Welcome to our Query and 1st Page Workshop with some of our amazing Pitch Wars mentors. From a Rafflecopter lottery drawing, we selected writers to participate in our query and first page workshops. Each mentor has graciously critiqued a query or 500 word opening from our lucky winners. We’ll be posting four critiques per day (except weekends) through July 7. Our hope is that these samples will help shine up your query and first page and that you’ll get to know some of our wonderful Pitch Wars mentors. We appreciate our mentors for giving up their time to do the critiques. If you have something encouraging to add, feel free to comment below. Please keep all comments tasteful. We will delete any inappropriate or hurtful ones.
First up we have …
Pitch Wars Mentor, Caitlin Sinead …
From Caitlin: I have been writing since the second grade when I drafted a riveting piece about witches who turned out to be friendly.
My novels, HEARTSICK and RED BLOODED, have received positive reviews from Library Journal, RT Book Reviews, and USA TODAY. My writing has also earned accolades from Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Glimmer Train, and Writers & Artists, and my stories have appeared in multiple publications, including The Alarmist, The Binnacle, Crunchable, Jersey Devil Press, and Northern Virginia Magazine. I earned a master’s degree in writing from Johns Hopkins University and have also studied writing at the College of William and Mary and Yale University. I am represented by Andrea Somberg at Harvey Klinger, Inc.
In my writing, I enjoy mashing the fluffy aspects of life right up against the not-so-fluffy aspects, while sneaking in fun words I wished more people used (e.g., nincompoop, ragamuffin, and peccadillo, to name a few). I live with my husband and two cats in Alexandria, Virginia.
Click on Caitlin’s books below to find out more . . .
Caitlin’s Query Critique . . .
AGE CATEGORY: Adult
GENRE: Women’s Fiction
It starts with a confession. “I killed your father.” [This is nice, but I think it takes away from the bigger revelation that her mother killed her father. Removing it would allow the next paragraph to pack more of a punch. Additionally, the real story is Blythe searching for the truth, so you don’t want to spend more time than you need on the setup.]
During an afternoon visit [This could be a nice opportunity to briefly set up some ambiance. Are they having tea, are they on a walk in the woods, are they watching the Price is Right? With just one or two details you can help us understand their relationship a bit more and set up a nice juxtaposition for the “reveal” that she admits to killing her husband] with her ailing mother, everything Blythe Fortenberry—a once prominent real estate agent, and now recovering alcoholic [I’d move this MC bio stuff into its own sentence, either before or after this sentence. As an aside, it slows down the momentum]—thought she knew about her own past is challenged [well, it’s more than just challenged. She isn’t just learning that there were some grown up secrets hidden in the nooks and crannies of her childhood….she’s learning her mother MURDERED her father! This is very intriguing on many levels, not just a “reframing what I thought I knew” level.] when her mother admits to murdering her husband, Blythe’s father.
Dementia has steadily deteriorated the mental health [acuity? “Mental health” has more connotations than just dementia] of Blythe’s mother, Isla Fortenberry, leaving her [nitpicky, but the “her” here refers to Blythe’s mother, not Blythe, as you intended. It needs a little smoothing out.] skeptical of the unsettling admission. But after the death of her mother, the confession weighs heavy, leading Blythe to search for answers about her father’s disappearance [So has her father just been missing and she didn’t know if he was dead or alive? This makes the murder confession an even bigger deal. It’s probably worth weaving that into the first paragraph, if possible.] and her mother’s murderous declaration. [Nice set up for a story!] A journey which takes Blythe down to Savannah, Georgia, and on to the steps of her father’s decaying childhood home. While among the idyllic ancient live oaks and Spanish moss, she finds herself shackled to a darker secret. [Nice imagery]
After discovering a decades old missing persons ad, featuring herself, [Oh, interesting!!] Blythe seeks out her Godmother for the truth behind the ad and of her father’s sudden departure. The search transports Blythe back to WWII era America, where her parents were swept up in a whirlwind romance on the eve of the Pearl Harbor bombing, before the harsh realities of war cruelly ripped them apart. [Add a few more specifics here and what these revelations mean specifically for Blythe. The missing persons ad is really interesting. I think fleshing that out just a bit more could help us grab onto this story better. It could also help frame this as more of Blythe’s story, as opposed to her parents’ story. I understand it’s both and there will be multiple POVs, but if Blythe is held up as the protagonist in the query, we need to understand her journey, her dilemma, her obstacles, her meaning, etc.]
Told from alternating time periods and viewpoints, Heirlooms of Loss is a story about buried family secrets, of [remove “of”] love and loss, and ultimately the healing power of forgiveness.
This manuscript is complete at approximately 83,000 words. [What genre would you put this in? Women’s Fiction? Literary? Mystery?]
As for me, I live in a small Georgia town with my husband and our three children. I am also a current member of the Georgia Writers Association. [Is your town an inspiration for some of your settings? That might be nice to add here.]
Thank you in advance for your consideration.
There is a lot of good stuff here: great tension, nice imagery, questions that demand answers. Sounds like this would be a fun puzzle for the reader to help solve. Good luck!
Next up we have . . .
Pitch Wars Mentor, McKelle George …
McKelle George is a reader, writer of clumsy rebels, perpetual doodler, and reference librarian at the best library in the world. She mentors with Salt Lake Teen Writes and plays judge for the Poetry Out Loud teen competitions (but has no poetic talent herself). Her debut young adult novel Speak Easy, Speak Love comes out from Greenwillow/HarperCollins in 2017, and she currently lives in Salt Lake City with an enormous white german shepherd and way, way too many books.
McKelle’s upcoming release …
Speak Easy, Speak Love
September 19, 2017
Six teenagers’ lives intertwine during one thrilling summer full of romantic misunderstandings and dangerous deals in this sparkling retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.
After she gets kicked out of boarding school, seventeen-year-old Beatrice goes to her uncle’s estate on Long Island. But Hey Nonny Nonny is more than just a rundown old mansion. Beatrice’s cousin, Hero, runs a struggling speakeasy out of the basement—one that might not survive the summer. Along with Prince, a poor young man determined to prove his worth; his brother John, a dark and dangerous agent of the local mob; Benedick, a handsome trust-fund kid trying to become a writer; and Maggie, a beautiful and talented singer; Beatrice and Hero throw all their efforts into planning a massive party to save the speakeasy. Despite all their worries, the summer is beautiful, love is in the air, and Beatrice and Benedick are caught up in a romantic battle of wits that their friends might be quietly orchestrating in the background.
Hilariously clever and utterly charming, McKelle George’s debut novel is full of intrigue and 1920s charm. For fans of Jenny Han, Stephanie Perkins, and Anna Godbersen.