Jun 21, 2016

QK Round 3: One-Handed Wonder vs. The Order of Black

Title: The Windup
Entry Nickname: One-Handed Wonder
Word Count: 40K
Genre: Upper Middle Grade, Contemporary


Kyle Whalen, a southpaw Little League pitcher, had enjoyed a typical adolescent boyhood until a car crash took his right hand, his twin brother, and his passion for life. Now, three years later, Kyle is fourteen and determined to play ball again in memory of his brother and fulfill the dream they shared: win the Brookhaven Invitational Baseball Tournament, a feat his home team has never accomplished.

Kyle practices hard with his catcher Hailey—the girl he’s crushing on and best friends with—but he struggles to pitch and bat one-handed. Those challenges mount when he discovers she likes a rival ballplayer. Things get worse when his coach and several of his teammates bail, leaving his team ineligible to compete. It’s game on, though, when Kyle convinces his estranged dad to take over as coach and his troublemaker cousin joins the team.

As Kyle leads his ragtag club toward the championship, he grows closer to his father, the man he thought no longer cared—about anything, not since the crash. Kyle also begins competing for Hailey’s heart. When Kyle settles a score with a bully by whiffing him each at bat and bouncing his team from the tournament, he thinks the torment is over. He thought wrong. The bully pulls a nasty prank on Kyle a few hours before the big game, and Kyle must choose between keeping the dream alive and keeping his family together.

First 250:

I stood atop the pitcher’s mound, baseball in hand. My only hand. Perched over the stub where my right hand used to be was my baseball glove, pocket-down.

“Last one, Kyle. Fire it in here,” Hailey said, punching her catcher’s mitt. She was my age, fourteen, and a cutie. Ponytailed blond hair. A freckled nose. Full lips. Yeah, I had a crush on her, but it was just a tiny one. Really. Okay, a big one.

The two of us had been practicing on the weed-choked Little League field for about two hours. Summer rays warmed the back of my neck. My tired pitching arm sagged at my side. I dug my cleat into the soft dirt in front of the pitching rubber, wound up, and slung a fastball. After my follow-through, I slipped my hand into my glove, fumbling a bit, and got into fielding position. Mastering the transfer of my glove was the hardest part. I had no doubt teams would test me by hitting comebackers.

“Nice pitch,” Hailey said, hopping up. “You’re ready for this.”

I shook off my glove. “I hope so.”

It was one thing to practice without a batter standing at home plate. It was another story to pitch in a tournament, which was what I planned to do in just a few days. The last time I laced up for a game was three years ago. Back when my dad was the coach. Back when I had a right hand. Back when I had a twin teammate to double high-five.


Title: The Order of Black Hollow Lane
Entry Nickname: The Order of Black
Word Count: 57K
Genre: MG Mystery


Ginny’s mom is a world-renowned parenting expert with no parenting skills of her own. She doesn’t even give Ginny warning before dumping her at a boarding school right before her thirteenth birthday. If only Ginny’s dad was around to look after her, but he disappeared when she was three. She figures she’s heard the last of him.

Then the box arrives. It’s crammed with ornate medallions. There’s no return address, just a note that says, ‘These belonged to your father.’ Ginny thinks the medallions are just heirlooms until she sees symbols from the box in an unexpected place: her new boarding school. She starts investigating and finds out her dad was a member of a mysterious student society: The Order of Black Hollow Lane.

At first it seems like nothing more than an old boys’ club, but then Ginny finds evidence that The Order had something to do with her dad’s disappearance. She’s desperate to learn more about what happened to him, but The Order won’t give up its secrets without a fight. When some of its members start threatening her, Ginny has to decide if finding out what happened to her dad is worth the risk…even if it means risking her life.

First 250:

There were certain things Ginny’s mother didn’t really need to know. Trivial things, like whether Ginny had clipped her toenails that morning, or that she’d stepped in something sticky at the park. But the box in Ginny's nightstand was not a trivial thing. Ginny knew it wasn't. And that's why her fingers twitched every time her mother came into her room.

"Are you ready, dear?" Her mom opened the door. "The press will be here in a few—“ She put her hand to her chest and gasped.

Ginny held her breath. She had put the box away, right? If her mom saw it, if she found out....

Suddenly her mother's eyes filled with tears. "Oh, Ginny, that dress...you look just...just beautiful."

