Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #36

GENRE: YA Speculative Fiction
Being a Hurricane Katrina evacuee is damaging enough, but fifteen-year-old Marissa Martin confronts even worse when her dad disappears into the war zone that was once New Orleans.  She could always use her telepathic powers to save him, if only they worked the way they’re supposed to.
Just when she feels most alone, Marissa literally bumps into Jake, the cute student council president and telepath with a direct link to her every thought.  Usually that would freak her out, but Marissa discovers just how much she requires his help when a woman stuck in New Orleans connects to her.  Aided by Jake and his sister, a girl with a social conscience the size of California, Marissa races back home and wades through the waters in search of answers that begin with who this mysterious woman is.  She soon discovers Hurricane Katrina may not be the worst of her problems when she uncovers family secrets that change everything, especially her.
Complete at 61,000 words, Crazy Deep is YA speculative fiction that combines a real-world disaster with a romantic twist.
Like Marissa, I left Louisiana and now live in central Pennsylvania where I teach college-level composition and American literature courses.  Writing has become my way of returning home through such publications as Becoming Cajun, Becoming American: The Acadian in American Literature from Longfellow to James Lee Burke (LSU Press, 2009) and a more recent article on post-Katrina New Orleans detective fiction published in Clues: A Journal of Detection.  I am an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. 
Thank you for your time and consideration. 

 First 150 Words:

Marissa, I’ve a feeling we’re not in New Orleans anymore, I think, glancing out the window at the Pennsylvania mountains.
 “I’ll be here at 3:00 to take you home,” Aunt Celeste reminds me as I slide out of the car for the first day at my new school.  Lucky me. 
I nod to let her know I’m listening.  Not that it matters.  Her head’s already shifting to the side to make sure no students have wandered behind the car as she backs up. 
When Dad forced me to evacuate without him a week ago, I thought it would be temporary, that I’d fly back to him in a couple of days once the whole Hurricane Katrina threat passed.  Now I live in Aunt Celeste’s guest room, my room, according to her.  My real bedroom is filled with water, if it’s still there.  Even a pair of ruby slippers can’t take me home again. 


Unknown said...

I love your premise! This sounds like a fascinating story and it sounds like you actually lived through the aftermath of Katrina--so that'll add a layer of authenticity (plus, glad you're okay). The query is very nice, except for a few pet peeves of mine, which are people literally bumping in to one another and a lot of "discoveries". I don't think you need the first one--just say they meet--and the second can be addressed with a thesaurus. Also, maybe take a look at the sentence " search of answers that begin with who this mysterious woman is." It throws off the rhythmn a bit and I didn't get at first that this is the same woman from a few sentences prior. If I were a YA, I would so read this!

MPH2003 said...

Thanks, JenfromtheBlock. I just want to add that my wordcount is wrong (total mindfreeze when I emailed the entry). The actual word count is 61,000, as mentioned in the query.

Jenna and Ashley said...

-"confronts even worse" can be omitted because the next event implies it's worse. Rework. Maybe "It's bad enough that fifteen year old Marissa Martin is a Hurricane Katrina evacuee. When her dad disappears into the war zone that used to be New Orleans, she should be able to save him. But her telepathic powers crap out just as she needs them."
This would match the lighter tone of the next paragraph about cutie Jake.
-"Usually that would freak her out, but Marissa discovers just how much she requires his help when a woman stuck in New Orleans connects to her." This sentence is too long, break it up.
-"She soon discovers..." sentence needs work. What about: "Digging unloads a hurricane that comes in the form of family secrets."
Or something like that. The She soon discovers sentence kind of leads to repetition. You can keep it vague and concise at the same time.
-Awesome credentials!

