Wednesday, July 29, 2009

2 Query Contest

Dear Ms. Meadows,

Seventeen-year-old Tuuli thought she had her life figured out. High school. University. Medical school. But then she discovers her boyfriend-quarterback and team captain of the high school football team-is really a berserker, a descendant of the Viking beserkers. He has sworn an oath to protect her; problem is, neither he nor her mother will tell her what he's protecting her from.

But Tuuli's guarding her own secret: a freaky compulsion to help those who are hurt, which later develops into the ability to diagnose the sick and injured through touch. As Tuuli struggles to cope with the new skills, a memory loss, plaguing her only during her biology exams, results in failing grades. She and Markus-her best friend and the guy she was once in love with-search for the cause and a way to stop the memory loss from happening again.

Secrets about her mother's identity and an ancient Norse prophecy are revealed, leading Tuuli to question who she really is. But the truth is bigger than she could ever have imagined. She is a gifted one, a provider of immortality-a gift with potentially deadly consequences for her and the ones she loves.

UNWITTINGLY CHARMED is an 82,000-word, young adult paranormal novel for girls fourteen years and older.

A member of the SCBWI, I attended the annual New York City conference in 2007 and 2008, as well as the 2009 annual conference in LA. My writing credits include several parenting articles published in [two local parenting magazines].

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.



1. In the white blood cell, what cell organelles are directly responsible for the digestion of bacteria?

Swallowing hard, Tuuli read the question for the third time. She had known the answer last night when she had studied. She had known it the night before that and the night before that even. So why not now? This was easy stuff. Any eleventh grade honor student who planned to attend med school could answer it. Just like any Minnesota Viking's football fan could easily list the team's quarterbacks.

She stared at the question, willing the right answer to emerge, but nothing changed.

2. Draw a diagram of the eukaryotic cell. Label and explain the function of its organelles.

Again nothing. Not even a hint. Failure pulsated through her veins as she closed her eyes and tried to visualize the structure. She attempted to draw something that looked vaguely familiar, but she couldn't be sure it was an eukaryotic cell. Maybe it was the other type, the name of which she couldn't remember.

She stared at it for a moment, struggling to recall the names of the organelles, but nothing came to mind. She wrote down an answer but then scratched it out. Something about it didn't seem right.

Shaking her head in disbelief, she moved on to the next question. But the same problem haunted her with each one she tried. Nothing seemed familiar even though deep down she was positive she had known it all before lunch.


  1. I feel like this query has too many plot details. I had to read it a few times and still don't quite understand it. Honestly, I wouldn't keep reading if I saw a query this confusing as I would assume the writing was the same.

    Having said that, I broke the rules and kept reading and I don't find the beginning confusing at all. The verb tense needs some work but the character is quite clear.

  2. OH, I *love* the concept of berserkers. That is a seriously under-represented character!!

    I don't see how wanting to help people who are hurt is a freaky compulsion. I'd take that out and stick with the ability to diagnose w/ touch.

    Everything after the diagnose w/ touch seems really confusing. It raises a whole lot of questions--perhaps you'd be better off being a bit more vague. There is a WHOLE LOT of mystery/secrets/etc. in this query--I'm feeling a bit tugged around and distracted. Could you narrow it in on the one or two that are the crux of the story?

    From this, I'd read the sample pages attached, but honestly, just because I like berserkers.

    ...OK, having read the sample...I don't know. I'm not hooked here, but I wouldn't stop reading. Does that make sense? Your writing is solid, imo, and although I'm not in love with it by the end of this sample, I would turn the page and keep reading. I think I *could* fall in love with this. But if the first 5-10 pages of the sample weren't good, I don't think I'd continue.

  3. I read this query thinking this was about Tuuli and her boyfriend...but after the first paragraph the boyfriend never appears again. Huh?

    This query was confusing, and I wouldn't have kept reading. Pick one plot arc to discuss in your query, and leave the rest for your synopsis/MS.

    Since the opening of your book deals with Tuuli's memory loss, I would follow Tuuli's plot arc and leave the boyfriend out of it, since he's so unimportant to the story you don't even name him (yet you do tell us about Markus).

  4. I love Norse mythology and the idea of having a berserk at a high school hooked me. I read the sample inspite of getting too much of a synopsis in the query. During your rewrite you might want to focus more on two or three major points of the story and reduce the details. Try to be more specific in those details you keep (example: diagnosing with touch is an important detail, so is the memory loss and the berserk; Her ex-boyfriend isn't)

  5. Okay, I'm hooked. I got a little lost in the second paragraph (and you might consider shortening the description of her boyfriend) but the whole concept of berserkers and missing memory is very intriguing.

    Reading the first page, the first paragraph seems a little off but I'm definitely curious to seem what happens next.

  6. I like the query. I did think it needed a little tightening, but it did hook me. That's even though I don't have a clear idea what a berserker is, aside from a gnarly looking monster from video games. =)

    The snippet itself... thought it needed a little more editing... wasn't hooked.

  7. This one sounded interesting, and with a bit more editing would work better.

    Couple specifics I noticed. First, you use a hyphen "-" instead of a dash "--" (unless this was a formatting quirk of the e-mail or blog system, in which case, ignore me.)

    And more of a question: is it normal to specify an exact age for the book (you say it's for girls over a certain age)?

    Overall, pretty good.

