Wednesday, September 5, 2012

CAGI Entry #1

Genre: YA memoir
Word Count: 66,000


At fifteen-years-old I’m a spitfire of a girl who’s as quick to throw a punch as I am to steal a kiss. When I’m kidnapped and raped, I put up one hell of a fight.
Set free, numb and in shock, I go straight to the police. Three days later the serial rapist is caught. Still it’s not enough. Fear and rage are my closest companions and I teeter-totter between the two. While preparing for trial I put on a brave face for the world, but the invisible scars leave me incapable of being touched. The first boy who tries almost gets a cheek full of knuckles.
A summer foreign exchange program to Spain comes at the perfect time. With the court date months away, a break from the pressures of the trial is exactly what I need. A gorgeous Spanish boy pursuing me was not in my brochure though. I try to resist his dreamy eyes and lickable teeth, but all my girl parts go beep, beep, beep every time he looks my way. The walls I spent all year building come crashing down as I learn to laugh again, touch again, love again. Now, torn by my desire to stay with the boy I love, I dread returning home to face my past. I know my case is the only solid one they have against that madman, but it means saying goodbye to Pedro. I have to decide what is more important—protecting my heart or protecting other women from a monster.

First 250:

I know at any moment he’ll kill me. His scorching breath is on my neck. His odor is imbedded in my nose. It’s only been minutes since he crawled off me, but the rape keeps replaying in my mind, torturing me over and over again.
He’s had me in his clutches for at least an hour. Or maybe it’s been ten minutes.
Time seems to stop right before you die.
Why am I still alive? What more- I stop myself. I won’t think about how he plans to kill me. And besides, I refuse to die in whatever way he’s chosen. I’m certain I won’t live much longer, but there is one thing I can do, if escaping is out of the question. I will not be going home to my family tonight, but I will send them my killer, my rapist, or rather his DNA buried beneath my fingernails when they find my dead body. At the first sign he’s done with me, I’ll strike. I know the second I claw his face off he’ll end my life. So I wait, patiently, for him to try to kill me.
The car stops. This is the moment.
He lets go of my head and snarls, “If you tell anyone, I’ll kill you,” then reaches across me and thrusts open the car door.
I see my escape and move so quickly I topple out backwards onto the curb. 
Daylight is almost gone, granting me just enough luminescent to see my surroundings


  1. Let me preface my comments with this: I am not a rule follower. However, this query breaks a pretty big one- being written in third person. I don't it needs to be. I think you can make this compelling without doing that.

    That said, I'm a little confused about the conflict. Why does going home mean giving up Pedro? She can go back to Spain, right? And even if there was no rape case she'd have to go back home right? She never expected this to be permanent. And a nitpick that's probably pretty subjective- 'lickable teeth.' I don't quite get that.

    In regard to the first 250, I think you’re starting in the right place. However, I'm having setting/blocking issues. He's crawled off of her, but then he lets go of her head. I didn't know he held her head. Also, I had no indication they were in a car. So I was a little surprised when he threw her out of it. She topples backwards onto the curb. Was she pressed against the door?

    Good luck.

  2. @RaeChell- I just knew the third person issue would come up. Haha. Let me tell you, I did not want to write it in first. I felt like I was breaking a cardinal rule, but since this is a MEMOIR--it is supposed to be in first. Janet Reid explains this here--

    As far as the other suggestions, they are right on the money. Since this was a foreign exchange program, the state paid for the trip. I would have been able to extend my stay, but if I came home, they would not have paid for me to fly back out there. That would be an extra $3k. I need to clear that up in the query:)

    As for the 250--I must admit that I cut just a few descriptions for the sake of numbers. *hangs head* Now I'm worried it might cost me :( you live, you learn. But in the original opening there are more descriptions about where I'm at, and how I'm pinned down.

    Thanks for your suggestions!!

  3. I'll admit I was thrown by the first person query until I realized it was a memoir and read it again. I think the first 250 are great. You pack a lot into a small space. Good luck!

  4. Oh, wow. I really should've caught that about it being a memior. My fault.

    It's so hard with 250 words thing. I cut for the sake of it once and got blasted. It's such a hard call because you want people to get where you're going with it. Trust me. I get it.

    Good luck to you.

  5. This had me in tears. The fact that it's a memoir breaks my heart. The first 250 are so vivid and heartbreaking. I want to claw the guys eyes out myself. I really want to know how the story ends. I hope he's rotting away somewhere.

    My only nitpick-I agree about the lickable teeth. Sounds so odd. But probably just me LOL.

    Your words and story are compelling. Good luck.

  6. Ugggggggggh this hurts my heart.

    Your query is good, I'm already dying to know how your story ends. The lickable teeth part is also my only nitpick.

    Your first 250 are great, sad and chill-inducing, but great.

    I'm excited to see how this plays out for you :)

  7. I definitely get the first-person for a memoir thing but it threw me a little bit that the query is told in present-tense. Assuming (and hoping!) this is an event far in your past, would it make more sense to tell this in past tense? By the way, I'm only referencing the query- I like the MS being in present tense. I'm so sorry that you had to endure a nightmare like this- I truly hope your publication will ensure some kernel of good comes out of it. You're incredibly brave!!

