Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Query Kombat Round 2: Got Me a Daddy Map vs A Boy Named Pez

Title: Mama's Chicken & Dumplings

Entry Nickname: Got Me a Daddy Map

Word Count: 38K

Genre: #Ownvoices MG Historical


Ten-year-old Allie’s anger can be a hot-comb sitting on the flame of a stove. Sometimes that copper pressing comb of emotion turns red hot and she does things she later regrets. She wants to stay calm. But emotions are hard to handle, especially when you live at a time when people think your Mama’s an improper woman. But Allie knows—it’s not Mama’s fault she isn’t married yet has herself a child. The only reason she’s breathing is because of that no-good man who forced himself on Mama. Why Mama didn’t leave her on the steps of the A & P, Allie isn’t sure. One thing’s certain. Allie’s got a hole inside her that's full-up with empty, and she’s going to fill it by getting Mama married.

That’s why she and her cousin Julius Caesar are determined to find her Mama a good man—one who likes to sing, who kind-smiles, and most importantly loves her mama's chicken and dumplings. During their hunt for potential suitors, they place a red heart on her daddy map. But soon after she and Caesar decide on the perfect man for Mama, Allie finds herself covering over his red heart with black. And she's left with nothing but believing that her insides will never feel like a bucket brimming with sweet-smelling rain. Mama’s Chicken & Dumplings is a 38,000-word, middle-grade novel with a colorful backdrop of Chicago's South Side’s better days of the early 1940s.

First 250:

I’m sitting on the stoop of our brownstone, brushing my old doll’s hair when the fat man comes, smiling his fat smile. He’s come to collect the rent. But I ain’t worried. Whenever Mama comes home from cleaning, she goes straight to her coffee tin and in goes her money. Clink. Clink. She ain’t spared not even a penny, not even to me, though I shed me some tears.

“Please, please,” I’d say. “Let me run down to Mr. Malone’s store and get me a Mary Jane.” Mama’s real tight with pennies, so I’m sure she’s got enough. Least, I hope.

The fat man rings the bell. Ring. Mama will know that’s for her. If he’d rung it two times together—ring, ring, like that—crazy Miss Zelda in her housedress with shout-out colors and a scarf round her head would’ve come from the second floor. Had it been three times, old Mr. Potterfield, who’s up on the third floor, would’ve opened his window and hollered “Who!” And if it wasn’t anybody he knew, he’d grumble like the back of a garbage packer squeezing down trash and slam the window.

One ring is all, and Mama will be at the door, letting the fat man in.

Course, I could let him in, but since he’s acting like he can’t see me sitting here, right up under his feet, I decide I ain’t paying him no mind at all. And I ain’t letting him in. He’ll have to wait for Mama.


Title: You Belong Here

Entry Nickname: A Boy Named Pez

Word count: 58K

Genre: Middle grade contemporary


Matthew Miller is a precocious eleven-year-old who dreams of becoming a famous filmmaker. He’s even given himself the name Pez because everybody who’s anybody knows memorable names are a must in Hollywood.

Despite what he’s been told, Pez is convinced he’ll make it in showbiz, most likely by the time he’s eighteen since he’s getting an early start. With the help of his neighbor Jasmine, he sets out to make his first film, a rom-com entitled Dog Loves Cat. He knows for a fact that his mom, who left home three months ago, will come back if his movie shows on the big screen at an upcoming film festival.

But then things start happening. Things showbiz people call obstacles, the kind that usually kick off Act II in the movies. His mom doesn’t seem to miss him at all, his dad’s PTSD symptoms return, and Jasmine runs away. Then a hurricane hits, flooding the mobile park where Pez lives and ruining all his film supplies. With Pez’s confidence wavering for the first time, he must choose whether to finish his movie or give up on his dream and, quite possibly, his mom.

At 58,000 words, YOU BELONG HERE is a contemporary middle grade novel inspired by my childhood neighborhood in Milford, CT. While its quirky characters will appeal to fans of the TV show Young Sheldon, it explores similar themes as Katherine Paterson’s The Same Stuff as Stars.

First 250:

Goodbyes get me thinking about Mom.

