Thursday, June 25, 2015

QK Round 4: Give a Girl a Redo vs Life Sucks, I'm Stuck in Podunk

Entry Nickname: If You Give a Girl a Redo
Title: The Art of Almost
Word count: 104,000
Genre: Upmarket Women’s Fiction


32-year-old Anna Marin already carries too many regrets. She’s still pining for the one who got away and can’t forgive herself for the fallout from her mother’s stroke. On a flight home to marry the wrong man, Anna realizes she must take control of her life and stop living in the past.

But when she wakes as her 20-year-old self en route to her semester abroad in Australia, it seems fate has a different idea: a second chance with Charlie Beckham, the older man she was drawn to but never pursued. This time Anna falls hard, and being with Charlie is even better than what she’s imagined.

Yet if Anna’s history plays out as it once did, in a few months her mother will suffer a debilitating stroke. And Anna’s baby sister will begin a downward spiral from which she never recovers. When Anna’s efforts to change the future from across the Pacific fail, she must make an impossible decision: walk away from the love of her life—again—or stay with Charlie and abandon her family.

Adding to Anna’s distress, her on-and-off college boyfriend (and future fiancĂ©) flies to Australia to win her back. Seeing him as the boy she fell in love with, Anna finally realizes she also played a part in their relationship’s unraveling. As he shows a side Anna’s never seen, and it becomes clear Charlie cannot leave Australia, Anna wonders whether part of her mission is rewriting her first love story.

First 250 words:

I tried to steady my breathing as Nick lowered down on one knee. A cool spring breeze blew petal confetti toward us, so gently that bits of white and pink remained suspended in midair before fluttering to the ground. Shushing spread through the people surrounding us; suddenly it made sense why our family and friends all happened to show up at the same benefit. Even the river, humming low and deep like a bass line just beyond the hotel courtyard, slowed to a crawl.

And yet I couldn’t hit pause, take a second to reflect on how I’d let it get so far.

“Anna Jane, you are my past and my future. You’re all of my best memories and the center of every great moment to come. And so to you I present—” here he paused to allow sufficient time to appreciate his pun—“this ring. It’s time we made it official!”

The choreography was perfect.

I tried to speak, to tell him it felt like I was disappearing. That putting a ring on my finger would sever the last threads tying me to the earth. But the words went sliding down some shadowy passage, piling on top of all the other things I never said.

Nick’s speech kept going, though not a word registered. I searched the gowns and tuxedoes for a flash of crimson and looked up. My eyes met my sister Claire’s and I immediately regretted it. Hers held a question; mine, a plea.

I had to look away or I’d cry. Or scream.


Entry Nickname: Life Sucks—I’m Stuck in Podunk
Title: Middle of Knowhere
Word count: 70K
Genre: YA Contemporary


Truck-driving, tobacco-chewing rednecks. That’s what seventeen-year-old Hailey Nelson pictures when her dad decides to up and relocate their family from vibrant Chicago to the middle of God-Knows-Where. She plans to hate this small, rural three-stoplight town. But what she doesn’t anticipate is falling in love with a Pepto-Bismol colored antiques store and the quirky woman who runs it. A woman who shows her more love and affection than Hailey's always absent, TV journalist mother.

Misery does love company, and when Hailey finds out her parents are getting divorced, anti-social Ryker Evans—a local teen outcast and bearer of hideous posture—is surprisingly supportive and understanding. Probably because his family is even more messed up than hers. When Hailey gets a glimpse of what Ryker could look like with a little TLC, Project Ryker is on. Only she doesn’t expect Ryker to be hot with a capital “H.” Or sweet and fun, writing her songs and taking her dumpster diving for donuts. Now she has more to worry about than her parents’ divorce and her mother’s abandonment. She has her own stupid feelings for Ryker to work through too.

But falling for Ryker could present a whole new set of problems. Because ever since his mother took her own life, Ryker has blamed himself. And if Hailey tries to find out the truth of what happened that day, she could lose him forever.

First 250:

This is what hell looks like.

I stare out the window of Dad’s Ford Explorer. Along the curvy road, dilapidated double-wide trailers that look like they belong in some independent film version of a horror flick, litter the sparse lawns. An old couch, unused tires, and even a rust-stained toilet lay strewn next to one particularly neglected trailer.

“Please tell me no one lives there,” I mutter.

Dad glances in my direction, his mouth set in a firm, disapproving line. “Now, Hailey, try to remember that these people aren’t as fortunate as you and I.” His eyes grind into me, like a pestle trying to turn me into bits of shame. “They do the best they can.”

I sigh and turn back to the window as another trailer comes into view, this one even more unkempt. Amazingly enough, one of the occupants is sitting on the sagging porch steps blowing a cloud of smoke into the humid summer air. The man is grease personified. Like if someone wrung him out, they’d have an entire vat of frying oil. I wrinkle my nose and look down when I make eye contact with him. Suddenly, my nails are desperate for attention.

“How long until Mom joins us?” I ask, digging at one particularly bothersome cuticle.

Mom’s been gone for weeks now. As a broadcast journalist, she jet sets around the world while Dad acts as homemaker extraordinaire. Not that I’m knocking my dad’s skills. He can make a mean BLT.


