Wednesday, June 5, 2013

QK Round 2: Champagne & Hot Dogs vs. Penny Lane Grows Up

Entry Nickname: Champagne & Hot Dogs
Title: The Accidental Socialite
Word count: 75,000
Genre: WF Contemporary


When small town Canada collides with the glitz and glamour of London, someone’s lady parts trend on Twitter.

THE ACCIDENTAL SOCIALITE follows quirky and a little clumsy Paige Crawford who leaves Edmonton, Canada for London because she doesn't want to spend the rest of her life living in a city best known for it's big mall and above average murder rate. So, she makes an impulsive decision: she's moving to London to find a dream career, cultured friends and preferably, a hot foreign boyfriend. Forty-eight hours into her adventure, Paige ends up at a club and having one too many, trips out of the front doors only to be caught by a notorious and married footballer. Waking up in a foreign country is hard enough, waking up to find yourself on the front cover of a national newspaper being labeled a home wrecker is… well, not ideal. 
But, Paige is an optimist. Being pseudo famous has its perks: free champagne, parties, goody bags - oh, and more free champagne.

In the haze of her first days, Paige begins to date Jason Frost. He seems perfect, knows Paige isn’t a harlot and introduces her to the kind of fancy things she’d only seen onGossip Girl. Ultimately, cracks start to show in Jason’s fa├žade and Paige finds out that some people in London aren’t exactly who they appear to be.

From mistaking the word sommelier as a derogatory term for someone from Somalia to narrowly escaping deportation for assaulting the second in line to the throne with a Star Wars toy, London teaches Paige lessons she didn’t know she needed. With heartbreak, humour, culture clashes and a bit of edge, THE ACCIDENTAL SOCIALITE is an international fish out of water story that takes the reader through one girl’s journey to make the most out of her life.

First 250 words:

It was 3 A.M and all I wanted was a cheeseburger.

“Miss, we sell only Big Mac after midnight,” said the Bangladeshi McDonalds employee.

“Yes, I understand that and I will pay for a Big Mac, but I would like a cheeseburger, so can you,
like, remove a patty and mid bun and hold the secret sauce? Please?”

“Miss I am sorry but we do not have this item now.”

A tall, drunk and incredibly beautiful blonde South African girl appeared at the till next to me.

“I’ll have a hot dog.”

That’s my new best friend, Lucinda.

We walked out of McDonalds still drunk and without our respective food, just a small fries to ‘split’, which really meant Lucinda was going to watch me eat them. As I was elegantly shoving eight fries into my mouth at once, not unlike a four-year-old, I became the unwitting participant of a photo-shoot. I looked around for the celebrity garnering all this attention and it wasn’t until Lucinda slapped the second fistful of fries out of my hand that I realized that celebrity was me.


Less than twenty-four hours earlier, my eighteen-hour flight from Edmonton to London connecting in Denver landed at 9:38 A.M on a grey, drizzly Saturday in late January. I struggled to get my large carry on bag out of the overhead compartment, not just because it was heavy, but also because I had inadvertently rendered myself immobile.


Entry Nickname:
Penny Lane Grows Up
Title: Somebody That I Used To Know
Word count: 95,000
Genre: Women's Fiction


Ali Fisher was a fan of rocker Matt Hartley in her teens, but at 27, her high school fantasy is grown-up reality. It’s been five years since he asked for her number after a show, since she fell in love with the real Matt. Her friends are climbing career ladders and buying properties, but Ali’s in no hurry.

Then she meets the 19-year-old who claims to be Matt’s lover from the road. Shameful parallels between them spotlight how much Ali sacrificed to be a songwriter’s muse, and no personalized power ballad can make up for that now.

Stuck in a sterile admin job and an apartment on the corner of Nearly 30 and Nowhere, Ali seeks who she might’ve been had her wildest dream never come true. Growing envy of her friends’ figured-out lives threatens to maroon her. Visiting Britain was a goal long before Matt, so when her boss needs artwork for a new building, Ali volunteers her rusty painting skills for a commission to fund her trip. London’s streets, the Cornish coast, and the Scottish Highlands reawaken her artistic ambition—as does British bassist Thom. Then in an English gallery, she stumbles across her own neglected muse. Ali must decide when to let go of impractical dreams, and which are really impractical. She faces a choice: pursue stability while she still has time, or risk it for what her unreliable heart wants. But which will close out her twenties with hope, and not regret?

First 250 words:

Ali Fisher’s got it all. That’s what friends say when introducing me, or what my sister says with a shake of her head. Never mind that I’m still renting at twenty-seven, or that I’m assistant to a threesome-loving Trump-wannabe. If you ever dreamed of talking with a beloved personal hero—be it a musician, writer, or actor—and that they’d listen and love you back, then you’ll be interested to know that it does indeed happen.

