Thursday, February 19, 2015

Entry #8: SUOMI'S SONG

45,000 words
MG Fantasy
150 word pitch:
Henry would rather be on the basketball court perfecting his fadeaway jump shot, not on a one-way trip to Helsinki, Finland with parents and annoying older sister, Lauren. So when a sibling squabble lands them both in Finnish lessons as punishment, he’s sure he’ll die of boredom if not frostbite.
The Finnish lessons turn into Weirdness 101 when their hip Finnish teacher admits he’s part of an ancient society that protects magical artifacts from Finland’s epic poem, The Kalevala. Then Henry starts to notice odd parallels between the myths in the book and what’s happening around them in Helsinki. 
Now, in addition to adjusting to the dark, frigid winter, the siblings must help their teacher locate the Sampo, the mythical horn of plenty from The Kalevala, and protect it from their Dad’s new boss, who want to harness its power regardless of the disastrous environmental devastation it will unleash. 
First 250: 
Lauren’s on her beanbag with her fuzzy brown head buried in a book. Enough of the nerd time, big sister. We’ve got a situation.
I kick the beanbag a few times. “Whatcha reading, bird brain?” When she doesn’t look up, I grab the book out of her hands. “MacBeth? You know this stuff will turn you into a nerd, right?”
“Give it back, Henry.” She glares at me, clenching her teeth. That’s one scary metal mouth.
I take a step back in case she decides to bite. “Jeez, relax.” I hold the book out to her and she grabs it. “I was just messing with you. But seriously, I have to tell you something.” I motion to my room. “In private.”
“Ugh.” She groans, but gets up and follows me, shutting the door behind her. 
When did she get so tall? I hate looking up to talk to her. I want to stand on my desk or something.
“Mom and Dad are up to something,” I say.
“Whatever, Hen.” Lauren says, fiddling with the ribbon of one of the medals draped over my Regionals trophy.  The medal makes a sharp clickclickclick as it hits the marble base. 
“No, really. I overheard them talking in the kitchen this morning. They said something about a new job, and selling the house.”
The clicking stops. Now she’s paying attention, green eyes wide. “Not again. Did they say where? Boston? Seattle? Not Dallas.”
“Nope, the phone rang before they said where.”


  1. Awesome premise, Julie! This sounds like a great adventure!

    In your pitch, I wonder if instead of telling us that "Henry starts to notice odd parallels between the myths in the book and what’s happening around them in Helsinki. " You could use those words to show us one of the odd parallels. In the First 250, I'd change up one of your nerds to geek or something, just to avoid repetition.

    Best of luck!

  2. I second Rebecca's comments :) This only needs minimal sprucing. The only thing I'd add is their Finish teacher "admitting" that he's a part of a secret organization is a little lack luster. It sounds like he just walks in and says, "Oh, BT-dubs, I'm part of a secret organization talked about in this poem. Let's open our books to page 45..." Which, if that's what he does, cool! Play up that comedy! But otherwise, you might choose to rephrase it. Something as simple as "they discover their hip Finnish teacher is a part of..." etc. This has our main character taking action--discovering. Readers want an active main character. :)

    Besides that, good stuff! I love MG, and this sounds like an adventure I'd like to read.

    Good luck!
    -#34 :)

  3. Fascinating! I don't know anything about Finland and the Kalavela, and it all sounds super interesting. I love your pitch, and the voice and personality in your first page. My only comment is that Henry is doing an awful lot of insulting of his big sister in the first few paragraphs. I think you could cut some of that down and get to the move sooner. Great job, and good luck!

  4. Great feedback already. I think the last paragraph of your pitch is particularly strong and agree with Katherine that finding a way to get 'Move to Finland' into your first page would be a good idea.

    great work and best of luck,


  5. I think the cross-country move idea combined with using Finnish myths, which don't show up in kid's books as often as Greek and Norse, has lots of potential.

