Monday, July 23, 2018

July Pass Or Pages Entry #1


Time for the Pass Or Pages feedback reveals! We're so thankful to our agent panel for taking the time to critique these entries. Shout out to the brave authors whose work will be on the blog this week. You are awesome!

Entry #1: THE JOURNEY WE SHARE

Query:

I’m currently seeking representation for THE JOURNEY WE SHARE, a contemporary, #ownvoices[WA1] YA novel complete at 78,000 words.

In rural India, during the early 2000s, fifteen-year-old Mira longs to complete her education, but her abusive father forces her to work in the family restaurant and plans to marry her off to a man twice her age.

Thirteen years later, fifteen-year-old Steven’s severe anxiety obstructs his everyday life at a wealthy New England boarding school and he questions his will to live.

Meanwhile, fifteen-year-old Mpholo faces the challenge of raising and supporting his younger siblings in stigma-rich Uganda after his mother dies from AIDS and his father commits suicide.[WA2]

On the surface, the three teenagers have almost nothing in common; however, their lives become inextricably linked when Mpholo and Steven both come across a memoir[JD1] Mira wrote years’ prior.[JD2] Driven by a combination of aspiration and uncertainty, the two use Mira’s story and the people they meet along the way to try and find peace [AS1]in a challenging world. Will they succeed, though?[JD3][WA3]

From the rural villages of India, to the tree-covered hills of New England, and the vast savanna of Uganda, THE JOURNEY WE SHARE illustrates how fear and dreams are universal and the ways they connect us are more meaningful than they appear. It will appeal to readers of WRITTEN IN THE STARS by Aisha Saeed and THE REST OF US JUST LIVE HERE by Patrick Ness.[AS2]

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Jess's Notes:
[JD1] Journal
[JD2] They are both in different countries, so where did they come upon the memoir? Is this an adventure they go on together?
[JD3] Instead of asking a question, make it more personal to the characters. Something about how the journal helps Steven deal with his anxiety and Mpholo becomes his own person, separate from a caretaker for his siblings. Questions can be off-putting in queries, so try to stay away from them and get into the heart of your story instead.

Whitley's Notes:
[WA1] When there are multiple marginalized voices represented in a book pitched as #OwnVoices, I tend to recommend that authors clearly state how they relate as "own"
[WA2] While providing great insight into the individual characters, these paragraphs take up a lot of real estate yet feel wholly disconnected from the story being set up. Besides Mira, I don't have a clear understanding as to what the story will be or what journey these characters will be undertaking.
[WA3] A rather vague set up. I wish we had a more concrete sense of what the book will be… and what will happen if they don’t succeed.

Andrea's Notes:
[AS1] This is a bit vague—you might want to clarify and further define the conflict and the stakes.
[AS2] I thought these were strong comp titles. I suggest clarifying the OwnVoices connection.  

The way the query structured is a bit confusing—which makes sense, as it can be challenging to introduce three separate story lines, especially if they span time and space! What I suggest doing is starting with the description of Steven and Mpholo. You would then transition with the sentence, “On the surface, the two of them have nothing in common….” You could then mention Mira, as you do, but give us her background information that you include initially at this point instead.

First 250:

The journey to the restaurant was a reminder of broken dreams for Mira. Each time she [JD1]felt as if she was walking through the[JD2] museum exhibitions she [JD3]read about in books. Only[JD4] this exhibition did not highlight crown jewels or famous portraits, but rather her hidden desires and failures. 

On one corner, she passed the school she used to attend[JD5]. In a couple hours, other girls her age would sit on wooden benches diligently taking notes about astronomy or literature, while she would be slaving away in the kitchen submitting to a barrage of insults from her father. Mira’s chest tightened at the thoughts[JD6] and she clenched her jaw.

A few meters further, she crossed past the sweets stand where[JD7] an overweight man groped her and squeezed her from behind while she waited in line for jalebis. At the time, she bit her tongue and did not fight back, knowing it would get her nowhere.[AS1] 

“Arre…move out of the way! Why are you just standing there?” a man screamed waving his hand as he pushed a cart of coconuts.

“Sorry, sir. Sorry,” Mira responded. She moved out of the middle of the road, ashamed that her thoughts caused her to stop in her tracks and forget her surroundings.[AS2] 

“Stupid girl. Don’t just stand in the street like that. People have work to do unlike you.”[AS3] 

*************
Jess's Notes:
[JD1] delete "she"
[JD2] delete "the"
[JD3] add "had only"
[JD4] Try "except" instead of "only."
[JD5] When did she stop attending?
[JD6] delete "at the thoughts"
[JD7] When did this happen? Give the reader a timeline.

I would have been intrigued enough to read the first chapter, but ultimately it would be a pass for me. I was hoping to see Mira’s story strictly from the POV of her journal while the boys went on their journey.

Whitley's Notes:
I loved the first couple paragraphs, but I wish it’d moved on to the now—and to father’s restaurant—rather than continuing to the sweets stand memory, thus making the first present action a man calling her out of her memory.

Andrea's Notes:
[AS1] It feels as if we’re being told what happened to Mira vs. engaged in the action itself.
[AS2] I’m not sure if we need this? The dialogue and her actions give us some insight into what she’s feeling, and usually it’s best to let readers infer some things vs. spelling everything out. 
[AS3] Perhaps too heavy-handed and unnecessary? We already have a sense of the dismal state of her life. 

Results:
Jess: PASS
Whitley: PAGES! Please submit the first 50 pages, query, and synopsis to QueryMe.online/jdlit_whitley/PassOrPages
Andrea: PASS

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