Friday, February 27, 2015


79,000 words
YA Fantasy


Fourteen-year-old Nikita Whitfield thinks there are only two good things about going to Pemberton Academy. One: it’ll give her some space from her overbearing mother. Two: no one there will compare her to her superstar older sister.

When she arrives, she learns Pemberton is more than just uniforms and English essays. It’s also a training ground for budding Technicians: kids who can cast illusions, smash concrete, and control other people’s minds.

She’s determined to become one of them. Even if that means enlisting help from a dwarf whose temper’s shorter than he is, serving a king grizzly bear that can stop time, and fighting against kingslayers and classmates alike.

But serving the Bear King also means defending him against his traitors, who're lurking under Nikita's nose. They're hungry for war, and when they drag Nikita's family into battle, she’ll need to decide which role best suits her: damsel or avenger.

First 250:

My mother's voice pierces my ears like a sharp knife.

“Did you remember the extra batteries, Dean?”

The thumping in my head is so loud that I almost don't hear my father's answer. I focus on counting the balloons but I barely make it to six before I feel another painful throb. My sister's graduation should be a happy day, but all I want to do is curl into a ball.

For one thing, my mother's been doing what she always does when she's anxious: making everyone else anxious. I can barely stop myself from screaming at her nonstop questions.

But, when I close my eyes to calm myself, the strange images I see are even worse. My mother’s staring at me, but not like she should be—with a worried look in her eyes, agonizing about something else my father forgot. Instead, in my mind’s eye, tears stream down her face, a silent scream rips from her lips and she’s showered in blood.

My eyes snap open and I rub the image away. I immediately hunt for my mother and she’s back to her normal, nervous self. But what was that image about?

Thinking about it makes my headache even worse, so I bury my face in my program. The words swim in front of my eyes and sweat dribbles down my neck from the summertime heat.

“And graduating magna cum laude, Thomas Kim!” the provost shouts.

We’re only on ‘K’ so it’ll take us forever to get to my sister, Kaia Whitfield.


  1. Eek I'm so glad you made it to the next round. And I love, love, love your new pitch!

  2. Pitch: I know this is fantasy, but the first paragraph reads so contemporary that the 2nd paragraph was a surprise. Interesting word choice of Technician. Like the concept of a bear king. Main question: since she's trained to fight, why would her choice be between damsel (implying passivity) and avenger (implying action)?

    250: I like this, but it almost seems to foreshadow a paranormal story rather than a fantasy. Could the vision possibly be of something to do with the magical elements of your story? Otherwise, the tone and action on this page seem very contemporary. If she's from the real world and going to the academy alerts her to the previously unknown reality of magic similar to HP's experiences, then maybe express that better in the pitch to match your first page.

  3. Krista: Thanks! The word count is certainly tough!

    Melissa: Thanks for the comments!

    Re: the pitch-- fair point on the contemporary point. Re: the choices, the choice comes about because she's in over her head since she's a newbie. While she's training to become a Technician, she's essentially a newbie and there are folks who'd like her to stay on the sidelines/be protected (damsel/passive role).

    That said, I may need to tease this out more and express this more clearly if the choice isn't making sense. Many thanks for the comment.

    250: Interesting point on paranormal! I read, like, zero paranormal so I had no idea it was giving that vibe, ha. The vision is tied to the fantasy elements, yes.

    Apologies--I'm not sure I understand your last sentence. The pitch is written to say she learns Pemberton's more than a regular school when she arrives, and she learns about technicians there (ie. she's unaware of Technicians/the fantasy elements going on until she arrives). Just making sure I understand the comment as I revise. There are inevitable similarities to HP because of the premise (unwitting kid goes to school with magical/fantasy elements) but the way they unfold is different, so I'm not sure how to incorporate the comment.

    Thanks again for the comments! Will be returning the favor on entries today, heaven willing!

  4. Hi! Interesting story. I stumbled on the word technician as well. If I hadn't read your pitch I would have thought the opening was paranormal too. Maybe because her mother is covered in blood? Maybe she'll have a vision of using her powers instead? Just something to think about.

  5. I love the title. Seems like a fun story and the writing is good, but the pitch could be more focused and explain what's at stake for the MC. +1 seems to start in the wrong place. Info about MC's mother and sister seems like backstory. Because most of the pitch is about the strange goings on at Pemberton Academy, I suspect the real beginning of the story is when the MC arrives at school. It might be helpful to take a peek at Ally Carter's Gallagher Girls series (YA Contemporary) and Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series (YA Fantasy) to see where those stories start and also how they are pitched. Also, it might be important to explain the Butterfly Eater in the pitch. Overall, solid writing. Strong characterization. Natural dialogue. Imaginative.
    (#14 OSN)

  6. I think you pitch is looking really tight and flows well. My one suggestions is to bring the bits from paragraph two forward. That's the really interesting bit so I'd stick with that.

    I like the changes you've made to the first 250 but I found it a tiny bit disorienting. I get that she's seeing a vision but I was confused as to why she had to "hunt" for her mom when she opened her eyes. Wouldnt she be right next to her or at least in that row? and why are her parents screaming in the middle of the ceremony? Wouldn't that attract unwanted attention? Those are minor nitpicks for me though. I think you are on the right track and with a few more minor tweaks you'll have it. :)

    Best of luck.

  7. Hi there-

    PITCH: I think the decision to gradually build throughout your pitch was a smart one (going from grounded and mundane to 'talking bear warfare'-sized insanity). I think the confusion for me lies in bridging those two worlds a little more smoothly. Is the training at Pemberton a secret, or is it a known thing? Why is she determined to be a Technician? Also, how or why is Nikita's family brought into it?

    FIRST 250: I think its essential that you introduce some of the magical elements early on, so your instincts are right on. That being said, I agree with some of the comments above in my feeling that the 'powers' Nikita seems to have seem more paranormal in nature. I read it and thought she might have some sort of precognitive ability, which isn't something you alluded to in the pitch. I think you also missed an opportunity to show us how her mother behaves by relying on the line, "For one thing, my mother's been doing what she always does when she's anxious: making everyone else anxious." Is there a way you can show the mother behaving anxiously and letting us see how it rubs off on the rest of the family instead?

    Thanks for sharing and best of luck!

  8. Really interesting premise! Your pitch describes Nikita's conflict and stakes perfectly, though, to me, it sounds like a blurb for an MG rather than a YA book (mostly because of your protagonist's age). I find the mix of creatures and kids with superpowers fascinating, and it makes me curious how the bear king and the dwarf are connected to the Academy.
    I agree with Melissa about the "damsel or avenger comment"; it doesn't fit the rest of your pitch and I'd encourage you to rephrase it, or hint at Nikita's "damsel" role sooner. Or maybe her choice should be: "They're hungry for war, and when they drag Nikita's family into battle, she’ll need to decide whether she is a true Technician." Just an idea.
    Good luck!
    #10 The Land of Joy and Sorrow


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