Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Teresa Richards: A Query Kombat Success Story

Success stories are one of the best parts of hosting contests. Sure, the contests are fun and everyone learns, but it's always helpful to see when that hard work pays off. I'm excited to present you with Teresa's story.

Hi everyone! I'm thrilled to announce that I've signed with agent Mallory Brown from TriadaUS, as a result of a request made during Query Kombat this year. My entry was for a manuscript called Windfall, nicknamed My Boyfriend Rigged the Lottery, and made it to Round 4 of the competition. I received eight requests during the agent round.

One of the requesting agents was Uwe Stender, founder of Triada. After I got knocked out of the competition, I sent the requested material to him, along with the other agents. Then I waited. 

I worked on another writing project. I enjoyed the summer. I went on vacation with my family. I sent out more queries. I got my kids started back at school. 

By mid-August, I'd heard back from a couple of the other requesting agents with either rejections or requests for more material, but hadn't heard back from Uwe. Since Triada is well-known for its quick response times (their query guidelines state that if you haven't heard back in two weeks, then they didn't receive your query), I decided to follow up to make sure he'd received the material I'd sent him. He responded right away that it must have slipped through the cracks and that he'd take a look soon. I am *so* glad I followed up!

Two weeks later, he emailed and said that he'd passed it along to one of his agent assistants, Mallory Brown, who wanted to see the whole thing. Five days after that, Mallory emailed me with an offer of representation! She listed all the things she loved about Windfall and all the ways she'd connected to the story! After talking with her on the phone and hearing her enthusiasm, I was convinced she was the right agent for me and the perfect person to pitch my book to editors. 

And now it's official. I've joined #TeamTriada and am now rep'd by Mallory Brown!

*Commence freaking-awesome mildly embarrassing happy-dancing*

Of course, news this big requires a celebration. Since I did things a little backward and already have a book out with Evernight Teen, I'm going to celebrate with a giveaway! Up for grabs is an Emerald Bound prize pack, including a signed copy of the book, a metal Shepherd's-hook bookmark with emerald charm, and a custom-made Emerald Bound key chain. The giveaway will be live on my blog, until October 4. Emerald Bound is a YA fantasy, so it's a different genre than Windfall. It's a dark retelling of The Princess and the Pea, in which the pea is an enchanted, life-sucking emerald. 

For those who are interested, here are my query stats for Windfall:

Queries sent out: 79
Partial requests: 10
Full requests: 4
Rejections: 46
No response: 33

The bulk of those 79 queries were sent out before Query Kombat. I had a much higher request rate on the queries I sent after incorporating feedback from the competition. If you ever have the chance to enter Query Kombat, or even just stalk the entries and read through the feedback they're getting, DO IT! 

Thanks again to Michelle, Laura and Michael for running this awesome competition and for the gobs and gobs of amazing judges and writers who took the time to read my entry and provide feedback. This success belongs to all of you and I am profoundly grateful! 

And now, if you'll excuse me, I must go finish my happy dance. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Nightmare on Query Street is Back!!

We're back with 25 agents and even more mentors!

It's Nightmare Time!

Don’t have a scary manuscript, DON'T WORRY. Just read on.

A brand new year, a brand new evil.

This contest, as it runs in the Halloween time, is all about FEAR.

The Details:

The submission window opens at 4:00 pm (EST) on October 14th. Don't send too soon or your entry will be deleted. There will be email confirmation. Please don't resend an entry unless you check with us. Sometimes the confirmation process gets overwhelmed. The window will close when we receive 250 entries or in two hours, whichever is first.

Michelle and Mike and Laura will make thirteen picks each, and those picks will go up on our blogs from October 29th through the 30th. Before this, there will be a mentor round to whip that entry into shape. We've already got amazing mentors lined up, so know that your entries will be polished for the agents.

We are accepting all age categories and genres, excluding picture books and erotica. But be sure to check our list of agents when it goes live to see if they represent your book's genre.

If you plan on participating in the contest, you have to be following all our blogs (MichelleMike, Laura). If you can't get the blog follow to work, just follow on Twitter. You'll want to be on Twitter for the party, anyway.


