Wednesday, June 15, 2016

QK Round 2: Partners-In-Magic vs. Humanimals

Title: Spellbinders
Entry Nickname: Partners-in-Magic
Word count: 75K
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy


When twelve-year-old Sam heals a dying cat with her bare hands, her world gets turned on its head. Magic exists in boring upstate New York—that’s a surprise. Sam has magical powers—that’s a bigger surprise. But the biggest surprise of all is that Sam used to know all this, before a magical accident destroyed her memory.
Sam learns she used to have a best friend named Gabe. When Gabe reappears in her life, Sam can’t figure out why she ever liked this smirking, snarky elf. Unfortunately, she’s stuck with him. Sam’s guardian Aunt Jo explains: as Spellbinders, they must hold hands with a partner to perform most spells, and Gabe is Sam’s partner. For life.
To make matters worse, Spellbinders are disappearing. When Aunt Jo is kidnapped, too, Sam and Gabe set out to rescue her. But the path to Jo is dangerous. They don’t know whom to trust, they can’t quite control their own powers yet, and they seem to have their own set of kidnappers on their trail. If they have any chance of rescuing Aunt Jo and discovering who is behind these disappearances, Sam and Gabe must follow the oldest Spellbinder maxim in history: collaborate or perish.

First 250:

Unlike most twelve-year-olds, Samantha Jacobson had a stalker. He was small, grey and white, and quite possibly the most irritating stray in cat history. He watched Sam every morning as she tried to tame her straggly mane of hair into a ponytail. He watched her every evening as she kissed a photograph of her mother goodnight. No matter where she was, what she was doing, or how many locked doors stood between them, the stalker cat would find his way to her side and stare. She called the cat Creep.

It was week 4 of Creep-gate, and Sam felt like a prisoner in her own house (complete with her own furry prison guard). It was also the last day of 6th grade, which meant her problem was about to get a lot worse. She would soon have to endure eight more hours of disapproving cat-stares each day.

While her teachers talked about summer assignments, Sam huddled over her notebook writing a plea to Aunt Jo for help with her “Creep problem.” She planned to deliver it that evening at dinner. This was a desperate move and Sam knew it. Aunt Jo loved cats and had a particular soft spot for mangy strays like Creep. All the strays in upstate New York had free rein on their property. At least six of them had colonized the sprawling vegetable gardens outside Sam’s window.

Sam fiddled with her glasses and bit her lip. Hopefully, Aunt Jo wasn’t kidding when she said she appreciated a well-reasoned argument.


Title: The Wildlife Preserve for Nearly Normal Humans
Entry Nickname: Humanimals
Word Count: 79,000
Genre: MG Fantasy


When Ricky Chase turns twelve, he learns about the world of Legionnaires, boys and girls who change into animals to battle evil, and he is one of them. As a Legionnaire, he’s whisked away to train at the American Preserve in NYC. Expecting a gothic fantasy castle, Ricky’s is surprised to find that the Preserve is a magical Daft-Punk-style New York Times skyscraper, with techno music, auto clothing, airvators (elevators of air), and water slides that go from floor to floor on demand, all for the purpose of training the world’s most elite children in the unique craft of channeling their inner animal. Not only do Legionnaires develop theiranimal’s coolest abilities, but their dietary preferences as well—Ricky crosses his fingers that he becomes something other than a beaver—ick.

While Legionnaires can only channel one animal each, their enemies, the Skahdi, change into grotesque combinations of creatures, becoming fierce chimera-like warriors. Ricky struggles during his first year and ends up changing into three different animals, casting suspicion that he is an enemy spy. As this suspicion mounts, and the Skahdi destroy the Asian Preserve in a brutal attack, Ricky turns to his newfound friends for help—in particular, Mina, a Korean girl who transferred from the ruined Asian Preserve and who shares a dangerous secret in common with Ricky. But then Mina disappears, abducted by the real spy.

Now, Ricky must not only prove his innocence, but master his fledgling abilities and channel his true animal or he’ll never defeat the traitor and save Mina in time.

First 250:

Ricky stretched and gazed down through his bedroom window at the bustling Manhattan streets. The morning sun cast long shadows as people pinballed down the sidewalks, scurrying off to wherever it was they went. Cabbies honked and hollered, and pigeons pecked and pooped.

