Friday, November 28, 2014

(51) MG Contemporary: LOOKING FOR STARDUST

TITLE: Looking for Stardust
GENRE: MG Contemporary

While following a clue to find her missing dad, a twelve-year-old homeless girl, Sofia, and her momma end up in the desert. When Momma falls ill, Sofia believes it’s up to her to finish the search no matter the result, but in order to succeed, she’ll have to travel two hundred miles with little more than the survival skills Momma taught her.

Living in a hearse is just asking for trouble. It’s the reason Momma lost her job over at Vinnie’s Pizzeria. Seems folks didn’t like the idea of a hearse delivering their food. At least the car is roomy enough for Momma and me to stretch out in the back to sleep on account it’s made for carrying coffins. In the way, way back it’s got these curtains that can be pulled shut over the windows so it’s really dark, and there’s this stuff called crushed velvet covering the part they used to put the coffins on.

At first it was kind of creepy, sleeping in the same space where dead bodies once were. But then I told myself, “Sofia, it’s okay. You and those dead people aren’t much different.” I’m just as smelly as one of them. Truth is, sometimes I think those dead people are luckier than me. They don’t worry ’bout having enough to eat, how they’ll live the next day, or where they’ll sleep. Momma and me sleep in the back of the hearse, but I don’t sleep there every night. Momma and me trade off. Last night was her turn.

Normally she’s up by now, but for some reason she’s still asleep, even though the sun’s nearly all the way up. It’s too hot on mornings like this to hang around inside the hearse, so I pop open a can of beans and climb on top of the hood. Pity follows me, wagging his tail.


  1. I love this. The voice is so spot-on, I can really imagine who your MC is. This opening is both funny and heartbreaking. I'm invested in your character and want to know why her mother isn't up yet. I'm guessing it's the illness you mentioned in your logline, but I want to find out what happens!

    My only critique would be on your logline. I think you could make it match the awesome voice in this opening a bit more. And it did get sort of generic at the end when we hit the "little more than the survival skills Momma taught her." bit. But I'm guessing that was from space constraints.

    Overall I love this entry, nice work!

  2. What a fantastic opening line--love it! The voice in this is great. And this: "Pity follows me..."--that's so good! You've painted a great picture here, and introduced me to a character I want to know. I'd definitely read more.

  3. Your opening line pulls me right in and the MC voice is strong. What follows surprises me though, because after setting it up that living in the hearse is asking for trouble, you only mention one problem it causes and then go on to describe the hearse and the sleeping arrangements. Don't get me wrong-- that's interesting and will be pertinent, but I was expecting to go in one direction and was taken in another.

    My favorite bit is when she compares her smell to corpses.

    I wonder if the opening could also stay more in the present-- if the details you give us can come out of her waking up in the hearse and what she does and not from reflecting back on how it was at first to sleep in the hearse-- just a thought.

  4. Awesome! Perfect voice for MG. I guess Momma is dead. Very sad, but great job!

  5. I really like the first paragraph. The writing is wonderful throughout, but I'm not sure we need so much description of the hearse. I'd be tempted to try to combine the first two 'graphs (cutting judiciously) so we can get into the story more quickly.

  6. I agree with Bonni-great opening line and instead of describing the hearse, more incidents on how it's trouble for Sofia personally. Love the dark humor with mom losing her pizza delivery job. I know this is technical, but I find it hard to believe that there's not enough room for a 12yr. girl and her mom to sleep side by side in a hearse. You may want to rethink that. Great beginning! All the best on Tuesday!

  7. Now THAT is a killer first sentence :) It's so good, I wonder whether it shouldn't have its own line. In fact I think both of the first two paras could maybe be broken up just a touch more, to emphasise what Sofia is saying, because it's all so unusual and interesting, and also to make it easier and more punchy reading for MG.

    Fantastic voice, really enjoyed this throughout. I think the writing could be tightened up just a little here and there. For example, 'Momma and me sleep in the back of the hearse, but I don’t sleep there every night.' - you've already told us they sleep in the back of the hearse, so we don't need the first part of this sentence. Maybe just 'Anyway, I don’t sleep there every night.' Similarly 'Normally she’s up by now, but for some reason she’s still asleep...' is slightly repetitive.

    But these are just tiny tweaks, this is very well done and original, would read on very happily. Good luck!

  8. My thought is that you're filling the reader in on the back story, rather than starting in the present. You don't get to the present until the last sentence.
    What are these people doing now? Start there.

    I had mixed feelings about the dog's name. On one hand, I thought, what a perfect name for a family in their position. On the other hand, their lives are so pitiful, it's just too much of a downer to have a dog named Pity, too. And when you think about it, their lives may be pitiful, but they aren't. They're not people who have given up. They're struggling to keep going, and it seems people like that wouldn't name their dog Pity. They'd be more apt to name it something like Hope.