You are not eligible if you've been in an agent round in the last three months, such as for Pitchslam. This doesn't not include twitter only events like PitchMad. You may enter if you have a different manuscript to send.

It's pretty simple, actually.

But there's a catch.

Along with your query and 250, you must write a SHORT paragraph (no more than 100 words) about your main character. This is the question you must answer:

What is your main character's most stressful relationship? Who really makes them sweat?

The Format:

Send all your submission to nightmareonquerystreet (at) yahoo (dot) com. Only one submission per email address AND person is allowed.

Here's how it should be formatted (yes, include the bolded and everything!). Please use Times New Roman (or equivalent), 12 pt font, and put spaces between paragraphs. No indents or tabs are needed. 

Subject Line: NoQS: TITLE, Age Category + Genre
(example: NoQS: GRUDGING, Adult Epic Fantasy)


Name: Michelle Hauck
Twitter Handle: @Michelle4Laughs (optional)
Title: GRUDGING (yes, caps!)
Genre: Adult Epic Fantasy (Age category and genre. YA/MG is not a genre.)
Word Count: XX,XXX

My Main Character's Most Stressful Relationship is:

My MC's most stressful relationship is with the potato supplier. With prices skyrocketing, the mc can't stop eating those suckers--fried, mashed, frenched--gotta have them. But everyone is trying to undercut our mc's purchase potential. (Please, spend some time on this! We will be looking at this to make up for gaps in the query and 250. It gives us a chance to know your characters better. It doesn't have to be horror-scary. It can be more subtle. Remember 100 words or less.)


Here is my fantastic query! DO NOT INCLUDE BIO OR COMPS PARAGRAPH. Try to stay in the 250-300 word range. Please put spaces between paragraphs and don't indent.

First 250 words:

Here are the first 250 words of my manuscript, and I will not end in the middle of a sentence, even if I hit 255 words. Do not abuse and send 256. Keep it fair for all. Use Open Office/Word to determine your official word count. Google docs may return an incorrect number.

Entries will be disqualified at our discretion for rule violation.

And that's it! Send in that email during the submission window and you're ready to go. There will be a confirmation email.

We're Tweeting under the hashtag #NoQS. As before, we'll have a Twitter party once submission starts. Mentor and agent posts will follow before October 14th.

We also want to mention that Jason Huebinger is having a twitter pitch event called #PitDark on October 20th. That is something you might want to investigate. 

Good luck! And sweet nightmares!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


The Jedi Council will soon be arriving to choose padawans for training. 

Remember that contests are subjective. What one person might challenge others to a light saber duel for an entry, that same work may do nothing for someone else. There were tons of excellent entries. We had more than 350 entries to choose from, and we got to pick 10 each. Some of us cried. Some of us prayed to The Force for guidance. But there are dozens of agents out there, and not being chosen is not a rejection. No matter what, keep querying! 

I hope this contest has helped everyone who entered. There's not many contests that provide feedback and we did our best to help as many people as possible. The Jedi Masters and Knights tried their best to share their experience and give solid advice.

If you've made friends and learned something to improve your first page or pitch, you've already won.

*pew pew* Ack! What was that? 

*cough* Excuse me. I thought I saw some lights flashing overhead. It seems to be under control now. No cause for alarm. As I was saying,

Here is some important information from your Jedi Master before we announce the chosen entries for The Rey Guns:

There is no commenting allowed except for members of the Jedi Council. Sorry, but no cheerleading as this may lead to an unconscious bias. Don't make me pull a light saber on you. All the comments are hidden, anyway. No requests will be revealed until the end of the round on September 28.

But we are happy to see and retweet your thoughts and cheers over on twitter under the #Pitchslam tag! That’s the place to hang out and have fun. I'll be announcing when members of the Jedi Council have stopped by this blog and giving hints about requests. Some of those hints might even be mildly helpful (but maybe don't count on it).

