Jun 2, 2017

QK Round 1: Perfectly Imperfect Princess vs Monsters Are Real

Title: Penelope Charming and the Poisoned Glass Slippers
Entry Nickname: Perfectly Imperfect Princess
Word count: 53K
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy


Twelve-year-old Princess Penelope, daughter of Cinderella, has a “charmed life.” Closets full of ruffly dresses (itchy), classes at the prestigious Charming Academy (boring), and her very own fairy godmother (annoying). Penelope would trade them all for her mother’s signature on an adventure slip to travel outside the castle walls. Too bad Cinderella refuses to sign.

Exploring secret passages and games of capture-the-frog are fun, but when a rival princess dares Penelope to steal her mother’s glass slippers, her craving for adventure results in shattered shoes days before the annual ball. Smashed slippers are small peas to Penelope, but to a villain plotting the end to her mother’s Happily Ever After, it’s a perfectly twisted opportunity. The replacement glass slippers are poisoned, casting her mother into a deathly slumber.

Feeling guilty, Penelope searches for the origin of the mysterious poison and discovers a giant’s bite shares the same symptoms. Once upon a time, an antidote to giant venom existed. Lucky for Penelope, her new friend Jack may know where to find it. With Jack’s promise to guide them, Penelope and her best friend, Red, sneak out of the castle walls to venture to the forbidden Beanstalk Forest. Penelope’s wish for adventure becomes a race to find the antidote ingredients to wake her mother before she sleeps forever after.

First 250:

Once upon a time, a princess ventured through the wilds of Fablewood…

I shoved my slingshot through my sash and dropped to the mud, peering through the rose bush. A small frog stretched out on the edge of the wishing well, belly up to the sun. His skin gleamed greener than all the plants in the garden, for this was no ordinary frog. I squeezed under the bush, but a thorn snagged the frilly hem of my dress, tearing the fabric with a loud rip. I froze.

The frog stretched his scrawny arms, wiggled a teeny bit, but his arms flopped back onto the stones. He hadn't heard me. The frog was miiine.

The brave princess had climbed tall towers, outrun villains, trudged through swamps…

Squelching stealthily through the mushy mud, I crawled to the well and paused.

One happily ever after...two happily ever after...three happily ever after.

She was Princess Penelope, daughter of Cinderella. One little frog was no match for her.

“Surrender!” I sprung to my feet. A frog-shaped puddle sparkled on the stones. The water at the bottom of the well remained calm. “Rotten peas!”

Something sharp poked my cheek.

“Gotcha, Princess Penelope!”

 “Phib! When did you know I was coming?" I glared into the frog's scum-colored googley eyes.

 “I saw you leave the castle doors.” Phib flourished the twig he'd poked me with like a fencing sword, bowed, and settled down, belly up to the sun once again. The dank smell of algae mixed with jasmine tickled my nose: eau de Phib.


Entry Nickname: Monsters are real.
Word count: 52K
Genre: MG Historical fantasy


Evacuated to an island off the coast of England during World War II, Alice promises to take care of her seven-year-old brother, Edwin. With their close bond, it’s an easy promise to make, but a harder one to keep, especially when she’s powerless to protect Edwin from the creepy housemaster’s attention. Coupled with severe homesickness and Mother failing to show for a visit, Alice plans an escape. But when she loses control of their getaway boat, Edwin is swept away. As she battles to reach him she sees someone carrying him from the water; someone only she saw.

Alice is convinced that Luna Mara—the so-called mythological child snatcher—has taken her brother. Wracked with guilt and determined to find Edwin, she crosses paths with Ruby, sworn enemy and class bully, who's also searching for missing family. In a moment of unintentional partnership they discover Nother Land, a place where all lost things go, and together they cross the threshold. Conflicted, the troubled pair separate and Alice is confronted with a choice: to abandon her life and stay with Edwin in a fantasy world, or risk becoming part of Nother Land’s lost to discover the truth behind her brother’s disappearance.
250 words:

The whistle screamed a warning through the station. Steam blasted from the locomotive’s engine as it hissed to life with a long sigh. My heart echoed the heavy chug-chug-chug of the train gathering pace, leaving King’s Cross behind in a blanket of fog. Away from the bombs. Away from home. Away from Mother, waving her white hanky from the platform edge.

