Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Query Quagmire: Critique Guidelines

Today's the day!  CONGRATULATIONS to our five winning entries, which you will see posted below.  You are warmly invited (and encouraged) to critique some or all of these entries while we wait for Danielle Burby's agently feedback.

Guidelines for Critique on MSFV:
  • Please leave your critique for each entry in the comment box for that entry.
  • Please choose a screen name to sign your comments. The screen name DOES NOT have to be your real name; however, it needs to be an identifiable name.  ("Anonymous" is not a name.)
  • Critiques should be honest but kind, helpful but sensitive.
  • Critiques that attack the writer or are couched in unkind words will be deleted.*
  • Of special note: When leaving your thoughts on a query, please focus on WHY you are or are not hooked, rather than attempting to line edit the query.  
  • ENTRANTS: As your way of "giving back", please critique at least 2 other entries.

*I can't possibly read every comment.  If you ever see a comment that is truly snarky, please email me.  I count on your help.

Query Quagmire #5

TITLE: The Salter's Son
GENRE: YA Fantasy

Dear Miss Snark’s First Victim,

Mummifying the dead wasn't ever Paolo’s aspiration, but it’s the work he got. Now folks won’t hardly come near him for fear of catching the plague. He’s a teenaged refugee with no family and no money in Secco, a dust-choked mining camp where the sun is relentless and the sweat stains run as thick as the debts. For Paolo there is no way out from under his indenture. Until he discovers the impossible.

In Secco all the beasts are reptiles. From cart-pulling beasts of burden to twitchy-eyed mounts, life depends on the heat of the sun. That is, until Paolo discovers a new way of warming the reptiles. His discovery means Paolo alone can ride into the mountains even with winter approaching to pursue Secco's quickest source of coin--the skinning trade. It's a chancy endeavor that could buy him out of his indenture and then some. But it's not long before Bento, a moneylender as dried out as a chili and twice as mean, catches wind of the discovery and wants it for himself. Soon so will every cutthroat with a musket or a knife. To stay alive and win his freedom, Paolo will have to partner with the only person willing to give him a chance, a woman old enough to be his mother and who drinks so much she pees herself. Worse, she might just be a cutthroat as well.

The Salter’s Son is a YA fantasy, complete at 81,000 words. It's a tale of trust and betrayal on a brutal frontier, a True Grit set in a world of reptiles.

I am a member of SCBWI. I have a concentration in literature and history from Baylor University and a law degree from Harvard Law School. When I’m not writing or reading, I’m usually burning my mouth on Mexican chilis or sleeping out-of-doors in the landscapes described in this manuscript.

I have included the first 250 words below. Thank you for your consideration.
                                                




There wasn't but the sound of the sea moving as I tied the nartak to the hitching block. The moon was bright but low in the west, and all its glow was swallowed by the cliffs above me. Where I stood, everything was dark. I knew miners were digging in their cliffside tunnels and fishermen were straining at their nets, but I couldn't see a one of them. In the dark I could still pretend it was just Constanza and me. That's what I called her, our oldest nartak. The Salter would have branded me a fool for wasting a name like Constanza on her, but she was a fine creature, far too fine not to know such a name. I reached out my fingertips to scratch behind her horn, in the spot where her scales were softest, but she butted me away. The night was stealing her heat, and she was testy.

"We'll get you warm, girl. I promise. I'll be quick."

I adjusted her warming blanket as best I could. I pulled in deep breaths of sea air as I moved, trying to hold the smell of it in my nose. I gave her a final pat on the neck and turned towards the cliffside streets of the Squalors. With shaking hands, I slid on my gloves.

Even in the dark, finding the house wasn't any bother. The air around it was thick with smoke. For seven days they'd burned tallows, sage and whatever they could find for incense. But all I smelled was rot.

Query Quagmire #4

TITLE: Magic Undone
GENRE: YA Fantasy romance

Dear Agent,

Time can be frozen and magic can be undone in the world Shai lives in, but when it comes to reuniting with the prince she loves from afar, some things can seem impossible.

