Friday, November 30, 2012

(53) YA Historical Romance: The Astronaut's Daughter

TITLE: The Astronaut's Daughter
GENRE: YA Historical Romance

In 1963 Texas, 16-year-old Evelyn risks her newfound popularity–and her father’s position with NASA–when she falls for a rising civil rights leader from the rival high school.

I never gave the moon much thought until my father told me he wanted to walk on it.
Sure, lots of people these days probably dreamed of flying a rocket into space. The difference for my father was he might actually go.

My sister Beverly nudged me. “Evelyn, we’re up next.”

I peeked past her to the crowd in the next room. Applause erupted as the current crop of flight test crew waved from a small stage.

My mother turned for a final examination of the two of us. I’d aimed for an Audrey Hepburn look with my silk shift dress, but I felt more like Shirley Temple: the awkward years. She reached across Bev to flatten a fly-away strand from my up-do. I liked the fly-away—it felt more natural. Hair was intended to move.

“The press is here, and a film crew,” my mother said, as if she hadn’t prepared me for weeks. “This will go in the NASA archives. Stand straight.”

She demonstrated a shoulders-back, stomach-sucked-in posture. I straightened and winced as sweat glued my dress to my back.

When I’d imagined the new Manned Spacecraft Center, I pictured sterile metal fixtures and white walls, all cold-seeming to mirror what I expected of space. Instead, I entered a stuffy, formal reception room with all the seasonal luxuries of August in southeast Texas.

The introduction drifted through the doorway: “And our final new recruit for Project Gemini, Mr. Stephen Richardson, along with his family!


  1. I was INSTANTLY hooked by this. This is a great time period and I love, love, love that first line "I never gave the moon much thought until my father told me he wanted to walk on it"

    I think you also did a great job ending your first 250 where you did. I'm completely hooked.

    The characters feel really fleshed out. In just a short sample, you show the family dynamics and the individual personalities. I'm left wanting to know more (which is perfect for a 250 sample): what is the sister like? What's going to happen at this press conference? Does dad go to the moon? What is mom like if dad does go to the moon? And how does this affect the romance???

    I tried really hard to find nit picks, I did. Maybe I'd add one tiny detail (like one word) to describe the newfound popularity. If that. This is a really great entry.

  2. HOOKED, i'd read on. Well done and intriguing time period.

  3. I've read this entry in other contests, and I've always remembered it. Still love it. Honestly, all I can say is good luck!!

  4. Great job. I second everything Valerie says. You showed the protag's personality with mention of the fly away hair. You grounded us perfectly in the scene. One sentence read a little too long and made me stumble - I think the description of the Spacecraft Center should be cut at 'white walls'. It is already understood she was thinking it would be modern and space-y.

  5. Sounds like an interesting story, and you have a great first line. 'Shirley Temple: the awkward years' made me laugh.

    Suggestions: 'The difference for my father was he might actually go.' might sound a little smoother as 'The difference was, my father might actually go.' Also I was a little thrown by the disconnect between the first para and the 2nd, maybe there's a way to transition it better?

    'the current crop of flight test crew' sounds a bit awkward, maybe something like 'the newest flight test crew' would read better. I think 'I pictured' should be 'I'd pictured' and I agree with Elizabeth that it'd be better to end the sentence at 'white walls'.

    Good luck!

  6. Hooked and I'd read on.

    I'm sure most will disagree but the sentence —"Hair was intended to move." — for me should be "Hair is . . ."

    People always correct me on this style point, but, even though this is in the past tense, "Hair is intended to move" is a permanent fact of life. The was makes it seem like it no longer is intended to move.

    Good luck. You've got mad skills.

  7. I've been in love with this for a while! This is my favorite time period in U.S. history, and I feel like you absolutely nail the voice. So much fantastic set-up (and perfectly integrated with action) in your first 250. I get a picture of who Evelyn is right away, and great period humor.

    I'd read this in a heartbeat!

  8. The logline caught my interest immediately.

    I like the voice and the writing is clean, although I thought the transition from paragraph one to paragraph two could be smoother

  9. Yes X 1,000,000

    i love everything about this.

  10. I've got nothing. This is great- the voice, the visual, your MC, the time period. I wouldn't change a thing!

    Good luck!