She’s been away on vacation for almost three months. Which, between you and me, isn’t actually a vacation. That’s why a lump is climbing my throat as I brainstorm the goodbye scene of my film, Dog Loves Cat. When Harold the Dog tells Kitty the Cat he loves her, she replies, “Oh, Harold, it can never be.” Then she takes his paws and declares, “Now, we must say goodbye.”

And then… and then… and then a big, fat nothing.

Usually my best ideas come during my walk home from school, but today my brain is set to one channel: Mom. Is she catching some rays on a California beach? Is she snapping pics of wildflowers in Montana? Or is she on a highway heading back to Dad and me? I hope so. Three months is already way too long.

But enough of the sad stuff.

I like life the same as I like my cinema: filled with LOLs and ROFLs.

Plus, I need to get home pronto to work on Dog Loves Cat. After all, the Future Filmmakers Festival submission deadline is only three months away so--

“Yo, Spielberg!”

Before I can spin around, an arm the size of Darth Vader’s Death Star spaceship wraps around my scrawny neck.


There’s only one person these Death Star biceps could belong to and that’s Fang. He’s trouble. Trouble with a capital T. And there’s no way I’m pulling free from his Arnold Schwarzenegger grip with these string bean limbs.


  1. (I’m a fellow Kombatant leaving feedback.)


    Mmm, homemade chicken and dumplings. Or beef and dumplings. Yes, please!

    Whoa, this is heavy stuff, and Allie’s only ten. I love it, but in a heart-gripping way. My two suggestions for the first paragraph are… [1] Consider splitting it in half; and [2] Omit “that’s full-up with empty.” --> It doesn’t seem necessary.

    For the second paragraph, you go from great, specific details to a vague mention of Allie covering up the “potential red heart” with black. Try to stick with being specific, so you can end this query with strong, clear stakes. Beyond that, this query is amazing.

    Oh! By the way, the following should be its own paragraph: MAMA’S CHICKEN & DUMPLINGS is a 38,000-word, middle-grade novel with a colorful backdrop of Chicago’s South Side’s better days of the early 1940s.

    First 250:
    I already loved Allie from the query, but now I love her even more. Her voice and perspective are so strong. How is this not published yet? Excellent job.


    Wow! This query blows me away too. I remember the previous version, so I just want to let you know this updated version is clearer and stronger. It grabs at my heart in a great way. Excellent job.

    First 250:
    Great opening! Just two minor suggestions...

    — Consider changing “channel” to “filmstrip” or “motion picture” or “flashframe” or “star.” Basically, something more film-related.

    — Consider choosing between Star Wars and Arnold Schwarzenegger, instead of having both in the first 250.

    I can’t wait to read the whole book one day!

  2. Congrats on making it to round two of QK!

    Got Me a Daddy Map

    So this could just be me, but that’s a bit of an obscure reference in the first two sentences of your query. It speaks to the era, but I had to look it up to make sure I was following correctly. I think the second sentence basically says the same thing, but the context clues in there help establish what it is — I’d consider combining (or just nixing the second sentence all together — don’t people usual regret acting out of red-hot anger?). Plus, I think the follow up of “She wants to stay calm” is stronger if it just follows “…sitting on a flame of a stove.”

    I’d pay close attention to your capitalization, too. If “mama” is acting as a replacement for “mom” or “mother,” then the capitalization rules would be the same (i.e., “Her mom went to the store,” “Her mama went to the store.” vs “Let’s find the perfect man for Mom,” “Let’s find the perfect man for Mama.” Hopefully I’m illustrating that correctly.

    I do love some of the analogies you use that really ground us in your character’s perspective: “full-up with empty,” “a bucket brimming with sweet-smelling rain” etc. Just lovely.

    Beyond that, I’d like to know why she’s suddenly coloring the heart black. Did he lie about his love for her mom’s chicken and dumplings? Did she see him do something that would cause this reaction? You don’t have to spell it out exactly, but something that gives us a bit more detail.

    I love your voice! I don’t read a ton of MG, but this is so believable I just might switch over. I don’t really have a lot to say other than props!

    A Boy Named Pez

    This query is really, really clean. It progresses nicely from one graph to the next, and the language you’ve chosen suits the character you’re building. Props! My only nitpicky moment is I feel like the stakes could be reworded to come across stronger. If the option is to give up or keep going, I’m going to assume he’s going to keep going.