Shai used to be friends with Prince Jistan back when she lived in the Casland palace seven years ago. But when her mother lost her position as the Queen’s handmaiden, Shai grew up on the streets and became involved with The Cliq, a notorious gang of thieves. Since she’s an unmancer, meaning she can undo or break magical spells, she is valuable in helping her gang pilfer protected goods. While she’s now on the wrong side of the law, she can’t help but remember the past and her feelings for the prince.

Prince Jistan, tasked with leading the Royal Defense Patrol, is surprised when Shai is captured during a heist and brought into the kingdom. He pardons her on the condition that she joins his patrol and help in the Border Wars. Jistan’s magic involves stopping time, so together they are a formidable team against the enemy.  As they fight to save their country, Jistan can’t help remembering the Shai of his past and falling for her in the present. But she’s a former criminal, and now that she’s left The Cliq, there are those who want to assassinate her. Then there’s Jistan’s father, the Sultan of Casland, who may be sabotaging his son’s efforts in the Border Wars for unscrupulous reasons. So Shai and Jistan must survive the strife in their two worlds first, before finding out if their love can survive.
MAGIC UNDONE is a 74,000-word YA fantasy romance written in dual POV. This novel is middle-eastern inspired, and can be described as ALADDIN meets SHADOW AND BONE.

The manuscript is available upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration.




Shaielle squeezed to the front of the gathering and strained to see down the street. She just wanted one glimpse of his familiar features, that smile that could light his entire face, showing his dimples. A hollow ache clawed in her stomach at the thought of seeing him again.

She adjusted her thin black headscarf so she could see through the eye slit better. No one could see her face, or the deadly knives tucked into her purple pantaloons, their steel weight cool against her hips. In the crowd she could hide what she was, but she could never for a moment forget.

Because of what she was, the one who made her heart flutter seemed a world away, even though he was about to pass right by her face.

A lively musical tune blared from the horns of musicians as they swayed down the cobblestone road. Behind them came ladies in knee-length skirts and midriff-bearing tops of rainbow colors, dancing to the music. Next came a group of male singers, their strong, baritone voices joining with the melody of the trumpets as they sang a song about the Pact Day parade.

It was the celebration of the Quint Pact, when the continent was split into five different countries over a thousand years ago. Five Sultans were chosen to rule over each country, thus ending the worse of the Mancer War. And Casland, the country in the middle of the others, always had the largest jubilee of all.

Query Quagmire #3

TITLE: The Real Hero
GENRE: MG Historical Mystery

Dear Agent,

In The Real Hero an 11-year-old boy eats worms, chases trains, cracks codes, and kisses the girl in his quest to unmask a spy posing as a patriot.

Steve Abernathy is on a mission to protect the home front while his brother fights Nazis in Europe. A loyal member of Captain Asgardia’s fan club, Steve has pledged to help his comic book hero Fight for Freedom, Defend Justice, and Destroy Evil. His patriotic zeal is put to the test in the summer of 1944 when German POWs are stationed in town. Morse code flashes from the prison camp at night. Dieter Zinzerdorf, a suspiciously charming prisoner, seems to be everywhere he shouldn’t be, like swapping gum with Steve’s older sister. When Steve discovers his own Sunday School teacher passing coded messages to Zinzerdorf, he vows to expose their spy ring and gain his rightful fame as town hero. But the villains on either side of the prison camp fence don’t wear easily identifiable masks like the bad guys in Steve’s comic books. If he can’t sort out friend from foe, Steve won’t just fail his mission, he’ll put his sister’s life at risk.

The Real Hero is a middle-grade historical mystery complete at 56,000 words. The tale is rooted in the true history of the German prisoner-of-war camp based in my hometown of Reedsburg, Wisconsin during World War II. The manuscript has 32 chapter illustrations gleaned from primary source graphics.

