Jun 20, 2017

QK Round 3: Be Grateful For Cookies vs Perfectly Imperfect Princess

Title: Plus-Size
Entry Nickname: Be Grateful For Cookies
Word Count: 45,000
Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary

Query:

Thirteen-year-old Lizzie will do almost anything for a cookie. Sadly, her mother banned them from her life months ago, replacing sweets with tasteless foods and a gym membership. Her mom claims it’s for her own good, even though her skinny sister can still eat whatever she wants.

Doomed to a life of flaxseed and broccoli, Lizzie joins what she believes is an after school cooking club, hoping to make chocolate-anything on the sly. When the teacher announces they'll also be sewing, Lizzie discovers a knack for designing stylish plus-size clothes, something she desperately needs. After the owner of a local boutique sees one of Lizzie's shirts with the message BE STRONG sewn across the back, she asks Lizzie to reveal her inspirational clothing to the public with a fashion show. Lizzie hesitantly agrees —she’s never been comfortable being the center of attention, and her mother’s lecture about her hopeless future as a larger girl is on a constant auto-play in her head.

Faced with an overpowering mom, a group of relentless school bullies, and some embarrassing mishaps at the gym, Lizzie realizes how important it is to BE YOU — a phrase on one of her shirts. Armed with her collection and a chance to show her mother that success comes in all sizes, Lizzie sets out to prove there's more to a person than the size of their waist.

First 250:

From the moment I stepped onto Aunt Teri and Uncle Joe’s patio, they taunted me. My eyes darted away, trying my best to ignore them, but I knew they were there. Every summer, my aunt and uncle hosted a huge neighborhood cookout. Mom had warned me on the car ride over to be good. "A little self-control goes a long way." The words still echoed in my head.

Hearing Aunt Teri behind me, my heart began to race. No doubt she had them with her.

You can do this, I reminded myself. You’re better than they are.

“Lizzie,” Aunt Teri called.

Her hand clasped my shoulder. She twirled me around.

“It’s so lovely to see you. And my, look how big you’ve gotten. Chip?”

She thrust the dreaded bowl in my face. They were the kind with ridges. The kind covered with that powdered sour cream and onion stuff I loved. I forced a smile.

“No thanks. I’m good.”

She shrugged and began to walk away.

“Wait!” I yelled. “I mean …” Rushing over to her, I dug my chubby fingers into the bowl, emerging with a fistful of my forbidden fare. “Maybe just a couple. Thanks.”

My eyes darted up, meeting my mother’s glare through Aunt Teri’s kitchen window. I threw the chips in the trash and grabbed a piece of celery off of the veggie tray instead. My hand lingered over the dip, but knew mom could see and quickly moved it away. I was in for a long afternoon.




Versus




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

Query:

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 Cinderella into a deathly slumber.

Determined to save her mother’s life, Penelope searches for the origin of the mysterious poison. Once upon a time, an antidote 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 travel into the forbidden Beanstalk Forest. Penelope’s wish to explore Fablewood becomes a race to find the antidote ingredients to wake her mother before she sleeps forever after.

First 250:

Glass slippers made terrible frog-capturing shoes. Each footstep clink-clinked on the stepping stones or slurped in the mushy mud. Plus, the cold glass pinched my toes. I kicked them off my feet and dropped to the ground to peer through the rose bush. A small, green frog lay stretched out on the edge of the wishing well, belly up to the sun.

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

I tightened the sash around my slingshot before squeezing under the bush. 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, and relaxed. He hadn’t heard me. The frog was mine. 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 slimy beastie was no match for her.

“Surrender!” I sprang to my feet. Only a wet spot glistened on the stones. “Rotten peas!”

As I leaned over the well, searching for the frog, he leaped from his hiding spot beside a broken stone onto my shoulder.

“Gotcha, Princess Penelope!” Smirking, he poked my cheek with a twig.

 I glared into his scum-colored, googly eyes. “Phib! When did you know I was coming?"