I couldn’t see her anymore for the curtain of mist, but I kept my cheek pressed against the glass. My little brother, Edwin, couldn’t see me cry. No one could—especially not the classmates sharing my compartment. First time away from home and branded a cry baby? No, thank you. Besides, Mother said I had to be brave. I squeezed Purrl, the beanbag cat hidden under my grey school blazer, until my breath stilled.

I leant back against the rough fabric and my polished shoes shot out, my legs being too short to bend around the edge of the seat. I shuffled down an inch and my feet hung like the redhead’s in the opposite corner. Across from me, my little brother knelt facing backwards, his face still glued to the window, his breath fogging up the glass. Unruly black hair sprouted like a carrot top at his crown, despite Mother’s attempts to plaster it down with Vaseline. Next to him sat the silver-haired housemaster, Dr. Dickerson, grinding his jaw backwards and forwards. Edwin and I had known him for all of three minutes, and I already didn’t like him.


  1. Judges, please leave your comments and votes as a reply to this comment. Thanks!



      I’m not in love with parentheses in queries, but that’s totally subjective note and I’m torn because I do like having her reaction to each aspect of her “charmed” life.

      When I read the first paragraph, I thought you were setting up the main conflict to be that desire for an adventure/mom not signing—so a struggle for independence. But reading on that’s not the case. I would consider whether that line is necessary.

      I like how you work some of the voice into the query, especially in the second paragraph. “Smashed slippers are small peas” and “a perfectly twisted opportunity” are two of my favorite phrases!

      I was wondering if Red was in integral part of the plot, since she’s not mentioned until the end of the third paragraph. If she is, I would consider introducing her earlier. If she isn’t, maybe leave her out or just refer to her as a friend.

      Another question I have is the role of the villain that poisons her mother. Is the villain actively working against the kids as the story goes on, is the villain a force the kids have to deal with while on their adventure? If so, mention that.

      Also, keep in mind the pacing of the story. You spend a lot of time on set up, and then the entire adventure/introduction to Jack etc is relegated to the last paragraph. Does that match your ms? If it does, awesome! If is doesn’t, I’d consider tweaking (For instance, if the mother is poisoned very early in the story and the bulk of the book is about the trials they encounter on the adventure, the query should reflect that.)


      I really enjoyed the voice here and your descriptions were also fantastic. I particularly loved the description in the last line! I like that we see her having an adventure and using her imagination, someone with as much wanderlust as she seems to have is going to have to do A LOT of imagining while confined to the castle walls. Be careful of an over reliance on alliteration. It works well with your story, but if it’s constant it may get significantly less charming as the story moves on.



      I would add Alice’s age to the first paragraph, especially since we have her brother’s. A reader’s perspective/expectations of your mc may change depending on her age. I’d also like to know more about the creepy housemaster’s attention that’s making it hard for her to take care of her brother. Is he hurting her brother? Or something else entirely?

      Another question I had was her motivation for escaping, you mention her mother missing a visit. Are they going to escape to find their mother or do they just need to cut out asap because of the creepy headmaster. I like the set up in the final sentence of this paragraph, I’m intrigued.

      I like the second paragraph, but I could use some clarification. You mention “unintentional partnership,” and I’m not clear if that means they discovered it by accident, or if they are working together but don’t want to be. Also, who is Ruby’s missing family member, is it also a child?

      I like that the final sentence leaves us with the choice Alice must make BUT I wasn’t clear what “becoming a part of Nother Land’s lost” meant. Is saving Edwin not an option? Or will finding out the truth enable her to save him? I would clarify this last line.

      Overall, a very intriguing premise!


      Wow, your first 250 pulled me right into the story. The little details (like pressing her cheek to the class and squeezing Purrl) was a great way to capture the longing. Your decision to also show us that her short legs are not able to bend in the seat REALLY made it hit home that this is a small child dealing with a very big set of circumstances. I also like that you introduce the housemaster right away since he will be such a driving force!

      This was an extremely tough decision, I wish these weren’t matched up because I would love to vote for both! But a decision must be made so…

      victory to: Penelope Charming and the Poisoned Glass Slippers!

