Jun 14, 2013

QK Round 3: Mississippi Crazypants vs. Champagne and Hotdogs

Entry Nickname: Mississippi Crazypants
Title: This Side of Crazy
Word Count: 86,000
Genre: Women's Fiction


Cissy Pickering swears that shooting her daddy in the back was the smartest thing she’s ever done. After surviving more than eight years of his abuse, she had to prevent him from having the same secret with her two baby sisters. What she didn’t count on was being sent to the Greater Mississippi State Hospital instead of prison.

When a caring, yet unorthodox, hospital psychiatrist tries to unlock the family secrets that led to Cissy’s crime, the 16-year-old retreats to a world of make-believe and compulsive counting. Meanwhile, three generations of women struggle to understand and forgive Cissy while coming to terms with the loss of their son, husband and father.

But when the psychiatrist digs too deep and Cissy retreats even further from reality, her maternal grandmother uses her wealth and connections to help Cissy escape the hospital. On the road, and with no plan, Grandmother doubts her ability to ensure Cissy’s emotional survival. Their tender relationship and an unearthed secret from Grandmother’s past force Cissy to decide what’s best for her own future — and whether she wants to keep running.

THIS SIDE OF CRAZY is told from two viewpoints: Cissy’s and Grandmother’s. This book will appeal to readers who enjoyed the strong female Southern voices in Secret Life of Bees.

First 250 words:

My sisters and I had already consumed an impressive stack of books since school let out, reading long into the sticky June nights, even under threat of punishment. We’d needled Mama until she finally agreed to take the three of us to the Biloxi library this morning. Her chief argument against getting more books — and a flimsy one at that — was that we read too fast and the books we had should have lasted all summer. I ignored her complaining. It's one of my special talents.

“Cissy! Get your butt down here right this minute! Your Corn Flakes are getting soggy!” Mama’s voice carried easily from the kitchen, down a long hallway and up a flight of stairs. That was her special talent. As was prematurely pouring milk into cereal to punish her daughters’ lollygagging.

I slipped into a plaid cotton sundress and my pink plastic sandals that squeaked when I walked and rubbed blisters on my little toes. The sound irritated Mama just enough to make those blisters worthwhile. Some might call this childish behavior for a 16-year-old but I took fun wherever I could find it.

Mama and our housekeeper, Bess, were locked in a battle of wills over one thing or another. I tuned them out, rushing out of my room and down the hall toward the bathroom to brush my teeth. What I saw stopped me short, the plastic of my shoes sticking fast to the wood floor.


Entry Nickname: Champagne & Hot Dogs
Title: The Accidental Socialite

Word count: 75,000

Genre: Contemporary Women’s Fiction


When small town Canada collides with the glitz and glamour of London, someone’s lady parts trend on Twitter.

Quirky and a little clumsy, Paige Crawford leaves Edmonton, Canada because she doesn't want to spend the rest of her life living in a city best known for its big mall and above average murder rate. Dreaming of a fabulous career, cultured friends and preferably, a hot foreign boyfriend, she leaps on a plane to London, England. Twenty-four hours into her adventure, Paige ends up at a club and, having one too many, trips out the front doors only to be caught by a notorious and married footballer.

Waking up in a foreign country is hard enough, but waking up to find yourself on the front cover of a national newspaper and being labeled a home wrecker is less than ideal. And London seems intent on teaching Paige lessons she didn’t know she needed—such as how to narrowly escape deportation after assaulting Prince William with a Star Wars toy or the British definition of fanny after using it liberally in a presentation at work.

Things start to look up when Paige meets expat southern gentleman Jason Frost. He seems perfect, and not just because he knows Paige isn’t truly a harlot or because he introduces her to fancy things she’s only seen on Gossip Girl. But when Paige realizes Jason’s been the one feeding stories to the papers to manufacture himself a famous girlfriend, she is determined to rebuild her reputation and concentrate on developing her career. However, the paparazzi are only interested in catching her bad side. Train wrecks sell magazines and Paige is tied to the tracks. Look out London, this small town girl has a few lessons of her own to teach.

First 250 words:

It was 3 A.M. and all I wanted was a cheeseburger.

“Miss, we only sell Big Macs after midnight,” said the McDonalds employee.

