Tuesday, June 28, 2016

QK 2016 Round 5: Jello Poems vs Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care

Title: The Henchmen Company
Entry Nickname: Jello Poems
Word Count: 37,500
Genre: MG Humor


Nobody would dare call Gordo Vanderhough a baboon-faced dorkisaur.

Towering over even the adults at Taft Elementary and the only 6th grader with a 5 o’clock shadow, Gordo is known for toppling kids in the lunch line like dominoes (Ga-pow!) and stealing entire trays ofJello (because he only loves two things in life: Jello and poetry). But nobody ever calls him a dorkisaur because nobody really talks to him at all.

One day a man not only talks to Gordo, but actually compliments him and invites him to join the Henchman Company. Gordo, though the youngest henchman, is a natural at all of it: giving evil glares, maniacal laughter, trash talking, throwing large kitchen appliances, and not thinking too much. He’s thrilled about his first job until he figures out that his boss is an evil mastermind trying to hook the internet up to his own brain. If successful he will be able to control a secret government robot army and a flying spaceship the size of a city. This creepoid is going to bully his way to world domination. Suddenly, Gordo questions his career path.

When the other henchmen get wind of his change of heart, Gordo finds out what it feels like to be the one being bullied. With total human annihilation
 on the line (and the fate of all gelatin desserts), Gordo decides to use his size and skills for good. This villain is about to get Gordoed.

First 250:

Gordo Vanderhough lumbered into the cafeteria past dozens of other hungry kids. He headed straight for the front of the line but no one called out, “Hey, what do you think you’re doing?” No one chided, “You can’t do that.” And nobody even thought of saying, “Get to the back of line, you baboon-faced dorkisaur or I’ll kick you in the teeth.” 

They didn’t say the last line for several reasons. One reason was that no one at Taft Elementary could kick high enough to reach Gordo’s teeth. It would require an amazing jump, a ladder, or a trampoline. Maybe even all three. But the most important reason was that no one dared say anything remotely threatening to Gordo Vanderhough.

Gordo was officially the hugest kid at Taft Elementary. In fact, he was the largest person—period. Though he was a sixth grader, he towered over the teachers. He was also as wide as a buffalo—the big kind with burly shoulders and a mop of dirty fur on its head. Plus, if you looked really close, Gordo’s chin had the stubbly beginnings of a beard. His nanny told him to shave every other day, but she only spoke Polish so he couldn’t understand a word she said. To him, it sounded like she was telling him to sing songs about shampooing zebras. And that didn’t make any sense. Needless to say, Gordo didn’t shave, or sing songs, or shampoo zebras.


Title: The Gray Hole
Entry Nickname: Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care
Word count: 63K
Genre: Magic Realism/Suspense


Six students at Mayville High will be dead by Saturday night. Again. And again, they will begin the week over just before Tuesday's first period class. Doomed to repeat the same week until seventeen-year-old Grayson Dell decides to stop killing, the group must work through two problems: First, Grayson has no idea the groundhog week from hell is happening; Second, the victims are all jerks.

As Grayson debates whether or not to kill, some of his victims begin to see the cycle as a blessing instead of a curse, and in order to ensure it continues, they increase their cruelty to outrageous levels. It isn’t until Grayson’s once-most-brutal tormentor and member of that group treats him as a fellow human that signs of a possible end to the cycle begin to appear. Now with the help of his old adversary, Grayson must steer clear of his other victims and all their evil plans in order to find the therapy, medications, and friendships he needs. Otherwise, he will be forced to endure the week before prom forever, corsages, limos, improvised-explosives, and all.

Although the manuscript is narrated by a second-person voice in Grayson’s head, his is not the only story being told. Since Grayson is unaware of the temporal loop, so is the voice, leaving the reader to only feel the presence of the loop through Grayson’s interactions with the group of students he kills. While Grayson’s outlook resets with each chapter, the group members’ memories continue across the length of the manuscript, allowing their individual outlooks and attitudes to evolve, or in some cases, devolve. These secondary arcs are as seen by the voice in Grayson's head who keeps saying "you" when any rational, reliable narrator would clearly just say "I." 

First 250 words:


You tell yourself today will be different. Maybe it will. The lockers are the same sick, pale blue as yesterday, the linoleum floors still shine with same pungent cleaners that have been disintegrating nose hairs and SEAL-Team-Sixing brain cells for all four years you’ve spent in this school. And your classmates – if they’ve changed anything other than the color of their hair, it’d be tantamount to Chris Hemsworth intentionally eating a carb.

But still.

That pale blue used to be your favorite color before your wardrobe and your attitude took an about-face to the dark side. The chemical glint and nauseating smell from the floor is fading with each sneaker’s squeaking step. And those people – the juniors, sophomores, freshman, even your classmates – they all could –

Your head snaps against a locker so hard it’s unclear whether the high pitched hum ringing in your ears is just a sudden bout of tinnitus or if the blue painted metal is actually screaming back at you. You try to pull away and see if the locker’s door was repainted red, but the hand that put you there doubles the pressure from its sweaty palms, digging the blunted and jagged ends of chewed away nails into the back of your head and your left cheek.

