Sunday, May 22, 2016

1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Langdon Rev 2

Name: Kate Langdon
Genre: Middle Grade; Contemporary
Title: The Great Rainy Schmidt 


When a crow starts stealing cherry tomatoes from her mom’s garden, 10-year-old new wheelchair user Rainy Schmidt is impressed: the crow’s expert flying maneuvers remind her of her hero, the WWII fighter pilot ‘the Great Bambinzo.’

Rainy begins feeding the crow, and as thanks, he leaves her gifts in the birdbath. But one day, it’s not a piece of sea glass or a rusty bottle cap that awaits Rainy — it’s a beautiful diamond ring with a mysterious engraving. 

Rainy’s not sure what to do with the ring until the grand prize for her town’s annual Halloween costume competition is announced: a free trip to New Orleans. New Orleans is home to the WWII Museum, and the museum has something that Rainy considers the world’s greatest treasure: the airplane that belonged to the Great Bambinzo himself.  

Embarrassed by her wheelchair, Rainy believes the only way she has a chance at winning is if she buys an expensive costume off the internet, something her parents can’t afford. When her plan to sell the ring fails, Rainy decides to attempt unraveling the mystery of it’s engraving, hoping to discover it’s rightful owner — and maybe get a big reward in the process.

2nd Revision:

My name’s Lorraine Blatz Schmidt, and before you flip your wig about how stupid of a name that is, you should know I actually go by Rainy, and my fighter pilot call sign is Rain of Death. Mom only ever calls me Lorraine (or “LORRAINE BLATZ SCHMIDT!” when I’m in trouble), but sometimes Dad calls me Rain of Death, which I really do appreciate. I think all fighter pilots probably prefer their call signs over their real names. Except if they have a bad one maybe, like Chuckles or Brillo-pad. 

Before I tell you anything else, you should probably know that what happened to me earlier this summer is worse than having a name as stupid as Lorraine Blatz Schmidt. A lot worse. I haven’t really seen anyone from school since it all happened — I haven’t wanted to. 

But the days kept on marching forward, July turned into August, and now, somehow, the last day of summer vacation is finally here. Tomorrow is the first day of fifth grade, and I’ve got to go to school and see everyone whether I like it or not. 

I’m in the living room, trying to distract myself from this fact by watching one of the most classic aerial fights in the history of World War II. The footage is old and fuzzy and the quality’s pretty bad, since I’m streaming it to the TV from YouTube, but I don’t mind. I’m watching my favorite clip, the one where my hero, The Great Bambinzo, is almost brought down by his arch-nemesis, the Silver Devil.

“The Silver Devil." I shiver. Just whispering his name out loud is enough to send an icy chill down my spine. 

Mom is on the phone in the kitchen, and despite the BLASTS! and the BOOMS! of the scrappy P-51 dogfight, I can hear her conversation. 

“It’s been hard,” she says, sighing. “Gerry’s been working double shifts, but we’re barely making ends meet. And Lorraine… oh, my sweet Lorraine. She hasn't been outside all summer. And tomorrow will be the first time she’s really seen any of her friends. Since, you know. The Accident.”

The Accident. Mom always says it the same way, tilting her head to the side and lowering her voice. I’ve heard her use The Accident voice in other conversations, too.

“Susan’s husband. You know… the alcoholic.”

“Jennifer and Dan haven’t spoke since, well. You know. The divorce.” 

I turn up the volume on the TV. 

The Great Bambinzo has shaken off the Silver Devil for now, but his left wing is smoking, and he’s suddenly flanked by two more enemy planes! In a classic lift, he pulls above them, and then he’s firing, his bullets raining down… rat-a-tat-tat!… he hits one! The enemy plane goes down whistling — PEUUWWWWWWWW — and then explodes — KABOOOOOOM — in a great big fiery ball!

“Lorraine,” Mom says, poking her head in from the kitchen. “Will you turn that down? I’m on the phone.” 

I make a big show of lowering the volume a few levels with the remote and then turn back to the TV.

“Actually, Jessica,” Mom says, “I should go. Can you still stop by next Thursday? Oh, that’s great. See you then. Thanks again for calling.” Mom comes over and plucks the remote from my hands.

