Sunday, October 20, 2019

1st 5 Pages Oct Workshop - Helt Rev 2

Name: Julianna Helt
Genre: MG Contemporary
Title: Slime Wars


Slime-obsessed ten-year-old Maycie and her two best friends, Shelby and Lexi spend the end of summer selling their homemade goo from the sidewalk. Maycie wants new lacrosse gear to fit in with the elite team she made in the spring. When the first attempt at selling slime ends in no sales and a giant mess, Maycie decides it’s a bad idea.  

But when her dad loses his job she starts to think a slime business might be the only way to help her parents, who might not be able to afford the elite lacrosse team’s tuition let alone new gear. To make matters worse, new girl, Aubrey, steals her best friend away after Maycie is too distracted starting the business.

When school starts, a slime war begins! Maycie’s business takes off, but Aubrey and Lexi have been selling their own slime and attempt to sabotage Maycie. Maycie has to decide to engage in revenge of her own and risk losing her friends or fight for her business to stay on the team.


I waved my sign at a passing car. “Get your slime,” I shouted. My BFFs Shelby and Lexi and I all stood in Shelby’s yard, behind an old fold-out table we lugged from her garage with plastic containers lined up on top, each filled with a different color of our awesome homemade goo.  

We spent all summer making slime and it was taking over all our houses. Lexi’s mom threatened to throw it all away if something wasn’t done. Lexi decided a good old-fashioned stand like a lemonade stand was the way to go.  But, no one stopped at our table all afternoon. Some cars slowed down but when they realized we weren’t selling lemonade on this hot day, they sped up and drove away.  

My sweaty hands slipped on the poster board with, “SLIME FOR SALE,” emblazoned in large red letters. I really wanted this plan to work. I had my eyes on some new lacrosse gear my parents said they wouldn’t buy me because my old stick was “just fine for now” even though all the girls on the elite team I made in the spring have brand new equipment.

Lexi held up her poster board with “SLIME $2” written on it. She messed up the dollar sign and scratched it out with a black marker. 

Shelby laid down on her sign, “It’s so hot,” she whined, “Can we go inside?” She decorated her poster board with hearts and stars instead of anything to do with selling slime.      

“We might as well! No one is going to want our slime!” I laid down next to Shelby, closing my eyes against the blaring sun. This was a bad plan! I’ll never get new lacrosse gear now.

Then a car door slammed.

“Hi,” Lexi said. I squinted my eyes at a boy standing on the sidewalk with a crisp five-dollar bill. His mom waited with the window down in a gray minivan.

“Maycie,” she whispered, kicking me. “Get up!”

I stood up off the grass to greet our first customer.  

“Hey, you made all this?” he asked waving at the containers on the table.  

“Um, yeah. did you want some?” I mumbled pulling the end of my ponytail into my mouth. This seemed like a good idea until someone actually wanted to buy slime. Talking to customers made my already hot body become drenched in sweat.

 “I don’t know.” The kid studied the merchandise. “Do you have blue?” He peered at the slime on our table.

“Of course.” Lexi picked up a container opening the lid.

“Ew.” She dropped it squishing her face up in disgust.

“Um, never mind.” The kid backed away his eyes wide.

“Wait!” I called, desperate to make our first sale, but he was already back in the car. It sped away as I looked in the container in Lexi’s hand. 

“Gross.” What was once a blue masterpiece was now a pool of glue and laundry detergent. It didn’t look anything like slime.

“They’re not all like that are they?” Lexi asked opening the other containers. They were. All the slime had melted in the sun.

Lexi let out a deep breath and threw herself down in the grass.

“This is terrible!” She buried her face in her hands in a dramatic pose of defeat. But I had an idea! We needed something to thicken the slime in this heat. Maybe flour?

“I’ll be right back!” I ran across the street to my house thinking about the first lacrosse practice coming up. I didn’t want to bring my old second-hand stick. The thought of running down the field with a new stick made me run across the street a little faster.

