Thursday, February 19, 2015


45,000 words
Upper MG Mystery


Jared lives for video games, so he’s pumped for a chance to design one at summer camp. When star-teen programmer, Brent Kagon, shows up too, Jared figures he’ll learn exactly what he needs to top the iTunes Apps chart.

But Brent’s too busy finishing his latest killer app to waste time with “noob” programmers. Noob? Jared’s heads in early from lunch, determined to make his app The Best. Game. Ever. But his plans crash when he finds Brent slumped on his laptop. Brent’s game code is missing!

Chaos descends as the cops and media arrive, then levels up as accusations fly.  Everyone’s freaking — Brent because the thief stole his best ideas, the camp director because Brent’s threatening to sue, and Jared because his name’s at the top of Brent’s suspect list.  While helping Brent makes his blood boil, Jared must find the real thief before he’s hauled to Juvie.

First 250:

You wouldn’t call me “gifted” unless awesome video game skill counted. According to Mom, it didn’t. But here I was at a camp for math and science nerds.

The bus had wound up a steep, narrow, pot-hole-filled road and stopped in front of a small building surrounded by trees. Hartland Mountain Science Academy. The camp was run by this private school for smart kids.

I followed the backpack in front of me off the bus and looked around, wondering where I was supposed to go. Most campers headed toward counselors standing near the tree line. They’d be the ones who’d signed up for outdoorsy programs.

Standing by the walkway that led to the building was a smaller group, mostly guys. My best friend, Aaron, and I would be with them. The gamers.

I walked over and was about to say “hi” to a chunky, red-headed guy when a sleek convertible rolled up next to us. It was the only car that pulled into camp.

A guy wearing dark, mirrored rock-star sunglasses got out of the passenger seat. He was a couple years older than me, maybe fourteen, and had messy black hair that stuck out in every direction. He wore faded black jeans even though it was supposed to hit ninety degrees today and everyone else wore shorts. His face was set in a scowl. And he had the thinnest, most beautiful MacBook I’d ever seen tucked protectively under his arm.

Red elbowed me. “That’s Brent Kagon,” he whispered.


  1. Hi there! I like the premise of this and anything with camp involved sounds super fun! Good luck to you!

  2. I absolutely love the concept of this! It's right up my alley. While your beginning is interesting, it feels a little slow to get started. I'm not quite sure where you are headed with the story yet, but I like the voice.

    Best of luck in pitch plus one!

  3. First of all, I love this! I think it sounds like such a fun MG concept. I wish you all the best of luck. The one thing I would note on the query is the sentence. "Jared’s heads in early from lunch, determined to make his app The Best." I think there may be a typo in there but beyond that I felt the fact that Jared was suddenly at lunch was a mundan detail that broke the flow of your query. I personally would prefer "Jared’s determined to make his app The Best."

    Loved your 250 and think they end on a great note!

  4. This sounds like a great read! Knowing the popularity of games with my 6th grade nephew, I'm sure this will be a hit. My guess is that Jared might notice Brent's MacBook before he notices the messy hair or the jeans, though I like your description. I would just rearrange. Nice work! Best of luck.

  5. What a great concept! Your pitch is really tight and clean and full of voice! My only suggestion would be to trim "Most campers headed toward counselors standing near the tree line. They’d be the ones who’d signed up for outdoorsy programs." a little bit to make room in this first 250 to show us a little more about how Jared feels about going to a camp for smart kids in the previous paragraph. Good luck :)

  6. I'm a sucker for all things teen-gamer-geek, so you had my attention at the title. I love the rock-star entrance Brent makes, and the premise is wonderful. Good luck!

    1. Gwynne,

      Thanks for your comment!

      I'm happy to crit back, but I don't know what entry is yours. If you are in the contest, let me know!


  7. So fun! I love the concept and you've got some great language here. I particularly like that the chaos "levels up" - that's perfect! I agree with Julie on the line about the outdoorsy programs; unless you need it to be clear from the beginning that there's another camp there, I think it could be cut. Great job, and good luck!

  8. This sounds like such a fun story. I especially liked the idea of the over-popular guy meeting the guy who does not really belong in this camp (all he knows is playing games). That tells me this story will have a lot of conflicts, and a lot of lessons will be learned along the way, on both sides.

  9. I love that you get such great voice into this pitch. Noob, and Best. Game. Ever., and levels up all make it sound so gamery.

    In the first 250, I think you can combine paragraphs one and two, which are a tad repetitious, to read: "You wouldn’t call me “gifted” unless awesome video game skill counted. According to Mom, it didn’t. But here I was, freshly arrived at Hartland Mountain Science Academy, a camp for math and science nerds."

    I like the rest of it--and I particularly like the arrival of the teen star-programmer. He looks like a nemesis to be reckoned with.

    This story will resonate with all the kids out there who love gaming! Good luck!
    Michael (#15)

  10. I love the voice here and you laid out the stakes so clearly-- everyone has something to lose here. Great job and best of luck! x

  11. Good Morning Author!
    Ditto everyone up above me.
    Ton of info packed into 150 so here are my only hiccups/questions. *puts on Angela Lansbury's detective hat.
    If MC is the one who found Brent, why is he the main suspect? He is just a Noob right?
    How long is camp... I know it says summer camp... but is it a week long. It would help with a timeframe because if he has all summer to solve the riddle I think it would water down the desperation to find the answers. What is Jared's timeframe to solve the case before he goes to juvi? Does he have to avoid a bumbling cop who is on the same trail as he is?
    Love the concept! Nerdy gamer things is on my list of awesome things to read. Fear of going to the slammer stakes are definitely a motivator. Really like the gamer phrases you work in there.
    My only concern *the rest of my thoughts are just speculative nonsense is, if Brent is a brilliant app creator.. why is he at camp? Shouldn't he be doing his internship at Apple instead of at a nerd camp that he thinks is below his standards? I am sure it is explained in the next few pages of the book, but that was what jumped out at me.
    Awesome stuff! Good Luck! Fun Book!
    Fellow Competitor & Writing Friend #35


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