Agents will consider entries at all the Jedi Master blogs, making the following requests:

These are the pages I'm looking for: Query and first 15 pages
You have the reflexes of a Jedi: Query and first 50 pages
Disciplined, you are: Query and first 100 pages
The Force is strong with this one: Query and full

If you haven't found your entry here, check out our other Jedi Master blogs below for their students:

*pew pew!* OH, no! We're under attack! I must get these entries up quickly! So sorry I can't stay and chat. Here are the blogs. Go now, before it's too late!

Good lu- *PEW PEW*

Aaaaaaaaaaack! What's this? The Sith Lords have sent Bounty Hunters to kidnap our young padawans! If you feel like you're being called to the Dark Side, check to see if your entry has fallen into their nefarious hands! It's 
I must save those poor authors! I can see we've got a fight on our hands, so I've got to run. Good luck to everyone! Thanks for making Pitchslam such a fun experience!

Yes, that's me fighting Darth Vader ('s stunt double...)
If there are any issues with your entry, tweet me @LH_Writes and let me know. Scroll down to view the winners!

JEDI COUNCIL: If you drop by and don't see anything that fits your wishlist, I'd love a note on this entry to let me know. (Those comments are moderated, and will not be published.)


Title: Imani Earns Her Cape

Genre: MG Fantasy

Word Count: 32, 000.

Special Question: If your main character could be any Star Wars character, who would they choose and why? Imani would cosplay as Ahsoka Tano because she's loyal and a spunky go-getter as she finds her way through a new-to-her world.

35 Word Pitch: Twelve-year-old Imani’s Summer Vacation Checklist: earn the right to use Fae magic, save her spell-casting mother from being killed by her half-brother's archenemy, AND get back to D.C. — all before school starts.

First 250 Words (Your First Page): 

First Day of Summer Vacation
Arlington, Virginia

There. That should do it. The colored pencil marks are as even as I can make them, and I center the drawing on my desk. I push my glasses up the bridge of my nose, tilting my head to study the costume. I’ve got natural hair in my self-portrait. Wild and untamed. It’s me.

At least, it’s the version of me that I want to be.

I don’t know if the maroon boots are too much or not, but I like them. And that makes me giddy. And then there’s the cape. The Cape is to die for. I bet Mom can find one like I want. I hope she’s already ordered it for the Con at Tysons Corner. I add another layer of Superman red.

I can’t wait to meet Nichelle Nichols. I’ve loved her forever. I saw her in that whale movie where she figured out the song would save the planet. Mom made me watch it the first time. Then I watched it about a million more times. I glance at last year’s birthday present. Maybe I’ll get the still-in-the-box toy action figure signed. We’ve already bought our tickets.

I cross the room and grab my pink plaid suitcase. I lay it and an armful of clothes over the silver tree embroidered into my purple velvet bed cover. The nameplate beneath the luggage handle is engraved with Imani Chausiku.

When I undo the latches, the sound startles Halloween, waking him from his catnap.



Genre: MG – Fantasy
Word Count: 42,000

If my main character could be any Star Wars character, who would it be and why?  She would be Leia, because as soon as January Frost becomes the Fairy Godmother, she is targeted by an evil force who wants her and her home destroyed – similar to Leia. And also like Leia, January's parents were hiding a few things. Finally, neither character is frozen in the face of evil; she instead works to discover the truth. But to be clear: January's hair isn't nearly as awesome as Leia's.  

35 Word Pitch
Made Fairy Godmother by a magical ring and hunted by a shapeshifter who wants it, January’s life depends on unraveling the truth of their families’ shared pasts, mastering the ring, and defeating the shapeshifter.

First 250 Words

It’s almost like the ring calls to me. 

Three bands of three metals – gold, silver, bronze – held together by swirls of leaves. I wanted to keep it but my mom was buried with it. And in the two years since, I’ve looked for one like it in every thrift store in town.

We walk into this one, Aunt Ida’s favorite, and I breathe the familiar smell of dusty furniture and sweaty shoes. It was definitely me who started the thrift store hunts, but Aunt Ida’s taken it to a whole new level. As she heads towards the clothes, I go straight for the jewelry case.

