Sunday, July 26, 2015

1st 5 Pages July Workshop - Pendleton Pitch

Melanie Pendleton
Middle Grade Contemporary
Truth, Lies, and Strocketball (Revised name)

Eleven-year-old Jerome Morris may be the inventor of strocketball, the coolest game in the neighborhood, but he has an embarrassing secret: he struggles to read. When the most obnoxious kid in middle school overhears his stuttered attempts and spreads the news, Jerome’s world is turned upside down. Now the kid won’t stop tormenting him, his best friend shuns him, and the meanest teacher in sixth grade is on his case.

Jerome can’t let anyone else learn the truth, especially his demanding dad. So he lies to his parents about why his teacher wants him to stay after class. He hides from his elderly neighbor when she asks him to read to her. And in an attempt to defend his reputation, he sabotages his beloved strocketball to get back at his so-called friends.

But soon his lies spiral out of control. The torments gets worse, his friends continue to slip away, and his neighbor suffers an injury because he wasn’t there to help her. If Jerome can’t find a way to face his problems—and come clean once and for all— he can say goodbye to his best friend, strocketball, and any hopes of overcoming his status as a reading loser.


  1. Nice opening line.

    Nice opening paragraph haha. You set the scene well and up the stakes quickly.

    I don't think you need this bit 'He hides from his elderly to her.' I realize that in the following paragraph you mention that the neighbor suffers an injury because he wasn't there to help her, but I don't think you need to focus on that one in the query. I think the tormenting and losing his friends and lies spiraling out of control is enough.

    That said, I'm being suuuuper nitpicky. That was just one suggestion to narrow things down and focus on fewer mini-plot lines. Because overall from my limited knowledge lol I think this is a great query.

  2. My biggest problem with this one is that your character has a negative and intangible goal (to avoid something being revealed) which is really hard to connect with. Also, you have really focused on the inner arc and have left most of the outer arc unsaid. Is his inability to read affecting something tangible in this story? For example, you say that he may lose strocketball but don't tell us how or why. Is there a plot here with the strocketball? Is he in a contest? Does he have a deadline to meet? We really need to see how that plot arcs and how this secret "flaw" acts as an obstacle to his goal.

    Good luck!

  3. A few of my observations: I'm not connecting with a dad who makes his kid feel so bad about his reading that he is ashamed to get help. Also doesn't the teachers step in and get him special educational services for his disability. I would like to know what is causing his reading problem and how he can make it to the sixth grade without teachers or his parents finding out. I would like to know more about how he sabotages strocketball. My only other concern is I don't get the connection between strocketbal and his reading from this pitch.

  4. Melanie,

    You’ve got some great info in here, and I’ve always loved Jerome’s voice.
    I find writing these pitch paragraphs so difficult, so I’ll see what I can add to the great advice you’ve already been given.

    My first thought is that it might be a bit long. Maybe aim for closer to 150 words. Easier said than done, though, right?

    Maybe take a look at the back cover copy for TANGERINE by Edward Bloor. I mentioned the book in a previous post. I know your book isn’t completely similar, but it might be a comp title and maybe the back cover copy will help spark some ideas. I can see how the writer included the main conflict: the MC has to work with his soccer teammates to figure out what is so strange about his new hometown. And the inner conflict: gaining the courage to face some family secrets.

    So, for your pitch, I can see that Jerome’s inner conflict/journey is overcoming insecurity. But maybe the outer conflict isn’t as clear? Does he have to face down the school bully? From this it sounds like the person he has to overcome is himself.

    Good luck! You've got this. :-)

  5. Hi Melanie,

    I don't have much to add here, because the comments are great. Overall I think this is really strong, and if you just put more focus on the outer conflict/goal, you'll be set. You've set up the stakes well for his internal struggle—now we just need to pull back a tad so you have room to explain what external conflict he has to face and how that relates and weaves into his internal conflict.

    Also, I love the new sport name. :)

    I wish you all the best with your writing and querying!

  6. Melanie,
    I've following this posting and the one on the Facebook page. You're doing an excellent job of showing Jerome's inner struggle. I made comments on the Facebook page. Looking forward to working with you.