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Day 21 (Part 1) of the Pitch Wars Mentor Workshops with Aiden Thomas

Sunday, 15 September 2019  |  Posted by Rochelle Karina

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, Aiden Thomas … 

Aiden Thomas is a YA author with an MFA from Mills College. Originally from Oakland, CA, they now make their home in Portland, OR. As a queer, trans Latinx, Aiden advocates strongly for diverse representation in publishing.


Aiden’s upcoming realease…

Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and he can’t get rid him.

Bestowed by the ancient gods of Maya, Yadriel and the gifted members of his Latinx community can see spirits: women have the power to heal bodies and souls, while men can release lost spirits to the afterlife. But Yadriel, a trans boy, has never been able to perform the tasks of the brujas – because he is a brujo.

When his cousin suddenly dies, Yadriel takes matters into his own hands and successfully summons a ghost. The only problem is, it’s not his cousin, it’s Julian Diaz, the resident bad boy of his high school. Worse, he’s pissed about his death and demands answers.

Yadriel agrees to help Julian discover how he died. In exchange, Julian will let Yadriel release his spirit, finally proving himself a brujo. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less Yadriel wants to let him go, and time is running out.

CEMETERY BOYS is due out summer 2020.


Aiden’s first page critique . . .

Young Adult: Science Fiction

Chapter 1

Ashley, Day 2, Delta:

[I would recommend doing something that makes it clearer that this is a journal entry, but I definitely got confused jumping between this entry and the current narrative. Maybe a date, or something like “journal entry #382”, etc.]

I want to sleep. 

Which is odd. There are only three reasons you sleep here. [Great hook!]

The first is during a shortage. Sometimes the Sleep Bank dips in production, and chaos ensues. The process of producing Sleep is very complicated, and few really understand where it comes from or how it’s made. It takes years of education to earn the certification of Sleep Scientist. Maybe I’ll make it there one day. I hope I can. My teachers say I have potential.

The second reason you sleep is because you are a reject of society. No, they don’t kick you out, hurt you, or send you somewhere horrible. [The concept for this story is super interesting, but this is where you start losing me as a reader. “Hurt you” and “send you somewhere horrible” are vague. Can you give us some specific examples? Something more grounding to illustrate what you mean?] You just never belong. See, the rejects are the lazy ones, the odd ducks, the rebels of society. [Again, this feels a bit vague. How are they lazy/odd ducks/rebel? Something more specific will help ground the reader and keep them from getting lost or confused. You’re introducing the reader to a brand new world with brand new rules, help them get their footing at the beginning as much as possible so they stick with you!] I’ve seen one or two in school, biologically sleeping at their desk, unprepared without an extra artificial Sleep or two. 

I, for one, overachieve. If everyone else brought two Sleeps, I brought a third. [Here I would recommend specifying the difference between artificial and biological sleep and what they mean in this world.] But to not bring any? Obviously, some cognitive aspect is underdeveloped.

But the third reason to sleep? Most don’t mention it. It’s frowned upon. Teachers preach against it, and parents discipline children who do it. [LOVE this!]

And that’s the reason I want to sleep. [YAS!]

I chuckle. [I would use this time to quickly ground us in our setting. Is she sitting at a desk? Hiding somewhere? In a spaceship?? Take a quick sentence here to establish the environment.] Funny how times change, isn’t it? Hard to believe I wrote that in my journal only four years ago. I don’t have much time for journaling these days, but that entry is one I like to read over and over again.

When I was decluttering during the move, I tossed the journal but tore out this sheet. I keep it [hidden] tucked in my binder, a gentle reminder of who I once was, of who I used to be; a reminder I can change. [Great set up letting the reader get a feel for what kind of journey this main character is going to go on!]

[Overall a good start! General things to keep in mind as you go forward: When it comes to introducing a new world with new world, be specific as possible when giving examples. Especially at the beginning, try to drop tiny details to help the reader visualize their surroundings. 

It’s a great concept and I’m definitely interested in see what happens next!]

Thank you, Aiden, 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. 

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