The thin alley across the street loomed dark and quiet as usual, until a teenage boy emerged into the light and locked eyes with Ricky. He wore blue jeans and a gray hoodie, but instead of shoes, he had huge webbed feet, like an enormous bullfrog, and his hands were massive, red lobster claws.

Ricky chuckled and gave him two thumbs up for the costume. Maybe he was a foster kid too, and made extra cash dressing up for tourists in Times Square. The boy's lips curled back like a wolf protecting a kill, his eyes still locked on Ricky.

Ricky glanced over at Carlos who sat on his bed sketching a giraffe in a tuxedo. “Hey, come check out this guy’s costume.”

Carlos nestled his pencil behind his ear, its yellow shaft contrasting with his black hair, then plodded over. The boy was still there, but his lobster claws and webbed feet were gone, replaced by regular hands and shoes. Ricky shook his head. Impossible. He'd only glanced away for a second. He pulled off his glasses, rubbed the lenses with his t-shirt, and slid them back on. Same.

“What, that guy?” Carlos asked, pointing.

“But he was just—” Ricky pressed his face to the window.


  1. Partners-In-Magic: Your query was great! I followed your plot with ease and you set up the stakes wonderfully.

    The best part, though, was getting to your first 250. What a wonderful voice!! I wanted to keep reading about Sam and Creep; I could have easily curled up with this book today, and I have a feeling this will do really well when you query.

    Humanimals: This is such a unique concept! Love it. I think you do a good job of world building in your query, and my only complaint would be that your stakes fell a little flat at the end for me.

    Your first 250 read really well, and I wanted to keep going!

    These are both such strong entries; this was honestly the hardest choice yet for me. However, the voice in one of them won me over.

    Victory to...PARTNERS-IN-MAGIC!

    I would be hesitant about taking on this story, because for an MG, the word count is really on the highest side. Usually that means that it is quite wordy or has scenes that could be cut. Also, since this seems like a pretty straightforward story, I’d try to aim for 65K. The query is really well written and clear for the most part. I do wonder why you say that Aunt Jo is kidnapped, too. No one else was kidnapped in the query, so that is really confusing. Hm…so now that I reread it a couple of times, I guess I didn’t make the leap from ‘disappearances’ to ‘kidnappings.’ Even though your stakes are, “collaborate or perish,” I don’t feel like that’s a really hard choice for the main characters to make. Of course they are going to collaborate. End of story. I’m not sure if that is hook enough to get an agent to read. If there was something keeping Sam and Gabe apart, then I would want to know if they’re going to be able to get back together again. But if we just know they have an easy choice to make, there’s not much tension to go on. Hope that makes sense, because this does seem like a fun fantasy with a lot of potential!
    As for your writing, I’m not a fan of the first line. If I had opened the book and read only the first line, I probably would have closed it and not read on. It brings such negative connotations to me…but, of course, it could just be me. Ask others what they think about it. I wouldn’t want a first line to turn off readers from getting to the rest of your story which sounds adorable. I stumbled a bit over “Creep-gate.” Not sure what that means. And spell out numbers like ‘four.’ Overall, I think it’s well-written and there’s a bit of tension as we wonder what the letter says and how she’s going to get rid of Creep. Cute name by the way!
    Ahh! I really like the premise here, but there are some issues of clarity. And, as with the story you’re matched up with, this is definitely on the highest word count side of things. I would aim for cutting at least 5K if not 10K, but I can see that your story is more complex that might warrant it being close to 75K. Make sure every scene moves the plot forward. As for your query, I’m confused by the setting. In the first paragraph, Ricky is in NYC, but then in the second paragraph we’re in an Asian preserve. I’m not sure where that leap comes from, but it needs to be cleared up. After, “dangerous secret in common with Ricky,” I wonder if you could add one small hint as to what that has to do with. Maybe a secret that has to do with their ability to change into various animals? I think a small addition there will keep it from being called vague. I think you’ve got great stakes going on! This sounds really exciting!
    The opening is great and paints a clear picture…only thing I wondered about was when Ricky looked down through his window, it makes it sound like the window is in the floor? I’m guessing it’s not. If not, I’d say, ‘looked out his bedroom window, down at the bustling…’ Then, I’d consider deleting this line because it pulled me out of the scene, “nestled his pencil behind his ear, its yellow shaft contrasting with his black hair.” I know you’re probably trying to show us what Carlos looks like but there’s time for that. Hook us first! Well done!


