Friday, June 1, 2018

Query Kombat Round 1: Eradicated vs Canary Girl

Title: Eradicated

Entry Nickname: Eradicated

Word Count: 80K

Genre: Young Adult Sci Fi (OWN)


Seventeen-year old Maya Richardson joined the commune army for food, shelter, and an excuse to kick people—not necessarily in that order. She doesn’t believe she’ll ever see the front line though. The militia has been preparing for a fight with the Gliesians for the past 400 years. But the Gliesians, the super-powered aliens that now co-habit the Earth, have been completely peaceful. Maya, like most humans, refuses to buy into the conspiracy theories--until her mom is abducted.

Maya will do anything to save her mom, but the fearful commune elders forbid Maya from leaving the compound grounds. The only person on her side is Roman, a seventeen-year-old outsider with a grudge against the aliens for killing his dad. Together, Maya and Roman escape from the compound and enter the glittering allure of the Gliesian city. But Maya’s search for answers uncovers a nefarious plot that has been causing the human population to dwindle for centuries.

Caught spying on the aliens, Maya is sentenced to death. Roman risks his life to free her, but exposes himself to be something other than human—the one thing she can’t trust. With her mom’s life on the line, Maya must convince the rest of the humans that the aliens pose a threat, the commune that they are capable of winning the war, and herself that Roman isn’t the enemy.

ERADICATED is an 80,000 word Young Adult Science Fiction novel that will appeal to readers of The Host and Cracked.

First 250 words:

I peer into the commune cafeteria with its vaulted ceilings and disintegrating interior walls. For the umpteenth time in my life I wish the west side of the commune had more than just one place to grab food during the day. The rumor mill is already going and the only thing churning on it is my friend Katie.

I’m not concerned about the hushed whispers, the pointed stares, or even the rude questions that most of the residents will soon ask. They will get no information out of me. My greatest talent is lying (that and my round house kick) and I plan to use it with no remorse. Lying; not the kicking.

My only concern is the one person in the compound I can't lie to—my best friend Naomi. I wipe my sweaty palms on my jeans.

Hopefully, I can grab my lunch and go before she sees me. I squint through the haze of dust particles that circle the room as I scan rows of dilapidated tables.

"What are you doing, Maya?" a familiar voice asks from behind me.

I jump a whole foot. "Naomi," I say, whirling around to face her. My heart thunders in my chest." I was just wondering where you were. It looks like they made your favorite, that mystery meat loaf. I know how much you love it. Glad they didn’t keep you late at the lab or you might have missed it." I know I sound awkward and I’m rambling.


Title: Locusts

Entry nickname: Canary Girl

Word count: 90K

Genre: YA scifi thriller


While locusts ravage the Earth, seventeen-year-old science-prodigy Nila is plagued by her father's suicide. Art therapy is helping to heal her loss, but she’s not the only one affected by his death. When he died, the formula for his revolutionary pesticide was lost with him, and Nila's pushy mom wants her to help finish his work.

After Nila discovers proof that her father's pesticide never worked, she defies her mom to follow her passion to become a graffiti artist. But when a whole new breed of flesh-eating locusts is unleashed in Boston, she must heal her relationship with her mom and combine her creative and scientific abilities to finally complete her father’s work and defeat the mutant swarm.

LOCUSTS is a 90,000-word YA sci-fi thriller set in Boston that would appeal to fans of THIS MORTAL COIL and the complex mother-daughter dynamic of LADY BIRD.

First 250:

The last time I made my father’s chest swell with pride, I was almost four years old. He had gathered the greatest minds from across the world to resolve the locust problem spreading across Africa and Eurasia, and I was to be the evening’s entertainment. As he lifted me onto the head table, the university’s Great Hall fell silent except for a growing chorus of tinkling glass. With my dark curls pinned tight to my scalp, I clutched the skirt of my canary-yellow dress and recited the periodic table. In Spanish and English. Pausing only to carefully form my mouth around the desconocidos, I made sure I didn’t trip over a single one.