 “I saw you leave the castle.” Phib flourished the twig like a fencing sword, bowed, and strolled down my arm. The dank smell of algae mixed with jasmine tickled my nose: eau de Phib.

23 comments :

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

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Be Grateful For Cookies
      I think there's still room for more detail in the query. Who's bullying her? What mishaps exactly? And what specifically does she stand to lose if the fashion show goes poorly? I do like the 250, although I question whether the initial misdirection (that is, that she implies her aunt and uncle are taunting her when it's really the chips) isn't potentially confusing.

      Perfectly Imperfect Princess
      Overall I think both the query and 250 are working well. It might be helpful in the query to note *why* Cinderella won't let her daughter outside the castle walls (for example, is it simply overprotective parenting, or is there real danger?). I also think the narrative voice could be a bit stronger.

      This is a tough match-up, but I have to choose, so it's going to be victory to Perfectly Imperfect Princess!

      Delete
    2. This is the kind of matchup I dread judging.

      You both have excellent queries, and anything I would offer is simply quibbling over minor details. Well done!

      The 250s are also very strong, and I want to keep reading both of these. To cast my vote, I’m going to go with the one whose voice pulled me in a little more…

      VICTORY TO BE GRATEFUL FOR COOKIES!

      Delete
    3. Replying as Chief Doodler!!

      Plus Size:

      A well written query, the only thing is a repeat line in the first paragraph. I love the premise of this one, and I thought the writing sample matched the strength of the query!!

      My only wish is have a bit more emotion in the 250 words. What does she think when her mother glares after she picked up the chips? What does she think right before she throws the chips away?

      Penelope Charming and the Poisoned Glass Slippers:

      Another great query! So much whimsical and fairy tale fun. The sample pulled me into the story and I want to hear what happens next.

      WINNER GOES TO PENELOPE CHARMING! :)

      Delete
    4. From CatAttack

      BE GRATEFUL FOR COOKIES

      The query had me chuckling at 'Doomed to a life of flax seed and broccoli.' There is an oops -- the repeating line in paragraph 1 (I assume it's a cut and paste glitch). I loved the flow of the query -- we get the character, set-up and stakes in a wonderful 'voicy' way. (I'm already rooting for Lizzie to find her strength through fashion.) In the first 250, minor point, but need to capitalize M in '..but knew (m)Mom could...' I like the way you show her Aunt's mixed message -- calling her 'big' then offering potato chips. Perhaps give us a sense of how this feels to Lizzie -- this moment and her mom's disapproval. The opening does a good job establishing the world Lizzie must navigate.

      PERFECTLY IMPERFECT PRINCESS
      Great set-up and voice in the query. The query says Penelope's in a 'race to find antidote ingredients' but I didn't get a true sense of a ticking clock here. Perhaps add something in to let us know if Cinderella isn't cured within x number of days the curse become permanent. The opening 250 was charming. I loved the 'One happily ever after...two...' -- excellent world-building.

      I hadn't seen either of these entries before and this was a tough call...

      VICTORY TO BE GRATEFUL FOR COOKIES

      Delete
    5. Ooh, both entries are new to me... yay for fresh eyes!

      PLUS-SIZE

      I love the concept of the story and voice in the query. My only concern (and it's possible I'm just being subjective and/or super picky), is the emphasis on Lizzie's motivation as being totally and completely food-oriented. I'd love to get a hint of WHY she is food-focused: is it a form of rebellion against her mum? Does she stress-eat? Both? Of course, it could be she just *likes* to eat, and that's fine in the book, but in the query, I'd worry it would make her come across as one-dimensional.

      The first 250 are very cute and the voice and tone match the query perfectly. I also love how it sets up the conflict with the mum right away! I'm afraid I have no useful feedback for you here.

      PENELOPE CHARMING AND THE POISONED GLASS SLIPPERS

      This is super cute. I see no major issues with the query: it's voice-y and effectively introduces us to the MC, the plot and stakes. My only quibble is the introduction of her bestie, Red so late in the query. I would either introduce this friend earlier, or not bother mentioning their name at all.