“Hey!” I protest as she clicks off the TV. “It hasn’t even gotten to the best part yet!”

“You can watch more later. It’s a beautiful day,” she says, sweeping her arms toward the window. “Go outside. Get some fresh air, a little sunshine.”

“I don’t need fresh air,” I grumble. “What I need is to see the Great Bambinzo exact his revenge on the Silver Devil.” 

“Go,” Mom says, pointing to the screen door. “I’ll bring you some lunch in a couple of minutes.” 

I sigh dramatically, loud enough so Mom will hear me on her way back into the kitchen. If she does, she pretends not to notice. I sigh again, but this one’s just for me. 

I spin around, and try to figure out what my route will be. I still haven’t gotten used to the turning part. 

“These turns are a real tough nut to crack,” I say out loud. That’s one of the Great Bambinzo’s favorite phrases. He also says things like horsefeathers, jeepers, and ah, applesauce! This one time, in a radio interview, he was talking about some lady he thought was a good dancer and he called her a ducky shincracker. I laughed so hard that orange juice came out of my nose. 

I maneuver around the couch alright, but I bump into the end table with a loud crack. The lamp rattles, wobbling back and forth, and for a minute I think it’s going to crash to the floor. I’m strangely disappointed when it doesn’t.

I go outside. After a few minutes, Mom joins me on the porch with a PB&J and a bunch of purple grapes. 

“Thanks,” I say, as she sets it down in front of me. She’s still hovering by the door, and I can tell she wants to say something else. I look up at her. “What is it?”

“Well, I was just thinking,” she says, dragging out her words. “Why don’t you give Brie or Sarah a call? You could invite them over for dinner tonight. I could even make that lasagna that Brie likes so much. What do you think?”

I pop a grape into my mouth and look into the yard. Brie and Sarah have been my best friends since kindergarten. We always hang out at Sarah’s house, because she’s got this killer diller attic that her parents turned into a playroom for her and her brother. You can only get in by tugging on a string that hangs from the ceiling, which pulls down a rickety old ladder. It squeaks and trembles as you climb, and it’s thrilling, because you know that at any second it could fall apart and crash to the floor with you on it. 

But honestly, It hurts something fierce to think about that attic. Sarah’s called to invite me over a few times since she’s been back from camp, but each time she’s asked, I’ve pretended to be sick. And let me tell you, it sure doesn’t help that Mom doesn’t get it. Why don’t you go over to Sarah’s house? she’s been asking me. Why not, Lorraine? Why not?

Well, I want to holler, you can’t exactly climb up a rickety old ladder when you’re stuck in a stupid wheelchair, now can you?

I take a big bite of my sandwich and shrug. “They’re probably busy, Mom. I’ll see them at school tomorrow. I’ll talk to them then.”

Mom’s making the face like there’s still more she wants to say, but this time, I’m the one who pretends not to notice.

“Alright, well…” Mom says, trailing off. She’s looking at a big black crow that’s flapped onto our backyard fence, right by her vegetable garden.

“That’s the thief who’s been stealing my cherry tomatoes!” she says, pointing at the bird with one accusing finger. She runs inside and comes back out with a broom. She marches down the stairs and into the yard. 

 “Shoo!” she yells, thrusting the broom at the crow. “Shoo!”


  1. I think you might want to start your query or pitch with more about Rainy, since she is such a captivating character:

    Ten-year-old Rainy Schmidt is a fighter pilot.

    Her call sign is Rain of Death, and her hero is the Great Bambinzo--the greatest fighter pilot ever.

    But there's something else about Rainy.

    Her amazing feats are all imaginary, because she is confined to a wheelchair.

    When a crow starts stealing cherry tomatoes from her mom’s garden...

    Granted, this not may be the best, but you get the idea. I don't want Rainy's great personality and voice to get lost in the description of the plot. I'm sure you can make this pitch much better.

    As I said before, I already know you're a good writer. You just have to take all this feedback and see what works best for YOU and YOUR story. Don't lose your voice!

    Good luck, Kate, and I hope to be reading about Rainy in the future!

  2. Hi Kate,

    I just want to echo Ron's suggestion about your pitch opening above--that would have been my advice as well.