When I had finished, I was spun in the air and called my father’s daughter.

It made me feel something then—as though at any moment I would burst, in an explosion of feathers, and emerge a tiny yellow bird, fluttering high up in the rafters.

“Nila!” Mom’s voice jars me from my thoughts.

I try to grasp hold of the memory again, but it’s gone. My chest is an empty cage. Only the echoes of that little bird’s song are left, no matter how hard I try. As I prepare for the curtains to go up and the International Young Scientist of the Year to be announced, the blazing heat of the stage lights scorches the air dry, so that every breath burns me up from the inside out.

“Nila, stop that,” Mom calls from offstage.


  1. JUDGES ONLY: Please reply to this comment with your feedback and match decision. Thank you!


      Hah! The opening line of your query made me laugh, so I'm hooked. After that things get slightly muddled, but I think you can fix it by swapping around the order of some of the sentence in the first paragraph (ex. mention of the militia prep first, then how she doesn't think she'll see the front lines). I'm also a little confused because if the aliens have been outwardly peaceful and the majority of humans don't view them as a threat, why is there a militia? Overall, though, it's solid. You give us a good sense of who Maya is at the start/her background, introduce the conflict of the abducted mom, then escalate and end with solid stakes. The "the one thing she can't trust line" in the third paragraph tripped me up a bit, but you could consider swapping the trust and the Roman being non-human reveal in that sentence to fix it (but that's a very minor complaint, all things considered).

      Love the humor and voice in your 250. Apparently I'm just a sucker for kicking. That said, it feels like it lacks a bit of tension to me. The focus in the 250 is more on avoiding Naomi than whatever this secret about Katie Maya is trying to keep is. Nothing necessarily wrong with that, but first pages have to carry so much weight that I like to end them on a bit of a hook to convince an agent/reader to flip the page. Ending on the voice/question instead of Maya's awkward rambling to Naomi could be such a hook (but again, as I said, nothing necessarily wrong with what you have now).


      First impression is that your query is very short, but that simply means you have plenty of room to expand. What you have is solid; it just needs some more explanation and detail. What kind of havoc are the locusts wreaking? How long have they been a problem? Also, although Nila is eventually pushed into following in her dad's footsteps, its unclear whether she wants to from the start. Yes, she abandons it when it proves to be a failure initially, but did she want to take it up at all or would she have preferred to focus on her art all along? How does healing her relationship with her mom affect stopping these new Uber-Locusts? Your stakes also feel less like a choice she makes and more of a foregone conclusion, but some simple rewording or expanding can fix that.

      Your first 250 is wonderful. I love the memory and the vivid imagery, all of Nila's emotions and interiority in the scene. The final line of her mother's dialogue is a bit less tense than the "burns me up from the inside out" line prior, so my only real suggestion here is to tweak things so you end there instead. Tension makes for a great page turner.

      This is another tough matchup, but there must be a winner.

      Victory to CANARY GIRL!

      I really like the setup and stakes in the first 2 paragraphs. Like how Roman is introed (we get to see how this pair could come together). There may be too much logistically in paragraph 2 (she can’t leave! They team up! They leave! – maybe smooth this out and combine to simplify?). I love “glittering allure” – immediately gives me a clear visual! I’d love if there was something similar about the compound (is it outside the city? Near it? How big or are there many compounds? Is this the last one with humans?) any little detail to ground us in the world would be great.

      The last paragraph confuses me a bit – mostly that Maya is sentenced to death, but then seems to get out of it entirely? And then you mention her mom’s life being on the line. Is Maya’s life still on the line? Did she find her mom and does she know that her mom will be put to death? There is just something of a logical disconnect going into that last paragraph and I think it may be that you are trying to get too much plot in. But as I don’t know the whole story, I can’t tell… other feedback may help here.

      Great concept. Really close. Looking forward to seeing this again with some more detail.

      First 250:
      Good visuals. Nice sense of dread and like the humor with her rambling.