I have a MFA in Creative Writing for Children and Teenagers from Hamline University and was a history teacher for more than twenty years. I have had several nonfiction books published by ABDO and Nomad Press for the education and trade markets.

What follows are the first 250 words of my manuscript.

Thanks for considering my work.



Chapter 1: Metamorphosis

The coffin at the front of the church looked so sad and lonely that all of a sudden my heart twisted and I couldn't breathe. My brain knew who was being buried today, but my gut didn’t always trust my brain, and my gut had to be absolutely, positively certain my big brother wasn’t inside that brown box. If I didn’t find out soon, I was going to suffocate right here in the fourth pew of St. John’s  Church!

Maybe if I dashed up the aisle and hid behind the altar, I could crack the coffin lid just enough to get a peek inside before anybody noticed. Opening my mouth so wide my jaw cracked, I gulped a mouthful of air. I was debating whether to sprint or belly crawl when suddenly a big hand clamped down on my thigh.

Dad leaned over the pew, his long arm pinning me in place. Mom stood in the aisle behind him, holding Junie on one hip and shooting me the evil eye. I hate it when parents know what you’re going to do before you even know it yourself.

I leaned back. Dad and Mom headed up the aisle with Eleanor trailing behind. When she passed me, Eleanor rolled her eyes. One of these days her pupils were going to get stuck behind her forehead. That would teach my stupid sister.

“Why you breathing like that?” Gordy said.

I stared at him. “Like what?” The words came out sounding like Donald Duck.

His eyes got real big and scared looking. If Gordy cried for Mom, I'd be the one in trouble.

I coughed and tried to clear my throat. “It’s nothing,” I said. “I’m just hyperluccinating a little bit.”
“What's hyperluccinating?”

My brother had the vocabulary of a five-year-old. Probably because he was a five-year-old.

Query Quagmire #2

TITLE: Through a Dark Wood Lightly
GENRE: MG Fantasy

To whom it may concern,

As an immortal magician of "The Circle," Servais le Roy is accustomed to secrecy, following clues and international intrigue, yet after pilfering a cryptic message from a suspect, he's completely flummoxed, left wondering--

"Who is Max Brighton?"

Young Max is an eleven-year-old, wanna-be stage magician who spends his days practicing tricks out of manuals, constructing his own props and dreaming of traversing the globe with real magicians. He is most enraptured by the myth of a secret organization made up of master magicians calling themselves The Circle, rumored to have Harry Houdini in their ranks. While attending the International Magician's Convention in Las Vegas, Max discovers how true The Circle really is when he's attacked by a sinister villain named Francois Charbonneau whose intentions for him are cloaked in mystery.

Max is forced to stop Charbonneau on his path to resurrecting the darkest sorcerer of all time, the Russian mystic called Grigori Rasputin, and follows clues to unearth a mystery decades in the making. All that Max knows about magic is tested as he navigates a complicated world of long dead magicians, a headquarters set beyond the realm of time and the reasons of why he was targeted at all.

Combining elements from Flights, Chimes and Mysterious Times with classic magic craft and history, THROUGH A DARK WOOD LIGHTLY would also appeal to fans of The Invention of Hugo Cabret.
I am currently a stay-at-home father for two boys under three with an English degree and dreams of becoming a full-time author. Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing back from you.



Prologue: Paris

Blood red neon splashed the street.

Atop the roof of one side, Servais le Roy watched the slim figure exit a building and walk up the sidewalk. Midnight merrymakers were out in force, weaving along the streets of the seedy Parisian district, but that slim figure, a kid named Balor Dullahan, stood out with his shiny leather clothes, tight as plastic wrap.

He smiled and bobbed his bleach blonde head to the music drifting from the clubs. That smile didn’t fool Servais. Dullahan’s easy grin was a mask for a monster.

Servais tweaked his handlebar mustache and then stood up, unfurling the black cape over his tuxedo. He bent his knees, crouched down, and pushed up off the ground. He sprang into the air and flew upward, feeling the cool wind rush against his face as he rose higher and higher.

