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Day 10 (Part 2) of the Pitch Wars Mentor Workshops with Julie Artz

Wednesday, 4 September 2019  |  Posted by Brenda Drake

Welcome to the Pitch Wars Workshops with some of our amazing past and 2019 mentors. From a lottery drawing, we selected writers to receive a query or first page critique from one of our mentors. Each mentor has graciously critiqued a query or first page from our lucky winners. We’ll be posting some of the critiques leading up to the submission window. Our hope is that these samples will help you all get an idea on how to shine up your query and first page.

We appreciate our mentors for giving their time to do the critiques. If you have something encouraging to add, feel free to comment below. Please keep all comments tasteful. Our comments are set to moderate, and we will delete any inappropriate or hurtful ones before approving them.

Next up we have …

Pitch Wars Mentor, Julie Artz … 

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

I spent my young life sneaking into wardrobes hoping to make it to Narnia. Now that I’m a bit older, people think that’s sort of creepy, so I work as an author, developmental editor, and book coach instead.

I first picked up THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE when I was in elementary school, and ever since I have been an obsessive reader fascinated by story. Since graduating with an MS in Communication Management in 2001, I have written and edited for businesses, non-profits, and individuals across a variety of sectors from high tech to newspaper to publishing. In fact, every job I’ve had from my first work-study job as an editor in DePauw’s Writing Center to working the children’s section of a small independent bookstore to writing instructions for computer software, involved writing and editing.

After more than two decades of writing and editing across these fields, six years ago I turned my skills and experience toward publishing. Since then, I have worked with authors published by Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, Hachette, and Boyds Mills Press, and have also helped clients formulate their query and pitching strategy. My affiliations with SCBWI, AWP, and EFA, and my work with Pitch Wars/Teen Pit, all keep my industry knowledge current and sharp. And my love of the written word translates into all that I do.

Julie offers a variety of pitch critique packages so whether you just need to shine up your query and pages, or want to work on agent submission lists and query strategy with a seasoned pro, Julie has a package that can help. Learn more at https://julieartz.com/editorial-services/.

Julie’s query critique . . .

Middle Grade: Fantasy

Dear Agent,

Twelve-year-old Lady Cyrah is desperate to live up to her Papa’s [either her papa’s or Papa’s, not her Papa’s] reputation as the [k]Kingdom’s most revered warrior, but her lack of confidence always seems to negate her abilities [can you make this more specific to Lady Cyrah? How, specifically, does her lack of confidence negate her abilities? Make her trip and fall during the big trials? Make her forget her sword moves? This is our first introduction to your main character, so choose really striking, specific details!]. All this changes when Cyrah unknowingly fulfills a prophecy, unleashing her magical powers, gaining the ability to communicate with animals. The animals mark Cyrah as their destined Queen with the powers to save Earth [from what?], but Cyrah refuses the claim for she is just an ordinary girl, and as far as she’s concerned, the Earth doesn’t need saving.

[Cut: The threat becomes too real to ignore] [W]when Cyrah and her Papa are attacked by otherworldly beings who’ve come to conquer Earth [cut .] Cyrah accepts the call to arms, training not only with the animals, but also with a mysterious woman who appears in Cyrah’s dream and teaches her about magic. Cyrah must discover her true identity and the full potential of her powers, as she is thrown into a battle between good and evil, upon which rests the future of the [u]Universe.

[Adrienne, I’m intrigued by the idea of a zodiac-based magic system and wondering if the animals Cyrah interacts with are the bull, the crab, the lio, etc. from the astrological signs. But this pitch is WAY too general. By the end, we’re still very unclear on what Cyrah’s powers are or what the threat is against her. And though you say the future of the universe is at stake, how is it threatened and what does that mean, personally, to Cyrah. What does she want out of life and what is standing in her way? How does that internal motivation apply to the larger conflict? Tie that together with some really vivid details to make us desperate to read the pages!]

I’d like you to consider my completed 87,000 word [cut ,] MG Fantasy novel entitled Lady Cyrah and the Zodiakos[add ,] which will appeal to fans of Sarah Maas and Tamara [Tamora] Pierce. I believe my project will be a good fit for you because you’ve expressed an interest in MG Fantasy with a strong series hook. The world I’ve created is based on astrology, the concept has seldom been used [I’m not sure this is true—I have seen quite a few zodiac-based magic systems in MG/YA over the years. I would maybe cut this sentence. Also note that the zodiac-based magic doesn’t appear in the pitch at all!!! Get it in there if it’s important to the story], and it has the potential to attract enthusiasts of all ages.

I’m a debut novelist living in Saint Petersburg, Florida. I am a fourteen-year seasoned emergency room physician and a closet astrologer. I’ve had this story in my head since I was a little girl. My love for astrology and fantasy prompted me to put my story on paper. [Move this to the prior paragraph and just say “This manuscript stands alone but has series potential.”] I anticipate this book to be part of a series, however it can stand alone.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Thank you, Julie, for the critique! We are showcasing three mentor critiques each day leading up to the Pitch Wars 2019 submission window, so make sure to read the other two critiques for today and come back tomorrow for more. 

Filed: Workshops

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