Monday, October 31, 2016

Query Critique Winner

Happy Halloween, everyone!  This month's query critique winner is Ellery Krueger.  Yay, Ellery!  Also, awesome name 

Here is her critique:


Dear Ms. Pestritto,
 

The world’s most famous painters battle it out over control of THE MAGIC PAINTBRUSH, a YA artistic/fantasy complete at 87,000 words. Think of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice or Harry Potter, only with a paintbrush for a wand and a blank canvas for a book of spells where anything you can imagine is possible.
 

Stefan Vermeer, a young artist visited the local museum of fine art one day and fell asleep. When he woke up Ayden Fragonard, a young boy who has been trapped inside a painting for over 500 years had to ask why he was sleeping in his museum. Stefan tells him he hasn’t been getting along with his father lately because he wants to pursue a path as an artist. So Fragonard tells him the story of how he became a painting to help him through this troubling time in his life. 
 

Fragonard is a hardworking Prince and so far he’s never had a dream. All he knows is the plain, dismal life his father’s fields have to offer. Then a band of artists from Italy visit his kingdom, fleeing from their own personal troubles. Among them he meets Jared Botticelli, a masterful painter and daydreamer. 
 
The two quickly form a bond. Fragonard, enthralled with the painter's magical talents takes up an apprenticeship under his skills as an artist. The work in the fields isn’t getting done, so his father demands he get rid of this lazy drifter. To appease Fragonard’s father, Botticelli paints the work in the fields away with his magic paintbrush and then he paints the kingdom from rags to riches. 
 

That’s when Botticelli’s true colors show. He takes over the kingdom and paints it into his image of a perfect world fit for a lazy artist. This perfect world however is an artistic nightmare void of color and depth. In order to defeat Botticelli, Fragonard will need the help of great painters from around the world and throughout history. He must step outside of his father’s shadow and learn the skills of a master artisan in order to duel it out once and for all over control of the magic paintbrush. 
 

I am a member of SCBWI and have a strong passion for art history. Like the characters in my story, I also struggled with following in my father's footsteps and that is why I wrote this book, to inspire young people not to give up on their dreams. If you would like to read more, the manuscript it available upon request. 
 

Thank you for your time and consideration
 

Sincerely,
Ellery J Krueger


And here is my critique:


Dear Ms. Pestritto,
 

The world’s most famous painters battle it out over control of THE MAGIC PAINTBRUSH, a YA artistic/fantasy complete at 87,000 words. Think of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice or Harry Potter, only with a paintbrush for a wand and a blank canvas for a book of spells where anything you can imagine is possible Stefan Vermeer, a young artist visited visits the local museum of fine art one day and fell falls asleep. When he woke wakes up, he is shocked when the young boy in the painting in front of him asks him why he is sleeping in the museum.  He learns that his name is Ayden Fragonard and that he has been trapped in the painting for 500 years. Ayden Fragonard, a young boy who has been trapped inside a painting for over 500 years had to ask why he was sleeping in his museum. Stefan tells him he hasn’t been getting along with his father lately because he wants to pursue a path as an artist. So Fragonard tells him the story of how he became a painting to help him through this troubling time in his life. [First: be careful with your tenses.  I noticed you switch to present tense in later paragraphs, but this section is the one that should be in the present tense and the others in past.  Second: the way this paragraph was formerly written makes it sound like Stefan isn't at all fazed by being spoken to by a boy in a painting, which either means we are in a world where magic is out in the open or Stefan is WAY under-reacting!  Either way, this needs to be adjusted to something along the lines of what I have above in blue.] Before this, Fragonard is a hardworking Prince and so far he’s never had a dream was a farmer with nothing magical about him. All he knows is knew was the plain, dismal life of working his father’s fields have to offer. Then a band of artists from Italy visit visited his kingdom, fleeing from their own personal troubles. Among them he meets was Jared Botticelli, a masterful painter and daydreamer. 
 

The two quickly form a bond. Fragonard, enthralled with the painter's magical talents [The fact that Botticelli has magical powers is so casually mentioned here, I didn't notice it on the first read. You should explain this more,] takes up an apprenticeship under his skills as an artist decides to become his apprenticeHowever, The the work in the fields isn’t getting done, so his father demands he get rid of this lazy drifter that Ayden give up his apprenticeship and tell Botticelli to leave. To appease Fragonard’s father, Botticelli paints the work in the fields away with his magic paintbrush and then he paints the kingdom from rags to riches [This needs some more description so that we really understand what is going on here and how Botticelli "paints" things a certain way] That’s when Botticelli’s true colors show. He takes over the kingdom and paints it into his image of a perfect world fit for a lazy artist. This perfect world however is an artistic nightmare void of color and depth. In order to defeat Botticelli, Fragonard will need the help of great painters from around the world and throughout history. He must step outside of his father’s shadow and learn the skills of a master artisan in order to duel it out once and for all over control of the magic paintbrush. [This entire paragraph is very confusing.  Why is a world void of color and depth perfect for a lazy artist?  Why is Botticelli described as lazy--we see no indicator of it anywhere before this.  Does Ayden need to step out of his father's shadow or is it that he needs to be brave enough to do disobey him in some way?  Also, why does he need to battle for control of the magic paintbrush with the help of painters throughout time?  Do they all also have magic?  And finally, WHERE does Stefan come into any of this?  We never heard about him again.  Is Ayden telling Stefan this story the whole time?]
 

