Jun 1, 2018

QK Round 1: Bite Me, PTSD VS I Wish I Was White

Title: More Than Meets the Eye
Entry Nickname: Bite Me, PTSD
Word Count: 79,000
Genre: Contemporary YA


When seventeen-year-old Cordelia sees a video of the explosion that killed her dad, she relives it in her nightmares and becomes terrified of fire. The counselor she’s forced to see suspects PTSD. Cordelia thinks the diagnosis and recommended treatment are ridiculous. How the heck will watching a light move back and forth fix anything?

The only way her dad would be proud of her is to kickbox the fear away, Muay Thai-style, but sweat and a stiff spine are no match for the panic attacks and sleep deprivation. An accident from falling asleep at the wheel scares Cordelia into trying the eye movement therapy, and there’s a bright side. The hot guy named Gino from the waiting room shares her pop punk interests.

Cordelia begins to let her guard down in therapy—and with Gino—until she discovers a past connection that unlocks key memories. To find the cause of her PTSD, Cordelia must face the truth about the father she’s always idolized, or she’ll never regain her trademark confidence and hang onto Gino, the musical soul mate she’s been hoping for.

My manuscript combines the mental health struggle of Tamara Ireland Stone’s Every Last Word with a dose of humor and characters reminiscent of Robyn Schneider’s The Beginning of Everything.

First 250:

The state of Texas saw fit to give me a driver’s license yesterday and Mom congratulated me with a new car—her old red Ford Festiva, aka The Clown Car. Despite the suck factor of the rundown hatchback, I’m psyched. Now I can drive myself to shows and concerts.

In fact, there’s a pop punk band in Austin I’d love to see tonight, if I hadn’t already made plans with Meagan, my country music-loving best friend. But, hopefully we’ll have a good time wherever we go. Until then, I have one class left.

I walk into World History and there’s a sub writing on the board: Man-Made DISASTERS! Floods. Fires. Explosions.

Uh oh. I can’t let this sabotage my efforts in avoiding what tomorrow is … the fourth anniversary of Dad’s death.

Music will save me. I take a seat and reach inside my backpack, fingers groping for my earbuds. They should be right here. “Oh no, I left them in the car,” I grumble. I’ll just have to tune the sub out. Mind over matter, Dad always said. I can do this.

But after a lecture, the sub shows a video of disasters, and our local power plant comes on the screen, making my blood run cold. “Evansburg, Texas,” the narrator says. “Five dead.”

Above the cluster of buildings, dirty brown smoke rises from a big, flickering light that pulses to the hum of unleashed energy from a blown transformer. I’m frozen, seeing this for the first time, yet with such a sense of déjà vu.


Title: East of Maplewood
Entry Nickname: I Wish I Was White
Word Count: 80,000
Genre: YA (OwnVoices)


Adam Hollander doesn’t want to be black like his mom. And if he’s being completely honest, he doesn’t want to be white like his dad, either. He just wants to be Adam. But in the black and white world he’s constructed in his head, where does the heavy metal loving, film connoisseur, self-proclaimed Oreo, “Adam” really fit in?

On a winter day in upper-middle class Sparta NJ, Adam Hollander just kissed the hottest girl in school. It’s the best day of his life. That is until he learns that his dad is being accused of…something. Flash-forward two years and his family has relocated to the extremely poor, urban neighborhood of Irvington NJ where Adam suffers an identity crisis. But that’s not all, as his father has never truly recovered from being railroaded over a crime he claims he never committed. Adam wants nothing more than to live a normal, happy life again, and he meets some new friends who help him through his transition. But when his father’s past resurfaces, it pushes him to the brink. And when Adam learns about his father’s plans to shoot up his high school, he has to decide who to trust: friends or family.

First 250:

“Aren’t you worried about her dad finding out?” my best friend, Anthony, asks me. I’m sitting beside him on his bed while he plays The Evil Within on his X-Box One. He gets a new game every week and shrugs it off like it’s nothing. “You know he’s racist, right?”