    2. Lumpy Space AuthorJune 2, 2017 at 8:41 PM

      Penelope Charming

      OMG this story sounds brilliant, and the voice in the query is spectacular. However, I think this query gives too much away. I would take out the bit about the glass slippers being poisoned, and just leave it at “…twisted opportunity.” Then go on with fewer specifics. “With her mother now at death’s door, Penelope’s wish for adventure is now a race against time: she must venture into the forbidden Beanstalk Forest to find an antidote before her mother sleeps forever after.” Or something like that. If you leave out some details, I’m more tantalized.


      Squelching stealthily through the mushy [take out mushy-too many squishy adjectives] mud...

      “Surrender!” I sprung[sprang, I believe] to my feet. A frog-shaped puddle [I have a hard time picturing this – puddles don’t stay frog-shaped unless their banks are frog-shaped. Maybe a damp frog-shaped spot] sparkled on the stones. The water at the bottom of the well remained calm [are you trying to say the frog didn’t jump into the well? I'm not sure why this image]. “Rotten peas!”

      Something sharp poked my cheek.

      “Gotcha, Princess Penelope!”

      I glared into the frog's scum-colored googley eyes. [It flows better and I stay in the scene better if you reverse these sentences] “Phib! When did you know I was coming?"

      Spectacular entry!


      Another spectacular concept - an interesting backdrop, especially for a YA, and great soil to grow a spooky fantasy in.

      Evacuated to an island off the coast of England during World War II, Alice promises to take care of her seven-year-old brother, Edwin. With their close bond, it’s an easy promise to make, but a harder one to keep, especially when
      [I would cut this down a bit, keep the query, especially the opening, snappy as possible. This promise proves harder to keep than she thought.] She’s powerless to protect Edwin from the creepy housemaster’s attention. [I'd play with the next part of this a bit to make the ideas flow better. The homesickness is sort of a given, so show us WHY she's homesick, why she feels alone/out of place] When her mother mysteriously fails to show for a visit, Alice is at her breaking point.

      She steals a boat and escapes with her brother. But when she loses control of the craft [is there a storm? "losing control" of a boat could mean a lot of things], Edwin is swept away. As she battles to reach him she sees someone carrying him from the water; someone only she can see. [are there other people with her? How does she know no one else can see?]


      I squeezed Purrl, the beanbag cat hidden under my grey school blazer, until my breathing quieted [breath stilled implies to me she’s dead].

      Otherwise I would just take out some of the description and get us right to the dialogue.

      This is a GREAT entry.

      These are both great entries. Good writing, and good concepts. I think, if I'd had a few more teasers and questions answered in the query of Monsters, I'd have an even harder time...with a little work, I think Monsters will have a million requests from agents. But as it is, VICTORY TO PENELOPE CHARMING.

    3. Professor McGonagallJune 4, 2017 at 9:12 AM

      PERFECTLY IMPERFECT PRINCESS: Oh. My. Gosh. This is so good! I love the idea, your query is clever and well-crafted, and it’s so fun to see the different fairy tale elements. I would read this today! I really don’t have any suggestions for the query – I think it’s great as is. FIRST 250. Just a few nitpicks in this fun and well-done section. In paragraph 3, the third phrase in the first sentence needs to match the first two. The frog is acting, so he should be the one making his arms move – they shouldn’t flop on their own. arms, “sprung” should be “sprang,” And when Phib flourishes his twig that sentence is a little convoluted (that he poked me with seems a bit out of place). Other than that, this is fantastic. Congrats!
      MONSTERS ARE REAL: A thoughtful and deep premise, a little creepy, with a likable protagonist. QUERY: I think the first par. should be separated into two after “attention” since they are different thoughts. The second paragraph is a little confusing to me. Why do Ruby and Alice separate? Has Alice found her brother, as she is choosing between staying with him or becoming part of Nother Land? Or are they the same thing? I’m not sure what’s going on here. How could you make this clearer? FIRST 250: Well done. Good writing and I feel like I can see what’s happening and I feel the atmosphere. I have two nitpicks: in par. 3 you say her polished shoes “shot” out, which made me think she’d slipped and fallen. Do you mean they “stuck” out? And I believe “crybaby” is one word. Good job and good luck!
      These are both very strong entries. I expect to see success stories about each! Because of the strength of the query,

