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July 2015 Critique Blog Hop

The ever-generous Michelle has set up a blog-hop for those of us poor souls who did not make it into #NewAgent. Sigh. Always the bridesmaid. And that one time literally, which was embarrassing. But anyway, here we go! My query and first 250 words. Critique away! Carve me a new one, hopefully a better one.

Dear ____________,

I saw __________________, and I hoped you might consider THE MARVELOUS ADVENTURES OF GWENDOLYN GRAY, an Upper MG Fantasy.

Twelve-year-old misfit Gwendolyn Gray has an overactive imagination. It causes her no end of trouble in The City, where creativity is simply not allowed. Trouble turns to catastrophe when her ideas won’t stay inside of her head and: forests spring up in the middle of the road, furry orange creatures run amok in her bedroom, and she certainly didn't mean to make that girl in class grow a pair of rabbit ears.

When the popular kids chase her all the way to the edge of The City, Gwendolyn runs afoul of the Faceless Gentlemen, The City's wayward-thought police. They want to erase Gwendolyn and her fantasies before they become infectious. With the help of two otherworldly children, Gwendolyn escapes the men and her joyless world and travels inside her favorite books. Unfortunately, her carelessness unleashes the Faceless Gentlemen on all the realms of literature, putting whole worlds in danger of being erased.

Gwendolyn and her friends travel through a steampunk adventure novel and enlist the help of a dashing young airship captain to stay one step ahead of The Faceless Gentlemen. Together, they find an ancient weapon that will harness the power of her hyperactive mind. If she can’t learn to control her impulsive imagination and save the home that never wanted her, then every world will become as grey and bleak as her own.

I'm a writer and middle-school English teacher from the United States with classrooms full of captive market researchers.
THE MARVELOUS ADVENTURES OF GWENDOLYN GRAY is complete at 78,000 words and would likely appeal to fans of THE GIVER, THE NEVERENDING STORY, and THE PAGEMASTER. It is the first in a series of books, with each book taking Gwendolyn into different genres of fiction.

Thank you for your consideration.

FIRST 250:
Once upon a time, in The City of No Stories, Gwendolyn Gray was running away. Her mother yelled, “Gwendolyn, wait! Stop!” But as usual, she didn’t listen. Her too-tight shoes pinched her feet as they slapped the pavement between the identical boxy skyscrapers.
Now, Gwendolyn herself had never heard any “once upon a times,” nor any “dark and stormy nights” for that matter, and as for this “best of times, worst of times” business, this morning was certainly one of the latter. As a little girl, she had always asked for stories at bedtime.
“Of course, dear,” her mother would say. “Which would you like? I could tell you of the results of the last census, or the year we had entirely too much rain, or the time your father and I went to the wrong dinner party by mistake-”
“Those are all fine…” little Gwendolyn would interrupt, “But what about a new story? Something that’s never happened before!”
Her mother would smile a mother’s smile and brush away an unruly lock of Gwendolyn’s hair. “There aren’t any new stories. You can’t make something out of nothing, love.” Then she’d tuck her in and go back to watching The Lambent, and that’s just the way it was.
Gwendolyn didn’t know where she was running to. Not far, probably. She never ran far, and usually went home as soon as she got hungry. But this morning was different. This morning was awful. This morning… well, it really wasn’t all that different, then.


  1. Hi! Wow - I really wish I had this as a book to read to my kids! The query sounds like the back of a book I'd pick up, and the first 250 have such a great voice and hook. Really great voice. I wish I had some constructive advice to give you, but all I have now is a desire to read this in print! Good luck to you. Sorry I can't help more!

    1. Thanks Jax! Shoot me an email at, I'll get you a manuscript you can read to your kids. Are you a teacher or a parent?

  2. Query: Sounds very exciting, and as a mother it's definitely something I would love my girls to read some day. I was just going to point out a few things since the goal is trying to help (though the query to me is pretty solid). At the beginning when you introduce it as an Upper Middle Grade Fantasy I immediately thought - Where is the word count? Then scrolled down until I found it causing me to skip over your query.

    Then I might put the info about yourself after you tell about the book.

    First 250: The city of no stories (I like that! You should include that in the query when you mention The city!)

    What is The Lambent? Is it just me or should I know this?

    All in all I think it looks great!

    1. Thanks! The Lambent is explained a little later, just a bit of world building.

  3. Query:
    I love the premise of your book and I think your query is pretty good. It's hard to show a fantasy world in a query and you mostly get it across, but I think a few minor wording-tweaks would really take it to the next level.
    1) The first paragraph somehow didn't work for me and I think it would be better if you shortened it to one punchy hook. Ex. "Twelve-year-old Gwendolyn Gray has an overactive imagination, but she never expects her fantasies to leap out of her head and start causing trouble."
    2) I'm not sure why the thought police are "wayward". Is it necessary to describe them as such here?
    3) Why do the thought police think Gwendolyn's fantasies will be infectious? I was under the impression that fantasies coming to life was unheard of so I'd expect them to be surprised and even want to stop Gwendolyn, but the fear of infection comes out of the blue. You should briefly explain.
    4) I'm not sure what you mean by "otherworldly" children.
    5) "...her carelessness unleashes" is a bit vague. Maybe just simply say they follow her.
    6) Rather than saying Gwendolyn travels through a steampunk novel, I'd say they escape into a steampunk novel. This hints at the fact that they spend a lot of time there.
    7) you spring the ancient weapon and saving her home a bit quickly. I didn't know her world was in danger.

    I'm no MG expert, but is 78,000 a bit long?

    First 250:

    I really liked it. It had a nice, almost poetic rhythm to it that reminded me of the kind of children's story Gwendolyn isn't supposed to hear (did you do it on purpose? It was really clever!) The only nit-pick is that I think the first sentence would be better if you just said "ran away" rather than "was running away".

    Best of luck!

  4. I love the idea of your novel. It sounds absolutely fantastic. However, in your query, I almost felt like two separate stories were going on. You described this one world and then all of a sudden she's in a book and you're describing a different world. It was a bit jarring and taken together it started to sound a little bit too much like a synopsis. Have you ever played around with just mentioning one or the other of the worlds, and giving yourself a bit more room to really describe the character and what she's going through?

    As for your 250, I thought your prose was strong. I will admit though, I had to read the transition between the second and third paragraphs a couple of times to understand that we were going into flashback mode. I generally don't like flashbacks on the first page as I often find they stall the action, but I didn't mind this one so much. Also, this is a bit nitpicky, but if you can restructure the first sentence to take out the 'was' I think it'll sound stronger.

  5. Query:

    Stop the sentence with ‘won’t stay inside of her head’ and start a new sentence with “Forests begin to spring up…”

    I would move your bio to after the book details, to the very end.

    Wow! This is the best query I’ve read so far! I would TOTALLY read this book. It sounds awesome.

    FIRST 250:

    What is ‘The Lambent’?

    I found the last paragraph a little confusing. Try tightening it up and avoiding too much repetition.


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Book Signing Alert! Saturday, July 7th

I will be at the Barnes and Noble in Plainfield, IN on Saturday, July 7th starting at 2:00 to sign books and do some reading! Additionally, "Gwendolyn" HERSELF will be there to pose for photos form 2-3! (I'll be there a while longer than that, but I'm much less pretty.) See you there!