No matter how underground or mainstream, if there’s someone who inspires you with their talent and passion and ability to share it, then you’ll know what I’m talking about. This isn’t about leaving him on a pedestal. You’ve got to be realistic; PR whitewashes 80% of his screw-ups, after all. I’m talking about stumbling into his world and peeling back his layers like an artichoke to get to the good stuff. The real stuff. The part where you can make a difference.

Tonight, I’m celebrating that difference with my best friend Val. The band has outdone themselves but now I’m restless, waiting for the encore. Teasing Val about the drummer’s newborn, cradled by its mother nearby, is my chosen distraction.

The truth is, a lot of babies look like Phil Collins. This one’s a doozy. I think it’s the perfectly round head, the stubborn wisps of hair, and an awareness out of place if your age is still tallied in months. The resemblance makes me cringe at Val’s guilty obsession.


  1. This comment is reserved for judges' votes


      I want to read both of these!! So much London!! This one was very subjective- I just connected to the voice in Champagne a bit more, but it was seriously getting close to a coin toss:)

    2. Victory to Champagne and Hot Dogs!

      They are both great entries. I feel that Champagne and Hot Dogs has a stronger voice. It seems like a it has a faster, snappier plot which appeals to me. Though, I just noticed a typo of it's in the query.

      Penny Lane is more of a thoughtful read. The first 250 had a lot more
      expositive which makes me think this is heavy.

    3. Victory to Champagne and Hot Dogs!

    4. Victory to Champagne and Hot Dogs.

    5. Victory to Champagne and Hotdogs

    6. Victory to Penny Lane

    7. Victory to Champagne and Hot Dogs

      Loved both premises!!

      (Penny Lane - show us her celebrating with Val and anxiously waiting for the encore with action interspersed through the exposition.)

    8. Victory to Champagne and Hot Dogs!

      (Penny Lane, I'm with Storm. Your 250 just need tweaked so we can see more happening in between all the thoughts. Good luck!)

    9. Victory to Penny Lane
      Champagne - I liked some of the humor in your 250 but as I said in Round 1 the hint of racism bothers me enough not to vote for you. The McDonald's employee doesn't seem to be unable to understand/speak English, he seems to be "dumb" and therefore I don't see why you need to mention he's from Bengladesh. He could just as easily be a dumb British teen. I'm not even sure how your MC knows he's from Bengladesh...
      Penny Lane - your premise and the locales sound fun. Your 250 needs some work, but I think you'll get there, given all the great feedback you've gotten.

    10. Victory to Penny Lane.

      Champage I think just isn't my genre, so it's a very personal choice. Literally falling into the arms of someone famous just feels too cliched for me to get past.

      Penny Lane doesn't have the most bang-up opening ever, but the Phil Collins/baby line gets me every time. There's a promise for some really great voice in there.

    11. Victory to Champagne

      My vote is based on the plot and voice. I think both are stellar entries.

  2. Both of these are such great pieces. I'd hate to be a judge. I think both queries are tight and I like the first 250. I can only imagine that both are even tighter after round one. Great job guys!

  3. Both queries describe interesting storylines and settings (London!) but I have to disagree with Heather—I think both queries could be edited down to include only the most representative details. A query is the first indication of writing an agent or editor sees so it needs to be as tight and crisp as possible. (At least that’s what I keep reading!)

    Victory to CHAMPAGNE AND HOT DOGS. Love the opening scene, though not a fan of zipping into a flashback right away. I like it when I don’t quite know how things got to be the way they are and the author dribbles background info into the story a little at a time. But that’s just me.

    PENNY LANE GROWS UP. This line in the query is great: “Stuck in a sterile admin job and an apartment on the corner of Nearly 30 and Nowhere.” It sums up the MC’s voice, but I don’t hear much of it in the story. For me, there’s too much narration and not enough actually happening.

  4. I personally LOVE the query for Penny Lane but agree with MM Chandler about the first 250 - for me, it includes a lot of narration; more telling than showing. Also, the first paragraph of Penny Lane seems to jump from one topic to another: it starts with the MC bemoaning this myth that she's "got it all." But then all of a sudden she switches to saying "if you've ever dreamed about talking to a beloved personal hero.....etc." That sentence didn't seem to fit with the rest of that opening paragraph. What if you replaced that sentence with yet another example of how her life is kind of falling apart? I'm also not sure if the 2nd paragraph is all that helpful to me - I'd rather get right to Val and the band they're seeing.

    GREAT idea for a story though, Penny Lane. I'd love to read a book like this.

  5. Between these two, I think Penny Lane has the better query, but Champagne has the stronger first page, so, I'd give the battle to Champagne and Hot Dogs.

    Champagne -- your query is a little unfocused, and for my taste, a little too boozy right now. You might look at trimming the incident with the footballer, or even cutting it altogether. I can't tell right now how important it is to the overall story arc.

    Penny Lane -- I said in the last round that I thought your story started at paragraph 3. Reading this again, to be honest, I'm not sure that I follow what's going on here at all. What is Val's obsession: babies, the drummer, or Phil Collins? And why should I care? I think you need to start somewhere that really shows us who Ali is, not by listing her vital facts, but in a scene with action and dialogue. And if Matt's the most important person in this scene, I'd bring him into the picture right away, rather than focusing on Val.