You see, this is why I wish I was white. Then Anthony wouldn’t say dumb shit like this to me on a regular basis.

“Who told you that?” I ask, trying to play it off.

Anthony’s eyes remain locked on the game, so he can’t see me biting my nails.

“Well, her dad’s a Republican, and my dad says that Republicans hate black people.”

“That’s not true. My mom’s a Republican, and she’s black, so…”

Your mom’s a Republican?” Anthony nearly drops his controller and his eyes go wide like I just said my mom is Emperor Palpatine or something. “I didn’t know that.”

“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean anything.”

“Alright, fine,” Anthony says. “It doesn’t mean anything. But spill. How’d you kiss Jessica on the stairs today? You get tongue?”

Just my luck Anthony turns his head at the exact moment that I’m blushing hard. But this is one of the few instances where I like being black. He probably can’t even tell. When he blushes, his whole face turns raspberry red, and he even looks like a raspberry with all that facial hair. “I gave her my Christmas present.”


“Annnndd she kind of looked at me like


  1. Judges, please respond with your feedback and vote here! Good luck!

    1. PTSD:
      There's some really good stuff here. I think you could make it clear why her romance is so important to her. Is it going to help her heal in some way? In terms of the 250, there's some "telling" like "I was psyched" etc and some cliches like "my blood ran cold." I'd recommend going deeper into how exactly she felt. I.e. my leg bounced in excitement at the the thought of going to the concert...

      MAPLEWOOD: In general, try to avoid questions in Queries like "Does Adam fit in?" Also, I'd recommend finding more specific language for things like "a happy life," what does that mean to Adam? Can you be more specific than "identity crisis?" Also, try to avoid cliches like "pushing to the brink." Based on how good the 250 is, I know you can be more specific and make us really root for Adam in the query. In terms of his dad shooting the school, what is the conflict? Does he have to choose whether to turn his dad in or not? Or believe if he's capable of doing that? As of now, of course he would save people. Make the question/conflict sound harder.

      The 250 is in really good shape. Totally believable teenage voice. Great job.


    2. Bite Me, PTSD

      Your query is pretty solid! I agree with Good Janet, my only quibble is it’s not clear to me how facing the truth about her father will help her hang onto Gino.

      This hops around a lot quickly: new car, the concert, school, and then her dad’s death. I’d like it to settle into the character a little more and have a chance to connect to her emotions. The first sentence/paragraph are your chance to make an impact and set the tone – maybe you could open with her watching that video footage and feeling overwhelmed?

      I Wish I Was White

      I’d avoid rhetorical questions, but that’s easy to re-phrase as a statement. I think the first and second paragraphs would flow better out if you remove the first couple lines of the second paragraph and go straight to Adam’s identity crisis (since the bulk of the story seems to happen after the flash-forward) and then explain he’s struggling with past accusations against his father. I’m a little confused about the phrasing of the last line. Does he learn his father IS going to shoot up the school, or is there a rumor and he must decide whom to believe?

      Great voice! I kind of wish it opened more on Adam than his friend, but that opening line really grabs you. Especially loved:

      “Your mom’s a Republican?” Anthony nearly drops his controller and his eyes go wide like I just said my mom is Emperor Palpatine or something. “I didn’t know that.”

      I LOL’d. But now I need to know what she looked at him like!

      This was tough, but I’m going with the better query (since this QK ;)…


    3. Comments for PTSD:

      Regarding the query: the first sentence falls a little flat for me. Maybe cut "and becomes terrified of fire" or replace it with something a bit more punchy? The rest flows really well, but that first line is the one that needs to hook the reader.

      Regarding the first 250, I might lose "aka the Clown Car." Also, the paragraph beginning with "Uh oh" is a bit on the nose for my tastes. Maybe consider reworking this to be a bit more emotional and a bit less explanatory? Also, in the next graph, is "grumble" really the word you're looking for? She should be verging on panic, right?

      Other than those points, this is solid. I know what the book is about, and I've got a good sense of your writing style. Well done.