    Like your query, your 250 is really, really clean. The internal dialogue here is wonderful, and I love how he’s relating his struggles to the film he’s trying to make. I only paused when I got to the reference of “Darth Vader’s Death Star spaceship” wrapping around his scrawny neck. I get that he’s a film nerd and you probably want to use size references to well-known movies/actors, but I had a hard time visualizing a circular-shaped arm wrapping around a neck. If you switched it up a bit, like maybe his biceps specifically are the size of the Death Star, or went with a different analogy, it might read smoother. Though this is entirely your choice and totally reticent of your voice, so its up to you.

    Goodness, these entries are tough. I feel like I just loved the overall voice of one better, but the cleanliness of the query really sings in the other. In this instance, the query takes it.


  3. Yes, congrats, both of you!

    PEZ: First thing: it's giving me a vibe like Adam in the Goldbergs, which I love. The query itself has less charm than the writing in the 250 so you still may want to transfer more of that cute but wounded Pez personality into the query to do yourself justice. Distractions: The Death Star is circular-- doesn't remind me of the shape of an arm, so I'm not quite buying the comparison. The first line about his mother really yanks the heartstrings. But you may still need a little more emotion in the line where he faces the fact that she's not actually on vacation-- that sounds matter-of-fact when it is actually a humongous deal. Also, LOL and such are texting/soc media terms, not film terms, so that pulls me out of his filmmaker head for a minute and seems like a missed opportunity to show his knowledge of film language instead. I feel almost like it was a shot at making the first pages sound more contemporary, since the other references (Spielberg, Star Wars, Arnold) are all 70s and 80s references. Not necessary from my point of view, just go with the character's reality.

    MAMA: The writing in the 250 give us a beautiful, authentic-feeling voice. If anything I wonder if the voice sounds mature for a middle grade (sounds more like the age of the voice in The Color Purple, you know?) but maybe it works anyway. The voice in the query is a little more shaky as far as maintaining that poignant beauty. It's a little clumsy in the beginning. How come it "can be" as hot as a comb on a stove? Just say it IS as hot as a comb on stove top. Sticking in "can be" is hedging and is not the way the character would "think" it, so it dilutes that great voice. It takes away from the illusion of us being in this world. Next sentence you're hedging again "Sometimes it does blah blah" Why sometimes? Just say it does. It's so much stronger to just commit to what you're saying instead of sticking little words in to lessen the impact. Just give it to us straight, like Allie would. That's my 2 cents anyway. I want to really feel it, not to have the author couch it for me like, "are you really ready for this? No? OK, I'll tone it down as I write it so you're not as affected..." I want to be affected. Don't spare me.

  4. Geez, I’m glad I’m not a judge. These are both wonderful!

    Daddy Map: What an amazing voice you have. For your query, I’m curious what causes Allie to black out the red heart on her map; how does this person go from promising to not so much? I also agree that you could edit the first two sentences since they’re conveying the same idea.

    For your 250, I honestly can’t think of much I’d do differently. You set the scene so well and do a great job of depicting the neighbors and the landlord, and I got a clear sense of Allie’s character. I'm going to study this the next time I revise one of my openings.

    Boy Named Pez: Really nice, detailed query. Can’t think of anything to pick on about it. For your 250, I don’t think you need the repeated “Trouble” in the last graf: “He’s trouble. With a capital T” would be fine. But that’s super picky. (And yes, the point about the Death Star that others have made is a good one.)

    Best of luck to both of you.


    I love the voice in both the query and the 250. The query could use some polish, however. The first paragraph seems like it's got a lot going on and could be tightened. Also, I had no idea what that first sentence meant, so it might be a good idea to stick with something we are familiar with even though we aren't in the same time period as the book's setting. You don't want to lose the agent with your first line, and agents aren't likely to go hunting online to find out what you're referencing.

    Second paragraph of the query I got really confused. I had no idea what you were talking about with the heart on a map and coloring it black... no idea if this was figurative or if she literally had a map she was drawing hearts on? Sorry, I was totally lost.

