Tuesday, May 28, 2013

QK Round 1: Bridget Meets Georgia versus Broken Jar

Entry Nickname: Bridget Meets Georgia in Homage to Jane
Title: Summer Camp Diaries
Word Count: 90 000
Genre: YA Romance


In Summer Camp Diaries, sixteen-year-old Kat Ferguson has been waiting years to attend Camp White Deer’s legendary Leaders-in-Training Program. She sees it as the ultimate opportunity to find her Lifelong Soulmate – a hot studly wonder who will love her despite her personal challenges: “big boobs, crazy hair, and a foot that always ends up in my mouth.” Kat’s parents see it as a chance for her to “learn important life lessons,” and challenge her to set some goals. Kat does…but her goals aren't exactly what her parents had in mind! Kat’s schemes for finding the right guy result in frequent and hilarious mishaps, as she tackles her first-ever canoe trip, a mysterious diary from the past, some wild and crazy campers, and a creepy almost-cousin. Then Kat meets a feisty foster kid and her goals begin to shift. When she finally bares her soul to her new friend Ben (who happens to be her gal-pal Chrissy’s boyfriend), she learns the most important life lesson of all.

First 250 Words

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single girl working at a summer camp must be in search of a boyfriend.

– Jane Austen (sort of)

Girls who have very large boobs should not try to swim to the bottom of a lake for any reason. We have to work ten times as hard as the walking toothpick girls with boy boobs, and when that whole anti-gravity thing takes over, we might as well be treading water upside-down.

So why was I doing it? Good question. The fact that it was only about sixty-five degrees in the water should have given me a legitimate reason for taking my “girls” (or should I say, my “buoys?”) and heading for dry land. Still, the fifteen or so yummy-looking guys diving around me were a pretty good reason for staying put. They were busy demonstrating their manliness as they flipped their sleek-abbed torsos in the water like over-animated seals. (Assuming seals can be over-animated. They are, after all, seals.)

Unfortunately, I couldn't use the hot sealboys as my excuse…or not directly, anyway. You see, the sad truth of the matter is, I was submerged in the freezing waters of Deer Lake in June because I didn’t want to show everyone my very chilly nipples standing at attention. Yes, that’s right. Having perky nipples is rarely a good thing when you’re sixteen and more than a little stacked. Parading them in front of a dozen newly introduced, hot male acquaintances is even more horrifying.


Entry Nickname: Broken Jar
Title: In Pieces
Word count: 52,000
Genre: YA contemporary


Seventeen-year-old Clare has no idea what she wants do after high school, but she knows who she wants to be with. At least until her boyfriend Jesse hits her.

Part of Clare never wants to speak to Jesse again. Part of her wants to never leave her bed again. But part of her still sees Jesse as the guy who blew off house parties to take her for walks and held her hand through her ER visit when she broke her tailbone, not this new guy who keeps secrets and fails tests and skips classes. There has to be a reason he snapped.

And she’s going to find out what it is. Even if Jesse doesn’t want her to.

First 250 words:

It's 6:17 pm on January 21st when Jesse Talcott hits me. I know, because I just glanced at my watch. The one he'd gotten me for Christmas barely a month before. It’s Michael Kors, silver, with crystals instead of numbers and little interior dials that I don't even know what are for yet.

Honestly, when I opened it--the night before Christmas on the snowy porch of his parents' house because I thought Dad would freak if a boy came to bring me a gift on Christmas morning--it was kind of a what-the-hell moment. I mean, who wears a watch? That's what cell phones are for.

It’s the one time in the five years I'd known him that Jesse wasn't concerned about practicality.

So for him, I wear the watch. Our friends ooh and aah over it. Jesse’s asked about three hundred times if it's ok. If it's too much, too heavy, too silver. If I'd rather have something else. Maybe my shaking hands as I opened it or the stuttered thank you after made it obvious that I didn't know what to think of it. Tell the truth, I still don't know what to think.

Especially now, with my face stinging in a way that I would've never in a million years seen coming. I can't look at him. I can't even think of him. All I can think of is the watch, the hands frozen. In my mind, maybe it will perpetually be 6:17.