      “What are you doing” seems pretty formal to me, especially between 2 best friends. Is there something more personal, funny, cute, accusatory, or somehow different that could be said instead? I think the first sentence Naomi utters should tell us more about who she is, and her relationship with Maya. So just think about what she can say there that gives us more.

      I stumbled a bit with the intro of so many names on page 1. Katie is mentioned but then not really again. Consider something more question-provoking for “the only thing churning on it is my friend Katie” – maybe “the only thing churning on it is [yesterday’s embarrassing incident]” or something else? I’m not sure, but something about “my friend katie” so quickly followed by “my best friend naomi” was just a bit confusing. I think holding Katie’s name back may help, but others may give different feedback.

      I like this a lot and want to know what happens next!


      This is very concise, but I think you can expand. You have 118 words, and you can really go up to 250. Take your time to give us more on Nila’s art / personality. Give us a better view of what it looks like to have locusts ravaging the earth – is there no food? Is being an artist something common still or would that be rare? Has life changed a lot vs. the world we know?

      And is her mom also a scientist? What makes her mom think Nila can help if she is an artist and not a scientist? I think taking a bit more time to walk us though her life (one sentence or even a phrase) will help.

      I’m not sure if the locusts are the antagonist, or if the person behind them (is there a person behind them?) or if her mom is the antagonist. I think a bit more linking the locusts, the damage, the bigger picture will clarify stakes. I also am still unsure how combining her creative side and her scientific side (which, again, was not mentioned before) will help.

      I think you have a really good start, but need to expand a lot to walk us through it so we can follow the logic.

      First 250:
      I get a very clear picture of her scientific side her. It’s clearly a huge part of her. So bring that out in the query.

      I love the visual of her at 4 reciting the periodic table. Beautiful writing about the bird and the rafters.

      This is really well written. Your detail is very nice. The scene is clear.

      “calls” could be stronger. Mom is pushy, right? “hisses”? or something else to let us know mom is not being nice and supportive. Or even “stop [daydreaming]” or something else specific.

      Tough call as they both have great points and both have room for improvement. I think the query for one is stronger than the other, though, so


    3. ------------------------------------------------

      Query: This is concise, but the stakes, as stated, are surprising. It’s not about her learning to trust Roman, but to ultimately find his revealed secret something she can’t overcome and lead people to destroy him and his kind? If so, this is certainly unconventional, but I’m willing to see where it goes. That being said, you are giving a bit more of the plot than you likely should. I’d likely re-state them after “the one thing she can’t trust.” Also if the story is about her ultimately learning to accept Roman, her friend who risked it all to save her, you’ll need to revise what is stated. Other than that, I’d just do some editing to cut out some unnecessary items here (I feel like there is a lot of text about the commune but the details about it are a bit hazy so I’m not sure it needs as much space/time as it is given) and there, but on the whole, I have a good idea of the story, stakes, and character to go forward.

      First 250 Words: I feel like the joke about lying not kicking is cute, but likely could be punched up to state if lying didn’t work she’d have to get to kicking. The rest is fine, but it’s a bit flat. Also it’s a bit odd to mention Katie but not actually introduce her, and, instead, introduce Naomi. I feel like this could be punched up a bit with a bit stronger voice. I see some great glimmers of it in the query and parts of the 250, so I know the author can do it. It looks to me like they’d benefit strongly from a full rewrite of their first chapter. Now that they know their characters so well, and what needs to happen, a full rewrite is likely to have stronger voice and just be a stronger in general.

      Canary Girl
      Query: This is nice and concise. I’d likely revise the statement of stakes to make it sound like “can she combine X and Y in order to achieve Z?” or state them in a way that makes it feel like there is suspense.

      First 250 Words: This is a very great first 250. I immediately connect to Nila, and I’m willing to follow where she is going to take me.
      Victory to: Canary Girl. Mainly because the query is concise and the voice in the first 250 is strong. I wanted to like Eradicated more, but the query could use some work and I think the first 250 need a good solid edit.