Ginny breathed out and picked at the crunchy taffeta on the front of her dress. She had to put the box out of her mind. She needed to focus today.

“Don’t you just love these little pink polka dots?” her mom asked as she brushed Ginny’s hands away from the dress. “They’re all hand-sewn, that’s why they pop out so much!”

It looked like the dress had come down with the measles. The sleeves puffed out like pink toadstools, which would come in handy if Ginny ever needed a place to hide a cat.


  1. Judges, please leave votes and comments as a REPLY to this comment.

    1. One-Handed Wonder


      Great concept and I love the risks and challenges you've posed to your character. A couple of things about the query. While it's hard to add voice. there are a few lines here that sound too old for MG ( i.e. "typical adolescent boyhood"). Also the first line of the second paragraph is disjointed. You may want to rework the sentence, moving the fact that Kyle has a crush into the next line when mentioning Hailey likes another ball player.

      First 250:

      Great voice in this opening. One thing I'm struggling with is all the telling, especially in describing Hailey and the upcoming game. It feels like these details can be worked in between action rather than coming right out and describing them point blank to the reader.

      The Order of Black


      The revisions you've done to this query are stellar. It hits all the right points and details the stakes perfectly! Well done!

      First 250:

      Again, great revisions here. I love the details about hiding the box as well as the new description of the dress. Spot on voice and detail!

      These are both great entries and the writers should be very proud of their hard work!

      I mulled this one over for a long time but concept and stakes pushed me to declare...

      Victory to One-Handed Wonder

    2. (note: fresh judge who hasn't read earlier versions of these entries!)

      It's an interesting premise, but the query feels a bit dry, particularly in the second paragraph, where you've got "he struggles... Those challenges mount... Things get worse... It's game on..." It reads more like a synopsis than a compelling query.

      First 250:
      The writing is really clean and clear. I'm not sure that "a cutie" sounds authentic to the audience you're aiming for, but otherwise very nicely done.

      Interesting premise! I love the idea, but the first paragraph led me to believe that the story was going to be about Ginny and her mom, when really, her mom doesn't seem to factor into it at all.

      First 250:
      You've got some great details here in the scene, but the person I feel is showcased most here is Ginny's mom, not her.

      Victory to: ONE-HANDED WONDER

    3. One-Handed Wonder


      Nice job adding more in about the bully. I still think you need to fix the wording of the second paragraph about Hailey being a ‘challenge’. I get the pitching and batting, but I don’t think she would add to the challenge of being a good ball player and overcoming the fact that Kyle has to learn to play with one hand. Some rewording would go a long way there.

      Otherwise, I think it’s great and I would definitely request.

      First 250:

      I love the first 250. It’s got great voice, there’s something happening, and it’s deep in the characters head. It also lets me know right away where I am. The first (two) lines are engaging, because it tells me right away this isn’t your average baseball story.



      The Order Of Black


      I feel like the stakes are a bit cliché. Does she learn the secret and risk her life, or walk away never knowing but alive? A lot of queries end like this. I think it’s running too vague and you take too long to get us to the meat of the story. I want to know more about the Order. What is their secret? Don’t keep that from the agent. They need to know why your secret is different than others, why this secret school society isn’t like a hundred others they’ve seen. I’d also dig deeper on the stakes to give us more than ‘even if it means risking her life’. The premise itself is great, but until I have more details, I feel like it’s been done several times before.

      First 250:

      It’s an interesting place to start, but I’m not quite sure what’s happening. It takes me a minute to process they’re in Ginny’s room, because right now all I’ve got is a nightstand. You also start two sentences with conjunctions right in the first paragraph. Watch over use of Ginny’s name. You’re getting this because you’re basically telling us all of Ginny’s actions, but giving us no internal thoughts to deepen the POV. Almost every sentence is Ginny did or her mom did. Try mixing up some sentence structure for a more engaging read.


    4. One-handed wonder is a really cool concept, very well-written. I've commented on it before, and I don't feel anything else needs said by me at this point. Top-notch.

      Order of Black
      Query: "If only Ginny’s dad was around to look after her..." This seems out-of-voice for a query. I'd state it something like, "Ginny wishes her dad were around to look after her (or fill the parenting gap, or whatever)..."