I know the chances of finding a ring like Mom’s are pretty much zero. I get it. But I can’t help it, no matter how many times Roald the cat scowls at me before waddling off the cracked glass top. Inside the case are the usual suspects: stacks of maybe-gold bracelets, some pins the owner says are practically priceless (but still have price tags), and necklaces. The ring tray is empty. I’m not surprised, but the frown comes anyway.


It sounds like Aunt Ida’s in the sweaty shoe section and sure enough, I find her holding a pair of black biker boots. She’s got thin dreadlocks that’d hang halfway down her back if she’d let them, and she usually dresses like a church lady at Easter. So black biker boots have about as much chance going home with her as a spiked leather collar.


Title: Best Laid Plans in Scotland

Genre: Adult contemporary romance

Word Count: 74,000.

Special Question: If your main character could be any Star Wars character, who would they choose and why?

I consulted with a dear friend more well-versed than I in all things Star Wars. After sharing with her my female main character's personality and goals, she said my MC, Marie, would be Chewbacca because he's fiercely loyal and while capable of strength, he prefers friendship and peace. Just like Marie.

35 Word Pitch: American Marie is stuck on a tour bus for a week with Scottish tour guide Oliver. Their attraction blazes regardless of her family responsibilities in Oregon and his business tied to Scotland.

First 250 Words (Your First Page): 
Whisky flavored condoms? Marie chuckled as she reached in her purse to snag a few coins for the vending machine. Her first day in Glasgow and she’d already found the perfect souvenirs. The toilets may not be clean at this pub, but at least it offered flavored prophylactics in festive packaging.

She admired the red and orange tartan cardboard packets as she exited the bathroom. Maybe the couple of drinks she'd had added to their humor, or the sleep that eluded her as she flew halfway across the world.

Her body slammed into a hard chest. She looked up. "Excuse me. I'm sorry, I-"

A curly haired sexpot with eyes as bright as the water along the Outer Hebrides gifted her with a wicked grin.

Her first thought? She wanted to jump up and wrap her arms and legs around him.

Second? Don’t. That's inappropriate behavior.

Third? Wuss.

She stared at him and watched his eyes lower to the ridiculous handful of condom packets she pressed into his chest.

"Hoping to pull?" he said with a toe-curling brogue.

"Pull? No, these are souvenirs." A laugh bubbled up and escaped her throat in the form of something far too close to a squeak. "These are hilarious. Back home the condom machines don't have anything as fancy as this."

He grinned down at her. She appreciated that he was at least six inches taller than her. “The flavored ones are only in the machines. I prefer the plain ones.”

“So…you’ve tasted them?”


Title: House of Our Dreams
Genre: Women's Fiction
Word Count: 100,000

Special Question: The Emperor, because power is wickedly delicious.

35 Word Pitch: To fulfill her mother's final aspiration, Serena must restore the dilapidated 1820s house built by her Spanish ancestors. But her relatives each have conflicting plans for capitalizing on the valuable California property. 

First 250 Words:
The two-story adobe rose out of the earth, as regal as the sycamores and oaks rooted in the soil. Roof tiles lay scattered on the ground like fallen fruit. The brittle balcony sagged, destined to collapse with the next Santa Ana winds. 

Serena wrapped her fingers around the iron gate that separated her from Caramar. Grandma's house. She remembered being young, and dangling her brown legs over the edge of that balcony while her brother Andrew threw avocados at the soles of her sandals.  

She had seen the tattered house months before, but then it had been her mother’s project. With her mother gone, Caramar was now her duty. 

Behind Serena, Ryan locked the car and popped the lid on a tube of sunscreen. "Holy shit," he said as he glimpsed the house. "It’s a tear down.”  

Serena launched the keys at him. Missed. If he had slapped her, it would have hurt less than those words. She already felt a knot of anxiety and helplessness about the house. This moment, she needed encouragement. Her mother buried. Caramar was what remained. 

"It's a 150-year-old Spanish adobe," Serena said. "It looks its age." 

