Wednesday, September 12, 2012

CAGI Entry #56

Genre: Middle-Grade Fantasy Adventure
Word Count: 48,047


Thirteen-year-old Jocelyn Hook is a disappointment. Her grandfather intends to see her pressed and starched into a well-mannered, fine society lady – but Jocelyn has other plans. Besides having a distinct aversion to starch, Jocelyn wields a sword better than an embroidery needle. She dreams of high-sea adventure, hoping to become every bit as daring a pirate as her infamous father, Captain James Hook. A forced admittance to Miss Eliza Crumb-Biddlecomb’s Finishing School for Young Ladies insists that Jocelyn stuff those dreams into a lacy white handbag – complete with matching hankie.

When Jocelyn is sprung from school in order to hunt down the crocodile that killed Captain Hook, she finds more adventure than she ever imagined. As if trying to defeat Neverland’s most fearsome beast isn’t enough to deal with, Jocelyn must captain a crew of untrained pirates, battle a not-quite ghostly ship, outwit cannibals that are wild for English cuisine, and tame the attentions of a love-sick fairy.

I am an active member of SCBWI and Willamette Writers.

First 250:

The week before Jocelyn's grandfather decided to send her away to finishing school was an eventful one, even by her standards.

On Monday, Jocelyn’s newest tutor found his pupil unable to do her history lesson. Someone had torn out most of the pages from her lesson book in order to make paper boats. This same unidentified person then floated the paper vessels on the garden pond, after lighting them on fire, of course. Jocelyn sat at her desk, wide eyes and innocent, with a spot of soot on her nose and the faint smell of smoke still clinging to her rumpled dress.

If you ask me, her tutor was wrong to turn in his resignation. True history is filled with burning fleets.

On Tuesday, Jocelyn startled the head cook, who rather foolishly did not expect the girl to come flying down the front banister brandishing a wooden sword and singing a bawdy sea chantey at the top of her lungs. A tea-tray of French pastries dropped on Sir Charles’s finest Persian rug was clearly no one’s fault but the cook’s own.

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were much the same: Jocelyn tore her new silk stockings trying to climb the high iron fence surrounding Hopewell Manor in order to see out and “scout for enemy ships approaching”. Her finest blue sash went missing, only to be discovered under the hedgerow, one end tied into a complicated sailor’s knot, the other, a noose. She scandalized the third-floor serving maids when she refused her evening bath by shouting, “Look out, ye dog-livered landlubbers! I’m the most feared girl-pirate to ever live! I’ll see you keelhauled before you get me to walk the plank!”


  1. Nice concept! I like the writing style too. I do think it falls into telling a little. I'd love to be shown some of these great adventures Jocelyn is having. Love the bit about the sash!

  2. Oh..My...GOODNESS! I don't know why this isn't getting any love. I think I fell in love with the very first sentence of the query. It is so adorable and cute! I was a rather 'willful;' child as my mom loves to put it, and I would have read this book and acted like a pirate for months!

    I seriously have nothing to critique except for the fact MG readers may not know what bawdy means, but they can always look it up, right? :)

    Seriously, I have nothing to say. Your voice is amazing, your character is fabulous, and the plot sounds excellent!

    You are someone I am going to keep my eye on (and by your book as soon as it comes out)

    Best of Luck!
    Jessica #96

  3. Hi, 56! I’m in LOVE with Peter Pan! You’ve got a fantastic premise, query, and sample. There are a few tiny improvements that could kick it up a notch.

    I don’t mind the first mention of starch, but I’m not sure it has much meaning to MG-ers. If I were you, I’d cut this clause, “Besides having a distinct aversion to starch.”
    In the last sentence of the first paragraph, it’s a little confusing how her admittance “insists.” Switching “insists” to something like “means” would be clearer.
    As far as the last paragraph, the passive first sentence could possibly be improved upon. But, if making the sentence more active means a lot of extra explanation (I don’t know the details of your story), then leave it as is.
    Also, I was always change “in order to” to “to.” It’s less wordy and has the same meaning.
    Your last sentence is PERFECTION!

    The “even by her standards” is a little unclear. Adding a detail or two about what Jocelyn’s week usually consists of (i.e. tree climbing, sword fighting, etc.) would make this clearer and would make the first sentence more voice-y.
    Again, there are two instances of “in order to” that I would change to “to.”
    In the third paragraph, I’m not crazy about the narrator directly addressing the reader. I believe J.M. Barrie did so, though; so this may be part of your voice. If so, that’s fine.
    I think, instead of “wide eyes” you mean “wide eyed.”
    Also, this is nitpicky, but make sure you get that period inside the quotation mark.

    I loved this! I want to watch Hook now!

    Lots of luck to you! If you have questions, ask below in the comments or find me on Twitter (@novelista85). -Jessica

  4. Wow! Thank you both so much. I'm feeling the love now for sure.
    Jessica, thanks for the crits. I appreciate the feedback.

  5. I'm so glad you made it to the agent round! I visited your blog during the GUTGAA Meet & Greet and really liked your story premise.

    I have a few suggestions for your query:

    This is nitpicky, so do what you will: I think you can omit "Besides having a distinct aversion to starch," since it doesn't add anything new, and start the line with "Jocelyn wields a sword better than an embroidery needle" +comma and: "she dreams of high-sea adventure, hoping to become [every bit] (omit) as daring a pirate as her infamous father, Captain James Hook."

    Cutting some of the extra words makes it read stronger.

    I would give a line or two in that second paragraph about what decision Jocelyn needs to make. If she doesn't do x then y will happen. If she saves the crew/steers them to safety, will it prove to her grandfather she is more than a starched-up society girl? I think you're missing one or two crucial lines to show what Jocelyn needs to do to fulfill her quest plus the "or else." Get a threat in there!

    So excited for you. Good luck!

    1. Thank you! I got this after I sent in my entry, but I do appreciate your comments.
      Fingers crossed!