Monday, May 27, 2019

May 2019 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!



I am seeking representation for VOODOO QUEEN, a New Orleans-based, upmarket historical fiction with magical realism similar to MAMA DAY by Gloria Naylor [AT1] and THE GOLEM AND THE JINNI [AT2]. It is complete at 104,000 words. [KU1]

When Marie Laveau hands her free will to the voodoo spirits in exchange for power, her new ability to heal the sick, see visions, and communicate with ghosts catapults her to fame. The exchange seems more than worth it…at first.

Clients start knocking on her door with problems the spirits tell her not to fix. With great restraint, Marie obeys their will until her husband is unable to contact the ghosts of his deceased family after their murder in Haiti. As the voodoo spirits wail at her to stop, [KU2] she calls his family from the afterlife. [AT3]

The ghosts she’s summoned are bitter, cruel, and vengeful. Marie lives in a nightmare until they convince Jacques to leave her and return to Haiti. As punishment for her disobedience, the spirits revoke the power Marie abused and inundate her with sickness and bad luck. Devastated, Marie ekes out a miserable living as a hairdresser for wealthy white women. The memory of who she once was – of what she lost – haunts her every day. [KU3]

Yet the spirits still call to her. They’ve been preparing Marie for a greater destiny all along. She must decide if she will continue in her sad but safe life, or if she will become who she is meant to be: the Voodoo Queen.


Katelyn's Notes:
[KU1] If this story is inspired by the real historical figure Marie Laveau it could be beneficial to mention that here for those who may not already be familiar with her. Since I didn’t recognize her name right away the era wasn’t immediately clear to me either and that’s something I look for in historical queries
[KU2] This paragraph as a whole left me feeling unsure of whether the spirits are trying to help or hurt. I had to rely on the next paragraph to clarify.

[KU3] The ending of this paragraph makes me worry there might be a lull in the story since the tension of the previous events drop off here and the stakes revolving around her husband feel finished. The stakes for what comes next, escaping her sad life, don’t feel as strong.

Ann's Notes:
[AT1] This reference is from 1988 so a bit too dated.
[AT2] This story was published in 2013 and is set in 19th century NYC so I do wonder if that is the best comp.
[AT3] Not quite following this key development.

First 250 words:

On the day I met Mama Lulu, I woke [KU1] to a nervous buzzing like a swarm of mosquitos. I swatted drowsily at bugs that weren’t there and reached out to pull the mosquito netting around my bed. My arm had been warm under my quilt, and as soon as the winter air shot goosebumps on my bare skin, I realized my mistake. It was January. The mosquitos wouldn’t be back until summer. And the buzzing wasn’t even a sound, but a vibration in the air, much like when a person’s leg bounces so rapidly that it shakes the floor. [AT1]

I sat up in my bed. Something had happened.

I was only ten, but already, I had been able to sense moods for a long time. My grand’mère said I could do it even as a baby. [KU2] It wasn’t unusual for me to crawl onto the lap of someone I barely knew and refuse to leave, and Grand’mère would discover that person was in need of comfort. If I wouldn’t let someone touch me, she knew to stay away. Once I could talk I starting asking questions about the emotions I noticed, and it unnerved people. Especially adults. They always had something to hide. But the buzzing that day was unlike anything I had sensed before.


Katelyn's Notes: 
[KU1] Stories starting with the main character waking up is something I see so often that quite frankly it feels cliché. While I enjoyed some of the description of the opening paragraph I’d suggest finding a start that would be more unique to your story and characters.
[KU2] In this paragraph the story is starting to get bogged down in backstory and description telling us about your main character and that is slowing the present story down. Stick to what we need to know at this point. I’d rather see her abilities in action than be told about them.

Ann's Notes: 
[AT1] Very nice and evocative.


Katelyn: PASS
Ann: PASS: I am passing as stories about spirits and ghosts are not a good fit for me.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with the decision by both to pass. The setup most books use seems, in the summary, to be the...bulk of the story. There's no mention of what might happen for what other books would use for...the bulk of the story. And the first 250 words don't exactly fill the reader with confidence that a strong narrative voice will be guiding them, but a writer who's just sort of filling space. I don't care about the amount of exposition. Why are we going all the way to the main character's childhood? Katelyn points out that the main character was a real person. I'm never even convinced that Emma Donoghue pulls it off. If you use real people, embrace them whole-heartedly. Your story and your readers will thank you.


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