Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #18


How to be a Detective in 10 EZ Steps
Middle Grade Mystery
24,000 words

Query:

Bright and bold in both appearance and manner, 10-year-old Hispanic fashionista-entrepreneur Celia Narro reluctantly moves to a small lakeshore town upstate, worlds away from her best friend Indira and their glamorous life on New York City’s upper west side. Amid culture shock, Celia finds refuge in a secret room hidden behind her new bedroom closet that is both a legacy from the Underground Railroad and a key to a long-lost local treasure. Celia views this treasure as her one-way ticket straight back to New York City, but the search pulls her into a battle with jealous fellow 5th grader Jane Archer and Jane’s strange uncle Theo Rathbone, a member of a secret society who makes no attempt to hide his dislike for “illegal aliens”.

With the help of 10-year-old junior archaeologist and part-time Renaissance knight Joe Eli, Celia nearly has the treasure in her grasp when Joe, her one new friend, disappears. To find him Celia must choose between the treasure and Joe by reaching out to her nemesis, Jane Archer. In this modern mystery Celia, a Fancy-Nancy-meets-Nancy-Drew heroine, puts her knowledge of fashion and fabrics to work as she unravels the secrets of communicating with a boy and making friends in a new place while discovering the different forms treasure can take.

This story is set in the form of a how-to book for beginning detectives with an ethnically diverse cast of characters, strong heroine and historic elements. The “instructional” passages at the beginning of each chapter not only explain the steps in developing basic detective skills, they also provide a dash of humor, additional clues, and red herrings (as the case may be).

This is my first children's manuscript. My first draft won first place in its category in the 2011 Pacific Northwest Literary Contest. I am a wife of one and mom of two, with a B.A. in journalism and a minor in graphic design from Michigan State University. After spending over 20 years in the marketing profession, I am willing and able to support this book in any way you deem valuable.


First 150 Words:

Yes you too can be a world-famous detective, even if you are still going to school full-time! Fame, fortune, adventure and mystery, they are all here just waiting for you to reach out and grab them before someone else does. When you’ve successfully completed these 10 easy steps you’ll be an agency classified Level MG1A, with a certificate to prove it. But first things first, before you can begin your training you have to find a mystery. Mysteries come in all shapes and sizes, just like people. They can be new little mysteries, like who your teacher will be next year, or they can be ancient mysteries that are all twisted and bent like an old apple tree. And, like people, you can find them anywhere – in the clouds, in your cereal bowl, or in an old musty letter. . .
Shepherd Lane
Pultneyville, New York
                                                                                                            March 1, 1939

8 comments:

Mia Celeste said...

I love your premise. What kid wouldn't want to be a detective?

And your lead characters sound really intriguing. As a teacher I collect books to interest my students and I'd for sure snap this one up.

jennbrisendine said...

"In this modern mystery Celia, a Fancy-Nancy-meets-Nancy-Drew heroine, puts her knowledge of fashion and fabrics to work as she unravels the secrets of communicating with a boy and making friends in a new place while discovering the different forms treasure can take." This is a great pitch -- and I think your query would be just as strong and detailed without it. And much shorter. Some agents like a theme statement, but your themes come out loud and clear without it.

A few grammar things -- I think the period goes inside the quotes in paragraph 1. I think you need a comma after strong heroine in paragraph 3. In P 1, Amid culture shock is a struggle for me -- consider Stricken with culture shock or something similar? No need to mention Jane's full name and handle in P 2 -- you already intro'ed her. Just Jane.

Then 150 is neatly and clearly written, but the descriptive sentences about mysteries sound a tad didactic -- kids are so turned off by that! -- and though I like the idea of heading chapters with a helpful detective's hint, I wanted to meet Celia. I wonder, for the sake of a pitch contest, if you should shorten the paragraph to one sentence so we can see your "real" story -- character, dialogue, conflict?

Good luck!! And congrats on your award with this ms!

gailecn said...

These characters! I love them - fashionista entrepreneur and a part-time Renaissance knight. Hilarious! I think I saw your post on the beta readers page & thought this sounded really interesting.

I think the meat of your query is great. I'd consider deleting the very first phrase, only because we can figure out she's bright and bold from the fashionista and NYC bits. I'd end the 2nd paragraph right after you lay out the stakes ("To find him Celia must choose..."). Then maybe move that last sentence ("In this modern mystery...") to the part of your query where you give the title, genre, and word count. (ie. In "How To Be a Detective in 10 EZ Steps, a 24,000 word middle grade mystery, a Fancy-Nancy-meets-Nancy-Drew heroine must put her knowledge of fashion...")

(And how great is that Fancy Nancy meets Nancy Drew comparison? I love it!)

gailecn said...

I just read Jenn's comment above & we have the opposite opinions on your comparison statement - too funny!

I also realized I forgot to say anything about the first 150. I think you could cut it off at "you have to find a mystery". I like the idea of having these little bits at the beginning of each chapter, but you don't want to make them too long or you'll lose your reader. I agree with Jenn that for the pitch contest, you might consider skipping this part and using the first 150 of the story with Celia.

Cat said...

I love the query and would read on although I think that 2nd person narration is hard for a 1st impression. Since you already mentioned that there are prologues to the chapters, you might as well start with the introduction of your MC.

marcyblesy.com said...

I like the cast of characters and plot you have set up. I think there are some things that could be cut to streamline the query. Just a thought.

In this sentence: "With the help of 10-year-old junior archaeologist and part-time Renaissance knight Joe Eli, Celia nearly has the treasure in her grasp when Joe, her one new friend, disappears." you can take out "her one new friend" because that seems clear already. I have been told in the bio section not to give them details the agent won't care about such as marital status, etc. I have been learning myself how to streamline everything. Your idea is very nice, though, and I would love to read some of the actual story, too. Best wishes.

MPH2003 said...

In terms of the first 150, I kind of agree with Cat and starting with your MC. But I do like the prologue idea in that it speaks directly to the younger reader and makes it possible for them to be a part of this detective world. Are the prologues in the MC's voice? If so, you could make that clearer with this first one so that the reader immediately gets a sense of her voice.

As for the query, you include a lot of information, and I have to admit that I find it somewhat confusing. I love the premise and the character descriptions, but I wonder if you can tighten it up a bit.

I think this is right up the target audience's alley. And I love the "Fancy-Nancy-meets-Nancy-Drew" line.

amycavenaugh said...

A nitpicky thing but I believe when you're referring to NYC's Upper West Side, it should be capitalized. I love the premise but agree with some of the other comments that there is almost too information. Try to tighten it up a bit & you'll be golden. Best of luck!