Monday, November 19, 2018

1st 5 Pages November Workshop- Robertson Rev 2

Name: Kate Robertson
Title: The Thief of Buttercup Lane
Genre: Upper Middle Grade, Magical Realism
Most twelve-year-olds dream about having magical powers and a secret portal to another world in their basement, but not Betta Vulgaris. If it were up to her, she’d close that portal forever and throw away the key.

Maybe then, her Uncle Larry would stop sneaking through it to gamble with Big Lou and the seedy characters of the otherworld. He could never again threaten to send Betta back, even if she refused to steal jewels from the houses in the nice part of town, to pay off his debts.

She’d finally get to do normal kid things, like getting Andrew P. Jordan to notice her and focus on a respectable career, like becoming an Olympic gymnast.

When the Thief of Buttercup Lane asks Betta to train a team of wannabe thieves, to steal a wish-granting hammer from the museum, Betta sees an opportunity to use her magical powers for good. But when Uncle Larry wants the hammer for his own, Betta must choose between her new friends, her guardian Uncle and the middle-school life she always wanted.

The Thief of Buttercup Lane is a Middle Grade fiction book, in the magical realism genre, complete at 30,000 words.


Everything is going according to plan.
6:23 - Mr. Verhoeven arrives home from work. Yells at neighbor’s Chihuahua for pooping on his lawn. Face is alarmingly red.
6:45 - Red sports car drops off Mrs.Verhoeven. She is dressed, head-to-toe, in yoga wear but looks neither sweaty nor Zen.
7:04 - Delivery driver arrives. Indian food.
9:00 - They retire to their separate bedrooms. Possibly due to the Indian food.
9:15 -They are fast asleep.
I sit in the old oak tree in front of the Verhoeven’s house and wait my standard two hours and fifteen minutes before I even think of making a move. Two hours, to make sure the Verhoevens are asleep. Fifteen minutes, because I’m extra cautious. I take this thieving business very seriously.
When it’s time, I creep across the grass to the far corner of the house. There is a drain pipe I can use to get up to the second floor. Mrs. Verhoeven keeps her jewels in the guestroom, laying in a box on an armoire. No safe. No locks. They’re practically begging to be stolen.
It takes a few deep breaths before I can access my powers. I hold the air in my lungs and imagine myself as light as a feather. The magic starts in my toes, then ripples up my body. It feels like that tingling sensation you get after you sneeze.
Now that I’m practically floating, scooting up that drain pipe is a cinch.
I scout out the narrow ledge that runs from the drainpipe to the guestroom window. It’s going to take excellent balance and guts to make it across. Luckily, I have both, not to mention a little magic. Inch-by-inch I move along the ledge, until I reach the window. I take another deep breath. This time, when I exhale, I think about making the air in my lungs as cold as ice. The window freezes.
A quick trick with my dagger and I’ve etched a hole, just big enough for my skinny butt to shimmy through. One tug and the glass is free, but it’s double paned and way heavier than I expected. I try to set it down on the ledge beside me, but I can’t move a single inch. I’m stuck, really stuck.
Looking down, my problem is obvious. I’ve snagged the zipper on the pocket of my jeans on one of the window hinges. Betta Vulgaris, thief extraordinaire, gets brought down by a zipper.
I figure I have two options: drop the window to the ground below and pray that no one wakes from the crash or tug my leg free and risk ruining my jeans. Now before you judge me, these are really nice jeans: black, skinny, distressed the perfect amount. Plus, it took three months and commission from four other jobs to buy them.
