Tuesday, September 21, 2010

29 Pitch-to-Query Contest Top 20 Finalists

The pitch-to-query contest is winding down. Our amazing panel of mentors have narrowed down the field to their top 20 favorites, and those have been forwarded on to Sarah LaPolla at Curtis Brown. Sarah will do the final judging and have the difficult task of narrowing the finalists to just the top three overall. But at the risk of sounding too soccer-mom, I think that everyone has won. The difference in the pitches and loglines over the course of the contest is phenomenal. Everyone has done great work in critiquing and revising, and I think we've all learned a lot just by watching.

Which brings us to a couple of congrats. Michelle Leigh Brown has withdrawn her entry because she has already received an offer of reprsentation! How amazing is that? She had a baby over the weekend and an offer on Monday, and she's off on two brand new journeys. We wish her great things on every front.

Kat Zhang also needs congratulations. Her novel, HYBRID, was a finalist in the last contest, and she has since accepted an offer of representation. (Martina is lucky enough to be reading it right now, and says it is AM-A-ZING! We're both so proud we could burst.

You can read each of the finalist's queries by clicking the read more button. For the shorter version, in no particular order the top twenty finalists are:

Entry 27, Stephanie Sauvinet, BORN TO DIE
Entry 3, Phoebe North, SEAS RUN DRY
Entry 1, Jessica, DEAD RINGER
Entry 48, Charlie Eve, HERO AND VILLAIN
Entry 13, Vincent Kale, ORDER AND CHAOS
Entry 6, Meagan Spooner, IRON WOOD
Entry 4, Monica B.W., OUT OF MY BODY
Entry 25, MarcyKate, THE GHOST WRITER
Entry 8, Sarah N. Fisk, MIRANDA'S FIRE
Entry 46, Traci Van Wagoner, SEARCHING
Entry 47, Bekah, PARALLEL EARTH
Entry 5, Melissa Gill, ZOMBIE RABBIT
Entry 16, Brenda Drake, LIBRARY JUMPERS
Entry 15, Shelley Watters, BLUE LOTUS
Entry 38, Jessica Love, GIVING IN
Entry 34, Bethany Morrow, THE LAST LIFE OF AVRILLIS
Entry 36, Larissa, LURE
Entry 7, Jennifer Armentrout, HALF-BLOOD

Congrats to all and many, many thanks to our mentors and everyone who critiqued! And, of course, special thanks as well to Sarah LaPolla.


Query Entry #6
Meagan Spooner
Genre: YA Dystopian Fantasy

Dear Ms. LaPolla,

Sixteen year-old Lark Ainsley has never seen the sky. Her world ends at the edge of the vast domed Wall enclosing all that's left of humanity. For two hundred years the city has sustained this barrier by harvesting its children’s innate magical energy when they reach adolescence. But the Wall is beginning to falter, and the city is getting desperate. When it's Lark’s turn to be harvested, she finds herself trapped in a nightmarish web of experiments and learns that she is something out of legend itself: a Renewable, able to regenerate her own power after it’s been stripped.

If she stays in the only home she knows, she's doomed to a life of agony as a human battery powering the city. Now, the girl who has never seen the sky must escape and fight her way across the terrible and beautiful wilderness beyond the edge of the world, with the city's clockwork creatures close on her heels. Armed only with the revelation that somewhere to the west are others like her, hidden in the Iron Wood, Lark must learn to survive--and when she stumbles across a wild boy in the countryside, how to put her trust in others once more.

THE IRON WOOD is a YA dystopian fantasy complete at 98,000 words. I am a 2009 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop, and a 2009 Writers of the Future finalist.

I have seen you mention in several interviews a desire to see strong, three-dimensional heroines, which I’ve always been passionate about bringing to my own writing. The fact that you like to work editorially with your clients is really appealing, as I’m looking for an agent with whom I can build a lasting working relationship.

Thank you for your time and consideration!

Meagan Spooner

Query Entry: #25
Genre: YA Ghost Story

Dear Ms. LaPolla,

Seventeen-year-old Tessa James does her damnedest to ignore the implications of the letters appearing on her nightstand, but when the accidents begin there's no more ignoring the ghosts in the theatre next door.

