Sunday, June 1, 2014

QK Round 1: Star Light, Star Bright vs. Axual's Leprechauns

Entry Nickname: Star Light, Star Bright
Title: Sadie Scottsdale and the Wasted Wish
Word count: 40,000
Genre: MG Fantasy


In a world where wishes come true, ten-year-old Sadie Scottsdale wishes they didn’t.

Ever since the international Wishing Council identified her thirteen-year-old sister, Becca, as one of the world’s six Wishers, Sadie’s felt like a big, fat nothing. All everyone wants to talk about is Becca and how Becca’s upcoming Wish is sure to do something spectacular, like re-establish an extinct species or clean their town’s polluted river.

Sadie understands all the attention toward Becca--to a point. Wishes are important. They’re granted only every eight years when the Sister Comets re-enter Earth’s atmosphere. What bothers Sadie is that no one seems to care Becca ruined her awesome summer. Now, instead of movies and the mall, a camping trip, and collecting the local restaurant’s giveaways, Sadie’s stuck in a boarding school in the Wishing Village with other kids unfortunate enough to be related to a Wisher. Worse, the Village isn’t a real Village—it’s a bunch of buildings on a farm in Nebraska—and a lot of kids from the other countries don’t speak English. 

Then, as everyone waits for the Wishes to be granted, rumors swirl Becca broke the rules by making a selfish Wish. Becca swears she didn’t, even as evidence mounts against her. With Comets Day approaching, Sadie bands with her new friends and comes up with a plan to clear Becca’s name and save her summer. Problem is, Sadie’s going to break the rules to do it, and if she gets caught, she’ll be joining Becca in the detention center until the next time the Sister Comets return.

First 250 words:

She had to stop soon, Sadie thought. No one could possibly sing that long, especially about something so stupid.

Clickety-clack. Clickety-clack.

Sadie winced as the sound of her sister’s high-heeled shoes striking the ceramic tile grew louder. Clasping her hands over her ears, she stared at her book. Maybe, just maybe, if she looked like she was concentrating really hard, Becca would leave her alone.

The shutter doors to the kitchen banged open.

“It’s Wishing Day! It’s Wishing Day! Come one, come all, it’s Wishing Daaaaay!” Becca sang, prancing into the sun-drenched room.

Don’t look. Sadie pressed her palms against the sides of her head and mouthed words she pretended to read.

Becca remained undaunted. “Wish-ing Day! Wish-ing Day! Every-body’s com-ing to Wish-ing Day!”

Sadie slumped and lifted her eyes. Becca twirled around the table and across the floor, her brand new white-flowered dress swaying as she spun.

“Hurry up, Sade. We can’t be laaaate,” Becca crooned.

Sadie waited until Becca stopped. Making sure her sister was watching, she gave her eyes a good roll and flipped the page.

Becca arched an eyebrow and smirked. “Mooom,” she sang. “Sadie’s not dressed!”

Sadie groaned, knowing what was coming. She was right.

“Sadie!” Mom shouted from her parents’ bedroom. “Move it!”

Sadie slid off the kitchen stool and grabbed her bowl of pineapple. Tossing a chunk into her mouth, she lumbered toward her bedroom as the clock flashed 7:15 p.m.

Becca skipped by and gave a light push. “Come on, Slow-mo.”


Nickname and Title: AXUAL’S LEPRECHAUNS
Word count: 46K
Genre: MG adventure


For 10-year old Axual Sighs, it's obvious that his parents don't love him. Mom spoils his little sister. Dad spends most of his time teaching his older brother in the fine art of little league jousting or sword fighting. However, mom and pop ignore him. Axual can’t measure up to his siblings. There’s no hope in trying. Axual decide run that the only way to get his parent’s attention is to run away and find another family to love. Unfortunately, he captures two leprechauns instead, and they convince Axual that joining them on their quest to find stolen unicorns. After all going on a treacherous quest is far better than running away from home. At the very least, the expedition will get him away from his unloving parents, so he joins the leprechauns on their adventure.