Soon he was more than a hundred feet over the city. The black cloak spread out around him, stretching to four distinct points against the inky sky, resembling a shadowy monarch.

Far off in the distance, the Eiffel Tower sparkled like a midnight beacon as Servais sailed over the old world Parisian buildings like an enormous labyrinth of avenues and roads. He spotted Balor walking down a narrow alley. Servais sped forward through the air, far ahead of Balor’s path, and landed on a side street. He peeked around the corner and saw his target headed toward his spot.

Servais put his hands near his mouth and whispered, “Somnus.” A purple mist blew into his waiting hands and he cupped it like a ball. With a sharp motion, he thrust his arms out and willed the mist to travel across the street and hook onto the far building. It became tight as a tripwire.

Query Quagmire #1

TITLE: The Poachers' Code
GENRE: Adult Mystery/Suspense

I hope you will consider THE POACHERS' CODE, my 91,000-word upmarket suspense novel.

While researching an invasive beetle ravaging New Hampshire's woodlands, an entomologist must confront the murder she covered up as a child, before her silence ruins an innocent man’s life.
Sadie Kessler has spent the past three decades trying to forget about the body in the woods, the murder she and her estranged childhood friend Daniela covered up as kids. Now an entomologist with the state forestry department, Sadie is on the verge of proving an invasive beetle is triggering forest fires when she receives a text from Daniela. They found him. Daniela begs Sadie to return home—her undocumented father has been falsely accused of the decades-old murder and may be deported if they don’t reveal the truth. Ignoring threats from the presumed killer, Sadie returns to the woods of her youth to search for evidence that will exonerate Daniela’s father, knowing it could destroy not only her life, but the lives of people she cares about. The real killer follows her into the woods—and so do the forest fires that edge closer as local officials dismiss Sadie’s warnings about the beetles. Forced to decide what she is willing to sacrifice to protect the people and the forest she loves, Sadie will learn that no one can hold back the power of Nature—whether in the form of species migration, wildfire, or the truth.

THE POACHERS’ CODE will appeal to fans of Megan Miranda’s All the Missing Girls, Emily Fridland's History of Wolves, and Jane Harper’s The Dry.

As a journalist, I have published more than a thousand articles in The Boston Globe, BusinessWeek, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. I workshopped THE POACHERS’ CODE in GrubStreet’s Novel Incubator, a year-long, MFA-level novel intensive. I have a Master’s in Creative Writing from Harvard University Extension School and have published short stories in the Charles River Review and The MacGuffin. I contribute regularly to DeadDarlings and GrubStreet’s writer’s blogs. I also own and operate a 100-acre organic farm in rural New Hampshire, where invasive insects chasing climate change present a looming threat —an unavoidable phenomenon scientists worldwide are bracing for.

Thank you for your time and consideration of THE POACHERS’ CODE.



Sadie peeled a strip of bark off yet another dying pine tree. Her fingers, blistered and raw from hunting the elusive pine beetle, froze as a gush of tiny insects writhed against the exposed wood. Beetles scattered for cover, but not fast enough.

“Got you.” Her voice, scratchy and dry from not having spoken in days, echoed off the granite boulders on the sparsely wooded slope. She scraped the insects into a small envelope and tilted her head up to the morning sun. Tomorrow she would storm her research director’s office, dump bags of dead beetles on her desk and her lap. Now no one could deny the invasive insects had migrated from the Rockies to New England.

‘I told you so’ burned sweet on her tongue.

This drought. This wildfire. This beetle. With a four degree increase in summer temperatures, New Hampshire had practically invited the beetles and the fires that followed them. She could head off the wildfires if someone would just believe her. The anticipation of being right, of being the hero, had lulled her to sleep the past several nights under a canopy of stars.