Soon Tessa discovers the letters are pieces of a diary and the tale of Ava Dubois, a runaway millgirl turned rising starlet, begins to unravel. As Tessa is unwillingly drawn into Ava’s past, connections to the present become stark—and scary. Manchester’s Castle Theatre, her employer and once Ava's, is about to produce Hamlet, the very play canceled by Ava’s untimely death in 1935. A bizarre series of accidents plague the theatre staff, while the steady stream of letters and rumors of ghosts force Tessa into a dangerous game. She wants no part, but the spirits won’t leave her alone, nor will the suspicious detective investigating the accidents. With the body count piling up—in the past and present—Tessa must checkmate her ghosts and Ava's if she wants to live long enough to have a future.

I'm seeking representation for THE GHOST WRITER, a YA ghost story complete at 60,000 words. I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Literature and Music from Hampshire College. As the former marketing director of a professional theatre, I have the skill-set to actively promote my work. That theatre and its longstanding legends of hauntings inspired my book.

Last spring you read GLOW, another project of mine, and I hope you’ll find THE GHOST WRITER to be more to your taste. I would be happy to supply sample chapters or a full manuscript upon request.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Query Entry #7
Jennifer Armentrout
Title: Half-Blood
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

Dear Ms. LaPolla,

There’s nothing like crushing on the hot and totally forbidden Aiden to take Alexandria’s mind off training to kill her mother.

When Alex’s mother tasted the first drop of aether—the essence of the gods—she lost her humanity. She became a daimon, what the pure-blood Instructor is training seventeen-year-old Alex to kill. And now her own mother is after her.

Falling for her slightly older Instructor is not a complication Alex needs. Her desire for him could get her butt kicked out of the Covenant, a school for preparing halfs like Alex to kill daimons. Relationships between pures and halfs aren’t allowed. Why? The Gods forbid it. Yeah, even Alex thinks that's crap. But even if she can overcome her hormones—and that’s a big if—she’s not sure she can fulfill the duty expected of her.

Killing her mom won't be easy. If Alexandria fails, she’ll be forced into servitude, the only alternative for Covenant drop-outs. Which sucks. Oh, and she faces being turned into a daimon herself and hunted by Aiden. And that sucks, too. Big time.

Half-Blood is a YA Urban Fantasy romance complete at 93,000 words. While attending Shepherd University, studying both Psychology and Sociology with a Criminal Justice track, I rediscovered my passion for crafting stories. Several creative writing classes and workshops later, I decided to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming a career novelist.

I thank you for your time and consideration.

Jennifer Armentrout

Query Entry #: 34
Bethany Morrow
Title: The Last Life of Avrilis
Genre: YA Dystopian

Dear Ms. Sarah LaPolla,

When Avrilis saves the life of a boy meant to die, her unscripted behavior forces the two of them to run - not knowing whether the hunters or the end of the age will catch up to them first.

As one of your followers on Twitter, I am pleased to submit my novel, THE LAST LIFE OF AVRILIS, for your consideration based on your interest in science fiction, literary and young adult literature.

Sixteen-year-old Avrilis isn’t sure a world that replays is worth saving. An orphaned Sentient living at the end of the age, she knows that time repeats and that any Sentient guilty of change becomes prey for the hunters. When she saves the life of a street urchin meant to die, the two discover the Sentient Underground – and that the father she believed dead is the prophet with a plan to end the world for good.

Staying one step ahead of the hunters and the end of time, Avrilis must uncover her father’s motive and choose a side. She can join the fight with the boy whose life she saved or face the aboveground while she searches for the one she’s loved in every life before.

THE LAST LIFE OF AVRILIS is a YA dystopian steampunk that leans toward the literary and is completed at 55,000 words. It has a vivid binary world as its setting, series potential and is a multiple submission.

Thank you for your consideration,

Bethany Morrow

Query Entry: #16
Brenda Drake
Title: Library Jumpers
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

Dear Ms. LaPolla:

After a spirited girl is yanked into a portal book, which links the great libraries of the world, she discovers she’s a long lost warrior and must now save the world from a wizard hell-bent on creating an apocalypse.

Seventeen-year-old Gia Kearns would rather spar with boys than kiss them. That is, until Arik, a leather-clad hottie in the Boston Athenaeum library, busts her staring at him while she's studying with her friends.

When he seemingly vanishes in musty air, Gia swipes the book of world libraries he abandoned. As she skims the pages, she unwittingly speaks the key that sucks her and her friends into a photograph and transports them into a Paris library, where Arik and his fellow Paladijns--magical knights charged with protecting humans from the creatures traveling across the gateway books--rescue the three from a demonic hound.

