Tuesday, February 7, 2017

On The Block Concession Crit #12

TITLE: Isabel Slate Makes the News
GENRE: MG Contemporary fiction

Isabel Slate, an imaginative kid journalist with a tendency to embellish the facts, gets a chance to prove herself with a big story when she stumbles upon something strange and mysterious deep in the woods. But first she must stop an ambitious local journalist from stealing her story.

Dog Listens to Baseball Game

By Isabel Slate

Yesterday morning a black dog sat on the Trevor’s porch listening to a baseball game blaring from the house. With every ball, strike, and hit, it wiggled its little nose. When the announcer shouted that the Yankees had won, the dog rolled over and waved its paws in the air. This journalist believes the dog is a Yankee fan.

C.K. Spicer races toward me across the Francis Mott School hardtop, his shaggy hair flapping in the wind. Even sitting on his bike, he’s tall and skinny like a stretched-out rubber band. "Hey, Isabel, what kind of newspaper is Isabel’s Eyes?  I’ve never heard of animals listening to a baseball game.”

C.K. Spicer may be the cool new kid at school, but that doesn’t mean he decides what I write in my newspaper. I do. "That's why I wrote about it, C.K. I have to keep my readers up on the news."

C.K. stops his bike in front of me. I want to walk away, but I can’t give him the satisfaction of thinking he annoys me. C.K. came to our school one month ago and acts like he doesn’t care if anyone likes him. Of course, that makes everyone like him.

 “It’s time to write a real story, Isabel.”

“Tell me what C.K. stands for … that would make a good real story.”

“Nice try, but that secret is staying a secret.” C.K. smiles, and two little dimples press into his cheeks. All the girls love his dimples.


  1. This logline really drew me in and made me want to read about a young journalist who likes to embellish facts! I think you have a great hook. Something original.

    The opening paragraph (news article) sets the stage for Isabel's style and we get a sense of the author's humor as well.

    My main critique is watch how often you use a person's name. There are a lot of references to C.K. when 'he' would suffice and actually improve the flow. For example, the second paragraph that begins with C.K. Spicer would work better with 'he.'

    And the dialogue from Isabel that says, "That's why I wrote about it, C.K." doesn't need C.K.

    Really enjoyed this.
    DurangoWriter (author Mandy Mikulencak)

  2. Okay, I love the idea of a girl journalist embellishing the truth of her stories. I also enjoyed the little snippet of story in the beginning. I would hope to see that carried throughout the manuscript, before each chapter.

    I think in general this is pretty strong, but I did have a lot of troubles with the first paragraph. I had to read it a couple of times to really understand what was going on. I think I was just confused by the staging. The word racing made me think CK was running toward her, but then he was on a bike. And then suddenly he's talking to her. And because I'm not quite sure where she is (Is she sitting somewhere? Standing?) I had troubles picturing what was going on.

    I was also a bit confused by her negative reaction to him. He mentions Isabel's Eyes, but that seemed like a bit of a strange title for a newspaper to me, so I was a little confused about that. And then he asks her why the story about the dog, and she has an interior thought that he doesn't get to decide what she's going to write. But that wasn't what he was doing, so I was pulled out wondering why she thought this?

    But I like that it seems like we're going to get into the Real story right away, and I like their relationship and the secret behind his name. I assume they'll have a sort of friendship in the book that I could get behind.

  3. I love this concept!! And Isabel's personality already shines through. My biggest suggestion for this would be to work in a little more about where this story is leading us. We know Isabel has written this article and has some kind of newspaper, but what does she want? Does she want a bigger story (something more than the dog/baseball story)? I feel a bit as though we've been dropped into this conversation between her and CK without knowing much about Isabel at all. I think it might help if you spend a paragraph or two on Isabel's thoughts and what she wants, and then bring in CK. We get a tiny bit of this in the fourth paragraph, the one that begins "CK stops his bike," but more would be better. (And a little note -- try to avoid using first names in dialogue. It tends to make the dialogue sound stilted.) Best of luck!!! :)

    -Gail Nall

  4. I too liked the pitch, but had similar issues as the critters above. I will add that at first I thought C.K. was a dog. It came right after the dog story and used the words racing and shaggy, so I did a double take when he talked. :)

  5. Cute beginning! I wondered if she would really use the word "hardtop"?

  6. Great concept! I love the idea of an imaginative girl journalist, especially if she's going to be competing with an adult over a story. For the pitch, I would suggest stating what the 'strange and mysterious' something is she finds in the woods - that specificity will help keep the reader's interest. I agree with the other commenters that there's a bit too much emphasis on C.K. in the excerpt (and his name is used too often), and I'd rather know more about Isabel right at the beginning. But I love the article excerpt and would also love if they appeared at the beginning of each chapter!

  7. I love this concept. You had me hooked from the log line, but I then I lost interest after the first paragraph. I felt disconnected from the mc by having the first entry into her world be a newspaper article from a dog's perspective. I want to know more about Isabel so I can become invested as a reader. Maybe show what is really happening and then show how Isabel views the same scene and adding her embellishments to the article. This shows her character and the reader at the same time.

  8. I agree with the others, I LOVED your logline, it had me hooked, but I lost interest after that. I did like the newspaper article but I was jarred by the story starting on an interaction with this seemingly random boy (I'm sure he matters in the book but it felt random). I would maybe rather have Isabel looking at her paper, feeling proud and even acknowledge her embellishments maybe before she's interrupted by C.K. And I also agree that you use his name too much and there needs to be more description of where they are.

  9. Really great pitch--I'm a sucker for girl journalists and detectives. There are a few opportunities to tighten up your opening, starting with the dialogue. Parts of it are a bit stilted-sounding and overly formal. Streamline it a bit, and that will make a significant difference for your flow.

  10. Too much C.K. here - three paragraphs in a row begin with it. And I don't think the "news" story at the beginning works (not great to begin your book with).

    Not enough here to get a real feel for the book or the characters. We need more. Tighten, and maybe start in a different place.

  11. I like the concept and the news snippet. It gives a nice peek into personality. The setting could be a lot more solid. I'd like to know where we are and why. I get the feeling she likes, or is going to be friends with C.K., but she seems stand-offish and for no clear reason except that he's liked by the other girls at school. This is a good beginning, but some detail would help.

  12. I thought this was okay, but since it is your first page, it should be more than okay. I agree with the poster who suggested including something that tells us what Isabel wants, that way you get the goal on the first page. And perhaps instead of giving us what she wrote, show her in the process of writing it, so we see what's really happening, and how Isabel embellishes it, which gives you the opportunity to show characterization. And if while she's writing it, she's wishing for a bigger story, (or anything else) you can also get her goal in. Once she and her goal are established, then bring in CK, and show us who he is.

    Whatever you do, remember that you want to get a hook on the page. That's what this page is really missing.