Welcome to the Pitch Wars Workshops with some of our amazing past and 2021 mentors. From a lottery drawing, we selected writers to receive a query and first page critique from one of our mentors. We’ll be posting some of the critiques leading up to the Pitch Wars submission window. Our hope is that these samples will help you in shining up your query and first page.
We appreciate our mentors for generously dedicating 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 …
Sheena Boekweg is a former slush editor, blogger, and theatre nerd who’s watched every Marvel movie in the last ten years and has strong opinions on Star Wars. She’s an alumni of the 2015 Pitch Wars mentoring program and mentored in 2017 and 2018. Her debut novel GLITCH KINGDOM was published with Feiwel and Friends in 2020. She is a contributor to EVERY BODY SHINES, a fat positive YA Anthology coming May 2021, and her next book will be coming out in June 2021.
Sheena is represented by the mighty Jessica Sinsheimer. She lives in Utah with her family and the world’s most spoiled puppy. Visit her online at boekwegbooks.com, or follow her on Twitter and Instagram @SheenaBoekweg
Sheena’s recent release, GLITCH KINGDOM
The teenage daughter of an executioner and the traitorous prince she can’t kill must reluctantly join forces to dethrone a paranoid queen after discovering they are trapped in a video game in Sheena Boekweg’s fast-paced YA debut, Glitch Kingdom…
Ryo was the golden boy, the prankster prince, but with one stroke of a pen he has lost everything. Dagney and Grigfen were happy as minor members of the court, but when their father, the king’s executioner, is branded a traitor, they each must deal in death in order to survive.. McKenna, queen of the enemy realm, has inherited a mission of conquest by assassination, but worries she’s not up to the role.
But behind the crowns and masks hides a secret… All of these teens are actually players in the newest, shiniest, most immersive virtual reality video game, competing against each other for a highly coveted internship with a prestigious game developer.
But now this life-changing opportunity has suddenly become a deadly trap. A glitch in the software has locked the players inside the game, and they’ll need to escape before the fantasy world corrupts around them. The only way out is to win.
Sheena’s critique . . .
YA Historical Fiction
Submitted for your consideration is “TITLE” a manuscript for a Young Adult Historical Fiction book. It is 80,000 words long and is the first in a proposed series of time-slip novels. [SO COOL. I love a good time-slip historical!] Given your interest in History, and your representation of Eleanor Updale and Sally Gardner, two of my favourite authors, I thought that this might be a good fit for your list. [This paragraph feels wordy to me. You don’t need to say that you are submitting for consideration, the agent will know that by you showing up in their querying queue. But good news, if you trim this first paragraph that frees up a lot of words for the meat of the story! I’d suggest simplifying all this info into one sentence. Something like …TITLE, an 80,000 words YA Historical, is a good fit for fans of X and Y.]
During their Year 9 Sports Day, self-proclaimed misfits Alice, Dylan and Christopher decide to sneak into the staff room to prove Alice’s madcap theory that that there is a hidden tunnel behind an old bookshelf that connects Houghton High School to the other ancient manor house in village. [I love these misfits already. Also madcap is such a great word. The voice here is good, but I think there’s too much info in one sentence. Consider breaking this sentence up. And can you go deeper? Focus on Alice. I want to know how she came up with this idea, and what is driving her to prove this theory.] When they venture through the tunnel, they find themselves exactly where Alice predicted, but in entirely the wrong century. [Good place to insert a voicy reaction.] Now, they will have to contend with malicious plots and battle tyrants in both the past, and the present. [or else… what will happen? We are missing the stakes here. I suggest digging in here for the personal. What will be personally affected by the tyrants in the present, and also in the past? Be specific. Play with those concrete details that will set the world of your story apart. Also are we missing a twist? I’m missing the complication in the story. Something like but as they x, y happens and now…]
Whilst studying History at the University of CITY, I wrote a one-act play for the Pantomime Society ‘TITLE’ which was published by StageScripts in 2016. I am also currently attending a Creative Writing Course run by East Riding of Yorkshire Council. I greatly enjoy writing and I am currently also writing short stories for early readers. [I’d consider trimming this last sentence. You want to make sure you stand out, so details like “I enjoy writing” will be true for every other writer querying. I would use this last sentence here to show more personality. Or cut it, and let the personality of your characters be what stands out.]
Thank you for your consideration.
“Alice, you can’t be serious about this!” Christopher hissed. [Personal opinion, but I don’t love when chapters start with a line of dialogue. Could you start with a line of internal thought before hand? What is Alice thinking before Christopher says anything? Consider starting there.]
Alice rolled her eyes [add internal thought here. What is she thinking in response? You’ve shown she’s annoyed, but I want to hear her thoughts here.] and shoved the heavy oak door that led into the staff room. It creaked slowly open revealing plush black leather sofas and the scent of stale coffee. She scrunched up her nose at the smell and scowled as she remembered the earthy odour of old books that used to dominate this part of the school. From the doorway, she could already see [Watch for filtering phrases like she remembered or she could see. It creates a distance from the POV which makes it harder to sink into the character’s head.] that the rows of ornate gilded candle holders that had once beckoned you into the library had been detached from the walls leaving patches of ugly plasterwork behind them.[cool detail!]
Frantically, [Why is she frantic? I’d like more clues into why she is breaking into the staff room, and what will happen if she gets caught.] she peered around, listening for any sign of life in the cavernous suite of rooms. When she detected nothing [This is filtering her reaction as well. Perhaps show us what she’s seeing here, and what specifically she’s looking for, and then once she knows there’s nothing, you can let her internal thoughts do the work.], she took her first cautious step, resting her hand against the tapered doorway. The faux columns were one of the few visible signs of the history of Houghton High School. Alice adored them. She had spent a large amount of the past two years imagining herself as the Lady of the House every time she had passed through them, when the old hall building had still contained the library.[I love this character detail.] Now, far too much had changed and her…their…opportunity to discover the secrets of this once magnificent manor had dwindled significantly.
“Coast’s clear,” Alice called over her shoulder.
Christopher and Dylan glanced reluctantly at each other.
“I know that everyone else is occupied with Sports Day, but they’ll still be doing a register after lunch.” Dylan began.
Alice brushed away his concern.
[All in all, this is a fun place to start! I love a girl with agency breaking the rules and into someplace she shouldn’t. I suggest deepening the POV with more of Alice’s internal thoughts and voice, and clarifying the stakes of why breaking in is important to the MCs. Best of luck!]