes are great and it sounds like I could get behind these characters.
    -However, I'm don't understand how an online bully would know their identities if Iliana and Rhodes don't know who each other is online. This could use some clarity.

    First 250:
    -OK, I like this opening! But I'm confused about whether Iliana's breath is hot in Rhodes's ear because they're arguing or being intimate. The query leans toward the former, but the writing itself leans toward the latter.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I Kissed My Step-Nephew

    Query: Poor Mia! It's not easy being 16 (says the mom of a 16 year old). In the 1st paragraph you make it a point to mention that Landon was a boyfriend (or nearly a boyfriend). How does that affect the events in the second paragraph. I'm assuming it's somehow important to the story/stakes. Maybe you can work it in? Also, does Mia just want to break them up because her trip won't be as planned? That seems extreme. Is there a way you can give more of a sense of why she'd be losing her brother if he marries? Will he move far away? Is Claire mean? It just seems like the choices in the stakes are not evenly balanced.

    250: This is a cute opening scene. Watch the tense. I'm not sure if you're going for past or present. It switches in a couple of spots. One thing I questioned - her parents don't trust her with a bike but trust her with a car? I can definitely feel her annoyance and I'm hoping her brother is texting to say he's on his way home!

    Cheshire:

    Query: This sounds like an intriguing story with lots of layers! One thing that confused me- if Rhodes has an empty portfolio and plummeting grades how can she qualify for an art scholarship. What else is it based on?

    250: I feel for Rhodes right away, but it's a lot of telling/backstory right out of the gate. The paragraph that starts: Studio B at the end.. this is what I would start with- then weave the narration through the action of the first chapter.

    I know my 16 year old daughter would love both of these strong stories- Congrats to you both!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I Kissed My Step-Nephew: Ahh! Her ex is now her nephew! Awkward! Good Query, but it’s a bit wordy at the beginning. I’m not sure you need to say that she’s into genealogy, or what her parents do for a living. The second paragraph kind of turned me off the MC. She comes across as selfish for trying to sabotage her mentally ill brother’s relationship. If she has another motivation it should be mentioned in the query to make her more sympathetic. First 250. Voice was good. Sounded like a self-involved teenager, which is what you want.

    Nickname: Cheshire ��'s Alice: Good Query. The premise sounds fabulous, and the stakes are clearly defined. Love the setting of an arts school. I didn’t get much of a feel for who the two girls really are, personality-wise, but that’s hard to do in a query. First 250: LOVE the voice here. Sooo good. Love the 'one true craft', the 'senior year going out with a sigh instead of a bang', and love the last line the most. You managed to inject sexual chemistry right there in half a sentence, which is amazing. Well done.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Relatively Okay:
    The query establishes personal stakes for Mia and the main conflict. However, I don't think it establishes empathy between Mia and the reader well. It reads like Mia is being a brat about her older brother getting engaged, which could set up a fun, tension thick premise. However, when the fact the he attempted to commit suicide in the end is thrown in, I think Mia's personal motivations for wanting to break up the engagement really need to be communicated as having legitimate merit and weight. Otherwise, Mia just comes off seeming mean, selfish, and cruel. Make us care about Mia and like her despite the awful thing she tries to do by threading in a bit more of how she's unique and relatable.

    Femslash: I super, super love this premise. It's fresh and unique as far as YA contemporary goes. I imagine this reading like a fun enemies turned friends trope. The query does a fantastic job of setting up Rhodes' struggle and making us root for her!

    Vote: Femslash

    ReplyDelete