    4. Oh my - both excellent entries and a difficult choice!

      Query - I enjoyed the query, and felt like I got the voice of the story and your MC right away - plus I loved the traditional fairytale references and her reaction to them in the first paragraph. However, I got a bit lost in detail in the second and third paragraphs. I would suggest paring it down to the essential crux and conflict in the story, since we've already gotten a very clear idea of the tone and style of the book from your first paragraph. I would agree with other judges that "Feeling guilty" is too gentle of a motivation - it seems to me it's more about her saving her mother's life. I'd also suggest clarifying and/or giving more info on the villain (and less info on her friends.) Also, I know it's a big motivation for Penelope, but keep track of how often you use the word "adventure" - be judicious :)

      250 – I love how you’ve got Penelope narrating her own fairytale in her head as she goes along - it’s a fun idea. Perhaps look through and amp up the difference in language and style between the fairy tale portions and the MC’s first person narrative – make both very distinct from each other (e.g. change “for this was no ordinary frog” which sounds like something you’d hear in a classic fairy tale, to something more contemporary like “because this was no ordinary frog” which is more conversational.) I was confused about what she was trying to do to the frog (shoot it with her sling shot? Capture it?) and I couldn’t quite envision what happened to the frog when all of a sudden he wasn’t there (did he jump into the well? Magically disappear?) And is Phib (great name!) poking her in the face from her shoulder? A tree? Or is it a really long twig? Maybe just a little more clarity in the characters blocking/actions.

      This book sounds so lovely and spooky and magical.

      Query: In general, I think the query is a bit too detailed and needs to be boiled down to the essentials. I LOVE the idea of Luna Mara and Nother Land and I wanted to get there faster in the query – I think those elements are what make your story seem unique and different from other books about kindertransport and WWII. I want to get a little bit more of an idea of what Nother Land is like (is it like Neverland, or Wonderland, or the Upsidedown – what is the atmosphere of this magical place?) Also, as other judges already mentioned, I wasn’t sure what the headmaster’s “attention” meant and it took me out of the moment. With MG, I’d worry that any whiff of anything adult and inappropriate might be a deterrent to an agent and cause them to stop reading. I was also confused about Alice’s choice at the end. Finally what is the main obstacle – is there a villain actively trying to stop Alice from finding her brother or is it just the nature of Nother World that causes her trouble?

      250: I really enjoyed the picture that the prose painted and felt like I was instantly in that time and place and could hear Alice’s voice. I only have a few nitpicky comments. I would perhaps watch out for overuse of adjectives, and consider rewording the second paragraph because you use the word “could” quite a bit there. The phrase “breath stilled” makes me think of death/dying (maybe that’s the Shakespeare nerd in me.) The sentence “I shuffled down an inch and my feet hung like the redhead’s in the opposite corner” confused me a bit. I think you’re trying to say that she wanted to sit the same way as the other girl (boy?) but I had to read the sentence twice to understand that. Like I said, very small details.

      In general, both entries are very solid, and I would love to read these books!


      I think the query is pretty sound. The first paragraph is great, and the rest does a good job of setting up stakes. Since agents will already be familiar with the fairy tales you're drawing from, these quick mentions ("her new friend Jack" etc) work just fine to set the scene.

      The opening scene is cute and well-written, but I don't really get a sense of stakes. Obviously the MAIN stakes of the novel (needing to find the anecdote for Cinderella) aren't at play yet, but there need to be SOME kind of immediate stakes for this first scene. Why is Penelope hunting for Phib?

      I love the first paragraph--we've got character, setting, stakes! A couple of suggestions for the second paragraph: I'd say "Alice's sworn enemy" (just "sworn enemy" sounds a bit like "sworn enemy of all"?) And most critically, this sentence is vague: "Conflicted, the troubled pair separate and Alice is confronted with a choice: to abandon her life and stay with Edwin in a fantasy world, or risk becoming part of Nother Land’s lost to discover the truth behind her brother’s disappearance." How is "stay with Edwin in a fantasy world" different from "becoming part of Nother Land's lost"? They both sound like leaving the real world and her family behind? Also, what happened to Ruby?

      The first 250 I love.... it's got this very going-to-Hogwarts vibe, except it's not Hogwarts and it's so sad and urgent, and puts the reader right in the historical setting both aesthetically and emotionally. I love the language and how subtly different it is from what a similarly-aged girl in modern times would use!

      Very tough matchup, with stories with very different tones. I'm going to go with the stronger voice, though, and for me that means...

      Victory to MONSTERS ARE REAL!