      Love the opening line and the entire first paragraph is pretty solid. I would suggest maybe expanding on what the ‘conspiracy theories’ are, as I’m not completely sure if that means that she doesn’t believe the aliens aren’t peaceful, or that they are.

      The rest of the query reads well and you have a good sense of the characters and their agency (and fun intrigue with Roman).The larger stakes are mostly clear. We jump from Maya being in danger to her mother being in danger and I think you can keep both parts, but maybe work on the connective tissue between the two a bit.

      FIRST 250:

      I like the character work here. I don’t think you need the last line of her knowing that she is rambling, that’s clear from the dialogue. I don’t have a lot of suggestion here, besides maybe trying to up the tension, either by adding a bit more descriptions to the setting (what you have already is a great start) or by explaining what exactly the deal is with Katie and perhaps why she needs to lie. Be cautious with exposition, but I think there could be a bit more here to hold onto.



      I love the wordplay in the first sentence. The query overall is very clear, but almost sounds like a really short summary. Since it’s so short, I’d recommend adding a bit of voice to it. Try and sell us on the mother daughter relationship in a more fleshed out way. Give us an example of how her mom is pushy for example. Also, the graffiti artist is a far cry from working on pesticides, maybe add a bit of why that’s her alternative dream. Also, the stakes are there, but maybe give it some extra oomph by describing the immediate danger. The locusts are described as flesh eating, are they devouring people? I think getting a bit gritty with a nice detail could really up the stakes.

      FIRST 250:

      This was really beautifully written. Very effective use of details and the space the scenes take place in. I love how you juxtapose the relationship Nila has with her father and her mother. The way you play everything into the image of the canary is great. My only suggestion would be maybe add just a touch more to underscore Nila’s mother’s behavior snapping her out of her memory.

      Both queries need something extra, and both pages are strong. I’m forced to go with the 250 that I think is slightly stronger. Best of luck to you both.



    5. Eradicated


      [Great stakes! I’m confused – is the commune a militia that wants to fight the aliens? I’d clarify that, and also just try to pare this down a bit, remove 25-50 words if possible].

      First 250 words:

      I peer into the commune cafeteria with its vaulted ceilings and disintegrating interior walls. For the umpteenth time in my life I wish the west side of the commune [I think you can take out “of the commune” – assumed]

      I have nothing else to say here. Engaging writing.

      Canary Girl

      This is a good query – the only thing is I’m not seeing how healing the relationship with her mom helps her defeat the mutant swarm. It seems like a separate stake. You might want to just leave it out, because it’s alluded to in the last paragraph with the comp.

      First 250:

      It made me feel something then—as though at any moment I would burst [take out the comma] in an explosion of feathers, and emerge a tiny yellow bird, fluttering high up in the rafters.

      This is well-written and hooky, though I’m a little ungrounded at the end, not knowing if she’s in another memory or not– the next paragraph might resolve that, though, so I don’t know if it’s an issue.

      In the end, I like the voice of one just a little more.


    6. This is a hard pick, because both of these are excellent queries with strong beginnings.

      Great query! The only thing that threw was "an excuse to kick people" which made me think she wasn't a nice person. I got it later when I got to the round-house kicks, but the way it's presented in that first paragraph made me blink. I'm glad I stayed for the rest.

      This is an excellent premise and I like that it's not a love story. I can also see how the plot is relevant to today's society. This works for me in every possible way.

      Canary Girl
      Again, a very strong query and first 250 words. I mean flesh-eating locusts! What's not to love here?

      This one came strictly down to my personal preference over the plots. I'm a political animal so in this one:

      Victory to Eradicated.

    7. No one of consequenceJune 4, 2018 at 11:54 AM

      Eradicated...pretty much a classic query, giving us the set-up, conflict, and stakes in textbook fashion. Watch the final paragraph and how you talk about Roman. I think the wording is a bit awkward, but otherwise I think it's solid.