Obviously, I throw the window. Now, my hands are free to unhook that darn zipper. The good news is, the Verhoevens don’t make a peep. The bad news is, their next-door neighbor, Mrs. Weston, newly divorced, lots of time on her hands, starts shouting at the street below, “who made that noise? Daryl is that you?” for the next eight minutes rendering me unable to move without being seen. That’s what gets me: eight freaking minutes.
Eight minutes is all it takes for the other thief to get in and out with the necklace. I can do it in six but eight as still pretty impressive. It’s been happening lately more than I care to admit. This mystery thief, showing up and stealing my jobs, making off with my hard earned loot. I’m sure he broke-in through the back door. I swore I heard him while I was on the ledge. The only silver lining in this whole story and the only thing that could possibly save me from getting yelled at by my Uncle Larry when I get home tonight, is that I saw my mystery thief’s face this time and now I can find him.
He did a stupid thing. If they wrote a manual on how to be a successful thief, the very first bullet point would read, “never ever under any circumstances remove your mask.” It’s a rookie mistake, but really what can you expect from someone who takes eight full minutes to get in and out?
He peeled off his black mask to scratch his head, of all things. I got a good look at him through the window: jet black hair that waves to just below his ears, papery pale skin and green eyes. Now all I have to do is find him, then it's payback for all the other jobs he messed up for me: the Eastons, The Van Burens and now the Verhoevens.
There is no point in hanging around the Verhoevens any longer. That other thief has the jewels and I’m not a fan of Indian leftovers. It’s dark, and the street is quiet now. I figure it’s safe to use my powers again. No one will see me and my poor jeans have suffered enough. I step from the ledge and float slowly to the ground, landing lightly on my feet. Unfortunately, I also land in a pile of Chihuahua poop. I now understand Mr. Verhoeven’s rage.
I figure the odds of Uncle Larry yelling at me all night are pretty good, even with the new information I have on our competition, so I decide to make a little pit-stop before I head home. Something to keep me distracted while Uncle L tells me what a worthless, good-for-nothing thief I am and if I keep screwing up like this, he’ll send me back to Aaronvale to be a beet farmer like my cousin Dole.
The distraction’s name is Andrew P. Jordan. The P stands for Positively Perfect, either that or Paul. He is also twelve and goes to Fairfield Heights Middle School. We’re completely, undeniably, totally in love, he just hasn’t realized it yet. His house isn’t far, he also lives in the good neighborhood, like the Eastons and the Verhoevens and every other house Uncle Larry plots to hit. The Jordans have a large maple in front of their house. There’s a branch with an excellent view and a little dip that fits my butt perfectly. I love to sit on that branch and watch him. His face is perfect. I think he likes admiring it as much as I do but I am cool with that. If I were that good-looking, I’d spend hours gazing in the mirror too.
I really want to see him so I have to scoot. His light turns off at twelve sharp and after that, the show is over, at least the show I can see from my spot in the maple tree.
I am about to float up into my tree, when I spot the other thief, waking down the sidewalk. There is no doubt in my mind it’s him. Same jet black hair. Same green eyes. Plus the dingbat didn’t have the brains to ditch his mask, he carries it in his hand as if it were his paper-bag lunch. Amateur. Rookie. Idiot.
I bid a silent farewell to Andrew P Jordan and his perfect cheekbones before I follow the thief down the street. He cuts through memorial park, turns down the main street and follows it all the way to the end before ducking down a small side street with a sign that says “Buttercup Lane”.