    6. Title: Penelope Charming and the Poisoned Glass Slippers
      Entry Nickname: Perfectly Imperfect Princess

      Query Feedback
      This is great! I think you can maybe simplify a bit, but others may feel differently.I think you have a few too many name characters in the running here. Try to stick to 3. Penelope, the villain (who is it??? Or is that is a secret… either way, cool to know!), and either Jack or Red. Or neither. “Lucky for Penelope, her friends know where to find it. Together, they sneak out of the castle walls…” It’s easier and less complicated.

      First 250 Feedback
      Super cute! Love the counting. Great voice. We have a super good idea of who Penelope is right away. Also Phib is a nice surprise when he starts talking!

      Are they playing tag? Or sneaking up on each other? I think just being explicit about the game will help us understand the rules / what she was aiming to do.


      Title: NOTHER LAND
      Entry Nickname: Monsters are real.

      Wow, a lot going on here. I think the meat of the story is in paragraph 2? There are a lot of threads in paragraph 1 that complicate things (the housemaster, Mother’s missed visit, a boat, him getting rescued). I think if you can focus on they need to escape to protect Edwin (focus on stakes) then we will be good. And then you can just say he is taken.

      THe mention of Luna Mara, and Ruby are both additional info that complicate things. And Nother Land comes in a bit late. I think if you start with the escape as the inciting incident, and then build from there, you will be in a great place!

      I really love all these elements, I just think that maybe the query isn’t the right place to name so many. You want to get your main elements in and get us asking for more.

      “After being evacuated to an English island during World War II, Alice and her younger brother, Edwin soon find themselves fleeing for safety again. But this time, it’s from the very place that should have been their safe haven….” and go on from there.

      Nother Land is the title, and I feel like we don’t get to see any of Nother Land in the query. Put the focus there. THinking of Lion Witch Wardrobe (which I assume is a comp), when you talk about it, you think of Narnia the most, not the house and how they got there. Think of what your readers will love, and play that strength :)

      First 250 Feedback
      Really nice atmospheric opening. I think you could start with sentence 3 -- it has the MC in there, which grounds us more in the story (and has a lot of emotion, which the train whistle does not).

      You are great at showing the MC’s vulnerability and bravery!

      I can picture the scene really well. One image that jarred was comparing his black hair to a carrot top (because of Carrot Top I automatically picture red curls there, but also the top of a carrot is green.) Is there something black you can use instead and then you don’t have to even say the color of his hair, we will just see it...

      GAH this is such a challenge. So many WONDERFUL elements to each. I really am torn because they are so different. ACK. I am really sorry to have to choose. Really, really sorry, because I love them bothhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

      I think I have to go with

  2. Perfectly Imperfect Princess

    Query: Love the first paragraph; it creates an interesting voice and nicely sets up how this is a spin off from the fairy tales we all know and love. Rest of the query flows well, though I would use "Cinderella" instead of "she" in the last sentence.

    First 250: I enjoyed the premise of hunting a frog, though the italics took me a little getting used to. Makes me want to read more!

    Monsters Are Real

    Query: Pulled me in! Only comment would be to clarify the last sentence; it's not clear to me if Edwin can ever be saved and what are the implications of becoming "lost" in the other world

    First 250: Wonderful writing here! The imagery is wonderful and really pulled me in. Want to read more!

  3. Perfectly Imperfect Princess

    Query: The first paragraph is great. The second and third needs tweaking. I would add more mystery about finding the origin of the poison versus it being given immediately and the solution. This will heighten the stakes. I love that your voice comes across the query.

    1st 250: I may be in the minority here but I think you need a better, killer first line. Something that grabs that breaks out of the mold of your premise. I'm sure you can find something. I suggest using your humour.


    Monsters are Real

    Query: Love the stakes here. Your query is tight. The only thing I would suggest is to add your voice in more. It's missing the eloquence I see in your excerpt.

    1st 250: Love the prose. I think it's a great opening.



  4. Penelope Charming and the Poisoned Glass Slippers

    Great query. I can’t think of a thing to change. (not helpful, I know). Good luck.

    First 250:

    The frog stretched his scrawny arms, wiggled a [[teeny -cut]] bit, but his arms flopped back onto the stones. He hadn't heard me. The frog was miiine.

    One happily ever after...two happily ever after[[s]]...three happily ever after[[s]].