    The first 250, however, were LOVELY. I don't have a single thing to critique there. I loved it. SO MUCH VOICE AND SO FANTASTIC AND JUST AAAAAH. I want this book. Good luck!


    Really clean query. I like it a lot. My only issue is that the sakes seem kind of meh... like his big choice is whether to give up or not? That's just not a super OH-MY-GOSH-WHAT-DOES-HE-CHOOSE type of thing... I know he's going to keep going with his dream already, so it's not a super effective clincher. Other than that, though, I love the query.

    The first 250 I like a lot, though I didn't love the comparison of the bicep with the death star since the death star is round. I know you were going for size, not shape, but it's really hard to separate the two, so I'd think of another way to phrase it or maybe just pick a different comparison entirely. Other than that, it's great!

    Fantastic job to both of you! Good luck!

  6. Fellow Kombatant leaving feedback, as I'm sure you're checking for votes as much as I am. ^_^;;

    Got Me a Daddy Map

    First off, wow! Allie's voice just pours from the page, both in your query and your first 250. She's so easy to connect to and sympathize with and I absolutely adore her perfect ten-year-old logic. (This is something that's so hard to nail in kidlit!) The last sentence of that first paragraph just warmed my heart and I want to give Allie a big hug! I do think the query could be tightened just a bit, so here's my suggestions:

    1. Your first and second sentence more or less say the same thing. I think you could combine them into one.

    2. When you say "the only reason she's breathing," it sounds like you're setting up to say someone rescued her from drowning or something, and that's obviously not the case. Maybe change it to "the only reason she's around" or something similar?

    3. I was confused at the line, "Allie finds herself covering over his red heart with black." I think you need some hint as to what suddenly made her change her mind. Not a ton of details, per se, but just enough to hint at what's to come.

    4. I don't think "middle grade" is supposed to be hyphenated.

    First 250:
    1. I'd put the sound effects in italics, if they aren't already. (I know sending stuff via email can lose some formatting.

    And... I seriously can't think of another thing I would change. I love Allie's voice so much, and I love how she's determined to take action, despite the limitations of being a ten-year-old. Again, this is something that's so tricky in kidlit (giving kids agency in worlds where they usually have very little), and again, you've nailed it! I really hope this gets lots of requests. I would snatch it off the shelf in a heartbeat. Good luck!

    A Boy Named Pez
    So, first off... why are all these entries so good? Where am I going to find time to read all these when they're published??

    Okay, now that I've got that of my chest...

    I see so many things I love here that I also loved about Got Me a Daddy Map. The perfect child logic of the protagonist is spot on. He's in a tough situation, and he has my sympathy, but he's doing whatever he can with his understanding of the world to make things better.

    Looking for places to improve, the biggest thing I'd like to see more of in this query is the consequences of Pez's actions. It sounds like a lot of stuff goes downhill for him, but the events you're listing are mostly things out of his control. Is there a way to showcase other events in the story that give a better picture of Pez's agency? ("Pez does X, but that causes Y, so now he's got to Z..." that sort of thing.) I think it's worth giving a try, at least. The query is already very solid, so if you try a different version and like this way better, I still think you'll do well with it.

    First 250:
    I love how Pez pushes the sad stuff away and tries to stay positive. Especially when it would be really easy for him to dwell on the sad stuff. There's something very endearing about characters like that. I also love how he equates everything that happens to him to something from the movies--the Darth Vader grip, ect. He sounds like a fun character to spend a book with.

    I can't think of any specifics I would change here, so I'll wish you the best of luck and sign off. :)

  7. Got Me a Daddy Map


    The initial image of the hot-comb confused me. I think it would help to tighten this up and get to the part where she can't control her emotions more quickly. I became more invested at the end of the first paragraph once I understood what Allie wants and why. I LOVE that her cousin's name is Julius Caesar! I can tell there's a story in that. :-) I found the end of the query a bit confusing, and I wasn't sure what you meant by putting a heart on her daddy map (is this a literal map?).

    First 250:

    Great voice here!!! I think the paragraph about ringing the doorbell a different number of times for the different tenants could be tightened to keep us in the immediate scene. Otherwise, I'm getting a great sense of the world Allie lives in and I'm already hooked.