      "She starts investigating and finds out her dad was a member of a mysterious student society: The Order of Black Hollow Lane..." This comes off a little dry. It might be trite, but even saying, "Ginny starts snooping around, and discovers her dad..." sounds less like you're reporting on the book. All in all, nothing about this query really bugs me - great details, and I'm definitely hooked - but you might work on easing some of your voice into this.

      The reason I say you should ease some of your voice into the query is that I really like your voice here. The humor in this is spot-on.

      These are both AMAZING entries. VICTORY TO ORDER OF BLACK.


      ONE-HANDED has a great opening that made me sit forward. That second sentence “My only hand.” is brilliant. The voice here isn’t my favorite. To me the huge crush comment didn’t match up with Kyle’s actions. It’s these lines here that sound a bit off to me: Yeah, I had a crush on her, but it was just a tiny one. Really. Okay, a big one. <-- I felt like the 14-year-old here wouldn’t be thinking this so directly. Maybe it would be a little more evasive. I’d love a hint as to what he thought about his crush rather than just having this come right out and say “I had a crush on her” Maybe something like: Yeah, I sorta liked her a little. Okay, a lot, but she …..(whatever he’s thinking about this crush) I didn’t get the impression that he had this huge crush on her, because he seems so unaffected in this scene. He’s not nervous around her or shuttering or flexing or anything. He’s just normal, and maybe that’s because he’s trying to sound normal and hide his crush. I’d love a little nugget to let me know what he’s thinking and how he’s feeling. THE ORDER OF BLACK—I love the opening. And the measles dress made me giggle again.


      Both do a good job laying out the plot and creating intrigue. I’d LOVE to know what this prank was that Kyle’s bully pulled. And I’d love to know why he has to choose between baseball and family. In ORDER OF BLACK, I’m SUPER intrigued. I love a good mystery. I’d tweak this last sentence a bit to clean it up and maybe get something a bit more specific in there: She’s desperate to learn what happened to him, but The Order won’t give up its secrets without a fight. Now Ginny must find the courage to defy The Order and uncover what happened to her dad, but what she’s looking for is a secret they’ll kill to keep. <-- obviously you’d make that something that actually describes your plot.

      Victory to ORDER OF BLACK

    6. ONE HAND:

      I like this query a lot, even though there's a ton going on in it, right up until the last paragraph. The final stakes don't seem to connect super-well with the rest of the info, so I would either simplify or clarify the connection. I really like the voice in the 250 and I think Kyle's disability is one we haven't seen much of, but is important for kids to read about.


      I liked this one the first time around and I think the query is much more clear and flows well with the improvements. I find the descriptions wickedly funny in the 250. I am struggling with why to care though, maybe this is a lack of emotion coming through in the query? The stakes are there, so I'm just not sure.

      A tough one but victory to ONE HAND.

      You have a great concept here. I didn’t have the opportunity to judge this entry in an earlier round, but if I had, I would have probably given it my vote.

      I loved this entry when I judged it in the first round and I still do. It’s my kind of story, and I know it will appeal to readers.

      However, I feel like ONE-HANDED WONDER is more polished. VICTORY TO ONE-HANDED WONDER.

    8. ONE-HANDED WONDER: You've made some nice changes since I saw this in round one. Kyle is a very likable and sympathetic character. Just one question -- would a 14-year-old boy call a girl a "cutie?" Sounds more like a word a mom would use. :) Great stuff -- congrats!

      ORDER OF BLACK: This is the first time I've seen this entry. It sounds like a fun book, and it's always good when kids find secrets about their parents to be explored! I feel like the first paragraph of the query is a little confusing -- an "a" before "warning" would help with the flow, and the sentence "If only Ginny’s dad was around to look after her, but he disappeared when she was three" feels like it should be two sentences. The 250 are really well done, and I enjoyed the entry very much. I'm wondering about the puffy sleeves as toadstools being a place to hide a cat -- it felt a little incongruent to me (toadstools and cats?), like maybe it's a "darling" that needs to be re-thought. It's witty and fun, but stands out because it doesn't make a lot of sense. But overall, great stuff! Congrats and best wishes with this!

