Sunday, February 21, 2016

1st 5 Pages February Workshop - Meyn Rev 2

Name: Colleen Meyn
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Title: The Magical Assignment Ceremony

It is the first book in a trilogy that explores life as a Little Person, or leprechaun, with mischief dominating the day.

Dave’s Magic Ceremony revolves around a hyperactive young leprechaun whose emotions are a fizzy mixture of excitement, hope, and dread on his fateful ceremony day. He dreams of glory and adventure, but when his sister suggests that he could be a cobbler, Dave is haunted by images of being trapped indoors, holding still all day.

Determined to prove that he is capable of any job, even the coveted gold hunter job, he uses an unpredictable magic spell to find a pot of gold; but when he finds it, mayhem breaks out as his leprechaun magic collides with water sprite magic.

Dave gets in trouble once more when he is caught red-handed disrespecting the sacred fairy mound by Fairy Brighid, the ceremony conductor. She is boiling with fury and she holds the power to determine his fate… suddenly nothing is certain.

This story is set in the rolling hills of Ireland, and runs about 15,000 words. It is a fantasy story geared toward young readers in 1st-3rdgrades. 

Dave’s stomach growled. The familiar smell of hot black tea and oatmeal tormented his empty belly. He ran down the hall to the small oval kitchen.

Dave the leprechaun lived with his family in the hollowed out base of an old oak tree.  He loved to listen to birds chirp in the nest high above him.  The tiny kitchen window allowed the sound to carry easily into the kitchen, creating a musical background every morning.

“Finally, I get to go through the ceremony! Today it’s my turn.” Dave said to his heroic big brother, Sean. The magic assignment ceremony fascinated Dave.

Sean looked up from the table and grinned, “Tired of waiting?”

His sister Morgan tossed her fiery red hair and smiled, “It only took 325 years.”

Dave nodded, too nervous to laugh.

He stretched his skinny arm over the counter to grab a bowl of steaming hot oatmeal. He sprinkled some brown sugar and butter on top. His stomach rumbled again. Dave shot a look at the table, and then sprinkled on extra sugar when no one was looking. 

His emotions were a fizzy mixture of excitement, hope, and dread.  He looked at his brother and sister sitting at the table and said, “You don’t think I’ll be a cobbler do you?” 

They laughed at his comment. Sean’s laugh was full of life and confident as usual; but, Morgan’s laugh come out much too loud and shrill, as her throat constricted with remembered dread. The traditional job as cobbler haunted active leprechauns like a wild mustang captured and put into a stall would be trapped without freedom to run, without sunlight, without the comradery of his herd.

Morgan raised one eyebrow in enquiry and crossed her arms.  She said, “Why not? You’d be good at making shoes.”

Dave frowned. A
 small seed of doubt crept into his mind. He started sweating.
“Really? Me? Stuck inside all day making shoes…”

Dave trailed off and looked at Sean for support. The possibility of being pronounced a cobbler at the ceremony tonight was eating him alive.  

His adolescent voice cracked into a childish, high-pitched whine as he said, “It’s boring work! Never seeing anyone or doing anything fun.” 

Sean furrowed his brow in concern as he watched him struggle; the blood drained from his tan face and his eyes were wide with fright.

Dave imagined the cobblers he knew: they were pale, with scraggly beards and their bellies were round as a pot from sitting all day. Dave shuddered as he imagined himself forced to work indoors forever.

Sean felt sorry for his little brother, “Nah, not you. Ma named you after the famous American Leprechaun.”

Dave exhaled. “Whew.” He leaned back in his chair. “Yeah, he traveled to America and worked with the Irish immigrants, right?”

Sean nodded; his thick brown hair fell over his eyes.

Dave sat up straight and squared his shoulders. He said, “Maybe I’ll do that too.”

At this outrageous statement, they all burst into laughter. Dave the American leprechaun had been the only leprechaun to leave Ireland, but it was fun to imagine one of them famous like him.