    A Boy Named Pez


    Does Pez KNOW his mom will come to see his movie, or does he HOPE she will? I still want to know more about how getting into the festival will fulfill his goal of bringing Mom back. Otherwise, I think you've made this query clearer than in round 1. Nice work!

    First 250:

    Fantastic first line and fantastic opening! I felt the emotion right away, and you do a great job of weaving in both what's happened with Mom and Pez's movie without it feeling like exposition. Plus you work in the looming deadline for the film festival. Wow! The "arms the size of the Death Star" analogy tripped me up a little as I wasn't quite sure how to picture that. The "Arnold Schwarzenegger" bit worked better for me.

  8. Daddy Map –

    Wow that’s a very defined voice you have there. I am really curious if you made the colloquialisms/analogies up or if they were established in the time period/location. Very clever though. I’ve tried to come up with stuff like that… It’s HARD.
    I do kind of wonder if the voice is going to be confusing for an MG reading level – but I honestly don’t know anything about MG, so I’ll leave that up to you and the experts.
    This is very well written and authentic. I think my only criticism is that I’m left not really sure how heavy and serious this book is. IS it a sweet story about a “parent trap” kind of scenario … feels heavier than that. But the opening 250 clearly paints a picture of their financial troubles without hitting us over the head with it. Great job.

    Well done! Very interesting premise!

    Boy Named Pez

    You updated the motivation with the mom and how it attaches to the filmmaking I believe, and I feel like that paints a much clearer image. This one really tugs at my heart to think a mom would abandon this sweet boy. I am eager to know it all works out for the kid … so I guess you did your job!!!

    The 250 is great. The only time it felt clumsy was the death star reference. Maybe we don’t need that it’s Darth Vader’s death star spaceship as a whole phrase … we all know whose it is and what it is. Just the name would perhaps smooth it out?

    Sounds pretty polished to me! Good luck!

  9. Got me a Daddy Map
    Query: I love the voice in this query. It’s infused throughout the entire query and really makes it shine. However, I feel like it’s a bit overladen in metaphors, making your beautiful prose comes across too strong. If I was an agent, I would be worried that the rest of the manuscript is as heavily laden with metaphors and flowery language, which may be difficult for a MG audience to appreciate or follow. As well, it’s difficult to understand the gist of the story with so much description.

    First 250:
    You did a great job of connecting the voice in your query to the voice on the page. I really love how you’ve written Allie’s character. She comes across clearly as a ten-year-old. I think that you can tone down some of the descriptions of the different characters and save them for later, which would help speed up the pacing of this piece.

    A Boy Named Pez
    Query: Good concise query with the stakes and plot clearly defined. I had a few questions while reading it, such as why his mother left, why Jasmine ran away, and where he got his film equipment. However, I’d be fine with not knowing at this point and it didn’t detract from the story.

    First 250:
    I love how you immediately work in the conflict and his absentee mom into the first page. The one thing that pulled me out of the story was the “LOLs and ROFLs.” I feel like those are a bit outdated, if this story takes place in 2018. Acronyms like that aren’t used anymore, especially not by 11-year-olds.

    Both entries are well done and engaging, but GOT A DADDY MAP pulled me in a bit more. VICTORY to GOT A DADDY MAP.

  10. Got Me a Daddy Map:
    Wow. Wow wow wow. This is beautiful. I love the reference to a hot comb in the first paragraph of the query. Not only is it a wonderful simile, but it indicates that Allie is black. It also puts us in her mind, as it makes sense that she’d compare her emotions to something familiar. Even if the reader isn’t familiar with hot combs or the significance of hair in African American culture, the simile is made clear enough to be relatable. In the fourth sentence, I’d eliminate “when you live at a time” and just go with “especially when people think your Mama…” In the fifth sentence, the em-dash is unnecessary. Personally, I would not use “has herself a child”. The “got me/got you/got yourself/etc.” phrase structure is good, but I’d save it for more emphatic verbs. This is, of course, extremely subjective. I’d say “has a child and isn’t married”. In the next sentence “she’s breathing” should be “Allie’s breathing”, so you don’t have a confusing antecedent. In the first sentence of the second paragraph, I’d change “she and her cousin Julius Caesar” to “Allie and her cousin Julius Caesar”. (Great name for the cousin, by the way!) Is loving Mama’s chicken and dumplings really the main requirement for a good man? Shouldn’t he love Mama herself? If so, I’d note that, but I don’t know your book well enough to say it with certainty. I love the turn the plot takes, and the overall concept of a Daddy map. The bucket brimming with sweet-smelling rain is another part I’m unsure about. It’s good imagery, but I’m not sure if it fits that specific sentence.

