Entry Nickname: We kinda destroyed Paris
Word count: 72K
Genre: YA contemporary fantasy. Own voices
Bermudian expat Skyeler Anders wants three things for his seventeenth birthday: to have a boyfriend, get his bloody memories back, and for his nightmares to stop.
Fate smiles upon him by giving him a boyfriend in Gavin, a cheerleader who is as shy as he is cute. Skyeler’s memories remain elusive, even as he acclimates to living with his estranged father and stepmum. And the nightmares do stop, but only because he meets the three teens who haunt his dreams at his new school. It turns out Skyeler isn’t the only one having nightmares. 
The desperate need to learn what connects them takes the teens from the suburbs of Atlanta to the streets of Paris. Amid the search for answers, Gavin is kidnapped by a rogue group of mages. It’s in the City of Lights they learn the mages are hell-bent on unleashing an ancient force that’ll set the world back to the age of sorcery, starting with the bones of mages lining the Catacombs. Now, Skyeler must untangle the mysteries of his forgotten past and learn to trust the teens who’ve inhabited his nightmares because it’s not just his boyfriend’s life hanging in the balance, but the entire city of Paris—and the world.
First 250:
“Now Entering Hell!”
That’s what needs to shine in brilliant reflective letters from the sign by the exit ramp. Not this “Now Entering Douglasville” nonsense with a population estimate of thirty-two-thousand.
Thirty-two-thousand and one, now.
Douglasville, Georgia represents my own personal hell, one with a dizzying wash of green and grey, throat-coating cigarette smoke, and country music. I squint against the harsh light peeping from the overcast clouds—a night spent in the airport left my eyes aching.
My driver’s a court official who, due to some asinine legal technicality, has to drive me to my new home. His nasal singing is enough to make me wish for headphones. But both my sunglasses and headphones are broken. Some bloody git stepped on them during the flight from Bermuda. Given my lack of American money, replacing them will have to wait until I reach the court-determined destination—my father’s home. As far as days go, this one reeks of disaster.
Doubly so considering it’s my seventeenth birthday.
I roll down the windows, desperate for some air not tainted by cigarette smoke. Sticky humidity assaults me. The driver slides the windows back up as we turn into a subdivision, before slowing to a stop in front of my final destination: the two-story, red brick house where my life waits to be puzzled back together. 
I rub away the gooseflesh prickling over my arms. The front door opens and my dad and stepmum walk out. I should remember them but don’t, can’t. My memories of them are missing, like everything else.

Entry Nickname: This Selkie Can’t Swim
Word count: 70K
Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy
At sixteen, Emily is an extraordinarily fast varsity swimmer, until one day the chlorine burns like acid and she nearly drowns. Unable to swim in the pool again and hearing voices calling her into the ocean, a long-submerged memory floats to the surface. Her dad says her mother died in a car crash, but as a child she watched her mother walk into the sea, never to return. Certain there’s more to the story, she uncovers a bundle of her mother’s old letters, from friends and family she never knew existed, all with the same return address: an island in Nova Scotia. When her dad refuses to answer her questions, Emily sneaks away to Canada over winter break—alone.
But when Emily arrives, she finds no welcome among her supposed family; they won’t talk to her and threaten to send her packing. Her only help comes from Fiona, a local whose friendship provides the intimacy Emily has always lacked. Fiona reveals the island’s secret: they’re daughters of selkies, a species of Scottish seal shape-shifters. To protect themselves from fur hunters, selkies always leave behind any half-human children, expecting never to see them again. With time running out before she has to go back to school, and her romantic feelings for Fiona getting stronger, Emily has to fight for her right to her selkie heritage, and the truth about whether her mother is really dead, or if she willingly abandoned her.
When Emily’s pursuit of the truth puts her the island’s inhabitants in danger from tourists and pelt hunters, she must choose between an ordinary human life cut off from Fiona, or a solution that will save the selkies and trap her as a seal forever.
First 250:
If Coach Gina says one more good word about me, I may scream. Coach thinks reading our meet times every week is motivating. I just want to crawl into a hole. I don’t deserve praise for something that comes so easily.
Every time she says my name, I expect this to be the time the team glares at me with jealousy.
“Emily Mulligan, 1:42.02.” 
Instead, the girls whoop and clap for me, because my points are their points. They don’t care where the numbers come from. Cheers bounce around the pool and I catch David grinning at me from the other side, not paying attention as the boys’ coach also reads. When his name is called the guys thump him on the back and chant, “Ecklestein! Ecklestein!”
We’re a pair of winners, a matched set, the perfect couple.
So why don’t I enjoy any of it?
Smile for the other girls, Emily.
I jump in for warm-ups, the water swallowing me. I rush downward, the bottom twelve feet below. When I slow, I open my eyes and gaze up through the jelly-like water to the lights above.
It starts as a prickle on my arms. Then I want to rub my eyes. They’re gritty, like I haven’t slept. Just as I’m thinking how weird that is, the pain kicks in. I gasp water.
I cough convulsively but there’s burning water in my airways. I can’t breathe! Needles drive through my skin, setting my nerves alight. 
I’m the best swimmer in the state and I’m drowning.
Posted in Blog and tagged .


