Friday, December 2, 2011

#42 Humorous Middle Grade : Gladys Gatsby Takes the Cake

TITLE: Gladys Gatsby Takes the Cake
GENRE: Humorous Middle Grade

Gladys Gatsby has dreamed of becoming a restaurant critic for The New York Times—she just didn’t expect to be assigned her first review at age 11. Now, if she wants to meet her deadline and hang on to her dream job, she’ll have to defy her fast-food-loving parents, cook her way into the heart of her sixth-grade archenemy, and battle Manhattan’s meanest maitre d’.


Gladys Gatsby stood at the counter, the spout of her father’s heavy blowtorch poised over the top of the first ceramic cup. Her finger hovered over the trigger button that was supposed to turn her plain little custards into crunchy, tasty treats. That's when she heard a car door slam outside.

Gladys froze for a second, but then she checked the clock. 5:16—still a good 44 minutes before her parents were due home from work, and they were never early. It’s probably just the neighbors, she told herself, and with that, she took a deep breath and pulled the trigger.

Several things happened at once. With a hiss, a blue flame several inches longer than Gladys had expected shot out of the blowtorch, passing clear over the far edge of the first custard. With a whoosh, the wind outside changed direction and began to blow in through the kitchen window, setting the gauzy blue and white curtains aflutter. And with a jingle and a grinding noise and finally a click, someone turned a key in the Gatsbys’ front door.

A moment later, she heard her parents’ footsteps in the hall.

“Gladdy!” her dad called. “We’ve got pizza!”

Fudge! Gladys thought. She tried to release the trigger on the blowtorch, but to her horror the spout kept shooting flame. She pumped on it desperately with her finger, but that only seemed to make the flame get bigger.

Their footsteps were getting louder.

40 comments:

Suze said...

I think I've seen this exerpt somewhere before, and I find it as enchanting now as I did then. I think the voice is lovely, the pace just right, and I'm just waiting for the curtains to catch fire! I hope I get to read more of this... good luck!

Dana E said...

Each time I read this, I like it more! I think kids are really into cooking (and cooking shows) so I think there is a real audience for this.

Kristin said...

Best of luck. I so love this feisty character!

Amanda G. said...

I remember this from October! I love it! :) Good luck!

mynovelmyblog said...

Love the logline! Also, really enjoyed the voice and POV. I'd read on!

Dorothy Dreyer said...

I love the title and the premise. I'm not usually an MG reader, but I would give this one a shot. Good luck!

geewiz said...

Ditto the postive comments above. I also remember this from before, and it keeps getting better. I definitely want to read more about your fiesty little chef-wannabe!

Good luck. Hope we all get signed copies when you are in print.

Ruby Johnson said...

Humorous introduction to a possibly good story. Always were frightened of those blow torches. Keep up the good work.

Karen Akins said...

Love this. I've seen it somewhere else before, but it's just so adorable. Fudge!

macaronipants said...

I like the voice, but the situation is a bit unrealistic to me. Being a maker of creme brulee, I'm not sure how you'd lose control of those little torch flames. They're just too small and manageable. I'm not sure anything has to catch on fire, though. I sure wouldn't want my 12 year old using a kitchen torch if I wasn't home. You can still have big trouble.

Good luck!

Laura said...

FUNNY! That's the first thing that came to mind. I love Gladys already.

In the logline I was wondering about the "cook her way into the heart of..." line. The logline opens with her being a reviewer, but in the line I mentioned the word "coook" makes her sound like a chef. Just a little clarification is all that's needed.

In the excerpt, the scene is comical and really sets up Gladys's character.

I also think the line about her father's blowtorch poised over the ceramic cup needs tightening/tweaking as I had to read it a couple times to get the picture in my head (or, perhaps, it's just my head that needs tweaking...I'd be interested to hear what others say).

I'd also omit the line, "Several things happened at once," because you show us that. Don't need to tell, too.

Can't wait to see what the auction brings. Good luck!

Susan S said...

This was awesome!

I love the voice and the predicament already.

A note to macaronipants and the author: I actually thought Gladys was using her father's full-sized blowtorch, not a kitchen torch. The "heavy blowtorch" description said "full-sized, omg this is going to be hilarious and horrific all at once, blowtorch" - at least to me. That sounds EXACTLY like the kind of mistake I would have made at 11 - and I have the scars to prove it.

Coming from someone who did make caramel custards (flans) (though not brulees) at 11, without supervision, because it "seemed like a good idea at the time" - this read 100% authentic to me. I was this kid.

My only regret is that my son is too old to enjoy it, but if this gets published I would totally buy it for my niece.

David Barry DeLozier said...

Really liked this - don't read MG but would read this. Great job.

Julianna Helms said...

