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Day 28 (Part 3) of the Pitch Wars Mentor Workshops with Rajani LaRocca

Sunday, 22 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, Rajani LaRocca … 

A proud member of the Pitch Wars 2017 mentee class, Rajani LaRocca spends her time writing novels and picture books, practicing medicine, and baking too many sweet treats. Her debut middle grade, MIDSUMMER’S MAYHEM (Yellow Jacket/Little Bee Books, June 2019), an Indian-American mashup of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and competitive baking, was named an Indies Introduce/Indie Next pick for 2019 and received a starred review from Kirkus.

Rajani was born in India, raised in Kentucky, and now lives in the Boston area with her wonderful family and impossibly cute dog.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Rajani’s recent release …

Can Mimi undo the mayhem caused by her baking in this contemporary-fantasy retelling of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream?

Eleven-year-old Mimi Mackson comes from a big Indian American family: Dad’s a renowned food writer, Mom’s a successful businesswoman, and her three older siblings all have their own respective accomplishments. It’s easy to feel invisible in such an impressive family, but Mimi’s dream of proving she’s not the least-talented member of her family seems possible when she discovers a contest at the new bakery in town. Plus, it’ll start her on the path to becoming a celebrity chef like her culinary idol, Puffy Fay.

But when Mimi’s dad returns from a business trip, he’s mysteriously lost his highly honed sense of taste. Without his help, Mimi will never be able to bake something impressive enough to propel her to gastronomic fame.

Drawn into the woods behind her house by a strangely familiar song, Mimi meets Vik, a boy who brings her to parts of the forest she’s never seen. Who knew there were banyan trees and wild boars in Massachusetts? Together they discover exotic ingredients and bake them into delectable and enchanting treats.

But as her dad acts stranger every day, and her siblings’ romantic entanglements cause trouble in their town, Mimi begins to wonder whether the ingredients she and Vik found are somehow the cause of it all. She needs to use her skills, deductive and epicurean, to uncover what’s happened. In the process, she learns that in life, as in baking, not everything is sweet. . . .


Rajani’s first page critique . . .

Middle Grade: Urban Fantasy

Chapter 1

Leo hated keeping secrets. Especially from his mom. [Don’t think you need this opening. If he’s making sure her car isn’t back, it’s clear he doesn’t want her to know what he’s doing] Still, he glanced out the bedroom window, checking to make sure her car wasn’t back yet. He crossed to the bed and dug out his father’s sweatshirt from under the mattress. If she knew he’d sneaked it away, she’d probably cry. Again. Slipping it on, a faint trace of cologne [watch the placement of your phrases here. It reads like the trace of cologne is putting on the sweatshirt] enveloped him. Details of the memory flashed through his mind. A dark coffin lowered on creaking chains into a hole in the earth. The scents of decaying flesh and something like pickle juice mingled together. [Eek! Terrifying. It sounds like he was IN the coffin? I don’t think this is a typical thing to notice just by viewing a body?] Leo’s stomach turned. He’d never see him[his dad], or talk to him again. All the possible ‘never agains’ ran on a loop in his head. [Like what? Name a special detail or two, something that will make his relationship with dad feel unique] What if I forget what he looks like?

Leo pushed the thought away, deep down in a corner of his mind. He picked up his basketball and paced laps around the nearly empty room, tossing it from hand to hand. Its tacky orange goose bumps sticking [stuck] to his fingertips.

Sinking on to the bed, he peered at the clock for the third time [in how much time? Could indicate that he’s been waiting a while, or can’t help checking again] propped on the carpet [this is confusing…sounds like he’s propped, not the clock] between unpacked boxes. They could stay that way forever for all he cared. Leo wanted to forget about this house in Upstate New York and go back to New Jersey, where his friends and basketball team would welcome him back with a standing ovation [“standing ovation” feels a bit overblown and cliché].

He tossed the ball against the wall. The thumping against the drywall and the slapping back into his hands created a rhythm to distract him. Clouds of plaster dust mushroomed out with every bounce spewing a musty mold-like smell. He stole another peek at the clock [What time is it? Orient us a bit]. Where is he? Vikram Singh had agreed to bring over his laptop. [Why does he care about the laptop? Give us a hint of what the stakes are here, or put in some hint that there’s something fantastical going on] Leo huffed a deep breath, puffing his cheeks like a blowfish.

Thank you, Rajani, 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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