Gia learns she's a missing Paladijn and now that she's been found, must train with an eccentric father she never knew existed. Gia and Arik commence a heated relationship as they jump into some of the world's most beautiful libraries and travel to the Mistyk world hidden behind bookcases to stop an apocalyptic force from destroying both worlds. If fighting unfathomable creatures weren't bad enough, Arik's French vixen of an ex-girlfriend is determined to keep Arik and Gia apart.

Combining elements of fantasy and romance, LIBRARY JUMPERS, a young adult urban fantasy is complete at 90,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best regards,

Brenda Drake 

Query Entry #8
Sarah N. Fisk
YA Urban Fantasy

Dear Ms. LaPolla,

Miranda Dakin is the most powerful Fire Mage alive and could win this year’s annual Tournament – if she were three days older. Mages must be at least sixteen to attend The Tournament, the paramount event for the secretive modern-day Mage society. Waiting another year to compete becomes the least of her worries when a horde of supposedly-extinct demons attack The Tournament, killing or kidnapping every adult Mage – and taking her Psychic Mage mother as one of the hostages.

After receiving a message from her mother, Miranda must rescue the surviving Mages from a place she was told doesn't exist. She sets off on a cross-country rescue mission with three others: a strange young Holy Knight, her Witch of a best friend, and a Water Mage she's known since birth.

Miranda grapples with the seductive knowledge in a pair of ancient books from her outcast aunt’s attic, while discovering most of what she’s been taught about her magic is a strategic lie. An intimate betrayal and public demon attacks complicate matters when all Miranda wants is her mother safely back at home.

MIRANDA’S FIRE is a 65,000 word YA urban fantasy novel.

I also wanted to say I enjoy reading Glass Cases and following you on Twitter. Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sarah N. Fisk 

Query Entry #: 48
Charlie Eve
Genre: MG Adventure/Humor/Fantasy

Dear Ms. Lapolla,

When twelve year-old writer Mason Grey’s fictional characters come to life and Princess is kidnapped, she must find her muse and help this misfit band of heroes save Princess from an evil doll collector.

First Mason must maintain her sanity as this neurotic cast of characters takes over her home. Hero is constantly dragging his phobic friend, Sidekick, on backyard blunders where Sidekick is on the receiving end of swollen hips and bruised lips. Villain loves Princess and is convinced Mason is trying to poison him. Meanwhile, bible-thumping Gran and her daffodil spray bottle are determined to rid the house of these “abominations” by dousing them with a daily dose of holy water.

With all the commotion, Mason has lost her inspiration to write and it is only when Princess is kidnapped that she picks up her pen again. Along the way, Mason finds out she is not good at writing under pressure and soon horses become wild boars and saving Princess is no fairytale.

HERO AND VILLAIN is a 32,000 word MG adventure/humor/fantasy novel. I follow your blog, Glass Cases and I am seeking representation from you based on your interest in character-driven stories. I am a freelance writer and member of SCBWI. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Charlie Eve
Email: kidsbookjunky@gmail.com 

Entry #47
Parallel Earth
MG adventure/science fiction

Dear Ms. LaPolla,

Please consider my middle grade adventure/science fiction novel Parallel Earth. After being accidentally transported to a parallel dimension, a brother and sister seek a way home, but are hunted by aliens that need human bone cells for survival.

Twelve-year old twins Haley and Wyatt Parker are opposites. She thinks he's annoying playing his video games all the time. He thinks she's a nerd. They can barely stand each other, which is sort of a problem when they get sucked into a tunnel and dumped in a weird dimension. Now, they're stuck together, lost in a world with two-headed animals, flying stump scooters and mystical talking bushes.

When they find friendly inhabitants living in tree houses, Haley and Wyatt learn the only way out is through a Lens, views to other dimensions, which are monitored by an advanced race called Pyonians. The Pyonians snatch humans through the Lenses to make creams and potions to make themselves nearly invincible. Haley and Wyatt realize they're being hunted for their remarkable twin bone cells and need a Lens fast. They must fight for the twin they thought they couldn't stand and search for a way to Earth before the Pyonians capture them and keep them as genetic victims forever.

Parallel Earth is complete at 44,500 words and ready for review. I am a member of SCBWI. Thank you for your time and have a great day!

Query #5
Melissa Gill
Zombie Rabbit
Middle Grade/Adventure

In an interview on Mother. Write. (Repeat). you said you were looking for “anything quirky.” A zombie rabbit who leads a group of decomposing rodents to liberate an animal testing lab has a pretty high quirk factor. I hope you’ll consider ZOMBIE RABBIT for your list.

Death as a zombie is not going so hot for Milo the rabbit. His eyeball won’t stop bouncing on his face, and if he doesn't find a way to move on to the Misty Meadow, he’ll have to go to The Hot Place. Being chased by predators for eternity would totally stink.