      For your first page, I'd strongly recommend getting rid of Katie in the first paragraph. You mention two friends, which isn't a ton of characters, and can work, but it's unclear how Katie fits, and Naomi seems to be the important character initially. That probably doesn't make sense. Bottom line: what does mentioning Katie add to your story initially? If the answer is nothing, then you can put her in later.

      Canary Girl...this is an example of doing a lot with a little in the query. While it's short, I feel like we get everything we need. This is a book about a girl searching for a cure while dealing with the dynamics of family. It works.

      In the first 250...I love this as a flashback, and that's from someone who doesn't favor flashbacks early in a story. You might try to rework the second paragraph so that it's not passive voice...I think it would be stronger. Also, watch your comma placement, which is incorrect in paragraph three in a way that detracts from what is otherwise a great writing sample.

      I love the concept of both of these and think both have a ton of potential. I'm saying VICTORY to CANARY, as I feel like the writing is already at the next level. Great stuff.

  2. This Comment is for ERADICATED: Very cool twist on the whole alien invasion trope, that they have been here for hundreds of years. But of course it wouldn't be fun if they didn't want to destroy us. The query creates a mystery with clear motivations. I see little room for improvement. The voice in the opening 250 is strong, and I get the sense that these girls aren't free in this short space. Person preference is to use EM dashes where you have parenthesis. I think it might work better to mention she can't lie to Naomi AFTER she shows up, but I wouldn't know for sure unless I read more. (Which I hope to someday)

  3. This comment is for LOCUSTS:

    Flesh eating Locusts sounds a little bit like one of the book of Revelations plagues after the rapture. The query shows a classic rejection of the call to action and a clear motivation to save the world. It sounds like there could be lots of tension once the man-eating bugs come into the story, but I wonder if a query can do more to show what kind of danger the characters would be in. (It might not be able to since you accomplished the main goal of a query very well). It just might need a little spice. I worry a little bit about starting the book on basically a flashback, but you keep it short and it does a good job of establishing the driving force behind everything Nila will decide.

  4. Fake Invisibility T-ShirtJune 2, 2018 at 9:47 AM


    Nice effective query, on the whole. The detail about Maya kicking people is an amusing way to shine light on her character. You might pare a few words here and there to make it tighter. The closing line left me wanting a little more. Are we assuming that Roman *isn't* the enemy? If that's an ongoing question for Maya, you might leave it open-ended. One more big picture comment: If you could work in an emotional arc, or even a couple of emotionally-vested adjectives for Maya, that would give her a heart/feelings element that's lacking right now.

    Good writing in the 250! Maya's thoughts and emotions come through clearly. However, I'm not sure what she's worried about. Something to do with the gossip mill...but what? Clarifying that asap might accelerate your opening.

  5. Eradicated:

    I need this story in my life. The only issue I see with the query is the last sentence seems a little unclear about what the stakes are...and what choice is being made. But I am still dying to read it. Your page...well done. maybe and this is a big maybe...shorten the dialogue to add more about why she was rambling.


    Love this idea. Killer bugs...I am all about it. Your query seems a little off to me. Like the blend of art and science doesn't flow as nice as I think it can. Maybe add more of what is going on with the swarm...or the relationship with the mother.
    The pages...starting off on a flashback is hard and I think you executed it nicely.

  6. I don’t envy the judges on this match. Both are high quality


    Hey, I know this query! Hi from a fellow AWer! (Yes it’s been a while since it was in there. Yes I have an insane memory for queries I’ve read.) It’s improved considerably since then. Well done. I don’t really have anything to add.

    First 250, I actually don’t have anything for it either. I was going to say after going on about how good a liar she is, Maya sounds awkward and rambling when she lies, but then she owns up to that, so she’s aware. You’ve been working on all this for a long time, and it shows.


    Canary Girl:

    It’s short, but it’s strong. At only 118 words out of 250 possible, you have room at add more, but at its core, this works for me. It does its job of getting me interested (but then, I’m fascinated by street art and graffiti so this hits that button for me) and telling me who the character is, what her problem is, and what’s in her way. If there’s anything you wanted to add, you have room to add it, but this works.

