Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #28


ACCEPTING ELLIE
YOUNG ADULT - CONTEMPORARY
83,700

Query:

Seventeen year old Sadie Hawkins isn’t searching for a BFF when Kat sashays into her life, but they're hard to pry apart. The pair's plans for a crazy senior year end as suddenly as Kat's car hits the tree. Sadie is left with only bits of Kat's diary to keep her company and the buzz she gets from cutting herself. She can’t say “death,” can’t even think it, so she calls the accident Ellie after Kat’s stuffed elephant.

When Sadie’s parents catch her skipping school, she’s whisked away to an actual Circle of Trust where the girls have whacked out parents and the boys obsess over food. The only bearable part of group therapy is the drive with Bobby Jones, pizza delivery boy and corny accent king. He’s already backed over the neighbors’ cat, but he’s way easier to deal with than her mom.

No distraction or person, however huge or annoying, allows Sadie to forget that only air exists where Kat should be. The box cutter continues its enticing whisper, and Sadie relishes the power that comes with protecting a secret. Until the day Bobby grabs her wrist and she flinches. Soon after, her group leader notices her love of long sleeves and mentions her suspicions to Sadie's mom. Sentenced to a house arrest where fun comes in the form of chores, Sadie has loads of time to read Kat’s diary. And what she discovers is that Kat was dared to be her friend.

Sadie tracks down those responsible for the dare, searching for answers instead of partial truths. Bobby helps her understand that forgiving the past will free up the present. And his brand of pepperoni grease might just be her future.

First 150-

We know close to nothing, and in the ER, no news can’t be the good kind.
What I remember from today has missing pieces. My drive home from the lake. The house phone ringing four times. The light peach of Mom’s eyelids as she stared at the carpet. Kat’s front door locked, the spare key missing from the hanging azalea. Dad’s hug, Mom’s “It’ll be all right” until he shushed her.
A failed quiz isn’t the end of the world. Spaghetti sauce on white pants can be fixed with a Tide stick. But a Band-Aid phrase like “It’ll be all right” works for bruises and cheating boyfriends.
Not this.
My parents have crushed me between them. If they combine the right amount of pressure and proximity, my bones will stay whole, my insides tucked away.
We’re in those mustard colored bucket seats that make it their life’s mission to hurt your back, your butt, and every other part, no matter how many times you change positions.

13 comments:

Jodie Andrefski said...

I absolutely LOVE your voice in your 150. It drew me right in and made me want to read me. The word choice is beautiful and creative. I don't even know which example to pick, I liked so many. I especially loved the paragraph that started with "A failed quiz..."

My only critique would be in regard to your query. It seems like it could use some tightening, and be less like a synopsis. (I know that is really hard, I'm still learning it too.)

Other than that...really great job, especially tackling such a difficult subject!

Meagan said...

This sounds like a complex kind of story that has a lot going for it. Friendship and trust are two important things that make a great contemp.

But it sounds to me like the first paragraph of your query is a chunk of backstory we don't need. If you cut it and focus on the story at hand, you can re-work it to be much more grabbing. For example, I've plucked some of the stronger sentences that give me an idea of what that story is:


When Sadie’s parents catch her skipping school, she’s whisked away to an actual Circle of Trust where the girls have whacked out parents and the boys obsess over food.

The only bearable part of group therapy is the drive with Bobby Jones, pizza delivery boy and corny accent king.

No distraction or person, allows Sadie to forget that only air exists where [her best friend] Kat should be.

Her group leader mentions her suspicions to Sadie's mom.

Sentenced to a house arrest, Sadie has loads of time to read Kat’s diary.

She discovers is that Kat was dared to be her friend.

Sadie tracks down those responsible for the dare, searching for answers

Working those around in a skeletal kind of thing you could work from:

Seventeen-year-old Sadie's group counselor suspects she's been cutting to cope with the death of her best friend, Kat. The only bearable part of group therapy for Sadie was the drive with Bobby Jones, pizza delivery boy and corny accent king. [cute fact about him / lifting her spirits away from Kat]

Now that she's sentenced to house arrest, Sadie's got loads of time to read Kat's diary. In the pages, she finds out Kat was dared to be her friend. Sadie tracks down the [jerks/assholes/somethings] responsible for the dare, searching for answers Kat's diary couldn't give.


Bobby helps her understand that forgiving the past will free up the present. And his brand of pepperoni grease might just be her future. --> I'm not sold on this as the ending line. Readers would want Sadie to find happiness within herself, not just from a guy she's met. Can you find a way to include him, but not necessarily make him the end reward?

---

I like the 150 words after "A failed quiz..." and I think you'd be so much better off reworking that to be your opening line. You don't have to ditch the first line altogether, though.