      Comments for Maplewood:

      Regarding the query: I'm having a bit of a rough go with this one. Adam's father is accused of "...something" and then he's planning to shoot up a high school? I feel like I need more to go on than this, because that's a pretty crazy leap. Moreover, if Adam actually learns that his father is planning something like that, is there really a question over where his loyalties lie? If so, he's kind of a monster himself, no?

      Regarding the first 250: this flows really well, with the exception that you cut off in the middle of a sentence. Generally word limits like this aren't meant to be taken literally. You can either end it a bit short of the limit or go a hair over in order to end on a complete thought. Other than that, though, I like what you've got here.

      Both these queries are technically very solid. At the end of the day, though, I don't feel like I understand the plot of Maplewood well enough to be able to have confidence in the book.

      Victory to PTSD.

    4. Earthbound MisfitJune 3, 2018 at 5:24 PM

      Bite Me:

      Query: Strong query with a clear story structure—I like the balance between the main mental health/personal quest storyline and the hint at a romantic subplot. Cordelia's personality comes through clearly in the query, and I'm intrigued by the mystery of her PTSD and its origins in her father's death.

      1st 250: The humor you hinted at in the query is nicely revealed in the first 250, and Cordelia's narrative voice is clear. However, I think you could do more showing than telling when it comes to her PTSD in particular. For instance, the line "Uh oh. I can’t let this sabotage my efforts in avoiding what tomorrow is … the fourth anniversary of Dad’s death" popped out at me because I think you could make the reader really FEEL what she's feeling, and reveal the information about WHY a little later—possibly moving "the fourth anniversary of Dad's death" to the very end of the section you've shown us here.

      Wish I Was White:

      Query: This is a very intriguing and topical story premise, with a clearly described main character and an exciting ramping-up of the plot action. However, I think the query structure could be tweaked a bit to be even more effective. The way it's currently worded, with a question at the end of the first paragraph, makes it seem like there's a split between Adam's inner and outer struggles in the story. My suggestion would be to change that question to a statement, and then end the first paragraph with the hot-girl kiss, which presumably makes Adam feel like finally he IS fitting in… And then, in the second paragraph, it all changes!

      1st 250: Excellent, really believable dialogue here—you quickly establish a sense of Adam as a narrator and the personal/political struggles that are centrally important to him, but also keep the dialogue and overall tone light, and true to a teenage narrator. The sample cuts off midsentence, though. In the interests of the length limit, you could cut it off after "And?"

      A tough choice—Bite Me, PTSD had a slightly stronger query, but I Wish I Was White had a really impressive first 250.

      Victory to I Wish I Was White!

    5. BITE ME, PTSD
      Ok. I have PTSD, so this intrigues me. Thoughts: how is she "forced" into therapy? And I'm confused that, although she's forced into the eye-movement therapy (I forget the name, I've done it too), she doesn't actually try it until after the accident?

      I'm also confused about unlocking the memories that cause her PTSD. How is the cause in question? Her dad died in an explosion, and she's afraid of fire. Do the memories show a deeper reason?

      I'd also ask you be a little careful how you talk about the repressed-memory thing. Although I have first-hand experience of how PTSD can cause you to forget details, the actual "repressed memory" thing (where folks have complete amnesia of a traumatic event) is extremely rare, and was shown to mostly be snake oil (and actual "implanted memories" by morally-iffy therapists). I will still remember details...it's like I haven't forgotten, I just haven't thought about it for a long time.

      I walk into World History and there’s a sub writing on the board: Man-Made DISASTERS! Floods. Fires. Explosions. [I’d set the text off either with italics or quotes.]

      This is good writing!


      This is a lot of moving around in time for a query. You drop us into an actual scene on that winter day, then actively flash us forward. I think it would read more comfortably if you say something like, “Life was perfect back when they lived in upper-middle-class Sparta, NJ. But when Adam’s dad is accused of a crime he swears he didn’t commit, they’re forced to relocate…

      I’d take out the “But that’s not all”

      I think you can strengthen the stakes here. I would imagine that he wants to find a way to save his family and his friends…even if that’s not possible. This doesn’t sound like a matter of trust, it sounds like a matter of life and death.