I am a member of SCBWI and have a strong passion for art history. Like the characters in my story, I also struggled with following in my father's footsteps and that is why I wrote this book, to inspire young people not to give up on their dreams. If you would like to read more, the manuscript it available upon request. 
 

Thank you for your time and consideration
 

Sincerely,
Ellery J Krueger


Although I liked the way this query opened and the idea behind it, there needs to be a lot of ironing out done here before it makes sense to readers.  One of the thing that threw me the most was the way things were organized here: as you can see by all the questions at the end of the query, a lot of questions came up from the fact that things were explained or were brought up at random times.  When writing your story, the advice that I always give (and I think I've given it here before!), is to think about it as if it is back cover copy and you need to succinctly and compelling let readers know what the story is about and also give a snapshot of its voice.  I hope that's helpful, Ellery and everyone else working on their own pitches, and thanks so much for entering!

Chime in with your thoughts in the comments below!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Warp Speed

Does anyone else feel CRAZY this week?  I can't tell if it's just that I'm super busy or if there something wacky going on with my brain, but I feel like everything around me is going at warp speed and I'm sort of looking around at the cosmic, speed trails of to-do items flying by.




I'm so happy I have another intern to help with the reading load, and hoping to have follow-up things for submissions smoothed out in time for my one-year anniversary at the end of the month!  

It's so weird to think that I've been married for a year.  Because I still use my maiden name professionally, I rarely ever think of myself as Mrs. Houlihan, but, you know, I am!  


Okay, that's all my brain can handle talking about for now.  Query critique winner next week!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Nebraska + New Deal!

Hi everyone!  I'm getting myself settled in after a weekend at the Nebraska Writers Guild workshop, which was a lot of fun.  I prepared a talk about what authors should do to market themselves before having a book deal, or even an agent, and I think it went really well!  Also, I am so proud of myself for making this awesome worksheet on Canva for my presentation.




Other than that, now that I've acclimated myself to my new second job at Cambridge, I'm working hard to catch up on all my submissions and requested manuscripts before the holiday season starts.  I'm so lucky to have another new intern to help me with this: the wonderful Caitlan McCollum.  Yay, interns!  Mine are the best! 

Finally, I am soooo excited to announce Dorcas Cheng-Tozun's deal for her nonfiction project, START, LOVE, REPEAT, a relationship book for partners and spouses of entrepreneur that is filled with interviews and advice from entrepreneurs, executive coaches, marriage family therapists, venture capitalists, and startup authorities, as well as anecdotes from Dorcas's own marriage to one of the creators of d.light design.  This is a project we have been working on for awhile and I couldn't be happier that it is making its home at Center Street!!  


Monday, October 10, 2016

Query Critique

Query critique time!  For everyone who enters (and those who don't) spread the word so that even if you don't submit a query, you encourage others to read and comment.  Thanks :)





If you're not familiar with how to enter, take a look at my previous post to read the rules.  Good luck!  And don't forget to post any questions you want me to answer in the comments section with the hashtag #IHAVEAQUESTION!

Monday, October 3, 2016

I Heart Cambridge

Congratulations to BookaholicNL who won the giveaway last week!  I'll be in touch shortly to figure out where to send your books!  Happy reading 邏

Before I do that, though, I want to share that last week was the first week of my new day job: working in the library sales department of Cambridge University Press!  It was hard to make the move after working at the restaurant for such a long time, but I'm really happy with my new digs and doing something that dovetails a bit more with agenting and the publishing world.  Also, Cambridge's offices are perhaps the swankiest I've ever seen.  Everything is new and beautiful, and they have a common area with stadium rows of cushions.

The foyer/common room area when you first enter!

I'm working super downtown in the World Trade Center/Wall Street area and it has been such an interesting transplant.  I've always kind of avoided that area because the streets are so winding and have names instead of numbers, so navigating isn't as cut and dry as it is when you're farther uptown, but I really like it!  It makes me feel like I'm in Boston or a future, more crowded version of Hartford, near my hometown in Connecticut.

A pretty park near CUP.

With getting acclimated there, catching up on my #PitMad and Pitch Slam requests (not to mention all my other reading), I'm going to be backed up for a little bit, so if you've submitted a query to me recently, don't freak out if it takes longer than usual for me to get back to you!  I'm looking forward to getting acclimated at Cambridge and then hopefully returning to my usual agenting speed!