Thursday, September 23, 2010

32 Pitch-to-Query Contest Winners!

It's finally here. The moment we've patiently been waiting for. After input from our mentoring authors, literary agent Sarah LaPolla has selected winners in our Pitch-to-Query Contest! Congratulations to all of the writers who were brave enough to enter, open-minded enough to receive feedback so humbly, and tenacious enough to keep revising. Many thanks to our mentoring authors for their excellent guidance. A huge thank you to Sarah for judging this contest for us.

Need a quick recap of what's up for grabs? (See below the winning queries for bios!)  The three top finalists will receive a submission request from Sarah LaPolla. In addition, they'll receive:
  • 1st Place: Three-chapter manuscript critique from Sarah LaPolla
  • 2nd Place: Two-chapter manuscript critique from P.J. Hoover
  • 3rd Place: One-chapter manuscript critique from Michele Corriel 
And the Winners Are

1st Place: Entry #6, Megan Spooner, THE IRON WOOD, 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

2nd Place: Entry #38, Jessica Love, GIVING IN, 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

3rd Place: Entry #47, Bekah, 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!


Sarah LaPolla began at Curtis Brown in 2008, working with Dave Barbor and Peter Ginsberg. Sarah is interested in literary fiction, narrative nonfiction, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, science fiction, literary horror, and young adult fiction. She loves complex characters, coming-of-age stories, and strong narrators. Sarah graduated from Ithaca College with a degree in Writing and English, and went on to receive her MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. She is always on the lookout for debut authors and welcomes email submissions at sl [at]


  • P. J. Hoover grew up visiting museums and dreaming of finding Atlantis. She eventually married and had two children, shifted her dreams to reality, and began a writing career. PJ enjoys writing fantasy for middle grade and teen readers, boys and girls alike. Her middle grade fantasy novels, The Emerald Tablet and The Navel of the World, chronicle the adventures of a boy who discovers he's part of two feuding worlds hidden beneath the sea. Prior to writing full time, PJ worked as an electrical engineer designing chips in Austin, Texas. She is represented by Laura Rennert of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

  • Award-winning journalist, freelance writer and book reviewer, Michele Corriel's debut middle grade novel, Fairview Felines: A Newspaper Mystery, is now available for pre-order on Amazon and her debut picture book, Weird Rocks, will be out this fall. Michele is also the Regional Advisor for SCBWI's Montana Chapter and conducts writing workshops throughout the year. She is represented by The McVeigh Agency.

  • 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.

Congratulations to everyone!

Martina & Marissa


  1. The moment I read your query I knew you would win, Meagan. Congratulations. I'm so happy for you.

    Also, big, big congratulations to Bekah and Jessica.

    Martina and Marissa - thank you!

  2. Congrats to the winners! What a great contest!

  3. Congrats. You must be so excited! All the best to all the winners!

  4. Congratulations to Meagan, Jessica, and the author of PARALLEL EARTH!! :D

  5. Loved these 3 queries!
    Congratulations, winners! :D

  6. Congratulations to the winners! This contest rocked! Thanks all!

  7. Oh my gosh, all I can say is thank you thank you! This whole process has been completely amazing, with so much great input from all the contestants and the mentoring authors. And thank you as well to Ms. LaPolla for offering such a fantastic prize. I feel so lucky to have gotten to be a part of it!

  8. Yay Jess!!!!

    And congratulations to everyone else! I really enjoyed following this contest!

  9. Wow!

    Thanks to ALL of you for your help, this was such a fantastic process!

  10. Congrats to the winners! This has been a fantastic experience. Thanks to everyone involved!

  11. Yay, Meagan!!! Congratulations, Meagan, Jessica and Bekah!!

  12. Congratulations to the winners! Way to go - you earned it! :)

    Thanks to Martina & Marissa for running this contest - It was fantastic!

  13. Congrats to the winners and thanks again to everyone who participated!

  14. Congrats to the winners!! All great queries! And thanks to Martina & Marissa for doing this--I learned so much!!

  15. Congrats to Meagan and Jessica- your queries were great! Thanks to the other participants for making mine shine. I am so glad that I got meet all of you : )

  16. Congratulations to the winners, the big three listed above and everyone involved with this contest.

    I'm sure that, like me, you've all written, re-written, tweaked, commented, filled in plot holes, and discovered hidden gems along the way.

    And, you know, discovered other writers to enrich your publishing journey.

    We all win.

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  18. Congratz to the winners! Your hard work and talent are rewarded!

  19. Yeah!! Congratulations winners! Can't wait to buy the books... :D Congrats to everyone. You were all awesome. I now feel a whole lot sympathy for all the agents out there sorting through everyones hard work. Not an easy job.

  20. One more for the road: Congrats to the winners!

  21. Thanks again to everyone who participated, and of course to Marissa and Martina!

  22. Congratulations to the winners! Sarah is the best, trust me.

  23. Congrats to the winners. Your queries are awesome. And thanks Marissa and Martina for the contest.

  24. I had question, if we weren't picked as one of the three, is that considered a rejection from Ms. LaPolla?

  25. Congrats to the winners!

    And thanks to ALL the critters for their tough love. :D

  26. question is this still going to happen too? The top 20 posted with mentor/author comments? Just curious.

    • 9/23: We post the author's picks for the top 20 query letters along with their comments, and announce the judge's top three finalists, including the winner of Sarah's three-chapter critique. We'll also open the query letters for critique. All contestants will be expected to critique at least five entries alongside our panel of mentors.


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