  8. So no one likes my lickable teeth comment?! Dang :P But he sooo had lickable teeth! :D all shiny and perfect, YUM!

    And please don't feel sorry for me you guys :) It's super sweet, but I promise my life has turned out so amazing. My story has an awesome ending, I promise :)

  9. Oh and this is an old wound. I'm 28 now with a wonderful, loving husband, a 4 yo son, and a 2 yo daughter. Life is great :)

  10. Ooooo, now I want to know if Pedro is the husband ;) And I am thrilled to know there is a happy ending. I really want to know how you get there and think you have a story girls and women need to hear.

  11. I struggled with the subject matter but I do think this is well written - well done!

  12. Haunting and heartbreaking. I love that your query is in first person - because this is a memoir the first person details make it more personal (IMO), and made the fact that this is a memoir hit home even more for me.

    I love this line: all my girl parts go beep, beep, beep. ha! Shows that this is so much more than a rape story - it's a story of growth and moving past.

    I was a little thrown that she is in a moving car - because of comments like "breath at my neck" and similar, I didn't picture a moving vehicle. But I think it could be easily fixed with a minor tweak early on.

    Otherwise, this is heartbreaking and honest. It's hard to read, but that's because it is so real. I want to read more, and I want to see how you overcame such a horrible event. Well done.

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  14. Wow, you're BRAVE to be putting this out there! Thank you for that.

    This is haunting, and full of passionate, determined voice. It captured me from the beginning, both query and first 250 words. I think you definitely started in the right place on the 250 words- it struck a deep chord in me. I would read on, hands down, to see how you overcome this.

    Just a couple of suggestions:

    *Introducing the car so late confused me as well.
    *I'm negative on the lickable teeth, too
    *I think you could break up the last paragraph of your query into two different ones.

    Well done, and good luck! Again, thanks for having the guts to share such an experience.

    (sorry if I posted this twice- computer being weird)

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    1. I can't even offer a comment. I've already read the memoir and know it's awesome, so I've lost all objectivity!! Good luck Amber. :)

  16. This is really an unforgettable query and 250. Thanks for sharing it with us. I was a little thrown by the present tense in the query, and I think you want "luminescence" rather than "luminescent" in the last line of the 250. And I actually sort of liked the "lickable teeth" line.

    Bottom line: You are brave and strong and a talented writer.

  17. First of all, I am so sorry this happened to you. No matter how long ago it occurred, you're incredibly brave to tell the story -- and thank you for sharing it with us.

    Let me start with a caveat: I know very little about querying memoir, so please weigh my suggestions against more experienced ones (like Janet Reid). In terms of the query, you're absolutely correct -- memoir is told in first person (and I'm assuming you include a line in the first paragraph indicating the genre.) However, the fact that the query is told in present tense throws me. Even if the memoir itself is written in present tense, the query might benefit from being told in past tense -- it might better convey the fact that this is a story of survival and recovery and hope, which is what will inspire people to read it.

    My only other real concern with the query is one you might already have addressed -- because it's a non-fiction project, you need to talk about platform. Obviously, if you've got that section written already, and just didn't include it here, ignore this paragraph.

    From a line-editing perspective, I'm not a huge fan of "lickable teeth." You do a great job of setting up your conflict at the end, but the phrase "face my past" doesn't have the emotional weight of the rest of that section. But those are small quibbles and easily fixed.

    The first 250 really capture your terror and shock, and they definitely work as present tense. As some of the other commenters noted, you might want to consider clarifying some of the blocking issues, such as the moving car issue. But the strong, terse style works here, so be careful not to overexplain and lose your voice.

    Again from a nitpicky line-editing perspective: usually it's "embedded," not "imbedded" (though technically, both are right). And yes, luminescent. (But those are both so small as to not worry overmuch.)

    Overall, this is really strong -- and harrowing. Thank you so much for sharing this with us, Amber. I wish you the very best of luck!


  18. My only critique is a few of the terms and issues with confusing descriptions. Just clear it up a little bit for the reader- since it's in your head, it makes sense to you- but sometimes the reader needs a little bit clearer direction to get a picture!

    What a true fighter you are. And so, SO brave to share this with the world. I wish you so much luck on this one.

  19. Thank you Erica for such an indepth critique!! I will take everything you said to heart, as well as all the other suggestions, and make the needed changes :)

  20. Amber--wow. I've read this several times and each time I am horrified for you and amazed by you. I agree that this is an important story for girls, young women, and even older women and needs to get out there.

    thank you for your support of my entry and my story. It really means so much to me. One of these days I'll find an agent who falls in love with Bix as much as my readers have and until that day, I'll keep plugging away at it.

    I wish the same for you. Good luck and let me know if you ever need a CP, reader, or when you get published. I want to be in line for this one :)


  21. Wow. I'm blown away by how compelling this "story" is. (The fact it's a memoir makes me a little weary calling it a story.) I, too, didn't love the present tense aspect of it--it made it sound too fiction-ish for me. But then again, I don't know enough about memoir querying to say whether that is technically good form in that category.

    As for the first 250, I didn't have any of the same issues with missing description that other commenters had. The fact that the car wasn't mentioned until deeper into the 250 didn't rattle me at all. I like when setting details are fed to me slowly. I'm not a fan of setting-dumps. You did this really well.

    And a personal note of thanks to you for having the courage to share your story. You're a wonderful role model for women, young and old. Best of luck with this!!!!