Friday, December 2, 2011

#43 MG Contemporary: Glub

GENRE: MG Contemporary

Grace has big plans for seventh grade—ace her classes (like always), sit first chair violin (easy peasy) and win a spot on All-City Orchestra. But when her gym teacher introduces a graded swimming unit, Grace fears she won’t make High Honors—a requirement for All-City musicians. Before her musical dreams float away, Grace needs to replace her dorky doggie paddle with front crawl. Too bad asking for help is worse than diving head-first into the deep end.

The day Miss K asks me to play a violin solo in sixth period orchestra, my head swells like a puffer fish. I can’t wait to show off my perfect pitch and rhythm, since most days it’s smothered by the second violins, their bows grinding the strings like bare fingernails scraping a chalkboard.

“Everyone listen up,” Miss K says, tapping her baton against a music stand. “Grace is going to play a selection from Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, the Mozart piece for this year’s All-City auditions.”

Before she can say, “Take it from measure one,” I dive into the melody, my fingers flying. Even though the tempo is allegro, I kick it up a notch, zipping through the eighth note passages without even looking at the music. Miss K’s got to be impressed. I mean, it’s only March and I have the whole thing memorized.

I’m lost somewhere on page two, trying to amaze Miss K with my vibrato, when she claps her hands. “You can stop right there Grace. Thank you.”

Bella, an annoying eighth grader who sits next to me, stops texting under her sheet music long enough to let out a snort. “Finally,” she sneers. “Thought you were gonna play all day.”

I’m considering saying, “At least I don’t sound like a screech owl,” when Miss K steps onto the podium. “All-City auditions are the end of April,” she says. “The top player from each section- violins, violas and cellos- will be chosen to represent our school.”


  1. I really like this. I love the logline and I think kids will want to read it - especially those in orchestra. I'm really interested in the swimming part, so I'd read on!

  2. This is GREAT STUFF! I think a MG audience is really going to love it, especially, as Dana said, the orchestra/music angle....THIS ROCKS!!


  3. the logline is great. Really captures the voice and tone of the book.

    Nice opening too. I think kids will really respond to this one.

  4. I like the excerpt, especially Grace's enthusiasm, but the logline seems a bit "punny" to me. Is that common of MG? It's not my specialty! I'd still read on!

  5. I got to read a sneak peek of this ms and I have to say, Grace is an amazing character with a strong voice that I think a lot of girls can relate to.

  6. I sincerely hope that the above comment is removed. The purpose of this forum is to guide and support one another, not bring each other down. And, while the commenter may have valid points about the music terminology (I certainly don't know), the voice and premise outshine those weaknesses (which can easily be fixed). That said...

    LOVE the logline. There are a lot of kids out there that strive for perfection, so the idea of something jeopardizing that is terrifying.

    In addition, there aren't enough books out there with a music/art/drama focus, which makes this unique. I also get a good sense of who this girl is by the opening scene.

    I do wonder, though, if the story is beginning in the right place. Seems to me that the conflict is missing as yet; we don't know what's at stake.

    Good luck!

  7. Me again. I guess the comment I referenced in my first post WAS removed. My thoughts were not aimed at Jenny L's comment!

  8. Hello,

    I think you've got a good MG voice going here. What's not working is the musical references, and I would encourage you to carefully research this to make sure you've got things right throughout the novel.

    (I am a classically trained musician, so this threw me right out of the story.)

    * There are no "eighth note passages" in the first movement of Mozart's Eine Kleine Nacht Musik. There are some 16th-note passages, but it's not a virtuosic piece.

    * Unless this is some sort of school for the (highly) gifted, there is no way middle-schoolers would be playing this music.

    *Again, unless this is some sort of school of the arts for gifted kids, I doubt there would be a "viola section." And you left out "string bass."

    *Orchestral music is generally not memorized. So that's not believable, either.

    Of course, this has nothing to do with your actual writing (like I said, you've got a decent MG voice), but these details are important because music is the backdrop of your story, and if you get these wrong, the novel won't ring true.

    Good luck!

  9. I love your voice in this, and think you've done a wonderful job.

    Good luck!

  10. I'm going to disagree with Gretyl slightly on a few of her points. (I'm also a classically trained musician.)

    When I was in junior high (grades 7-9), we had the option of taking orchestra, and we did indeed have all the sections—1st and 2nd violin, viola, cello, and bass. So I have no problem there.

    While it's true you don't memorize orchestral music, I *did* often have to memorize audition pieces. So I took this not as the MC being required to memorize it for class, but being proud that she'd already memorized it to prepare for the audition.