    First 250, the setting introduction is a bit jarring. It’d like to know sooner that she’s not at home in her room or something, which is where I expected, not on a stage, which also took me to the end to realize, because I thought then that she was in the audience, not on the stage. It makes me pause to recalibrate, and you don’t want to throw the reader out that early. The story from her childhood is wonderful, and I assume she’s thinking this announcement would make her dad proud (assuming she’s alone on stage and the aforementioned Young Scientist of the Year.) Just fixing the location sooner would make this a "this book is coming home with me" from a bookshelf glance.

  7. Fake Invisibility T-ShirtJune 2, 2018 at 9:58 AM


    This query does a good job getting the gist of the story across, but it feels a little flat. One or two more telling details about Nila, something to let us see her personality at an emotional level, would be great. You might consider heightening the sense of danger and threat. Why are the odds low that Nila will be able to accomplish this vital task?

    Strong 250! You've got an eye for detail and interiority, and I immediately cared about Nila. Loved the yellow bird description. Try to bring some of this voice into your query. If I'm nit-picking, I wasn't sure what Nila is doing (visibly) that her mom is yelling about in the closing line.

  8. ERADICATED: Query – Great opening line! I feel like right away it gives an insight into Maya’s character. The rest of your query is concise and the stakes are clear. I don’t have much feedback. Your query is polished, and this sounds like a very cool book!
    250 – Your writing is great, but I’m a bit confused by your opening paragraph. I don’t know who Katie is, or what all the hushed whispers are about. Perhaps this is the problem with only having 250 words to read. I’d love to read more. GOOD JOB!

    LOCUSTS: Query – Cool premise! I thought your query was great, but you might want to consider expanding a bit on the locusts right out of the gate. You mention a new breed later on, are the original locusts special? Otherwise I think its concise and the stakes are very clear.
    250 – Wow! I got a lot out of that small sample. I get the sense that Nila is a very cool, conflicted character. I would love to read more of this. GOOD JOB!

  9. Eradicated

    Well, I already know I like Maya. She sounds like a girl after my own heart. I’ll be honest, I don’t really have a lot to say that would help you improve this. I think you did quite a good job with the query getting a lot of information and a pretty clear image of the world (NOT easy to do) into a compact package. I guess I WAS left with a few questions (though I’m not entirely sure this is a bad thing). Does this take place 400 years in the future from now? Or is it even further in the future than that? And while the aliens may SEEM friendly …. We as earthlings were just totally cool with them coming to our planet and setting up shop in a big way?

    The 250 – I do feel like this could be tightened up. I think there are some extra words floating about that can be cut. I’d suggest reading each sentence (aloud even) and going on the search for words that don’t add anything to a sentence. I also kind of feel like the stakes for the book are so high, I didn’t expect to start in the middle of what feel like high school drama. I know it’s a YA book, so high school drama is totally legit … but maybe I just need more of a reason to care if Katie’s secret gets out. I don’t even know who Katie is! Maya, on the other hand, has a strong voice right from the beginning. And I love it.
    GREAT job. I would totally read this. Good luck!

    Canary Girl

    (Love the nickname, btw) The 250 was beautifully written, but I think the query left me with more questions than it did a clear understanding of the story. I think I’m particularly stuck on why in the whole, wide world, she is the only one who can pick up her father’s work. I know she’s a prodigy and all, but if she is unwilling, you’d think there would be someone able to do it. Did he leave notes? Does only she know the work he was doing – but for some reason she can’t just pass this knowledge on?
    OK one more question. You say “when a new breed of locusts is unleashed on Boston” … does that mean someone did the unleashing? That is an intriguing thought, but it’s vague as written.
    As I said, your 250 is just lovely. Great imagery.

