Thursday, February 19, 2015


79,600 words
YA Contemporary


Sometimes a kid’s only hope for saving himself is to become his parents’ shrink. Or so fifteen-year-old Cam Hanson would like you to think. Never mind that he spent last summer under the care of a psychiatrist, or as Cam calls him, the “effing witch doctor mind specialist.” He’d rather you pay more attention to his attempt to return home and turn his life around, to become more observant, more professional.

When his family’s surprise inheritance of a grand old home dredges up troubling memories from his parents’ childhoods, Cam comes to believe that his life’s purpose is to be their therapist. Learning from and then cleverly supplanting a sketchy hired hypnotist, he fends off his meddling siblings and pushes his parents to the brink. But in forcing them to confront their traumatic pasts, Cam must face the unsettling truth behind what is really driving his desire to reinvent himself.

First Page: 

So before we get started and get carried away and all that, let’s be clear about something:

Cam Hanson has not run away from home. 

Okay, technically, he has, but really, the more sophisticated and professional explanation (out of respect for your intelligence) is that Cam Hanson has taken a brief sabbatical from home. More specifically, a brief sabbatical from his role as hands-on, day-to-day leader of his family and his parents’ only hope at healing their deep-seated psychic wounds.

Nice résumé for someone alive only fifteen years ten months.

Another important point in need of clarification: This temporary suspension of familial duties and Cam’s subsequent departure to an undisclosed location with his notebooks and pens and his memories to write out what you’re reading now, this chronicle of what really happened to the Hansons in those ten months following the day he turned fifteen, is not Cam’s doing by choice, but rather his best option out of several less attractive ones due to the unfortunate, inexcusable actions and belief systems of certain nefarious individuals, all of which will be exposed, and rightfully so, in said chronicle.

But that’s not where the story begins.

Cam’s parents didn’t become his patients overnight and a jealous world didn’t try and tear down the edifice of his achievements in one day. We start where it all really started for Cam Hanson: that particularly anxious evening in February, when, among other fortuitous events, he received a vision from the future.


  1. Pitch:
    Great opening line - intriguing, clear, and establishes the MC.
    I personally don't think you need the "to become more observant, more professional" clause because it's slightly awkward and doesn't give that much extra information.
    The first sentence of the second paragraph is also slightly repetitive. You've already established he's the family shrink. I think you can cut this out and get to the rest of the paragraph sooner.
    I'd love a little more of the traumatic past stronger stakes, and more detail. I'd lalso ove a clearer picture of Cam and his struggle.

    First 250:
    I liked the opening and the voice.
    The "Another important point..." paragraph was heavy on backstory that's not essential at the moment. I also got lost in the long sentence. Consider lightening the backstory. I felt this was cut off right before the stuff I wanted, so cutting this paragraph can maybe give us more action sooner.
    I like the premise! Best of luck!

    1. Hi Gloria, thanks for reading and the great feedback, I appreciate it. I'll take a closer look at those areas in the pitch and first page that tripped you up.

  2. Good Morning Author,
    I read the Pitch and at first I was very interested in something 'get in their heads," but then I got to the end and wanted to know what is driving him to want to do all of this? Did he have a convo with his parents about their feeling about the house? Is his family having trouble outside of bad memories of a life past?
    My mind then started to race thinking about being my parents shrink: definitely don't need to hear about their love life, hormones.. ewe...
    As I read I started to think 3rd person here, but then in the first 250 it is explained that it is actually first hand accounts by Cam written in somewhat of an narrative voice. Is there a back and forth between 1st and 3rd in the book, or do you settle into one or another?
    Still haven't lost me as a fan, it was just hard to gasp when the whole first page was 'let me explain' Maybe a brief story to capture the audience... I am sure it flows well which makes the first 250 so subjective.
    Good Luck!
    Fellow Competitor & Writing Friend #35

    1. Hi MP, thanks for reading and for your feedback, I appreciate it. Since the pitch is limited to 150 words I tried to include enough detail to engage the right kind questions in a reader so that he/she would want to read the pages. The narrative voice is Cam writing about himself and his circumstances in third person, but it quickly becomes evident that it's actually a very thinly veiled first person account. Glad to hear I didn't lose you. Thanks again and good luck as well.

  3. I really enjoyed this premise and the voice in the first page. Unreliable narrators are so fun. Did you know about the middle grade series starring Cam Jansen? I know you're writing for an older audience, but it's pretty popular, so I would imagine some of your readers may be familiar with it. Anyway, it's an easy fix. Best of luck!

  4. Hi Katherine, thanks for reading and for the feedback, I really appreciate it. And thanks for the heads-up on Cam Jansen, I'm not familiar with that series but will check it out.

  5. I swear I left a comment on here, but it looks like it didn't save. *sigh*

    I agree with what MPEagles said about wanting more details regarding Cam's motivations. It's tough, since we only have 150 words, but may try deleting some adverbs or unnecessary phrases so that you can add even one more sentence of solid detail =)

    First Page:
    I love the voice! Very reminiscent of "Series of Unfortunate Events" or "Artemis Fowl." I can see young readers really enjoying this!

    Domenic (#28)

    1. Hi Domenic,

      Thanks for your kind words and feedback, I appreciate it. I'll have to take another look at the pitch and see what I can do about adding something about Cam's motivation.

  6. Pitch: You might consider starting with the second paragraph, which was even more compelling than the first, at least for me. It does seem important to know that he was seeing a psychiatrist himself and that he’s run away from home, but that could always come later. The final sentence is still a good one to end on: that he has a traumatic secret of his own.

    First page: I really like the voice, the humor. There’s definitely a need for more contemporary YA with a male MC, especially with this kind of humor. Like an updated Adrian Mole.

  7. Hi Lesley,

    Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, your feedback on the pitch is an interesting alternative to what I've heard before. I'll be tinkering with it to see what I might come up with in a revision. And thanks for the kind words about my page, I appreciate it.


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