    Also, the other thing I'm wondering about in your pitch are the stakes. Is there any way you can up the stakes here? Rainy hopes to get a reward, but...what if she can't solve the mystery? What does she stand to lose over the course of the novel?

    Your opening pages look fantastic as ever. I just think your pitch needs a little more love, especially with an eye to reworking the opening per Ron's suggestions above!

    Good luck! I can't wait to see this book out in the world someday!

  3. Ronald and Sarah, thank you for these comments!! Very helpful. This was my first time writing a pitch, so I obviously have a lot to learn. I will most definitely up the stakes and takes both of your comments to heart. Thanks for all of your help!

  4. Kate, this is a great site that shows query letters that got their writers signed by agents and then book deals:

  5. You're welcome, Kate--please do keep in touch and let me know how querying goes :) Fingers crossed for you!

    Here's another good site for query examples: --I like this series because the agents talk about what makes each pitch successful!

  6. Hi Kate! I agree with prior comments that I don’t see enough information about the stakes in your pitch. Rainy is 10, so what she wants out of this experience is enough however what happens if she fails? Also, she has such great personality in your ms. Can you bring some of that personality into the pitch? Don’t write it from her perspective but somehow impart her voice in your writing, if that makes sense.

    I like the new second paragraph. It helps me understand that she is recently in the chair. I also like that you didn’t come right out to tell me what happened. I know it will come later, and I am left wanting to know and thus wanting to read more to find out.

    Everything else sounds great to me, and I like the switch from her mom encouraging her to go to her friends’ houses to her mom suggesting Rainy invite them over for dinner. You might want to make more of a discussion out of it though. Her mom gives up so easily when Rainy pushes back. It might be nice to glimpse into Rainy’s anxiety about seeing them a bit more.

    I think it is very well done though, Kate! If there is a way to stay in touch, I would love to know if/when your ms gets published. This is definitely something my children would enjoy, as would I!

  7. I think your pitch is perfect. As an agent, I want to see what your book is about – and you have accomplished that in this pitch. I would encourage you to amp up your last sentence… “get a big reward” but then what? How does it end, and is there a bigger reward, than the monetary reward?

    Your introductory pages are written very well, and you’ve captured a 10 year old’s voice perfectly! No info dump, just enough to intrigue the reader. Lots of infusion of personality – very nice!

    ~Sue Miller

  8. Dear Kate,

    Nothing to say but great opening pages! Rainy’s got such voice, personality, and heart. She evokes our sympathy from the very first. This scene is also visual. I can see the living room, mom on the phone in the kitchen, the purple grapes, the crow. I’m delighted to see Mom’s accident voice back in there. Well done tweaks overall.

    Very best of luck with this ms., Kate! Trust yourself and your instincts. It’s been a pleasure working with you.


  9. Hi Kate,
    Your pitch is full of interesting tidbits about the story that peaks the reader's interest. I worry that it's too much of a summary, however, and would consider scaling it back.

    Rainy's voice is strong and your revisions have held true to that. I was surprised to see the phone conversations back but your revision addressed my earlier confusion. Nice job.

    Rainy definitely has the makings of a series. There is so much you could do with her, especially if being wheelchair bound is not a temporary setback. Hope to see it soon.


  10. Hi Kate,
    I already loved the Crow right from your first draft and now I love him even more! Your pitch gives out a lot about your plot and I think it could swing either ways - some do not prefer so much in terms of details, some don't mind it. So that's ok. But I do agree with the others about emphasizing on what is at stake for Lorraine.

    You chapter was near perfect to begin with and perfect is what it was bound to end up as! Truth be told, I re-read your chapters several times to understand the MG voice of my own character. So I also have to thank you for that.

    Can't wait to read the entire story . . .

  11. Hi

    Thanks for clarifying the Sarah thing! I really think that is a lot clearer and it shows that her friends do care.

    I'm still curious why she doesn't want to talk to her mom about the attic. I feel like that could have made her stop forcing the issue. Maybe you have that explained later? Maybe she just doesn't like to talk to her mom, which is fine.

    I am honestly thrilled for you and I hope it works out. I will keep my eye out for this in the next few years!