Wednesday, September 5, 2012

CAGI Entry #46


Title: EX-DRAMA QUEEN
Genre: Upper Middle Grade Contemporary
Word Count: 51,000

Query:

Thirteen-year-old Casey Fitzgerald has always been the star.  Ever since she was cast as the apple in her kindergarten production of The Five Food Groups, she’s known she was destined to be an actor.  But when her best friend Amanda wins the lead role in the school musical, the curtains close on Casey's dream.

There's no way Casey can get into the performing arts high school cast in a bit part as a nun.  Her life is over – unless she can reinvent herself.  The new Casey does karate and plays poker, and she finally gets actor Trevor’s attention.  There’s just one little problem – Trevor is Amanda’s boyfriend.  Casey must decide whether her great new life is worth losing Amanda’s friendship.  So much for ex-drama queen.

I am a member of SCBWI and a former high school drama geek.

First 250:

Wednesday, September 6th is the day my life will change.   

I'll either land the lead role in The Sound of Music, get into Holland Performing Arts High School, and end up on Broadway before I graduate college.  Or, I'll bomb the audition, go to boring South County High where I'll have no friends, and end up waiting tables at some roadside diner in Nowheresville, Kansas.

So, I've decided to memorize the entire play before I even audition.  No drama teacher – not even Ms. Sharp – can possibly deny my dedication to theater. 

“Casey, aren't you going to eat?”  Amanda pushes my lunch bag toward me. 

“I can't marry him!” I recite with my eyes closed.  My voice carries across the lunchroom, drowning out the chatter and shouts and clattering trays.   

“Nice projection,” Amanda says as I bow to the table of wide-eyed sixth graders next to us.   

“The auditions aren't for two days.  I really doubt Ms. Sharp expects you to have anything memorized.” 

“I have to be perfect.  My entire life depends on this role.”  I rip open my lunch bag and pull out the salad and veggie burger I packed last night.  Every great actor must perfect her skills, so I like to take on the role of different characters.  Since Mom bought a boatload of bagged salad on sale, I decided to be a vegetarian this week. 

“Don't worry so much.”  Amanda flicks her long blond hair over her shoulder.  "You'll get the lead."

24 comments:

  1. 'she’s known she was destined to be an actor' - wouldn't it be she 'is' destined?

    'a bit part as a nun' - two bit? Is that what you meant?

    Overall I like the voice a lot :) Good job!

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    1. Thank you, Jess! I think you win the most dedicated critiquer award. :) (I'm allowed to hand out awards, right? haha)

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  2. I like the voice and I love this concept - the line in your query about playing an apple in the 5 food groups made me giggle! :-)

    I felt there was a bit of a jump between "her life is over, unless she can reinvent herself" and the actual reinvention. I'd love just a bit more about how she comes to the conclusion that she needs to play poker and do karate in order to make this reinvention happen. That said, there is something really fun in the juxtaposition of a former drama queen changing to a poker player that made me want to know more - I would keep reading for sure!

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    1. You caught the part of the query I struggled with writing. I think I revised that bit 100 times (well, maybe not 100...maybe more like 90). Thank you for the comments!

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  3. Your query is so to the point and contains all the necessary components. I agree with Jess about making that one spot present tense.

    Great premise and the voice is awesome!

    Just curious...is the line, "I can't marry him" from The Sound of Music?

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    1. Thanks, Dana. I made that line up. :) I was afraid of infringing on copyright and all that fun stuff if I used an actual line from the play.

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  4. enjoyed the query! love the voice! I think it's a cute concept, and I adore drama geeks. The character seems quirky enough :) The only thing is, at times, the voice could sound a TEENSY bit too grown-up for the character's age! You might want to age her down just a little bit (not your writing! keep that solid and lovely!), because 13 can be just a little old for a MG. I'm excited to see what happens with this one! good job :)

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    1. Thank you, Lindsay! I'm glad you liked it & appreciate your thoughts.

      I agree that 13 (and probably 14, too) kind of falls into a hole between MG and YA. Do you think it would work better if I aged the MC down to 12? (Of course, I'd change the performing arts high school to an exclusive theater camp or something similar.)



