Friday, November 30, 2012

(34) MG Contemporary: Don't Fall Down

TITLE: Don't Fall Down
GENRE: MG Contemporary

When twelve-year-old Chloe breaks one of the unspoken rules of figure skating, she finds herself stuck training with a rink full of misfits. To have a shot at Nationals, she must convince the judges her new rink isn't loser central. Which wouldn't be so hard if she was the loudmouth skater everyone thinks she is.

I have my fingers crossed for a gold medal.

Not where everyone can see them, of course, but hidden in the sleeve of my maroon and white Ridgeline Figure Skating Club jacket. If I win this competition, it'll show the judges I'm the skater to beat at Regionals in October.

My stomach rumbles. It's almost three o'clock, and the last thing I ate before I performed was a bowl of Toasted Oats cereal early this morning. The concession stand popcorn smells like something gourmet. I try to ignore it and stand on the tiptoes of my plastic blade guards to look for my friend Ellery. I can't spot her in the sea of girls in sparkling dresses crowding the hallway.

“Aren't you cold, Chloe?” Mom pulls her wool coat tighter around her.

I shake my head. I'm rolling back and forth on my blade guards. Heel. Toe. Heel. Toe. Mom and Dad got me the guards that light up for my twelfth birthday. Every time I move, the lights blink and reflect off my coach's shiny black boots.

Mom checks the time on her phone. “Where are the results?”

Like magic, a competition volunteer threads her way through the anxious crowd in the hallway and tacks the results to the bulletin board. Everyone swarms forward. The volunteer has to elbow her way to safety.

A tingling feeling shoots through my body. This is it.


  1. I liked the logline (it definitely made me want to keep reading), though the last line confused me a little bit. Why does everyone think she's a loudmouth (and how would that quality help her win over the judges?) if she isn't?

    I love the first line! It instantly piques my interest because now I have to know if she got that gold medal. I also love the details she focuses on--her skating jacket (shows just how much pride she has in her current skating club), the popcorn, her blade guards. It really shows off Chloe's voice and what's important to her, not to mention how she deals with the stress of waiting for the results. I could really picture her rolling back and forth with the "Heel. Toe. Heel. Toe." line, and it made me anxious for her. I wish there was more so I could keep reading!

  2. I am the luckiest CP ever to have gotten to read the whole thing and it is superfantasticalwonderous! I LOVED all the insider details of competitive skating and it brought me back to Cutting Edge and Ice Castles. Loved, loved, loved. Just think agents- if you snap this up today, it could fast-track to shelves just in time for 2014 winter Olympics. Just saying...

  3. I really love your log line! I also think you provide great detail in your sample, and my only qualm is that the voice sounds too mature for MG. If the pitch didn't say middle grade, and if I ignored the part about the light-up guards for her twelfth birthday (which I love, btw), I'd imagine a fifteen year old saying all this. I don't write middle grade, so my pointers in that regard are as useless as a broken flashlight.

    Still, I think it's cute :). Good luck!

  4. As a girl, I would have LOVED a novel about figure skating. As a semi-grown up writer, I can totally appreciate all that you've established here--the stakes, the voice, some of the relationships--in a totally show-not-tell way. Perfect place to end too! DID SHE WIN?? :) Love this.

  5. Nice smooth writing and the premise would appeal to girls. Maybe it's just me but I wasn't sure if she was waiting to go out on the ice and 'perform' or waiting for the results. I didn't get that until the mother's comment. Maybe it would ground the reader better to give some indication (like she was sweaty from her performance) from the get go? Good luck with this.

  6. I agree with Elizabeth - I was confused for a second, thinking she was about to compete. No biggie, though, because otherwise this is a really great opening. Chloe is reminding me of the girl from The Cutting Edge - a little icy, obsessed with winning, and with plenty of room to soften and grow. I think she's going to be a great character!

  7. As an ex-ice skater, I love the idea.

    Now for nitpicks:

    Logline seems a little long. Maybe condense a bit?

    This sentence makes me think she's skating for the gold medal...but the next one makes it clear she's not. Near the end, she seems to be waiting for her results. Maybe make it clearer in sentence 1?
    Also, it would be a much more exciting start if we see her competing, maybe nearly falling, then executing a perfect jump or spin and winning the event...or something like that, while giving us some of her thoughts about winning and losing while she's skating.

    Wouldn't it be in the sleeves of her jacket? Unless she has both arms in one sleeve...

