Wednesday, September 10, 2014

September Secret Agent #5

TITLE: After School Chefs
GENRE: Middle Grade

I can snowboard, run two miles without stopping, and do a headstand better than my mom’s yoga teacher.

But I can’t cook.

I can suffer through word problems my seventh-grade, algebra teacher considers fun, pooper scoop my backyard, and clean the bathroom I share with my older brother- all without complaining!

But I can’t cook.



Get me near an oven and watch out. Kablooey! Burn city.

Crazy thing is that I love to cook! I love trying new recipes. I love flour all over the kitchen. I love the cozy smells. I love eating the yummi-licious result! I love cooking!

But it doesn’t love me back.

Which is why instead of riding the ski slopes on the first day of Christmas break, I’m headed into Papa Shortdough’s Market with my best friend, George Hefferman. We’re taking the After School Chefs class for the next three days. George wants to sharpen his skills, while I just want to wow my family with a delicious and non-burnt dinner on Christmas Eve.

Or at least that’s my plan.

I jump into the revolving door, but instead of following George into the market, I twirl around again. And again. And again! Each time I pass the market, the smell of warm chocolate and toasty nuts hits my nose. Chocolaty. Nutty. Chocolaty! Nutty! Chocolaty! Nutty! I spin myself faster and faster, like on the merry-go-round when I was a kid, until I’m spinning so fast that it feels like my freckles are going to fly off my face!


  1. I enjoyed this. It feels fresh to me. How many seventh graders like cooking, after all? Good job.

  2. I agree it feels fresh. And I'm not the best person to crit middle grade, but I want to try.

    I think at this point, it feels forced that both the narrator and his best friend (both boys I'm assuming) love to cook. I want some kind of reasoning. And cooking and baking are different things. The narrator's description of what he loves, sounds a lot like baking.

  3. I like this, especially if MC is a girl whose best friend is a boy showing her how to cook.

  4. I love your title, it sounds really fun. I also like how you're using your paragraph breaks to tightly control the pace and emphasize different areas. Really nicely done.

    You've really nailed the MG voice. Words like "kablooey" and "yummi-licious" are just so fun and add a sense of playfulness.

    I love the line "spinning so fast that it feels like my freckles are going to fly off my face!" So perfect.

    My only real suggestion overall is to combine paragraphs 1 & 3. I think separating them and having the extra "I can't cook" slows the pace a tiny bit and is unnecessary.

  5. Like those above. I think the voice is great. Not sure about the age, but as long as the MC is sub 10 then I think you're good. Your pacing was great and fun. I'd like a bit more story though, but I think you've caught everyone with the voice. So great job.

  6. Brilliant voice, but not a seventh grader--age 9 or 10 at most, which would make it lower MG or upper-level chapter book. Make sure we know this is a girl right off the bat. It could use a dash more tension and trepidation on her part at taking the lessons with George, but the voice is truly outstanding.

  7. I don't read any MG, so take what I say with a grain of salt. I love the voice, but it does seem a bit young for a 7th grader. I was startled by a kid loving cooking (I agree with Jenny L Ferguson, it sounds more like baking), which means it's an interesting concept. I have no idea what your MC's gender is. I might have missed it, since everyone else is saying "girl".

    Good luck!

  8. I'm torn about this one. The voice is great and the character seems interesting, but there's a lot of telling in the first few paragraphs. Its well done, so I can't decide if it bothers me or not. Especially since you get to the action pretty quickly, so I'm not bored and wondering when something's going to happen.

    I was a bit put off by her actions once she gets inside the store. I get that she's excited, but spinning super-fast inside a store seems like something a younger child would do. Maybe one twirl would be enough to show her emotions?

    Overall, I like the idea of a girl who loves to cook but is terrible at it and wants to get better.

    I would advise adding a genre. Middle Grade is an age category, not a genre. Is it contemporary or will there be some fantasy elements later on? A genre designation lets me know what to expect.

  9. This sounds like an adult trying to sound like a kid, and certainly not a 7th grade kid. More like 3rd or 4th grade. I didn't buy it. I didn't buy the motivation, the voice, the setup. I think this needs a bunch of work still.

  10. I'd cut everything and start with the last parg. The last parg is story. Your MC is in her own world interacting with people and things in that world. Everything that comes before that is your MC having a little chat with the reader.

    The readers do not exist in the world you created. None of your characters should be talking to them. If you want us to know your MC loves to cook but is horrible at it, create a scene where she's cooking and failing miserably. Then we'll see it.