      These are good words. I'm getting really complex character development already.


      I'm gonna have to go with VICTORY TO WISH I WAS WHITE.

    6. Mrs. Will HerondaleJune 4, 2018 at 3:45 PM

      Bite Me, PTSD

      Query: Overall, well done. I think you could cut some fluff words and streamline a bit. Maybe combine the first two paragraphs and cut out any extra stuff we don’t have to know yet—like maybe the kickboxing bit.

      First 250: I think the writing in your First 250 is great, but I had a bit of a hard time believing that a school/teacher would show a video depicting the death of a student’s parent. I guess that’s the reason for having a sub, but still, if the event happened in that community, that seems pretty thick-headed. That aside, maybe we could experience the PTSD a little more with her…what does she actually experience vs. just saying Uh oh to herself.

      I Wish I Was White

      Query: Wow. There’s a lot going on in this query, but I’m intrigued. Race issues, school shootings, etc. I think we need some more specifics though. Is there a reason you say he’s accused of “something” instead of just telling us what it is? Maybe you could clarify the stakes a little more at the end because I think the choice is clear that if his dad is going to shoot up his school, he should not side with him/family.

      First 250: This is a great 250. Flows well, good dialogue, etc. I think the friend’s reaction to his mom being a Republican is a little over the top, but because Adam also things the reaction is ridiculous, it works. I want to keep reading!


  2. Nathaniel GlanzmanJune 1, 2018 at 5:24 PM

    Bite Me, PTSD:

    This story resonates with me so much because I have PTSD myself. I appreciate that Cordelia's PTSD doesn't go away with Muay Thai or a love interest--this makes it much more believable. I would love to see how she overcomes it, possibly with the help of EMDR! I think your query is very strong, but the first 250 words went by extremely fast. She introduces her family, her friend, her school and the sub's lesson about disasters all in 250 words. I think you could slow that down a bit and let us really sink into her voice. She's got a very believable voice for a teenager! Overall, I'm super excited to see this on the shelves and would love to pick up a copy!

    I...think "I Wish I was White" was supposed to be listed here. When it is, I will return for feedback with that one!

  3. Bite Me, PTSD

    The first line of the query really sucked me in. The fun love interest lightens the otherwise serious subject matter, which I like. I think it’s important we have more stories highlighting mental health issues and this one sounds interesting and believable.

    I recommend the first sentence jump right into the PTSD issue, since that’s what your story is really all about. Maybe start with the shock of walking into the disaster lecture, or the power plant video, or talk about tomorrow being the anniversary of the death. Draw me into the conflict (the struggle with PTSD) right away.

    I also recommend you show me her emotions more than tell me about them. Instead of telling me she’s psyched, explain what she did: jumped up and down, pumped her fist, etc. Show me how she feels when she sees the topic in school: bile rises in her throat, her heart sinks, skin crawls, starts to panic, sweat, etc. Check out The Emotion Thesaurus for more on this. It’s been a huge help for me.

    I wish I was White:

    I was shocked by the last sentence of your query, in a good way, but I wish you included more about this. Why is he planning to do this? Is your MC going to try and stop him? (I hope so!) I like that the internal struggle of your MC is clear, but what is his external struggle? Is he going to try to stop his Dad? Etc.? I’d like to hear more of the plot - - what your MC is going to do about his sucky circumstances.

    I thought the first 250 were fun. We need more books about teen boys!

    Good luck to both of you!

  4. Bite Me, PTSD:
    I think you’ve got a solid query. You might try for a shorter, snappier “hook” for your opener. Something that catches the eye, but I think maybe you’re trying to pack too much into it, so it loses some of its impact. I like that we get pops of the MC’s voice woven in (like “kickbox the fear away, Muay Thai-style”). Maybe even try working in some more of it.

