Sunday, August 3, 2008

Pitch Contest Honorable Mentions 20-34

20. In /The Soul Collector/, a 65,000 word midgrade fantasy book, a peasant girl is commanded by the cheeky self-absorbed gods of her land to reunite a group of souls and bodies that have been separated. While her simple task provides the god’s with the entertainment they seek, it makes her a target for the person who stole the souls in the first place. It turns out the thief plans to use the souls to become a god, but in doing so, the soul’s bodies will die. The girl must find a way to stop the thief from destroying the bodies and keep him from stealing souls in the future.
I'm confused by the levity of the "cheeky" gods' "entertainment" and the very fraught nature of people whose souls have been stolen. I'm not sure this manuscript knows what it is.
21. David’s teacher is a ruthless, uncaring monster, and he will gladly share the stories of how Mrs. Murkel earned her nickname, the “Murkel Monster.” On the other hand, Mrs. Murkel would describe David as an irresponsible fourth grader with a penchant for playing with paper and making up excuses. It would seem that David and Mrs. Murkel understand each other perfectly. However, in an unexpected (and admittedly unbelievable) turn of events, a special girl named Lucy helps the two see each other in a new light.
The setting and action of this story seem to target elementary schoolers, but the voice of this pitch is very adult. Remember that I'm going to take as many clues from your pitch as I can--and this one is saying "I can't write for my age group."
22. There comes a moment in every teenager’s life when he or she wonders what it might be like to be the opposite sex. Most geeks fantasize about popularity. Every popular kid wants to stay on top. Alternating Earthling, alien points-of-view shed light on the things we tolerate about ourselves and those we must accept in others.
What? Is this about gender? Popularity? Aliens? What happens in this story?
23. After pressing on mysterious bumps that have appeared suddenly on their backs, fourth-grader Kara Kennelly and her cousin Avery discover they can transform into amazing creatures that are half-girl, half-bird. They soon learn the joy of flying comes with extreme danger in the form of “Scare Crow,” a giant winged monster determined to do battle with the “Gird Birls.” Kara and Avery must also battle their own moms, who are secret Gird Birls themselves and dead-set against their daughters flying. But if Kara and Avery don’t fly, who will rid the skies of Scare Crow?
Are you saying they have wing buttons, or magical zits? What's with the "gird birls"? That name is not striking me as high in cool factor. And their moms? I'm feeling confused about what this story is about at heart.
24. Teachers HATE show and tell day; student teachers HATE show and tell day; mommies HATE show and tell day; but kids LOVE show and tell day. I wrote a great book explaining show and tell. "Sydney Brooks Loves Show and Tell." The reviewers (aka kids) of room 120 loved it, perhaps you will, too.
This was for worst pitch, right? You remembered what I said about what editors think of children's opinions?
If this was sincerely meant, take that last sentence out, and tell me what happens in this manuscript.
25. Minerva Fletcher, Minnie if you please, is probably not a witch. She's just a skinny seventh grader who happens to have a bumbling magician for a father, a mother who disappeared in an unfortunate magic trick gone wrong, and a granny who is one of the original Salem witches and a card-carrying member of the Witches' Relocation Program. Teased mercilessly in her new school by the Queen Bee, Skinny Minnie forges a friendship with Krystal, the candy-eating ghost who haunts the hallways. Trouble brews, along with wasted wishes and kooky spells, when Minnie gets a magical moonstone ring and a junior witch handbook for her thirteenth birthday.
There's just something so familiar about this story line. Maybe I'm just over witches for a while.
26. I have been a rugby player, a Canadian infantry soldier, a wilderness survival instructor, have rode bucking horses in the rodeo, married an Eskimo-Cowboy, and am the kick ass (but not peppy) mother of three children under five. I am postnatal and a little more than premenopausal. So, I am not only to be feared if rejected, but also have a plethora of phenomenal stories. If you want to read about an inspiring street child I once knew in South Africa, an Outlaw bush pilot from Northern BC, or a rodeo cowgirl and her bovine sidekick with irritable bowel syndrome (to name a few), I'm your gal.
Is this a pitch for a manuscript? It sounds like a pitch for you, which I'm not buying. All the experiences in the world do not necessarily make you a good writer; all the writing in the world does not necessarily mean you have a story that works.
27. Natalie dreams of building little tiny fences along the cliffs of the Arctic to SAVE THE LEMMINGS! from their mass suicides. How will she ever raise awareness for the cause? When Natalie invents the Texty-Talky she becomes an overnight success but the media quickly turns on her and muddies her reputation. Will Natalie be able to rise above the media muck and SAVE THE LEMMINGS!