  1. Bridget: Your First 250 is hilarious and I love your writing style. Nothing to comment on there except that I can relate to her problem... :) Your query is on the short and vague side, especially the end when you talk about baring her soul, priorities shifting, and an important life lesson. You don't have to give us all the details, of course, but what is the conflict and what are the stakes? ... and I'll be chuckling about this first page all day. :) Good luck!

    Broken Jar: Your query is also short but I get a good sense of what's going on and where the story will go. Your premise reminds me a bit of an AS King book "Please Ignore Vera Dietz", and that's high accolades in case you haven't read it. I never thought I could sympathize with a guy who hits a girl, but Vera Dietz proved me wrong on that count. It's a hard line to walk though, and I wonder how you address it. Good luck!

  2. Great entries! I'd hate to have to decide this one.

    Bridget: I too can relate with your character's "chest" problems! (I have definitely remained submerged in pools due to the stiff nipple problem). I'm intrigued and want to know more. My suggestion is that some of the language in the first 250 is a little simplistic (Girls "who have" very large boobs; "We have to work.."; So why was I "doing it?"; "pretty good reason"; "didn't want to show everybody"; "rarely a good thing"). I wonder if there are more descriptive or lyrical ways to convey these ideas? Otherwise, great start!

    Broken Jar:This book seems to be right up my ally - I'd love to read more. I love the last 4 sentences of your first 250. The sentence that starts with "Honestly" is perhaps a little too long for my taste, and "......I don't even know what are for yet" was a little awkward for me. But I'm intrigued by this Jesse guy and his obvious insecurity and his concern with practicality. Oh one other thought: the fact that her hands were shaking as she opened the gift kind of gave me the impression that Clare maybe wasn't that into Jesse already? Or was she truly just shaking because it was a watch, and she didn't know what to do with a watch? Anyway, great start!

  3. Victory to Broken Jar.

    To Broken Jar, your query was good. I'd like to see the stakes raised a bit, as domestic violence is such a hot issue. It seems like the main character is more concerned about her boyfriend then herself. Does she grow to see her need to escape the abusive relationship? Can you take an angle like that? ... To save herself?

    To Briget Meets Georgia, your prose made me laugh. But your query really needs some white space to make it easier to read. No need to jam it into one paragraph. Also, your use of quotation marks within the query threw me. Were you quoting lines from your novel? Or emphasizing something sarcastically? I'd rework the query a bit. But bravo on making me laugh!

  4. Victory to Broken Jar

    It came down to the query for me. Both had great writing and intriguing premises. I guess this one comes down to taste too.

    Bridget Meets Georgia in Homage to Jane I'd work on fixing that query. It should be a few paragraphs not one long one. No quotations in a query or eclipses - emdashes are fine. Make sure to really define the conflict and stakes in your query.


    I really like the query, but it reads a bit synopsis-y to me, like I'm being told what I'm supposed to get out of the book and how I should feel about it (the use of the word "hilarious" bothered me, because it's already clear from the rest of the query that this is going to be hilarious!). I think maybe this feeling is because the last line tells us that Kat is going to learn a lesson instead of telling us about the conflict that arises as a result of Kat meeting Ben, which would up the tension.

    The 250 are hilarious. I would read on!


    I think the query is very well-written; I zipped right through it (which I consider a good thing as far as queries go--that's how agents have to read them, right? haha). But at the end I almost felt like I was wanting something else. Clare definitely has a conflict, but when talking about contemporary, I frequently see on places like QueryShark a demand for a little extra "oomph" or "kicker" with a story focusing on issues like this which are, unfortunately, very commonplace (but I think that's good! this seems like a book that definitely should be out in the world). I feel like the extra "oomph" probably exists within the story itself, but the query doesn't make it clear.

    I love the 250. Great writing, great details, and you really intrigued me and captured the feeling of being inside the MC's head.

    Great job, both of you! This is gonna be quite the showdown.