“Mom!” I screamed as the front door banged open. A blast of cold air hit my face, but I didn’t pause to enjoy it. Mom wasn’t in the living room or the kitchen. She must be in the backyard with the twins. Since she’s usually ok with me borrowing stuff and I was in a hurry, I grabbed the bag of flour and carried it back to slime headquarters. 

“What are you doing?” Lexi asked as I sprinkled some flour into the first container of blue slime stirring it with a plastic spoon. More and more flour went into the mixture, but the goo didn’t thicken like I thought it would. Flour covered the front of my #laxgirl shirt.

“Borax!” I yelled to no one in particular, picking up the bag of flour to run back home with it. As I made my way across the front yard, my sweaty hands lost their grip on the bag of flour. It slipped through my fingers exploding on to my front yard like a flour atomic bomb.

“Oh no!” I yelled. Lexi and Shelby came running.

“Look at you,” Lexi tried to brush the flour out of my hair and clothes. It only smeared it in more. Her sweaty hands now white with flour. She wiped them off on my shirt instead of her own.   

Shelby smiled. I knew she was trying not to laugh. She sniffed. Any second she was going to explode in fits of giggles.

“Don’t do it,” I warned her, putting my hand up to stop her. That just sent a whiff of flour dust in the air. I couldn’t help but crack a smile.

Shelby covered her mouth with both hands, but the sound burst from her lips under her fingers. Peels of laughter exploded across the lawn. I grabbed a handful from the bag and threw it in the air. It rained down on the three of us.

“No, don’t!” Lexi cried in horror while Shelby spun around in the flour rain

I threw another handful of flour in the air and danced in it with Shelby. Lexi laughed, streaking through the yard to escape the mess.  She’d be in so much trouble if she got flour all over her clothes. I knew this but I chased her anyway.

She stopped running, out of breath, facing me, “Please stop, Maycie!” She put her hands out in front of her.

A fistful of flour in my hand, I held it up threatening to throw it. She cowered.

“Don’t, Maycie,” A stern voice said behind me. Lexi relaxed, triumphant, looking passed me to the owner of the voice.

“Hi, Dad,” I turned, smiling my sweetest smile.

“What in the world are you doing?” he demanded. My sweetness having no effect on him whatsoever.

“I could ask you the same thing, you know. Did you skip out of work early?” I gave him a playful look, shaking my finger at him.

I expected him to have some witty comeback and we would exchange banter like we usually do. Instead, his face darkened, and he turned away.

“Just put the flour away, Maycie, and clean up. You’re a mess!” He opened up the backseat door, lifting out a box. “Can you close that door for me?” he said as he walked past.

I nodded, watching him walk toward the house, balancing the box on his hip as he opened the front door. I let go of the clump of flour in my hand, letting it fall to the ground, painting the grass with white specks. Using my hip to avoid touching Dad’s car and getting flour on it, I slammed it shut.


  1. Julianna, this reads so well! Wow.

    I know we're also giving feedback on queries this week, but I'll say upfront I'm terrible at writing queries. So take anything I say with a total grain of salt.

    The query makes a reference to Aubrey stealing Maycie's "best friend," and yet, I know the story starts with Lexi and Shelby, and in your opening pages, those three seem pretty tight. I got no sense one was a "BFF" over another. So, I was confused when the query refers to Aubrey stealing Maycie's "best friend." I get it -- Aubrey only steals one girlfriend away. Shelby stays with Maycie. But is Maycie tighter with Lexi than she is with Shelby? Because that's how I read that line in the query, and I'm not sure that's what you wanted to communicate here. See what others say. I may be totally off.

