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Pitch Workshop – B’s critique #1

Wednesday, 8 February 2012  |  Posted by Brenda Drake

So today is the first day of our pitch workshop. For the next ten days, Shelley Watters, Cassandra Marshall, and I will be critiquing two pitches each. Click on my partners-in-crime pics on the sidebar to go to their sites and read their critiques.

And lucky #1 is …

Name: Sonia Pereira Murphy

Working Title: “Dancing Frogs, Marilyn Monroe, and Bad Eggs” 
B’s notes: I’m not sure about this title. Your pitch doesn’t hint to the frogs, Marilyn or bad eggs. I’m curious how they all tie into this story though.
Genre: Middle-Grade Realistic Fiction
Word Count: 55,000


It’s 1957 and newly orphaned Pearl is living with a grandmother she barely knows in a strange town. Can Pearl find happiness as the odd girl out or will she forever be a bad egg? 

B’s notes: There isn’t anything unique in this pitch. There are a lot of books with orphans living with their grandmothers, trying to fit in, and find happiness. Try to bring what is different about your book into your pitch. What does Pearl do that is special to accomplish her goals?
First 150 words: 
In the beginning there was an accident. I wasn’t there but that doesn’t mean I don’t see it. On the contrary, I see it as if it’s being played before me on a film projector: in Technicolor and crystal clear. 
B’s notes: After reading this first paragraph, it felt too old sounding for an MG. Choose your verbs to match the voice of your point of view character. Something like…
‘Once there was this accident. I wasn’t there but that doesn’t mean I didn’t see it. I saw it. I saw it as if it was playing right before my eyes. You know, on a film projector or something. Technicolor. Crystal clear.’ 
Pat Boone’s chocolatey voice swims through the car radio like a witch’s love spell, making my parents sleepy with happiness. Mama holds Dad’s hand as she closes her eyes, thinking of the banana pancakes she’s going to make me the next morning. Because the next day is Sunday and that’s been banana pancake day for as long as I can remember. 
B’s notes: Again, this is sounding too old. I think this kid would be thinking more about the banana pancakes than how Dad is holding her hand and what Mom is dreaming. I’m nervous that Pat Boone is crooning Dad to sleep, if he’s driving. 
Wait. You said Pearl (though we don’t know her name yet) is seeing this replay as if she was there, right? Okay, I think a kid wouldn’t get this. Because I had to think about it before I realized what was going on here. For a moment there, I thought Pearl was in the back seat. Don’t hint at this and expect a kid to catch on. Mention it again. Like…

‘I wanted to scream at him. Wake up! Watch the road! But I wasn’t there, you see.’ 
Dad looks at her smiley-sleepy face and grins, his crooked white teeth glistening like stars.
B’s notes: Now this is the voice. Smiley-sleepy face, grins, crooked white teeth glistening like stars — perfect words for MG!

“Why, aren’t you a lazyhead,” he says, struggling to keep his own eyes open. Open enough to realize that the streetlamps on the winding country road in Stockbridge, Massachusetts have all gone out. That it must have been due to the wind they had watched fluster the trees as they sipped their after-dinner coffee from the safety of The Red Lion Inn’s dining room.
B’s notes: I don’t think you should start your story here. The Sunday banana pancakes piqued my interest. It’s unique and sweet. Is there a place in your story that you can start at that would pull a young reader in? You can always have her remember what happened later, when we’re further into the read. Find your hook. Both in your 35-word pitch and the opening pages. If you choose to keep this opening, I’d pick more kid friendly verbs and put in things that a kid would notice. Like banana pancakes.
I hope this helps! <3

Remember this is subjective and others’ may feel differently. So I’ll now pass it on to the readers to critique. Please leave your comments, and remember the rules of critiquing … be nice, which I’m sure you all will be, but I have to say it … you know.

Filed: Misc, Workshops

  • sonia says:

    Thanks for this, Brenda! Funny enough, this isn’t where the story originally started so I think I might switch back to the original ending. And the book is really about Pearl’s friendship with the “bad girl” in town but I couldn’t figure out how to fit that in 35 words… I’ll try again. : }


  • sonia says:

    Oops, I meant original “beginning.” Ack.

  • Sonia, this seems like an interesting story, I do agree with the language being too old. My daughter says that about my writing all of the time, and she may be right.

    I like the idea of her imagining the end.

  • Carrie-Anne says:

    I like what you’ve presented of the story so far, and that it’s historical fiction. I don’t particularly notice “adult” language, but then again, most of the young people’s books I read at that age were written before my time and employed a similar type of language.

  • sonia says:


    Thanks! Since the book is set in the 50’s I wanted it so reflect the language of the time. I read a lot of books from that period as well as watch movies from then so I guess that fed my voice.



  • TL Sumner says:

    The foreshadowing of the accident hooked me. I read a lot of MG (11 year old daughter) and this voice does sound older than most of the MG books we own. The voice actually reminds me of a book I read that I think straddles the line of MG and YA – it has a 13 or 14 year old protagonist.

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