  6. Bridget Meets Georgia - Sounds like a good, fun read. I was expecting the 'Leaders in Training' bit to play more into the story though, as she's been waiting for years to attend this legendary camp (otherwise it could just be set in any camp and still have the same shennanigans happening).

    Broken Jar - good, solid writing, and the first 250 drew me in (I could see from her focus on the watch that she'd disconnected somewhat from what had just happened). My only (very minor!) nitpick would be to lose the 'again' bit in the second sentence of the second paragraph as I didn't like the rhythm of it in conjunction with the first sentence.

    Good luck to you both!

  7. Bridget Meets Georgia-I LOVE Kat's voice. She is hilarious, and I would take the ride through the whole novel with that voice. I love the first line of your first 250 as well. I believe mine (O Captain) starts with the same first six words. :)My only suggestion for your first 250 would be to show more than tell, to start with her swimming and struggling because of the girls.

    Broken Jar: I agree your query can use a little more detail, but your first 250 is gorgeous and tragic and leaves me wanting to know why. I want to read this book and find out how Jesse got to where he is.

    This is a tough choice writers. While I love Bridget Meets Georgia's humor and voice, it's Broken Jar that really leaves me intrigued to find out more. Great work!

  8. Bridget Meets Georgia: I have to be honest and say your query needs work. It is one huge paragraph without any white space. But it is short so that gives you room to add to it. You could use some space to show us about Ben. He’s the important piece of the puzzle and he only gets a few words.

    However, your first page is alive with voice and humor. This is a girl I want to get to know better. I really felt her awkward 16ishness.

    Broken Jar: It’s a very serious subject. You make me want to see what’s going on with Jesse too. However, you haven’t really let us see anything about Clare in the query other than the parts of her that relate to Jesse. I want to know there is more to her than Jesse.

    The details in your first page really give me a sense of the characters.

    I have to give this one to the book I’m more likely to read. Call it a matter of taste, not any deficiencies of the one I didn’t pick. Victory to Bridget Meets Georgia!

  9. Bridget Meets Georgia - Really like Kat's sense of humor, it makes it really easy for a reader to relate to her. In the query, "frequent and hilarious" stuck out...feels like "telling" and comes off a bit awkward. Maybe balance the query more... add in more about the foster kid and Ben. Those more serious details come a bit out of nowhere after all the humor in the set-up. What are the stakes?

    Broken Jar - The first 250 are great and the first sentence is a winner! Wonderful way to start this story. Like the story of the watch and how Clare fixates on it, which is a very human reaction to a horrible, shocking experience. Your query seems a bit slight...I'd like to know more about Clare as an individual.

    Best of luck to you both!

  10. Two terrific entries! Glad I'm not judging :)

    Bridget: Great voice and humor in your first 250. I'd definitely keep reading. Re: your query, as others have said, we need more specifics and more depth. More on the foster kid, more about Ben, more about Leadership Camp. Kat sounds fun and likable, but I want to believe there is more to her than boy craziness, yet also see her get a great guy in the end. I write YA romance, too, so I'm always rooting for the HEA, but want to see the heroine earn it through her awesomeness :)

    Broken Jar: Gorgeous first 250. You really made me want to read more, even though I hate abuse and domestic violence. As others mentioned, you make us possibly see Jesse as sympathetic, which is no small feat. I'm wondering about your word count, which seems a bit short for YA, especially if you're delving into such a tough topic. Overall, I loved your entry and would read on!

    Best of luck to you both!

  11. Bridget: I think you've gotten a lot of helpful notes so far. Just to add: I am really not a fan of quotes and I think you could just get rid of them here and they would work. (especially that the first list is in first person when it could be in the more acceptable third person). In general take the list-iness out of your letter and add in more action and higher stakes. But for real, I laughed out loud at your first 250! I just had this hilarious image of her in my head the whole time. Just propel us through the query so that the agents get a chance to read that opening!