If he wants to move on, he has to rescue a rabbit from an animal testing lab. As usual, he spaced out when he was getting the directions. Now he has to figure this out the hard way. Lucky for him, he’s got a one armed squirrel and his skeleton wife, an owl pellet, and a dried out frog skin to help him. They’re sure to make all the difference in Milo’s quest.

To succeed they have to get past a riddling fox, a wake of carrion-loving vultures, and a one-eyed Rottweiler. Once they reach the human-infested lab, they have to defeat the dastardly Lady in Pink. But hey, they can’t get any deader, right? So what could go wrong? Oh yeah, if they don’t complete the task by the next full moon, or before he disintegrates, Milo will wind up in The Hot Place. No pressure there.

ZOMBIE RABBIT is a 33,000 word Middle Grade, Adventure.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my query.
Query Entry #: 1
Title: Dead Ringer
Genre: YA Thriller

Dear Ms. LaPolla:

I enjoyed reading your August interview with the Guide to Literary Agents website. Based on your interest in young adult fiction, please consider DEAD RINGER, a 65,000-word YA thriller. A kidnapped teenager trains in espionage and struggles to discover secrets of her background before taking a stand against an obsessed assassin.

Sixteen-year-old Kae Ringer has finally found a match in her seventeenth foster family, but stability disappears after she sees a murder victim’s photo in a newspaper; the dead girl looks exactly like her. Ten hours later Kae is kidnapped and unconscious on a plane to Switzerland. Her long-lost, newly-dead twin was an international operative at a school/agency called Liberta and the Headmaster thinks Kae will make a convenient replacement.

Despite serious trust issues, Kae cooperates, planning to use her lockpicking skills to break into the Headmaster’s office to discover what he’s hiding about her birth. Between classes like Elements of Stalking and Offensive/Defensive Maneuvers, she battles feelings for two boys, one of whom was her sister’s boyfriend. When a letter surfaces with information about her family history, Kae is ready to ditch school via climbing gear and reunite with a grandfather she never knew existed. Two small problems: one, she’s formed attachments at Liberta and two, the rival agency who murdered her twin believes they missed their target. Now a killer is waiting for the right moment to finish the job. If he strikes, Kae better hope she paid attention in class.

I am a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and have written for the online magazines Stories For Children and The Motherhood Muse. Thank you for your time; I look forward to hearing from you.

Jessica L.
Query #4
Monica B.W.
Out of My Body
YA Urban Fantasy

Dear Ms. LaPolla,

After reading and enjoying Glass Cases and your interview for the YA Highway blogsite, I thought you might like my 55,000-word young adult urban fantasy, OUT OF MY BODY.

Whenever her soul feels like jumping out of her skin, sixteen-year-old Tanya Reinhart finds herself hovering over her limp, drooling body. Sure, some might think astral experiences are fun. But they’re definitely not fun when you faint in the middle of class, or—crap—fall into the lap of Dan Eisenhower, the guy Tanya’s had a major crush on since pretty much forever.

After finding her mother unconscious, Tanya realizes being a drooling freak runs in her family. According to an ethereal stranger who sifts through the door, her mom has left her body—as she’s been doing for years in service of the US Government. Only tonight, her soul is MIA. The stranger cooks a deal with Tanya: if she becomes an out-of-body spy and discovers a traitor in his agency, he’ll get her mother’s soul back. But what could be worse than working undercover while pretending to be a normal high school student? Well, finding out you’re actually helping the bad guys, who are brewing an astral army by running lethal tests on homeless people. And now, if Tanya doesn’t turn in the traitor—who just happens to be Dan Eisenhower—she won’t see her mother alive again.

A stand alone novel with series potential, OUT OF MY BODY will appeal to the fans of Lisa McMann. The first page of this manuscript was rated with the top score by a publishing pro on Webook. My short stories have appeared in the Foundling Review, 6S, and, since I’m bilingual, in a Spanish journal, too.

Thank you for your consideration.
Query Entry # 18
June Goodwin
Title: Paying for the Sins of My Father
Genre: Young Adult

Dear Ms. LaPolla:

Hell is just a few states south of New Jersey. When fourteen-year-old Sky Forrester moves from New York to South Carolina, she learns that some of the inhabitants of her new hometown are not what they appear to be—and they have plans for her.