  8. QUERY: This query is pretty smooth. You might want to swap out the hy-ph-ens for - dashes, because I’m reading boyfriend-quarterback and team-is as compound nouns at the moment.

    I did feel like there was a lack of a single coherent throughline. It’s nearly there, but not all of the plot details are pulling together. For example, I assume that the berserker BF is protecting her BECAUSE she’s a gifted one, and she’s compelled to help the injured BECAUSE she’s a gifted one, but these cause/effect pairings aren’t obvious in the query.

    If you only mention something once in a query, it’s probably not important enough to go in. Axe Markus and the mother.

    I feel like I need to know what Tuuli *does* about being a gifted one.

    FIRST 250: Unfortunately, this excerpt was a big let-down for me. I was all prepared for berserker fun! Magic! Drama! But you’ve started with school-level biology, and it’s as boring to read now as it was boring to go through. I’m not sure how long I can stand to read about organelles and the digestion of bacteria on the off-chance that you might eventually serve up some drama.

    I also found the writing a little purple at times: I have the urge to red-pen “failure pulsated through her veins”, for example.

    Readers read fantasy for the fantastical - for drama, excitement, mystery, romance, action, magic and all that other fun stuff. I’d rethink starting a story of mayhem and magic with ... a school biology test.

    OVERALL: I was moderately intrigued by the query, but the excerpt dropped me with a resounding thud. I wouldn’t read on.

  9. The berserker aspect of the story is what pulled me into the query, but you lost me when the boyfriend vanished, only to be replaced by an ex-boyfriend who seems to be more important to the story. Having said that, the idea interested me enough to keep reading.

    The sample was a mixed bag for me. Seeing Tuuli struggle when she normally wouldn't told me that her world was in transition, but it's all in her head. It' very static, and I really wanted to see something happening, even if it was just her teacher telling them they only had a minute left, or the guy sitting next to her farted and now her eyes are watering which isn't helping her concentrate.

    I'm hooked, but not for long if the next page or so never leaves her desk.

  10. I was in two minds about the query. While the story line was interesting, the query itself should tantalise and intrigue the reader so that they just have to read the sample pages rather than be a summary of the story (that's the synopsis)

    Having said that, I read the samples and I really liked your voice and the frustration and mystery you open up with - why can't she remember the questions? didn't mind the school biology, but assuming it doesn't go on and on otherwise would get bored and stop reading

  11. I couldn't get past the first paragragh. You want to use words carefully and the senetence announcing the boyfriend is a berserker, then clarifying it, did me in.

    I tried to push beyond it, and maybe I'm off here, but the colon seemed incorrect in its usage.

    Could be hooked if tightened.

  12. Wasn't hooked- didn't seem tense enough; there didn't seem to be enough at stake. Maybe provide more details about who is after Tuuli and why? Does it have to do with her ability to help the sick?

  13. Query - hooked by the concept, sounded exciting.

    250 Words - I'm with Parametric on this one...The exerpt was a total let down. No excitement, action intrigue or magic. The HS biology test stopped me short. I wouldn't go on. Start with something interesting, fun, exciting, perilous etc.

  14. This is a definnite maybe hooked for me. I got the H.S. captain Markus, probably not? So give the captain a name or say the friend stands with her against the captain etc.

    The first sentence of the query is unnecessary, since the contest says so. Perhaps a sentence like "appreciate the opport."

  15. Hooked at 'berserker.'Lost me a little bit after you started introducing the auxiliary characters. I'd have been happy with knowing her boyfriend is a berserker and she has a gift. Done. More please.

    I understand that the 250 words is probably just your first page and I would read on in the hopes of getting to more action.

  16. I thought your query was good, though I'm not sure if you need to mention attendance at conferences. Your writing sample wasn't bad, but it didn't hook me. I understand that it's the moment when she discovers her memory loss, so it is significant. On the other hand, taking exams isn't fun. Reading about them isn't much more fun. Perhaps there's another moment of significance where you can start? Like when she finds out her boyfriend is a berserker? That's what I want to read about! :-)

  17. Foiled again. Blogger logged me out at some point and didn't tell me, so I lost this comment. I'm not sure I can recall exactly what I said...

    My first impression is that this query needs to be streamlined. Focused. Whose story is this? Tuuli's, right? So focus on her. The boyfriend gets quite a bit of page time in the first paragraph (and then we don't see him again), and the BFF doesn't really add anything in the second paragraph. Let this be Tuuli's story, rather than bringing in more people to help her.

    I like the berserker addition; don't see many of those. And while I'm a fan of Norse mythology, there are more and more stories with that lately, so this will need to be super original to stand out.

    I wasn't sure about the compulsion to help people being freaky. Maybe it freaks Tuuli out, but compared to a dude being compelled to shoot webs from his wrists and swing about NYC... I'd say helping people is pretty nice.

    I'd suggest focusing this query. Tuuli has a plan. Plan is complicated by events Tuulie can't control: odd boyfriend, compulsions, and memory loss. In order to get her life back together, Tuuli must investigate ancient prophecies and so on. If she fails...what are the consequences?

    Regardless, this query needs a thorough scrubbing. Keep an eye out for grammar and punctuation errors, and editing artifacts. One or two mistakes can be a typo, but too many in so few words makes things look sloppy.

    I wouldn't request this. I'm afraid I'm not hooked.