    “I saw you leave the castle doors.” Phib flourished the twig he'd poked me with like a fencing sword, bowed, and settled down, belly up to the sun once again. The dank smell of algae mixed with jasmine tickled my nose: eau de Phib. [[Not much to change here either, though I am wondering how big this frog is. At first I thought he was just normal sized, but how can he reach her cheek with the stick? Is she bending over, or is he bigger than normal, or is it a really long stick?]]


    Title: NOTHER LAND
    Entry Nickname: Monsters are real.
    Word count: 52K
    Genre: MG Historical fantasy


    Evacuated to an island off the coast of England during World War II, Alice promises[[[promises who?]]] to take care of her seven-year-old brother, Edwin. With their close bond, it’s an easy promise to make, but a harder one to keep, especially when she’s powerless to protect Edwin from the creepy housemaster’s attention[[[Could you elaborate just a little bit here? What housemaster is this? Are they at a school? A hostel? A protective prison camp? What is on this island?]]].

    Conflicted, the troubled pair separate and Alice is confronted with a choice: to abandon her [[former]] life and stay with Edwin in a fantasy world, or risk becoming part of Nother Land’s lost to discover the truth behind her brother’s disappearance.

    [[I love the idea of ‘the place where all lost things go’. One last suggestion: Make your ending a bit stronger and the stakes clearer. You say she has to choose between staying with her brother in a fantasy world (I assume you mean Nother land,) or risk becoming Lost. But from how I understand your query, just being in Nother Land makes her a ‘lost thing’. I might be wrong since I haven’t read your book so I probably don’t understand everything.]]

    250 words:

    Your beginning is really captivating. It drew me right into the story.



    I’m really intrigued by the premise here and love the use of the different fairy tale characters.

    I love the things you have in parenthesis, but I’m not sure it’s coming across quite right. Is there another way this can be done? Maybe crossing out certain words and adding the new ones? Or italicizing words instead of using parenthesis?

    The query has all the right parts and I know the stakes. Good work!

    First 250:

    Love, love, LOVE! This oozes with voice and I love the way it’s set-up. I love that she counts “One happily ever after, two happily ever after.” That’s super fun! And the “rotten peas” line is great.

    My one suggestion is the line, “One little frog was no match for her.” The rest of those sections make it seem like a grand fairy tale, but then that line takes it down a notch. Maybe something like, “No foul beast was a match for her” or something to keep it big. I hope that makes sense.

    But other than that, I think your first 250 are perfect!



    The stakes are good and clear here and I love the premise.

    I would maybe break the paragraphs up a bit to make 3-4 shorter paragraphs. Also, maybe take one name out. You’ve named a lot of characters here and I had a hard time keeping track of everyone.

    Overall, great job with the query!

    First 250:

    The first paragraph is AMAZING. I love the chug-chug-chug sound that we get. I love the emotion. I love the repetition in the last few sentences. I’m sucked in immediately.

    Paragraph two gives us voice and establishes her current predicament.

    The third paragraph lost me a little bit. It was almost too description heavy. Maybe get rid of a sentence or two and cut straight to action/dialogue.

    My biggest concern with the first 250 is that we don’t know the gender of the main character. If it weren’t for the query, I would have assumed it was a boy. Could you find a way to let readers know the main character is a girl in paragraph one or two?

    This is definitely a well-written start! Great job!

  6. I enjoyed both of these, but here are a few spots that slowed my reading:

    Penelope Charming:
    I liked the tone of this query, and immediately felt like I understood the voice of the main character. But the query felt a bit long. The second paragraph gave more details and examples than needed—I really just wanted to get to the conflict sooner.

    Excerpt: I don’t think you need to add the extra ‘I’s to miiine. I still get her tone without the exaggeration here.
    This might become clearer later on in the book, but I thought you didn’t need the italic parts.

    I really liked the “one happily ever” counting ☺

    The Nother Land:
    Query: I’m not sure if the second sentence is needed? I would combine the “creepy housemaster’s attention” with the third sentence so that not too much importance is given to this note (as its really just a stepping stone to move the plot forward).

    250 words: Great imagery, but like another commenter here, I would like to know the age of the narrator sooner, as it caught me off guard when she says that her legs are too short to bend around the edge of the seat—that makes me think she’s really really young, which also doesn’t match with the sense I got of her in the query.

