Wednesday, June 5, 2013

QK Round 2: Tricks Aren't For Kids vs. Lies and Lovers

Entry Nickname: Tricks Aren't For Kids
Title: NAKED
Word count: 66,000
Genre: YA contemporary


When sixteen-year-old Anna ran away from home she just wanted a little freedom, she didn't plan on becoming a prostitute. That just sort of happened.

She would do anything for Luis, her pimp, anything for a life with him. Until they both get busted.

Luis goes to jail and Anna is sent back home to the suburbs and the parents who hate her. To Anna, that’s more terrifying than dark alleyways and threats of STDs. She can’t even pretend to be normal when everyone knows her secrets.

Anna feels more naked now than she ever did as a prostitute.

Then she meets Arney, a geeky boy who teaches her to eat honey suckles and climb trees. He's the only one who doesn't look at her like a prostitute. Just when she is beginning to separate Anna from the hooker, an old John finds her and attacks her in the parking lot after homecoming. Now the whispers get louder, the stares get bolder. Anna must face her controlling parents, the nasty rumors, even her old pimp, if she’s ever going to gain control of her own life.

First 250 words:

I look into the familiar blank eyes that stare back at me from a Missing Person’s poster. The name reads: Anna Rodriguez.

The name’s familiar, but it’s not me. Not anymore.

I turn away from the innocent thirteen year-old in the poster, with her pony tail and pearls around her neck. Now I just find myself wondering how much I could cop out of a necklace like that. Three hundred?

Every time I pass this poster I stop and stare at the girl I used to be, but that just brings attention. I’m not allowed to bring attention.

So I keep walking and make a plan to go the long way around Bleecker Street so I won’t ever see my parents attempt at finding me again. I cross my arms, and breathe out to see if I can see my breath. It’s getting cold, I hate cold.

I shake my head. I mean, it’s been three years, I don’t see why my parents still try to find me. I’m not their little girl anymore.

You’d think they could at least find a better picture, you know? No one would guess that girl was me. Why not use a picture like that one from Halloween when I dressed up like Cindy Lauper but really just looked like a hooker? That might catch someone’s eye.

I smile at my stupid joke, but know they want to cling to the ideal, pristine daughter they always thought they had. Too bad I was never that girl.


Entry Nickname: Lies and Lovers
Title: Lies My Father Told Me
Word Count: 34,000
Genre: Contemporary YA (in verse)


When fifteen-year-old Eden Thompson’s dad dies, poetry is her only escape. Her friends are distant and her mother spends most of her time shut away with a bottle of wine. Desperate for a connection with other people, Eden shares her words online. Just beyond the screen she finds Mason, a university student who leaves her long poetic messages that fill the empty space in her life. Having also lost a parent, he understands her pain and quickly becomes her one constant.

When they finally meet in person, the heat of Mason's body and the sensation of his fingertips against her skin awaken a part of Eden she didn't know existed. But she swore to her dad that she would wait until marriage to have sex, and she doesn’t want the last promise she made to die with him. Uneasy with Mason's desire for more, but scared of losing him, Eden's resolve weakens with each dizzying kiss.

On the anniversary of her dad's death, Eden's mom drunkenly slurs a secret that changes everything: her dad wasn't the person she thought he was. Her family, her life, her promise to him––all of it was based on a lie. Now that everything she knew is broken and betrayed, she turns to Mason, hoping for an escape from her pain. Torn between what her father wanted for her and what Mason wants from her, Eden must finally decide what it is she wants for herself.

First 250 Words:

This Is The Part Where My Father Dies


At the funeral,

everyone laughed,
but my mom’s voice—
it sounded more like a cry.

She drank too much wine
and laughed too loud at the stories
my dad’s
family and colleagues and friends and students told,
their voices rushing
to fill the emptiness
with anecdote.

They were all

Her lips and teeth were stained
with red,
and when I looked at her,
all I saw was
an empty shell,
a book
without any pages.
Dead but not dead.

She was a stranger,

Sometimes there was a glance
in my direction
for a few moments
too long.

Like sweat,
I could feel it on me.

Nobody said anything.

I had lost
my words.


I couldn’t understand how
there could be
an afterwards
now that
he was gone.

The car swerved to avoid
a deer but
my dad instead.

it was ten months later.
I was fifteen
and ready for high school:
with my knee socks and their elastic bands
slipping down my legs,
with my tartan kilt in green and blue,
with my ring and
my promise
I made him
only weeks before
          he died.

I want you
to keep this
until you get married.

The ring slid on
so easily.
It fit
so perfectly.

But it was so much heavier
than the metal it was made of,
and the way it wrapped itself
around me,

like it could never leave.
Like it would be there


  1. This comment is reserved for judges' votes

    1. This is really out of my comfort zone, but Victory to Lies and Lovers!

    2. Victory to Lies and Lovers

    3. Victory to Lies and Lovers. I just love this concept and the way you're telling it. I wish it were longer, because 35K is VERY short for a YA contemp, but I'd like to think agents and editors would overlook that for the novelty of the poetry :)

      Tricks, I'm sorry! Love your premise and writing, good luck!

    4. Victory to Lies and Lovers

      Gawd - I loved both of these!!!

    5. Victory to Lies and Lovers, but it was close.

      I think verse novels are difficult to pull off and require a great deal of talent but I see the promise here.

    6. Victories to Lies and Lovers

    7. Victory to Tricks

      Both of these are stellar entries, my vote is based on subjective preference! :)

  2. VIctory to LIES AND LOVERS

    It would have been impossible for anything to beat Lies and Lovers because I'm enthralled with both the conflict and the novel-in-verse style of this. No disrespect to Tricks, who has a great premise as well.

