Monday, January 21, 2013

Bouncer Post #55


Genre: MG, contemporary

Word Count: 30K


Twelve-year-old Haley has the worst life ever—stuck for the third summer in a row at her mom’s work, a stinking old folks’ home. At least she has plenty of time to figure out a way to make enough cash to buy a cell phone and smuggling contraband in is just the ticket. It turns out old people have a sweet tooth and selling snacks to the residents is a real money-maker. 

Things turn less lame when Haley gets to watch her favorite show, Cajun Pawn Stars, with the General, and it only costs her a few Oreos an episode. And when she discovers that one of the new residents is sixteen-year-old Rachel who’s in a coma thanks to the driver of a getaway car, things really get interesting. Rachel’s roommate is 80-something Miss Essie whose best day is remembering where she put her teeth and worst day is over-hearing the strange visitors who just might be bank robbers and now want to hurt the only witness.

If a kid who’s stranded for the summer, a retired Marine who’s given up on life, and an old lady with Alzheimer’s can solve a bank robbery and prevent a murder, it’s possible Haley will have the best How I Spent My Summer essay in the history of middle school.

THE SUMMER I STARTED A BUSINESS, SOLVED A BANK ROBBERY, AND SHOWED UP ON CAJUN PAWN STARS is a 30k middle grade novel. It’s a modern day Nancy Drew with some humor thrown in. I’ve been a teacher and school counselor for over twenty years. Currently, I’m a middle school counselor with the largest school system in the Southeast. I’m also a member of SCBWI.

First 250:

The smell hit me as soon as I stepped into the lobby. Old people. A combination of Lysol, Old Spice, hair spray, and peppermint. If you’re not prepared, it’ll knock you over.

Go ahead and take a whiff the next time you walk into a nursing home. Wait—I’m the only almost 8th grader who has to spend her summer in one. This was going to be the worst two and a half months of my life—stuck for the third time in a row at Mom’s work.

I saw Amy walk in the front door and followed her to the beauty parlor.
“Hey, Haley. How’s your summer going?” Amy asked as she balanced the box of beauty supplies on her hip while unlocking the parlor door.

“So far it stinks. Mom won’t trust me to stay home by myself.”

Amy almost fell in when the door gave way. “She’s scared you’ll burn the house down, huh?”

I followed her in and plopped down in the first pink chair with the old-lady-helmet style hair dryer attached to it. “No. She’s afraid I’ll spend my whole summer in front of the TV watching Cajun Pawn Stars. I told her that wasn’t even possible seeing how it only comes on a couple of times a week. But as you can see, I’m here.” I pushed the buttons. ON. OFF. COOL. OFF.

Amy put her pink smock on and started mixing hair dye in a little wooden bowl. “This place isn’t so bad. I mean, I’m here.” 


  1. This sounds so much fun! The title cracks me up. :) The query is great - you've nailed the voice, and the bit at the end about Haley's sidekicks is hilarious. I think it could benefit from some trimming. Focus on the main plot - solving a bank robbery - and only introduce the characters absoultely necessary to that main plot. So, for example, you could cut the part about the General, Oreos, and Cajun Pawn Stars. You could cut down the part about Rachel and why she's in the home.

    Love the first 250! I would definitely read this if I saw it in the bookstore. :)

    Best of luck!

    Gail (#60)

  2. I love it -- it has all the ingredients for a fun MG: unlikely friends, strong setting, comic relief.

    I think your query could use some streamlining: cutting words as well as smoothing out fluidity issues such as run-on sentences.

  3. I love the concept! An 8th grader teaming up with a retired Marine and a lady with Alzheimer's to solve a bank robbery! That's just too much fun to resist. I love stories where all the characters have the potential to make each other's lives better in some way. :)

    I'll agree with the other comments, you do have some looong sentences in your query. But I like the little details of Cajun Pawn Stars and Oreos. Those add humor and voice to the query, imo.

    Good luck!

  4. You already know how much I love your story. So original and fun.

    You said you got some great comments on your query, so I'd actually love the see the revised version.

    My biggest suggestion would be to bring the mystery up to the first paragraph and make it part of the hook. Something like "Twelve-year-old Haley has the worst life ever - spending the summer in the stinking old folks home. That is, until ..." Maybe use the Tinkerbell/Peter Pan thing in combination with the bank robbery as an attention grabber.

    Good luck! I love love your story!!!!

  5. Great story!

    Here are some comments:
    You have great voice in your second paragraph but I think it needs to be tightened.
    Why is a sixteen year old at an old folks' home rather than a hospital?

    Your first 250 are very strong - Hayley's voice is strong, fun and quirky!

    Good luck!!

  6. Sounds like a fun reads:) everything I would suggest has been mentioned. Watch the run on sentences but keep the voice!!

  7. First of all your title made me laugh out loud, literally. Cajun Pawn Stars?? LOL!! And the bit about old people having a sweet tooth.

    The voice is spot on in the query, and reads just as a MG should. Going to have to agree with some of the above, that you should move the hook-line up to the first paragraph that way you draw in the attention even sooner and try to tighten a bit. Although, I kept on reading due to the sheer absurdity of the situation of the MC lol. Which is a good thing!

    Your 250 had some great voice with some good descriptions and natural sounding dialogue. I would keep on reading.

    And how in the world did you come up with a concept like this lol. The title may be a tad long for when you get published!

    Good job and good luck!

    -Copernicus (Post #43)

  8. I really like this query—you’ve worked in some terrific details (the Oreos, Miss Essie’s teeth) as you spells out the plot of what sounds like a wonderfully quirky story. I especially like the “If a kid who’s stranded…” paragraph. My one quibble is with the first line, as I feel like calling Haley’s life the worst ever is a bit overdramatic. Maybe you can just say that she’s about to have the worst summer ever instead?

    Your first page has some terrific voice, and I really start to get a sense of your MC as she plays with the buttons on the dryer—a perfect bored-kid thing for her to do. I’d suggest cutting your second paragraph, though—the shift to present tense is jarring, and I think that that information could be worked in more subtly later. I love the line “If you’re not prepared, it’ll knock you over” and wonder if you could play more on that here instead, maybe saying something about how she should be prepared, or is definitely prepared, since she’s spent so much time here before.

    A couple more concerns I have are the title—I like the quirkiness, but I wonder if you could come up with something that reads a bit less like a plot summary—and the 30k length, which is on the short side for middle grade. But all that said, I’d want to turn the page and read more of this one, so hopefully agents will, too.

    YOU’RE IN! =)

  9. Thank you so much Gail, Greyson, Leila, Laurie, Twinkieseed, Ink in the Book, and Copernicus for your kind and encouraging comments. You've made some very good suggestions that I will use. Gook luck to all of you as you continue to write and get your work out there.

    And thank you Myrtle!