  3. Partners-in-Magic: The introduction of Gabe is a bit awkward, because it seems as if the biggest revelation about her forgotten past is knowing she had a friend, but because we don't know that this point that Gabe IS a big deal because he's her partner-in-magic, it seems random. That feeling lasts only a sentence or two, but that may be too long in a query, already such a short document. I'd find a new way to see the information that starts the second paragraph, so we can appreciate how forgetting Gabe is actually the most critical part of our MC's forgotten past.

    The first page about Creep and his comings and goings was full of personality and voice, particularly in the second paragraph, which seems to finally find a close third person attitude that captures the MC's mind. See if you can make the first paragraph more like the rest of the page, in terms of using voice drawn from the MC's mind more overtly.

    Humanimals: I was surprised to learn that Ricky's animal identity is unknown so late in the query. So much effort is put into giving us a sense of what this Daft-Punk like place where the Legionnaires are trained is like, plot itself is suspended too long, I think. Try to make sure each sentence in your query does at least two of the following three essential things (ideally, it should do all three): build sense of character; build sense of world; build sense of conflict. A query can't afford material that isn't pulling at least double-duty, and triple-duty is best, whenever possible. On a personal, reader-preference level, I was disappointed to see that Ricky's key motivation at the end of the query is a damsel-in-distress situation involving his young lady friend. I'm not sure if there's a way to frame that that doesn't seem so cliche, but it may be worth thinking about how often that sort of thing has been presented to us in stories (particularly stories for kids) and if there's a way to make this lone female character more of an agent than a plot prop.

    The first page for Humanimals was disorienting for me, not because Ricky's apparently seen a Skahdi (I'm prepared for that because of the query), but because it was too easy for me to forget that Ricky and the Skahdi he spots are on entirely different physical planes, with Ricky in a high rise and Skahdi on the ground. The way their locking eyes happens almost immediately, and Ricky's gesture seems to be read and sinister-ly responded to, makes it seem as if it was easy for them to find each other, and I keep thinking of how busy major city streets are, and how infrequently people look UP into buildings as they walk down those streets. I could go with this scene if Ricky noticed something odd about the Skahdi's having looked up and seen him -- as if he's looking for him? as if he sensed him? -- but otherwise, it confuses my sense of verisimilitude.

    Victory to PARTNERS-IN-MAGIC!

  4. Oh wow... I feel like I have to weigh in on this one because I voted FOR both of these entries in Round 1! But it's also such a hard choice, because I love both of them!


    You've done a GREAT job incorporating feedback from the first round and tweaking your query. I can't honestly think of anything I'd really suggest. The last paragraph's a LITTLE vague... but I'm not even sure that that's a problem, because you do have the basic concept-character-stakes-conflict.

    I still love opening with the cat (poor, sweet Creep!)... not sure that drafting an argument in a notebook is as action-packed as I'd like for an opening, but your character's doing SOMETHING about her problem, and I'd stick with her long enough to find out if she was really moving the plot forward on her own.



    This query is MOSTLY great... there are a few sentences that still feel a little awkward to me. "and he is one" feels a LITTLE tacked-on. Why not just say "Ricky finds out that he is a Legionnaire, one of an elite group of humans who..."? The beaver comment STILL feels a little awkward to me... if you can't make it work, maybe cut it? The second half of the query feels MUCH more polished. I wouldn't change anything there.

    The first 250 basically work for me too... I'm still wondering who Carlos is in relation to Ricky, but it's entirely possible that you get to that with word 251 or so. ;) This feels like a strong opening, and I'd be interested to read more.


    Both first 250 are amazing, and I'd love to keep reading either or both!
    It's going to come down to the more polished query here, so...


  5. Congratulations to both on making it to Round 2! I’d love to read both of these stories to my granddaughter.

    Partners in Magic

    This sounds like such a fun story. And your query is well done. The only thing you might explore in the query is removing redundant phrases. For example, you could remove “Unfortunately, she’s stuck with him.” because you go on to say essentially the same thing in the next sentence. And “But the path to Jo is dangerous.” because you go on to show how it’s dangerous.

