Jun 14, 2013

QK Round 3: Eye Above You vs. Lies and Lovers

Entry Nickname: Eye Above You
Word Count: 26K
Genre: MG Contemporary

Born with one eye, twelve-year-old Jimmy Parker would rather climb trees with his rope and harness than hang around with people – after all, trees don’t tease. Jimmy’s prosthetic eye looks good, but due to the nature of his birth defect, it is smaller than his real eye and sits lower on his cheekbone, making for a lopsided face. Jimmy is determined to afford the surgery that he’s sure will fix his face – and change his life. With money scarce and cosmetic surgery expensive, Jimmy convinces his arborist father to let him help out in the tree business this summer.

When cheaper rent and his mom’s new job compel Jimmy’s family to move across town, he meets cute and candid Samantha Fulton while rescuing her grandma’s cat from a tree. Sam admires Jimmy’s climbing skills and welcomes him to the new neighborhood, even tagging along on a local tree job. But her own family drama ties her closer to Jimmy than he realizes. Then one afternoon, as Jimmy helps his father on a routine limb removal, a climbing line breaks, sending his father crashing onto a roof below. With his father recovering in the hospital, Jimmy and Sam conceive a plan they hope will save the tree business, and offer Jimmy and his family a chance at a new beginning.

First 250 words:

It was the third day of summer vacation, and I was hanging in a tree. Sweet! My first client of the summer stopped pacing as I glanced down at her tired face and messy nest of white hair.

“Please don’t walk right under me, Mrs. Murphy. It’s not safe.”

“Oh, of course. Are you okay up there? Maybe you should come back down and I’ll try again with the food.”

“I’m good. I’ve done this lots of times. Besides, I don’t think your cat’s that hungry yet.”

I was anxious to show her I could do this. Not just for the money she promised, which would add to my surgery stash, but because of the way she stared at me three days ago when my mom introduced us. Mom had noticed too, but went on about how moving to this side of town was going to make things so much easier for our family—mainly being able to walk to her job and the better school for me and Ethan. Most people didn’t even realize they stared. But I knew.

Mrs. Murphy couldn’t have known then that the right eye was a fake, though. Mom probably told her later.

As I hung from the rope above her yard, my arms throbbed and my stomach burned from the workout. I relaxed into the canvas and leather loops of Dad’s old climbing saddle. It fit me well enough that I could use it this summer to help out with the tree business.


Entry Nickname: Lies and Lovers
Title: Lies My Father Told Me
Word Count: 34,000
Genre: Contemporary YA (in verse)


When fifteen-year-old Eden Thompson’s dad dies, poetry is her only escape. Her friends are distant and her mother spends most of her time shut away with a bottle of wine. Desperate for a connection with other people, Eden shares her words online. Just beyond the screen she finds Mason, a university student who leaves her long poetic messages that fill the empty space in her life. Having also lost a parent, he understands her pain and quickly becomes her one constant.

When they finally meet in person, Mason’s passionate words and the heat of his fingertips against her skin awaken a part of Eden she didn'tknow existed. But she swore to her dad that she would wait until marriage to have sex, and she doesn’t want the last promise she made to die with him. Uneasy with Mason’s desire for more, Eden struggles to untangle her own conflicting desires from her fear of losing him if she says no.

On the anniversary of her dad's death, Eden's mom drunkenly slurs a secret that changes everything: her dad wasn’t the person she thought he was. Her family, her life, her promise to him––all of it was based on a lie. Now that everything she knew is broken and betrayed, she turns to Mason, hoping for an escape from her pain. Torn between what her father wanted for her and what Mason wants from her, Eden must finally decide what it is she wants for herself.

First 250 words:
This Is The Part Where My Father Dies


At the funeral, 

everyone laughed,
but my mom’s voice—
it sounded more like a cry. 

She drank too much wine
and laughed too loud at the stories 
my dad’s
family and colleagues and friends and students told, 
their voices rushing 
to fill the emptiness 
with anecdotes. 

They were all 

Her lips and teeth were stained 
with red, 
and when I looked at her, 
all I saw was 
an empty shell,
a book
without any pages. 
Dead but not dead.  

She was a stranger,

Sometimes there was a glance
in my direction
for a few moments
too long.

Like sweat,
I could feel it on me.

Nobody said anything. 