    Best of luck to you both.

  6. Champagne-- I love your first line, it's fresh and I think it really showcases your voice. I love your voice in general, I'm a huge fan of humor done well! Your query really showcases a lot of fun incidents that happen to Paige-- I love the detail about assaulting a royal heir with a Star Wars toy but I think what the query is missing are the stakes for Paige. The query makes it seem like a lot of fun interesting things happen to Paige, I'm wondering what her actions are.

    Penny Lane-- love the Nearly 30 and Nowhere line (although 27 doesn't feel close enough to 30 to me to say Nearly 30) and I like how she's now trying to discover herself. I feel like I'm stumbling over some of your sentences in your query. I like the idea of deciding wether you should take the safe route or pursue impractical dreams. I stumbled over that line -- Ali must decide when to let go of impractical dreams, and which are impractical. Also the growing envy line is worded a little strangely. I'd like to see this query reworked to be a little tighter and put a little more voice-- like that Nearly 30 and Nowhere line.

    Also your first 250 words are pretty backstory heavy. You might want to start in the middle of the action and you can touch on thinking about your past later on, weaved into the story. We don't need to know everything about her right away.

    Good luck to you both, they both sound like interesting stories!

  7. Champagne and Hot Dogs: That first bit of your query is a pretty solid chunk of text, and the last 2 paragraphs sort of reiterate what you've already said in anecdotal form. If your hook is "lady parts trending on Twitter" (which is great, btw), then I'd stop the query after you get to that point so it remains the highlight.

    Consider breaking up that first paragraph and then ending it with whatever choice she'll ultimately have to make (continue partying or grow up, care about how other people view her or not care... whatever applies), and what will happen if she chooses the wrong one. This is something that will show you have a good plot, and that the character grows by the end of the story.

    Penny Lane: You seem to have a solid story in there, but like others have mentioned I think you need to consider beginning in a new spot where we can get a bit of forward-momentum. Your query could be tightened by just removing some of the information in that last big paragraph, without losing anything. Overall, I think you just need some minor changes and you'll be rockin'. Pun intended.

    If I was voting I would go with Penny Lane Grows Up because I feel there's a much more solid storyline there.

    Good luck to both of you!

  8. Champagne: I like your concept and heroine, but your query leaves me wondering if she will do any personal growth along the way. If so, some hint in the query might be helpful. It comes off...well, like champagne--light, and delicious, and not terribly serious. Admittedly, I would almost certainly enjoy reading it at that level, but at the same time I am hoping that the character has depths along with humor.

    Penny Lane: the dreams that cause us to forsake other dreams is a very universal concept, and the specifics feel very fresh to me. As others have said, I'd like a less analytic, more in-the-moment beginning to the 250.

    I would definitely buy both these books!

  9. Champagne: I just wanted to echo what judge Ultraviolet said (this round and before): the fact that the McDonalds employee is Bangladeshi seems a little inappropriate - it's as though the fact that he's Bangladeshi is supposed to be funny (?). It just doesn't seem necessary - the scene is really great without that detail! Other than that, love the entry.

    1. It definitely wasn't meant to come off as racist and Ive never gotten that comment before so very glad someone said it if others were thinking it! It was more meant to show how International London is and how foreign it can feel. Where that character is from isn't central to the plot or anything so it will be an easy change. Thanks for the feedback!

  10. Hot Dogs: Have you heard enough times that the first line is brilliant? Well, here's another one: It's brilliant! I like the setup for the story, but I want inside Paige's head more. It's such a quirky opener that it almost loses some of its punch without it in my humble opinion. Don't get me wrong--it's still great, but I think if we could get some of those senses in there we'd begin to form that relationship with her earlier on.

    Penny Lane: I think your query does a great job in setting up the story and the journey she goes on to discover what she really wants and needs. That being said, I'd love to get to know Ali more int he first 250. It seems that we get to know her friends and everyone else here, but don't get the opportunity to connect with her.

    Great job to both of you!

  11. Champagne: You have a gift for funny, and I admire that. In less than a page, I'm already interested in what happened to make her a celeb. Well done! I do have a slight issue with the last line of the query. You've already shown us all these things in the query, so I feel like summing it up at the end is redundant.

    Penny Lane: The "corner of Nearly 30 and Nowhere" is brilliant and puts me immediately into the MCs shoes. I don't love the opening line of the 250, though, because I feel like I've seen it before. It feels like the weakest bit of that opening paragraph.

  12. Thanks for all the great comments and feedback, echoing what was said in Round 1. As I said, this was really difficult (cringe-inducing) for me since I revised both query and feedback *before* they ever went live - ahhh! :) But it was great to see the feedback, and wonderful to read the positive comments and things you liked. Thank you so much for your time! xx

    1. Oh, and I meant to reiterate, Penny Lane here, over & out. Back to querying...