Saturday, December 4, 2010

#32 MG Fiction: Waiting For Unicorns (BAKER'S DOZEN AGENT AUCTION)

TITLE: Waiting For Unicorns
GENRE: MG Fiction

Fable claims that unicorns grant wishes, and the unicorns of the sea-Narwhal Whales-are twelve-year-old Talia's last hope for an impossible wish. She's certain they can bring her mom back from the dead. But when the elusive whales fail to make an appearance, and Tal's dad continues to grows emotionally distant, will several unusual friendships give her the strength to keep her family, and herself, in one piece? Or will Tal's grief destroy her belief in the impossible?  

The old Inuit woman told me that if I ever saw a unicorn, to close my eyes. Tight.  "Unicorns break your heart," she said. And she'd placed her bent arthritic fingers over her eyes, icy blue and sightless, warning me against the very thing I was dying to see.      

But that's the trouble with things like unicorns. You get hungry for what you're not supposed to want, and it eats at you. Pretty soon, all you can think about is that thing-the thing you're supposed to shut your heart to, pretending you never cared about in the first place. But I did care. And I told myself that when I saw a unicorn, I'd keep my eyes wide, wide open, and just let the sight of it pour into me, breaking up whatever wholeness was left of my heart. And I'd make my wish.

In early spring, the year I turned thirteen, we moved.

Dad and I ran packing tape over the seams of a couple-dozen cardboard boxes and sent our life away in a cargo plane bound farther north than I could ever imagine.  Woods Hole, Massachusetts was pretty far north in my mind, considering it was only about a four-hour drive to the Canadian line. But Dad and I kept right on going-right on over the border.


  1. I love this one sooooo much. Magical ;-)T

  2. Love it, can't wait to read the rest!

  3. I really liked this but the third paragraph completely threw me out of the story. If this is an adult narrator telling a story from their past, then I don't really see it as a middle grade thing.

  4. The logline seemed a bit disconnected. The except held me until the third parg. when we went from unicorns and the old Inuit woman to moving. The transition is too abrupt, I think.

    You might want to say narwhal, rather than narwhal whale. It's redundant. And I think you may need more than 4 hours to get to Canada from Woods Hole. I think you're looking at a minimum of 6 hours (straight driving-no traffic)

  5. Oh please don't ask questions in a logline! The point is to tell us what the story is about; not give us some possible options to ponder.

    In the first paragraph, "she'd" should be "she" since you are just in regular past tense here (I think?)

    I don't understand the connection between the the first two paragraphs and the third one. It jumps from almost narration to action and it's jarring and confusing. But then the last paragraph is written like action in the present even though the line before that says they moved already. You need to clean this up and write it all in the present moment of the novel. Backstory and narration has to weave through that.

  6. I love the first and second paragraphs. They hooked me and I wanted to read more.

    I agree with Barbara and Holly that there wasn't a transition between the second and third paragraphs. There needs to be some sort of connecting factor there.

    I like the logline, but I found it sort of odd that somebody who wants to find a unicorn would look for a narwhal--it seems like they'd look for the actual unicorn instead. I think simplifying that part might be less confusing; maybe something like, "Twelve-year-old Talia searches for narwhals, whom she are certain can grant an impossible wish." Kinda clunky, but you get the idea. (I'm assuming that the connection between wish-granting unicorns and narwhals is explained later in the book.)

    I think the voice is perfect for a MG book. I would probably read on. Good job! =)

  7. Great comments and suggestions above, so I'll just add that I wasn't sure when the conversation with the Inuit woman happened -- I'm assuming after the move north. In the novel, are the first two paragraphs set apart, as an unofficial prologue/introduction? That may be why everyone's looking for a 2nd-to-3rd par transition when there isn't one. Though if that's the case, the 3rd par might not be the strongest opening sentence.

    Overall, though, the writing wove me into the story. Beautiful, compelling prose!

  8. I really liked this excerpt, particularly the Inuit tie in. I actually thought this was an Inuit narrator, and was looking forward to that kind of story. The third paragraph threw me, too, for that reason. I was able to get back into the work, but you might want to make some adjustment to ensure that the reader understands from the start that this isn't an Inuit protagonist/narrator - but definitely try to do it without interrupting the beauty of the opening lines.

  9. I liked the first two paragraphs also - mysterious. But then it all shifted, and I got confused. I had to read it three times to 'get' the shift. Lots of time jumping happening. In MG that's tough for kids to follow, but more acceptable in YA, so maybe consider a choice there - who really is your audience?

  10. Logline:
    -No need for questions!
    -I'm doubting that a 12yo would believe in wishes so strongly--it seems as if she'd be a little old for that. Maybe I'm just cynical.

    Line comments:
    -Your first paragraph is beautifully written.

    -Your log line says 12; your text says she turned 13.
    -I'm still having trouble with the idea of a 13 year old believing so strongly in unicorns--and I'm not sure why she decided to settle on narwhals when she does believe in unicorns.

  11. You have some really beautiful writing in your first and second paragraphs, but like others, it fell apart for me after that. "farther north than I could ever imagine" - I'm not sure why that bothered me, but it did. Is Woods Hole their destination or where they are leaving? I think it's the place they're going.

  12. I like the writing here, especially the second paragraph, where we can feel her desire. I love the line "I'd keep my eyes wide, wide open, and just let the sight of it pour into me."

    Now, this is a very picky little crit, but I had a problem with your first sentence, because I don't associate unicorns with Inuit folklore. Unicorns are European. I may be wrong, but I believe it was Europeans who associated the narwhal with the unicorn when hunters came home with their spiral-y horns. Not the Inuit. If she's referring to the narwhal, then have her use the Inuit name for it (qilalugaq, maybe?).

    Good luck!

  13. Here's a bid to read the first 20 pages.

    Weronika Janczuk
    D4EO Literary

  14. This one caught my eye too--I'll bid 30 pages.

  15. Love this one - bidding the FULL!
    - Sarah LaPolla, Curtis Brown, Ltd.

  16. Darn! I wanted to win this one! *shakes fist*

  17. This is for outbidding me on the YA historical!

    (kidding... I just really want to read this manuscript :))

  18. Looks like our tastes are on the same wavelength :)

  19. LOL!! Fun round!


  20. Fantastic bidding! Congrats, author.

  21. Beware of the "magical Other" syndrome, in which some old person of color imparts wisdom to a young white person. Of course, I have no way of knowing from the information I have here if Talia isn't Inuit herself, but from the context of the first paragraph, I'm assuming she isn't, especially because she doesn't have a name, making her a symbol, rather than a character.

    The first two paragraphs also don't seem connected to the next two, which is a little confusing.

    The voice is nice, though we haven't gotten in-scene yet, which makes the start pretty slow. I'm hooked enough that I'd read a little more, but I'd also be watching for how Inuits were approached in the book.

  22. Stories like this always make me so, so happy.