      I really love your first 250. Does a great job of introducing your MC (plus, I laughed out loud at "One happily ever after... two happily ever after... three happily ever after..."

      Man, how can I pick one of these two??? They're both very effective in their own way and their first 250s are friggin' strong...

      OK... OK....

      Victory to... BE GRATEFUL FOR COOKIES!

      Delete
    6. I remember Be Grateful For Cookies from an earlier round! Query's improved, but we still don't know what she stands to lose if she fails in her fashions endeavor.

      Perfectly Imperfect Princess is another great entry. Voice is on-point, concept is original and fun.

      I want to vote for both. It's tearing me apart, but since I HAVE to choose one, and Cookies resonates so much with me, so VICTORY TO BE GRATEFUL FOR COOKIES!

      Delete
    7. COOKIES - still in love with this concept and the revisions are spot on. The 250 makes me nod, you've really nailed it. My only concern is you've given away the MC's decision on her clothing line, which removes the stakes and the tension. An easy fix. PRINCESS is very well-crafted and I love the attention to detail and the fairy tale voice. However, for me, the issue is the voice in both the query and 250 - it comes off younger than MG and that makes me worried that it's the whole book.

      Victory to COOKIES!

      Delete
    8. BE GRATEFUL FOR COOKIES
      What a cute premise! I love how Lizzie went to a club for one thing, but came out doing something awesome! The voice is great and I can tell this would be a fun but inspirational read just from the query! Good job! And the 250 read well and I love her voice!!

      PERFECTLY IMPERFECT PRINCESS

      Man this is adorable! I didn't get to read this one in the first round. Don't really have anything to add on the query except maybe add something about why Cinderella won't let her out of the castle. The 250 are great! Love the phrase, "Rotten peas!"

      Both of these were fantastic and I would enjoy reading them both. But I can only pick one.

      VICTORY TO PERFECTLY IMPERFECT PRINCESS

      Delete
    9. Be Grateful For Cookies

      Query: You have some really great voice in here which is great. I feel as though we’re missing a bit in the stakes though. What does Lizzie have to lose?

      250: The first line confused me for a second, since it sounded like her Aunt and Uncle were taunting her. Consider rewording that. Other than that the 250 is spot on. Great job!

      Perfectly Imperfect Princess

      Query: I seriously love this query! 100% would pick up this book. Assuming Cinderella married Prince Charming, and if Charming was used as a last name, I wonder if there’s some play you can make on that with her “charmed life” or “charm” school. Love the addition of Jack and Red and how you’re combining fairytales. My only question would be about the stakes—is there a time limit? Does she only have XX hours, or XX days to find the antidote? If so I’d add that in to increase the stakes.

      250: The first line tripped me up for a second. Frog “capturing” made me think she was trying to capture the frogs *in* the shoes. Could just be me though. When she’s counting should they be happily ever afters? Plural? Next line, the “she was Princess Penelope…” I’m not a huge fan of. The way it switches to third person reads a bit odd to me. Other than that I think this 250 is very strong, filled with voice, and I love the talking frog! Bravo.

      Another tough matchup! VICTORY TO PERFECTLY IMPERFECT PRINCESS!

      Delete
    10. Both of these entries are amazing and both writers have done such a great job polishing them up. This really is a tough match up. For me, the voice in COOKIES resonated a bit more.

      Victory to Be Grateful For Cookies!

      Delete
    11. Two wonderful entries! Congratulations to both

      COOKIES
      What a wonderful query. I love the personality you convey in such a short space. My only note is that I can't understand how someone would mistake a sewing class for a cooking class.

      PRINCESS
      What an adventure! I like the twist on a classic take. I want a tiny bit more about the villain and why he has that goal. If you need to free up some space, we probably don't need the blow-by-blow of how the shoes were shattered. Just tell us that your princess's thirst for adventure led to that, which is the setup for the main conflict.

      Great work to both authors. Victory to COOKIES!

      Delete
    12. I POSTED THIS IN THE WRONG PLACE ORIGINALLY SORRY!