Sky’s father has bilked a lot of people out of a lot of money. When he’s incarcerated, she thinks life can’t get any darker. She’s wrong. One victim believes her own special brand of punishment is called for. This woman has connections, but they’re not of this world. Immortal avenger, Ryan, is part of “the network”, evil and deadly. His mission: make sure the sins of the father are passed on to the next generation. That means Sky. Leading her astray and ruining her life is the perfect fix. There’s just one problem. Ryan doesn’t want to do it. He wants to be a normal boy, a good boy. And he’s falling in love. That is definitely not part of the plan.

The network is not going to allow a rogue member to go unpunished or the mission to be aborted. As Sky and Ryan struggle through love for the first time and try to survive the wicked forces set into motion, they discover it is possible to transform and be someone better than you were, but you may have to pay a price for it.

Paying for the Sins of My Father is a 95,000-word, young adult novel. At the present time, I counsel emotionally disturbed children. I’m a member of SCBWI and regularly attend writer conferences and workshops. Thank you. Your time and consideration are appreciated.

June Goodwin 
Query Entry #: 13
Vincent Kale
Title: Blackwatch: Order and Chaos
Genre: YA/Sci-Fi

Dear Ms. LaPolla,

Fifteen-year-old Lamarr Jeffers hopes his newfound ability to control time will be enough to imprison the creatures of Chaos before they destroy his world; too bad he’s the one that let them escape in the first place.

When he messes with a futuristic watch in his uncle’s pawn shop, Lamarr unknowingly stops time and crashes the Gate keeping the creatures at bay. Now free from their prison, scores of them pour through the opening into our world and overwhelm the Guardians put in place to protect it.

To replace the fallen Guardians, Lamarr and his best friend Tinka are recruited by the Blackwatch, a timeless society of warriors that fight the eternal struggle against creatures from the ash-covered jungles of Chaos. The new powers granted to Lamarr and Tinka can make the pair unstoppable, if they can put their egos aside and learn to work together.

Their mentors: an ass-kicking duo of time-traveling, sword-wielding bikers. Their allies: the warriors of the Blackwatch, chosen from history’s greatest champions of past, present and future. Their weapon: a scuffed-up wristwatch…

Now it’s up to Lamarr and Tinka to learn fast, train hard and stay alive. If they succeed in ridding their world of the creatures of Chaos, they will earn immortality in the ranks of the Blackwatch. If they fail, their world will be annihilated.

No pressure.

"Blackwatch: Order and Chaos" is a YA/Sci-Fi novel complete at approximately 60,000 words. And while the fate of our world rests heavily on Lamarr’s shoulders, Tinka is much more than just a capable sidekick. To paraphrase Lamarr, sometimes it seems like she should be the hero in this story!

Also, an outline for the second book in this series, "Blackwatch: The Verge Escapement," is available upon request.

Thank you for your consideration!

Vincent Kale
Jessica Love said...
Query Entry #: 38
Jessica Love
Genre: YA - Contemporary

Dear Ms. LaPolla,

Drama club is the last place that pretty and popular Chelsea Park thought she would find herself senior year, but after she’s kicked off of dance team, it’s the only place that will take her. Changing electives doesn’t mean Chelsea can escape the hazing that got her the boot, though. Not with he sister of the freshman who told on her out for revenge, the brightly colored drama crew less than thrilled to have her, and her friends from dance team team pretty much MIA.

Soon Chelsea finds herself unexpectedly at home on the stage, and even more unexpectedly attracted to three very different, very dorky boys. But with her mind on her reputation, she worries more about what people will think about her new life (and her secret love of video games) than about what really matters. It’s not until she finds out the truth about the hazing, and learns that everything she knows about being popular is a lie, that Chelsea makes the most important discovery: she must make peace with her inner dork or risk losing everything that makes her happy.

GIVING IN is a contemporary YA coming-of-age novel complete at 65,000 words that will appeal to fans of Elizabeth Scott and Susane Colasanti.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Jessica Love 

Entry #46
Traci Van Wagoner
Title: Searching
Genre: MG Historical Fantasy

Dear Ms. LaPolla,

Found in an old Indian granary, a magic stick drags twelve-year-old Chris into an ancient quest to save a Thunderbird spirit trapped within the coal mine; but the mine owner has other, greedier, ideas for the buried Thunderbird.

Crystal, called Chris, had no idea she’d be plopped into the middle of a living ghost town when Dad moved the family out west. Some fresh start—midnight ghostly figures pointing at her, mysterious drums, magical sticks and hidden secrets. She wants to go home. But home is gone, buried along with Mom.