Axual is having the time of his life until Abby, the daughter of the evil king, joins the quest. Having a talented witch may come in handy when searching for stolen unicorns, but to Axual she's still a cootie-filled girl.

The leprechauns promised Axual an exciting adventure, fraught with danger and they take their promises seriously, requiring Axual to cheat death multiple times. As if matters could get any worse, the King has placed Axual on the top of his most wanted list, blaming him for his daughter running off to join his quest. As far as Axual is concerned, he's too young to die, which is almost certain according to the leprechauns.

First 250 words:

Allow me to introduce myself. The name is Garn. No last name, just Garn and I am a professional story narrator. Modesty prevents me from saying which works I have narrated. However, I can promise you have heard them before. I live by one simple rule. My eensy-weensy rule should be easy to follow. When I am narrating, it is your duty as the reader to pay attention to whatever I have to say. Shall we begin?

I almost forgot something of the utmost importance. Read this book at your peril. There is trouble afoot. Maybe you should consider reading books about frogs that turn into princes. What troubles, you ask? My first question is why are you still reading? Didn't I just say read this book at your own peril? Very well, if you insist, I have it on good authority that the villain through science or magic or some sort of mumbo-jumbo has devised a way to reach out of this book and grab your soul or freeze your young developing brain cells.

Are you sure, you want to continue? This might be your last chance.

Very well, sit down and listen.

Remember, I warned you.

It is enough to say the story begins in a kingdom long forgotten by time.


Muffled voices coming from outside Axual’s window broke the spooky silence and ten-year-old His eyes popped open. Pulling the cover over his head, he wondered why his brother sleeping in the bunk bed above him didn’t hear them.


  1. Judges - reply to this comment to cast your votes.

    1. STAR LIGHT: This is a strong query, and you had me snickering about the Village being a farm in Nebraska, which is always a good sign :) I tripped over Comets Day because the first time it's mentioned is the third para - I would either use Sister Comets OR Comets Day consistently to minimize the new terms you're introducing in the pitch. Love the stakes and the relationship between the sisters that promises to change. I'm hooked.
      Small thing: in the pitch, I would add "that" after "swirl" in "rumors swirl Becca broke the rules" -- it reads funny to me without it.
      The first 250 is humorous and further sets up the relationship between the sisters, which makes me even more curious as to how this story will play out. Nicely done.

      AXUAL: The world setup and details in the query is great. "Little league jousting" - love it! I tripped over a few sentences in the pitch: "Axual decide run that the only way", "they convince Axual that joining them on their quest to find stolen unicorns", and the sentence that follows, "After all" needs a comma after it. The pitch mentions Axual has to cheat death several times - I want details. What almost kills him? But overall this does sound like a fun, humorous adventure.
      The first 250 ... in a contest, it's hard to get a feel for the story when the first 250 is by a different narrator than the MC. In querying I think it will work just fine. I enjoy the humorous tone, but would have preferred to start with Axual. Otherwise it's well-written and creative. But, check this sentence: "Muffled voices coming from outside Axual’s window broke the spooky silence and ten-year-old His eyes popped open." It seems to be missing a word or a period.



    2. Star Light, Star Bright: Very good query. The characters, plot and stakes are all well laid out, come alive, and make me want to read your story. Two things tripped me up: I don’t quite know what ‘collecting the local restaurant’s giveaways’ means; and I think ‘Then, as everyone waits for the Wishes to be granted, rumors swirl Becca broke the rules by making a selfish Wish.’ Needs a ‘that’ in there to make it read more clearly, ie ‘Then, as everyone waits for the Wishes to be granted, rumors swirl that Becca broke the rules by making a selfish Wish.’