    The first 250 are really cute, and I love the voice. You also manage to get the MC personality in there with her straggly mane of hair and kissing the photo. Nice. The only thing I worry about is the amount of backstory. Maybe you can turn some of this into more immediate action. You might also find ways to get the cat personality in there a bit more visually. For example, describe how his eyes look at her, or how his tail swishes around her leg. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t understand the “Creep-gate” reference.


    Wow, this Preserve sounds like so much fun! And the query made me laugh on that line about the beaver (although I think that should be its own sentence, not separated by a dash). This may be a blog formatting issue, but “theiranimals” is missing a space.

    I absolutely love your voice in the first 250--“honked and hollered” and “pecked and pooped.” I just want to keep reading because I know I’m going to be taken for a fun ride! When you mention it’s a teenage boy in the 2nd paragraph, it makes me wonder how Ricky knows that. I envisioned him looking down many stories high, and wondered how he could see that kind of detail in an alley, and how they could lock eyes from such a distance. Maybe you can tweak the setting a bit so that part is clearer.

    I didn’t spot this one in Round 1, but I’m enchanted with it now. I honestly don’t think there’s anything I’d change about the query – it’s very clear and very intriguing. If I were to be picky, the two things I’d possibly add would be a little more sense of what the rescue mission involves (ie. Are they in a magical kingdom, a different country or still New York? And what dangers are they facing?) and a little more about the initial conflict between Sam and Gabe, to really emphasise that collaborating is going to be difficult.

    I really liked the first paragraph. It gives a good sense of what Samantha looks like and acts like without being too “telling.”

    I wasn’t sure about the terms “Creep-gate” and Creep problem.” I’d like a little more sense of just why the cat was freaking her out so much.

    This is all nitpicking stuff though, I thought this was great really.


    Interesting premise, and though it’s one I’ve seen before (anyone remember Animorphs, for a start?) it sounds like you’re doing some interesting things with it too.

    In the query, I thought the first sentence was intriguing, but read a little awkwardly. The “he is one of them” seems added on almost as an afterthought, when it’s clearly the most important bit. It’s make that a separate sentence, and then start a new paragraph, so that point really stands out.

    I like that the American Preserve isn’t what he (and perhaps the reader) might expect and the description was pretty cool. However a)I’m not sure what “Daft Punk style” would really involve and b) I think you overdo the description here for query purposes. One option would be to cut the query down and focus less on description and more on the basics of what happens. Alternatively, I’d rather here a little less about the building and more about some of these “coolest abilities,” the kids have.

    I also felt the beaver reference was a bit random – wouldn’t it be worse to become an animal that eats raw meat or insects or something? On the animals, I’d quite like to know what the three animals he can change into are – it sounds like extravenous detail, but it’d be a very different story if he can change into a lion than if he can change into a mouse.

    I got a bit confused by the sudden reference to the Asian preserve – at first, I read it as an area of the skyscraper that houses animals native to Asia. Maybe saying something like “the Asian preserve in [Tokyo]” – or wherever - would help clarify. I’d also like something more specific than “dangerous secret.” Does Mina change into different animals too? if so, maybe spell this out.

  7. Humanimals

    The query does a good job describing the world and MC. The ‘and he’s one of them’ phrase pushed me out of the story. Perhaps trim back the first sentence: ‘’…to battle evil.(, and he is one of them. As a Legionnaire, he’s) Whisked away to the Legionnaire’s American Preserve in NYC to train…’ Or something like that. The details you include about this new world do a fine job setting the scene and tone. You also do a great job clearly stating the stakes.

    I was immediately drawn in by the first 250 and enjoyed the prose and voice in the first 250 – ‘Cabbies honked and hollered, and pigeons pecked and pooped.’ The opening also raised some great questions. If the boy from the alley hadn’t morphed back to full human form, would Ricky’s friend have been able to see the webbed feet and lobster claws? This makes me want to read on and find out more.