    Broken Jar: I love that the high stakes are spelled out so quickly. I think, unfortunately, it's a problem that a lot of teen readers may be dealing with and that right away made me interested. I think your opening sentence could be stronger. I think a lot of people have that situation: wanting mostly to be with someone and thinking about what they want to do as an afterthought. So maybe find something a little more special or unique about their relationship. Do they already have plans for next year? Has she already mapped out their relationship, down to possible wedding dates? that sort of thing. I want to feel like they are a great couple....and then he hit her. My reaction reading this is just to yell: "don't think about it! Leave him!" because I'm already so far on her side, that he's on my poop list.

  12. Bridget Meets Georgia-- I like the voice and her description of herself was really cute. I think the query could be broken up and you could be more clear cut in the stakes, it kind of felt like you were just summarizing different random things that happen. What is the crux of the story? She's trying to find love but finds something more important instead? And I agree, break it up into different paragraphs to make it easier to read.

    But your first 250 words have a lot of voice, which is great.

    Broken Jar-- I'm not a huge fan of domestic violence pieces so I'm probably not the best judge but your query does seem centered around Jesse and now Clare. I'd like to know more about Clare instead of her just becoming interested in finding out what's going on with Jesse.

    But the first 250 words were pretty interesting, I thought it was tight and worked well.

  13. Victory to Broken Jar

    Wow, Broken Jar. Your first 250 blew me away with its intensity. I think I stopped breathing while reading it. Part of me wants to tell Clare to drop Jesse like a hot potato. No, all of me does. But by focusing on the watch and her emotional distress, you painted a clear picture of their relationship and her shock. I’m curious to see what happens next.

    Bridget Meets Georgia: I love the humor in the query and first 250, I laughed out loud several times, startling my coworkers (thank you very much). You spend a lot of time on Kat’s boobs, but it’s funny. I wasn’t sold at first during the query. Something about a girl with nothing on her mind but getting a boyfriend…sigh. She’s a mother’s nightmare walking. Reading that she will learn some important life lessons and grow as a character, plus the humor you infused into this story sold me.

    This was a tough choice. Good luck to you both.

  14. Two very good, and very different, entries here. :)

    Bridget Meets Georgia: I loved your homage to Jane, that made me smile and laugh a little. :) Your query should be broken up into several paragraphs, white space makes it easier to read. The first 250 was great, and so funny! Good job there.

    Broken Jar: Your query is short, but it gets right to the point and didn't leave me wondering if there was more. You could add to it, but I don't know what you could add, but maybe up the stakes a little. Your first 250 blew me away! So intense, so emotional...just amazing.

    ~The Little Red Head

  15. Victory to - Bridget Meets Georgia - Ultraviolet
    Broken Jar - your 250 was well-written, suspenseful and emotionally engaging, so kudos on that. I didn't vote for you because your query made me think your MC's discovery of the "reason" for Jesse's loss of physical control around her will somehow make everything okay and solve the problem of an abusive relationship. If there's more to the story, it deserves space in your query.
    Bridget - it's nice to see the problem of big boobs addressed, finally (it always seems to be the flatchested girls who get all the sympathy). Your 250 was funny and as others have noted, your query needs work...

  16. Victory to Broken Jar

    I won't reiterate what the other judges have said. I think the point has been made. I chose Broken Jar because it has the full package: a great query, elegant first page, and the voice is definitely there.

    To Bridget Meet Georgia: You have a hilarious first page. Hands down, you have the stronger page between the two. But the query is what kept me from choosing your entry.

  17. Bridget! Very funny and very impressive. Although quotes from other authors (particularly right off the bat) always invite instant comparisons. It's sorta' like looking for Alfred Hitchcock's cameo appearances in his films. You get so caught up in watching for it, you let the story escape you. Having said that, I liked how you handled it with a "sort of." Keep up the comedy! Good voice.

    Broken Jar! What can I say? Very compelling. Part of me wants to scream at Clare to forget friggin' Jesse. He's a loser abuser. Yet...I'm compelled to read on. Know what that says? Great writing, voice and intriguing premise.

    Awesome. Both of you. (I like one better than the other, but since I ain't a judge, I'm not going there. But you know who you are).