Katie J.H Teller said...

Wow! I would read this if I found it in a book store! You really capture the sadness of Sadie in this, but at the same time there is a hint of hope with Bobby.
I think constructively, the first two sentences I had to read over a couple of times to understand what you were saying. I'd restructure them some how, and maybe break the first sentence into two.
But I LOVE the phrase, "The box cutter continues its enticing whisper," It just captures the emotion so well.
I hope that helps!

Tif / Halu-Halo said...

Yay for contemp!

THANK YOU so much for coming by to give me feedback on my pitch! (#33). I hope that my comments help!

I loved your voice! Here it goes.

(I'm sorry if my comments are in CAPS, I promise I'm not yelling lol)


Seventeen year old Sadie Hawkins WASN'T searching for a BFF when Kat SASHAYED into her life, but they BECAME HARD to pry apart. The pair's plans for a crazy senior year end as suddenly as Kat's car hits the tree. Sadie is left with only bits of Kat's diary to keep her company and the buzz she gets from cutting herself. She can’t say “death,” can’t even think it, so she calls the accident Ellie after Kat’s stuffed elephant. I FEEL LIKE YOU CAN TIGHTEN THIS ENTIRE PARAGRAPH INTO A COUPLE OF SENTENCES TO SET THE BACKGROUND.

When Sadie’s parents catch her skipping school, she’s whisked away to GROUP THERAPY--an actual Circle of Trust--where the girls have whacked out parents and the boys obsess over food. The only bearable part is the drive with Bobby Jones, THE CORNY pizza delivery boy (and corny accent king. He’s already backed over the neighbors’ cat, but he’s way easier to deal with than her mom. I DON'T THINK YOU NEED ALL THIS)

(No distraction or person, however huge or annoying,) BUT NO ONE OR THING allows Sadie to forget KAT (that only air exists where Kat should be) The box cutter continues its enticing whisper, and Sadie relishes the power that comes with protecting a secret.<---This statement is very vague.
Until the day Bobby grabs her wrist and she flinches. Soon after, her group leader notices her love of long sleeves and mentions her suspicions to Sadie's mom. Sentenced to a house arrest where fun comes in the form of chores, Sadie has loads of time to read Kat’s diary. And what she discovers is that Kat was dared to be her friend. YOU CAN TIGHTEN THIS INTO A COUPLE OF SENTENCES, IT's READING LIKE A SYNOPSIS.

Sadie tracks down those responsible for the dare, searching for answers instead of partial truths. Bobby helps her understand that forgiving the past will free up the present. And his brand of pepperoni grease might just be her future. <--CUTE, BUT WHAT ARE THE STAKES? WHAT IF SHE DOESN'T FIND OUT THE TRUTH?

First 150-

We know close to nothing, and in the ER, no news can’t be the good kind.
What I remember from today has missing pieces. My drive home from the lake. The house phone ringing four times. The light peach of Mom’s eyelids as she stared at the carpet. Kat’s front door locked, the spare key missing from the hanging azalea. Dad’s hug(put a semicolon) Mom’s “It’ll be all right” until he shushed her.
A failed quiz isn’t the end of the world. Spaghetti sauce on white pants can be fixed with a Tide stick. But a Band-Aid phrase like “It’ll be all right” ONLY works for bruises and cheating boyfriends.
Not this.
My parents have crushed me between them. If they combine the right amount of pressure and proximity, my bones will stay whole, my insides tucked away.

I FEEL LIKE THIS NEXT SENTENCE IS ALMOST TOO HUMOROUS, INCONGRUENT TO THE STUFF BEFORE IT

We’re in those mustard colored bucket seats that make it their life’s mission to hurt your back, your butt, and every other part, no matter how many times you change positions.

Sarah J Schmitt said...

I want to start by saying I really got your voice in the First 150... and I liked it!

Some thoughts on your query, and forgive me for not doing a line by line crit, but I wanted to tell you how I look at queries.

Any book is always about three things: The MC's goals, why they want to reach their goals, and what stands in the way of them getting what they want. These can happen on the internal level, the external level, or both. I think your story has the potential to really dig into grief, betrayal, and redemption, but from your query, I don't really get that. If you do a revision, please let me know and I'll try to get over here to do a line by line crit.

Sarah
Pitch #40

Valerie Ipson said...

I agree with the others, you 150 words have great voice. I don't think I can find anything to change. I agree with Meagan who suggested cutting that back-storyish first paragraph of the query. If you do, just add in the part about calling the accident Ellie, so it will tie in the title.

Great job!

Thanks for critiquing mine!

Jessie Humphries said...