      Opening page: I think you need to move straight from the opening para to Becca singing (which is funny) otherwise it’s confusing. The singing and the sisterly bickering are fun, but for me, go on too long on the same theme. I think you could cut half of this page down and get onto telling the reader more interesting info: what Wishing Day is, why Sadie hates it, why Becca’s so happy, what Becca looks like, where they’re going, etc. (not all of this, but some would be good)

      AXUAL’S LEPRECHAUNS: There’s a fun, classic MG story in this query, but it’s buried beneath numerous typos and unclear, repetitive writing. I’d correct and tweak it like so:
      ‘Ten-year old Axual Sighs is convinced his parents don't love him. Mom spoils his little sister, and Dad spends all his time teaching his older brother the fine art of little league jousting or sword fighting. Axual decides the only way to get his parent’s attention is to run away and find another family to love. Unfortunately, he captures two leprechauns instead, and they convince him to join them on a quest to find stolen unicorns. And to Axual, a treacherous quest sounds even more exciting than running away from home.’

      Then you need to smooth out the next two paras too, and finally, you need to end with stakes. What are the stakes exactly? He must return the princess? Or just avoid the king? What about the unicorns, what part do they play in all this?I like the last line, it made me laugh, but it’s not an ending line for a query – you need to finish with what will happen if he doesn’t succeed at whatever his quest is – which reminds me, the quest is also unclear.

      Opening page: Hmm, is Garn going to be an intrusive narrator all the way through the book? If not I’d start with Axual. If Garn is going to feature regularly, I think you still need to tweak this beginning. I’d cut most if not all of the first para. And while I like the whole ‘this book might be dangerous’ thing, it’s been done before by Lemony Snicket, Pseudonymous Bosch and others, so it’s not very original any more, so I’m not sure you want to keep that either. Then in the final para, you have a huge typo: ‘Muffled voices coming from outside Axual’s window broke the spooky silence and ten-year-old His eyes popped open.’ makes no sense. Unless you’ve been very unlucky with email formatting, you absolutely must proofread your pages and query much more closely, or you’re going to put off agents before they’ve read a page with this much sloppiness. Do keep working at it, though, because I think there’s something fun buried underneath the errors.

      Victory to Star Light, Star Bright.

    3. SADIE SCOTTSDALE AND THE WASTED WISH has a great logline -- it immediately caught my attention. The sentence starting "Then, as everyone waits..." seemed a bit awkward; you could probably tighten it up and check the verb tense ("Becca breaks" instead of "Becca broke").

      AXUAL'S LEPRECHAUNS's query starts a bit rambly. I think you could combine some of the first seven sentences to tighten it up, or skip them entirely and just start with him finding the leprechauns. I'd like more details about what sort of dangers they face -- "cheat[ing] death" could mean pretty much anything.

      Victory to Star Light, Star Bright

    4. Starlight, Star Bright:
      Your query is strong and explains the story clearly. A couple of small details: "rumors swirl Becca broke..." should be "rumors swirl that Becca broke..." And just because I copied it to word to make notes, I noticed you need a space between "andsave" in the last paragraph.
      Saying "Sadie thought" makes it telling. This sentence is fine without it. Even in third person, it's in Sadie's perspective, so not needed.
      "Sadie groaned, knowing what was coming. She was right." Cut the "She was right" it's also telling, and passive.
      Aside from those two issues, it's pretty solid. Sadie's voice comes through clearly.

      I love his name! Great play on words. So let me see. It should be ten-year-old. Always spell out numbers, there are few times you can use digits, like digital clock times etc. But age is always spelled out, and a hyphen is needed between year and old.
      "However, mom and pop ignore him" Mom and Pop should be capitalized
      I Think something went wrong here: "Axual decide run that the only way" I think it should read "Axual decides that the only way..."
      "After all going..." should have a comma after "all".
      General thoughts on the query; the first paragraph is too long. Maybe cut back on the explanation of his family and get to the meat of the story. Plus, your hook should be about the leprechauns. Maybe something like, Axual's family doesn't show much interest or love to him, so when leprechauns appear offering him a life or death adventure, he doesn't think twice about leaving with them. Now that's not great, but it tells me why I should care and why the book is unique.
      2nd person is a big risk. It is keeping the reader from being pulled right in as they feel like they are being talked at... or like a sales pitch. This alone would prevent me from reading more because I'm thinking; who is this? I thought I was reading about Axual and leprechauns.
      Start with Axual and setting the scene.

      Victory to Star Light, Star Bright.

