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, Rebecca Coffindaffer …
Rebecca Coffindaffer grew up on Star Wars, Star Trek, fantastical movies and even more fantastical books. She waited a long time for her secret elemental powers to develop, and in the interim, she started writing stories about girls and magic and spaceships. These days she lives in Kansas with her family, surrounded by a lot of books and a lot of tabletop games and one big fuzzy dog. Her debut book CROWNCHASERS, a young adult space opera, comes out Fall 2020 from HarperTeen.
Rebecca’s upcoming release…
Lara Croft meets Star Wars in this young adult space opera, in which a wisecracking intergalactic adventurer becomes the odds-on favorite to win a deadly, cross-galaxy contest to become the quadrant’s next emperor; too bad she has no intention of winning.
Rebecca’s query critique . . .
Young Adult: Contemporary Fantasy
Dear Pitch Wars,
Thank you so much for this unique opportunity to receive feedback!
[Thank you for submitting! And for entrusting us with your query!]
17-year-old Alevia Pollock knows better than to believe in miracles. [This is a great opening line – it introduces us to our MC and gives us a thematic hook in one go. The only thing I’d recommend is to spell out “Seventeen.”] But when her Bubby gives her a ticket to the secret Island of Diamonds, she’s forced to reconsider. [So if there are tickets being sold by someone, is it secret so much? Or just really exclusive like the Night Circus or Caraval? Also, your query is pretty tight, so it might be worth seeing if there’s a concise descriptive phrase to attach to the Island of Diamonds to clarify what it is – e.g., “…gives her a ticket to the Island of Diamonds, a mythical place inhabited by wealthy immortals.” Or something similar. It doesn’t have to fit that exactly, but just a 5-to-10-word description that might help to ground the island as a concept.] The ticket grants Alevia a one-month stay to collect as many diamonds as possible and return a multi-millionaire. Even though she’s pretty sure the whole thing is a scam, her family desperately needs the money: Dad’s business is going under, her parents are getting a divorce, and they can’t afford the care Bubby needs for her dementia. [Great setup of stakes here.]
Despite every ounce of Alevia’s better judgment, she decides to trust her cute but infuriating island guide, Matteo, and venture off to a world more beautiful than anything in her wildest imagination. But there’s a dark underbelly to the Island. [I wonder about taking the section about Matteo and moving it after the “venture off” part, so the order of the sentence mimics what I’m guessing is the order of the plot – i.e., she leaves for the island and then meets Matteo, rather than meeting Matteo and then going to the island. I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with as-is, but it might be something to play around with. (If she does meet Matteo first and then leave for the island, just ignore all of this!)] Many Islanders fear discovery and [I might cut this “fear discovery” part because if there are tickets being sold and they have island guides, then it seems like they’re past the point of discovery?] have become wary of foreigners. Some will stop at nothing to keep Alevia from returning home with the fortune she needs to save her family.
Or from returning home at all. [Again, great stakes and a clear conflict. That’s exactly what you want in a query.]
Title [Recommend putting the title in all caps. It’s totally acceptable to shout your book title! ☺] is a complete 88,000 word YA contemporary fantasy retelling of a Yiddish folktale.
I am an active member of the SCBWI and a mentee in the Nevada SCBWI 2019 mentorship program. In addition to writing, I am a hospitality designer/developer, a human rights activist, and a world traveler. This is an #Ownvoices story.
Thank you very much for your time and consideration.
[This is honestly a pretty strong query right out of the gate. I think there are small changes or tweaks you can play around with that I mentioned above to try to clarify some of what’s at play, but they’re fairly low-stakes alterations. The biggest thing you want to do in any query is establish WHO the book is about and WHAT is at stake for them, and you definitely did that. Personally, it’d for sure make me scroll down to read your pages.]