      Victory to ONE-HANDED WONDER

  2. One-Handed Wonder:

    The concept here already has me teary-eyed... I get the feeling this one's going to be a tear-jerker! You do a great job laying out the important relationships between Kyle and the other characters in the query, and the first 250 feel like just the right mix of tear-jerker-ish and like an authentic MG voice. Well done. I would have checked this out of my middle school library in a heartbeat.


    The Order of Black:

    I feel like this hasn't changed much since the last time I read it... and I actually voted against it last time (sorry!) but for whatever reason, I'm really loving the voice this time around. Great little details really place the reader in the scene, and I'm curious about why the press is coming!


    Two great MG voices, two exciting concepts... I think both books should and probably will find their home on the shelves. Honestly, this one comes down largely to personal preference.


  3. Congrats to you both making it this far!

    Order of Black: I like the revisions in the query. It's more streamlined and focused. Good job! I do think you could get more voice in it. It feels a little removed from the really nice voice in the 250. Show don't tell :)

    One Handed Wonder: This is the first time I've seen this and I'm impressed. I wonder if Kyle sounds a little too sophisticated when talking about his crush, but otherwise I think it's pretty spot on in terms of voice, pacing, conflict etc.

    Good luck to you both!


  4. One Handed Wonder: I read this one in an earlier round and think you've definitely made some improvements. Nice job! I am wondering why the first coach and players bailed--was it because they didn't think the team had a shot? I think showing the reason would be a compelling detail to add and really up the underdog ante.

    Order of Black: super interesting story! my interest is piqued for sure. I think you've expressed the stakes really strongly in that last line. I'm wondering what types of threats the members of the order are making against her--depending on what they are, it might pack a punch to add them in. Your first 250 made me laugh. Love the descriptions. I wish a little more of Ginny's sense of humor came through in the query, because it seems like one of her strengths.

  5. This is the first time I've seen The Order of Black, and I LOVE it. The concept is really good (reminds me a little of _The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks_), and the voice in the first 250 is killer! Just my kind of narrator.

    One-Handed Wonder has an incredible amount of heart, and I love that. I've already shared my thoughts about it, so I won't repeat myself. It's a great story.

    Both of you should be really proud of your entries; they're both awesome! Good luck! :)

  6. One-Hand Wonder: your story reminds me of one of my heroes, Jim Abbott, and MLB pitcher. I was at the Stadium when he threw a no-hitter for the Yankees in 1993. It was amazing. For that reason alone, I'd buy your book.

    Order of Black: love your 250, especially the description of Ginny's dress with the measles. Having had a similar experience, I can totally feel for her.

    Great job, both of you! and good luck!

  7. Such strong MG entries! Congrats to you both! I have very few comments at this stage, because they are both so strong, but I will try :)

    One-Handed-Wonder: I have loved this one since the beginning. I love all the detail in your query, but there is A LOT of it. We learn about so many events in paragraph 2. Could you eliminate one? Otherwise it starts to feel like a synopsis to me. For instances- is it important we know about "the rival ball player for Hayley's affections" in the query?

    Order of Black: I still love this idea and your opening. My one nitpicky thing is the word 'just' in your query. It is always on those "words to avoid in your writing" lists, and you use it twice in 2 sentences. Be bold! Ginny thinks the medallions are just heirlooms vs. Ginny thinks the medallions are heirlooms. Why get a potential agents hackles up over something so minor?

    Best of luck to both of you! I am predicting offers in your future!


    QUERY: I usually don’t look at other comments before making mine, but I couldn’t think of a single thing to say and I wanted to see if everyone else was as blown away as me. As a disabled person who has been told he can’t do a lot of things because of the disability, this story is everything. So good job, great concept, and good luck in the next round. I’m really, really rooting for you.

    250: Great voice. Some other commenters are right about the telling, but it didn’t interfere with the reading for me. I think you can change or not and it wouldn’t make too much of a difference with the quality of the writing. It’s already really good.


    QUERY: Remove “She figures she’s heard the last of him." There is a lot of intrigue in this query, but I think it might be too much. All I really know about Ginny is she has a bad mom, a missing dad, and is in a boarding school that maybe her dad went to. I think you need to tell us a lot more about Ginny or about the Order so that we can become more invested in the story.

    250: Great first line. It tells us so much about the characters with so few words. Expertly done. The rest of the 250 is great, too. I think this is one those cases where the query wasn’t the greatest, but the first 250 is so good, I wouldn’t care about the query. Good job!