    5. Princess PrimroseJune 3, 2014 at 8:47 AM

      Dear Axual's Leprechauns,

      Query: This query had me stumbling over grammatical errors. I'm copying and pasting the first part here so you can see what I mean: "For 10-year old (SHOULD BE TEN-YEAR-OLD) Axual Sighs, it's obvious that his parents don't love him. Mom spoils his little sister. Dad spends most of his time teaching his older brother in ("TEACHING HIS OLDER BROTHER THE FINE ART..." NOT "IN THE FINE ART...") the fine art of little league jousting or sword fighting. However, mom and pop ("M" AND "P" SHOULD BE CAPITALIZED...ALSO, HE CALLS HIS DAD "DAD" INSTEAD OF "POP" BEFORE) ignore him. Axual can’t measure up to his siblings. There’s no hope (NO POINT IN TRYING?) in trying. Axual decide run (I THINK THIS "RUN" IS A TYPO) that the only way to get his parent’s attention is to run away and find another family to love."

      Make sure to thoroughly proof read your query before submitting to agents. If grammar is not your strong suit, have a critique partner look it over for you, especially if grammar is their strength.

      First 250: This intro felt like it went on far too long for me. In addition, Garn seems to have a slightly stilted way of speaking. It felt to me that it was obvious it was an adult trying to speak for a child, if that makes sense. My advice would be to read extensively in the MG genre. Pay attention to voice. What words does the author use to convey his or her idea? What is the sentence structure like? Axual sounds like he might be a fun character to spend time with, but unless his voice is pitch perfect, no reader is going to get that far.

      Dear Star Light, Star Bright,

      Query: Beautiful query. Spot on.

      First 250: I like this, but I felt like Becca's actions were slightly melodramatic/caricature-like. It's exactly what you'd expect of an older sister who's supposed to torment the younger sibling. The way she prances into the room, spins around, raises her eyebrow and smirks...all of these read like shortcuts, to tell the reader this is the quintessential older sibling. I'd love to see Becca presented as the older sibling in a less "shortcut" fashion, with more originality and humor.

      Other than that, I felt like you did a good job starting at the right place in the story and moving it along. We definitely get a sense that Sadie's the "not special" sibling, and her reluctance to be there is palpable. Great job!


    6. MRS N, the Query QueenJune 3, 2014 at 1:28 PM

      Star Light, Star Bright:
      Query- The point of a great query is to get the agent to be interested enough in the story to read more. You did exactly that so congratulations! I haven’t read MG in over ten years and your query makes me want to read more! The only I might change is by taking out a few details of what is involved in the wishing. The conflict gets a little lost amongst the details.

      250- I absolutely LOVED your first 250! Where is this voice in your query? It is light, fun and happy! You need to somehow inject this into your query letter! *smiles* I can totally side with Sadie and I know exactly what is going on between Becca and Sadie! Great conflict and I want to read more!

      Query- I liked the modern-day Pinocchio retelling of your story but was disappointed by the obvious lack of proof-reading. “Axual decide run that the only way to get his parent’s attention is to run away and find another family to love.” I know how hard it is to redo your query letter over and over again plus catch those pesky errors. I feel bad writing this but the truth is any agent would reject right away without thinking twice.

      Your stakes and conflict get lost in the query as well. You’re all over the place and it needs to be focused like a microscope. Think of your query letter like the back of a book. List clearly what the hook, stakes and conflict is. Otherwise it leads to confusion. *smiles*

      250- I really liked your first 250! It has a Lemony Snicket feel and I loved it when you warned me, the reader. It made me want to read more! Your writing voice is funny, wry and should be infused into your query letter. I’m afraid it is not. *sad face*


    7. Star Light, Star Bright
      query:Very solid query, but it's a tad too long. You can combine the 2nd & 3rd paragraphs into one by cutting out redundant info & picking your setting/worldbulding details more carefully.

