Wednesday, September 5, 2012

CAGI Entry #3

Genre: Multicultural Middle Grade Mystery
Word Count: 32,000


Allen Mak is used to hiding. At home, she hides behind her broken
Chinese to avoid her grandmother’s questions. Outside home, she hides
behind a fake address to attend a better school. And when she runs
into a thief outside her uncle’s store, she hides behind a dumpster.

But Allen is enrolled at school legally this year. So even though
she’s on probation for standing up to a school bully and even though
her first crush lands on the school’s dweebiest teacher, Allen’s
determined to quit hiding. And if she can find the thief, expose the
bully, get over her crush, and learn some Chinese, she might even be
able to quit for good.

First, she’ll have to figure out who else is hiding.

WEAVING A NET IS BETTER THAN PRAYING FOR FISH AT THE EDGE OF THE WATER is a multicultural middle grade mystery that will appeal to fans of Wendelin Van Draanen’s SAMMY KEYES series and Lisa Yee’s MILLICENT MIN, GIRL GENIUS.

First 250:

Reena likes Tony Arias, so I’m keeping an eye on him.

“Sure, I can tail him!” I said when she asked me after school. Then I
jumped up, zipped my jacket and flipped its hood over my head.
“Ninja-style!” I shouted. Behind us, the metal double doors of our
school banged open and another wave of kids poured into the yard.
Crouching low on one leg and splaying the other, I grinned at Reena
and raised a finger to my lips.

But she shrieked, “No!” and waved her hands in front of her face. “Get
up,” she whispered urgently. “Come on, Allie. You know that’s not what
I mean.”

“Allen,” I corrected and stood slowly. I was about to fall anyway.

She rolled her eyes. “We’re too old to be acting like tomboys.” That
was generous of her actually. Reena doesn’t usually count herself with
me as a tomboy.

“It’s my name,” I said, but I smiled. I sat down on the brick wall
beside her. Surrounded by the after school bustle and soothed by the
September breeze, we leaned into each other, a kind of sideways hug.
This was going to be the best year. I was in a new school finally, and
my best friend was here with me.

“Anyway, just watch Tony, okay?” she said. “I heard he takes the 17
bus. That’s your bus, right? Be sub- I mean, act normal.”


  1. I have to say I really liked this. There was voice from the query all the way through the opening. My only concern was the word count. I know it's MG though, so it's probably fine. I would def. keep reading.

  2. Great voice, tight query and fun title! I was curious about Allen's age. This seems a bit short to be middle grade unless it is very young middle grade, but the mention of a crush is throwing me off a bit if this is intended for, say, third-graders. I'm picturing something along the lines of the Ruby Lu series by Lenore Look that deals with Chinese-American culture. I would definitely check this out, though!

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Thanks for the kind comments! Allen is 12 years-old and starting 7th grade.

    Regarding word counts, I found this post by Jennifer Laughran SO helpful:

    Thanks again for the feedback! I'm enjoying reading the other entries too. :)

  5. I agree with other comments - nice sense of voice here and a good opening! Love the multi-cultural aspect.

  6. This sounds really cute! Your query makes me really curious about "who else is hiding." I am wondering if you need the part about hiding behind a fake address when you begin your story at a school where she is legit. Does the fake address really play a role in the story now?

    I'm also wondering if your long title needs to be shortened, but I can't say much as I have a long one too! :)

    Great job on your first 250!

    Good luck!

  7. I remember this one from WriteOnCon, and I still love it. It sounds like fun! And I like the way you weave in the multicultural aspect. :)

  8. I agree with Dana E about the line on hiding behind a fake address, since the story starts with Allen in a school where she doesn't have to do that.

    Other than that one tiny thing, I really liked both the query and the first 250. Your character has a great voice. I wouldn't worry about the wordcount. Lisa McMann's books in the Wake series were all around that long, and those books were YA.

    On another note, I thought it might be a good idea to put Allen's age in the query, so we immediately know if this is the upper or lower end of MG. IE: twelve year old Allen Mak is used to hiding. (or however old she is)Whenever i'm reading, knowing the character's age is really important in how I perceive them. Just a suggestion though. Great job on this.

    I'm number 29 if you want to check it out. Good luck with your story!

  9. WOW! You grabbed me from the get-go with this query, and once you mentioned Sammy Keyes, I was SOLD! Very little to suggest here, though I do think telling us Allen's age would be helpful. As others have suggested, Allen's fake address from last year probably isn't necessary, but it's a nice way to frame her decision to stop hiding -- now that she can be honest about where she lives, she can be honest about HOW she lives.

    I was a little bit confused by the line "First she'll have to figure out who else is hiding." If you're referring to catching the thief, you've already addressed that, so it feels a little redundant. Maybe if you made the line more general -- "All she has to do is find out what everyone ELSE is hiding," so that it covers the various aspects of the plot? It's not a huge deal, and you can phrase it much better than I can, but it's something to consider.

    The 250 are great -- very strong, a hugely engaging and entertaining voice -- I'm absolutely smitten with Allen and this story. Good luck!

    -- Erica

  10. I enjoyed the query. Cute voice! My only thing was in the query, the school with the fake address, and the school where she didn't have to use one- It confused me a teensy bit!

    I hope that voice continues for the rest of the story! It seems fun and something that anyone could read!

  11. Thanks so much!!

    You're all spot on that Allen's age needs to be in the query. I'll think too on how to reword that last sentence so it clearly refers to more than the robbery.

    THANK YOU Cupid for hosting this contest, Erica for the critique, and all of you who shared thoughts. I've already benefited from this. Tamara, I'll check out #29, and gailcn, your handle looks familiar too! So nice to connect.