    The repeating scheme in the first paragraph of the query felt a little lumpy. I get the idea, but perhaps rephrase so the prose feels smoother? The part about Gabe’s return was unclear – does Sam’s elf partner return because she’s re-discovered her magical powers? And does the return of her powers restore her memory? Suggest rephrasing the third paragraph: ‘When Aunt Jo is kidnapped, too.’ Since the spellbinders ‘disappearing’ isn’t the same thing as being kidnapped, it was confusing. Also suggest using character names consistently – Aunt Jo becomes Jo (which was a great phrase – ‘the path to Jo’) – but then she becomes Aunt Jo again.

    In the first 250, I like the humor of ‘Creep-gate’ and Sam’s view of the cat as her guard. Suggest trimming ‘prison’ from ‘her own furry (prison) guard’ since we’ve already been given the prisoner image. The segue from feeling like a ‘prisoner in her own house’ to her teacher talking ‘about summer assignments’ was jarring. Perhaps inject a transition of some sort? I like the idea of a neophyte spellbinder trying to control their magic as she quests to save her kind.

    Winner: Humanimals

  8. Partners in Magic

    I think this query is pretty strong, but there are a few spots that felt clunky. I would eliminate the word 'boring' from the first paragraph. It's a nice descriptor, but I think it interrupts the flow too much. I would also eliminate 'Aunt Jo explains' from the second paragraph, because it just doesn't seem to fit with the rest. I didn't totally follow the stakes in the last paragraph--who would they be collaborating with? Who is threatening them? I'd love a bit more sense of where the danger is coming from.

    I had a bit of a hard time connecting with the voice, I think because the POV is quite distant. That may just be a personal preference, though. There's also a lot of exposition, which also might be creating distance. At the same time, the story really intrigued me, and it is very skillfully written.

    What a great concept--love it! I got a good sense of it from the query, though I'm not sure you need quite so much world-building (do we really need to know everything in the first paragraph?) I also think the second-to-last sentence in the second paragraph could be cut down or broken up--it's almost four lines long. Great stakes at the end, though, and I love the hint at the secret he and Mina share.

    The writing is nice, though I'm not convinced that the story is starting in the right place. The first paragraph doesn't draw me in. It feels like waking up on an ordinary day, which a lot of agents frown on. The second paragraph is a lot stronger, and I feel like I don't need the set up before the conflict begins. I might even start with the boy staring straight into Ricky's eyes. That part unnerved me, and in a really good way!

  9. Partners-in-Magic

    This query does a great job of laying out the stakes and not getting bogged down in the plot. However, I am not certain if it is because the manuscript is Middle Grade or not, but the sentence structure is a bit too choppy. A slight revision to vary sentence structure and add some compound sentences, and possible avoid so many name checks, would dramatically improve this one.

    First 250:
    This is a great start. Sam is instantly bright and likable. I’m not sure parenthesis are appropriate in a novel, you could just use commas instead. I like it overall.



    I like this query. It is very Percy Jackson. I like that we know Ricky is different in that he is turning into new animals and that while cool it is also suspicious. I’m not sure what the “Asian Preserve” is nor am I certain that the term needs to be repeated. I think you might move that Ricky and Mina are friends up in the query so it feels like less of an afterthought. Her safety is a large part of the statement of stakes.

    First 250 words:

    Lovely. I like where it goes. It gets to the point quick, which is important. I’m ready to read more!


    This one was hard, but I feel like Humanimals was just a little strong in the query.

    Victory goes to: Humanimals

  10. Partners-in-Magic

    Interesting premise, and the query is already flowing quite well. I’d suggest streamlining names (for example, go with either Aunt Jo or Jo, but not both). I also think the stakes could be strengthened so that the hook really grabs. Provide a few more concrete details on why Sam doesn’t get along with the elf, and why exactly the Spellbinders are disappearing. While you don’t want to give away the ending, details are your best friend in a query. They’re what help it stand out from the rest.

    First 250 Words:
    I enjoyed this opening page. It’s definitely got a voice and some humor, and I would recommend even pushing it a little more if possible. Voice is everything in MG. I’m curious why she’s writing a letter to Aunt Jo instead of just asking. It feels like there’s something interesting there that’s being passed over. Does her aunt only consider well-composed written requests? That would be funny.