    As for your 250, again, I think we get a good sense of the MC’s voice. There are these pithy little micro-commentaries on the world around her, and I think it’s a lot of fun. That being said, you give the reader a lot to chew on in a very short period of time. New car, shows and concerts, favorite band, plans with friend, World history, father’s death, music … it would be cool to slow down a little bit and spend some time with some of the information we’re getting.

    I Wish I Was White:
    I love the opener. It’s short, snappy, and it gives us a taste of what some of your conflict’s going to be. I think you would benefit from turning your rhetorical question into a statement, just because RQ’s are so hit-or-miss. Also try to avoid phrases like “pushes him to the bring.” They’re a little vague, and then you follow it up with a powerful line like “learns about his father’s plans to shoot up his high school,” so it feels kind of unnecessary. I think that last line can carry the stakes for you just fine, because wow.

    On to the 250 … The Evil Within!! I love that game. I have an almost Pavlovian response to that mirror music now, though. As for the content, I like that you drop us into the middle of his life and we’re seeing some of his internal conflict right off the bat. That being said, there were two nits for me: one, I think you could weave in a little bit more setting description, so the reader’s not flying blind; and two, consider toning back the italics in a few places, so that they don’t lose their effectiveness. Question: did your last sentence get cut off?

  5. Bite Me:


    I like that your query immediately takes us to the heart of the story in the first paragraph. The second paragraph, howvwer, feels a bit random with its details. The kickboxing reference seems out of place. Instead of being so specific with the techniques, why not just call them what they are, tried and failed techniques? The car accident seems to be a clear turning point in her life with regard to her renewed interest in therapy, so this is a detail worth keeping, but would benefit from some polishing. As for Gino, instead of saying "pop punk band"...why not say punk band? Pop punk band sounds too formal for a teen audience. The third paragraph feels a little vague since this is the plot of the story. I'd expand more on this secret, without giving too much away, and how this will conflict with her relationship with Gino beyond her kids of confidence.

    First 250:

    There's a lot of telling vs showing in this sample. We don't get a sense of Cordelias voice. At this point, it sounds more like a narration of her movements. One thing that's very clear from the beginning is her love of music. I'd expand a bit more on that and then,if coarse, the explosion video with more inner dialogue of what it feels like to see this--physically and mentally -- for the first time. Overall, this is the kind of story i love. Emotional and sympathetic. I feel like if I read the book, I'd probably cry at some point.

    Wish I was white:


    I like that Adam's inner conflict is spelled out right away. I think a lot of biracial teens can identify with feeling like this at some point in their lives. Heck, everyone wants to feel like they fit it somewhere. But the second paragraph loses me. I get that you're teasing us with the "something" your dad did, but you kind of have to give us a little more than that. Also did you mean to say fast forward instead of flash forward? The men ruining of his dad shooting up the school also feels abrupt, like where did that come from? Which is why explaining his crime would give more context. Overall, I feel like that aren't enough stakes for Adam at this point. The story seems to stem around his dad and Adam is just along for the ride. The plot has to be bigger than finding an identity, which is a great subplot, but what's the real story here?

    First 250:

    I love a story that drops the reader into the of something, especially a conversation. You waste no time delving into race relations, but I'd pull back on the "this is why I wish I was white" line. We've just met Adam and he's speaking to us as if he's already explained his reasons. Also, in my opinion, the voice feels more feminine than masculine. Not sure if you're a male or female writer, not that it matters, but sometimes it's hard to capture the voice of the opposite sex.

  6. (I’m a fellow Kombatant leaving feedback.)

    BITE ME, Ptsd

    First, have you considered renaming your story “Bite Me, PTSD”? I think it’d be more memorable than “More Than Meets the Eye,” but that’s only one opinion.

    Anyway, I’ve never read a book involving eye movement therapy, so you caught my attention with this. But what caused the explosion that killed her dad? Or, better yet, what type of explosion was it? Hmm… maybe that’s the truth Cordelia is seeking in the 3rd paragraph. If it’s not, consider being more specific in the 1st paragraph. Because there’s a difference between a mining explosion, a bombing, and a suicide bombing.