When she finds a carved stick in an old Indian granary, she’s pulled into ancient quest from the first age of man when Thunderbirds flew the skies. The last of the Thunderbirds was buried beneath the mountain, and now the quest falls to her to free his spirit. Problem is, she’s not the only one searching for the burial chamber. So is Mr. Blackley, the boss, and he’s not about to let anyone stand in his way of making the biggest find of the century which will make him rich and powerful. Locked in a root cellar, Chris must find a way out to save the Thunderbird spirit and send him home. Everyone should get to go home when they want to.

SEARCHING is a 45,000 word MG historical fantasy set in 1932 in Rains, Utah. Spring canyon was once filled with many coal mines which are now all ghost towns. My dad lived in a couple of these coal camps when he was a kid.

I am a member of SCBWI. My short story, SASSY SLIME SLIDER was purchased by Highlights. I am the illustrator of the picture book DADDY DID I EVER SAY? By 10 to 2 Children’s Books, 2007.

Thank you for your consideration. 
Larissa said...
Query Entry #: 36
Title: Lure
Genre: YA Paranormal

Dear Ms. LaPolla,

Fifteen-year-old Mitch would rather pound a nail through his thumb than read, so when everyone in his small South Dakota town starts obsessing over a book, he hopes the craze will pass quickly. But LURE is no ordinary book--soon teachers are stopping class to read, and Mitch's mom forgets to make dinner as she turns the pages.

Before long, it seems only Mitch and his best friend Jen have avoided getting sucked in--and the situation has become more dire. The streets are empty. People aren't eating or drinking. When Mitch's dad is injured, he continues to read through the pain, and the hospital is full of nurses and doctors absorbed in LURE, their jobs forgotten. Even as Mitch realizes the town is reading itself to death, Jen succumbs to the book's pull, leaving him alone. He must find LURE's secret ... or lose everyone he loves.

Thank you for considering my YA Paranormal novel, LURE. I am a member of SCBWI and the Florida Writers Association. I follow you on Twitter and read your blog, and hope LURE fits what you are looking for. Thank you for your time.


Larissa Hardesty 

Query Entry #28
A.J. Spindle
Title: Bennett Nelson and the Maker of Stones
Genre: MG Heroic Fantasy

Only one man can make the magical stones that repel dark creatures and keep the island safe; and when that man goes missing, a shipwrecked twelve-year-old, Bennett Nelson, sets out to find him.

Bennett Nelson washes ashore Isla de Sangra Mala after a fiery shipwreck, only to find the natives have been anticipating his arrival. Years before his birth, Bennett’s name was carved into the Shield of Stone by a mystical, prophetic creature. A stone that holds the names of every hero or warrior to walk the island.

Because his name is on the stone, Bennett is placed in a special camp for children of the Brotherhood; an organization bound together against an evil man who wants control of the island, Luciadoye the Great. There he attends lessons, learns of magical stones that can do almost anything, plants that can gobble you up in three bites, and potions that would make for an awesome practical joke.

It's all fun and games until Dr. River, the only known maker of the stones, goes missing, and Luciadoye is the number one suspect. Wanting to prove himself to the Brotherhood, Bennett sets out to find and rescue the Doctor, taking his two new friends with him. But rough terrain and lying adults stand in their way. They must hurry before Lucidoye can use Dr. Rivers' power to take over the island.

I am seeking representation for my middle grade heroic fantasy, BENNETT NELSON AND THE MAKER OF THE STONES. It is complete at 55,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

A. J. Spindle 

Query Entry #3
Phoebe North
Title: Seas Run Dry
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

Dear Ms. LaPolla,

Eighteen-year-old Irene has always been captivated by the beach town where her family spends their summers. Now college looms on the horizon, and she’s dreading giving it up. But one day on the boardwalk she meets a mysterious boy with a secret—and realizes that she may have finally found an excuse to stay by the sea.

Raised by a pod of mermaids, seventeen-year-old Loril never knew the world past the sand. As his childhood draws to a close, he has one last chance to explore his humanity before he’s forced to choose between the dying world of his mother, and the alien universe of a father he’s never met. But he never expected that during his sojourn on land, he’d fall for a human girl . . .

Irene and Loril cannot deny the love that sparks between them like heat lightning. But before they can face their future together, Loril must learn what it means to be human—and Irene must persuade him to stay with her, and leave the world of the water, and his people, behind forever.

SEAS RUN DRY, complete at 78,000 words, is a paranormal romance for young adults.