      Critique: Be Grateful For Cookies
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      Query:
      ----
      I liked it the first time, and I think it is improved even more now. Again my main and only concern is that the phrases are a bit boring. I’d really encourage them to be smarter/more specific.
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      First 250 words:
      ----
      Also good work here, but I am sad to see my suggestion of having Lizzie notice something about her mother/aunt’s fashion did not make it in. I think it would be a good way to quickly introduce she has an eye for that kind of thing.
      ===================================
      Critique: Perfectly Imperfect Princess
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      Query:
      ----
      Pretty solid, but your final paragraph could be better. I don’ t think “. Once upon a time, an antidote existed.” Is remotely necessary. I find the introduction of Jack so late to be a bit odd. Who is this person? When does he show up? Also, are we to assume Red, is the rival princes? I think you could better connect the plot points you’ve got here. However it’s basically 85% there!
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      First 250 words:
      ---
      I had to check what the reading level was here. I’m not sure if I’m just dumb or what, but I found the writing to be a bit jarring. Penelope appears to refer to herself in 3rd person, but it sounds so odd, I was confused what tense this was in. Also…I wasn’t quite sure for the first few lines that Phib was talking. Also I assume Phib is the one saying Surrender? And I’m not sure WHAT “Rotten peas” is a reference to. Overall, this was a bit convoluted. I like the whole feel of the novel, but you would really benefit from clarifying the beats of the scene to the reader.

      ===================================
      Verdict: It’s hard for me here, because I think both are strong. Imperfect Princess certainly has the bones to be a big draw, but so does Be Grateful For Cookies. Ultimately, I have to go with Be Grateful For Cookies as it seems more polished.
      ===================================
      WINNER GOES TO: Be Grateful For Cookies

      Delete
  2. Spunky middle grade girls! Yes, please!
    I adore both of these and could see them both up on the shelves soon.
    That said, I have to choose the one I feel is a tad bit more polished at the moment. VICTORY TO BE GRATEFUL FOR COOKIES

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  3. These both sound beyond adorable! We're just cheerleading this round, right?!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Be Grateful for Cookies: Great voice in the query. The final paragraph reads a little "synopsis-y" for me. I think you've got all the elements here (goal, obstacles, stakes), but in the way they're laid out, it feels like the emphasis is on the message (Be You, size doesn't matter) instead of on Lizzie herself. But that might just be my personal preference for a punchy query and nothing more. Loved the concept and the voice of the 250. I'm already rooting for Lizzie!

    Perfectly Imperfect Princess:
    Your query is really strong and I can't see any changes I'd suggest. And your first line is one of the best I've ever read. Love it.

    Glad I'm not judging this one!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Both of these entries are so great. I love the strong girl-power themes of each.
    COOKIES: Your descriptions are spot on and made me smile, then I cringed wondering how many still-developing 13 yr old girls are currently doomed to a life of flaxseed and broccoli! This story is so timely and so necessary; I can't wait until it's published so I can give a copy to my adolescent daughter.
    250: I've never read about anyone being taunted by chips. You set the stage perfectly and your writing is flawless. I wish you the best!

    PRINCESS: What a fantastic premise! I love the concept of Cinderella having a mischievous daughter. My only teeny critique is that the line about the smashed slippers seems just a little bit anticlimactic. My guess (and this is just a guess -- so hard to only see this small sample) is that the slippers breaking is a major plot point. Maybe??
    250: OF COURSE the frog can talk! You've created a wildly imaginative fantasy world in just a few paragraphs. This has the fun of "Shrek" and the heart of a Disney classic. Love it, love it.
    The absolute very best to you both!!

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  6. This is such an unfair match-up, I want both books now! No suggestions, just kudos at how far you've both come and how far you'll no doubt go! Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  7. This match-up is killer. Both entries are amazing just in different ways. The voice in plus-size is poignant and heart-wrenching and I automatically feel and love the character. The voice in Penelope is fun and imaginative.

    Plus-size gets my vote!