  18. Bridget Meets Georgia: I love the voice in your 250, but the boob talk is a bit much for me. It seemed a bit repetitive. But again, I LOVE your MC's voice, and her candidacy. Your query is good, but could stand to be broken up a bit to read easier. Also, I think at 90K, you should add a little more to your query. The last line about learning life's most important lesson is a bit vague. You may want to give a little more info on that.

    Broken Jar - This sounds like a fab story! I'm a sucker for a serious YA contemporary, but I was bummed that your query was so short. I think you could definitely add more. I wanted to know a little more about the story than just a teaser. Your 250 is great as well. Good voice. Would buy this book for sure!


  19. Victory to Broken Jar

    Bridget Meets: Oh my gosh, your 250 are FULL of voice and I love it. BUT your query doesn't showcase that very well. Using quotes is kind of a turn-off, and having it all in one big block of text makes it hard to read. Break it up a little and breathe some life into it, and you'll be golden!

    Broken Jar: Also, great voice. Your query and 250 are strong. Great job :)

  20. Victory to Broken Jar

    Others have mentioned the single-paragraph issues and brevity of the query for SUMMER CAMP DIARIES. A couple of other things to maybe consider. Your alias and first line of the 250 suggests this is an homage to P&P, which doesn't really come through at all. Where are the tie-ins? I also think rather than listing mundane things like a first-ever canoe trip you could be giving us a taste of the funny in the query by using specifics instead of generalities. And 90K seems a tad long for a comedic YA romance. As for the 250, this is the third book in this competition so far that starts with that Austen quote. In your case, it *might* be appropriate, but it should be made very clear that it is. Humor is hard, because it's so terribly subjective and has to be honed very sharply. The writing here is dead-on in many places (my 'buoys', for instance), but then falters in others (the parenthetical remark about seals, the 'rarely a good thing' comment, e.g.). A good tight edit and a re-envisioning of the query ought to head this package in the right direction.

    In the BROKEN JAR query, I think more elaboration is needed. I like that the issue with Jesse seems to be more complex than that he's an abuser and that perhaps whatever it is that triggered violence can be reversed. I'd like to see something more of Clare that works through the issues so we see a growth arc in Clare as she tries to find out if Jesse is indeed one of the rare few who can change his behavior. It's a delicate line to walk, though, possibly enforcing the idea that most abusers CAN change if someone just loves them enough. As for the 250, I love the focus on the watch as Clare tries to process what just happened. The only bit of writing that tripped me up was the "and little interior dials..." bit from the first paragraph. And seeing how it's in the first paragraph, maybe something to smooth out soon.

  21. Victory to Broken Jar.

    Bridget -- I LOVED LOVED LOVED your voice, but your query kind of hinted at little plot, but mostly adventures. Any external conflict? Although, this can work great due to your awesome voice (you know, internal conflict only, all about the character who has an awesome voice, etc).

    Broken Jar -- I loved the almost thriller-like blurb that was your query, and I loved the mood of the 250 and the scariness and darkness of it. A great entry.

  22. VIctory to Bridget for the voice in the 250.

    Bridget: I'm only going to echo the other's comments with regards to the query. YA contemp. straight romance is a really tough sell right now, and I think to get an agent's attention you'll need to give more of a look at the depth you hint at with her life lessons. Also, I think the word count is going to work against you- most contemp YA romances from debut authors are in the 60-70k range. Are there places you could cut? However, your first 250 was FANTASTIC- got me to sit up and take notice! Get your query to match and you'll be onto something.

    Your query was very good- laid out the information clearly and compellingly. I do agree with an earlier comment about making the stakes more about her and less about her interest in the guy. In the 250, the second sentence should read "I'd just looked at it" and the sentence after that where it references the buttons was a little awkwardly worded. Other than that nitpicking, really good stuff!

  23. I've refrained until now, but I just want to say to Bridget Meets Georgia that I want to read your book. Like, now. (If you need a beta, drop me a note, or I'll wait to see it on the shelf) Sincerely, I immediately identified with your MC in your 250, you made me laugh, and I wish I could find out more.

    For everyone who has commented on my entry, Broken Jar, thank you, thank you, thank you! You have no idea how helpful your critiques have been.