Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #25


BIRDS OF A FEATHER
YA CONTEMPORARY
56,000 words

Query:

After her sister dies, Faith tries to cope. But coping includes taking one too many pills. Thirty-seven too many. Her parents send her away to a school for troubled teens—Camp Hope—where she’s placed with the Aves, one of eight species campers are divided into. Here, she’s given an ID bracelet, a room, a class schedule, weekly therapy sessions, and a new name.
Pigeon.
Nine months down, seventy days to go. To get to graduation, Pigeon must suffer through the Summer Session and Darwinian Games where “Campers rise above themselves to help their species thrive and species come together to help each other survive”. Blah, blah, blah. She doesn’t believe in this load of crap mantra until Monkey pries her eyes open with laughter and kindness. Aves brothers, Falcon and Raven, peck away at her cuss word exterior; even conspire with the girls to help Pigeon pay-back her Pisces nemesis.
Pigeon is afraid to leave her self-imposed cage of isolation and accept her fellow campers. By this point, maybe she’s not even worthy of her Aves wings. As the Camp Hope saying goes, ‘Once an Aves, always an Aves.’ Her wings are non-refundable. It’s up to Pigeon how far she’ll fly.
BIRDS OF A FEATHER is a YA contemporary complete at 56,000 words.


First 150 Words:

I hate this year. And it’s only June. There’s no way to make time go faster. No time machine or portal to jump through. I’m stuck. Like the rest of the schmucks in this hellhole.
Fuck it.
I pull on my running shoes—gray, the only color I get to wear—and head to the toilet for my morning puke. The shit they feed us provides the recommended nutritional supplements to keep us alive. Not sure I’m absorbing enough calcium and vitamins since it ends up spiraling in a slime green swirl down the crapper six a.m. sharp.
hope I’m not getting enough to survive. I’ll do whatever it takes to get out of here. Starvation is just one strategy. I want this to end.
The desired effect my parents dreamt about when they had me imprisoned, I mean, sent me here.

7 comments:

Jeannette said...

I love when I read a query that tells me what the story is about and uses subtle literary tools as well. It's incredibly difficult to do, and I wish I could get a handle on it myself! I get a strong voice and a sense of the conflict from this, and the first 150 words don't disappoint. Good luck with this one!

Meagan said...

First off: On first read, I'm digging the idea, but on a second look, I guess I'm lost about halfway through. You might want to focus this a little more. We don't need to know everything right off the bat.

Here are some suggestions to tighten this up.

After her sister dies, Faith tries to cope. But coping includes taking one too many pills. --> There is a much stronger way for you to start this, and I'm thinking it involves cutting the first and focusing on the second the two sentences. Also important: age! We need to know how old Faith is.

Suggested: When X-Y-O Faith tries to cope with his sister's death by taking thirty-seven pills, her parents send her to a school for troubled teens.

Or: X-Y-O Faith copes with her sister's death by throwing back a month's worth of (whatever kind of pills). Her parents cope by sending her to Camp Hope, a school for troubled teens.

here she’s placed with the Aves, one of eight species campers are divided into. Here, she’s given an ID bracelet, a room, a class schedule, weekly therapy sessions, and a new name. Pigeon. ---> You started off great, and these are some good details, but we don't need to know that many for the query. Cut down on a little bit, and you'll keep us tagging along.

Suggested (going off my others): There she's placed with the Aves (you might add in why they're put as Aves. Other attempted suicides? Others in grief?), given a room, weekly therapy sessions, and a new name: Pigeon.

Nine months down, seventy days to go. --> Now I'm pulled away. When you start the story, at what point are we? From the start, I got the idea that she attempts suicide during the story, but it sounds like we're thrown into her treatment. It might be a good idea of evaluate where you start.

To get to graduation, Pigeon must suffer through the Summer Session and Darwinian Games where “Campers rise above themselves to help their species thrive and species come together to help each other survive”. Blah, blah, blah. --> I'm iffy on the blah blah blah. Can you think of a better way to show she doesn't care? I'm getting "bratty" from taht, which I didn't get from the rest.

She doesn’t believe in this load of crap mantra until Monkey pries her eyes open with laughter and kindness. --> At this point, I'm lost. Who is Monkey? Why is he relevant? Why doesn't he get mentioned again?

Aves brothers, Falcon and Raven, peck away at her cuss word exterior; even conspire with the girls to help Pigeon pay-back her Pisces nemesis. --> I am so very lost at this point. I also think "cuss word exterior" could use better phrasing. Hard exterior? If you're going for the bird theme, cuttlebone? But also, I'm lost on why she needs to pay someone back? What happened to Monkey?

Pigeon is afraid to leave her self-imposed cage of isolation and accept her fellow campers. By this point, maybe she’s not even worthy of her Aves wings. --> I think refocusing the query on this idea is important. You can go more in-depth about how she accepts them, but if that is the case, switch these lines with the ones from above.

Her wings are non-refundable. It’s up to Pigeon how far she’ll fly. --> I like this as the last sentence.

--

Your first 150 words start with some strong voice, but I'm put off by how confrontational she seems right off the bat. I'm also curious, is she making herself throw up bile or her breakfast?

marcyblesy.com said...

This sentence got my attention in the query. Good hook.

"After her sister dies, Faith tries to cope. But coping includes taking one too many pills. Thirty-seven too many."

The first 150 had a clear, edgy voice and the setting is unique with a good premise. Well done.

I agree with others that the query is confusing. I didn't have a good undestanding of many of the characters and even the "bird name" idea was confusing, too, though I get the idea. Who is her Pisces nemesis? Who is monkey? In other words, what is her main conflict while in treatment: that she has low self-worth, that she is grieving the loss of her sister? That needs to be more clear in the query, but I think you have a great story going. Best wishes.

JenfromtheBlock said...

This story sounds intriguing and relevant, but I have a few friendly suggestions. When you say Monkey pries her eyes open...well, that seems impossible to do with "kindness and laughter." It sounds like torture to me, although I get what you're trying to say. Pay back doesn't need a hyphen, and the query flows up until the final sentences, "By this point, maybe..." on. That's where I get confused. I can't tell whether she'll get her wings regardless or if she's in danger of not getting through the camp. Is "Once an Aves, always an Aves" meant to sound ominous or embracing? If it means she's made it and is about to be set out into the real world, I wonder if it's wise to tell us the resolution of her major struggle at this point. I love your first 150 words--angry but great.

Stephsco said...

Another comment made a great suggestion to rework the first lines a little. "Try to cope" is rather awkward--is she coping or only trying to? (see what I mean). Example: "When 16-yr-old Faith copes with her sister's death by ODing on pills, her parents ship her off to Camp Hope, a school for troubled teens." I think you can skip the list of items she gets and focus on her new name, which highlights her shift to a new identity.

I like the tracking of days reference and the use of other nicknames for her new friends.

The third paragraph reads a little vague. What is her main obstacle besides just being at Camp Hope? Can you show the stakes a bit more of what happens if she doesn't get her wings or follow the camp mantras; is she afraid to lose her new friends or afraid of who she'll become? I think your query is almost there. Great job so far!

Stephsco said...

^ ODing is probably not correct since she didn't die; almost ODing or leave in what you have about taking an excessive amount. sorry about that!

deadlyeverafter said...

I might even start your query with: "Thirty seven pills. That's how many Faith had to take to cope with her sister's death..."

Kristen