As for myself, I am a New Jersey native who graduated in 2009 from the University of Florida's MFA program. I write about my life at www.phoebenorth.com, have guest blogged for YAHighway, and proofread for the speculative fiction magazine Strange Horizons.

Sincerely yours,

Phoebe North 

Query Entry #15
Shelley Watters
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

Dear Ms. LaPolla;

When seventeen-year-old Anna Caerulea's father invites her to excavate a tomb with him in Egypt over the summer, she sees it as the first step in her path to becoming an archaeologist, which she has dreamed of since she was a child. Instead, she finds a different dream come true – Alex, her father’s intern, is not only so attractive he makes her heart ache, he’s the subject of every dream she had, long before she met him.

Together they discover a secret: their lives have been entwined in a millennia-long war between Anubis and Osiris. Anna and Alex must locate Osiris’ tomb before the death god is unleashed on Egypt, or their past is the only thing they’ll have together.

BLUE LOTUS is a paranormal romance targeted at young adults and is complete at 90,000 words.

I am a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a Graduate certificate in Epidemiology from (University).

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Shelley Watters

  • Entries 1-5: E. M. Kokie's debut novel, Personal Effects, will be published by Candlewick in 2012. After spending most of her life on the East Coast, she now lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with her partner and their imaginary pets. Eventually, she'll have a fully functioning website, but for now she can be found on twitter at @emkokie or hanging around the Absolute Write Forums. She is represented by Chris Richman of Upstart Crow Literary.
  • Entries 6-10: Tahereh a.k.a. T.H. Mafi works as a graphic designer. Her blog Grab a Pen consistently entertains the masses. She writes YA novels and is represented by the ever-fabulous Amy Tipton of Signature Literary Agency.
  • Entries 11-15: Lisa Green is not a demon, ghost, vampire, fairy or shape-shifter*. She has, however, enjoyed reading and writing about them since the age of seven. Her short stories and poems have been featured in several online magazines and her manuscripts are represented by the amazing Rubin Pfeffer of East-West Literary. *Please note that the exclusion of werewolves above is strictly coincidental.
  • Entries 16-20: J.A. Souders was born with an overactive imagination and an abundance of curiosity that led her to befriend the monsters under the bed. When she grew up, she decided to put her imaginary friends to work and started writing. She lives in the land of sunshine and palm trees with her husband and  their two children, and is an active member of the RWA, CFRW, and the SCBWI. She is represented by Natalie Fischer of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.
  • Entries 21-25: After a successful career in journalism, Debra Gersh Hernandez works with press and media advocacy groups as an independent communications consultant. Her first picture books  "The Sneaky Snackers," illustrated by Eric MacDicken, features furry, funny monsters and an easygoing lesson about tolerance. She is represented by Marisa Corvisiero at the L. Perkins Agency.
  • Entries 26-30: Nikki Katz is a freelance writer, author, wife, rocket scientist (aerospace engineer), mother of three, friend, daughter, sister, and often-times more. She lives in San Diego, CA where she works from home as the Managing Editor for the BlogWorld blog. She has published four nonfiction books, and her first novel, a young adult urban fantasy, is represented by Bree Ogden at Martin Literary Management.
  • Entries 31-35: A.E. Rought's love of fantasy started with listening at her mother's knee and turned to writing after she got married and had two beautiful kids of her own. Her work includes children's fiction as well as adult fantasy and paranormal. Her first novel, Nuermar's Last Witch, which has been called a 'spellbinding fantasy,' was published in 2007, with a number of other books published since and more in the works. She is represented by Gina Panettieri of Talcott Notch Literary Services
  • Entries 36-40: Elana Johnson's debut novel, Possession, will be published by Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster) in Summer 2011. Her popular ebook, From the Query to the Call, is also available for download. School teacher by day, Query Ninja by night, you can find her online at her personal blog or her website. She also co-authors the Query Tracker blog, the League of Extraordinary Writers, and What Writers Read. Elana is represented by Michelle Andelman of Regal Literary.
  • Entries 41-45: Hilary Wagner lives in Chicago with her husband, Eric, two crazy kids and her dog Louie, who sometimes thinks he's human. Her debut novel, Nightshade City (Holiday House) releases October of 2010, with Book II of the Nightshade Chronicles releasing next year. She loves classically written stories with a creepy slant and knows she's read a good book when she's sad she has no more left to read! Her guilty pleasures are bad reality TV, candy corn and Cheetos!
  • Entries 46-51: Gretchen McNeil is a classically trained soprano turned television producer turned writer. She is repped by Ginger Clark at Curtis Brown and her YA urban fantasy BANISH debuts with Balzer + Bray in Winter 2012. Gretchen is a founding member of the vlog group the YARebels and blogs with the Enchanted Inkpot. She is the voice of Mary on G4's "Code Monkeys" and she currently sings with the LA-based circus troupe Cirque Berzerk.


