Query Critique Winner

Monday, May 1, 2017

Hi, all!  Sarah was the lucky critique winner this time around--congrats, Sarah!  Here is her original query:

Dear Ms. Pestritto:


Twelve-year-old Addie should avoid Maple Lake. After all, her twin brother Amos drowned there only a few months ago. But the notebook he left behind, filled with clues pointing to the existence of a mysterious sea creature, keeps drawing Addie back. When she’s offered a summer internship studying pollution in the lake, Addie accepts, despite the initial wishes of her mourning parents. 

 Measuring phosphorous levels becomes the focus of Addie’s internship, but it isn’t her only mission on Maple Lake. Fueled by memories of Amos, Addie investigates a different kind of evidence too: the cryptic clues he left behind. The more time Addie spends out on the water, the more she rediscovers why her brother loved it so much: Maple Lake might be magic.
 

Eventually Addie traces the primary cause of pollution in the lake to surrounding dairy farms, including the one run by her aunt and uncle. When fellow researchers call for environmental reforms, Addie finds herself caught between scientific proof, the magic her brother believed in, and the only family she has left. Against a backdrop of grief, Addie must decide how to fight for mysterious Maple Lake without endangering her community’s livelihood.


Blending magical realism with a STEM focus, THE LIGHT IN THE LAKE is a contemporary middle grade novel that traces Addie’s journey from sadness to hope. Its lyrical style and connection to the natural world will appeal to readers of Beth Hautala’s WAITING FOR UNICORNS, Ali Benjamin’s THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH, and Lindsay Eagar’s HOUR OF THE BEES. The full manuscript is complete at 44,703 words. 
 

I live in rural northeastern Vermont, where I teach high school English. I have previously written for various news and literary publications, and my creative nonfiction chapbook was awarded publication by the Michigan Writers Cooperative Press.

 
Thank you very much for your time and for offering this query critique contest.
 Sincerely,

Sarah 


And here is my critique:


Dear Ms. Pestritto:


Twelve-year-old Addie should avoid Maple Lake. After all, her twin brother Amos drowned there only a few months ago. When Addie's twin brother drowned in Maple Lake, it felt like a horrible accident that she never wanted to think about again.  But in the notebook he left behind, filled with clues pointing to the existence of a mysterious sea creature, keeps drawing Addie back to the scene of the crime. When she’s offered a summer internship studying pollution in the lake, [This part about Addie being offered an internship is a little confusing to me.  Do 12-year-olds do internships or is this a stretch and she needs to be older/this need to be YA?] Addie accepts, despite the initial wishes of her mourning parents. 

 Measuring phosphorous levels becomes is the focus of Addie’s internship, but it isn’t her only mission on Maple Lake. Fueled by memories of Amos, Addie investigates a different kind of evidence too: the cryptic clues he left behind. the cryptic hints in his journal and the discovers a surprising reason her brother was so obsessed with Maple Lake: The more time Addie spends out on the water, the more she rediscovers why her brother loved it so much: Maple Lake it might be magic.
 
Eventually Addie traces the primary cause of pollution in the lake to surrounding dairy farms, including the one run by her aunt and uncle. When fellow researchers call for environmental reforms, Addie finds herself caught between scientific proof, the magic her brother believed in, and the only family she has left. Against a backdrop of grief, Addie must decide how to fight for mysterious Maple Lake without endangering her community’s livelihood.


Blending magical realism with a STEM focus, THE LIGHT IN THE LAKE is a contemporary middle grade novel that traces Addie’s journey from sadness to hope. ["...journey from sadness to hope" is a little too general.  Can you think of something more high-concept to say about the story?] Its lyrical style and connection to the natural world will appeal to readers of Beth Hautala’s WAITING FOR UNICORNS, Ali Benjamin’s THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH, and Lindsay Eagar’s HOUR OF THE BEES. The full manuscript is complete at 44,703 words. 
 

I live in rural northeastern Vermont, where I teach high school English. I have previously written for various news and literary publications, and my creative nonfiction chapbook was awarded publication by the Michigan Writers Cooperative Press.
 

Thank you very much for your time and for offering this query critique contest.
 Sincerely,

Sarah 

Chime in with thoughts and comments below!  Sarah, I hope my critique is helpful.  This critique is in good shape already and you have a very interesting premise for a story.  I was drawn in by the way you framed the story and think that with a little editing and thinking about age range, this will be ready to go out.  Best of luck!

5 comments:

  1. Sounds like an interesting story! Best of luck!!

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  2. Sounds great, but the "internship" also stood out to me as strange for a twelve year old, probably because internships are usually associated with college students. Maybe you can just come up with a different label to describe her work:) Good luck with the query!

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  3. Yeah, "internship" might not be the right word, but I did an environmental-themed camp when I was that age that had us doing similar things. This concept is intriguing! I'm wondering about some of the changes suggested, because nothing in the original query suggests that whatever is in the lake is at fault for the brother's death. That would be a great source of tension to mention, if it is part of the story.

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  4. Maybe it can be a school project instead? Sounds really cool though

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  5. Carrie, thank you so much for this very helpful critique! I'm so sorry I missed it originally-- although I follow you on Twitter and check your feed, I somehow didn't see that I'd won until today. I really appreciate the time you took to provide helpful guidance, and I'm also grateful for the comments from Rie, Katherine, Leah and Nicole. I will definitely be tweaking the "internship"! Thanks again. -Sarah

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