a. What's a texty-talk? b. Who cares about lemmings? c. Is this supposed to be funny, or are you serious about this?
27. On a lonely night, a fox tricks a little kid into following him into the woods. Disguised as a man named Mr. Albatross, he leads the boy far away from home to devour him. But soon Mr. Albatross discovers he's become his role, forgetting all of his fox instincts. Can he and the boy find their way out of the woods?
What? Is this some kind of allegory? Ok, I get it--the fox is the author, Mr. Albatross is the story's narrator, and the boy is the reader. By the end, everyone's lost.
28. For Frankie Kinnessey, it’s hard enough being the new kid going into eighth grade, let alone trying to fit in while hiding the fact that her mother’s a witch. When her secret is uncovered, the entire school starts buzzing, but instead of being relegated to the loser table in the lunchroom, Frankie becomes the most popular kid there. Her new found fame propels Frankie to embellish her non-existent powers and alienate the two girls who liked her before she became the resident witch extraordinaire. If she can come clean with her classmates, she just might be able to make it through middle school relatively unscathed... even if she is just a mere mortal.
Again, this is feeling a tad familiar. There are just so many witch stories out there...
29. Grandma loves her snuggly-wuggly grandbaby so much, she'd do anything for him. She'd bake him cookies and buy him wookies. She'd smother him with kisses and grant all his wishes. Illustrated with cutting-edge-computer graphix (see attached), Gramma's Snuggly-Wuggles is my 500-word, rhymed, sure- to- be- adored- by- anyone- who- has- ever- had- a- grandma picture book manuscript!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (art in email)
Heehee. I got something just like this recently, but it also included a photo of a cat throwing up.
30. Ben was a happy kid leading a normal life - until, somehow, his voice destroyed a museum. Now he's practically a prisoner at Dr. Miller's academy for super-heroes. The only other kids his age are Zach, Dr. Miller's super-intelligent lackey, and Moira, whose screams echo through the hallways as she undergoes "reeducation." In Yeller, my 26,500 word upper-middle grade novel, Ben must navigate the perils of Dr. Miller's academy to preserve his sense of self, rescue the girl, and return to his old life.
This doesn't sound at all bad, but I need to know more about these perils. And how did his voice destroy a museum? More info.
31. (YA Contemporary Fantasy Novel) Fifteen-year-old Belle is perfectly normal and perfectly bored with her normal life—until she meets her new English teacher, a witch named Ms. Wendt. Ms. Wendt's classroom is located behind a blue door that erases her students' memories of magic and of Ms. Wendt when they leave. As Belle and her friends Robert and Esperanza try to find ways to thwart the door and remember their magical teacher outside of class, they discover that Ms. Wendt is a prisoner of her own classroom, trapped behind the blue door that ensures no one will remember her or help her escape. Belle's new science teacher hints that there may be a way save Ms. Wendt, but the alchemy he teaches them makes them wonder if he's there to save Ms. Wendt or use his magic for his own purposes... either way, the first step for Belle to save her teacher is to remember her.
I'm just not feeling the conflict. What's the personal investment for your MC?
32. George's peaceful summer takes a dramatic turn when he realizes Gloria Stinkmeyer has returned on the same day he learns aliens are about to invade earth. Coincidence? George doesn't think so. George Jones and the Gooey Sneeze that Saved the World is a 900 word picture book with a comic book format that engages kids using gross-out humor.
Are you implying that Gloria Stinkmeyer is an alien? Why? How does the gooey sneeze save the world?
33. Fifteen year old, half-Italian, half-Vampire Tommy gets sent to a new school to learn about his Vampire heritage. He attracts a lot of attention: from the biggest bully, to the prettiest girl, to a young boy with an amazingly short attention span, to a gang that wants a taste of Tommy’s human blood. What he does learn is that there are Vampire Rules and his parents may be breaking every single one of them.
This sounded funny and maybe interesting up until the last sentence, when it suddenly sounded serious. What rules? And I hope he learns something about himself, rather than just his parents... they're not the focus of the book, right?
34. Picture book 4-6 years of age /Peter Fly is a messy little fly who never cleans his room. It isn’t until his favorite toy is broken that he decides it’s time to clean PETER’S MESSY ROOM.
What differentiates this story from a Berenstain Bears story? What diffuses the lesson that this seems to be headed toward?

