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, Kit Rosewater …
Kit Rosewater writes books for children. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with her spouse and a border collie who takes up most of the bed. Before she was an author, Kit taught middle school theatre and high school English, then worked as a children’s bookseller. She has a master’s degree in Children’s Literature and a knack for finding her characters in clouds, ceiling plaster, and Cheetos. Her debut series The Derby Daredevils rolls out Spring 2020 through Abrams.
Kit’s upcoming release …
A highly illustrated middle-grade series that celebrates new friendships, first crushes, and getting out of your comfort zone
Ever since they can remember, fifth-graders Kenzie (aka Kenzilla) and Shelly (aka Bomb Shell) have dreamed of becoming roller derby superstars. When Austin’s city league introduces a brand-new junior league, the dynamic duo celebrates! But they’ll need to try out as a five-person team. Kenzie and Shelly have just one week to convince three other girls that roller derby is the coolest thing on wheels. But Kenzie starts to have second thoughts when Shelly starts acting like everyone’s best friend . . . Isn’t she supposed to be Kenzie’s best friend? And things get really awkward when Shelly recruits Kenzie’s neighbor (and secret crush!) for the team. With lots of humor and an authentic middle-grade voice, book one of this illustrated series follows Kenzie, Shelly, and the rest of the Derby Daredevils as they learn how to fall—and get back up again.
Kit’s’s (query or first page) critique . . .
Middle Grade: Adventure
Jessica Kingsley stepped off the school bus and headed toward the double doors of Gold Mountain Lake Junior High. She slogged her way through a half inch of slush and ice. Seventh grade boys made little ice balls and threw them at her and all the other girls.
Grow up. [I’d love a bit more interiority here. Doesn’t even have to be Jessica’s italicized thoughts, but more of her perspective on what she thinks of middle school, or whatever’s on her mind. I want her to have something on her mind already.]
The December winds froze her hands and face. She pulled up her scarf to cover her ears and chin and pushed her hands further into her coat pockets.
Forgot my gloves. Geeze. It’s cold. [Again, these are fairly universal thoughts. Can we have a bit more of a unique perspective in Jessica’s head?]
She looked around the crowd. Christopher promised to meet me. Where is he? [Here’s where I think things get interesting. Not many middle school girls date, which makes the reader eager to know more about how Jessica sees dating. So her earlier reaction to the ice balls can be about how immature those boys are in particular, and the cold hands moment can include something about her constantly forgetting her gloves since she takes them off as soon as she sees Christopher anyway. Those are more character-specific details.]
She walked into the main hall as friends pushed and shouted at each other. Locker doors slammed. [I’d love even more detail about this school in particular. What are kids shouting about? Sports practice? Math tests? What’s the vibe of the kids here and how will Jessica and Christopher either blend in or stand out?] Christopher Connor tapped her shoulder. He grabbed her book bag and gave her his silly grin.
They walked down the hall together. Some students waved. [What are the waves like? Between friends casually saying hi—are the two popular? Are they waves of admiration—are the two middle school royalty? Or are the waves only for one person in the couple? This a chance to show us more about the characters.] They made a cool junior high twosome. Chris, at five foot six, stood two inches taller than her. His short light brown hair contrasted with her long blond ponytail.
“Hey! Jessica! I hear your dad had a date with Chris’s mom last night!”
Zoey. Oh, that gossip and bully. She snorts like a horse. [This internal thought feels a little dated. Perhaps it’s the “oh, that so and so” formatting. Is there a way to shift this away from Jessica’s specific thoughts and more to a subtle reaction? Could Jessica’s cheeks go red, or she gets flustered or hunches her shoulders? Clearly Zoey’s hitting a nerve.]
“No. They didn’t. Did they?” Jessica nudged Chris’s arm to get his attention.
“Of course not. You don’t know what you’re talking about. We all went to the movies last night. Not a big deal.” He glared at Zoey.
“Well. My mom says your mom has the hots for Jessica’s dad.” Zoey hooted at the two. [I love the story dynamics here a lot. The middle school hot couple have single parents who might also be dating. It’s great!]