Monday, January 21, 2013

Bouncer Post #68

Genre: Middle Grade
Word Count: 40,300


Eleven year old Lauren Tatterman is stuck living with her much older brother in a college dorm for the summer. It was a rushed, last minute plan when her aunt sped off to England without her. And now all Lauren wants is peace – to cherish the memories of her recently deceased mother. Finding a secret passageway into the university library offers promises of just that: some much needed alone time.

But the solitude of the library at night proves to be just the opposite with campus rumors of a resident homeless man, an even bigger cover-up of a library heist and worst of all: secrets about her own family. Risking discovery by the campus police, or worse yet, “big brother bossy-pants” himself, Lauren sets out to unravel the mystery behind her own birth. But it isn’t until she stumbles upon hush-hush online chats and texts between her aunt and older brother that she realizes what little family she has left might be gone forever.

With the help of a roll of duct tape, a Tupperware of spaghetti and a mother cow from the campus research labs Lauren finally realizes what she wanted all along – and it was what she already had.

First 250:

“College is stupid!” I yelled to Lorry. Most students go college right after high school, so they’re usually 18 or 19. Some smarty pants might graduate early and are 16 or 17 when they arrive on campus. I went to college one month after my 11th birthday.

That was last week.

He was in his office checking email. “I need your phone to text Aunt Carol.” He’d left it sitting on the coffee table and I snapped it up.

“Do you even know how to text?” Lorry was by my side instantly, taking his phone.

“You don’t have to be in college to know how to text,” I hissed, sticking out my leg in an attempt to trip him.

“I’m not shipping you to England. Get your water bottle. It’s time to go.” He knew what I wanted: to go to England to be with our Aunt Carol. I hated that I was here at Eastern State University, living with him in a freshman dorm.

He was standing there, holding my backpack open. “Where’s your bottle of water?”

At least we lived in the dorm manager’s apartment on the first floor and not in one of the freshman rooms with two beds, two desks, two closets and that was it. Technically Lorry’s title was Residence Hall Director, or RHD for short. I liked to call him the Freshman Babysitter, or Big Brother Bossy-Pants.

“You don’t have to be rude.” His dorm was hot and stuffy. I stuck my tongue out.


  1. I love that this is set in a dorm! My entry (#45) is set in a college town, and it opens up cool possibilities. Good luck!

  2. I really like the concept here. It's a unique setting for a middle grade.

    I like your query, I think it lays out the conflict nicely. Although I might break up the first sentence in the second paragraph. It's a lot of information to swallow in one go.

    I like your first 250, and the dynamic between big bro and little sis. I'd almost start out with the most shocking bit which is that she's 11 and going to college. Maybe something like "Most people go to college right after high school but I went a month after my eleventh birthday." I think that will really grab the readers attention and have them wondering whats up with her. Also if you keep the ages, I'd spell them out as numbers not use numbers in the text.

    I'd be curious to read on. Good luck with this :)

  3. I love Lauren's voice! Sounds like one determined girl and I'd love to read this.

    I think you need to change or cut the last paragraph in the query. It gives away the ending and you don't want to do that in a query - no reason for someone to want to read more.

    I'm a little concerned about the logic of an 11yo being allowed by her aunt, let alone the school, to live in a freshman dorm unless her brother was her legal guardian and even then it doesn't sound likely.

    In the 250, you might consider rewording a couple of the passive sentences, especially because there are 2 "He was ..." very close together. And you should spell out the ages.

    Again, I do love her voice and would want to read on.

    1. I can tell you from my days as a resident assistant that the job the big brother has is one that would be given to a graduate student. Some are already married and have families. Their quarters are full apartments that connect to the rest of the dormitory. It's not implausible, but would require skillful explaining. Maybe the brother was still finishing his undergrad when mom died, and the Aunt took over? Now everyone is old enough for her to abdicate, if she wants.

      That said, this line: "But it isn’t until she stumbles upon hush-hush online chats and texts between her aunt and older brother that she realizes what little family she has left might be gone forever," may need tweaking, b/c it sounds like her brother and aunt may both be bailing? I don't think that's what you mean, but that's how it sounds.

      Again, Good luck, #68!

  4. I really like the inherent problems in your setting: the 11 year old girl staying (probably against the rules) in her brother's dorm. Great setting for lots of conflict and possibility. Dorm living is an eye opener for an 18-year old; it's great to imagine what an 11 year old would think of it.

    However, you lose me right in first para of the query with "And now all Lauren wants is peace – to cherish the memories of her recently deceased mother." This doesn't sound like an 11 year old to me, let alone an 11 year old whose mother just died. YMMV.

  5. Thanks everyone for all the tips! I work as a librarian at a university and have been partnering with Residence Life for about ten years now. Saille is correct in that the hall director spots are usually grad students or people who just have that as their job so ages 26 - 35 is what I've seen on our campus.

    Good luck to everyone! ~lara

  6. Ooh! Love this!

    And as much as I'm delighted by the last paragraph in your query, I agree with GSMarlene. It gives too much away, and you already have us intrigued at the end of the second paragraph. (Although I'm dying to know how those three ingredients help her out!)

    The banter between sister and brother is fun and invites a reader to keep on reading.

    Good luck from #67!

  7. Howdy!

    As some of the above had already said, def cut out the last part of the query. You want to hook us, not spoil it for us :). You can spoil it for it everyone in a synopsis lol.

    The entire premise is unique in itself, I can't say I've heard of anything like that so you immediately get prop points for that. I am a little worried about the voice within the query. Especially if your MC is an eleven year old. The query should bring out the voice just as much as the novel should.

    Oy - queries! O' the humanity.

    As for your 250 - I love the banter between brother and sister. It felt really natural which is great. Not much more to say there lol - I'm just curious to find out why this poor girl was just left there like that, and based on your query - I want answers too!

    Good luck!

    -Copernicus, post #43

  8. I loved the first 250! Awesome voice and very entertaining! I would like to see some more of that come out in your query. You already have a ton of great suggestions, and I hope things work out for you. Lots of luck!

  9. So I want to give everyone feedback, even when I don't write those magical words. Wow! This was another close call. I loved your premise, and it felt intriguingly unusual to me - definitely a Westing Game vibe. Your query is good, although I wanted a little more content and a little less hinting - maybe a touch more about why her birth is significant? The first 250 need polishing. The dialog tags are a bit mismatched which is confusing, so have a look at that before you re-query. I do love the potential for setting and the library. I hope this helps and wish you the best of luck with your writing!

  10. Hi Bouncer AsYouWish,

    Thanks for your feedback. It's extremely helpful and I can't wait to finish my final touches and send it out... :) lara