Thursday, February 19, 2015


79,000 words
NA Contemp​​ (no romantic elements)


It takes a lot to break 24-year-old Mariella. Even the depression pseudo-coma that delayed her graduation last year and terrified her family only phased her for a few days. But when she’s slammed with a family suicide and a melodrama-plagued funeral during her last round of finals, she doesn’t just break—
She shatters.
Mari and her family have always battled bipolar disorder—what they call la strega—but her zia’s suicide is the first casualty of their decades-long war. To keep Mari from suffering the same fate, her husband encourages her to start seeing a shrink. But when she meets Oliver, a counseling intern with a mysteriously dead bipolar brother, she becomes obsessed not with her own brokenness, but with Oliver's. After all, it's much easier to fix someone—anyone—else.
But when Mari's misguided plan to give Oliver closure breaks him instead, la strega swoops in to destroy what's left of Mari's life.
1st page:
I tell myself a lot of things every day. That my aversion to people is just a product of hormones. That someday I won’t wake up in some kind of pain. And that, even if both of those are a stretch, I’ll definitely make it to every single class.

Today, like most days, I lied.

 “You skipped all of your classes again?” Jason’s tone is stern, but he’s definitely holding back a laugh. “Sweetie, come on. You’re not in frosh or soph classes anym—”

I’d counter that even junior classes are nauseatingly easy, but he hates it when I brag. “I’m sore! And I was tired.”

The excuse sounds lame even to me, but Jason’s laugh is worth it. “You’re always tired. All of us are. It’s called ‘being in college.’”

I groan and flop back on the bed, putting him on speakerphone. I’ve only been up for three hours, but it feels like it’s been three days. “I know, I know. But I played a little more SynthLife for you. You might want to tell Uproar their dialogue guy was probably stoned when he wrote the intro.”

“Hey, it wasn’t that bad.” I can hear the frown in his voice, definitely real this time. “Especially considering Griff pulled three all-nighters in a row to write and code that on deadline.”

“Psh.” My cheeks heat up as I bite my tongue. My life seriously needs “save” and “load” buttons for these kind of foot-in-mouth situations. “I’m just saying if Uproar’s putting out a game that bad this year, maybe Griff would be better off joining you at Spigot instead of the other way around.” 


  1. Good afternoon Author!
    I like the fates of Oliver and Mariella colliding, solve the broken to keep from being broke, and bipolar is so much fun to work with because nobody knows what to expect or when to expect it.
    Questions that arose:
    She is 24, married, and in her junior year? Should that be grad school by that age even if the depression did delay her? The timeline between pitch and first page has me a bit confused.
    "the witch" or le strega made me smile. I can definitely see what her personality is like when she slips into that side of her mind.
    I am very curious how she meets Oliver. Normally interns are not allowed alone with a patient that has similar family histories (professional insight) or to see people outside of work on a personal level for fear of a relationship such as this. Exploring the tabooness of this is appealing. I love the risqué aspect to the storyline; especially because she must be doing it behind her husbands back even though you clarified that there is no romantic overtone in the genre.
    Keep up the good work! I wish you the best!
    A fellow contestant and writing friend.

  2. I admire you for tackling such a difficult subject. Mari is going through a lot and I'd advise you to show her descent into depression. Not knowing her, readers will have a harder time empathizing with her situation. I don't even know if the pain she wakes up with is back pain from an accident or emotional pain. I found words like Uproar, Grif and Spigot to be confusing because I have no frame of reference as to what your characters are talking about. Best of luck with revisions.

  3. Sorry! Typo. Griff, not Giff. I also wondered about being a college junior at 24. You'll need to explain, or make her a grad student.

  4. You are all kinds of brave for writing a book that deals with the dark, bleak reality of spiraling into a depression and for creating a character, who finds the strength to seek help. As far as your intro, I echo everything Jenny said. The transition from her thoughts to gaming lingo feels a bit jarring. I'd recommend taking time to establish your mc's character and voice, before delving into specifics of her life. I do like your pitch and the subtle humor your weave into your intro. Also, any girl character, who's into gaming makes me cheer for her out loud (an ex gaming designer here).
    Good luck!
    #44 The Land Of Joy And Sorrow

  5. I really enjoy your first page. I got a good idea of your character's voice, and I think you created a relatable tone.

    The pitch also intrigued me, but I found the last sentence to be a little vague. We know she breaks Oliver, but how does le Strega break Mari? Obviously you don't want to give anything away, but a bit more specifity would hook me just a tad more.

    Good luck! (#28)

  6. Pitch: Interesting premise and unusual for not having romantic elements. I think the idea of trying to fix someone else's problems as a substitute for dealing with your own is common enough to be make this easy to relate to. It's curious that Oliver is the counseling intern and not your MC. I think you can reveal a little more of how la strega takes over-she's drowning in guilt, presumably?

    250: the opening gives us a good sense of your MC and her issues. Near the end "But I played a little more SynthLife for you. You might want to tell Uproar their dialogue guy was probably stoned when he wrote the intro." completely lost me. Is this music? Some kind of dramatic recording? Video game creators? [If this refers to something NA readers would totally get then don't worry-I'm just old.] Anyway, if it's something you made up for your story, be a little more clear what it is, or try to move it somewhere else where the context would make it clearer. The rest, though, really brings your MC and her voice out, so focus on that. Good luck! (#38)


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