Great work here. I love that she personifies the accident. And I find myself drawn to books about dark things like cutting...my favorite TV show is INTERVENTION :) So I really love your premise.
Question: Why is her name Sadie Hawkins? That is sort of a famous name and so I immediately wondered if it was integral to the story. If not, I would find it distracting.
I thought the query was very strong with lots of voice, but the "pepperoni grease as her future" line didn't seem like a strong enough stakes ending. And it felt sort of awkward because it doesnt make me like pizza boy more, or help me understand what her difficult choices will be...it just sort of grosses me out.
I love your 150. So many vivid details.

MPH2003 said...

I have similar comments in that the 150 words are amazing---the parental squeeze holding her together, that trite phrase and her calling it out, even the opening line about the ER. I would definitely have to read on if I pulled this from a bookstore shelf and read the first page.

I also agree with the comments regarding the query. It does read more like a synopsis in the middle. But you can tighten that up and keep some of it for the book itself, so we have some surprises in store. Also, I love the last line of your query and the love interest--some hope in this otherwise tragic and difficult moment in Sadie's life.

I must admit that her name, Sadie Hawkins, made me think of the dance. Is that intentional?

JenfromtheBlock said...

I can see your problem here. There is so much good stuff in this story you are tempted to squeeze it all into the query. Alas, I don't think it can be done. You're going to have to designate the two or so most important things and leave the rest for the book. I have the same response to her name as a few others have communicated. It's distracting since it brings to mind the homely girl who has to invert the gender thing and ask boys to dance with her. Even if Sadie's a wallflower and that's the reason Kat was dared to befriend her, I doubt she actually has to have this name. As for the jam-packed query, maybe you can write a few different versions, each concentrating on certain aspects, and then either pick the one you like best--or even send variations that are tailored to a certain agent. Like maybe send a version that focuses on the cutting to an agent seeking "issue" stuff. It sounds complicated, but it might be easier than choosing. (I'm cringing now because I just made more work for you instead of helping. Sorry.) I find the finding out the friendship is a hoax thing deviously shocking, but maybe including it in the query gives too much away.

Anabel González said...

The query is really great showing your plot and voice but I think you can tighten it more by cutting some things.

I would leave it like this:
“Seventeen year old Sadie Hawkins isn’t searching for a BFF when Kat sashays into her life, but they're hard to pry apart. The pair's plans for a crazy senior year end as suddenly as Kat's car hits the tree. Sadie is left with only bits of Kat's diary to keep her company and the buzz she gets from cutting herself.

When Sadie’s parents catch her skipping school, she’s whisked away to an actual Circle of Trust where the girls have whacked out parents and the boys obsess over food. The only bearable part of group therapy is the drive with Bobby Jones, pizza delivery boy and corny accent king.
No distraction or person, however huge or annoying, allows Sadie to forget that only air exists where Kat should be. The box cutter continues its enticing whisper, until the day Bobby grabs her wrist and she flinches. Sentenced to a house arrest where fun comes in the form of chores, Sadie has loads of time to read Kat’s diary. And what she discovers is that Kat was dared to be her friend.

Sadie tracks down those responsible for the dare while Bobby helps her understand that forgiving the past will free up the present. And his brand of pepperoni grease might just be her future.”

I hope it helps!
In case you want to drop by my query is number 43!

Jenna and Ashley said...

Thanks everyone! There are some great suggestions here. Queries are so hard for me. I like the idea of tightening the first paragraph, cutting out some events, and writing different versions of the query for different agents. And I'm sad that I didn't even include the stakes.
Writers rock:)
-Jenna

Jenna and Ashley said...

And the Sadie Hawkins thing was intentional, but I'll probably change it now! I didn't realize it would be so distracting. She doesn't address her name until chapter 4.

Stephsco said...

I'm so glad to find your entry! Your query is pretty strong, anything I say here is pretty nitpicky but here goes: That third paragraph might be a tad too long about the cutting; I think a few of those lines can be dropped or condensed so we can get sooner to that last line about Kat being dared to be her friend. Then that last paragraph could be moved up to show more about the dare. I think it's more about organization of the query, it's a tad on the long side, and the first half does such a good job at framing the story that the third ends up dragging with additional info about her cutting which we already have an idea of.

For punctuation: seventeen-year-old needs hyphens. Whacked-out should have a hyphen.

The term "whisked away" doesn't quite work for me, but that's subjective.

I love your opening. It works well--a great first line, a natural and compelling follow-up. I like how you work some of the senses in, and even though we don't have a name for your MC yet, we know she's a teen based on the context and that something terrible happened. You have a strong opening--I'm envious! (in a good way). I can tell you've put a lot of work in.