Dave took a big bite of oatmeal and chomped noisily on it.  His right leg jiggled restlessly and rocked the table; and the bowls to rattled making an awful racket.

Sean punched Dave’s leg, “Stop it.”

Dave smiled and instantly obeyed. He asked, “What happens during the ceremony? Does it hurt when she uses magic to determine the job?”

The magical assignment ceremony fascinated Dave. Ever since Sean went through the ceremony, Dave had dreamed of going through it too.

Dave said, “I’m dying here.” He put his spoon down. “Tell me something!”

Morgan said, “For the hundredth time Dave, it’s a secret. The only thing you are allowed to know is that Fairy Brighid will use magic to determine your job.”

“Come on Morgan! Everyone knows that!” Dave leaned forward and stared intently at Morgan for a few moments.

She broke eye contact and stared at the table; sympathetic with his desperation, but forced into silence by the magic enchantment at the end of the ceremony, she was frustrated.

Sean smacked Dave, “Drop it.”

“OW!” Dave rubbed his neck and glared at Sean.

His stomach rumbled. He gulped down his breakfast and imagined what the ceremony would be like. The Fairy Glen would be vibrating with magic, a deep gut-throbbing sensation that would make him feel stronger and more powerful. It would have magnificent black horses or gleaming white unicorns, a gold throne, and a center of magic like a fairy ring too.

Dave’s chomped on his oatmeal while a goofy grin covered his face.

Sean interrupted his thoughts, “You have that look again.  Are you dreaming of chocolate?”

Dave laughed, “Yeah. I was imagining a river of chocolate milk and bags of chocolate hidden at the magic ceremony.”

Sean and Morgan exchanged looks and burst into laughter. They laughed until their sides ached. Then the clock chimed 8 am. They stood up,  and headed towards the door, ready go to work.

Dave hurried to finish breakfast. He pushed back from the table, and his chair scraped across the wood floor with a screech.

His brother and sister crowded around the wood door, which had good luck runes carved in the shape of Celtic knots. The runes protected the house from discovery by the Fear Mor, or humans, as the leprechauns called the big men.

Sean ruffled Dave’s messy hair, “Up to no good Rascal?”

Dave smiled, “You know it!”

He ran outside, and then skid to a halt, confronted with a leprechaun’s worst nightmare. A deep footprint from a Fear Mor, or human, was in the mud right outside of the door. The tread was slowly filling with rain. The footprint was as long as Dave was tall, a little over twelve inches. It was deeper than his fingers were tall.

This footprint was huge.  It must be a man, thought Dave.

Dave looked around, trying to see through the heavy fog. It was no use. The fog cloaked the terrain, hiding everything from sight. Thoughts raced through Dave’s mind. Was he still near? Did he hear us talking?

Dave crouched by the giant footprint and held his breath. He closed his eyes, and listened for any unusual sounds. Nothing. Not a single sound, not even the birds chirped.

Frightened, Dave leapt inside, knocking Morgan over as he burst through the door. Safely hidden the protective runes on the door, Dave exhaled.

Morgan scrambled to her feet and shoved Dave. “Watch out!”

Dave’s hand shook as he pointed at the footprint and whispered, “Look.”

Instantly, the atmosphere in the house changed as they all looked out the door.  Sean quietly closed the door.

He asked Dave, “Did you see him?”

Dave shook his head, “No. I couldn’t hear anything either.”

Morgan looked at Sean. She asked, “Should hide?”

They all feared a life of slavery to the Fear Mor. Their Ma had been captured when Dave was very young. She had never returned. The threat loomed over their daily lives.

Sean walked to the window and looked out. “We better wait for a bit, then go to work. The birds will let us know when it’s safe to come out.”


  1. Hi Colleen,

    Thanks for posting your query.

    Queries have very strict rules by which one should abide.

    This link might be of help:

    The site showcases query letters that received requests and subsequent book deals.