    I'd second the notion that Henry comes across as overly harsh to his sister, especially for his introduction. Plus she's older and taller, which should give her decent odds on smacking him around with her book.

  6. I agree with above comments. Give the readers the place right off.
    The clicking stops. Now she’s paying attention, green eyes wide. “Not again. Did they say where? Boston? Seattle? Not Dallas.”

    Also there's a "s" missing on the word want: ...their Dad’s new boss, who wantS to harness its power regardless of the disastrous environmental devastation it will unleash.

    So what exactly is this devastation? I'd name it. And I agree with the teacher comments, unless he has a reason to tell them, they should discover it by accident.
    Good luck with it! Very unique premise!

  7. I'm excited about this story. I wonder about the Finnish folklore now and you made me want to know more about it. I thought the relationship between the siblings was very believable and somewhat funny, which tells me there will be a lot of comical moments in the novel on top of action-packed story.

  8. I laughed so hard when she said, "not Dallas!" We're an expat family and I've actually uttered those very words! Books for expat kids and about Finnish folklore-- this is a win-win. Moving to another country is an adventure in and of itself and to add folklore is just a plus. Best of luck! x

  9. Ooh, I LOVE this! The pitch is great (Kathleen above caught the typo), and I love the phrase Weirdness 101. I'm totally up for learning about the Kalevala and the Sampo. Sign me up for the trip to Helsinki!

    First 250: Small nit, but the way the kids are interacting makes me have to admit that, if you hadn't designated Lauren as "big sister," I would have assumed Henry was the older, although that might just be a function of his 1st-person POV.

    One thing that is particularly captivating and skillful here is the humor. Phrases like That’s one scary metal mouth and Did they say where? Boston? Seattle? Not Dallas.” convinces me that I'm in the hands of someone who understands middle graders and can capture them accurately on the page.

    Great job--and good luck!
    Michael (#15)

  10. Just wanted to say I read your sample and agree with the comments-they've pretty much caught all the things I would suggest, so I'll simply say I love the premise and think your page captures a voice that will appeal to MG readers and some of us who are way older! Good luck! (#38)

  11. You have voice and great writing. I'm not a huge fan of present tense narratives, but I think you can pull it off. I agree that Henry sounds older, than his sister, but this doesn't make me want to stop reading. I really like this entry. Good luck!
    -Lyuda ( #40 )

  12. Fantastic story and great job with both the pitch and the first page. In the pitch, I think you can get more pop by finding a way other than admitting to reveal he's part of an ancient society. Is it possible for the kids stumble across it? In the first page, I agree with Michael's comment about feeling unable to discern which is the older sibling from the dialog. Maybe they're really close in age (which usually creates a greater sibling rivalry)?

    Great job with your story and best of luck!

    Mike (#19)

  13. I like Henry's voice a lot. Nice 250, presents a problem right up front that MG readers can relate to. And when they find out it's Finland, not Boston, I'll bet they're both going to freak. I think you need to up the stakes a little, making the consequences of failing to locate the Sampo more personal rather than something as broad as environmental devastation. Good luck with this!

  14. Good Afternoon,
    I will check down the list of things already mentioned..
    Sounds like the sister is younger not older (especially when the talk about her height because girls are usually taller quicker, so it could go either way)
    The punishment for a sibling quarrel seems a little odd to me.. is he like a private tutor or are their other kids in the class?
    Also the teacher announcing he is part of a secret society seems a little contradictory. Maybe they stumble across it?
    The Pitch had a lot of storyline to it but the stakes kind of fizzled at the end. Why isn't it the teacher that is doing the heavy lifting to protect the Horn? What makes these kids the MCs verses the teacher? Why does the dad's boss want to unleash the cataclysmic event/what does he have to gain from destruction of Finland?
    If they can speak loud enough to talk about a secret and to go to his room, why not have him enter her room steal the book, razz her, and share the secret.
    All other suggestions have been made up top! The book sounds fun!
    I hope it helps! Good Luck!
    Fellow Contestant & Writing Friend #35


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