Wednesday, May 25, 2016

May Pass Or Pages Entry #3

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 #3: THE TIME TRAVELERS’ INSTITUTE (48,000 words)


Thirteen-year-old Lexi has straight A’s, one friend, and socially-induced stomach cramps [RW1]. When a series of vivid, violent daydreams overtakes her in public, she’s sure she’ll die from embarrassment – if her parents don’t institutionalize her first. Instead, her mom hands her a top-secret [MF1] orientation manual from the Time Travelers' Institute (TTI), the organization that will guide Lexi in her new work [RW2] of stabilizing timelines as her consciousness jumps into the minds of her ancestors. But when TTI can’t lock onto Lexi’s jumps, they realize she isn’t Traveling to the past, but to the future — a rare and dangerous anomaly known as “Leaping.”

Now, even the brains at TTI won’t help Lexi figure out her mission [RW3] for fear of causing a catastrophic ripple through time. The last known Leaper, Adam, was killed on the job decades earlier. So when Lexi meets Adam’s teenaged consciousness [RW4] during her next Leap, she embraces him as a friend, an advisor, and a totally unfulfillable first crush.

Together, Lexi and Adam work out that their mission is to stop Jonas Washburn, the man who sparks an oppressive movement that will destroy much of North American civilization. Lexi knows Adam will fail to stop the child Jonas, so now it’s up to her to stop the grown man. [RW5] From spying on white supremacists to dating Jonas’ (possibly murderous) son, Lexi's never ventured so far from her comfort zone. And if she messes up, she’ll lose a lot more than Adam — TTI itself will never exist, changing the entire course of the future… and the past.

The Time Travelers’ Institute is an upper middle grade [MF2] [RW6] work of speculative fiction, complete at 48,000 [RW7] words.
Moe's notes:
[MF1] Why does her mom have it? Does she come from a line of time travellers?
[MF2] Just be careful this doesn’t wind up skewing more toward YA.
[MF] I have a thing for time travel, but when you’re dealing with time travel in a query, make sure everything is as clear as possible. Try and streamline your query a bit more and you’ll have a strong one.

Roseanne's notes:
[RW1] I’m not sure how all of these are connected, and I wouldn’t want to be put in the same sentence as my friend’s stomach cramps.
[RW2] This set up sounds very familiar.
[RW3] When did she get a mission?
[RW4] When did they meet, in what time frame? Is he in her present or in her future?
[RW5] This logic doesn’t make sense, if Adam is Leaping into the future, why does he have to stop the child instead of Lexi? Why is she stopping the adult?
[RW6] This feels much more like YA than MG, even upper MG. Aging the MC up would make more sense than calling it MG.
[RW7] This does not seem long enough to keep track of all of these threads.


The first time I Traveled [RW1], I was in the back seat of my mom’s old Volkswagen on a gloomy February afternoon. Using my fleecy hat as a pillow against the chilly window, I was hiding from the group of popular kids waiting at the curb. We hadn’t made it out of the school parking lot before I drifted off.

A deafening thump jolted me awake. I jerked upright and slammed my head into a roof of wood and rusty metal. Scraps of sunlight flickered through holes in rotting beams, illuminating the clouds of dust circling my throbbing head. Everything was vibrating hard, like I was in some kind of old vehicle [RW2].


I jumped again as a middle-aged woman, face smudged with dirt, leaned forward out of the shadows beside me. Her eyes were wide with concern. We went over another bump and she caught herself on my knee, calloused hand scraping my bare skin. I looked down to find I was wearing ragged grey shorts fit for the heat of summer.

“Alex!” she repeated, “Are you alright?”

I sputtered and struggled to respond to her simple question. Nobody ever called me Alex, just Lexi or Alexis.

“Wha… who are you?” I croaked.

She gasped, and I groped around for something familiar, something to give me a clue as to what was going on.

I found nothing.

I bounced and trembled. My vision blurred and my stomach gave an ominous groan.
Moe's notes:
[MK] While opening with a scene like this can be tricky and runs the risk of being a bit cliché, there’s something about this that intrigues me. I will say that I want to feel Lexi’s confusion a bit sooner.

Roseanne's notes:
[RW1] Why is the manuscript starting here, with her first jump, rather than with the inciting incident?
[RW2] Not very specific? Car? Train? Wagon?
[RW] I think this is misidentified as MG, and the story is starting in the wrong place. The query was confusing, especially problematic for a story about time travel.

Emily's notes:
[EK] This might work better as YA but would like to see 1st 30 pages to see if it gels. Please email them to me at queryemily (at) fuseliterary (dot) com, with the subject OPERATION AWESOME and the submission pasted in the body of the email.


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

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