    I'd like to know more about the MC. I want to be on her side, but there's not much about her I know. Please provide more. Is she shaking with nerves, listening to her stomach grumble with anxiety, or something else?

    Later, her stomach rumbles, but it's with hunger. Athletes these days have to be in tiptop condition, including eating well. Seems unrealistic she could win anything without being well-nourished.

    Not sure why she's looking for her friend; shouldn't she be doing imagery exercises and warm-ups to prepare to skate well?

  8. Love the premise and the voice in your logline -- figure skating is such a fun premise!

    You have some great details, but I do want to feel a little more anxiety/nerves from Chloe. How do her nerves about finding out if she wins manifest physically? Is there something in the way she's rocking back and forth that could show nerves?

    Good luck!

  9. I love this! If this had been on the shelves when I was 12 I would have read it in a heartbeat. What am I saying, I'd totally read it now :) I love the voice and the details. The only thing that confused me at the very start, like a few others said, is that I wasn't sure if she was about to perform, or had just performed. But I found out soon enough. Good luck!!!

  10. You have a great premise! I love that your MC is a girl and sports-focused. I think girls will eat this up!

    The issue of about to perform or waiting for results is easy to fix if you want to. It might be a moot point as the reader reads on.

    I'd read on because I want to find out about the rink full of misfits.

    Nice writing! Good luck!

  11. I liked the logline except for the last line. For some reason it seemed confusing and I found myself having to re-read it. Good, clean writing with good detail that pulls me into the setting. I don't know why, but to me it reads more like a YA and I picture Chloe is older than twelve. Maybe it's because I picture competitive skaters as being in their teens, even though I know ice skaters start really young. Good luck!

  12. Love this! The writing is fantastic, and you do a great job setting up the scene; I get a good idea of who the MC is and how she's feeling.

    Well done! I'd definitely

  13. Such a fun premise! I really like this. The details were spot on--enough to give a clear picture of the scene and get a sense of who Chloe is, while still moving the story along. I'm already rooting for her. Can't wait to read more! Great job!

  14. This is a clean concept, and your logline gives me a clear picture of your story arc. My only quibble, and it’s one I fear is unavoidable, is that we know where this is going. Star gets put down a peg or two and has to prove that she’s actually deserving within a team setting and learning a lot along the way. But sometimes familiar is just the thing one wants. That’s when it all comes down to the execution.

    I know there have been some quibbles about this sounding YA. From this sample, I think you’re fine on the middle grade front as long as you’re conscious of word choice, vernacular, and the underpinning that will divide this from crossing the line in to young YA. I can see how this could slip into tween very quickly (which is a publisher headache) so you have to make sure you don’t let it migrate there. But for now, you’re fine.

    You’re attention to detail is great, but I think you can pull back just a bit. It’s clear that Toasted Oats is cereal, you don’t need to tell us. Does it matter that the blade guards are plastic or that Coach’s shoes are shiny and black? I’m of the school that detail is good if it’s contributing, but if it’s overburdening the exposition, it’s time to pull back. It’s fine (even better, I’d argue) to leave some room for your reader’s imagination.

    I found the attention on food a bit odd. I think it’s contributing to Chloe’s overconfidence, but I actually wish the arrogance would be a bit more blatant. But maybe that’s just me.

  15. Excellent book. Love the title. This novel engages the reader in believable characters and a thrilling plot that keeps the reader plugged into reading each page.

    The author has created vivid images that dance across the page. You can visualize the action. I can’d wait to hold this book.

  16. I saw that she'd already performed by the tense here: "the last thing I ate before I performed". I would suggest cutting "like something" from the sentence about the popcorn.

    I wonder if food is an issue for her? Is she not eating because she's nervous, or does it play into the story?

    These are nitpicky things, because there are no big things. Congrats! The writing is solid, and I'd read this in a heartbeat.

  17. I'm not reading previous comments, so if anything I say is redundant, I apologize.

    I wish I knew what the "unspoken rule of figure skating" mentioned in the logline is. I think specificity would make the logline stronger.

    A nice start, with a make-or-break moment. I would like a stronger sense of what kind of a person Chloe is, though. (The flashing blade guards are a good start.) What about her--and her attitude--is original and shows her unique world view? Right now, she could be any 12-year-old skater waiting for her results.

    Good luck tomorrow!

  18. Lauren MacLeod (Strothman Agency)December 4, 2012 at 11:24 AM