      250: I really liked this opening page! Great character development and a perfect balance of conflict and worldbuilding. The only thing I'd like to see is a little bit of interiority. You're already showing that the MC isn't crazy about her sister & wishing day, but I'd love a tiny hint as to *why.* Since word count real estate is precious in the first 250, you might want to cut (or just move down, thus removing it from the first 250) the part where the sister calls out to their mom, thereby making room for a line or two that hints at what's going on in the MC's head.


      Axual's Leprechauns
      query: There's a lot of plot here and a hint at the stakes, but I'd really like to see you build the conflict in such a way that we understand a) *why* your MC agrees to join in the hunt, and b) why he can't simply walk away from the hunt when it gets dangerous. I'd also like to see the beginning of the query reflect the world a little more fully (and succinctly): is this a world where leprechauns and unicorns an evil kings are normal? Or is this a *surprise* to Axual? Finally, the jump from "Axual's parents don't love him" to "captures leprechauns accidentally" was jarring, esp since I'm not sure how someone "catches" a mythical creature in the process of looking for a new family. Aside from that,

      250: Prologues are only a good idea if they are 100% necessary. This prologues seems to be all form and no function. I suggest cutting it for the querying process, and then asking the agent if you can add it back in once you've signed. (But fair warning: i would bet money that they would say to cut it)


  2. Star Light, Star Bright:

    I like the premise of wishes that are expected to be used to benefit everyone. That's a lot to ask of a thirteen-year-old, so there's built in tension. The MC's frustration is also conveyed nicely. I'm not sure the details about how the wishes work is important for the query. You might try to condense the second paragraph, maybe even combine the first and second in order to get to the main conflict--clearing her sister's name--more quickly.

    You might want to tweak the first line of the 250 a bit. Pronouns without antecedents in the first sentence are one of my pet peeves. And without knowing who the singer is, why she's singing, and where she is in relation to the MC, I was more confused than hooked. Maybe you could start off saying that her sister has been singing non-stop for X amount of time, but she'll have to stop soon. Just a tiny bit more detail to ground the reader in the moment. That way it's intriguing instead of confusing.

    The rest of the 250 is great. I like the conflict. You've shown us the MC's annoyance without any telling. The only other change I would make is the word "lumbering." That makes me think of slow-moving giant instead of a young girl. Maybe "trudged" is the word you want? Otherwise, terrific.

    Axual's Leprechauns:

    The first paragraph of the query is a bit long. You could probably condense the info about his parents ignoring him into a sentence or two and get us more quickly into the exciting adventure of running away with leprechauns, which seems like where the fun begins. I noticed some of the odd wording problems in both the query and 250 that Glen Coco mentioned, but I thought they might have been formatting errors from the process of posting to the blog. If not, they just need to be smoothed out a bit.

    Opening the 250 with the narrator introducing himself is an interesting if somewhat risky move. It seems like something an agent will either love or hate, which is so subjective that I'm not even sure what to say about it. If you're going to take the risk, go all out and do it with confidence, I guess, which is what you've done :).

    I'm not crazy about the narrator's "one simple rule." In storytelling, the reader's attention has to be earned. The narrator ordering me to pay attention makes me rebellious. (My inner ten-year-old showing through, huh?) You could also condense the "are you sure you want to keep reading?" parts. Ever since Lemony Snicket, I've noticed that kind of "warning label" approach more than once. I do like the details of what could happen to a reader who goes on, so more focus on that part might make the device a little fresher.

    The voice is strong and the premise is cool, so I'd keep reading to find out what the muffled voices are about.

    Overall, two strong entries. Good luck to both of you!

  3. Star Light:

    I cringe whenever I read the phrase "In a world where..." because it's a movie trailer cliche. Please don't use that and get straight to the story. The rest of your query is cute and sets up the story problem well. The only other issue I had was the part about the kids in the village not speaking English. That might be important to the story, but it takes away from an otherwise well-written query. The 250 looks sharp and clean. I don't read MG, so I really can't comment much on the writing.

    I'll come back and review Leprechauns later. I need to get school started with my son.