You stop struggling before you start. Today will be no different. Why would it be? Embarrassment is the baseline of high school, and pain is just a reminder you haven’t left yet.



  1. Judges, cast your vote here for the Grand Finale!

    1. Ahhh... The time has come. I've been voting FOR both of these pretty continuously, but it's going to come down to POV here.

      Author of HOT SAUCE, before I read your entry, I would have said second person was a big no-no for me. But I like this entry a lot, and the voice is incredibly strong.

      However, I do still have some reservations as to whether I'd be able to stick with this POV for a whole book. If I were an agent, I'd probably ask for a partial first to be sure.

      Author of Jello Porms, I want your book for my nine year old yesterday! I love the humor and the way it subverts the big, dumb bully trope to make Gordo the hero!


    2. Oh, for crap's sake. These are two of my favorite entries. I really need to read both of these. You both do a really good job in these pages. The last paragraph of HOT SAUCE still bugs me, though I do understand the added need to make agents comfortable with the POV in order to request more.

      I think you both will get deals on these MS. I think, for me, it comes down to the fact that I really want to read HOT SAUCE to see how the writer handles this subject and how well this voice plays out through the course of the book (I have every confidence that the author does an excellent job), and I think HOT SAUCE has the potential to be not just good, but EPIC...but on JELLO POEMS I already get such a feel for the voice and for this quirky bully-turned-hero that I am pretty positive that I would love the book in every way.



    3. I think Hot Sauce has a lot going for it, and it's definitely one of the better second person POVs I've read, but Jello Poems manages to capture that elusive MG narrative voice, so victory to JELLO POEMS!

    4. Bravo to you both on great entries! JELLO POEMS has a distinct, MG voice that rings clear in the query and first 250. But that strong hook and the unique, well-done second person POV in HOT SAUCE set it apart for me as something that could be really special.


    5. This is a hard match! Both are strong and talented. This decision is boiling down to voice and which one grabbed me more. Good luck to both contestants!

      Victory to Hot Sauce!

    6. I love both of these entries as well and have voted for both in previous rounds. I'm with the other judges here in that the deciding factor at this point is the voice that shines through in the opening pages. While both are excellent in this regard, I do tend to agree with Mallory Pike. I'm not sure how I would feel about the second person POV after a while (Bright Lights, Big City bugged me after about 30 pages). So for me, victory to Jello Poems for its truly excellent MG voice.

    7. Oh, ugh, these are both so awesome I hate to choose. I see success in the future for both of these entries! I would read each of them in a heartbeat.

      Congrats to both!

      Victory to HOT SAUCE (although I do prefer the earlier version of the query!)

    8. From CatWrangler

      The opening 250 of both shine and have so much voice! But I have to go with...

      Victory to Jello Poems

    9. Another great match-up. For me on this one it's going to come down to voice. Jello Poems has a great MG voice, which is so hard to nail. While I'm intrigued by the second person narrative in Hot Sauce, I just can't be as enthusiastic, which could simply be discomfort with unfamiliar things. Great job to both!

      Victory to JELLO POEMS

    10. These are two of the most unique entries in this competition. Both filled with great voice and fascinating premises.

      I guess it comes down to which one I'd reach for first if they were both on my Kindle.

      Victory to Jello Poems!

    11. What a tough choice! I really like both of these entries. They both have excellent query letters, but I connected better to the writing in one sample more than the other.

      Victory to: Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care

    12. These two entries are nearly perfect to me, and it's so hard to choose between them. But I must, and there is a certain entry whose 250 gets me every time.

      Victory to Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care.

    13. Even as I'm typing this, I still don't know who I'm going to award victory to. These entries are so incredibly different from each other, and both have so much going for them. I love the humor that's evident in JELLO POEMS right from the outset. And as for HOT SAUCE, well this concept is one I can't stop thinking about.

      Okay, decision time. What to do, what to do...

      Okay. Here goes. And I think it's just going to come down to the fact that one concept is sticking with me, so... Victory to HOT SAUCE.

    14. These were two of my favorite over all entries. From the nicknames to the premise, to the very strong writing. Man, this one is hard. I gotta go with the one I feel has just a wee bit more voice that tops it off.


    15. Again, two very strong entries, but the creepy voice in Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care has won me again.

      VICTORY: Hot Sauce is Bad for Wound Care

  2. Congrats again on making it so far! You should both be very proud. I'm proud of you :)

    This is a hard choice, but I have to go with the one that grabs me from the first line and holds on to me for the whole time.

    I love the concept of Hot Sauce, but like other folks, I don't generally enjoy second person. This is so good, I'm sure there will be agents who request to see more, but it may be a tough sell.


  3. Voting for the one whose story-telling appeals to me more, and that one is...

    Victory to JELLO POEMS

  4. This one is extremely difficult. I'm so intrigued by Hot Sauce, but it's not exceptionally clear to me and I have some reservations about it. Jello Poems feels like something that could be the next Captain Underpants for kids which I think is much needed. And your query is crystal clear to me.