    **After reading the first 250, I see the type of explosion is not a mystery. Maybe the true cause of it is (arson??), but not the type. That said, consider changing “the explosion” in the first sentence of the query into “the power plant explosion.” Just to paint a clear picture.

    For Cordelia, what does the following mean: “until she discovers a past connection that unlocks key memories.”

    First 250:
    I can’t imagine watching the death of someone I love for educational purposes. My heart hurt for Cordelia. But, like other commenters, I felt like the pace was too fast as the opening encompassed too much. I think it’d be stronger to focus on Cordelia, her need of music, the power plant video, and her trauma. That seems most relevant for the opening, and you hooked my attention with that. I just want to dive even deeper into it.



    These titles vs. their nicknames are becoming a true battle for me! “I Wish I Were White” is more memorable than “East of Maplewood,” but it’s also more controversial. Speaking of controversial, your first paragraph of the query…

    Adam not wanting to be Black at all. Lying to himself that he doesn’t want to be white either. Then self-proclaiming as a racial slur. Wow. That’s not easy to swallow (this coming from a WOC with a Black-and-White niece and nephew). Well, you have my attention, so good!

    2nd para> Consider starting the paragraph with something like, “His identity crisis only gets worse when his dad is accused of XYZ and his family has to relocate to the extremely poor, urban neighborhood of Irvington NJ.” --> I suggest that because the first few sentences of the second paragraph felt like you were restarting the query. Also, being more direct and specific is usually stronger. There are some exceptions to that, but consider just clarifying what his dad is being accused of. Punch us in the stomach with it, so we’re even more gripped by Adam’s situation.

    2nd para> Another area you can be more specific in is clarifying what “normal” means for Adam. And what does “pushes to the brink” mean here? Lastly, for the final sentence, I’m not sure if Adam has to either join his dad or fight against him… Or if it’s just a rumor about his dad… Or if Adam has to decide who to tell about his dad. There are a lot of possibilities, so I think it’d be better to make it clear so readers can get a good sense of what your story is really about.

    First 250:
    Strong opening. Very, very good, and you made me want to read more. But for the second paragraph, Adam is white… and black. So consider changing “white” to “just white” or “only white.”

    Ooh, how I personally hope this won’t ever become a “Love doesn’t see color” book. Imo, love shouldn’t discriminate, but that’s not synonymous with “seeing color.” Love should embrace the fullness of people, similarities and differences, not ignore parts of those individuals. But anyway, of course, that’s not exactly what your book is about, so I’ll step out of my feels.

    Great job with this! And just remember to try to be more specific in that query so it can be even stronger than it already is!

  7. Bite Me PTSD: The query could start off with something a bit "hookier". The line "Cordelia begins to let her guard down in therapy—and with Gino—until she discovers a past connection that unlocks key memories." I'm unsure if you mean a past connection to Gino, or a past connection to something else. Perhaps that could be worded clearer, but apart from that, I think this is well written.
    First 250 has a lot of telling. I feel like I'm reading a list, and I have no sense of her voice. The second paragraph is especially guilty of this. Instead of telling us about her country music loving BFF and that they'll hopefully have a good time no matter what, show it in a convo or something. The pace seems to move far too quickly and you hop from her getting her licence, to introducing her best friend, to her being in class, then suddenly the lecture is already over. That's a lot crammed into 250 words.

    I Wish I Was White: I loved the opening paragraph. Spells out his inner turmoil immediately. But the second paragraph goes off the rails. I want to know what "something" is regarding the dad. The way the opening is set up, it sounded like this was going to be a story about Adam in conflict with himself, but by the end of the second paragraph, it feels like he's just getting strung along with his dad's story.
    However, for as much as I think the second half of your query needs polishing, I enjoyed the first 250 words. I like how he establishes right off about him wishing he was white, but then we get a nice little descriptor about why he also likes being black. The dialouge is well done, and the "backstory" is weaved in nicely where we know what's going on without it being too "telly."

