Thursday, February 19, 2015


66,000 words
YA realistic contemporary


When fourteen year old Zoe finds a photograph that proves her birth father might still be alive, her search for the truth sets in motion a chain of events she is powerless to stop. When she learns he went to prison for committing hate crimes, her reluctance to believe the worst keeps her moving forward in her quest.
As the ugly details emerge, Zoe is torn between wanting to connect with the father she never knew and her fears for what this might mean for the safety of her biracial family. And when her birth father manages to track her down, Zoe must find a way to save the people she loves from the violent man whose vision of family includes a heritage of hate.

First Page:

“Zoe! Pizza’s getting cold!” I ignore Mom’s voice as I sit on the floor in her closet, surrounded by shoes, flowery skirts, dress slacks, and scarves. Lots of scarves. Scarves in every fabric and color. Simple everyday scarves and beautiful gauzy ones. Mom’s scarves, which she’s been collecting since she was about my age. I don’t know why any fourteen year old would want to collect scarves, but Mom’s kind of weird sometimes. Some of the really old ones are so gross I thought she’d jump at the opportunity to donate them to school. To my drama class, specifically.

But no, all I have so far is a vague maybe. So here I sit. I figure if I can collect a pile of the really disgusting ones and just present them to her, she’ll say yes.


I jump to my feet and run to the top of the stairs. “Be right down!” I’ve only got a few more minutes before she’ll come looking for me. Back in the closet I dump scarves into one of the empty shoeboxes Mom stockpiles. Another thing she hates throwing away. When the box fills up, I grab another from the stack on the top shelf and pull off the lid. This one isn’t empty. A light green scarf lies curled on top and I lift it to my face. Its smooth gauze brushes against my cheek but smells stale, like Grandma’s cigarettes.


  1. This is a nice beginning. A girl simply looking at old scarves belonging to her mom who has, I believe, just stumbled upon a secret. I wish I could read more! I would think a teen would have a very difficult time believing the worst about her father, so that sounds very realistic. I'm guessing that Zoe's mom has now married someone who is of a different race, making her family biracial? If not, then you may need to clarify. Does her biological father want to remove Zoe from that family, or is he threatening them? You might want to be more specific than "heritage of hate". Really good job here. Good luck!

  2. Your pitch is great. I love the premise with all its different levels of conflict. Your opening is possibly a little quieter than I would have expected from the pitch but it's engaging and well-written. I'd definitely be curious to read more.

    Great work, best of luck!

  3. Your premise is great and the voice in the first 250 is authentic and engaging. My only suggestion would be to change the second part of the first sentence in your pitch to something more specific than "her search for the truth sets in motion a chain of events she is powerless to stop" which feels a little vague/cliche. A specific detail here will really make the pitch stand out. Good luck!

  4. Back and forth about the concept.
    I agree with above comments that it feels very genuine and authentic. I like the 'love covers many sins' feel to this as well as the 'chasing the parent I never knew' vibe.
    Where I am riding the teeter-tooter is;
    If her mom is remarried which we assume she is, where is the new dad in this? Is he not strong enough to face the hateful dad himself? Restraining order? Why is it up to a teenaged girl to stop bad dad? (maybe she doesn't tell her parents she is doing all this digging?) Did mom know he was out of jail? I feel as if she remarried someone who is of another ethnicity, and her ex was in jail for hate crimes, she would keep a close eye on his release situation. (maybe she is just naïve?)
    Either way my interest is piqued, just need a little push in the right direction is all. Best wishes to you, and your masterpiece!
    A fellow contestant and writing friend

  5. Hi,
    I found your pitch really hooked me. My only comment would be to maybe specify who in the family is of a different race? This would up the ante on the stakes, especially if that person is someone close to her (like a step-dad, for example) The first 250 is authentic on voice and does a great job characterizing the MC and the mother. Nice job.

  6. Hi #38 chiming in.

    Wow, this is a fascinating pitch. I'm slightly confused whether she is adopted or her mom remarried based on the pitch, so I would clarify if mom has married someone of another race or where exactly the biracial part comes in. Also I don't know about the vagueness of her search setting off a chain of events she can't stop-in the next sentence it seems like she could have stopped when she finds out dad isn't such a nice fellow. So maybe reword that "her search leads to more painful revelations than she bargained for" or something like that.

    Your 250 is effective at showing us your MC and her mother (who apparently is her birth mom?) and their relationship. I was a little confused by: "Mom’s scarves, which she’s been collecting since she was about my age. I don’t know why any fourteen year old would want to collect scarves, but Mom’s kind of weird sometimes." Because I must have skimmed over mom collecting them since she was her age-when I saw the 14 again, I thought of the MC and not mom. I expected the green scarf to be have the photo under it, but maybe that's on the next page?

    Nice start.

  7. This is very well written. Your stakes are marvelously high! Love the scarves :)

    -L. (#40)

  8. Writing as someone who's both an adoptive parent and a member of a biracial family, I'd read this in a red hot second. Really strong pitch, and I like the feel of the calm before the storm in the first 250. Also, that's a title that really grabs my attention. Nice job, & good luck!


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