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Super Intern Contest – OUTSIDE IN

Wednesday, 13 June 2012  |  Posted by Brenda Drake
Genre:  YA Contemporary
Word Count: 52,000
Query:
Dear Ms. Chapman:
Thank you for allowing me to participate in the Super Intern Contest. I hope you may be interested in my Contemporary Young Adult novel OUTSIDE IN (52,000 words).
Super-brain Alexis likes everything exactly so. Perfect prep school grades.  School supplies arranged eight inches apart at exact angles. Timed phone calls with her mother. Scheduled hook-ups with her boyfriend Ben on Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. As long as her longstanding self-destructive streak is hidden, all is well.
When Alexis receives a B on an essay and then endures an excruciating break-up with her boyfriend, her once orderly life starts to spin out of control. And now the precise angles lay on her leg in parallel lines, each cut an inch apart, one for each day since Ben broke up with her. She bangs her head, burns herself—anything to self-soothe and assert some control.
When her friend Miranda accidentally glimpses her scars, Alexis feels even more trapped. Now she must survive weekly therapy sessions with a counselor, forced disclosure to her parents, and worst of all: dismissal from school if she doesn’t get better. It’s up to Alexis to pull herself out of the mire—if she even wants to.
As an educator and a teacher consultant for the National Writing Project, I know how much the stories of others can speak to teenagers trying to make sense of their own lives. Although there have been other novels about cutting (for example, Patricia McCormack’s Cut and Cheryl Rainfield’s Scars), Outside In examines the correlation between perfectionism and self-harm, a survival mechanism for intense pressure.
I am a member of SCBWI and belong to several critique groups. I am also working on two other YA projects.
Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
250word excerpt:
A bright red B. Oh my God. My lowest grade ever.
I dug my fingernails into my arm and risked a glance at the comments on my paper. All bad. I couldn’t read any more—plenty of time to memorize the rest later. I stuffed the English paper into my binder before anyone could see it.
My throat closed up and I couldn’t draw a full breath. My G.P.A. would sink. Miranda would pass me in class rank. One single B could ruin everything at our super-competitive boarding school.
What would my mother say when she got her weekly grades email? She’d never forgive me when she saw that B.
“I’ll be right back,” I said to no one in particular, and walked-ran out of the classroom.
Made it into the hallway. Such a fool. I clenched my teeth and my hands shook. I should have spent more time on the paper until it was flawless.
Made it into a stall before the tears erupted.
Why didn’t I work harder? Dummy, lazy, fat moron.
I jerked up my left sleeve. A paper clip would do, one of those big ones in my English binder. I uncurled the clip, molding the metal into a straight line. I scraped the clip back and forth across my fat upper arm until beads of blood popped up. So stupid, so stupid….

It wasn’t enough. I took a deep breath. I scraped four more times, changing the line into an angular B.

Filed: Contests, Misc

One Comment
  • QUERY

    This is really well written. I was hooked right away. You layout everything nicely. I would watch that last bit about the theme of the story, just make sure it’s not too preachy in the story. It could start to sound like a self-help book instead of a YA novel. But I love what you did with the query.

    250

    I like where you started with this. I’d imagine someone with her OCD would be freaked out by getting a B. Some of her inner thoughts sound stiff and un-teen like. Would she think to herself, What would my mother say when she got her weekly grades email? It sounds too formal. I would think a teen would say. “What would mom say when she got my grades emailed.” or something like that. The two sentences that started with “Made” read strange. You can say, “I” or rearrange the sentence. The last two sentences are great. I was totally in the moment for those. I would have read all of this, but not sure I would have asked for more. I’d be on the fence.

    Thank you for sharing your work ;o)

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