    1. Eeek, her age is in my first paragraph with my comp titles, which I didn't include in this contest! I did wonder why no one knew! Thanks.:)

  7. Perfectly Imperfect Princess:

    Query: I love this story idea! I'm not sure about using the parentheses in the query. You could re-word it to "itchy dresses", "annoying fairy godmother" etc and still keep the voice. In the last paragraph, I'd think she'd be feeling worried more than guilty? Otherwise great set up in your query.

    250: I think this a great beginning, and I love the technique with the italics. Well done!

    Monsters are real:

    Query: I love this story idea also. I would love to know how old Alice is in the query. The stakes confused me at first - Luna Mara and Nother Land are unrelated? And where does Ruby fit into the stakes? Why is he important?

    250: I love how you've started to set up the scene-it's so descriptive and I feel like I'm on the train.

    Both of these are great! Congrats.

  8. Fellow Kombatant, here. Not a judge.
    Perfectly Imperfect Princess
    I find your query really charming. Very clever, with a lighthearted, fun tone. My only real suggestion is that I think you could streamline the last paragraph if you felt the need to get word count down. I think the most important element is that Penelope realizes she has to save her mother, so she recruits some friends and sneaks out into the Beanstalk Forest to find the antidote… That allows you to cut out some of detail about discovering the mysterious poison is related to a giant's bite, the explanation of the antidote, and introduction of more named characters including Jack and Red. (They're not bad, it's just that too many named characters can get confusing.)

    Regarding your first 250, I think they're great. Very active, and funny. I love Phib. Love how she counts using 'ever afters.' Just all very clever. I personally would suggest you re-order slightly. I'd lead with "I shoved my slingshot…" as the first sentence, and then follow with "Once upon a time, a princess ventured…" That just cements the reader in the head of the character before introducing her inner monologue.

    Well done. Good luck.

    Monsters are Real
    I like your premise, but found the query confusing. It felt to me, as a reader, that your sentences didn't have a logical progression. They jump from one idea to another, without enough connective detail linking them together.

    It also feels like you introduce a lot of different elements, only to drop them. You tell us about the creepy headmaster, but then you don't mention him again. Is he the same thing as Luna Mara? I can't tell.

    I found the introduction of the 'class bully' to be jarring. That sounds like a 21st century term, but this is set in the WWII era. And then immediately after introducing the bully, you have Alice partnering up with her, with little explanation of how that could happen given that they're sworn enemies.

    I like your first 250. I feel very in-the-moment with Alice. She's so spunky, willing herself not to cry so as not to be labeled a cry-baby. Good for you, Alice. Strong girl. Nice job, too, using description to do double duty, telling us a bit about the characters' personalities and the setting in which they find themselves. Based on this page, I'm intrigued and want to read on.

  9. Perfectly Imperfect Princess

    Love the voice in this query! Her annoying personal fairy godmother made me laugh.Look for places where you can tighten up the writing. The second paragraph can start "When a rival princess," for example. Extra details like secret passages and capture-the-frog are nice, but they dilute your query a bit.

    More great voice in your 250!The thoughts in italics threw me a bit, especially since your story is in 1st person and her thoughts are in 3rd person. That could just be me though. Nice way to introduce us to Penelope.

    Monsters Are Real
    This type of story is right up my alley. Your query is jam-packed with information. It almost feels like you are trying to cram a whole synopsis into a query. Details like the headmaster, the homesickness and the mother not showing for a visit don't really speak to the main conflict, Alice's quest to find her missing brother. Focus on that and I think your query will really shine.

    250: very nice job of creating mood here. You managed to endear the reader to Alice and get us to go along with her journey. The one line that seemed out of place to me was the rhetorical question. It doesn't seem to fit with the atmosphere you are going for with the rest of the writing.

  10. Penelope Charming:

    Query: I really love the voice in the query. Her reactions to all th facets of her life are what really makes it pop for me. The personal stakes are made clear, and I get a good feel for the workings of Penelope's world.

    250: I really like how the scene starts with action. I'm automatically drawn into Penelope's world and want to know more about her and go on a journey with her.

    Query: Stakes, conflict, and motivation are all made clear in the query. I'd like to know Alice's age so I have a clearer picture of her in my head.

    250: I really like where this story starts-- with Alice leaving her mother behind. The first 250 immediately grip me and establish an emotional connection between me and Alice.

    My Vote: Penelope.