Ryan scooped up the keys. She snatched them back and slid the cast iron key into the rusted gate. Resistance, stiffness like the lid on a bottle that won’t budge.  

"Let me help you." He turned the key and swung the iron gate across the driveway. Rusted hinges hissed like a cornered cat.   

PITCHSLAM 5. Adult Science Fiction: FOLD

Title: FOLD

Genre: Adult Science Fiction

Word Count: 89,000

Special Question: If your main character could be any Star Wars character, who would they choose and why? 

Berk would choose Obi-Wan Kenobi because he is wise and a good guy. But I’d say Darth Vader because most everything Berk does ends up hurting other people.

35 Word Pitch: Berk is a doomsday prepper ready for the apocalypse. But when it comes in the form of contaminated global food supplies, he's unprepared to handle those best suited for survival—a group of vegan academics.

First 250 words:
Berk found Leo at the back of the restaurant, tucked into a corner booth and staring at his menu. It stood to reason that time had changed them both, but it was still a shock to see his brother-in-law pudgy and balding, a worn out version of the man he’d been before.

“I’m here,” Berk said, sliding into the seat opposite.

“You want to order something?” Leo asked. “Lunch is my treat. Get anything you’d like.”

“I told you I wasn’t going to eat,” Berk replied.

Leo set the menu down on the table. “Is the beard new?” he asked.


“Ah. Well, you look good. Still running?”


Berk leaned back in his seat. Normally, he wouldn’t have agreed to meet in town, but Fiona had insisted he go. She called the invitation an olive branch. Berk doubted Leo wanted reconciliation. More likely he needed money or a favor. Help with a business venture. Someone to watch his kids.

The waitress came and took Leo’s order. When she left they sat for a few minutes in silence.

“So,” Leo finally said, “Is it true you have a bunker?”

Berk laughed, a single syllable of sound. “Why would I have a bunker?”

“Claire mentioned something to me, years ago. So I wondered.”

Berk stared at him and Leo dropped his gaze to the tabletop. After a moment he asked, “How many people can you accommodate?”

“I don’t talk about it,” Berk replied.

“Could you show it to me?”

“Hell, no.”

PITCHSLAM 6. Young Adult Contemporary: A COMPLEX SOLUTION

Title: A Complex Solution

Genre: YA Contemporary

Word Count: 82,000

If my main character could be any character she would choose Han Solo. Here’s why: Han is a carefree spirit who lives life to the fullest.  He has a great sense of adventure and doesn’t worry about others’ opinions of him. My main character worries about everything, especially what others think of her and it’s ruining her life. A little Han Solo would be good for her.

35-word pitch: Lonely sixteen-year-old who cuts herself learns her deceased parents secretly solved a famous math theorem. She must get her addiction under control if she’s to find the research and preserve her parents’ legacy.

First 250 Words:

The last sounds died away as the doors thudded shut. I glanced down the empty, unfamiliar school hallway, my pulse racing. My head spun as I shuffled along the tiled floor, my legs wobbling with each step. I needed to do this. Quickly. I slipped a hand inside my jeans pocket and pushed open the girls’ bathroom door with the other. My heart stopped. 

Two girls leaned over the sinks. “Shouldn’t you be in class?” asked one of the girls, touching up her mascara. She turned and looked me up and down. “You must be new here,” she said, before screwing up her face. “Geesh, how tall are you, like, six feet?”

I froze, clutching the penknife in my pocket, and glanced away. Just leave me alone.

“C’mon, Jess, let’s go,” said the girl’s friend, smacking her freshly glossed lips together.


They whirled around and headed out the door, their laughter echoing down the hallway.

I tucked into the last stall and shut the door, tears stinging the back of my throat. Just one cut. Enough to silence the feelings of loneliness and despair that had me in a panic. It was worse here than home, all the stares and whispers. I couldn’t even make it to first period.

Pushing my sleeve up, I drew the knife out and looked for a fresh square of skin. I pushed the blade in and dragged it through. My heart raced as the blood bubbled out, streaming down my arm.