    The other points may certainly have some validity, so you'll want to check into them.

    I agree that this has a great voice and a fun premise. But there were a couple of minor details that did hang me up.

    I have a hard time buying into an artistic extracurricular requiring academic *High Honors* to participate. A minimum GPA—maybe 3.0—sure.

    I got a little disoriented with Bella texting under her sheet music. So her sheet music's in her lap rather than on the music stand? As a teacher, I would find that highly suspicious and not stealthy at all. ;)

    Like I said, those are pretty minor, and might just be me. Good luck!

    (word verification is "chant" ... kinda appropriate!)

  11. I loved the voice and the premise. My daughter takes piano lessons and it's not orchestra, but they have all sorts of simplified classical music in her books. Maybe other instruments have music like that, too.

    My daughter memorized her music long before she learned that pianists have to memorize their music. I think it's a high-achiever quality, so that reference doesn't bother me. I thought it spoke more about her, as a person.

    Anyway, I'm not trying to contradict the other commenter but provide a different perspective.

  12. Love the title, love the log line, love the voice. In just a few short words, you give us a great insight into a character.

    My only, minor quibble is the line about the head swelling like a puffer fish. A little too introspective, I think. But, as I say, a minor quibble in a very well-written piece. Good luck!

  13. I love this because I'm also a musician! I actually really enjoyed your excerpt, but then I'm a clarinetist and don't know much about Mozart's violin pieces. I found it believable that her part was memorized, just because that's what happens when you practice something so much! One concern: is she really that good in seventh grade? What about making her a little older, unless she's been playing since she was young or something. Worth thinking about.
    I love that it's a story about orchestra. And I really got a sense of how cocky this girl is, I'm sensing there will be a fall somewhere in the story that she'll have to learn from? Nice work!

  14. I don't know what to say. I think this is perfect! Love the line about her head swelling like a puffer fish, and the girl texting under her sheet music. Good luck!!

  15. Her voice hooks me right away - I already like this girl and would love to spend a couple hundred pages with her.

    My one nitpicky suggestion is to replace the fingernails on chalkboard simile with something else, because it doesn't sound completely new/original.

    Otherwise, I was very into the excerpt!

  16. I really like the premise behind this novel. I took violin around the same age, although I played bass clarinet in the orchestra, so I love the music angle. However, I'm not convinced that the school would require Grace to get High Honors in her gym class in order to play in the All-City Orchestra. If she's really as talented as this excerpt makes her seem, then this prodigy-type talent would not be held back for swimming skills. Maybe if the requirements or her talent were toned down, or both, it would make the conflict believable.

    I'm also not sure why she's being asked for a solo in front of the class. Is she demonstrating the piece they need to play for the audition? And if Miss K is only announcing the audition piece to the class now, how did Grace already know and have it memorized?

    Again, absolutely love the orchestra angle, but make sure to be careful and believable with the details so you can build an awesome story here.

  17. I like the puffer fish simile, also! My eleven-year-old daughter has loved puffer fish for many years and would love that comparison. She plays viola and would also like the musical theme. I'm not sure about the 'fingernails scraping' simile. As someone else mentioned maybe you could make up a better less common one.

    I do love the line, 'I dive into the melody, my fingers flying.' The word 'dive' is a good reference to the upcoming swimming conflict. 'Fingers flying' is good use of alliteration and this whole sentence gives me a picture that I can see. Your MC has a good voice and Bella's snort is realistic. I would keep reading for awhile, but I would need the conflict/problem to come up soon to continue reading the whole MS.

  18. oops, then 70 pages

  19. nicely played, Weronika

  20. Kari, I'd say we're about even. I didn't even get to BID!

  21. I didn’t get the title (?) but what a great voice and characterization! I like that the plot centers around music. I think this is a story MG-ers would relate to and enjoy! Good luck!!

  22. #43 GLUB

    Logline: This is a lot of plot. I would anticipate that all of these details are not the most compelling part of the manuscript. Do you see it as a character- or plot-driven story?

    Line notes: In general, I found Grace very irritating in these opening paragraphs, and I suspect it’s more to do with the tone you’ve taken than with her actions. Why would she say her own head swelled like a pufferfish? It’s funny, but disdainful, in my read. I’d rather feel her elation and excitement at the recognition. I would let her peers be the only ones to knock her as a showoff.

    Overall: I think Grace could be someone that readers will identify with, however, and I’m assuming that she gets more likeable as the story goes on, especially if you’re letting the story be character-driven and show her growing and changing through this challenge.
    The title to me says swimming failure, though. :) I hope there’s some fun to be had with that.