    ReplyDelete
  8. BE GRATEFUL FOR COOKIES
    Query:
    Strong query with some fun voice. I really don't have any criticisms, although I am a bit confused as to why an cooking club also incorporates sewing seemingly at random.
    250:
    Very solid here. You've got great voice and descriptions. I can almost picture and smell the chips and the sounds of Lizzie digging her fingers around in them. It ends on a good note as well, and really works almost as a whole scene on its own. Nicely done.

    PERFECTLY IMPERFECT PRINCESS
    Query:
    You have nice voice that comes through here in some creative word and sentence choices. I also like the fact that Penelope gets what she wanted (adventure), but in the worst way possible. Good setup of stakes and conflict.
    250:
    Good voice here. I like the moment where her dress tears and she freezes. I initially thought she was panicked about ruining it, but it was just because she was afraid of startling the frog away with the noise! The frog actually talking and being a friend with the princess was another unexpected and cute surprise.

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  9. Critique: Be Grateful For Cookies
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    Query:
    ----
    I liked it the first time, and I think it is improved even more now. Again my main and only concern is that the phrases are a bit boring. I’d really encourage them to be smarter/more specific.
    ----
    First 250 words:
    ----
    Also good work here, but I am sad to see my suggestion of having Lizzie notice something about her mother/aunt’s fashion did not make it in. I think it would be a good way to quickly introduce she has an eye for that kind of thing.
    ===================================
    Critique: Perfectly Imperfect Princess
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    Query:
    ----
    Pretty solid, but your final paragraph could be better. I don’ t think “. Once upon a time, an antidote existed.” Is remotely necessary. I find the introduction of Jack so late to be a bit odd. Who is this person? When does he show up? Also, are we to assume Red, is the rival princes? I think you could better connect the plot points you’ve got here. However it’s basically 85% there!
    ---
    First 250 words:
    ---
    I had to check what the reading level was here. I’m not sure if I’m just dumb or what, but I found the writing to be a bit jarring. Penelope appears to refer to herself in 3rd person, but it sounds so odd, I was confused what tense this was in. Also…I wasn’t quite sure for the first few lines that Phib was talking. Also I assume Phib is the one saying Surrender? And I’m not sure WHAT “Rotten peas” is a reference to. Overall, this was a bit convoluted. I like the whole feel of the novel, but you would really benefit from clarifying the beats of the scene to the reader.

    ===================================
    Verdict: It’s hard for me here, because I think both are strong. Imperfect Princess certainly has the bones to be a big draw, but so does Be Grateful For Cookies. Ultimately, I have to go with Be Grateful For Cookies as it seems more polished.
    ===================================
    WINNER GOES TO: Be Grateful For Cookies

    ReplyDelete
  10. Jess GulbrandsenJune 22, 2017 at 3:32 PM

    Grateful For Cookies: The query and 250 are really strong. My only comment would be that the term "forbidden fare" may be confusing for a middle grade reader.

    Perfectly Imperfect Princess: Great story. My only possible suggestion would be to change "fencing sword" to simply "sword."

    ReplyDelete
  11. Be Grateful for Cookies

    Query - I like the attitude in this.Lizzie's dilemma and her determination come through well.

    250 - Embarrassing confession: The first time I read and critiqued this, I didn't get that the "them" Lizzie's worried about are the chips her aunt is carrying. I thought she was expecting actual bullies (since they're mentioned in the query). This time, I got it right away, and now I appreciate the first page much better. It's a situation anyone who's ever dieted can understand, so it draws the reader in quickly. Well done.

    Perfectly Imperfect Princess

    Query - I do love the voice in this. It shows through beautifully and makes Penelope come right off the page.

    250 - I was confused about the glass slippers she's wearing to catch frogs. Are they the same ones a rival princess is going to dare her to steal? Is that why she's wearing them now? As is, it reads like wearing her mom's glass slippers is no big deal. Or am I misunderstanding? (See above for how that's not beyond the realm of possibility.) Otherwise, it's fun and light-hearted with a stellar middle grade voice.

    ReplyDelete