PITCHSLAM 7. Young Adult Contemporary Romance: LEVEL WITH ME

Title: Level With Me

Genre: YA Contemporary Romance

Word Count: 80,000

Special Question: If your main character could be any Star Wars character, who would they choose and why? There is seriously not enough kissing in Star Wars. So that leaves me Princess Leia. While I’d never kiss my own brother, she’s the only character who gets a little action and the guy at the end. Just, please don't make me wear her bikini. Metal and leather aren't my style.

35 Word Pitch: Abby’s secretly working for the carpentry company that ended her father’s career—because money. So falling for her boss, Tanner, is an extra bad idea. Maybe she can patch up everything with her nail gun.

First 250 Words:

Abby threw her tool belt onto the passenger’s seat and hopped into her Ford truck. She had thirty minutes to make it to Builder’s Materials and Construction—BMC—to purchase finishing nails and wood glue. If she made it before they closed, then she and Dad could finish trimming Mrs. Bateman’s house tonight. And oh, how she wanted to be done. The woman had been hovering  since they’d started, making sure every shelf and corner was level and square.

She shifted gears and removed her gloves and hat. The summer air whipped her shoulder-length, brown mop around, drying out the day’s sweat. She brushed the sawdust off her cheeks, and ran some cheap, waxy strawberry balm over her lips as she maneuvered through traffic, too desperate for the moisture to care how nasty it tasted.

So far, summer had been unpredictable, working alongside her dad. Which was why she was still holding out hope that the Idaho Falls YMCA would have a camp counselor drop out. If that happened, Dad would let her go. Her college fund was about two yards too short, and they all knew it. Unfortunately, the odds of being hired dwindled with every passing day, and today was another one of those days.

As she pulled into the parking lot, she snuffed out the chorus to Secrets.

Inside BMC, on aisle six, Abby froze while holding two boxes of nails, eavesdropping on a conversation coming from the manager’s office.

“I’m looking for a carpenter,” a man said.


*********This entry has an offer of publication and has been removed.*********



Genre: YA Space Opera
Word Count: 69,000

Special Question: If your main character could be any Star Wars character, who would they choose and why?

Heir to a massive intergalactic Viking empire, Ingrid “Thistle” Angsar III would choose to be Padmé Amidala in hopes of gleaning some of Amidala’s incomparable leadership skills (not to mention her total and complete badassery).

35 Word Pitch:
16-year-old Ingrid “Thistle” Angsar III dreams of becoming an intergalactically-renowned chef, but when evil extraterrestrials kidnap her royal parents, it’s up to Thistle to save the galaxy and the future of her kingdom.

First 250 Words:


She needed garlic.

And lots of it.

Thistle stood at the counter in Chimera Intergalactic Space Station’s expansive main kitchen, analyzing the flavors on her tongue. Butter, always. Shallots, present. Paprika – just a dash! But garlic, the star of her culinary show, was late for curtain call.

“Chef Clarence, would you please pass the garlic?”

The burly Executive Chef, her culinary mentor and part-time cheerleader, did as she asked. “You got it, little miss.”

Using a steel bladed knife, Thistle expertly peeled the garlic’s flaky skin. Speckled with brightly colored med-strips from minor kitchen injuries, her swift chef’s hands deftly minced the fragrant ingredient, then slid the tiny portions off her blade and into the swirling pot on the stove before her. The glaze gurgled and popped as Thistle stirred. The top-of-the-line stainless steel oven contained a gourmet cut of inaas, an avian delicacy from planet Raaghou. The entrée roasted happily away, awaiting the savory butter finish.

“Garlic and butter. ‘Ain’t nothin’ in this galaxy, or any other, that’s much tastier than that,’” Thistle said, imitating Chef Clarence’s signature drawl from their shared home planet, Earth. The native Texan wasn’t Viking by blood –unlike Thistle– but for the past few years he’d served the Empire with pride.

“Somebody awfully smart must’ve taught you that, little miss.” He smiled.

Giggling, Thistle removed a clean basting brush from its drawer and whirled it in her buttery glaze, then bent as she opened the oven door and slathered a generous coating onto her sizzling entrée.

