Tuesday, May 24, 2016

May Pass Or Pages Entry #2

Welcome to our feedback reveal for Pass Or Pages. In this contest, randomly chosen entries were critiqued by our agent panel. We hope it will give everyone a sense of what is going on in an agent's head as they read queries and first pages. We're so grateful to the members of the agent panel who gave their time to provide feedback on these entries. We'd also like to thank the entrants. It's hard to put yourself out there. Thanks for being brave!


Entry #2: ARTIFICIAL WINGS (78,000 words)

QUERY

All his life, Carus has longed to fly in the sky with wings of his own. If only he'd been born a girl.... [RW1]

In Carus's world, girls are born with wings and the gender roles are reversed [RW2]: boys take home-ec, learn to cook, and are expected to look pretty, while girls show off their strong wings, play Skyball in the air [RW3] for gym class, and perch themselves on ceiling-chairs in the cafeteria to catcall down to boys. 

Carus feels like he's the only boy in school who dreams of having wings. He wants to fly and be able to do everything the girls do, but he has to keep those feeling buried deep inside. Boys can't fly, and that's just the way it is.

Until now. An extremely controversial invention - artificial wings for men - makes Carus's dream into a possible reality. What's more, the doctor who invented them comes to Carus's town to correct a mistake that she made years ago: removing the wings Carus had at birth. [MF1] [RW4] [EK1]

It will cost Carus his friends, his family, and everything else to confront his rigid society and get his wings back. But along the way he'll make an important discovery: even if you're different, you're never alone.

ARTIFICIAL WINGS is complete at 78,000 words [RW5]. It has gender themes relevant to today's youth [MF2] market, and can also be enjoyed simply as alternate-reality fiction.
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Moe's notes:
[MF1] So this doesn’t follow your premise that only girls are born with wings. Is this a transgender or intersex book?
[MF2] MG? YA? It’s a bit long for me for MG, but honestly the query reads a lot more like YA than MG.
[MF] I appreciate getting some world building in here, but be careful there’s not too much that you lose valuable real-estate to tell us about your plot!

Roseanne's notes:
[RW1] This use of ellipsis isn’t correct, and doesn’t add much to the meaning of the sentence.
[RW2] Books that reverse our world’s (race/gender/sexuality/ability/neurodiversity) power imbalances can be really problematic because the reader is on this earth, not in an ideal world where the genders are equal. It usually ends up making the author look na├»ve and unaware of the deep-seated biases that are harmful, possibly to the reader now or in the future.
[RW3] Skyball implies that it’s in the air.
[RW4] Does he not realize until now that he has scars from removing the wings? Unless this implies that he’s intersex in this world, this seems very obvious, and how did he miss this?
[RW5] I’m assuming this is YA fantasy? Reads older than MG.
[RW] The query has extraneous words and some vague phrasing that makes it less compelling than it could be.

Emily's notes:
[EK1] I found this reversal confusing. Does this mean Icarus is genderfluid or transgender? Or merely that gender roles are a societal construct? What “gender themes” are you commenting on specifically? 

FIRST 250


I wish I'd been born a girl. Then I'd have wings.

But it's not like I had any choice in the matter. I was born a boy, so that means no wings. No flying. I'm stuck on the ground, slowly withering away here in home-ec class, watching the girls soar around outside for gym class through the window. [RW1]

I can't take my eyes off them. The way they zip through the air, flapping their huge feathery wings. It must feel amazing, the wind rushing past them, blowing over every curve and crevice of their body as they glide through the sky like fish through water. It's a lot better than learning how to cook [RW2], that's for sure.

I would give anything to be out there with the girls. I know it's a stupid thought, and I know that it's impossible. But maybe, just maybe, if what I saw on the news last night is true, then there's a tiny chance that–

"Carus, did you hear me?"

Reality smacks me right in the face Crap, I got caught not paying attention. Again.

All eyes in the classroom are on me. The other Creton Middle School [RW3] boys are giggling while Mr. Hesti, our teacher, stands at the front trying to look stern in his frilly apron and oven mits.

"Welcome back to class, Carus," he says. "Now would you like to tell us what the next step in baking this cake is?"
--------------Moe's notes:
[MK] Do a re-read with an eye to grammar/spelling. (I spy a missing period and it’s ‘oven mitt’!) This is definitely reading more YA. Also, I haven’t learned much about Carus, especially since he’s telling us how cool wings are rather than showing us.

Roseanne's notes:
[RW1] This opening sounds overly dramatic and forced, bordering on whining. Probably would have stopped reading here or close to here.
[RW2] As someone who finds enjoyment in cooking and is very aware of the gender biases in the food world, it makes me instantly dislike this character.
[RW3] Oh, this is MG. I had no idea from the query.
[RW] Gender issues aside, I’m not connecting emotionally with the main character, and I felt like the pages sometimes read like YA, sometimes like MG. The pages also need a proofread. [Operatives' note: Roseanne very kindly included some proofreading; however, in the interest of time, we have not included those in this post.]

Emily's notes:
[EK] Everything about this seems too “on the nose.” 

RESULTS

Moe Ferrara: PASS
Roseanne Wells: PASS
Emily Keyes: PASS

4 comments:

  1. Just stumbled across this. What an amazing opportunity for writers! Bummed I missed the YA contemporary contest but hoping another one comes along at some point. (Or if you need category ideas, my other manuscript is a YA mystery :)

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  2. I'm curious what "on the nose" means...will search, but first want to say I appreciate these posts and thank you writers for sharing your words so we all can learn :) Good luck!

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  3. Based on my experience reading this excerpt, my guess for what was meant by "on the nose" here is that the first 250 gives away too much, too soon, and too explicitly. I could definitely still see this book opening up with a scene where Carus looking wistfully out the window at the girls flying, but I would be more inclined to keep reading if I wasn't immediately told "why" he isn't out there flying with them, and his dilemma is unwrapped a bit more slowly and subtly as I get to know him as a character. As a reader it was difficult to be invested in his problem because I wasn't yet invested in him as a character. Hope this helps someone/anyone! :)

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