  1. Hi Kate! I’ll start with your blurb. You’ve addressed the three main components – character, want, conflict – which is good, but some parts can be tightened. There’s something about the opening sentence that doesn’t feel right. I think it’s using the word ‘most’ to start off with and the elements you’ve used. Magical powers is a broad term, but a secret portal to another world in the basement is specific. I think you can cut that opening, trimming it to simply state that this 12yr-old Betta V has better things to do than think about magical powers and secret portals or that BV would love it if magical powers and secret portals to another world where figments of her imagination. And then you could mention her uncle. For the rest, see if any words can be eliminated and/or reworded to use less words.

    Okay, I still really like the way you start this book. And I’m not even sure what you changed, but this version feels more concise and cleaner. Your description of her movements is spot on. Nicely done! One thing: The paragraph that starts with “Eight minutes” – the 3rd sentence feels out of place. Try reading it out loud. Other than that, this is really good. You've obviously worked hard. Thank you for sharing your work with us! Best of luck finding it a home! I'm anxious to see where you take the story.


  2. Great premise, Kate. I’d read this!

    I’d begin the query with the last paragraph, “When the Thief of Buttercup Lane asks…” This is where the heart of the story shines. ๐Ÿ˜Š <3

    Not a lot of 12yos wish to be magical or have portals in their basement. Some want to be basketball players, scientists, animal rights activists, lawyers, doctors, artists, singers, actors (you get the point)… so, I wouldn’t begin a pitch with, “most twelve-year-olds…” (I wanted to be a fighter pilot and the spiders and creepy sounds to be exterminated from my basement.)

    About the pages:

    Excellent job on the revisions. I love the line, “I take this thieving business very seriously." In just a few words, I know who Betta is and where she stands.

    The middle paragraphs of the pages have more telling, than showing, but that is an easy fix.

    I see what Sheri is saying about the eight minutes paragraph/ third sentence. If you remove ‘lately’, it rolls off the tongue better.

    Kate, I’ve really enjoyed reading your pages. I hope to read this book in the future. Good luck! ๐Ÿ˜Š

  3. That sentence has always read a bit funny for me since the previous revision but I always find my revisions feel awkward for a while. I needed someone to point that out. Thanks for all of your input. I appreciate the time the mentors take to provide us all with their feedback and although I didn’t respond directly to your comment last week, it’s not just a coincidence that Betta keeps spotting her thief. All the best!

  4. First of all, I just wanted to say that when I shared your pitch with my CP, she LOVED it haha. You’re the only other person who included a word count and genre paragraph. I also think you have a strong understanding of what should be included in a pitch. Your stakes are clear and you do a really good job of showing your personal voice in your pitch so that I get an idea of exactly who you are and what makes your story stand out.

    I’m not sure exactly what you changed this round which is great. It means the changes were subtle if there were any. It flows really nice and I feel like your 5 pages have improved the most from your starting pages overall which is really awesome to see. Your voice is still there and everything is so tight.

    I’m not sure what else to say really. I want to read more of this to be honest, and i don’t read a lot of MG so that’s saying a lot!

    Best of luck!!

  5. For the pitch: I also agree with those who aren't a fan of the "most" in the first line. I'd rather start with Betta than "most twelve year olds".

    For the pages, I feel like the lack of description of the window crashing on the street feels like a beat is missing. She says she drops it, unhooks her zipper, and then goes right into the reactions of the Verhoevens and Mrs. Weston without describing the crash they're reacting to.

    I love the addition of why the thief took off his mask (to scratch his head).

    I guess I don't have much else to add. I think the voice really came to life in these pages in this last round. Best of luck!

  6. Your pitch is intriguing and I wish I had the time to read your entire story. You do a great job creating a world here. There's a couple of extra commas in here, you might want to watch that. And the scene where the other guy comes in and steals the jewels is still a little confusing, I don't totally get that she's watching someone else burglar her mark until later. Other than than, well done.

  7. I think you have a really strong pitch. Nicely done! 30K seems short for upper middle-grade fantasy, but I suppose it's in the ball park. It sounds like a great read!

    As far as your first pages go, they seem very polished, very tight. I had no trouble following the action. Wishing you all the best book wishes with this one!

  8. Hi Kate,
    Love your concept! Suzie has been out of town traveling over the holiday. I'm posting her comments below:

    Hi Kate,

    You've done such a great job here. So glad I got the chance to read your pages. Below are all my comments:


    I love you’re the beginning of your pitch. Betta and her uncle feel alive right from those few sentences and I’m interested to hear more about the otherworld. However, you lose me when you mention normal kid things: none of these things that are cited feel “normal”. Then after that you mention the Thief of Buttercup Lane asking Bella to train a team of thieves, but who is this Thief? Why come to Bella? Then what are her magical powers? All these questions pull me out of the pitch and disconnect me from the story. You need to make sure that you’re giving specifics and that you’re giving enough information to spark interest and still have clarity.

    I love this concept and I think it has a lot of potential.


    The biggest issue that I see in your pages is the voice. At times, Betta doesn’t sound quite like a twelve-year old to me. For instance sometimes her word choice feels older, like when she says “neither sweaty nor Zen” or the comments about her jeans.

    As much as I appreciate the crush and the way Betta talks about it, I don’t think it should be brought in in such a strong way so early on. I’d rather keep the focus on the thief and Betta’s main goals. Bringing Andrew P. Jordan in felt like a distraction.