    Be sure to click on the link that says Ten Point Query, which explains in detail the parts of a query letter.

    At 15,000 words I don’t think the Magical Assignment Ceremony is a middle grade novel. I think you may have an early reader book but 15,000 words is too long:

    I got the info below from Harold Underdown’s site. It is a very good resource so be sure to visit it:

    • Easy readers with chapters or early chapter books--48 to 64 pages (approximately 6- to 8-year-olds)
    • Young middle-grade--48 to 80 pages, longer if nonfiction (7- to 9-year-olds)
    • True middle-grade--80 to 160 pages, occasionally more (8- to 12-year-olds)
    • Older middle-grade or transitional--128 to 200 pages or more (10- to 14-year-olds)
    • Young adult or YA--Up to 300 pages (12-year-olds plus)

    So, as to your query itself, you don’t want to set out telling an agent that this is the first in a trilogy. Perhaps it has “series potential,” but each book can stand on its own.

    You’ll learn more at the links I provided, but you want to get into the character and conflict immediately.

    For example:

    Dave is a leprechaun. He’s kind of hyperactive, and spends his time playing with his family and older brothers.

    But something big is about to happen.

    The Magical Assignment Ceremony is coming up—the ritual that determines every leprechaun’s future life. Dave dreams of BLAH BLAH BLAH, but will Fairy Brighid grant his wish?

    To make matters even more stressful, a human footprint has been seen outside of Dave’s home.

    Will he find the courage and BLAH BAH BLAH to save his family?

    The Magical Assignment Ceremony is complete at XXX words and will appeal to fans of XXXXX.

    Personal tidbit about you, etc.

    Sorry for all the links, but I do think they will be helpful, and my post would be a lot longer without pointing you to some sites that have already done a great job of compiling all this information.

    Best of luck. You made some really nice progress on your story. Thanks for sharing it!


    1. Thank you! I appreciate your help, it is great to get some direction.

  2. I’m not sure I’d use the term Little Person. That’s the real life term for someone of extremely short stature, a person we used to call a midget.

    I’d drop the word ‘job’ after ‘gold hunter.’ In fact, be careful of repeated words, such as gold or magic. Reread this whole section and look out for words you use repeatedly.

    I might refer to him as David, rather than Dave, in your pitch. Dave is just a smidge too modern.

    This is a VERY strong pitch. It really caught my interest.

    What about Sean is heroic?

    Is the wild mustang analogy too American?

    When describing Dave’s reaction to the idea of being a cobbler, you suddenly switch to Sean’s point of view. And who in Ireland has a tan?

    Fear Mor are humans! Okay, I didn’t catch that last time.

    Should WE hide?

    It’s like I’m reading an entirely different book from your first draft, it’s so much improved. Remember to avoid dull subject/action sentences: He ran outside. And include scenery descriptions as part of the action.

    You’ve got a good ear for younger children’s literature, and I hope you continue with this.

    1. Thank you Brian. I will continue to work on it.

      Leprechauns have been refereed to for years as "the little people" by many people. Does it really seem offensive?

  3. This has come such a long way from your first draft! I really like it and the pitch works really well. I love the idea of finding a pot of gold and all the talk of magic. It sounds like a fun story. The only thing we don't get in the pitch is an idea of the threat of humans. I don't know if you'd want to include that somehow. To me, knowing their size and how they fit into the human world, but try to stay hidden is a big draw. It definitely makes me want to know more about their world. Which brings me to a question: would leprechauns know what horses are, or have their own tiny-sized horses? I like the analogy of the wild mustangs, but that is the catch about fantasy, most comparisons that you get to use in a story about the real world probably won't apply. I run into that problem all the time.
    Overall, nicely done. You've done a great job at revising these pages and I hope you keep working on this story!

  4. Hi Colleen,

    Yes, to reiterate what the others are saying: Excellent job of revising and polishing your opening pages. Your pitch is interesting, and I can see MG readers wanting to read this. Good luck!