    Very fun premise. I think like most of the right details are in here, but the flow feels slightly off. It seems weighted towards the set up, and doesn’t spend nearly enough time on the stakes and the hook. I wonder then if the content of the first paragraph couldn’t be cut down considerably to make room for a more detailed final paragraph (side note: phrases like “a dangerous secret” sound cliché; would suggest simply stating explicitly what secret they share).

    First 250 Words:
    A sound opening page. In fact, I think the only thing I’m not really getting is a strong sense of voice, which as I mentioned on the previous entry, is so key to capturing the attention of a middle grade audience (and their publishers). Thus if I was to suggest anything, it would be to strengthen the overall voice of the narrator. The writing is competent, but for me it’s not grabbing quite yet.

    Another tough choice. I’m intrigued by both, and feel that with a little more polish both will be ready for the slush pile. Since a choice must be made, however, and since voice is indeed so important for MG and in my opinion one of these entries is currently stronger in that regard, I’m declaring victory to PARTNERS-IN-MAGIC!

  11. I think I voted for both of these in the first round! What a choice. Because Middle Grade is NOT my forte, I am going to focus mainly on the queries. (Both authors are strong writers and I enjoyed reading both of these entries.)


    This query seemed to sprawl a bit. We’ve got Sam, who heals a cat, and now (I’m guessing) the cat follows her everywhere. This didn’t quite come through very strongly in the query. I had to read the query twice to see where everything is going, and I think it suffers from a common query issue: that of trying to cram too many minute details into the query. (For example: the holding hands to perform magic.) I think you need still need to trim it down to Sam + has an elven assistant she hates (this gives the conflict) + aunt is kidnapped, etc.


    Wow. This query is much improved. You’ve nailed the protagonists, the conflict, and your voice rings through. It was a very smooth read! I just felt centered throughout the whole query.


  12. Partners-In-Magic

    Query: This is a really solid query. I feel like I have a really good idea of where the story is going and what I can expect. The WC is a little high for MG so I’d definitely make sure there isn’t any extra fluff in there that you might be able to cut. I’m not in love with the two em dash sentences in the first paragraph, it reads a little clunky, but I like what you’re getting at. In the second, could you possibly add a bit of detail to tell us why Gabe returns? Is that important to the story? I’d also be consistent throughout the query with either calling her guardian Aunt Jo or Jo. In that second paragraph, I think you need commas around Aunt Jo, right before explains. In the last paragraph (and this depends on the story) but would it possibly be “they can’t quite remember how to control…”? Not sure if maybe they were working well in the past? At the very end, I’d suggest saying “who’s” instead of “who is.” Also, if the stakes are collaborate or perish, I’d almost like to see a little bit more of how Sam and Gabe are struggling to work together.

    250: The voice in this is lovely! My only suggestion is to maybe move the pace along a little? It’s a lot of cat in only 250 words. In the first paragraph you could probably cut “mane of” to make the sentence a little smoother, and “prison” before prison guard in the next one to avoid the repetition in the sentence. That last sentence in the second paragraph “She would soon have…” might be able to go too, only because I think the previous sentence infers it. Other than that I really love this.


    Query: Just a quick note because I’m not sure whether you’re aware or not, but Legionnaires is actually a disease, spelled the same way, and it just made me stumble for a minute at the beginning. You may want to consider changing it. Anyway, I like this query in general, but I thought the first paragraph had a bit too much unnecessary detail in it. I’m not sure that what the place looks like and all the cool inventions are really important here. It sounds like a fantastic setting, but I’d rather hear more about the plot. The “he is one of them” read a little off to me and made your opening sentence a bit too long. Toward the end you say “their animal’s coolest abilities” but maybe cut to just “their coolest abilities.” It makes it sound like they have an animal rather than just that they are one. The dietary preference thing is cool too, but again, is it really necessary for us to understand what’s happening in the story? When I get to the second paragraph I get a little concerned. You mention that he struggles during his first year, so does this book start after that? Before it? During it? Maybe just rephrase that sentence to be clearer. I actually feel like the meat of the story is in this paragraph, and wouldn’t mind more detail here. “A dangerous secret” is a little vague, but I’m pretty sure I know what you’re going for there. I like the stakes in the last sentence, but it feels a little too long to me. Can you streamline it at all and make it punchier?