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Interesting thoughts concerning the witches stories, though I thought the Minnie one sounded cute. I liked the Frankie Kinnesy one as well, though books where the MC experiences "popularity" aren't my favorite.

I must be perusing the wrong section of the bookstore -- had no idea "witches" were out. I thought someone had to hit it big with a specific character for it to be on its way out -- like YA with the Twilight vampire stuff?

Anonymous said...

Heads Up to Pitch No. 26--

re: "I have been a rugby player..."

This would make a great paragraph on the inside of the book jacket, right under the author photo, but you have to set that aside for now. Don't waste precious query space on yourself, unless your accomplishments specifically relate to the book you are pitching. For instance, if you were writing a non-fiction book about rugby playing, THEN you should mention it.

I did like your upbeat voice in the query, but know nothing about any book you might have written. Also, pitch ONE book, not several.

(I hope this didn't come off as snarky -- I mention these things only because I've made these mistakes before.)

magolla said...

re: pitch #34
Hm, maybe I should mention that my first grade daughter came up with the idea for Peter's Messy Room--I just wrote the story. :)
I wonder if she could help me with my query letter, too?
Margaret

literaticat said...

i love the phrase "half Italian, half Vampire"

Anonymous said...

How can someone who's half-Italian also be half-Vampire? Isn't there a garlic conflict there?

beth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
beth said...

I'm so glad that mine was included! I'm number 31.

Almost immediately after I did this contest, I heard back from my crit group, who helped me to change. I'd love to hear others' thoughts on it:

Fifteen-year-old Belle is bored with her normal life—until she meets her magical new English teacher, Ms. Wendt. Ms. Wendt's classroom door has been enchanted to make everyone leaving forget about her magic powers—and forget about the fact that she is a prisoner of her own classroom. The alchemy that Belle's science teacher shows her may be the key to saving Ms. Wendt. However, when Belle learns the real reason Ms. Wendt has been imprisoned, she must decide whether it is worth saving her teacher if it means she will never have magic of her own.

Carly said...

Beth, re: your pitch....

* If Belle forgets about Ms. Wendt's imprisonment every time she leaves the classroom, how can she be thinking about saving her during out-of-class times (i.e. in alchemy class)? Surely she wouldn't be able to spend much time thinking about how to save her teacher if she only realizes she's imprisoned when she's actually sitting in her class.

* "... she must decide whether it is worth saving her teacher if it means she will never have magic of her own."
Did Belle ever have magic of her own? It says her life was boring until she met her magical new English teacher. That implies Belle herself is not magical nor has the potential to be magical.

Finally, as a matter of mechanics, I found this sentence really confusing: "Ms. Wendt's classroom door has been enchanted to make everyone leaving forget about her magic powers—and forget about the fact that she is a prisoner of her own classroom." I had to read over it about five times before I understood your meaning. Since all the characters (that we know) are female, I thought perhaps it was an all-girls' school and that "her" was meant to agree with "everyone" in the sense that everyone leaving Ms. Wendt's classroom forgets that they have powers and forgets that they are prisoners. Does that make sense? That can be fixed by restructuring the sentence.

I hope this is helpful.

Colorado Writer said...

I didn't know there were a ton of witch books out there, either.

I guess I need to play down the witchnes, and get the pitch to explain the heart of the story.

Minnie wastes wishes and uses misguided magic spells when dealing with the school bully, her absent mother, and best friend, who happens to be a ghost.

beth said...

Thanks so much, Carly! I'm having so much trouble figuring out how to explain the complex magic in my world in only a few sentences.

And Colorado Writer...I'm as surprised as you that witches seem so popular! Just a thought: the first time I read your new sentence, it sounded like the mother WAS the best friend...restructuring it or adding something before (i.e. her ghostly best friend) may help.

If it's not too much trouble, I've re-written the query a tad, and tried to flesh out the understanding. This would be the bones of query. Does it make more sense now?

Belle may have wanted something more exciting than her regular, boring life, but she certainly didn't expect her English teacher to be a witch. The Amnesia Door, a 60k word YA contemporary fantasy, tells how Belle discovers magic in her ordinary world, and then fights to keep that magic in her life.