    Maycie's "big" or plot-driving want is to stay on the elite team. While getting the new stick is the motivation for the slime sale in the opening pages, her dad losing his job changes her want to a burning desire -- to the bigger plot driver, of paying tuition to stay on the team. It's a natural escalation, one many kids can relate to, and great! I wondered if the query should do the same? "Slime obsessed 10-year-old Maycie wants new lacrosse gear to fit in with the elite team she made in the spring. She decides to sell her handmade goo with her best friends and raise a little cash to buy a new one. When her dad loses his job and her family can't afford to pay her team fees, Maycie sees her slime business as the only way to secure her spot on the team." "Sees" is not a good verb to use there, it's not very active, and not in Maycie's voice, but you get the gist. That also eliminates the "might" and makes the threat, or stakes, concrete and very real. If she doesn’t sell the goo, and pay the fee, she's off the team, right? Great setting for a Slime War!

    I really liked your 1st 5 pages. They're reading so well. Reading the query, however, brought up something you might want to tweak. In paragraph 2, you write, "Lexi decided a good old-fashioned stand like a lemonade stand was the way to go." Let others weigh in on this, please. But I read this, up until now, as having the connotation that the idea of selling the goo was Lexi's. It's not stated, it's something I assumed as I read, and didn't even realize I'd assumed it, until your query said otherwise. The query is clear -- the idea to sell the slime is Maycie's. In that case, Lexi's contribution was just to use a lemonade stand to do it. I didn't make that distinction when I read this line. Maybe introduce the idea that selling the slime is Maycie's idea first, and Lexi's idea to use a lemonade stand to do it, second?

    I loved the line, "The thought of running down the field with a new stick made me run across the street a little faster." Maycie's want is propelling the story -- and her legs -- forward! There were a few typos, but otherwise it's polished and reads smooth and I had no questions as I read. Excellent work and I hope to read more.

  2. Hey, Julianna!

    Pitch- I suggest not starting the second paragraph with “But.” However, that is probably just a personal preference. Also, you mention Shelby in the first paragraph, but at the end it is just Aubrey and Lexi. It leaves me wondering which side Shelby stands on.
    I also think if you put her want of new lacrosse gear in order to fit in up front, you will end up hooking more readers.


    Paragraph 2- You state that Lexi had the idea for selling the slime, but in your pitch, you say it is Maycie. Easy fix there, I believe!

    Paragraph 3- “I had my eyes on some new..” is a really long sentence. I suggest breaking it up. Or, you could try something like this: All the girls on my elite team have brand new equipment, but my parents said they wouldn’t buy me any. “It’s just fine for now,” is what they keep telling me.

    Overall, I’ve enjoyed seeing your progress through the 1st 5 and I really like your story! Best of luck, and I hope to one day see this on the shelf at Barnes and Noble!


  3. Hi, hi, Julianna!

    Well I enjoyed this version so much! You've really tightened it up over the course of these couple of weeks. So there isn't much to quibble about.

    In the pitch and in paragraph 3 of the pages you say "lacrosse gear to fit in with the elite team she made in the spring." I could be reading it wrong, but is "made" supposed to be "met"?

    I am wondering if you could drive the stakes home for Maycie in the pitch a little more. We know she wants the lacrosse gear and might not be able to afford it now, but what does this mean for her on an emotional level? Will she feel less than the others because she's using old equipment? Does she think having the better gear means she'll be a better player? I'm also curious if the slime money will help her family. it's mentioned in the second paragraph but isn't mentioned when we get to the final where it would fit in nicely with the stakes.

    Other than that I just noticed some repeated words throughout such as "flour," "street", and "door".

    While you've improved your comma usage, I think there's still some areas to pay attention to.
    Paragraph 12-"I mumbled, pulling..."
    Paragraph 16- "The kid backed away, his eyes wide."
    Paragraph 24- "...contained of blue slime, stirring it with..."
    Paragraph 29- "he demanded, my sweetness having no effect..."

    other than that I really enjoyed it and I LOVED the new details in Paragraph 22. I really liked how you brought us in to her head while she's running to fix the slime.

    It's been super enjoyable working with you and i wish you all the best with this fun read!

  4. Julianna,

    This is cute! I love child-entrepreneur books. They remind me of The Babysitter's Club.