    As for your first page: I’d add a small phrase in the sentence about shedding tears, to make the shedding a tiny bit more emphatic. Ex: “even though I sure shed me some tears”. The rest of the page is lovely. I laughed at the description of neighbors’ responses to the door.
    This sounds like a tearjerker in the best way.

    A Boy Named Pez
    Another concept I love! Consider taking the word “precocious” out of the first paragraph; that makes it feel like there’s an adult telling us about a kid, instead of us being in the kid’s mind. The second paragraph is awesome and nicely lays out the character’s goals. The third paragraph is even better. That last sentence about losing his mom just makes me want to burst into tears. Very well done.
    Your first page is funny and heartbreaking at the same time. I can just picture a dog and cat having a dramatic conversation.
    I don’t like the sentence about LOLs and ROFLs. Internet slang takes us out of the cinematic feel, and gives an “I’M TRYING TO SOUND MIDDLE GRADE-ISH” impression. Also, it makes me wonder if he wants characters to actually say the acronyms “lol” and “rofl” in the movies. So instead, I suggest you either use some cinematic slang there or say “full of laughs”. I’m also not a fan of the phrase “an arm the size of Darth Vader’s starship” because, shape-wise, it’s awkward to compare an arm to a starship. I do like the Arnold Schwarzenegger reference a bit later, and the phrase “string bean limbs” is absolute gold!

    These are both amazing, and I can’t emphasize enough how much I commend both authors for making me feel strong emotions with just a few words. I feel like I’ve already fallen in love with these characters. I wish you both so much success. I had to get subjective and go with the small details in order to choose.


  11. DADDY MAP:

    I absolutely LOVE the voice in your query—but watch your pronouns. She/her/herself—the first paragraph is a bit confusing. I think you can revise to make it more concise and clear. For the last paragraph, “But soon after she and Caesar decide on the perfect man for Mama, Allie finds herself covering over his red heart with black. And she's left with nothing but believing that her insides will never feel like a bucket brimming with sweet-smelling rain,” doesn’t really tell me what the specific conflict is. Why is she covering his read heart with black? Is something wrong with the guy? Or is he not good enough for Mama? I got lost there.

    The 250 is very nicely done. The voice is consistent, and I don’t think the bell summary is too long or slows the pace. It’s a nice intro into this world with, to me anyway, just enough detail to add personality and get me invested in Allie. Nice job!

    PEZ BOY:

    Wow. This query is great! Nice job of linking the external conflict to the internal conflict. I don’t have any real suggestions—more of just nitpicks that are totally subjective.

    I like the first 250, too. I don’t mind the LOLs or ROFLs used in this context at all. The voice is authentic to me, and you get to the movie and mom conflict at the same time in a way that doesn’t feel forced. The only suggestion I have is that if the mom has been gone three months, I’d like a hint as to what made him think of her at this moment. Why is his brain set to Channel Mom during this walk home? Was something said in school? If you can add a detail as to what made him think of Mom, I think it’d be great.

    Wow. Two great MG entries. YAY MG!! I like them both and would read both. This is tough, but I’m going to give this Victory to PEZ BOY!!!!

  12. GOT ME A DADDY MAP: Swoon! The voice in both the query and the words is breath taking. You can’t help but hear the accent with the way you’ve written this. The first few lines of the query are a bit awkward to read. I think this is due to the metaphor you have going about the comb. Could you combine and simplify these a bit to help make it a smoother read? That would help a lot I think. I have nothing else really to critique. You should be proud of this strong entry!

    A BOY NAMED PEZ: Wowzer, this premise has me ready to read the whole manuscript. The only thing I really see in the query that you might change is the second sentence of the third paragraph. I’d break it down into two sentences to keep the rhythm and feel of the query consistent. OH my gosh, the voice of these first 250 words have me wanting to read on and become fast pals with Matthew. Great job! It made me laugh and tear up and curious all at once, a wonderful combination for middle grade.