PITCHSLAM 10. Young Adult Contemporary: FORGOTTEN

Title: Forgotten

Genre: YA Contemporary

Word Count: 80,000

Special Question: Darth Vader. Austen is bossy, always in control, and will stop at nothing to win. But there’s also a soft side in there somewhere, miles beneath that hard shell. And she’s hiding some significant family secrets (maybe nothing as shocking as hidden Jedi twins, but secrets nonetheless).

35 Word Pitch: 

When seventeen-year-old mock trial champion Austen is arrested for murdering her Alzheimer’s-stricken mother, who begged for assisted suicide, Austen must convince a jury her actions were warranted, or she’ll go to prison instead of college.

First 250 Words: 

“Objection,” I shouted. A low wave of groans rippled through the courtroom in response. It was the last round of the California High School Mock Trial Regional Competition, and it had been a long day, especially after the courthouse’s air conditioner switched off an hour too early. Attorney objections stopped the clock, and I’d made a ton of them this round already. Not on purpose, not to show off, but because opposing counsel, a junior from Contra Costa Catholic with one too many shirt buttons unbuttoned, was just so… objectionable. She wasn’t prepared, barely seemed to understand the case problem, and kept saying things that would have gotten her disbarred if she was a real lawyer. And she wouldn’t stop twirling her hair. If she’d tried out for my team, I would have cut her during our first practice.

The local lawyer acting as the presiding judge closed his eyes. He looked exhausted, probably from the increasing temperature in the courtroom and also having to sit through four rounds of competition. He sighed. “State your objection, Ms. McGregor.”

“Hearsay, your honor,” I said. “This witness can’t testify to what the victim’s sister said. It’s an out-of-court statement being offered–”

“Response?” the judge interrupted. I glared at him.

Opposing counsel looked at her five-inch heels. “I don’t know. Whatever. Withdrawn.”

“Fine.” The judge sighed again. “Sustained. Counsel, please continue.”

But she asked the same question a few minutes later and I objected again. The judge’s face reddened. “Girls…er…counsel, can you both approach the bar, please?”

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Revenge of The Writers

Is the force strong with us?

We've spent the past week critiquing you, so now that you've read our comments, it's time to respond. I unfortunately don't have anything to post (the downside of working on a sequel), so I'm sharing Kara's pitch and first 250. In the comments, choose an ANONYMOUS name and let us know what you think. Feel free to pick something Star Wars-y. 

Title: RESET
Genre: YA SF
Word Count: 80,000

If your main character could be any Star Wars character, who would they choose and why? Lia would choose to be Rey. Like Rey, she has been operating on her own for a long time, and the concept of working with others to achieve a goal is both exhilarating and terrifying.

When the universe resets itself, Lia has a chance to save her sister and a boy who may grow up to cure cancer. But someone is making sure she can’t save them both.

First 250:

Sometimes I feel like the universe should have a rule that bad news doesn’t arrive during breakfast. The universe does have rules; rules that it warps to suit its own purposes. And no one knows this better than me.

Bad news, however, has no rules about when it will or will not arrive. So of course, the news of Jay’s murder came while I was eating a bowl of Rice Krispies and pretending not to hear my parents’ argument.

“It’s a twelve hour drive to St. Agabus,” my mom said. “I don’t want to do it by myself.”

“Lia will be with you,” Dad countered. “You’ll be fine.”

Mom’s hands went in the air. “On the way there, Chris. It’s still twelve hours back by myself.”

It was the day before I could finally escape what was left of my family. I decided to go to college at St. Agabus precisely because it was twelve hours from Chatwick Heights, and I wouldn’t be expected to come home often.

“I can’t take off work with such late notice, Rachel. You know that I’m under a lot of pressure.” Dad slapped peanut butter on a slice of bread harder than strictly necessary.

“We have been planning this for months!” She was close to shouting. I bent over my bowl and flipped through Facebook on my phone. I wasn’t the only one headed for college the next day; lots of my former classmates were posting teary goodbye messages on everyone’s walls.