  4. Star Light, Star Bright

    You have a clear and nicely written query for this really cool story. I have just a couple minor suggestions. You tell me in one paragraph that the only kids in the village are kids who don’t speak English, but then in the next paragraph Sadie has new friends. I feel like I’d like to know who these friends are. How did they overcome the language barrier? What’s their connection?

    If breaking the rules lands Becca and Sadie in a detention center for years, it feels like it needs a stronger word, like law. Rules just get you detention or grounded.

    I liked the 250. It really sets up the relationship between the sisters. I’d like to see just one sentence from mom that suggests more what she thinks. Presumably she is favoring Becca and how special she is.

    Nice job! Good luck!


    This sounds like a fun fantastical adventure!

    The query has several typos. I suggest reading it slowly word for word aloud, that way you will read what’s really there, not what you meant to write. I like the way you add voice, but it reads a little choppy.

    On the content, maybe get to the heart of how he’s feeling. I am reading that he feels unloved and unvalued, that his parents don’t see what’s special about him, or encourage any of his interests. So if it’s little league and sword fighting for brother, what is it about sister? Science, pageantry, dance? Then who is Axual? What makes him special, what are those interests his parents neglect? Does he know, or is he seeking this? Are his parents just too different from him to understand him?

    If he is running away, he should be looking for someone to love and value him (or maybe find what makes him special). Is it “unfortunate” he captures leprechauns? Maybe it’s fortunate, since they see something in him that they want for their adventure. Is he brave, smart, clever... If they value him or promise him a chance to learn about himself, it would make sense that he would go with them. That would help solve his problem.

    When Abby enters, it would seem she would be most threatening if she gets all the attention and everybody is falling all over her. She is a talented witch after all. Cootie-filled seems old fashioned, and not to the root of Axual’s problem.

    I’d like to see how this adventure might help Axual solve his problem of feeling unvalued and unloved. Will he learn about himself or others? Tell me what’s at stake for Axual.

    On your 250, the conversational narrator had me immediately thinking about “A Series of Unfortunate Events” and “A Tale Dark and Grimm.” Both are masters of this technique. I somewhat fear they are so well known for this, that it would be impossible not to sound like them.

    It would also be good to learn something about Axual in the first 250, even if it is from the narrator.

    Good job and good luck!

  5. Star Light, Star Bright

    Excellent hook. Your query is really well-written too. But in this sentence 'Now, instead of movies and the mall, a camping trip, and collecting the local restaurant’s giveaways', I'd keep only two of these activities because otherwise the sentence runs too long and seems like filler. Even two would do the job :) Another thing I got confused about is how clearing Becca's name would save her summer, since Becca's wish is what ruined her summer in the first place. Love the concept, though.
    Nice 250, I really have nothing to point out except my personal bias against the word 'crooned' which gives me an image of an adult rather than a 13 yr old.

    The 'However' in the first para jars me a bit since the sentence is telling us what we knew was coming from the first two sentences. There are also a couple of grammatical errors you really need to correct. The last 3 sentences of the first para are quite repetitive; you mention he joins them on the quest twice and the 'after all' sentence is not needed at all.

    250 words - I agree that the rule about paying attention turns me off a little. Although there's not much substance to the 250, I still enjoyed reading it and it was quite entertaining, although you might consider lessening the strength of your warning. When I was small and read the back of a Lemony Snicket, I went 'Huh! He doesn't want me to read his book...I won't.' You might get kids like that :p

  6. Star Light, Star Bright
    Fantastic opening query line IMO. Love the premise and the voice. The stakes were very clear to me and I already care about the MC just from the query alone.

    My only real suggestion would be to find a stronger opening for the 250. I don’t think it grabs quite as well as it could. I’m not saying change the rest, but maybe add a line or two up front to really catch the reader’s attention and set the story.

    Axual's Leprechauns
    There’s a lot to like in this query. An adventure with leprechauns to find stolen unicorns is a very cool premise.

    Having said that, the various elements of the query felt disconnected to me. The issues with his parents feel mostly like a bookend for the real adventure, and I’m left wondering how the two connect. In fact, most of the plot elements feel somewhat randomly strung together. For example, the danger comes later in relation to someone else joining the quest and seems to have nothing to do with his issues at home.