    Overall, your pitch is great. It could be tightened, read more streamlined. Slime-obsessed Maddie makes homemade goo to sell so she can buy new lacrosse equipment (and tell us why this matters). Is it so she'll fit in when her poverty makes her feel less than? Does her old stick have issues with how well it performs? Give us a why from her internal world that'll help us connect to her.

    Then up the stakes. When her dad loses his job, new equipment is the least of her worries, because the elite team's player fee is now impossible to pay unless Maddie can earn it from her slime business. (Just phrasing however here, not that you should use these words.)

    Then in the end of your pitch, the stakes are a bit unclear. Your last paragraph states: Maycie has to decide to engage in revenge of her own and risk losing her friends or fight for her business to stay on the team.

    I don't quite understand this. The whole time Maycie has been fighting for her business so she can get on the team. That's not upping the stakes. And Lexi left her willingly to help another girl, betraying Maycie. So she's already lost Lexi. This last line doesn't tell us anything or up the stakes at all.

    For the pages, I think the start is engaging. It's different, that they sell slime rather than lemonade. Different but familiar--which is great.

    For me, I have a hard time believing Maycie will be capable of getting what she wants. The stand is a failure, the goo is ruined. Does she even really know how to make it? As a reader, I'm doubting her abilities. And then, when her friend is going to get into trouble for the flour on her clothing, Maycie doesn't seem to care. So I'm wondering if Lexi's behavior is perfectly reasonable when she gets a different friend.

    You want Maycie to have flaws, and that's great. She has to have an arc. But make sure to also internalize why she's being mean to Lexi so the reader understands it. Maybe Lexi did the same thing to her, or maybe Lexi won't get in trouble and is lying just to stop the fun. Maybe Lexi always ruins the fun, and Maycie is tired of it. Just help us understand.

    It would be a good idea to just give this one more polish for punctuation as well.

    Good luck with this! I think you have a great beginning that was easy to understand and read very well.

  5. I think this is a great improvement! I loved the focus of her desire for the new lacrosse gear. That desire was much sharper in this version, and it really held through the whole way.

    With regards to the pitch, I wonder if the third paragraph could be focused more. I like the first paragraph in that it sets up how they started the slime thing -- and what she wanted out of. But I wonder if the we go too far into the story with the second and third paragraphs. Generally, queries are easier to write if they're focused on the stakes in the first fifty pages. I get a sense that those stakes are more focused on her wanting sell slime to help her father. I think more of a focus on that issue could make the query have more emotional weight -- because that's what feels like the real heart of the story is, at least from what I've seen and read. This idea that a daughter is willing to try to start a business in order to help her family through a rough time.

    Are there stakes more focused on that specifically? And if so, I'd be curious to hear them.

    Also just watch the prose a little with repeated words. (we can be nitpicky now sense the set up feels so much stronger). There is a weird three paragraphs where the word sign is used a lot. There is also a few places were something is said that can be implied. (and then you can avoid the repeated word.) One instance that comes to mind is when the flour slips from her grip, I think flour got repeated a bit there.

    Anyway, good luck, and hopefully we can all keep in touch while we enter the querying trenches.

  6. I really like the open at this point. You've got a reason for the slime (great about the gear), characterization of the friendships, and the tension with dad showing and not being remotely moved by the sweetness of the smile. Great job on this revision process!

    I'm not great at pitches, but I think you could clean this up a lot by sharpening language and focus. The first paragraph sets up pretty well, but the second feels loose. Sharpening, you could write something like: Except slime might be her only way out, because her problems are bigger than La Crosse. Her dad loses his job...she chooses slime over her friends...

    The third paragraph could be sharp resolution. Something that describes the end of the book with a bang. Like, a last desperate attempt to sell slime to the masses ends with Maycie friendless and broke. But then a moment of kindness errr something.. Just something that shows Maycie's options to resolve. Again, love the open!