Smoke scratched the back of her throat, confirming the late summer wind was already pushing the fires east. She paused for a sip of warm water. Working alone in the woods, Sadie marked time in elevation and ounces of water. She was running out of both.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Friday Fricassee

Dear hearts!

I know I've already said this, but I'm just so blown away by the level of thoughtfulness and seriousness of intent in the vast majority of the queries I've received for our Query Quagmire.  I'll be spending part of this weekend making my final decisions and getting the posts ready for next Tuesday.  (Please note that there will be no email notifications.  You will know yours was chosen if you see it appear on the blog on Tuesday morning.)

I haven't done a Friday Fricassee in a while, but today felt ripe for one.  Not that I have anything particularly pressing or earth-shattering to say, but simply because this has been a connection point for me (for us!), and I wanted to return to it.

My writing life right now consists of a) waiting for news (isn't this almost always the case?) and b) painstakingly combing through a manuscript while blank-paging it (that is, rewriting word for word in a new document) in order to give it new life and a trimmer figure.  I got all the way up to chapter 28 doing a regular revision, when suddenly I felt stuck.  I also felt a sort of inexplicable hatred for the thing, which didn't make sense, because this is a couple-years-old project that I love and believe in.

So I did what any (in)sane writer would do--I started over.  Scrivener is magical and wondrous to behold--it's simply a matter of splitting the screen horizontally and having the old version in the upper window while typing the new version below.  (My love for Scrivener knows no bounds!)  It's quite a high, flying through those staying-intact passages at my superhero typing speed, but I do have to continually slow myself down and really listen to--taste--feel the words, to make sure I actually want to keep them.  It's actually much easier to slash and kill them this way, and I'm happily watching my word count shrink as the writing becomes (hopefully) tighter and more compelling.

I'm also toying around with an teeny-tiny idea or two for new stories.  Ideas come slowly to me, and I need to let them percolate for a while.  (And one of them came from something quite macabre that I stumbled upon yesterday while searching the net for something completely unrelated.)

I sometimes envy those of you with a huge cache of story ideas waiting to burst forth from your fingers.  I know we can't all be that sort of prolific idea person (and I'm thankful to be an implementer, at any rate, since it means I always finish what I start), but, dang--it would be nice to not have to wait so long and try so hard to get those new story seeds to germinate.

Are you a hundred-ideas-a-person day?  Or do your ideas come sparsely and slowly?  I'd love to get an idea of where I fit into the grand scheme of things among our community here.  Our diversity is part of our beauty, so please do share a bit of yourselves in today's comment box.  I LOVE HEARING FROM YOU.  Solidarity keeps us strong!

Have a wonderful weekend--and I'll see you on Tuesday for Query Quagmire!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Query Quagmire--On Reading Your Entries

So far, I've read 60 of the 107 queries that graced my submission box last Thursday.  And I'd like to say a few things!

1.  I'm honored that each of you made the decision to submit. It means two things--that you see value in this contest/exercise, and that you trust me.  Neither of these is small, and I don't take that value and trust for granted.  So allow me right now to say THANK YOU to each of you who entered.

2.  There are an awful lot of THOUGHTFUL, SERIOUS writers who sent in their queries.  Some of you hold MFAs or have published short stories.  Others of you are stay-at-home moms (or dads!) or graduate students or are working full time outside of the writing world.  Many of you took the time to research Danielle's tastes/what she represents, and most of you (so far) know exactly what you write and where it belongs on bookshelves (this is sort of a big deal).

I'm impressed.  And, again, I feel fortunate that each of you entrusted your queries to me.

3.  Of course, regardless of all this goodness, my "no" pile grew quickly from the beginning.  I know you've all heard a hundred times how agents will read just so much and know right away whether or not they want to read more, and you scratch your collective heads wondering what, exactly, this means.  After having done years of contests here on the blog, I finally get this.  And reading actual query letters has made it even clearer to me.  When you know what you're looking for and you know what you feel "good writing" looks like, the "nos" come quickly.