    I also found the narrator’s voice a little off-putting in the first paragraph of the 250, especially the line “When I am narrating, it is your duty as the reader to pay attention to whatever I have to say.” It comes across as the author telling the reader to pay attention, which ruffles my feathers :-) For my money, “Read this book at your peril.” would be a much, much stronger opening line. That one is a real zinger. It’s a little like Lemony Snicket, of course, but then those books seem to have done okay :-)

    As I said, there’s lots to like in here. I think with a little reworking it could really sing.

    Good luck to both!

  7. Star Light, Star Bright

    I love your hook; it really sets the tone and mood of Sadie. You do a great job in laying out the importance of Wishing in the story and how much of a burden they are to her. I also like the stakes of Sadie having to save her sister as well as trying to save her summer. I'd love to see how that all pans out for her. The first 250 felt so relatable, having a sister who is like Becca (hehe). It's a strong opening into these two girls' conflicting personalities.

    Axual's Leprechauns

    It was very easy to sympathize with Axual (middle child here). There were a few typos in the query that tripped me up, but the intrigue of getting tangled with leprechauns (who I'm certain have a bad reputation in most folklore?) kept me hooked! I'm very can't-produce-the-right-word over the narrator, but I love it. It's different than what I've seen, and I think it could work really well to give the narrator his own personality.

    Good luck to you both!

  8. Leprechauns:

    First off, you have a really cute concept. Despite having a son in the target range, I'm not familiar with what's current because all he reads (other than the classics that he has to read for school) is non-fiction and DIARY OF A WIMPY KID. In other words, I'm terrible at critiquing MG, but I'll try.

    I like the way you set up Axual's feelings right at the beginning of the query. It helps to establish sympathy for him. The last two sentences of the first paragraph is repetitious, so that needs to be pared down and tightened. There's a problem with the phrase "cootie-filled" as I have two children (the first one's grown) and haven't heard the word cootie since I was a child, which suggests that it's out of style. To be certain, I asked my resident expert (my son) what he thinks about girls. He shrugged and said, "They're okay." Then I asked him if he thinks they're cootie-filled. He had no idea what that even meant. He's never heard the word cootie. That'll need to be changed not only in your query but in your ms.

    As to your 250, I really like the narrator voice. I don't know if it's considered a good plot device currently, but I can say that I like it. Garn is both authoritative and funny. He reminds me of the bards you see in SCA and ren faires. I already know you're aware of the glaring typo in the query and that you had sent this version by mistake, but there's also a typo on your first page: "and ten-year-old His eyes popped open."

    I love the concept and your voice, so even if you don't do well in the contest, I hope you'll find representation soon. And I'll buy it for my son.

  9. Star Light, Star Bright
    Love the opening hook. I stumbled over the next sentence for some reason, and I had to read it a few times before I figured it out. After that, though, I thought the query was great. Clear goal and stakes, interesting premise, and I'm definitely interested in this story! I think the interaction with the sisters and the singing could be shortened. I get a good sense of the two of them immediately, so good job there. I love a well-done sister dynamic!

    Axual's Leprechauns
    Ignoring the errors/typos in the query, it sounds like an enjoyable story. Who doesn't love unicorns and leprechauns? My question is why the leprechauns bother to invite him along? Are they pranking him (as leprechauns do)? Bored? Need someone taller? What do they need him for? I'm torn on the 250 here. I do like a fun, mischievous narrator, and I'm ok with this as a sort of framing device. But it's really hard when that's all we have to go on for a first page. I just wish we got to see more of Axual. Oh, and the one rule. . . it didn't sit well with me, but I am extremely obstinate by nature, so take that for what it's worth. Overall it sounds like a cute story, and I'd love to read about Axual!

    Good wishes for both of you!

  10. Miriam Vos PerezJune 2, 2014 at 10:07 PM

    There's a lot of good advice above, so I'll keep this brief and try not to repeat what's already been said.

