Wednesday, September 5, 2012

CAGI Entry #8

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary
Word Count: 35,000


When twelve-year-old Becca and her ten-year-old brother Johnny are uprooted from the tiny Polynesian island they’ve always called home, they slam into much bigger challenges than figuring out who can rip through steeper swells, who the next chief of the island should be, or whose grades will be good enough to avoid the Captain’s wrath.

Having a white father and a Pacific Islander mother was never a big deal for Becca or Johnny in Polynesia, but it matters a lot to everyone in Arizona. Just when the siblings begin to figure out how to survive their adventure in the desert, a death in the family forces them to re-evaluate the importance of popularity.  HOW IT LOOKS FROM HERE, a 35,000-word contemporary middle grade novel, is told from the alternating perspectives of Becca and Johnny.

First 250:

I broke three of Quentin’s rules on my last day at Lupelele Elementary. First: never disobey the Captain. Second: never fight a girl. Third: never lose a fight to a girl. In twenty minutes, about how long it would have taken me to run from one side of the island to the other, I pretty much guaranteed that I’d be laughed at till I graduated from fifth grade.

After I’d cleared out my locker for the last time, I headed across the playground to meet my sister. A crowd on the other side of the courtyard was chanting in a rhythm that could only signal one thing: a fight. We only had about two or three fights per year at our school, and the last time one had broken out, I was grounded for two weeks—and I wasn’t even in it. Quentin thought it was bad for the chief’s grandson to be connected to a fight in any way. Even as a bystander. Stupid rules.

As the chanting grew louder, I weighed my potential punishment against the thrill of seeing a fight up close. The decision took me half a second. I threw my backpack down and ran toward the fight.

I elbowed my way toward the front of the crowd. Faith, the biggest girl in the sixth grade, held down her unlucky opponent with a knee between the girl’s shoulders.

What were the chances of a girl fight?


  1. I really like this. I could've used a few more details in the query though. I didn't get the impression that they were concerned with popularity. There are a lot of steps between popularity and survival. At least I think so.

    Johnny's voice is great. Already you've set up his world in terms of the responsibility he has as the grandson of the chief. I really enjoyed the first and third paragraphs. There is some passive language, but maybe that's Johnny's voice?

    Good luck.

  2. I'm really intrigued by this premise! Love the characters and the voice! Good luck!

  3. I love the idea of these characters, and I think you've given Johnny a great MG voice. You give such a vibrant picture of island life and I hope that carries throughout, because I think it's such an exciting setting choice, even if it's mostly in flashback!

  4. I think the opening sentence in your query could be broken into 2 sentences. It's extremely long. And the query is super short. Though I love what's being said--4 sentences seems so short. You could easily add some more tension about popularity and consequences.

    The 250 is good and leaves me wanting more. Good luck!

  5. Nice work! This is a great opening. The first paragraph is very strong. I think there are a handful of places where you could convert telling to showing but you've done a very good job nailing the voice. I'd read on.

  6. I love this concept! You do a good job with the query, but I think you've got some space to add in a few more details. The first 250 is really good & very MG. I'm almost sure Johnny is going to get in trouble again & that makes me want to read on.

  7. Nice job on your query. I wonder if you should explain who Captain is.

    You've got a great voice. My only concern is I don't know who Quentin is and it took me a bit to see that this first 250 was written fron Johnny's perspective.

    I do like that you've got some action right at the beginning.

    Good luck!

  8. I agree with DanaE. I was a little confused on the first read through by mentions of Quentin and The Captain, since I hadn't heard of those characters before. I really like the voice of the MC though, and the premise sounds intriguing.

    I had a few questions about the query. The captain is mentioned in the first paragraph. Is there anyway to let us know who he is and why Johnny and Becka are concerned about what he thinks of their grades?

    Also: Having a white father and a Pacific Islander mother was never a big deal for Becca or Johnny in Polynesia, but it matters a lot to everyone in Arizona. Just when the siblings begin to figure out how to survive their adventure in the desert, a death in the family forces them to re-evaluate the importance of popularity.

    This paragraph threw me. I didn't see the connection between them moving, the importance of popularity and the death. I think I'm wording this wrong...I mean, I can imagine what the connection is in the actual story. A)they move B.)they want to be popular C.)A death in the family rearranges their priorities.

    But the query isn't reading like that. The second paragraph doesn't seem to flow from point A to point B to point C. The mention of popularity caught me off guard, since nothing was said about its importance before the last sentence. I think a few more details about who the Captain is and their struggle for popularity in this new town would really help this query.

    Again though, I want to reiterate that I really liked the voice and I think the premise is really cool. I'd be excited to see the details about what it was like to live on the island. Good luck with this! I'm number 29 if you want to check it out. :)

  9. Oh, no! I think Blogger ate my critique -- I'm so sorry if you've been waiting and waiting.

    The premise and pages both sound great, and the query starts off very strong. I agree that "the captain" needs clarification, but it's a quick thing -- you can simply say, "The Captain, their father," and go from there.

    The second paragraph of the query lags a bit -- I'd like to see a more specific conflict, especially because the issues a twelve-year-old girl and a ten-year-old boy are facing would appear different, at least on the surface. Since they each get a POV, their conflicts should each get a mention in the query. Then you can talk about the death in the family and how it has a similar effect (re-evaluating) on both of them, if that is indeed the case. It's a minor fix, but would draw the reader in more.

    The other thing you might want to consider doing is simply putting "Johnny" underneath the chapter heading so that the reader is clear whose POV you're in. Because Becca's name is always mentioned first, I assumed it was her POV initially. Again, it's a tiny tweak, and you might even have it in the full manuscript already.

    It's a great story, and Johnny's voice is very authentic and appealing. Great work!