  3. Victory to Tricks
    Lies and Lovers - my vote doesn't reflect my opinion of your writing ability, my choice was based on genre and premise. As I mentioned in Round 1, I'm not sure finding out her father lied makes it a better story and I felt confused about how your MC really feels about intimacy with Mason.
    Tricks - Although I'm not overly fond of your query, I did truly enjoy your 250 and I liked the powerful opening image very much, as well as the voice.

  4. Victory to LIES AND LOVERS. I'm captivated with the concept, conflict, and delivery. Wish there was more to read!

  5. Victory to Lies and Lovers: The last time I read this, I couldn't appreciate it for whatever reason. Maybe exhaustion. I don't know. Today you gave me chills.

    Tricks: I still love the voice.

  6. Tricks-- It's an interesting premise, I don't think I've ever seen a YA novel where the main character is coming back from working the streets and trying to live a normal life. In your query I think you use the word prostitute too much, I got caught up on the over use of that word. You could have her friend be the only one who doesn't look at her differently, instead of as a prostitute.

    Lies and Lovers-- you seem to do the verse thing really well, I thought your opening 250 was strong. In your query when her resolve weakens with every dizzying kiss-- that line felt a little too romance novel for me. I'd like to see you talk about her desire to sleep with him in a little more real way.

    Good work and good luck!

  7. I like both of these entries and can't find much that I would recommend changing.

    Tricks- I think you tackle a tough subject with the right amount of reality and flippant 1st person pov narration.Even though I like her voice, I hope she gets into some dialogue soon.

    Lies- Such easy writing to follow. Not the most unique concept, but damn that's a good voice. Give me more.

  8. TRICKS - Hats off to you for tackling some difficult subject matter, and for introducing an interesting spin by focusing on Anna's reentry to normal life. However, somehow the query came across to me as cold, and even judgmental, which I'm sure was not your intent. I think it's the repeated use of the word "prostitute." Is that a word Anna would apply to herself? If not, change it, or try to write around it. For instance, you could change your fourth paragraph to "Anna feels more naked now than she ever did turning tricks."

    I also have to say I'm skeptical about your premise. While I have no expertise on the topic, it seems unlikely to me that a 13-year-old would end up on the streets unless there was some serious dysfunction at home. And if home was that bad, is it safe for her to go back now? Maybe this is explained in the book, but the picture you paint in the query and your first 250 doesn't show me a troubled childhood.

    LIES AND LOVERS - This is a hard one for me to comment on, because the concept of a novel in verse doesn't appeal to me personally, but I like what you've written in the first 250 and since your MC is a poet, I can see that the form supports the story. The conflict is one that every teenage girl faces, in one way or another, so that should have broad appeal. I would only say that the language in the second paragraph of your query is a little too florid, and in places, cliche, which your first page is not. I don't think it represents you well as a writer. Also, in the third paragraph, would it do any harm to say specifically what the secret was?

    Tough call, but if I were judging, I'd pick LIES and LOVERS, simply because of my doubts about the premise in TRICKS. Best of luck to you both!

  9. Victory to LIES AND LOVERS, based on the strength of the query.


    Query: You’ve set up a storyline with potential for good conflict, but little bits here and there might put off an agent or editor. “He's the only one who doesn't look at her like a prostitute” makes it sound like the people who look at her are prostitutes. “honey suckles” is one word, no s. “Just when she is beginning to separate Anna from the hooker” may be clearer if you say “…to separate Anna, the person, from Anna, the hooker.” The way it’s phrased, the query implies she’s 16 when she ran away, but the story says three years ago.

    Story: The staring at the poster is a good hook, but I felt there was lots of “telling” and “narrating.” You include some emotions and sensory detail but I still feel removed from her experience. I want to feel what it’s like to be Anna, to feel what she feels. Ex: “It’s getting cold.” Instead of telling us this, have her pull her thin coat over her (describe outfit) and shiver.

    Could delete these sentences altogether: “I shake my head. I mean, it’s been three years, I don’t see why my parents still try to find me. I’m not their little girl anymore.” “You’d think they could at least find a better picture, you know?” Except for the “three years,” this info is already expressed or could be worked into other sentences.

    “my parents attempt” – apostrophe after parents.
    “It’s getting cold, I hate cold.” – Should be two sentences.


    Query: Well-written overall. One thought re: “When they finally meet in person, the heat of Mason's body and the sensation of his fingertips against her skin awaken a part of Eden she didn't know existed.” This kind of phrasing is usually used to describe a love scene, so it sounds like they jumped into bed right after they met, which I don’t think was your intention.

    Story: What can I say? I’m not drawn to stories written as poems, so I don’t feel “qualified” to critique it. I do get a sense of her grief and that her mother’s not going to be any support.

  10. Gah! Where are the FUN YA books? Just kidding. These both look and read stellar...for different reasons, obviously.

    TRICKS AREN'T FOR KIDS! Actually I think this has the more intriguing of premises. Fish out of water stories and tales of redemption always make for good drama. The only thing you might want to look out for (and I'm guilty of it myself) is watch opening so many sentences with "I." (And I know that's next to impossible when dealing with first-person narrative!)

    LIES AND LOVERS! Having never been a poetry fan, I must say I am intrigued. If you can carry this off, it could be a classic. The story itself is, I feel, weaker than Tricks'.

    Great job, both of y'all!

  11. These are both stories I want to read.

    Tricks: I think this has so much promise. I'm really intrigued to see where it goes. The last line of your 250 is an interesting twist that really makes me want to get inside this MCs head and understand her.

    L&L: I think this format is incredibly difficult and incredibly effective when it's done well. I love the heading/chapter title? "This Is The Part Where My Father Dies."

    Good luck to you both!