The "maybes", which everything else falls into during the first pass, are a little trickier.  Once I get through all 107 queries, I will have to go back to my "maybe" list and cull my 5 winners.  I think there's only been one entry so far that I'm pretty sure is going to be a "yes".

It's quite a process.  And I really (really really really really) don't know how agents do this all. The. Time.  (I certainly can see why they save it for last, since taking care of their clients' needs has to come first!)  I'm absolutely certain that I could never be an agent. :)

4.  For the record: I am not "Miss Snark".  (Yep. Lots of queries addressed to Miss Snark.)  I am Authoress.  The story of this blog's title (i.e., why I call myself Miss Snark's first VICTIM) can be found HERE.

Here's where I tell you what you've also heard before:  IT ONLY TAKES ONE YES.  I know you know this, but somehow, it helps to hear it a lot.  Because rejection is hard.  And you can't pursue a career as an author without getting REALLY GOOD at being rejected.

So please bear that in mind when I post the winning entries next week.  And please also know that I will not be able to offer you reasons for my rejection of your entry.  I'm doing my best to choose queries and (especially) first pages that are strong, and that Danielle will find appealing.  If yours isn't one of them, KEEP QUERYING WIDELY.

(Also, if Danielle is on your to-be-queried list, please do still send your query to her if yours isn't chosen for Query Quagmire.  While I do have a good idea of her tastes and what she's looking for, I'm certainly not going to get it 100 percent right.  So don't cross her off--she's an amazing agent and you deserve a chance for her to see your work.)

Again, THANK YOU FOR ENTERING!  I feel so connected to each one of you as I read your entries.  We are all of us, as always, in this journey together.

Onward we go!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Call For Submissions: QUERY QUAGMIRE

You asked for it -- you're getting it!

Over the years, I've stayed away from query critiques, for the reasons stated in this post from 2009, with the notable exception of the 2009 Query Contest with Jodi Meadows.  (If you'll click on that link and look at the list of winners from that contest, you'll notice one of them is #15, A LONG WAY HOME.  That is none other than an early, pre-published, pre-agented version of Beth Revis's ACROSS THE UNIVERSE.  True story!  But I digress.)

I've had numerous requests, though, so I've finally decided to go with it, mostly because I have a WONDERFUL AGENT WHO IS WILLING AND EAGER TO TAKE PART.

Here's how it works:

1.  On Thursday, September 7, at noon EDT, submissions will open for your ONE-PAGE QUERY LETTER (single-spaced) plus the first 250 words of your manuscript (double-spaced).  THE FOLLOWING GENRES WILL BE ACCEPTED:

  • YA -- all genres
  • MG -- all genres
  • Women's Fiction
  • Mystery

2. The submission window will remain open for 24 hours.  I WILL ACCEPT ALL SUBMISSIONS THAT COME IN DURING THIS TIME.  THERE WILL BE NO LOTTERY.

3.  From these submissions, I will choose FIVE queries that I think will capture my agent's interest.

4.  I will post the 5 winning queries on TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19.  At this time, the entries will be open to public critique, and my lovely agent will be reading and critiquing each one, to let the author know why she would or would not want to read more.  

5.  Note:  YOUR MANUSCRIPT MUST BE COMPLETE AND QUERY-READY.  No incomplete manuscripts.  No first drafts.

6.  This contest is open to non-agented writers only.

This is an excellent learning opportunity for all aspiring authors, even if you don't have an entry in the contest!  It's always a blessing to get a peek inside an agent's head during the querying process.  I'm hoping that, by vetting the entries ahead of time, I will come up with 5 plausible query-reading scenarios, so that the agent feedback received isn't "I don't represent this genre", but will actually be more specific and helpful.