I had lost
my words.  


I couldn’t understand how 
there could be 
an afterwards
now that 
he was gone.

The car swerved
to avoid

a deer

my dad

it was ten months later.
I was fifteen 

and ready for high school:
with my knee socks and their elastic bands
slipping down my legs, 
with my tartan kilt in green and blue, 
with my ring and 
my promise 
I made him 
only weeks before
            he died.

I want you 
to keep this
until you get

The ring slid on 
so easily.
It fit 
so perfectly. 

But it was so much heavier
than the metal it was made of, 
and the way it wrapped itself
around me, 
like it could never leave.

Like it would be there


  1. This comment is reserved for judges' votes only.

    1. Victory to EYE ABOVE YOU
      I'm so glad I have a chance to vote for this entry again because I really do love it (even though I didn't vote for it in Round 2). Yay for unlikely hero-MCs!

    2. Lies and Lovers: Your verse is so easily readable, even for a poetry avoider like me. Your query has a beautiful flow. Everything is there and everything is in its place.

      Eye Above You: Great concept and love how your opening 250 jumps right into action.

      Because I can't choose, I'm picking the one I'd be more likely to read. Victory to EYE ABOVE YOU!

    3. Youch! This one came down to what I perceived would be the more marketable.

      Victory to EYE ABOVE YOU.

      EAY: I like the storyline and the hints we get in the query about where it's all heading. It's a little familiar, but in a good, old-shoe familiar way that seems quite right for younger MG. I like the bit of tightening you did to the 250.

      L&L: Your query has a familiarity to it as well, but in the older YA, it's a storyline that doesn't have quite the same resonance for being not so unique. The poetry elevates it, absolutely, and there have been a number of successful YA novels in verse. I love the 250. But I think the sell on this is going to be just a bit harder, which is why I finally gave my vote to EAY.

    4. Victory to: LIES AND LOVERS

      I love both of these so much. EYE ABOVE YOU, you improved the MG voice, but I feel like it can still be stronger. LIES AND LOVERS, I just can't get over the last line of your query. That was what swayed my vote. Well done both of you!


      You are both amazing. It came down to the fact that I adore EAY's main character.

      Lies and Lovers, great job on the revised query. It really lays out the plot and drew me in.

      Good luck!

    6. Victory to LIES AND LOVERS.

      I love the YA in verse and I think this has a good. relatable hook.

      Although I love the concept of Eye Above You, I just wasn't connecting with the voice as being particularly middle grade, although I do think the changes you made were in the right direction. It felt like a little too much information was dumped on us in the first page, rather than having it unfold more organically. I would have liked to have seen someone react to his face, versus having him tell us about it after the fact. I think starting with a main character in a vulnerable position helps us to identify with him or her and start being invested in his/her happiness right away. Once we're pulling for him, then you can show us him handling something with ease, such as climbing the tree. I think if the scene started with him knocking on Mrs. Murphy's door and seeing her reaction to his eye as he offers to help her with her cat, we might get sucked in a little faster.

    7. Victory to Lies and Lovers! Your new query is fabulous and really sets up the stakes. As always, I love your verse. I'm not normally a verse girl, so I'm really impressed how well you've captured my attention and interest in your voice.

      To Eye Above You, great concept and query. What ended up being the deciding factor for me was that I didn't feel like the voice of your first 250 matched the concept and character you presented in your query. Honestly though, this will totally get agents requests. Good luck to you!

    8. Victory to LIES AND LOVERS

      This was soooo hard for me. Loved them both, just loved one a little bit more than the other. I would definitely read both.

    9. Victory to LIES AND LOVERS.

      I don't read much MG, and everything about that genre, I've gathered from the first few Harry Potter, so take my comments with a grain of salt :) I rather thought the writing was a BIT too much telling in the 250 and the voice wasn't MG enough (or trying to). But I honestly don't know much about MG, and these are just nitpicks overall. I just thought the story, overall, wasn't MG enough, while Lies and Lovers oozed YA. (But again, I'm dumb when it comes to MG.)

      Lies and Lovers, I'm in love with, so it's way to hard to be against this one :( Sorry, these are two INCREDIBLE stories and books!

  2. Eye Above You
    The query is extremely tight and concise. I follow it seamlessly and it is suggests a mastery of storytelling.