    250: I really like this opening, it’s definitely very interesting. In the first paragraph, last sentence, you can delete the “and” before pigeons. Other than that, my only question is why Ricky wouldn’t be more weirded out by some kid in a costume. Unless it was Halloween I feel like that would be more of a red flag than just something funny. Great job with this!

    These are both really good entries, but for me, victory goes to PARTNERS-IN-MAGIC!

  13. PARTNERS IN MAGIC: Really great query, and fun premise. I like the protagonist already! Your query is very clear and well done. Your 250 are fun and interesting and great! I would read more right now. Congrats and Best Wishes!

    HUMANIMALS: What a fun premise! Really unique and interesting – I’d read it, for sure! Your query has a lot of great info in it, and I feel like I know the main issues and conflicts. One suggestion would be to cut the sentences down a bit – they feel kind of heavy and make me out of breath a bit. ☺ What would you think of that? Your 250 are great, and are super clean. I think you’ll go far with this.

    Great job to both of you – very, very hard to choose a winner. Best of luck with everything! I think these will both find success.

    Victory to PARTNERS IN MAGIC

  14. I'm blown away by how fantastic both of these entries are.

    PARTNERS IN MAGIC: Great voice in both your query and 250. I laughed out loud during some parts.

    HUMANIMALS: What an unusual and intriguing premise! Your query really shows your stakes and creates an exciting world. And your 250 is just as good!

    Such a tough decision, because I want to pick both of these, Michelle!

    Hmm . . . back and forth, back and forth.

    Going with my gut, I declare


  15. Partners-In-Magic:
    So, I could totally see this as a YA, but that's just me. For your query, I would be careful of clichés in your first paragraph. The rest of the query read well, I just wanted more from that opening paragraph.
    Your 250 is great. Really awesome voice. THe only thing I would get rid of is "Unlike most twelve-year-olds." Sam had a stalker would be the perfect opening line.

    This is a really cool idea. Your query sets up everything nicely. The only suggestion I have is to get rid of Mina's backstory. It slows down the rest of the query.
    Your 250 has a great voice and you introduce the idea that Ricky is a foster kid in a very subtle way. I do think you could start right away with the kid in the costume to bring us in. You need a bit more of a hook than just Ricky looking out at the streets of Manhattan.
    Good luck to you both.

  16. Partners-in-Magic

    This query is strong. The repetition of “surprise” in the first paragraph didn’t work for me, but I understand what you were trying to accomplish and others might feel differently. I would want to know in the second paragraph how she learns she used to have a best friend named Gabe and how he reappears in her life. Just a sentence would suffice. Also, defining “Spellbinders” would help, prior to noting that she and her aunt Jo are Spellbinders.

    The hook is almost there, but it doesn’t present the stakes as strongly as they should. Sure, in any journey with someone else, you have to work together, so them collaborating to accomplish what they’ve set forth to do isn’t really the stakes. The stakes are saving Aunt Jo, the Spellbinders, etc.

    I liked the first 250. I will say that starting with the cat seemed a bit random (ie, always start where the story begins), but I believe this works because I understand she heals the cat. Also, you do a good job of setting up the story - who Samantha is, who Aunt Jo is, where they live. I did think the mention of her age sounded a bit forced.


    The first paragraph is really well-written, but it reads more like the second paragraph in a query. The first paragraph should present the hook right away, and there’s nothing to suggest in it that there’s any danger with the Skahdi. That doesn’t come until almost the end of the query (in the second paragraph). I do think the visual with the first paragraph works really well in terms of the description of the Wildlife Preserve - kids would be really interested in reading about it.

    By the time we get to the end of the query, the stakes are a bit unclear - is it getting Mina back, or something bigger given that they’ve been attacked? And why would he need to clear his name? I would suggest that the final line say something that captures the bigger picture (defeating the Skahdi) and also his individual quest in saving Mina.

    With the word count, 78K is a bit on the high side, but honestly, a book is as long as it needs to be. If it’s fantasy, you could be all right - just get betas and ask them if there’s anything you can cut for pacing purposes. The description in the beginning is strong, but I don’t get a sense right away of Ricky except for the fact that he’s a foster kid. Also, in the opening line, he’d probably only be looking at one street.