Sunday, March 2, 2014



Genre: NA Contemporary

Word Count: 90,000 words


When Anna accepts her friend Coy’s invitation to join him and his uncle on a Shakespeare Festival roadtrip, she only sees it as a last hurrah before Coy goes back to Chicago. She never expected to fall in love while watching Othello smother Desdemona with a pillow.

Their romance has the potential to be more than just a summer fling when Coy asks Anna to move to Chicago. But Anna’s father, a widower, has always dreamed that Anna would remain at home and finish her education at the same school where he met Anna’s mother.

Anna’s impending move threatens to destroy their relationship, which has always been the most important one in her life. She can be a dutiful daughter or a woman in love—but not both.

Like the Bard says, the course of true love never does run smooth.

First page:

The thick manila envelope from the University of Oregon is staring at me. Or, at least, I am staring at it, trying to figure out what it’s doing on my desk. I haven’t applied to the University, so why have they sent me a big, thick package?

  I tear open the envelope and pull out a letter.

Dear Ms. Claysmith, Thank you for your interest in the University of Oregon. Enclosed you will find a copy of our course catalog for the upcoming school year.

I don’t need to read any further. This has Dad’s handiwork written all over it. The envelope, the letter, the course catalog--all are explained by the photograph of my parents that sits on my desk. In the photo, the two of them are only a few years older than I am now. They have their arms around each other, proudly wearing robes and mortarboards and holding their diplomas from the University of Oregon.

Dad hasn’t kept it a secret that he hopes I’ll go to Oregon when I finish my Associate’s degree next month, but pretending to be me and requesting a catalog from the school is taking things a little too far. I chew on the inside of my cheek, trying to decide how to tell him this.

My phone beeps, distracting me from my thoughts. I snatch it off the desk and see the reminder I set for myself: Rehearsal, 7:00pm. Good thing I gave myself a half-hour’s notice; the letter from Oregon made me forget I had plans this evening.


  1. Pitch: I think you've done a great job with the pitch. My only complaint is I don't understand why Anna needs to stay with her father. He's a grown man. You need to give me a better reason than he's a widower. If it were me, I'd say screw it and be with the guy I'm in love with. Because of that, the pitch isn't as strong as it could be.

    Well done on the first page. It's done it's job. I'd want to keep reading to at least the end of the chapter. What parent hasn't tried to manipulate their child to follow their footsteps or dream?

    I would make the first sentence more active. Instead of the envelope staring at her, change it to 'stares at me'. And the same deal with the second sentence. Good luck with this!

  2. I had quite a bit of trouble figuring out the story in the query letter. I thought the voice in the pages was pretty strong, but the query really tripped me up. I think the issue lies first in a lack of tangible stakes and then also in all the names. With the stakes, I need to know WHY I should care if Anna doesn't get her relationship with Coy? What does that matter? What makes me invested? With regards to the names,. while I think it's witty to mention Othello smothering Desdemona, it actually threw me for a loop. I always skim queries first, and if the story doesn't hook me with that initial skim, I won't go back and read it again more thoroughly (obviously I read a second time when critiquing though!). When I saw the names Desdemona and Othello, my initial reaction was, "Oh! This is a retelling of Othello! Cool!" Then...I realized on my second read-through that this was NOT the case at all (headdesk on my part). My whole point here is that you need to really pick out the key points of the query and lay them out as clearly as possible. Who are the characters? What are their goal? What keeps them from their goasl? What is at stake if they don't reach their goals? And why should I care?

  3. This is a tough one to pin down, because there's nothing obviously wrong with either the pitch or the page, but both ended up falling a little flat for me when compared against the level of competition you are likely to face getting this published. The obstacle keeping the lovers apart doesn't feel genuine because you haven't established a consequence if your protag leaves. No more than any child/parent who have to loosen bonds. That makes this story real, but it doesn't make it stand out from other stories. Also, the voice you exhibited with that Desdemona line in the pitch was more engaging than the vocie in the actual page, so try to work in a little bit more of that. Really set yourself apart. How can you deepen the stakes? How can you tear your protag apart via a truly dramatic choice?

  4. Thank you all so much for taking the time to leave me such thoughtful feedback. I will keep it in mind when I go to re-write my query letter!


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