    Having said all that, I'd give it a few more pages to see what you did with it, once you got the story going.

  9. I love the voice. Love the opening line. The idea of them sleeping in a hearse is very creative. I like the name of the dog, and I'm not worried about whether or not we know the mother is sick at this point. We'll find out soon enough. I also like your pitch. Great job.

  10. I liked your pitch. It's intriguing that the MC wants to go to Liberia. What's missing for me is a final phrase saying what happens if he doesn't save his mother and friend. Such as, ...and best friend, or his new home will be just as bad as slavery in Mississippi. Or something like that.

    I also like your voice a lot. THere's a lot of personality there, and it's definitely a MG voice. One issue I had was that I was confused a few times with your phrasing. In the first paragraph, I would cut out the part about owls and the sun rising. It just broke up the text too much between the shiver and the dust devil. And instead of saying "big house ruins," maybe say "crumpled ruins of the big house." The first one was almost too compact and made me pause to figure out what big house ruins were.

    In the second paragraph, instead of "bits," maybe "bits of bark and leaves."

    In the fourth paragraph, instead of reacting to the dust devil, Granville is apologizing and picking up a whole bunch of things I can't relate to. So maybe have them race downhill first. Then slow down and describe what these belongings are once they're safe.

    I love the voice, and I think you have a very original idea here, but I was just a bit confused and wanted more description or just clearer phrasing in places.

  11. This is original, atmospheric and perfect. Congratulations.

    I like how the mother is already unwell(?) As a reader it makes me feel I'm roaring straight into the story. I also love the mention of the dog, Pity. Animals are great vehicles for emotion. And from your writing I know you've mastered heart-wrenching without overdoing it.

    I only had one tiny trip up while reading - "In the way, way back..."

  12. That is an AMAZING opening line. Instantly hooked.

    The premise sounds wonderful, and the voice is SPOT ON. I instantly get a sense of who this girl is, and I want to follow her on her adventure.

    On a minor nit-picky note, I did have the same hesitation as the above commenter about laying it on a little thick with the dog's name. And you might want to interrupt the internality between the second to last and last paragraph. Maybe she calls out for her mom? A line of dialogue, even talking to the dog, will help with the introspective state.

    But good job! I would really love to see more.

  13. Great voice! I was immediately drawn in and could picture the inside of the hearse and the MC's personality. I'm not sure where I stand on the dog's name. To be honest, when I read that last sentence, I almost thought you were speaking figuratively (ala Carl Sandburg: The fog comes on little cat feet), lol. But it also sounds ironic, like having a sense of humor about their situation. I'd go with my gut, if I were you. Personal preference. I do know that I definitely wanted to keep reading! Excellent job and best of luck on Tuesday.

  14. That is the best opening line ever! Fantastic for middle grade. The voice is perfect. I would definitely read on. The only trip up for me was the dog's name. I read it as a figure of speech, not an actually dog. Good luck in the auction! I hope to read the rest of the story some day!

  15. I'm in love with your first line! You immediately establish Sofia's voice - she's someone I want to know more about right away.

    Though the voice is spot-on, I do agree that this opening could be tightened a bit, especially in the first two paragraphs. I think there's just a tad more description of the hearse and how Sofia and her momma sleep in it than there needs to be. I'd keep an eye out for any phrases that seem repetitive (ie, "it's made for carrying coffins" and "the part they used to put coffins on" - I'd delete the first mention; I think you only need one).

    I think this opening is very strong, and I'd definitely read on!

  16. Best first line ever! And the rest does such a great job of placing the reader smack into the middle of Sofia's world. It also feels very real even though, of course, her situation is far from the norm. Oh, and I love that her dog is named Pity. Wonderful detail!

  17. "Living in a hearse is just asking for trouble." And you're off…as everyone else commented this line just absolutely draws the reader in. Your voice really shines and I feel like not only do we want to follow her, we want to come and find her! Good luck.

  18. Great first line, and I loved the name of the dog. It would be neat to hear more about the trouble that hearse has caused instead of so much about the sleeping arrangements. After all, if it's such trouble, why keep it? You've baited us for more!

    I'm a trifle concerned about Momma, based on your logline. My impression is that Sofia abandons her in her illness in the middle of a desert. This may not be accurate, but that was my reading of it.

  19. Great opening line!In fact, great opening first three lines. I'd certainly read on. (And Pity's a great name for a dog!)

    Good luck in the auction! I'm sure you'll have some bids.

  20. Hi
    I'm your tweet diva for the contest.
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  21. oh, you guys are animals. Or...too many good manuscripts and not enough time ....

  22. CLOSED! Full goes to Susan Hawk.