Thursday, July 26, 2018

July Pass Or Pages Entry #4

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 #4: THE DEBUT


I am looking for an agent and would like to be considered for my young adult [WA1]novel, THE DEBUT.

At approximately 71,000 words, it is a cross between the sarcastic humor of Riley Redgate’s "Noteworthy" and the teenage turmoil[WA2] of Julie Murphy’s "Dumplin’". [JD1]  [WA3]

Freshman year at St. Ambrose Catholic School wasn’t exactly the amazing new beginning Lisbetta (Betta) Meyer had hoped for when she left middle school with a backpack full of anxiety and self-doubt but very few friends. In fact, her first day of high school left her with a nickname no one could question; a nickname[WA4] she tried very hard to escape all year.[JD2] [AS1] 

Freshman year was also the year her father died.

Betta wants nothing more than to move on from her unhappy past [WA5] nd find her place in a world where everyone, it seems, has it figured out but her. But how do you find your place when you don’t even really know who you are yet?

The one thing Betta does know, however, is that Far Hills is where she wants to be. Far Hills—a small, affluent bubble of a beach town along the Jersey Shore, where all the pretty, rich, happy people live peaceful, normal lives. Or so Betta believes. She wants that life, a life so different that she could only ever dream it…[JD3] until the day Far Hills Theater opens auditions for its next show, the controversial [AS2]  musical, "A Chorus Line".

From auditions and call-backs, through rehearsals and to the final curtain call, readers will get to know [JD4] Betta and her castmates in shocking [AS3]  and unforeseen ways as they learn about life and about themselves in chapters paralleling the memorable songs from "A Chorus Line" such as “What I Did for Love”, “The Music and the Mirror”, “Nothing” and “At the Ballet”. [WA6]

THE DEBUT is meant to be the first in a series of Far Hills Theater novels as Betta and her new theater friends perform their way through high school.[JD5]

Jess's Notes:
[JD1] Move this to the bottom. I want to jump into your query. However, this is a personal preference. 
[JD2] What’s the nickname? 
[JD3] This is repetitive. It’s been mentioned how she wants to be there and it’s easy to gather why, therefore this isn’t needed.
[JD4] Keep it about Betta. That she will learn about herself and her castmates in shocking and unforeseen ways. 
[JD5] The theater is separate from school, isn’t it?

Whitley's Notes:
[WA1] Be sure to state the genre.
[WA2] I’m not sure “teenage turmoil” is the best choice of words. What about “drama”?
[WA3] I’m not sure about these comp titles. While similar in setting/atmosphere/tone, NOTEWORTHY is recognizable for its tackling of gender identity and norms; and DUMPLIN’ is widely known for its body positivity / fat girl representation. I’d recommend comparing to these books in situations of similar representation, or if your book has a similar voice and gives representation to another marginalized group
[WA4] If the name isn’t going to be disclosed in the query, I’m not sure it needs to be referenced at all.
[WA5] When does this take place? Summer? Sophomore year? A large amount of real estate is spent on what happened Freshman year, which seems to be a thing of the past
[WA6] This paragraph isn’t really doing anything for you. Nearly all this can be assumed from the line above, and we’re left without knowing anything about the story arcs or the characters.

I have a somewhat descent sense of the world here, but almost no idea what the story will be. What is Betta’s arc? What is at stake? What is the hook, beyond A Chorus Line?

Andrea's Notes:
[AS1] This feels a bit cryptic and I’m not sure if it needs to be? Perhaps it makes sense to simply mention the nickname or leave out reference to it?
[AS2] I’m not sure if A Chorus Line would be seen as shocking to a contemporary teen?  
[AS3] I think it’s usually best to avoid the word “shocking” in emails because it presupposes a readers’ reaction to something.

First 250:

Pale yellow cotton granny panties.

No, I am sadly not referring to the undergarment in which they buried me at a respectful age of 89.


Pale yellow cotton granny panties happened to be the unfortunate piece of clothing not so hidden beneath my kilt when I learned the hard way what the term “skirted” meant to my fellow Catholic school disciples.

I would gladly hand over every cent of the $167.38 I have saved from years of birthday money, backyard chores, and bi-annual good grade rewards to erase the memory not only from my own mind, but from those who saw the incident (and the subsequent pictures spread across social media). “Granny Panties” isn’t necessarily the handle a girl would want to earn on her first day at a new school.[JD1]

I had woken up that first morning of high school so excited. I was finally leaving behind the last few crappy years of my life and moving on, meeting new friends and making new memories…better memories. But, naturally, my sad fate was decided for me halfway through the lunch line.

It was almost like I had a flag sticking out of my forehead that told all upperclassmen I was easy prey. Hey guys, here she is, your fresh meat! And man, they nailed it.

I was minding my own business, scoping out the different groups of my fellow students and trying to interpret the lunch table situation so I could successfully sit at one without getting laughed off.

Jess's Notes:
[JD1] I would change this to ‘of high school.’ That way the reader can get a sense of how old she is and that she’s experiencing an AWFUL first day of school.

It’s a cute premise and the query did leave me interested, but the voice is a little young for me so I’d have to pass.

Whitley's Notes:
I don’t think this first page starts at the right place. From how I read the query, freshman year is in Betta’s immediate past, so this would all be exposition.

Andrea's Notes:
[AS1] I found these opening sentences to be a bit confusing—perhaps think about starting a different way?

These paragraphs are telling us what happened vs. immersing us in the story—perhaps think about approaching the opening in a different way?

Jess: PASS
Whitley: PASS
Andrea: PASS

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