The Writer’s Voice Contest – YA

Query:

Seventeen-year-old Amelia Dupree hasn’t seen the Woman in White, who haunts the woods surrounding her hometown of Asylum, Pennsylvania, since her brother died. Desperate for any connection to her brother, Amelia spends sleepless nights watching the forest for any sign of the ghost. But she seems to have disappeared—at least, until Charlie Blue moves in next door. Amelia can’t help liking him, even though she spent her childhood thinking his grandmother was a witch, and she definitely can’t ignore connection between his arrival in town and the Woman in White’s return.

When Amelia and Charlie make contact with a spirit claiming to be the Woman in White, they learn that she’s a prisoner, trapped between the worlds of the living and the dead. Amelia, devastated by the idea that her brother could be suffering a similar fate, turns to magic, and she and Charlie begin preparing a spell that will allow the Woman in White to pass over to the other side.

But then Amelia’s classmates start to turn up dead in the Susquehanna River. Rumors swirl as people start to connect the timing of Charlie’s arrival with the unexplained deaths. As they uncover the truth about Woman in White and her history in Asylum, Amelia and Charlie realize that their magic may have unleashed an unspeakable evil. One they have to stop before everything they love is destroyed.

A Magic Dark & Bright is an 84,000 word YA Gothic Romance and the first book of a planned two-part series. It will appeal to fans of the moody small-town atmosphere of April Tucholke’s Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, the family dynamics in the Amber House trilogy by Kelly Moore, Tucker, and Larkin Reed, and the mystery of Sarah Rees Brennan’s Unspoken.

First 250:

A woman haunted the woods behind my house.

I used to watch her from my bedroom window. She glowed silver in the moonlight, a pale wraith in a white dress that curled around her ankles and twisted in an ancient wind that didn’t touch the pine trees around her.

My brother, Mark, used to tease me about my interest in her. Some days, he called her my obsession. On others, my overactive imagination. “Watch out, Amelia,” he’d say, throwing his hand against his chest, “She’ll lure you out into the woods and steal your soul.”

But that was before. I hadn’t seen her in six months, not since the night she watched Mark die.

I pressed my palm flat against the screen and waited, like I had almost every night since I’d come home from the hospital. Nothing stirred outside; the line of forest along the edge of our yard stood still, black branches stretched toward the sky. Not even a breeze fluttered the gauzy curtains around my windows. The woods were empty.

Everything was empty.

“Come on,” I whispered, like I could summon her with my words. The clock in the hallway chimed, its bells echoing through the silent house. Three in the morning. I sighed and turned from the window–if she hadn’t shown up by now, she wouldn’t show up at all. Sometimes, on nights like this, when the corners of my brain went fuzzy from exhaustion, I wondered if she disappeared because of me.

Pitch Slam Support: YA Gothic

So I entered my first pitch contest this week. It’s called PitchSlam, and my favorite part about it so far is the fact that we’re given a chance to revise our initial submissions! You can learn more about it here or search #PitchSlam on Twitter if you’re interested to see what’s going on!

Here’s what I have so far:

Query: 
Seventeen-year-old Amelia Dupree hasn’t seen the Woman in White since her brother died. Desperate for anything to connect her to Mark, Amelia spends sleepless nights watching the woods, but the ghost seems to have disappeared—at least, until Charlie Blue moves into the creepy old house next door.

When Amelia and Charlie make contact with a spirit claiming to be the Woman in White, they learn that she’s a prisoner, trapped between the worlds of the living and the dead. Amelia, devastated by the idea that Mark could be suffering a similar fate, turns to magic. Together, Amelia and Charlie start preparing a spell that will allow the ghost pass over to the other side.

But then Amelia’s classmates start to turn up dead in the Susquehanna River and rumors swirl as people start to connect the timing of Charlie’s arrival with the deaths. As they uncover the truth about Woman in White and her history in Asylum, Amelia and Charlie realize that their magic may have unleashed an unspeakable evil. One they have to stop before their whole town is destroyed. Again.

 

Original Pitch Slam Pitch: 
When a cute boy named Charlie Blue moves into the creepy MacAllister House next door, seventeen-year-old Amelia learns that in a town as small as Asylum, Pennsylvania, some ghosts are better left dead and buried.

Pitch Slam Feedback: 
We get a sense that there’s a really cool, creepy story to be told here, but your pitch isn’t conveying it properly. There’s some information included that doesn’t seem relevant, and some information lacking that’s rather crucial. When it comes to pitching, trying to be mysterious often backfires. Specific story details win the day, and we need more of them here. Ask yourself the standard pitch questions. What does your character want, what’s stopping her, and what are the consequences of failure? As to what to leave out, do we need to be told Charlie Blue is a cute boy or can you imply that by Amelia’s interest in him? Is he super important to the story or is more about the ghosts? Do we need to be told the name of the town? Instead, tell us what your character is up against, what she actually has to DO. Learning something is a very passive story conflict. We have a feeling there’s a lot more to this story than we see in this pitch. Show us!

Revised Pitch:
Amelia wanted to help the ghost in the woods–she didn’t count on unleashing a curse. As the bodies pile up, she must find a way to stop the evil before she ends up dead.

Revised Revised Pitch:
Amelia wanted to help the ghost in the woods; she didn’t count on unleashing a curse. As her classmates’ bodies start piling up, she must exonerate the boy next door — or be the next victim.

What do you guys think?