First 150:
-Not sure if I like having "Marissa" as part of her thought. First I wondered who she was aiming the thought toward, then when I realized it was her own name, I was wondering why she'd think her own name. I bet you could work her name into something the aunt says instead. I do like: "I've a feeling we're not in New Orleans anymore..." Still gives it that allusion to Dorothy and Kansas.
-"Her head's already..." sentence. It sounds like she's beginning to back the car up even though she's just checking for students in the way.
-Last par. Delete "to him" on second line.
-Great tie in to Dorothy, in case the reader missed the reference.

Interesting premise. Good luck with this!
Pitch Polish #28

Christine Sarmel said...

You have a great setting for your story and obviously have the experience to back it up. A couple of questions:

-What is it about this mystery woman that's compelling enough to make Marissa traipse back into a hurricane?

-I think the strongest part of your first 150 is the third paragraph. The image of her flooded bedroom compared to her "new" room is great. Would that work as your beginning?

Meghan Drummond said...

Great setting and concept. I also love your title.

Query: Too many unnecessary phrases clutter up an otherwise good query. Your hook, in particular, needs to be pared down.

First 150: I agree with some of the other commenters, having Marissa as part of her thoughts confused me and threw me off for a little bit. Other than that, I love it. Good mix of thought/action/dialogue.

Nicole McLaughlin said...

Great plot. I love the Katrina premise and the telepath twist. I'm interested.

A few things.
1. There are a lot of locations and relocating going on between the query and the first 150 (Even a reference that makes me think of Kansas...where I'm from! :)). For that reason, I think I would find something else to compare Jake's sisters social conscience to besides California. (Another location.)"Places" were getting a little convoluted.

2. I suggest you remove "Like Marissa, I left Louisiana," Because I'm assuming you mean for good and that makes me assume she ends up leaving Louisiana for good. (If she does fine, but I'm not sure I want to know that right now.)

3. I also agree with someone above that said they weren't sure about the Marissa on the front of the thought. It reads a little awkward. If you're looking for a way to get her name in early, then maybe have Aunt Celeste say her name.

Still love what you have here, it's not something I've ever seen and sounds really interesting! Good luck!!

Tamara said...

I think this is a great concept, but I did want to warn you about something I'm surprised nobody else mentioned.

I queried my first YA spec fiction book at 100,000 words. Quite a few agents said the word count was a little too high for them. 153 is way too high for YA. They generally won't look at a debut author with a word count over 95,000.

Agents spend a lot of time looking through a slush pile. It's easy to get through the pile if people are doing things that get them instantly tossed aside. An agent is looking for a reason to toss your query aside.

I hate to say it, but that's most-likely what will happen with this word count. It sounds like you've put a lot of work into this and it's a really neat concept. I'd hate to see it rejected without someone looking past the word count.

70,000 is a perfect length for YA. Is there anyway you can cut the book in half? Even if you have to rewrite some of it--obviously you'd have to rewrite the ending.

Anyway, I just wanted to warn you about this in case you didn't know. I wish you the best of luck with it.

Stephsco said...

I like this premise, that it's grounded in a real-life event, and how it explores the aftermath of displaced disaster victims from a teen angle.

Can you give a hint to the family secrets? You have a great set-up but I'm a little unclear on the stakes of your story. What will happen if her family secret gets out? Will someone else be at risk? Does the secret connect back to her father? I think a little more information will make this query stronger.

I like your first 150 words, and the connecting Wizard of Oz-inspired lines. I would definitely read your story. Good luck with your editing and the pitch to agents :)

Jessie Humphries said...

153 is the word count on your query right?
I loved your query. In fact, I loved your title. That's why I chose it out of the hundred.
Your query is pretty tight, except for the last line. It felt jarring when you mention a family secret. I didn't sense that coming. Plus, the last part "especially her."--seemed incongruous in some way. I'd rephrase the stakes with a little more specifics.
I adore your first 150. I even love the wizard of oz connection. But I think one reference is good enough. Two and it seems a bit over reaching.
I am totally hooked though. I love learning about the effects of Katrina, and the fact that you lived through it is awesome.
Love, #38