  8. More Than Meets the Eye
    Query: I think your first paragraph is really well done and it hooks me right from the beginning. I also love your comp titles and how you phrased the ways in which your book is similar.
    You say that the book is humorous and I get a dose of that in the query, but I’d like a bit more. There also seems to be a great deal of detail in the second paragraph and I don’t think all of it is necessary.

    First page:
    First paragraph is amazing. I have a super strong sense of who this girl is and what is important to her. The rest of the page tells me too much. I’d love to see this scene unfold without knowing the back story right away. Even if you could save dad’s death to the last line of the first page, I think it would draw me in more. But I love the idea of music being the thing that will save her. That’s really beautiful and I can see that it will be a theme throughout the story.

    Query: Love the first paragraph. I get a strong sense of Adam and I sympathize with him. In the second paragraph, I’m not sure why you leave out what Adam’s father is accused of. It seems it happens early enough in the book that you wouldn’t leave it out. A query leaves out the ending, but the beginning and middle should be clear. I’m intrigued that this deals with a threat of a school shooting. Very topical and of great concern to teenagers. I trust that you will handle this in a way that will be helpful to teens who, no matter where they live, worry about school shootings every. Single. Day. (I’m a teacher.)
    First page: I love the voice in this. I love the Emperor Palpatine reference. I love that you’re dealing with stereotypes straight off the bat. I hear conversations like this every single day in my classroom and these sound like real teenage boys. Probably other people will say it, but don’t chop you’re 250 words in the middle of a sentence. If you have to end your page on “And?” then I’m hooked. I want to know the answer to that question as much as Anthony does.
    Excellent work. I really want to read this book.

  9. Hey both! Great job getting this far—that means your story and pitch are really strong already. I’ll do my best to make constructive comments, but if they don’t resonate with you then feel free to ignore.

    Query: You’ve done a really good job of detailing the key plot points in your query. Cordelia’s arc is well described, & we understand how everything fits together. In terms of improvement, maybe you could be a bit more descriptive about what she sees in the video that sparks off the PTSD (so it’s a bit more visceral). And maybe give us a bit more info about the past connection in the third paragraph. I appreciate that you don’t want to give too much away, but you also don’t want your query to sound too generic either. A bit more detail will help to hook the reader in to find out exactly how Cordelia handles the information—and how specifically it impacts her burgeoning relationship with Gino.

    First 250: Although the voice is strong, I feel like I’m thrown in too quickly. I haven’t really formed an attachment to Cordelia before she is watching the video. Maybe you could show Meagan “admiring” the car before class starts, and show the two friends making plans for what they’re going to do later (alluding to the fact that Cordelia needs to take her mind off things). It would feel like a more natural intro to the backstory than as it is right now. I love the concept though, & I’m super intrigued about how it will all play out.

    Query: You’ve got the voice and character of Adam coming across nicely here. The elevator pitch at the start doesn’t really summarise the book enough though. You need to work in his conflict over his dad’s plans to get the full sense of the story before you expand on the details in the following paragraph. The second para also feels a bit long, maybe you could break it in two so it doesn’t feel too dense.

    First 250: Great voice, again. Nice friendship dynamic between Adam and Anthony too. I think I’d prefer it if the book started with the kiss & Anthony interrupting because he thinks he’s saving Adam’s life from Jessica’s dad. It’d make us feel more invested in the relationship before Adam loses it through his dad’s actions and the move. It’d also make us more annoyed off at Anthony for his dumb opinions. But that’s all I’ve got as far as suggestions. I hope they help ��

    Best of luck, both of you!

  10. Bite Me, PTSD

    The query does a great job of introducing us to Cordelia and her resistance to her recommended treatment. To be honest, facing the truth comes with the stakes of her confidence versus shattering her idolized father image. Her relationship with Gino is a subplot that doesn’t need to factor into the stakes.

    First 250:
    I love the voice in the first paragraph. After that, there is so much information. Maybe have her talking with Meagan about their plans as they walk into the class then she sees what the sub is going to cover at the end of the excerpt with her initial panicked reaction as the last line. As it’s written now, she seems a little too self-aware, when in fact she would probably be anything but.