  1. It really has been a fantastic contest. Just participating in it has tightened up my pitch a great deal, making a much more concise query letter. Thanks so much, Martina and Marissa, and thanks everyone who critiqued!

  2. Many thanks to everyone who took the time to participate, critique, and offer all their expertise. It was a wonderful opportunity to tighten my query and learn from all the others. Congratulations to all the finalists.

  3. Congrats to the finalists!! Can't wait to see who the winner is!!

  4. Congrats to the finalists. Good luck. And thanks for the contest.

  5. Congratulations to everyone. It was a great experience and I'm delighted I took part. For my first contest it was a great learning curve :)

  6. Congrats to the finalists and good luck!

  7. Congrats to everyone! Thank you to Martina and Marissa and to all of the mentoring authors! And good luck finalists!

  8. This has been such a great experience. I've learned a lot from everyone who participated. I'm amazed at the generosity writers have toward one an other. Thanks Martina, Marissa, the mentoring authors, participants, and my mentor J.A Souders (she rocks - :D)! Good luck finalists!

  9. Congratz to the top 20! This has been great, and tho not selected, I've gotten helpful feedback and have really improved my query--which is the important thing.

  10. Congrats to the finalists. And thanks to all the critters who participated. :D

  11. Congrats to everyone! Thank you to Martina and Marissa and all the mentoring authors.

    Special congrats to Michelle Leigh Brown and Kat Zhang!

  12. Thanks for the congrats! I have had one incredible week :D
    This was such a great contest. Mentors and commenters were extremely helpful and the entire process was well done. Best wishes to everybody and WTG, Kat! YAY!

  13. Just wanted to reiterate that you were all winners. Just the fact that you have finished manuscripts and entered this contest to learn more about perfecting your query means you are one step ahead! Thanks to the ladies who run this amazing blog for the time they put in and all of these wonderful opportunities.

  14. Thank you from everyone but I want to say CONGRATS to all contestants and finalists. Everyone did an amazing job with their queries and taking the time to critique. The words were kind and helpful! I learned a lot from the contest, so thank you Martina and Marissa and our mentors. Special congrats to Michelle and Kat : )

  15. I just wanted to say thank you for all the query feedback. Your comments helped me to realize I needed to completely overhaul my query--and when I whipped up this one, I knew immediately that it was stronger! Good luck to all the other finalists, too.

  16. Thanks to Martina and Marissa for hosting this great contest. Also, thanks to everyone for critiquing my entries. I had a lot of great feedback and have many great suggestions to work with now.

  17. Thank you so much for the congrats, guys! And a big cheer for everyone who entered this contest! Sarah is really going to have her work cut out for her picking a winner :)

    BIG congratulations to Michelle!! I'm so happy for you!!!

  18. I am lucky (and I do mean LUCKY) enough to be represented by Sarah LaPolla and I wish the top 20 huge congratulations. Sarah is absolutely wonderful.

  19. This was a wonderful opportunity to revamp my query. I could see what would and would not work. Congrats to my fellow finalists and well done to everyone else. We've had an amazing time coming together and helping each other.

  20. I am *beyond* excited to be listed! Thanks so much for the opportunity and congrats to my fellow participants for giving and receiving (and then putting to work) all the great critiques!

  21. Congrats to all the finalists and thank you to everyone who helped with critiques. This was a wonderful experience!

  22. I made it! This is great news after a tough day. Thanks so much for this contest and to all for the wonderful critiques and to the mentors for their time and valuable input. I have learned so much. Congrats to my fellow finalists!

  23. Thanks to:
    -Martina and Marissa for hosting!
    -the panel for coaching!
    -the commentators for critiquing!
    -the whole community for encouraging!
    -Ms. LaPolla for giving us this opportunity!

    Congrats to:
    -Michelle and Kat!
    -all the finalists!
    -the (eventual) winners!

    I think that's everyone...

  24. Thank you for this amazing opportunity!! I love meeting people from the YA/MG community, and this has been a great experience for me! :D

  25. Thanks for this great contest! I have learned so much! What an honor just to be involved:)

  26. Why did I think this was this week? Oh well.

    Thanks Debra Gersh Hernandez and the others for their helpful comments. And thanks ACP for supporting the contests.

    Good luck to all the winners!


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