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Day 18 (Part 1) of the Pitch Wars Mentor Workshops with Kes Trester

Wednesday, 15 September 2021  |  Posted by Erin Hardee

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 …

Kes Trester

A native of Los Angeles, Kes Trester is a veteran of the film and TV commercial business. Her well-reviewed debut novel, A DANGEROUS YEAR, has been optioned for film/television. Her next book, the contemporary YA fantasy THE NINE, will be released by Owl Hollow Press in fall of 2022 with books two and three in the series scheduled to release in 2023 and 2024, respectively.

Website | Twitter | Facebook


Kes’s upcoming release, The Nine

Eighteen-year-old Blake Wilder usually hides her ability to see pivotal moments in other people’s pasts and futures, but when a premonition compels her to save a classmate’s life, she’s drawn into a centuries-old paranormal society on the brink of civil war.

As she struggles to find her way within a world of political intrigue and shifting alliances, her path is complicated by a budding romance with Nicholas, the chancellor’s son, and her attraction to Jessie, a man who makes up the rules as he goes. However, Blake will soon learn the truism that all is fair in love and war, especially when power is at stake.

When she witnesses a series of bizarre murders that have not yet occurred, it’s not long before the killer learns of her visions. Blake must decide whether to trust her head or her heart in a race to unmask the murderer before she is the next to die.

Owl Hollow Press

Kes’s critique . . .


Young Adult Contemporary


[A note to all querying writers: if you have a chance to get your query critiqued, send the entire query, not just the paragraphs summarizing your ms. I would have worked with this writer on their opening paragraph, which would hopefully include word count, genre, and possibly comp titles. Additionally, I would like to have seen their closing paragraph, which is usually a bio. Even if you have yet to publish and aren’t sure what to include, there’s probably a fun or interesting take on what inspired you to write your book. I have read many queries, and the most memorable ones were those that provided some insight into the writer’s process or personality.]

When 15-year-old Claire meets Taki at the rec center, she feels an immediate connection, despite their age difference. [What is the general age difference? Key to envisioning character and understanding obstacles any relationship may face.] He’s part-Japanese, like her, and like her father, who long ago withdrew into the silence of depression. Claire has a million questions about her culture [This is a bit broad, considering most 15yo’s have access to the internet. Telling us what really drives her will help build stakes] and Taki may have all the answers. [Why does Claire believe Taki is the one to provide insight? Is he a teacher, historian, or…?] But to see him again, she has to pretend to like his stepdaughter, Lindy, who happens to be Claire’s annoyingly upbeat classmate. [Great snapshot description of Lindy]

To Claire’s surprise, she and Lindy become real friends, which means sleepovers and late-night talks with fellow insomniac Taki. He gives life advice and music suggestions and is the most amazing person Claire has ever met. When he starts complaining about his marriage, she knows it’s a sign they’re meant to be together. But when she impulsively kisses him, he pushes her away and Lindy witnesses everything. [My heart breaks for Claire here. Well done!]

No matter how many times Claire apologizes, Lindy won’t forgive her. So, Claire gets angry at the person she ultimately blames for the whole situation: her disengaged father. That confrontation pushes Claire down an unexpected path, one that uncovers family secrets and may finally lead to the answers she’s always wanted. [Ah, here’s what compels Claire, but I’d love to know more about this earlier in the query. It would convey at the outset this story goes deeper than a misguided teen crush.]


First page:

Mom was late dropping me off at the rec center, even though this dance class was her stupid idea. She’d asked what I wanted to do this summer and I’d said, “listen to music,” but apparently, I needed to be more social, so here I was, standing in a fluorescent-lit hallway while Mom went off to parade homebuyers through properties with so much potential

The building had been a school once upon a time and there were still rows of dinged up blue lockers lining the walls between classrooms. The former cafeteria, now dance studio, was at the very end of the hall. I took a few steps, then stopped, wondering what the hell I was even doing. I couldn’t dance and didn’t want to and I was already late so it wasn’t like I could just slip in without being noticed. 

But I couldn’t not go because Mom would grill me for details and if my descriptions weren’t satisfactory, she’d sigh and say something lame about how I had so much to offer the world, if I’d just put myself out there. It was the reason she always forced me into things I didn’t want, like 4-H camp or Little Miss Grove County Fair.

I let out my own sigh and resumed trudging. I’d sit outside the room and scroll around on my phone while listening for dance-y words I could repeat to Mom. 

About halfway there, I was drawn into the gym by the rhythmic thump-thump-thumping of basketballs because they reminded me of my neighbor’s daily drum practice.

[Love the voice! We get so much insight into our MC’s personality and life in less than a page. I’m primed to become invested in Claire’s journey!]


Thank you, Kes, for the critique! We are showcasing three mentor critiques each day leading up to the Pitch Wars 2021 submission window, so make sure to read the other two critiques for today and come back tomorrow for more. 

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