  5. Hi, Please excuse my lameness. I'll over feedback tomorrow. Thanks for understanding

    1. I liked the addition describing why Dave doesn't want to be a cobbler ("wild mustang" line). I also like the added details about the old cobblers. Your details are placed effectively to bring me into your story. Dave's internal thoughts in italics is another improvement. You're pitch helps ground me. THanks

  6. This work has come a long way!

    I too, had hesitation at the term "Little People." This is a recognized proper noun in our modern day society, so unfortunately thought it may be colloquial, it may not be appropriate. You don't lose anything by taking the term out. I'd focus on how these people view THEMSELVES, rather than using a term that humans have used for them.

    Also, I would continue to develop each character as an individual. Beyond physical appearance...what are their traits? How are they different? Each character should be distinct, with unique dialogue patterns and ways of moving through the scene. They should show their character through their choices and actions.

    My best,

    Melanie Conklin
    First Five mentor

  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  8. Hi Colleen, I think this is so much improved from the first draft! Nicely done.

    For the query, I agree that reading a "query formula" and looking at professional examples will help. It's tempting to put in a lot of info about the story and description, but they are really looking for something very specific. Query writing is a skill in itself! I wish you the best of luck with this!

  9. I wouldn't start saying this is the 1st in a trilogy in your pitch I'd go right into the story itself. You want the first line of your pitch to grab your reader and pull them in.

    Also, I noticed that the title at the top and the title in your pitch were different which caused a bit of confusion for me (The Magical Assignment Ceremony vs. Dave's Magical Ceremony). I'd go into a bit more detail on what this ceremony is and it's importance.

    As for the first pages, I'd rethink the first line. Just like in the pitch you want to reel your reader in with the first lines of your story so it's important they're standout. Starting with the second paragraph might be better as it gives some set-up. I'm not sure your current first paragraph is necessary or adds to the story.

    Also, make sure to introduce your characters a bit more when they come into the story, especially your main character, Dave. I found myself wanting to know him better and didn't know much about him outside his curiosity around the ceremony and not wanting to be a cobbler. Is being a cobbler seen as a lowly profession in his world? I'd also introduce the setting and world a bit more too. It's clear they are scared of humans and the ceremony but other than that I wasn't sure about the details of this world. What is leprechaun society like? I found some of the more important details were later in the pages so I might bring them up. For instance, it seems Dave wants to be a gold hunter so I'd bring this motivating factor into the story right away. Also, how old is he? What have other members of his family become?

    15,000 words is quite short for middle grade. I see some of the others commented on that here as well. 25,000 is the lower range for middle grade, so the story would need to be expanded on quite a bit if that's who you see as your audience. But, you mention seeing this for 1st to 3rd graders which is younger than the typical middle grade audience. And if that's the case this is a bit on the long side. So I'd really narrow down where you see this on the shelf. Perhaps reading some current middle grade and chapter books will give you more of a sense of your audience and how you can revise to fit into one or the other.

    Some other things:

    Why does the ceremony fascinate Dave? He mentions this a couple times.

    Why is Sean heroic? This goes back to giving more of an intro for your characters. He's Dave's brother and described as heroic but go into a bit more detail here on his character/personality.

    I might rethink getting across Sean and Morgan's thoughts on things too and keep the focus on Dave and his inner thoughts. So I might switch from third person omniscient limited to regular third person.

    Make sure, in general, to clarify people and events, items etc. that might be unfamiliar to your reader. For instance, "Does it hurt when she uses magic to determine the job?" Explain who "she" is before this.

    Watch out for repetition! For instance, you don't need to explain that Fear Mor are humans more than once within a couple paragraphs.

    I'd spend a bit less time with the dialogue back and forth and explain the ceremony a bit sooner. We're only getting bits and pieces and it's something that is important to have a pretty good understanding of right off the bat. Also, it's good to get to the action a bit sooner.

    I definitely see potential here. Good job!