I really like the voice and would keep reading, but I have to agree with @mararonipants about the situation being a bit unrealistic. But! Middle grade tends to exaggerate things ;), so I don't think it's too big of an issue. "a blue flame several inches longer than Gladys had expected shot out of the blowtorch" threw me off about, particularly the "several inches longer than Gladys had expected." When I first read it, I thought the flame was longer than Gladys, until I re-read it and realized your meaning. So maybe rephrase it? And this is COMPLETELY just me, and I seem to be in the minority (so don't worry too much about this)... but um, while I was intrigued, I didn't necessarily think it was... funny, like, humorous. I think the reason was because Gladys' situation is interesting, but there isn't a witty 11-year-old voice to go with. This could be because it's in third person, but zooming into the character's head usually solves this problem. My only reservation about that is that I really like your distance from Gladys, so, it's your choice.

Great job, and good luck! :D

Cortney said...

I've also read this premise somewhere else, and I loved it then too! So cute, I want to read more! I just kept waiting for the curtains to catch fire.

Gea said...

I had no trouble seeing her using her dad's blow-torch (as opposed to the tiny kitchen blow-torches) but that may be because my husband blow-torched the turkey this year (don't ask)!

On a more serious note, I love the premise and the excerpt. I'm conflicted about the age of the character, though. On the one hand, any 11 year old growing up in Manhattan is probably going to be more mature than most kids, and I think you've created a believable character. On the other, 11 still seemed a bit young to me for the story itself.

My only other nitpick is that every child gourmet I've known has parents who are foodies. How does this girl with fast-food loving parents learn enough about good food to want to be a restaurant critic and a baker?

These really are nits though, and I think this is going to be a wonderfully funny read. Best of luck!

Michael G-G said...

You have done an excellent job introducing us to an interesting character and a potentially incendiary situation.

I love Gladys' exactitude in timing ("still a good 44 minutes before her parents were due home from work"), as well as the fact that something out-of-the ordinary is happening today: her dad is home early (and we know her parents are never early.)

Fun, and funny. I would certainly read on, and I hope the agents love it as much as I do! Good luck.

Kate Larkindale said...

I love the premise of this one, even if it is a little unrealistic. It's a fantasy any kid could indulge in.

I totally thought she was using a full-sized blowtorch. I mean, if her parents don't cook, why would they even have one of those little kitchen ones on hand? It's way funnier and more real if that is the case. Then the curtains (and probably the rest of the kitchen) can go up.

Amanda Sun said...

Love it! I love Gladys and I love the writing. I also think it's a funny twist that the parents are fast foodies and Gladys is the one with the complicated palate.

Great scene you've built here. One thing that tripped me up was when the flame started up. At first I thought you mean it was "several inches longer than Gladys." Maybe you could try "several inches longer than expected" or it could just be me reading it that way.

Charming logline--I think this book will be a gem. Definitely hooked!

Bron said...

I liked this, and I understood Gladys was using a proper blowtorch as opposed to a little kitchen torch. I think kids would like this story and I would read on, despite not being an MG fan.

Good luck for the auction.

Kari Stuart said...

I bid 50 pages.

Tamar Rydzinski said...

I would love to read 25 pages

Tamar Rydzinski said...

Oops! I bid 75 pages!

Lauren MacLeod said...

70 pages.

Danielle Chiotti said...

I love food. I love spunky heroines. I love this sample! I bid 100 pages!

Tamar Rydzinski said...

I bid 149 pages!

Lauren MacLeod said...

Oooh Tamar, playing with the rules! 150.

Kari Stuart said...

Full ms

Lauren MacLeod said...

Full.

Tamar Rydzinski said...

Whole manuscript!
Strategy, baby!

Lauren MacLeod said...

Gosh darn it Kari!That must have been 10 seconds before me!

Authoress said...

BIDDING FOR THIS ITEM IS NOW CLOSED!

Kari Stuart said...

mwahaha, but seriously, the delays are tricky to navigate!

Melissa Jeglinski said...

crap! Too late

Danielle Chiotti said...

Oh, darn. Must type faster!

Danielle Svetcov said...

Dang, I was going to bid, too. Oh well. As a foodie (who first subscribed to Sunset Magazine at age 13), I appreciated this protagonist and her dream of a hard-topped brulee. Well done. I hope you win the pony, Writer.

Michael G-G said...

I have to say that, after my own entry, (yup, I'm biased), this was my very favorite.

I will be very surprised if Gladys doesn't go on to fame and fortune. Move over, Rachael Ray!

Linda Covella said...

Love the title, the premise, the voice, everything! I think lots of kids these days are into cooking, so think they would enjoy this. Good luck!!

Sarah Shumway said...

#42 GLADYS GATSBY TAKES THE CAKE

Logline: Sounds like a fun premise. I wish the first sentence were tighter, more direct, as I find the “has dreamed” perspective a little bit distancing. Maybe the logline could be in present tense, even if that doesn’t match the POV of the manuscript, just to be more immediate?

Line notes: In the paragraph that begins “Several things happened at once.”: I fully expected those fluttering curtains to spell disaster. But a full moment later, we’re off the wind/curtains and on to other things. Why call out that action if it doesn’t have a reaction? Maybe the next beat comes after the end of the sample?

Overall: I like the way this mature 11-year-old character plays against expectations of parent/child roles in a MATILDA kind of way. I’d be interested to read more.

Laura Resau said...

Hilarious! Love the first page and can't wait to read the whole book! I"m sure I'm in for a huge treat...