Monday, January 14, 2013

Bouncer Post #3

Genre: Humorous, Younger Middle Grade
Word Count: 10,200


Ten year old Callie is really, Really, REALLY AFRAID of spiders, having self-diagnosed herself with “Magnus Arachnophobius.” It’s the Amazing, Jumping Spider who is to blame as Callie believes every eight-legged creature is out to get her, to “build this giant web castle complete with a Jacuzzi tub and a walk-in refrigerator somewhere between my left eyebrow and the third freckle on my forehead!!”

The only thing that can possibly make this condition worse is being cast as the girl-turned-spider in the fourth grade play, Arachne.

Knowing she was bullied into this role, Callie puts her creativity to the test as she gives the creepy-crawly, hairy, googly-eyed beings another chance. And it’s when she sees the Amazing, Jumping Spider do something more than amazing that she’s inspired to stand up to the class bully.

First 250:

It was always blustery and cold on the days when 10 year old Callie Buttons diagnosed herself with conditions. Three years ago during a hail storm she realized she had “Bendumus Elbowmuss” which was a condition where you bend your arms and swing them too much, thus making you walk very fast. It was a good disease to have if you were trying to get somewhere quickly, but not if you were trying to wait in line and your elbows jabbed the person next to you.

Callie researched it and discovered the only known cure was to hold a penny on your elbow. She did this every night before bed for two years and could now proudly say that she walked slower and didn’t jab.

There was a fluffy, blowing snowstorm when Callie diagnosed herself with “Double-Eyed Blinkitude” which meant she blinked her eyes too much. This was ok if you were trying to walk to school in a blustery storm, but not so good if the most popular boy in class yelled for you to stop winking at him with both eyes. Especially when you weren’t!

Callie discovered the cure was to have staring contests. So she enlisted her cat, Mr. Fuzzy Face, for help. Now it was two years later and she was almost cured.

On the day Callie diagnosed herself with “Magnus Arachnopbobius” there were gale force winds outside and the ocean, which she could see from her bedroom window, had white caps and huge splashing waves. 


  1. I really like your concept. It's funny and sweet and I think you can go far with it. Generally, I find you query in good shape. The one major comment I have is about the bully issue. It seems tacked on at the end and has nothing really to do with Callie's arachnophobia. I would think, especially for a younger MG book, that overcoming hypochondria would be an end in itself. Perhaps the bully could be a hurdle on the way. The last sentence is rather vague - it would sparkle if it presented Callie's choice and the consequences thereof.

    Nit: "Self-diagnosing herself" is redundant.
    Personal preference: Exclamation marks (I think) should be used sparingly, so two together is a bit much.

    The first four paragraphs of your 250 are funny little vignettes, but they are all backstory. Things really seem to begin with the final paragraph. My suggestion *personal opinion warning* is to start there, show a bit of Callie's world as well as her dilemma, then work the vignettes further in.

  2. Thanks for your input! I appreciate it. :)

  3. I think this is super cute! I disagree with the Heather above and actually found the bully part to be a great vehicle in the query. Anxious kids strive to control their surroundings, and diagnosing oneself with all sorts of crazy diseases seems like the ultimate in control. Take an anxious kid and throw in a bully, and you have a great story.

    And, I love that this is light-hearted and funny. :) Good luck!

    Oh--I'm not sure that it's recommended for you to use quotes in a query--can you show us Callie's voice in a different way?

    As always, just my two cents--I really love this entry!

  4. I can't tell you how much I love the idea of a ten-year-old diagnosing herself with outrageous maladies. Very high concept and awesome. I would totally read this book! And I think it will be very popular with agents once you really start querying.

    But I do think there are some adjustments you could make that would help get those requests rolling in. Callie's voice is fantastic. Your writing style is light and loopy and enjoyable. I think you've got all the right pieces, but I think you might want to revisit your word count. Weird comment, I know, but when I saw it, I thought it was pretty low, so I Googled it and found that traditionally speaking a middle-grade novel, even a younger middle-grade novel, is usually between 20,000 and 35,000 words. Word counts for novels are just a guideline, I know, but 10,200 is nearly 50% less than the suggested minimum. I know for sure from following many, many agents on Twitter that word counts, while not a deal-breaker, are something they look at to make sure an author really gets the market and what's expected in certain genres/age groups. Take this with a grain of salt, however, as I am a YA author and am not as familiar with the rules about word counts in MG. Just consider taking another look and making sure you've got agents who will take such a short MG novel. Alternatively, consider expanding it! Your character is adorable, and I'm sure kids will want to spend more time with her rather than less. ;-)

    As for the query, I think it's pretty well put together. Heather K.'s comment about the quote is fair. I've not heard that recommendation before, but it did jar me a little when I read the quote, so it's probably worth looking at. And as for the bit about the bully, I agree with Heather K. that I like it, but I also agree with Heather H. that it feels tacked on. I think you can fix that fairly easily, though, by combining the second and third paragraphs into something like this: "The only thing that can possibly make this condition worse is being bullied into the role of girl-turned-spider in the fourth grade play, Arachne. But Callie puts her creativity to the test as she gives the creepy-crawly, hairy, googly-eyed beings another chance. And it’s when she sees the Amazing, Jumping Spider do something more than amazing that she’s inspired to stand up to the class bully."

    Good luck! I'm looking forward to reading all about Callie's Magnus Arachnophobius someday!

    1. Thanks for your critique! I really appreciate it. Hopefully I'll be spreading Magus Arachnaphobius around the US in the future!