My stomach grumbled. My diet since I got off the plane had consisted mostly of Champagne, Vodka, and seared tuna.

“Yes, I understand that and I will pay for a Big Mac, but I would like a cheeseburger, so can you, like, remove a patty and mid bun and hold the secret sauce? Please?”

“Miss, I am sorry but we do not have this item.”

Liar. He didn’t look sorry. I immediately wanted to get on the next flight home. It rained cheeseburgers in Canada.

A tall, drunk and incredibly beautiful blonde South African girl appeared at the till next to me.

“I’ll have a hot dog.”
That was my new best friend, Lucinda.

We walked out of McDonalds with a small fries to ‘split’, which really meant Lucinda was going to watch me eat them. As I was elegantly shoving eight fries into my mouth at once, not unlike a four-year-old, a swarm of camera wielding hyenas approached. One flash triggered the rest and little white dots burned into my retina. I stumbled, almost dropping my fries.

What was going on? I looked for the celebrity garnering all this attention. I couldn’t believe my luck, I was about to spot someone famous on my first day in London! But when Lucinda slapped the second fist full of fries out of my hand and pulled me towards a taxi, I realized with confusion that the so-called celebrity was me.


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

    1. Victory to CHAMPAGNE and HOT DOGS
      I appreciate that you made changes to the McDonald's employee, and I can also now see that there is more to the story than rural girl gets rude awakening in the big city. Nice transformation!


      This was a tough one. C&HD, I liked the changes to your query, but I'm still not a huge fan of your 250. On your first page, I'd like to see her falling into the arms of the footballer or waking up to her face in the tabloids or something, not arguing about a cheeseburger. I feel like you have so many interesting things to choose from to show us, and this isn't the strongest you could've led with. I LOVE the premise, though, and had CRAZYPANTS not done what she did, I'd have chosen you.

      CRAZYPANTS, the thing that won my vote for you was how you ended your 250. I was like, "Wait, what? WHAT? YOU CAN'T STOP THERE! WHAT DID SHE SEE???" So. Well done.

    3. But...but...not fair. I'm such a big fan of both.

      I love the changes Champagne and Hot Dogs made to the first page, but most of all, to the query.

      Mississippi Crazypants, I still adore the part with the flip-flops. Your character is charming.

      Victory to CHAMPAGNE and HOT DOGS simply because I love the humor and it seems less serious. Serious subjects aren't my thing.


      I loved how the voice of Mississippi's voice in the query and 250 is the same. I'm totally in love with it, and I want to find out what happens to this character.

      Champagne and Hot Dogs, I still adore your humor.

      Good luck!


      MC: Other than maybe combining the last two sentences of the query into something like, "Told from Cissy and Grandmother's POVs, THIS SIDE OF CRAZY will appeal...," I pretty much love everything about this query and 250.

      C&HD: The query still feels a bit too synopsy, and the 250 just doesn't zing for me. There are bits that seem a little strained, such as the addition of "not unlike a four-year-old" and maybe if I knew whether McD sells hotdogs in London after midnight I might understand if Lucinda's hot dog order is meant to be funny. Maybe so because they walk out without one? "I realized with confusion" also seems to be a little off for first person POV. Obviously others connect much better with your humor and voice, and I'm in the minority, so grain of salt and all. So much is subjective!


      Although I'm a sucker for chick lit and Champagne sounds exactly up my alley, I have to give victory here to Mississippi. The query is so much improved- I'm way clearer on the role the grandmother plays and that really sharpened this story for me. I also thought your 250 really gave us a great portrayal of the characters and their relationship by showing us versus telling us (the mom pouring milk early to get her daughters to the table, the daughter wearing shoes that annoy Mom even though it causes her physical pain)- really nicely done!

      Champagne, your query drips with voice and I'm definitely in line to read this one when it comes out, but I thought your first 250 seemed as if you were trying to fit in too many details about who and where she was and I would have preferred for that to come out more naturally.


      This was so hard! I'd pick both books off the shelf. I think ultimately it came down to the first 250. With MCP, it felt a little more effortless to read. Seriously, this one was so close. Champange, I love your humor. It's fantastic. Good luck to both of you!


      LOVE both of the these, but Crazypants hooked me more with the first 250-words. Champagne won me on the premise, I just felt the story was starting in the wrong place.