All-righty, then!  Polish your queries and proofread your first pages.   And if you have any questions, leave them in the comment box below, or accost me on Twitter!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Power of a Story

I grew up in a small town with an even smaller library.  For a while, my mom worked there, and through her, I befriended a new librarian who took me under her wing when she discovered that I loved to read fantasy.  Throughout her short stay, she sent books home with my mom for me to read, simply because she thought I'd love them (and I did).  Sometimes they were new releases that she would set aside for me; other times, they were simply books off the shelves (and who knew how old they were...and who cared!).

What a tremendous gift to give a child--stories to feed her hungry soul and stoke the deep wells of imagination within her!  This lovely woman, whose name I can't even remember, played a huge role in turning my heart forever toward the world of fantasy.  How I wish I could thank her.

Amid all those wonderful novels, a certain story niggled at my memory throughout my adult life.  I couldn't remember the title, the author, or even the main storyline.  In fact, there was really one scene that stuck out in my mind, tantalizing and frustrating me because it was all I could remember.

A sister and brother inside a barn.  A Pegasus foal hidden there.  Something evil outside, trying to get in.

Over the years, I tried to find it on the Internet.  Surely, I thought--surely--if I type in "Pegasus" and "brother and sister" and "barn", it'll pop right up on this list-of-forgotten-books.

Nope.  No luck.

Then, a few months ago, I decided to try again.  AND I FOUND IT.

It took me five minutes, and there it was.  And here it is:



The Stolen Telesm by Caroline Baxter was published by Lippincott in 1975.  It is, of course, out of print.  As you can probably tell by the photo, the copy I purchased is an old library book.

I was SO VERY EXCITED to read it.  Suddenly I was ten years old, eager to fall once again into the world where Pegasus was real and children my age got to have a grand, scary, fantastical adventure.

You guys.  The writing was horrible.

HORRIBLE.

Not only that, but the plot was lame.  Point of view jumped erratically between the brother and the sister to the point of distraction.  And the clunky, adjective-heavy sentences went on ad infinitum.

On the back flap, the author bio states that Ms. Baxter wrote this story when she was seventeen.

And Lippincott published it.  Well, huh.

Here's the thing, though, and it's a big one:  When I was a child, I didn't know about points of view or plot arcs or overwriting.  All I knew was that there was a Pegasus foal trapped in a barn with a boy and a girl.  

Now, this isn't a nod of approval toward bad writing for the sake of good story.  I think it's a travesty--really, I do--when someone who's a good storyteller does not hone his craft so that he also becomes a good writer.  (Good story and good writing are two separate things. Sometimes they are mutually exclusive.)  What I'm really saying here is that stories are powerful.

So powerful, in fact, that the best one stick with us for years despite deficiencies of writing.  So powerful that, decades after having read something, a wistful adult will search and search until she finds the long lost treasure.

You are a writer.  YOU HOLD THIS POWER IN YOUR HANDS.

It's not about lovely sentences or a wonderful premise.  It's about STORYTELLING.  And yes, there is plot arc and character arc and all that really important stuff.  But the ART OF STORY is what will draw your readers in and keep them hooked--sometimes for life.

As for me and my little book?  I passed it on to a sweet young person in my life who happens to be a fantasy-loving bookworm.  She devoured it.  Loved it.  Raved about it.  Like long-ago me, she wasn't bothered by the weak plot or point of view mess.  It was all, "Pegasus! Magic! Scary things!"


She has a steady diet of well-written literature in her life, so I don't think I've ruined her by handing her a book that would certainly never be published today.  I have it under good authority that she has recently started Fellowship of the Ring, so there you have it.  (She's not quite ten. I know for a fact that I was not reading Tolkien at that age. The sad truth is that I didn't know who Tolkien was. But that's a story for another day.)

And there you have it.  We all remember things from our childhood that, upon being revisited, don't come close to living up to our memories.  Like Moon Pies.  And freezer pops.  And Michael Landon as Pa.

But if even one kernel of a story nestles in our hearts and inspires us for years to come, it's worth revisiting, and worth giving credit to, despite its faults.  Go forth and find a story that's lodged in your brain from your own past.  Who knows--it may actually be as wonderful as you remember!