    How in the world can I choose a winner here!?!?!? Seriously, can I just say both….? No? Shoot, um… okay, then VICTORY goes to A BOY NAMED PEZ.

    ~Red Ink Slinger

  13. Got Me a Daddy Map

    You have a real talent for words, and it shows in your query. Watch out for it being too poetic though, and try limiting your metaphors so they don’t overrun your plot.

    I personally prefer queries where the plot is front and center. Your query starts out basically with Allie’s background, but we don’t really find out what specific event pushed her (the inciting incident) to come up with the Daddy Map plan. Why did she come up with the Daddy Map plan NOW, and not before? What particular event jumpstarts your story? We need to know this because it’ll show agents/interns/editors that they’re in for a great plot ahead.

    I kinda got lost a bit with Allie and her cousin covering a heart with black. Did they cover a lot of hearts with black ink already before this particular guy?

    I think if you show us more specifics about your plot, this query might shine more. Your query needs to show agents/interns/editors that you have a great story, it’s not enough to show them great voice and interesting characters—they need to know that story has high enough stakes to carry the plot through.

    First 250:
    I LOVE your voice. I feel like I really am in Allie’s head here. Great job!
    One thing though.. You might want to drop the word “crazy” in describing Miss Zelda, as this gives a negative connotation of mental illness.

    A Boy Named Pez

    I love how your query flows. It shows us clearly the problem and the characters and even the obstacles in the plot. I do think you can improve the “sizzle” part and reword it in such a way that there are more stakes for Matthew. The question of whether or not he’ll push through with the plan isn’t enough—we also need to know WHY he would rather not push through with it. At the moment, we know that if he doesn’t push through with the movie, he might not have the chance to get his mom’s attention. If he DOES push through with, he’ll get mom’s attention. So, at this point the choice is pretty obvious—Matthew will push through with the movie. So, we need to see what bad thing will happen if Matthew pushes through with the movie. Will he lose something if he does it? If so, what?

    Also, what is the event that made Matthew come up with this plan to make a movie for more? It would be great if you can incorporate this too, so we’ll know what inciting incident propelled your plot forward.

    First 250:

    Love the voice here too, but the “LOLs and ROFLs” did put me off a bit. It might work if you’re using it in context of a chat, but it feels a bit off using it in Matthew’s thoughts.

    As much as I love the voice in both (job well done, you two!), I’ll have to pick one that I felt I could connect with more: VICTORY to GOT ME A DADDY MAP!

  14. I know it keeps being said but the VOICE in both of these. I just want both books right now, please.

    Daddy Map, the actual daddy map concept seemed more clear in your first version. It think it got a little muddled here.

    Pez, I worry about your stakes. I totally get your characters internal conflict, but what about the external? So what if he doesn't make his movie? What will happen?

  15. I'm having internet problems, so I will post a comment with feedback later.

  16. Nathaniel GlanzmanJune 16, 2018 at 9:55 PM

    Daddy Map:

    I just wanted to tell you that the voice in the query is gorgeous. You can definitely get a sense of how Allie speaks and her reasons for wanting to find her mother a man. (It's also heartbreaking, for reasons that you probably already know) I'm worried, though, that the query sacrifices clear stakes for voice. What will happen if Allie fails? How will she feel and what will her mother's quality of life be like? The voice in the first 250 is one of the best I've seen on here! It just leaps off of the page!


    This line right here: "He knows for a fact that his mom, who left home three months ago, will come back if his movie shows on the big screen at an upcoming film festival." GUTTED ME. Well done establishing all of the obstacles in Pez's way about making the film! I feel that you may be stuffing too much in the last paragraph, but I also don't know how you could play around with that. Ignore that piece of advice if you want. In the first 250, I like how Pez is thinking about his mom and then declares, 'enough with the sad stuff.' We can really get a sense of who he is. The appearance of the bully in the last few paragraphs really makes me want to read more!

  17. Thanks, judges, for your thoughtful and helpful comments!

  18. Thanks, all, for sharing your wonderful insights and kind words!