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Day 8 (Part 1) of the Pitch Wars Mentor Workshops with Diana Gallagher and Katrina Emmel

Monday, 2 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 Mentors, Diana Gallagher and Katrina Emmel … 

Though Diana Gallagher be but little, she is fierce. She’s also a gymnastics coach and judge, former collegiate gymnast, and writing professor. Her work has appeared in The Southampton Review, International GymnastThe Couch Gymnast, The Gymternet, and on a candy cigarette box for SmokeLong Quarterly. She holds an MFA from Stony Brook University and is represented by Tina Wexler of ICM Partners. Her contemporary YA novel, Lessons in Falling, lands on 2/7/2017.
Diana’s latest release …
LESSON ONE: Playing it safe beats taking chances.

After an injury ends Savannah’s dream of a college gymnastics scholarship, she quits despite her parents’ protests. She won’t risk breaking her body—and heart—again.

LESSON TWO: Catch your best friend when she falls—or regret it forever.

Rules are meant to be broken, according to Savannah’s best friend, Cassie—and it’s more fun to break them together. But when Cassie attempts suicide, Savannah’s left wondering how well she really knows her.

​LESSON THREE: Learning to leap forward, not knowing where you’ll land, is the hardest of all.

Falling for Marcos wasn’t part of the plan. Not only did he save Cassie’s life, he also believes Savannah can still achieve her dreams. Except Cassie thinks Marcos and gymnastics will only break Savannah’s heart.

As Savannah tumbles and twists through toxic friendships and crushing parental expectations, she realizes you never know who will be there when you fall.

Katrina grew up in New Hampshire, and has a love for literature and science. She studied biochemistry in college before moving to the Midwest for graduate school, where she earned her Ph.D. in chemistry. Continuing her journey to the West Coast, Katrina lives in an active household that includes her husband, two children, father-in-law, and their rascally pups. She works as a technical consultant, and writes YA and adult contemporary and historical fiction. Katrina loves chai tea, traveling, trying out new recipes, music, and crafting.

Diana and Katrina’s query critique . . .

Young Adult: Contemporary

BEING MARY BENNET is a modern-day sequel to PRIDE & PREJUDICE told from the perspective of the middle Bennet sister. I was previously represented by Becca Stumpf, but she recently left agenting. I now have a shiny new manuscript I’m excited to submit.

Marnie Barnes has plans for her senior year at Pacific Crest Academy: Win the Hunt Prize, impress her parents so they focus on her instead of her perfect old [old or older?] sister, and maybe–just maybe–catch the eye of the one and only Collins Mackabee. Marnie’s plans come with charts and graphs, to-do lists and bullet points, and more cat-themed attire than is probably healthy.

The one thing Marnie didn’t account for in all this is her new roommate, who laughs too easily, hugs too much, and comes bearing some very uncomfortable truths. [I’d like another sentence here with specifics about said uncomfortable truths to transition into Marnie’s realization.] Marnie always thought she was a Lizzy … but what if her roomie is right? What if she’s a total Mary Bennet?

If Marnie wants to become the protagonist [maybe use “heroine” here to avoid word repetition?] in her own story–it’s always the protagonist who wins the big prize (and the boy), after all–she’ll have to realign some of those Capital P Plans. [Marnie’s “charts and graphs” from the opening make it sound like she already has the ambition to be the protagonist of her own story–has she been hiding behind her to-do lists and plans instead of putting herself out there?] Throw in an odd shelter dog that’s testing her Team Cat allegiance and a dark-eyed boy testing her Team Colly obsession, and Marnie begins to question not just what she wants, but who she wants to be. Is a Lizzy B glow-up really for her?

BEING MARY BENNET, complete at 86,000 words, is PRIDE & PREJUDICE meets AWKWARD. The first ten pages are pasted below. I’m a former journalist and editor who now spends my days chasing after two young boys. I’ve participated in critique groups at the wonderful Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver, CO, where I currently live.

Thanks for your consideration!

I love the voice and energy in this query. It’s attention-grabbing and fun, and gives what is hopefully a good indication of the flavor of the manuscript. I’ve seen query advice stating not to use rhetorical questions in a pitch, and there are three here. Personally, I think it works, but for those who find it polarizing, it could be an issue.

 This query is a great example when it comes to polish, content, and length: it’s clean (free of typos, spelling errors, and misused punctuation); contains the right amount of information about the book and the author; and is short enough for an agent to read quickly. All in all, I think it’s very well done and, if I were an agent, it would be an insta-full request from me.

Thank you, Diana and Katrina, 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

One Comment
  • Thanks for your thoughtful critique! It’s funny how you can read something a half-million times and still slip in a mistake like old vs. older, right? Marnie’s sister is older, not yet geriatric. Thanks again for taking the time with my query–I really appreciate it!

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