Tuesday, May 28, 2019

May 2019 Pass Or Pages Entry #2


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 #2: BINDLE PUNK GYPSY

Query:

BINDLE PUNK GYPSY is a historical fiction novel with speculative elements. Incorporating a loose retelling of an old Mexican folk tale, this #ownvoices story tells the tale of Luna, the mixed-race daughter of an immigrant gypsy who hides her identity in pursuit of owning an illegal jazz club [AT1]. Using her earth magic to negotiate with dangerous criminals in her climb up Kansas City’s bootlegging ladder could risk her family’s lives and everything she’s working for if her enemies discover who she really is.

Bootlegging. Police bribery. A minority owning a jazz club in the upperclass part of town. These are just a few felonies Luna Alvarado is willing to commit in her climb up Kansas City’s corruption ladder…as long as no one finds out who she is. [KU1]

If the crooked city councilmen and ruthless mobsters discover that her immigrant family lives in a boxcar community in the impoverished River Bottoms [KU2] of their cosmopolitan metropolis, she could lose everything she’s lied and worked so hard for, even with the help of a little earth magic. [KU3] Hell, they may even try to steal it.

Using her inherited charms and her shameless father’s looks, she adopts a new identity as Rose, a tough, unabashed flapper who loves challenging patriarchy from her part-time job at the newspaper to the soft lace in her bedroom. Her half-gypsy blood might limit her abilities, but she plans to make good use of what enchantments [KU4] she does have, even if it leaves her jaded. [KU5] 

The harder she tries to avoid scrutiny, the more odd friendships begin to form, finding herself helping others in the underworld who don’t align with conservative societal values. As she struggles to hold onto her true identity, Luna’s efforts capture the attention of every brand of bigotry she’s trying to avoid. Her isolated journey to spinsterhood may not be enough to save her when greedy criminals come calling [KU6]. As much as she hates to admit it, she may need love and friendship after all.

Clocking in at 94k words, BINDLE PUNK GYPSY is set in the lower-class underworld of the 1925, breaking laws and throwing magic like Born of Illusion, written with an attitude and voice similar to a grown-up Gentlemen’s Guide, exploring and reclaiming culture and heritage like Daughters of the Dust [AT2].

This story fuses my own family’s experience in Kansas City’s immigrant, boxcar community with my grandmother’s determination to assimilate her children into American society to avoid further persecution. Much of our language and heritage wasn’t preserved in the eras to follow, leaving my generation in my family wondering who we really are. I’ve poured my heart into Luna’s journey to reclaim herself and her heritage.


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Katelyn's Notes: 
[KU1] This paragraph can be cut. It feels like a longer explanation of the last sentence in the previous paragraph and isn’t needed. I don’t need to know about her felonies. The query as a whole is also a little long and would benefit from the word count being trimmed back and the query tightened.
[KU2] It’s unclear to me as to why where they live matters.
[KU3] This also feels like a repeat over the previous paragraph and the last sentence of the first which made the sentiment feel repetitive. You only need to tell us once.
[KU4] The use of magic in this story wasn’t clear to me overall and almost feels unnecessary to the story.
[KU5] Other than mentioning she has adopted a new identity, everything else could be cut in this paragraph.
[KU6] The exploration here revolving around needing love and friendship feels like a different story than the starting paragraphs and the stakes don’t feel as strong as risking her families’ lives like in earlier paragraphs.


Ann's Notes: 
[AT1] Nice opening to pitch.
[AT2] There’s a lot to digest in this sentence. I’d break it up and also see if there aren’t some more current comps.



First 250 words:


A family of four living in a boxcar near the decimated Union Depot is unappealing enough. The humid sunset thickens the marinade. As my black Model-T idles in the rail yard, the breeze rushes through the open windows, sharing the pungent cattle sweat and ash from the nearby steel factory and stockyards, adding to my dismal mood. The more time passes between visits, the more I feel like a stranger in my own family. It’s not even their fault; I was born different [KU1]. Maybe no one has spotted me, yet. Fighting the urge to drive away, I pull the hand break with dread of soot-stained mud that’s sure to cling to the bottom of my heeled shoes on the way into the house.

House. With a groan, I cling to my handbag and step out onto the damp earth soaked by spring rains carrying the river from its banks. Heavy, sticky steps push me toward to the shoddy, double boxcar with crude windows cut beside the retractable door. Like the many others around it, dilapidated wood panels connect to front porches with hanging plants to make the community more livable for the wives and children. Not that there are many families out here, anymore. Most rail workers have moved on since the Great Flood of 1914. Earth magic is stronger by the river, but we can still use it anywhere. Why my family insists on staying in the industrialized flood zone after eleven years, I’ll never know.


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Katelyn's Notes: 
[KU1] There is a lot going on here and I don’t know enough about Luna to fully understand all this. I need more character development first. Like how was she born different? What does she mean exactly?


Results:


Katelyn: PASS 
Ann: PASS 

1 comment:

  1. It just seems as if the author got caught up in setting up the basic identity of the main character and forgot that there ought to be a story somewhere in there, too. The first 250 words try to set an atmosphere, but this is almost bizarre, as all that character setup in the summary is suddenly nowhere to be found. It's the character who should be obsessed with their biography, not the writer, especially a character like this. I suspect the story hasn't really been discovered yet. I would suggest going back and discovering what exactly it is, some central, defining conflict that unlocks everything.

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