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, Kelly Hopkins …
Kelly Ann Hopkins is a librarian and creative writing teacher by day. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Marywood University with a degree in English/Secondary Education and from Mansfield University with a Masters degree in Library Science and Information Technologies. She has lectured at Keystone College, The Cooperage, the Gathering at Keystone, and upcoming at Marywood University.In her writing, she has been published in School Library Monthly and has presented her work at the National Council of Teachers of English and PCTELA conferences. She was also the recipient of the Charitas Medal for Poetry at Marywood, and is a member of SCBWI.
Kelly’s first page critique . . .
Category: Young Adult, Dystopian
Justin Grant stood at the entrance of the large, white building. The line to get in was moving slowly. He turned towards his mother and shrugged his shoulders. She smiled and waved at him [The reader will know she waved at him]. He still didn’t know how he qualified to attend the prestigious summer camp for gifted children [This needs more development. It feels as if there should be a “but” here.].
The guard motioned Justin to go through the metal detector. As he walked through, the alarm went off. He looked at his mother again. Even through the barbed wire, he could see her gritting her teeth. He glanced away as he feared her reaction more than the armed guards [I immediately want to know why he might feel this way!] who were headed his way. Justin recognized the man’s uniform [as one of the]. The city’s hired henchmen. [They] had patrolled Detroit’s streets as long as Justin could remember[, and his]. His mother reminded him daily to stay out of their way. They were known to make people disappear.
Justin’s reaction was too slow for the guard. The huge man grabbed Justin’s arm, jerking the [fourteen-year-old] towards him. He twisted Justin’s wrist to scan the bar code assigned to him by The Detroit Board of Education [Now I want to know why the Dept. of Ed would barcode kids!]
“Justin Grant.” The guard read the profile [where is he reading it?] then glanced at the other guards.
The June sun beat down on the black pavement and bounced back on the Justin. He wiped his forehead with his sleeve. His shirt pulled up and exposed his fat belly. Out of habit, he rubbed it. [This paragraph slows down your story. Thread this information elsewhere. The heat could be discussed in the first paragraph.]
He looked at his mother again. She shook her head, still clenching her jaw [How far away is he from her? Can he see this detail?]. He tugged down his shirt and pulled up his jeans [over his fat belly]. He waved at her but she didn’t wave back.
Under different circumstances, Sadie Grant would have stormed the gate and made her presence known. Her best friend, Jeannie, put her hand on her shoulder. Justin knew it was more to restrain his mother than for emotional support. [If this is such a prestigious summer camp, why is his mother so angry?]
Another guard, armed with a [holstered] pistol on his holster and a machine gun around his shoulder, stomped towards Justin. “Do you have a weapon?”
Justin put his hand over his front right pocket.
“Give it to me.”
“It was a gift from my brother.”
Justin pulled the knife out of his pocket. The guard snapped it with his bare hands and threw it against the building.
“You won’t need this inside, son.” The guard smirked.
“But Johnny gave that to me,” Justin whispered.
“You say something?” asked the guard.
Justin looked down at the sidewalk and shook his head.
“Let him in,” said the head guard [How does Justin know this is the head guard? What identifies him as such?]. “The boogey-man inside will give you your punishment.”
Justin waved good-bye to his mother. This time Sadie waved back. , waiting for him to enter the stone building. When she didn’t see him anymore, her strength left her and she crumbled into Jeannie’s arms. [This is a change of point of view from Justin to his mother. If she can’t seen him, he can’t see her either.]
Justin walked through the first set of metal doors. They closed behind him and made a suctioning noise as if the air inside the building was forbidden to mix with the contamination outside. The small waiting area was dark except [for] a sign over the interior door that read, “Welcome to Camp Detroit.”
This seems more like a prison, he thought.
[Great ominous tone! I would be hooked by this first page, begging for more!]