    The 250 is also great, polished and simple. But it doesn’t really show a hook or a sense of tension. Maybe if he was unsure of using his dad’s equipment or if the cat was hissing at him, I would feel some impending tension or doom. Good job on the rewrite.

    Lies and Lovers
    I love the setup of tension in your query: promises we make the dead which seem more important in their absence. And you set up the catalyst very nicely. I would like a hint of lie and a reason for her mother’s admission (beyond drink.)

    As a personal choice, I am not sure I’d read a whole book in verse. It’s a bold and unconventional choice and I have no doubt you will find your tribe through the endeavor. Kudos to you for the bravery! It is easy to read and accessible to those of us who don’t read verse. Excellent job.

    Good luck to you both!

  3. Eye Above You: I adore your MC, and I think Jimmy's story is one that a lot of kids could relate to. Your query brings up a few questions that it doesn't answer, like Sam's family stuff and Sam and Jimmy's plan at the end. I'm not sure how I feel about those things, and I'm wondering if Sam is really needed in the query. Your 250 has a good balance of dialogue, action and exposition. I'm rooting for Jimmy from the very first paragraph.

    Lies and Lovers: This is one of may favorite entries in QK, and a book I would read if it were on shelves. The meat you've put in your query is great, and I'm really interested in how you keep upping the stakes in the book. I wish I knew more about what the lie is, but it is intriguing. I admire your ability to work in verse. I think it accentuates what your MC is feeling so well.

  4. Eye Above You: This is still one I can't wait to buy at the bookstore and read over and over again. The concept is full of heart and I can only imagine how much pain we're going to be feeling for this MC, especially after we get a glimpse of his dilemma: using the money he's earned to get the surgery that'll make him feel complete or to help out his family. GAH! This'll be one I'll use as a book study in my own classroom for sure.

    Lies and Lovers: I've never read a book in verse but after reading what you have here I'd fall right into this one for sure! The query sets up your story so well and the stakes you leave us with are awesome. I love your writing and I'm a sucker for good poetry. The way you tie in the verse with how the MC communicates to the world and to her people is great. It's not book-in-verse for verse's sake. It almost *needs* to be in verse and you've made it just that.

    Awesome job everyone!

  5. Eye Above You: The query feels a bit unfocused, as it makes me wonder what the main story goal is. At first I thought it was for Jimmy to raise enough money for surgery to fix his face, but then that’s never mentioned again when his family makes enough money to move across town (after reading the first 250, I see he’s still trying to raise surgery money even after the move, but the query makes it seem like it’s vice versa). Then at the end it seems like the goal’s to save the tree business and offer Jimmy’s family a new beginning. I take it that’s the real story goal, though it’s a tad unfocused. Also, not sure what is meant by Samantha’s family’s drama bringing her closer to Jimmy than he realizes. That sounds vague to me and it’s not mentioned in the query again, either, so it feels a bit stuck in there. In the 250, a couple nitpicks: I wanted a bit more emotion/explanation than “Sweet!” in the first line. It just feels too brusque to me. I wanted something more like, “There’s no place I’d rather be, really” or something. Also, I’d remove the sentence “But I knew” at the end of the fifth paragraph. The sentence before shows that he knows so this is unnecessary.
    Lies and Lovers:

    Great query! The only thing I got caught on (and it could be just me) is the phrase “she doesn’t want the last promise she made to die with him.” Did you mean: “she doesn’t want the last promise she made to him to die”? I mean, I figured she’s made other promises since his death, and the one I proposed makes it more personal, you know? Regarding the 250, I’m not an expert on verse, but this read very nicely. The only thing that jarred me was in the beginning where it says, “At the funeral,/everyone laughed.” It just seemed weird that people were laughing at a funeral, though could be just me (I guess they do laugh at some of the good-natured stories told about the deceased, but the wording of those two lines seemed odd to me). Other than that, I loved this!

    And, once again, both entries are so excellent. Good luck to you both!

  6. EYE-- Love the idea of the trees and his eye situation, that feels very new and fresh. I though your query could use some more MG voice, it felt a little formal to me at parts like- "due to the nature of," I would like to see you loosen it up a little and allow some MG voice to peek through.

    LIES-- I like your query, I think it sets up the stakes much better and gives us a real clear idea of her struggle.

    Good job both! Good luck to you.