  1. Judges: reply to this comment to cast your votes. Thanks!

    1. Everything is so polished at this point, I'm voting subjectively here because both entries look great. I'm so impressed with the revisions I've seen from these authors! Great job.

      Since I have to pick a winner, though, I'm going with the entry that I feel has a slightly stronger/more distinct voice:

      Victory to...LIFE SUCKS, I'M STUCK IN PODUNK!

    2. Dr. T.J. EckleburgJune 25, 2015 at 10:00 AM

      Congrats on making it this far! Best of luck to both of you in the future!

      These are both great entries, but I can only choose one. Podunk has *amazing* voice, but the query lacks conflict & there isn't a lot happening in the 250. While I had a bit of confusion on the Redo query, the concept really drew me in, and I found the 250 absolutely *electrifying*.


    3. THIS IS SO UNFAIR! *stomps foot*

      You both know I love your entries. I expect both to go far, and you should be extremely proud for getting to this point. For me, this really comes down to a genre preference. YA romance really isn't my thing. VICTORY TO IF YOU GIVE A GIRL A REDO.

    4. These are both really great entries. Congrats on making it this far, and I'm pretty damn pissed I have to choose between these two!

      I like the concept of both, but I feel Podunk's voice stands out more. It drew me in a bit more than Redo. At this point, it really is subjective guys, so please remember you're amazing!


    5. Kudos to both of these amazing entries. I would read either of these books in a heart beat. I'm a sucker for second chance romance and also for the fish out of water in a new home. The writing is incredibly strong on both of these, and your queries are tight and compelling. I'm sure you'll both get lots of requests. Good luck to you both.

      While Podunk has voice out the wazoo and a great atmosphere, I'm completely smitten with the concept in Redo - second chances, love triangles, a hint of something magical. I said it last round, gimme. Since the writing is strong on both these entries, I'm basing my vote subjectively on the concept I'm more drawn to.


    6. Jackie Jormp-JompJune 25, 2015 at 11:29 PM

      Round 4 is the Worst! Too many great entries and tough choices. The queries are both fantastic. There's some gorgeous language in REDO, and some wonderful voice in PODUNK. Alas, though, choices must be made. So, because I really dig the quirky surprises and details in the storyline and the query (pepto-bismol colored antique store!) I'm going to go with...

      Victory to PODUNK

    7. Redo: well done, this query is much better than the first version, tighter and clearer. And you’ve completely changed your first page – this is a much more gripping and clearer opening, nice job. (Small thing: ‘lowered down’ is superfluous, you can’t lower up. Maybe ‘Nick lowered himself to one knee.’)

      Life Sucks: I hadn’t read this one before. This is a pretty good query with personality, though I’m not sure about the stakes, which seem a bit vague. The first page I like more, starting with moving to a new place has been done a lot, but the writing/voice is excellent.

      Like all the entries that’ve been good enough to make it this far, this is close, but the great writing in the latter shines, so VICTORY TO LIFE SUCKS

    8. This match-up is awful (for me), which means you guys are doing a fabulous job! I’d honestly read both of these in a heartbeat.

      Podunk: I love the voice in your 250, the setting seems like it’s going to be fantastic. However, the mention of “love” in the first paragraph confused me at first because I thought this was going to be LGBT. The stakes also seem a little light and I’m not sure why finding out the truth could ruin their relationship. Completely subjectively, I’m a little bummed that Hailey has to give Ryker some “TLC” in order to be interested in him.

      Redo: Love the new 250! Huge improvement from the one I read previously. I think both the query and 250 are tight and I’m super intrigued by this premise. I’m still a little hesitant on the Charlie conflict. It seems a little iffy to me that their relationship would fail just because she needs to go home.


    9. These have both become so clear and lovely, I wish I could say yes to both. Though I do think that both have familiar stories, the details in one makes it rise slightly higher for me than the other. I'm thinking purely from a "have I seen it before" POV and with that considered, victory to PODUNK.

  2. Another really, really difficult choice. I would read both books in a heart beat. Seriously. However, the voice of Podunk is coming through loud and clear in the query, and I think re-do could use a little more of it in the query, so for that reason, I have to vote VICTORY TO PODUNK.

  3. As the other judges have stated, both of these entries have done such great work throughout QK. Congrats to both! Because I feel like the query is a bit stronger, and because I really like the details of atmosphere in the entry, I'm going to go with


  4. Princess of LlamasJune 25, 2015 at 10:15 AM

    Both of these are great at this point. It really comes down to subjectivity for me. While I loved the voice in PODUNK, I'm not quite sure the query promises enough plot to sustain my interest throughout. Therefore, Victory to IF YOU GIVE A GIRL A REDO.

  5. I like the premise of Life Sucks, I'm Stuck in Podunk but feel the query could be clearer. The first mention of falling in love made me think the story was going to be LGBT, so then the introduction of Ryker confused me at first. And I think we need to know a little bit more about why finding out about Ryker's mom's suicide is such an issue for the hook to have real bite.

    It's also hard to beat the narrative pull of GAGAR's 250 (ha! that acronym made me laugh :). (although I'm still going to say that making it clearer up front why Charlie can't leave Australia would make the query clearer, otherwise it doesn't seem like much of a relationship if she fears it won't last why she goes home to visit her family)

    So for me it's going to be Victory to GIVE A GIRL A REDO!