See more pitches and first pages: Kimberly VanderhorstCindy WilsonJamie CorriganJim O'DonnellRebecca WaddellErin HallKelly deVos.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

We Need to Do Better: Receiving Sensitivity Feedback

This entire blog can be summed up by a quote from one of my favorite books, Confessions of a Shopaholic:  "If you bother to ask someone's advice, then bother to listen to it."

One of the manuscripts I recently completed is about the relationship between a trans woman and a demisexual woman. I did a lot of research before writing this book: investigating what goes into gender reassignment surgery, reviewing my notes from a class I took on gender and sexuality in college, pulling from my own experiences with trans people in my life. I spent more time drafting this manuscript than the three before it combined. But since I really wanted to get things right, once I finished, I went on the lookout for sensitivity readers. I'm not saying this to get a pat on the back. I'm telling you because of the response I got from one of my readers, who I'll call A.

For the most part, A offered very helpful insights about little things. Microaggressions, words that are such a part of common vernacular that I didn't realize they're offensive (to people of all minorities), etc. But there was one scene A very strongly objected to. It happens to be a very important scene that set off a chain of events throughout the plot.

I'll be 100% honest. My initial, gut reaction was "My other sensitivity readers didn't have a problem with this scene." But I didn't say that, because A is a person with experiences and opinions that do not belong to anyone else. Instead, I slept on it. I googled. The next morning, I called B, a good friend and gay writer. I explained the situation and asked him for advice. His immediate reaction was, "A is being overly sensitive." We spent an hour on the phone talking about whether I needed to change anything. We discussed alternatives to the scene as written. I read him A's comments. As soon as we realized that I was talking him into seeing A's point of view, we both knew the scene had to be changed.

When I told A that I'd rewritten the scene, the response I got completely overwhelmed me. A was extremely moved and grateful that I listened to the feedback I received and implemented it. And that made me sad. The person I am asking to help me should not be astounded that I accepted the advice given. No one should feel the need to thank me for not disregarding an opinion I asked for in the first place. I started to wonder how many people request sensitivity reads and then ignore what they're told or respond negatively. From what I can tell, it's too many. Far too many. We need to do better, cishet white people.

A few weeks ago, I spoke with another friend who no longer does sensitivity reads because the response she received on her first one was so negative. I'm not going to share her experience, but when she elaborated, I couldn't believe anyone would be so rude to someone who was doing them a favor (or providing a paid service, which many sensitivity readers do). Personally, I can't imagine paying for advice and then tossing it out the window. Yes, it's your manuscript, and you can make it wrong if you want to (you shouldn't, but if that's your prerogative, just don't expect me to read your book). But don't be a dick about rejecting the very advice you sought in the first place. We need to do better.

  • Email back immediately when you disagree with feedback.
  • Invalidate the other person's experience by saying they're "wrong" or they don't know what they're talking about.
  • Insist that there isn't anything problematic in your work because no one else pointed it out. 
  • Devalue their time by disregarding things out of hand.
  • Pick only the feedback that affirms what you wanted to do, anyway, and only implement that.
  • Think about things. Mull it over.
  • Get a second opinion. If it differs, get a third. Try to at least reach a point where you understand the reason you got the feedback, even if you still disagree with it.
  • Be polite and respectful.
  • Say "thank you." Even if you're not going to make the changes, this person gave you their time and energy and that has value. 

Our books need to reflect the world around us, and when we get that world wrong, it's up to us to fix it. Sensitivity readers are not your mom or your best friend. They're not here to tell you what you did right. Their job is to point out issues. We need to understand that if we want to become better writers who write diverse characters. And we should want to be better writers who write books with diverse characters. There's always room for improvement. We need to do better.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

A New Nightmare

One...Two...We are coming for you.
Three...Four...There will be a slush war.
Five...Six...Get your query fixed.
Seven...Eight...Make your first page great.
Nine...Ten...Yes, we're at it again.

Nightmare on Query Street

The agents are ready.... are you?

Face your Fear October 14, 2016