      MC--I think this line: "Some might call this childish behavior for a 16-year-old but I took fun wherever I could find it" can be cut--it's too much telling and it ruins the humor of the previous line. We all know how it's like to be a rebellious 16 year old ;)

      This came down to premise and uniqueness, and I thought MC won overall. (Funny how it's opposite to Storm's crit. It's all so subjective!)

      Loved Champagne's though!

    10. Claire Anderson WheelerJuly 2, 2013 at 1:07 PM

      Agent response/request - Claire from Anderson Literary Management: while both concepts are charming, I'd like to request a synopsis and first three chapters for Mississippi Crazypants. If you'd like to send, you can reach me at claireawheeler(at)gmail.com

  2. Mississippi Crazypants
    I like the last lines in your query, which are used wisely and judiciously. If you haven’t already, I’d suggest reading Joshilyn Jackson who would be a competitive title. She does southern gothic crazy very well.

    My only question in the query was did she want to go to prison?

    In the 250, I immediately feel the tension between the mother and daughter. Excellent. The housekeeper throws me for a loop because I hadn’t gotten the impression of money. But I could buy into it quickly.

    Good job and good luck!

    Champagne and Hotdogs
    As always your voice is amazing. But the first line made me think a small TOWN in Canada traveled to London. Perhaps make it clear that it is a person, not a town. I love, love, love the second to last sentence in your query!

    In the 250, both champagne and vodka aren’t capitalized (Champagne is debatable, depending on the origin of its creation.) I like the setup but I am unclear how she is a celebrity without knowing it.

    Good luck to you both!

  3. Mississippi Crazypants: I like that you're going to give readers multiple perspectives, and from your writing, I trust in your ability to deliver. In the 250, I felt like there was a little bit of a disconnect between the first and second paragraphs. She's talking about getting books, so I expected them to be at the library or on their way to/from the library, but instead, they're still at home preparing to leave. This might just be me, but it made me feel a little ungrounded. Still, I think your page is strong, and I'm dying to flip the page because I know that's when everything starts to go wrong.

    Champagne and Hot Dogs: You clearly have a way with words, and your plot sounds like a lot of fun. I struggled a little bit with the last paragraph of your query because it seemed like there's a lot jammed in there and the first paragraphs seemed a bit slower in pace. I really like the revisions you've made to your first 250. The MC is much more likable in the new version. I'm curious at to why the story starts here, and not with a scene about falling into the footballer, but perhaps that's a reflection of the fact that the MC didn't think it was a big deal and is about to learn otherwise.

    Good luck to you both!

  4. Mississippi Crazypants: I don’t really have anything to say. I thought the query and 250 were both great.

    Champayne & Hot dogs: The query feels a tad synopsis-y. Do you need ALL this information to convey the core of the story? For example, the part about her almost being deported and saying “fanny” in a presentation? Also, are those examples of the stories that Jason is feeding to the papers? I was a bit confused on that point. In the 250, it didn’t seem like the MC would first refer to Lucinda as “A tall, drunk, and incredibly beautiful blonde South African girl.” She already knows who she is, so she wouldn’t say that. I’d have her just state her name: “Lucinda appeared at the till next to me”, and then maybe have the MC admire her physical beauty (perhaps “yet again”) so that you can get across Lucinda’s physical description.

  5. Victory to Mississippi Crazy Pants!

    MCP: The voice of your MC is amazing and you capture that in both your query and your 1st 250. And what a way to leave me wanting to read more!

    C & HD: Your story sounds so quirky and fun, and I think that comes through in the query. However, I agree with Little Mynx that you have so many interesting things happening that perhaps you should start with something else. Could you move this scene and start elsewhere?

    Excellent writing, both of you! Good luck!

  6. Crazypants-- I like the changes you made to your query and the sense of plot going on there. It sounds like an interesting story!

    Champagne-- Your query is obviously dripping with voice, which I love. I like the changes you made, there's a much clearer sense of plot and I get a much better idea of what's going on. Love the first line in your query, it's very attention grabbing. One small change I'd suggest-- big mall sounds a little weird I'd go with something like huge mall or oversized mall. And I'd agree with all the interesting things you have going on in your query you could start with a more attention grabbing opening scene. But I love the concept and you obviously have the voice to back it up.

    Good work and good luck!