    Overall, I love the premise. It sounds like a really great story. Good luck!

    I Wish I Was White

    I really like the first three sentences of the first paragraph. I don’t feel like the last sentence needs to be there, especially as a question.

    I don’t think you should be vague with saying his father is accused of “something”. Also, I feel like “pushes him to the brink” is too vague as well. As for the stakes, I think they need to be clarified because right now, his father was accused of something which caused his family to have to move and Adam to have an identity crisis. Add to that, his father wants to shoot up a school? I don’t think Adam his going to trust his “family” in this instance. Why is the choice trusting his friends or his family? Wouldn’t it be something along the lines of turning his dad in or trying to stop his plan?

    First 250:
    This first page was really good. You captured the voice of young adult perfectly. I loved “Your mom’s a Republican?”, but I wouldn’t put it in italics. Just having Anthony stop playing his game for a second is impactful enough. I wouldn’t cut off the last sentence in a submission like this. Either shorten something earlier to fit the sentence in or leave it off entirely.

    This story sounds very interesting and relevant. If you just tighten up the query, you will have a powerful submission. Good luck!

  11. Bite Me, PTSD:

    Well, your query is very interesting! PTSD is an important topic and since someone close to me deals with it, I'd love to read more books discussing it. You certainly have strong voice in the query, especially in the "treatment are ridiculous" part. I'm not too sure about the question though because I know agents are generally against those in queries. I would suggest expanding on the "falling asleep at the wheel" bcus it seems important since it pushes her to do the therapy. Try to make it more shocking and emotional. Maybe: "When she falls asleep while driving..." - play around with it some more. The "and there's a bright side" part seems off in that sentence. Maybe remove it and find another way to connect Gino. The "past connection" part sounds like its linked to Gino - if that's not the case, then perhaps try rephrasing. The "hang onto Gino" also sounds like awkward phrasing so perhaps try to rephrase that to show the romance aspect more. I'm curious as to the context behind the explosion? Was it war? Or in the neighbourhood? Maybe adding a small line about it would help set the context more. But overall, your query is quite wonderful!

    For your first 250, it definitely peaked my interest! I would suggest adding together some parts so there aren't too many short paragraphs - the 'uh oh' with the previous para. Also, the 'tomorrow is' part - expand on that. That's important details. Show us more about her emotions. You can cut back on some of the previous details because it jumps around, from the car to the bestfriend - not quite as important. Maybe jump straight to "The sub writes on the board: Man-Made...." as the start? As for the dialogue (Oh no, I left..), maybe try leaving it as internal dialogue and add an action - I let out a sigh/my shoulders dropped etc. I would also suggest adding more description to her reactions of the video. I also didn't quite get the "flickering light that pulses to the hum..." part - maybe rephrase to add more details about the explosions. Show the horror of the scene more. But other than that, your writing is quite splendid and engaging! Feel free to use whatever suggestions you want.

    I wish i was white:

    I absolutely love the start! You've hooked me to read on! ! I can relate as someone stuck between two different cultures - it's quite a struggle to understand. I'm not too sure about adding the details of "winter day" etc. because it doesn't seem relevant. Maybe jump straight to "When Adam kisses the hottest girl in school, it's the best day of his life. Until he learns that...." - however, i would suggest adding a detail about his crime here. Agents like specifics, not vague ideas. Since you already brought up the identity crisis in the first para, its repeated here. Some words can be cut down and rephrased to create a stronger impact. You can leave out the location names and you don't need to use his full name twice. "His father never recovered from being accused of the crime, but all Adam wants is to be with his new friends and live a normal life." I think you should break this up into one more para to add details about the friends because they need to be discussed in order for the stakes to have emotional impact. In that manner, try to link the first para to the next one because it seems like the second one has the plot in it.

    As for your 250 words, it's quite good! There's voice and so much character brought out with the internal narration & dialogue! Definitely captures the aspects of a boy, even with the blush part - I have a teen bro and we have made fun of him for blushing when he talked about a girl. So, overall - your writing is really strong!