    Star Light: Loved the query. My only minor issue is that I was expecting a little more from an "awesome summer" than mall visits and food freebies. My vacation expectations could be too high, but that didn't sound to me like a summer I'd be all that upset about missing. I liked the 250, too, but Becca struck me as sounding a little young for 13. The way she was dancing around and singing sounded more like little-sister behaviour to me than big-sister behavior. (Or maybe that's just my little sister.) Overall, I thought this was a strong entry, so nice work!

    Axual's Leprechauns: I thought OmarComin gave you excellent advice about polishing and smoothing out your query. The 250 was hard to judge. Like most commenters here I'd like to see Garn's intro cut back so we can get to Axual sooner. I think I'd like Axual's story, and I'm certain I would have loved it as a kid. Good luck with it!

    Your query is tight, entices me, and has a good voice. The only real suggestion I have is to reword "Sadie feels like a big fat nothing" and say something like "Now, Sadie's a big, fat nothing." It's more powerful to state it as a fact instead of an emotion.

    Sadie feels a little older than ten to me (but I haven't spent time w/ kids in about 10 years), and I'd be careful of starting so many paragraphs with her name. Otherwise, this is a great opening. I would absolutely keep reading.

    I'm personally not a fan of cutesy names like Axual Sighs, even in a children's book, unless literally every character has a similar name. But I realize I'm not your target audience here. Beyond that, the other comments have dissected the query pretty well. No reason for me to rehash, other than to note that I really like the voice in the beginning. Just try to keep it consistent (do young kids say "treacherous?").

    With the 250, the narrator introduction really doesn't work for me. It may be better with future contests to skip that and start with where we meet the main character. Otherwise, I'm left wondering who the MC is. It might work with a query, because the agent gets the full first chapter, rather than a snippet. And there's a risk with a third-party separate narrator. Usually, you need people to like the MC to want to keep reading. Now, you need us to like BOTH the MC and the narrator. It's twice as difficult.

    For example, I've failed to read Wuthering Heights four or five times, partially because of a similar device. It's just not for me. But I like the idea of running away with leprechaun, so if Axual's voice draws me in, I would keep reading. I just want that voice to start right away.


    The query is strong, and it's an intriguing concept. I'm not sure I love the "What bothers Sadie is that no one seems to care Becca ruined her awesome summer," sentence-- it makes the MC seem unpleasant and sort of petulant. I understand that's it's probably part of your design for her character arc, but I wonder about trying to hit that beat in a different way. Still, this is splitting hairs. It's a good query.

    250: I have more problems here. (And I didn't read what was written above so forgive me if this has all been said.) The Clickety-Clack italics followed by a line about the MC's sister singing confused the heck out of me, and resulted in five seconds of trying to think of what song Becca was singing that had clickety clack as a lyric. (The closest I could get was Click-clack, by RaPaul.)

    Aside from that nit, I just was a little bored by the opening. I don't feel like enough happens, and I don't get a strong sense of any characters. I like the idea of the song opening (you might check out "The Drowned Maiden's Hair" for another way to manage that idea,) but this didn't work for me.


    Coming into this query so late, I feel like most of the comments I would make have already been made, and better. (Well played, Wade White!) But I do have a few thoughts about the 250:

    First of all, I like it! It's great fun. The narrator who's done much more famous things (and is maybe slumming here?) a hilarious device, and I've never seen it done before. I wouldn't ditch this idea. I'd build on it. It's strong.

    The read at your peril device, however, is a schtick that has been done elsewhere, and I'd really back off of it. Lemony Snickett, Pseudonymous Bosch. You want to be careful about inviting comparisons to those authors, because they're unlikely to beat them at their own game. (There's a reason, I once heard a soul singer say, that no one covers Aretha Franklin songs.)

    That said, if you're going to have your first 250 be nothing but narrator, you're going to to need to work him into the query.

  13. THANKS EVERYONE! I appreciate your time and thoughtful comments. It's always interesting to learn what people like or dislike, and I really do appreciate all feedback--good and bad. As a writer, my goal is to improve everyday, and other writers' opinions are extremely valuable. Thanks so much, and good luck to you all. -- Star Light, Star Bright