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Day Seven of the June Query Workshop with Pitch Wars Mentors … Kendra Carpenter Young & Janet Butler Taylor

Thursday, 11 June 2015  |  Posted by Brenda Drake

B workshop2

Welcome to the June Query Workshop with some of our past and present PitchWars mentors. From a Rafflecopter lottery drawing, we selected many wonderful writers to participate in the workshop. Each mentor has graciously critiqued a query letter for one lucky writer. The writers are anonymous. Follow along all month to view the query critiques. We welcome comments and further suggestions, but please keep them kind and respectful.

Here are the next two mentors and their critiques …


Young_Kendra2Kendra Carpenter Young

Blog | Twitter | KickButt Kidlit

Kendra lives with her awesome family in Tennessee where she teaches seventh grade by day and writes twisted middle grade and young adult tales in the wee hours. If it goes bump in the night or leads to fantastical journeys, she’s probably writing about it. She’s a member of SCBWI and a proud part of the newly-formed KickButt KidLit blog. Kendra is represented by Taylor Haggerty of Waxman Leavell Literary Agency.


Kendra’s query critique …

Query #14:

Dear ________,

After years of trying to prove her courage [How does she try to prove her courage to her family? And why would she need to?] to her tight knit gypsy family [I love the image this invokes, but is “gypsy” still considered PC? If not, Roma might be another option you can use.], twelve year old Alisa Talla can’t believe her father has entrusted her with a mission [Can you say what kind of mission? Also, I’m curious about the term “mission” simply because it has a modern feel to it, which is in contrast to the feel of the world you’re describing.] of her own. But when Alisa returns home to find her caravan in ruins, she must brave dragon riders, thieves, surly elves, and a very determined fox [This makes me think your story might include animals with human-like intelligence. Just wanted to mention it if that wasn’t your intention.] to find her family.

As every step takes her further from home, she finds herself deeper and deeper in the grasps [How is she in its grasps?] of a creature whose evil shakes the foundations of everything she’s ever known — a creature with an inexplicable interest in, and connection to, Alisa herself. [Is the creature inherently evil, destroying just for the sake of destruction, or does it have specific goals? Since you mentioned the connection to Alisa, it makes me wonder if Alisa might have even greater stakes at risk than just finding her family.]

THE LEGACY SCROLL is a 56,000 word middle grade fantasy. I am a published freelance writer and middle school teacher with an upcoming nonfiction book entitled THE MIGHTY MISSISSIPPI
[Can you mention the name of the press?], and this is my first novel.

Thanks for your time! I look forward to hearing from you.

You  have the bones of a great query! At only 103 words you have plenty of wiggle room to add in a bit more about Alisa, the conflict, and definitely more about what’s at stake for her. Not to say finding one’s family isn’t important enough itself but—in an ocean of queries where the MC is searching for their family—what makes Alisa’s search stand out? Adding in a bit more of these details will really help your query stand out!


janet-b-taylorJanet B. Taylor

Twitter | Facebook | Author Facebook Page

Goodreads | Tumblr | Instagram

Janet B Taylor lives in such a small town in Arkansas that if you happen to sneeze when you pass by, you’ll totally miss it. (Cause, you know, you can’t sneeze with your eyes open. For real–try it–it’s impossible).

Her debut novel, INTO THE DIM, is a YA Adventure/Time Travel, coming March 1st, 2016 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and is about a 16 year old girl who must travel back to the twelfth century during the age of King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, to save her mom.

Janet’s a reader/fan first and a writer second. She lives with her fantastic husband, two hilarious sons, and Dorda the diabetic dog who won’t win any beauty contests, but has a “nice personality”.

The cover of Janet’s upcoming release INTO THE DIM will be revealed today –6/11/2016–at noon EDT on www.yabookscentral.com! Make sure to stop by there today to check it out and show Janet some cover love. I’ll post it here when I can at 1:00PM EDT. I’m so excited to see it!

And here’s her cover!! It’s so beautiful, Janet!



Janet’s query critique …

Query #15:

This is already a very strong query. I had little to add or cut. I was immediately intrigued and I have no doubt you will get a lot of interest!! Good luck!

Dear Pitch Wars Mentors,

When Talmage True was born, the people said it was a mercy that his mother died for the child’s razor-sharp teeth would have torn her apart. He was born with a full set. [LOVE this opening sequence! VERY strong imagery, and immediately engaging! I’d just tweak the tiniest bit to: When Talmage True was born, people said it was a mercy his mother died, for the child’s full set of razor-sharp teeth would have torn her apart.Now fifteen, Talmage has grown into a monster,
condemned by others for his misshapen face and sinister eyes.
[Who are these others? His father? The townspeople?] When he meets his uncle, a traveling curiosity peddler hawking the medically grotesque, Talmage feels a kinship with the bizarre creatures on display. [I would cut the details of the creatures, and bring the last sentence up. The term medically-grotesque says it all, and the paragraph below is the main story]-the taxidermied kitten with eight-legs and two tails, and the dog preserved in chemicals whose body ends in a shell.  After all, Talmage, too, is an aberration. 

Along with his uncle, Talmage creates a clockwork figure in his exact likeness–a mechanical boy made of metal, covered in the flesh of stolen corpses.  Late one night, the figure comes to life and Talmage
welcomes it as a brother.
[VERY cool!]  But then Talmage meets Alice, a girl scarred by fire, who shows him kindness and how to see beyond someone’s outward appearance.  With Alice by his side, Talmage realizes the error of his ways [Why is it an error? Is the clockwork boy evil?]and for the first time  regrets building his clockwork brother.  The mechanical boy, however, who has already begun to rust and rot, will fight to the death in order to live.

A SAVAGE MISCREATION is an 88,000-word young adult [Young Adult] Gothic horror [Horror] novel, [with series potential.]  There is a possibility for a sequel although the manuscript could stand alone.  

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Thank you, Kendra and Janet, for your critiques. Everyone, come back tomorrow for the next round of critiques!

Also, there’s still time to sign up on the Rafflecopter for the July First Page Workshop with our Pitch Wars past and present mentors. Go to this post here to sign up.

Filed: Workshops

We're thrilled at the different ways those in our Pitch Wars community are giving back—and we encourage them to do so. However, please keep in mind that Pitch Wars is not affiliated with any of these various contests, promotions, etc., including those of our mentors and mentees. Promoting any such opportunities via our social media channels doesn't imply endorsement or affiliation. We encourage you to do your research before participating.

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