Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Middle Grade Are You Hooked? #9

TITLE: The Gardens of Pendle Hill

I found out that in 1612, ten witches were executed. They were hung from the gallows thirty-five hundred miles away in England. In my hometown years later, people claimed to see the witches' deaths reenacted in the Gardens of Pendle Hill. By midnight, if you were one of the unlucky few that witnessed it, you died the same way.


"Dad, is it Lank-ass-terr? Or Lan-gaster?" I teased, staring at the real estate slip with our new address on it.

1612 Lancashire Road

Lancaster, Pennsylvania 17601

When my dad told us we were moving back to his hometown, I found out one thing immediately. Nobody said Lancaster the same way.

"It's Lank-ASS-Tuh," he said. Incorrectly according to Google.

My Dad grew up in Pennsylvania, but when he went to Stanford, he fell in love with Catherine and California, and never went back.

In January, he lost his job when Halifax Engineering went out of business. His mom-- my Nan--suggested we move back home to be near them. My parents refused.

Until, June when my mom decided that after twelve years of marriage, she needed to "find" herself. So she took off. Literally. In the middle of the night, with no goodbyes to me or Lily. Just a bogus note to my dad saying not to bother looking for her. She left my Dad with an almost teen, an almost toddler and an almost nervous breakdown.

Did I mention we were on vacation? In Lancaster.


  1. A couple of comments:
    1) I don't think you need the "I found out". It's implied that the MC knows this because he/she is saying it.
    2) The rest of this is okay but it is a lot of telling and a lot of backstory. I'd suggest you ground us a little more before you tell us why he/she had to move. For example, can Dad react to the question first. Maybe SHOW us that he is frustrated because he had to move because his wife left?

    Good luck!

  2. Hello!

    I was immediately drawn to this one because of the eerie opening and the voice, but towards the end, you venture dangerously close to info-dump territory. I want to get to know the MC and her family before I get to know them, if that makes any sense. I think you can find a way to make this information come out naturally as the scene progresses, while developing your MC and her father at the same time.

    That said, I would read on to see how the opening paragraph comes back into play, and because I'd like to know more about your MC. Good luck!

  3. Hello! I agree with Becky that the beginning really draws you in. I like her voice but it's very little to really judge her on.

    I definitely want to read on, mainly because the first para is so strong. I think you have a good foundation in this but I think you can definitely expound on her first, and as Becky said, let it tell itself naturally.


  4. I like your setup, but I get lost in the backstory. I'd be all right with more conversation between father and son/daughter to introduce this information, but I'd rather get to know the protagonist a bit more before I learn about the family history. If you can tie in the witches' executions with the Lancaster vacation a little more, I'd be hooked.

    And for the record, I say "LANK-ster" :)

  5. The beginning about the witches drew me in. The rest seemed like an info dump. THere's nothing about witches there, there's no eerie tone or mode.

    Perhaps put your MC in the situation that is the catalyst for the story and get the info about Dad out later through some conversation? WHat's the MC's problem? What does she want? That's generally a better place to start.

    ANd at the beginning, you say Lancaster is their new address, giving the impression they just moved there. At the end, you say they're vacationing there.

  6. I agree, the witch stuff seems odd hanging there at the beginning. I really like the voice of this though, feels authentic :)

    I think it would be great if you could tighten your beginning like this:

    "Dad, is it Lank-ass-terr? Or Lan-gaster?"

    When my dad told us we were moving back to his hometown, I found out one thing immediately. Nobody said Lancaster the same way.

    I think if you could also smooth out/trim the transition of info between him losing his job and the mom leaving them, it would make this stronger.

    This was one of my favourites :)

  7. Maybe I'm looking at this differently, but is the beginning the prologue?

    Yes, I believe so. I'm thinking that's why it's so oddly hanging out in the beginning like that with the little ~~~~ thingies underneath.

    Anyway, if that's the case, way to hook me in right away. The witches bit is extremely creepy and interesting. I loved it. I like the dialogue too with her dad but I agree it needs to be cleaned up a tick.

    Good luck!