Although Belle and her classmates love it when their teacher, Ms. Wendt, turns the classroom into the Pyramids or an Ancient Greek amphitheater, they hate the fact that whenever they leave Ms. Wendt's room, they forget all about her magic. The memories come back when they re-enter the class, but for Belle, that's not enough. Her science teacher introduces her to alchemy, and Belle uses it to get around the door's magic. But then she learns that it was alchemy that made the door in the first place...and that an alchemist made her English teacher a prisoner of her own classroom. When Belle learns the real reason Ms. Wendt has been imprisoned, she must decide whether it is worth saving her teacher if it means she will never have magic of her own.

Colorado Writer said...

beth,
Thanks! I'm in a haze from the weekend...but I'm definately working on the pitch.

Your book sounds great.

Merry Monteleone said...

I actually did worry that a witch story would be too over-played (I did the Frankie Kinnessey one). I tooled around with the pitch on another blog and had some great feedback suggesting that I cut a good deal, but I think my original, though longer, captured the story better and showed the twist that makes this one different... now I just have to figure out how to keep the twist but simplify the pitch... here's the original if anyone has any ideas:

For Frankie Kinnessey, it’s hard enough being the new kid going into eighth grade, let alone trying to fit in while hiding the fact that her mother’s a witch.

I know what you’re thinking, and it’s not nearly as cool as it sounds. Frankie’s mom can’t move things with her mind or cast spells that, you know, actually do anything – at least not as far as Frankie can tell. She’s a Wiccan and it’s a bonafide religion, even though most regular people mix myth with reality. When they move from Sedona, where the neighbors were used to their weirdness, to LaGrange Illinois, Frankie decides it’s best to keep the truth to herself.

Keeping home and school separate really isn’t so hard until Jasmine, the coolest of the elite crowd, discovers Frankie’s secret. Before she knows it, the entire school’s abuzz, but instead of being relegated to the loser table at lunch, she’s the most sought after girl there. Popularity has the odd effect of propelling Frankie to embellish her non-existent powers and alienate the two girls who liked her before she became the resident witch extraordinaire. When Jasmine’s jealousy over Frankie’s newfound fame sends her on a campaign to discredit her, Frankie’s in for a whole lot of trouble that even her made up persona would have a hard time overcoming.


And EA, thanks again for the feedback and all of the time you spent on this - and for giving us this forum to tinker with our pitches.

beth said...

Here's my 2 cents, for what it's worth:

For Frankie Kinnessey, it’s hard enough being the new kid going into eighth grade, let alone trying to fit in while hiding the fact that her mother’s a witch. [I found this sentence a little long...had to read it twice. Simplifying it would help]

I know what you’re thinking, and it’s not nearly as cool as it sounds. [Awesome line!!] Frankie’s mom can’t move things with her mind or cast spells that, you know, actually do anything – at least not as far as Frankie can tell. She’s a Wiccan and it’s a bonafide religion, even though most regular people mix myth with reality. When they move from Sedona, where the neighbors were used to their weirdness, to LaGrange [need a comma here] Illinois, Frankie decides it’s best to keep the truth to herself. [Question...is Frankie a Wiccan, too? What are her beliefs?]

[Had no comments for the other paragraph]

WOW! This one is MUCH better...really...the tone is awesome and it really intrigues me. I'd stick with this one--adapt it for a query and use it!

Sarah Laurenson said...

Thanks, EA.

Garlic conflict? Yep.
#33's Tommy loves garlic but he's allergic to it.

Have to keep the humor foremost on this one as it is mostly humorous. Thanks again for the critique!

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Beth,

Thank you for the feedback!

No, Frankie is of no religion and her mother's belief is that she can decide for herself. It doesn't (so far, very rough draft) touch much on religious belief so much as intolerence...

laurasmagicday said...

Wow. Can't believe I made the list at #22 and I can't believe I forgot to post the first sentence of my pitch...er, the part about what actually happens in the story. EA, thanks for taking the time to post the pitches. Learned so much from reading your feedback-feel like I've just taken a writing class at EA Blog University. Hmmm...I like that, maybe a good title for a book? A book about someone who ditches high school for a blog education. :=)

gollier said...

Thanks for taking the time to do this, EA. I was the second #27, so I guess I'm not sure how to make the story I wrote seem less like self-indulgent garbage.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Miss Snark's query formula:

X is the main guy.

Y is the bad guy.

They meet at Z and all L breaks loose.

If they don’t solve Q, then R starts.

If they do solve Q, then it’s L square.