    I really liked the first line of your query, it gave me a good sense of Maya's personalities and priorities, as well as the world she lives in. The rest of the first paragraph is good stuff, easy to follow and all the information seems pressing. I think the biggest thing your query needs to work on is the final paragraph. The mention of Roman being "something other than human" is both wordy and confusing- if he's not human, then he's presumably Gilesian, and I don't see what relevance that detail (or even Roman altogether) has to the rest of the query. Overall though, it's a well-done query letter.

    I also think your first 250 are pretty sharply done too, with the lying/kicking line being both funny and a good way of establishing Maya's character. I did find Maya's reaction a bit over-the-top, though. Her being nervous would be fine, but the palms sweaty, heart racing, mom's spaghetti stuff didn't seem fitting since Naomi's just her friend. Maybe it's all justified in the next paragraph, who can say.

    Your query is succinct and elegant. I don't think there's a word of it that I would take out- in fact, I'd suggest expanding it a little bit to give us a bit more detail about Nila, her mom, and who unleashed the locust plague- that makes it sound less like an unavoidable disaster and more the doing of a villain. The weakness of this well-written query is that it feels sterile and shallow, but this is a good problem to have.
    I really like the opening paragraph, although a few verisimilitude things: it's hard for me to believe Nila remembers the clothes she was wearing or what the conference was about, and it's a bit strange to interrupt an extremely important scientific conference for what amounts to a cute party trick. May tweak that a bit.
    Of course, the color of her dress is only mentioned to lead into a pretty heavy-handed bird metaphor in successive paragraphs. I don't know if I want you to LOSE it, but it's definitely laid on too thick here for my tastes. The line about the stage lights may also be a bit overdramatic- it's well-written and I get Nila's angst, but such angst feels intense for a character we haven't gotten to know that well yet. Play around with it some more.

    Really good work, both of you. These are two of the stronger entries I've read so far!

  11. Eradicated-

    Query: I really don't have much to say about it because it's so strong. You set everything up so well and manage to pack so much information in without it feeling confusing. Good job!

    First 250: It'd be nice to get an idea of what this supposed rumor is. As writers, we're always trying to balance the ability to intrigue with the ability to avoid confusion. I think not mentioning what this rumor is about borders on the latter. I think the context of adding what this rumor is about will greatly strengthen your sample.

    Canary Girl-

    Query: This mix of population-ending plagues and a character's pursuit of art is both intriguing and jarring. I honestly don't know how I feel about it. It almost feels like a mash up of two very different genres--the character drive of a contemporary novel fit into the imminence of an apocalyptic setting. I would recommend infusing a sense of time passing--if the last swarm happened, say, several years ago, then I can feel okay about life returning to normal and the MC pursuing her love for graffiti art. Otherwise, having a character pursue becoming a graffiti artist feels underwhelming when faced with the imminent threat of a killer locust swarm.

    First 250: I love it. You do a great job of letting us connect with the main character. I don't have much to suggest.

    You start strong right off the bat in this query. You lose me with the “conspiracy theories,” though. So she doesn’t believe the Gliesians are peaceful? Or she doesn’t believe that they want to fight?

    I like the second paragraph a lot. Everything is very clear, and I feel the rising tension. The third paragraph I think the first line is a bit confusing. Who catches her spying, the aliens or the other humans? My impression was that it was the aliens who caught her, but I’m still not sure. I’d modify that sentence to be clearer and punchier. I’m not crazy about the last line of that paragraph, just because ending on her trying to convince herself that Roman is not the enemy doesn’t feel as epic as the rest of this story feels.

    First 250:
    I like how this starts out… I’m already interested to see what people are supposed to be gossiping about and what the main character doesn’t want to have to tell her friend. I would wait until Naomi shows up to talk about how Maya can’t lie to her.

    The first line throws me with “plagued by her father’s suicide” as I can’t really see a suicide plaguing someone. Maybe “memories of her father’s suicide” would work better.

    The rest of the query works well for me, though I think you could stand to flesh it out a bit with a few more details about how her creative abilities will help.

    First 250:
    This is lovely. You are obviously a very talented writer. I have no complaints here.