  11. Well done on this! My favorite thing about this entry is the setting--lots of details and well-written! There's only two things I would think about fixing. For one, the phrase "current crop of flight test crew." I know what you're going for, but it just reads kind of wordy/awkward; it was one of those sentences I had to read several times to get. Also, the phrase "all the seasonal luxuries of August in southeast Texas." What does that mean? What are those "luxuries"? Is this your MC's way of (sarcastically) saying it's humid? Maybe it's just me, but I didn't get it.

    Those are the only con-crits I have! I thought you did a great job. I love this time period and would definitely read more! Best of luck!

  12. I don't even feel I'm qualified to respond here-- I can't remember if Shirley Temple would be old enough for 'awkward years' here, but the quote made me laugh.

    This is really well done.

  13. I'm a sucker for books set in the 60's and add in space and swoon....I've been fortunate enough to read more of this and I think this hits on a unique premise for YA and it's REALLY well-written. Very glad to see this as part of the Baker's Dozen this year!!!!

  14. Hi! I've seen this in other contests and have always enjoyed it. It's one of my favorites.

    I haven't seen your first 250 in a while. It's changed subtly, and I like it a LOT now. The voice comes through, and Evelyn's personality is crystal clear. If I remember correctly, you've added in more action and dialogue and eliminated some stuff that might have been interpreted as telling. You've done a great, great job!

    For what it's worth, I didn't see a problem with the "disconnect" between the first paragraph and the second paragraph. I thought it worked well. In fact, it made me feel as though I was in Evelyn's shoes while she was sort of daydreaming or lost in thought, and then her sister's nudge "woke" her. If you interpret it that way, the disconnect works perfectly. It's practically essential!

    Best of luck to you! All fingers and toes crossed!

  15. FANTASTIC opening line and your logline shows a very layered MS, which I love.

    For nitpicks (and there aren't many), I'd suggest taking out "these days" in your second sentence as I think that people in every time period could dream about flying a rocket into space. And I'd probably take Girl Friday's suggestion about your third sentence.

    You've set a great scene, though, and I would definitely turn the page!

  16. Your opening line is awesome! I would definitely read more. I already get a sense that Evelyn will be an interesting character. Nice job!

    Not sure what "all the seasonal luxuries of August in southeast Texas" means.

    Overall, this is an excellent start. Good luck in the auction!

  17. SHAZAM.

    This is one of two samples that stuck with me over my weekend reads.

    I can't tell you anything, other than PREPARE for the bidding onslaught.

  18. The above comment says it all. Good luck!

  19. I love this title! That’s my whole critique. (Kidding.)

    I love your opening line. (I clearly have a lot to love here.) This is the kind of opening line that goes on to be remembered beyond the book. (Like M.T. Anderson’s opening to FEED – “We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.”)

    I know who Evelyn is right away. I know family dynamics and her discomfort with being in the media spotlight. And I can see how that struggle with attention can wind into a tension with civil rights and dating the wrong boy and all the chaos that will unfold from that.

    There is some awkward wording that I think you can steamline. “The difference was my father might actually go.” Or, perhaps, the difference, for us, was my father might actually go.” Keep the attention back on Evelyn, not on her father.“My mother turned for her final examination” or something along those lines to avoid some of the clunkiness. I think you need to be especially careful of some of this awkwardness because it makes Evelyn sound young – as in “She demonstrated a shoulders-back, stomach-sucked-in posture.” I’d rather that here Evelyn say something like “Mother sucked in her stomach, threw he shoulders back, and raised her chin.” Yes, both are telling, but the former sounds very young, and that’s not going to serve your sixteen –year-old protagonist well.

    I love historical, though I still find it a tough sell, but I’d want to read more of yours.

  20. I'm very late to the party, but I just wanted to wish you luck tomorrow. I love the concept here and your opening is rich with personality and period details without being overdone. Great work!

  21. Very cool premise! And what a stellar first line! I don't read much YA historical, but I'd be all over this. Good luck!!!

  22. What a fabulous start! I'm going to open with 25 pages.

  23. I remember this from a different contest and love it still! I bid 75 pages.


  25. But-but-I didn't even get to--WAH!

  26. Lauren MacLeod (Strothman Agency)December 4, 2012 at 12:04 PM

    I keep visiting this to pout.