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  5. Thanks gailcn - queries are a shocker to write, hey? My MC's 13 too (entry #44), it's definitely a tough age. I really think 'upper middle grade' is on the rise, though. I mean, you look at 15 years ago - lots of very short middle grade. Now you often get much longer ones - His Dark Materials, Amulet of Samarkand, Wonder, Percy Jackson books. I'm seeing lots of older protags too. It's hard to categorise because one 12-14 year old reader might not be ready for reams of vampire snogging, and lean more towards adventure. Another might prefer their stories to lean more towards YA.

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    1. Vampire snogging...heehee!

      I hope you're right re upper middle grade. Would love to see more of it out there!

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  6. I would actually suggest adding a little more meat to the query. You set everything up wonderfully, but I'd like to know more about what happens after Casey is denied the part. Also, I think the second line in your query shows what your first one says, so you could cut the first and keep the awesome second one! I love the bit about the apple. Good luck!

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    1. Thank you for your suggestions! I especially like your idea about nixing the first line and using the second to add more punch. Will do that! :)

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  7. Well on the upper MG there are a fair few I've seen. I read a good post by Mary Kole on the tweener issue but that was a fair while ago. I thought of something else - totally just a thought of course. You could make the first sentences an thoughts a little more confident. Definitely put in the 'if I fail' stuff, but you've said her life *will* change, and the title/query gives a drama queen grows as a character vibe. Maybe you could have her be slightly more full of herself in the beginning? Not so she isn't likeable, but so she believes she's the best? Could make for good tension if we're surprised, along with her, when she doesn't get the part. Readers could resent her friend along with her, then 'grow' as they read and see her realise what's important. Might also help accentuate character development.

    Anyway - I might be way off the mark, but thought I'd share the possibility.

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    1. Jess - it's so funny that you suggested this b/c that's almost exactly how the book used to start. Then I got a lot of feedback from crit partners & agents that Casey was too confident - to the point she was hard to sympathize with. So I revised & gave her a few doubts at the beginning to temper some of the confidence. She's still pretty sure of her herself, but she's also aware of the stakes if she doesn't get the part & that worries her some.

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  8. Casey seems like a really cool character. I can feel her angst.

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  9. I liked this a lot and I love her name--it's the name of my MC in my first manuscript :) I do agree that it would be a good idea to add something as to why her re-invention of herself includes the things it does and how those things will help her achieve what she wants.

    Casey has a great voice. One little tiny nitpick. For a girl, wouldn't it be actress instead of actor? It probably doesn't matter, but I thought I'd mention it. :)

    Anyway, good luck with this! I'm entry 29 if you want to check it out.

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    1. Thanks, Tamara! Casey's a good name for a character:) I went back and forth with the actor/actress thing. I settled on actor b/c the -ess ending tends to feel a bit outdated (stewardess, authoress, etc.).

      I'll pop over to your entry & take a look. :)

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  10. I'm with the other posters on upper middle grade (and not just because my entry- #14- is also upper MG). This is purely based on what I see at my local Barnes and Noble but I think there is growing shelf space for upper MG as YA becomes edgier in an attempt to gain crossover adults. "Clean teen" and upper MG seems to fill that gap a little. Here's hoping at least- it's my favorite age group to write!! After all, what's better than a first kiss:)
    By the way, your story is totally adorable with a killer voice- I remember this from another contest and love it as much now!

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    1. Thanks, Jennifer! We need to start a cheering section for upper MG! :) And I love writing first kiss scenes. They're SO awkward in real life which translates to lots fun to write.

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  11. As someone who adores theater and wanted to be an actress in middle school, I am totally into this. I know all these feelings vividly and you're hitting every one of them right on the mark. I couldn't even really critique it, because I was reading that opening as a hooked reader, not as someone who was evaluating the writing. Bravo!

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    1. Thank you, Ashley! Yay for theater people! :)

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  12. I love the line about being the apple in her kindergarten play. I definitely think you can mush lines 1 and 2 in your query so that is right there in your opening.

    I think you query and first 250 are really strong. If I picked this up and read that first page, I'd keep reading!

    Best of luck!

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