    • We Kind Of Destroyed Paris

      Love the first line. The second one gives some insightful information, but I'm still not sure what the main plot is. I feel like it takes too long to get to the fact that there's magic going on. What I would suggest is taking all that awesome info in the third paragraph, and expanding upon it. We can find out about the boyfriend, the memories, and such as we read. Or you can expand on how just as he thinks he's getting his wishes, X happens which propels the story. Somehow bringing the contemporary fantasy part in sooner is going to help a lot I think.

      First 250:
      You're really good at first lines. It made me smile. The voice is awesome. I think it's really strong. There's a bit of over-telling I think, as opposed to showing, so just be aware of that so you don't throw off the pacing. You ended it on a great line as well. If I were an agent, I'd definitely request. Great job!


      This Selkie Can't Swim

      The first paragraph starts off really strong. I know who she is, what she does, and what the problem is all in the first sentence. Well done. I also know it's got fantasy elements early on, or at least something out of the ordinary going on. I think you're giving a good amount of information that leads up to the stakes. I know the problem, what she must do, and what happens if she doesn't. I really don't have much to add in terms of critique. Great job!

      First 250:

      This also starts off strong. We're put in the scene and the inciting incident happens pretty quick too, though I can't help but wonder if not too quick. I don't know Emily very well, and all I have is a sense of unhappiness. When she jumps into the water, I want to have that sense of urgency that's somethings wrong and care about it. I think the pace might just be a little too fast in this case. I would slow it down a bit. Definitely make sure something is happening, but as a character, I want a little more before she's suddenly drowning.

      Still, I'd want to read more!

      This is a hard match up guys. Both are great concepts, with great voices, and both have their own strengths. Ultimately, I have to go with the one I feel has a stronger query.

      Victory: This Selkie Can't Swim

    • We Kinda Destroyed Paris:

      -I love the line "dizzying was of green and grey…"
      -Clear stakes in query
      -The query feels a bit confusing to me.
      -First 250 are great. You write beautifully. I love the phrase "where my life wants to be puzzled back together."
      -I don't think you need a comma before "before" in "The driver slides" sentence, but that may just be me.
      -Good job overall

      Selkie Can't Swim:

      -Intriguing plot! I want to read more!
      -Great query: excellent stakes, good outline of plot
      -I really like the first 250, but I might change the first 1-2 sentences slightly to draw the reader in a bit more. Maybe add a bit more emotion.
      -Great voice!

      Victory to Selkie Can't Swim

    • We Kind Destroyed Paris—

      Query: Good query. It’s well organized and compelling. I like the fantasy element that creeps in when he meets the teens haunting his nightmares. There’s a nice punch there when that bit of info is revealed. It would be cool if you hinted at these teens in the opening line when you first talk about his nightmares, so we know the nightmares are realistic, and not about monsters or the fragments of reality that usually haunts nightmares. But that’s just a suggestion.

      In the third paragraph, I’m a little unclear on what the ancient force will do to the bones of the mages in the catacombs. Are you talking about reanimating the old mages? Or will the bones serve another purpose? Just clarify that a bit. Also, I’d split the final sentence down into two or more to pack a greater punch and avoid a too-long sentence. There should be some sort of break between the words “nightmares” and “because”, either a comma or a period. And ending with shorter sentences increases the feeling of tension. So something like, “…It’s not just his boyfriend’s life hanging in the balance. It’s the entire city of Paris. And then the world.” I also think you could cut the part about the end of the world entirely, to avoid your stakes being seen as ‘end of the world’ cliché.

      First 250: I like the set-up of him having to be court-ordered to go to his father’s house. Definitely sets the scene well and tells us a lot about this character. What’s the dizzying wash of green and gray that he’s referring to? That’s not immediately clear and pulls me out of the story because I’m trying to figure out what he could be referring to that’s green and gray—nature plus a stormy sky? College team colors? His house? Also, is he talking about the car ride being his personal hell, or is he picturing what is waiting for him once they reach their final destination? I’m wondering if he’s been to his father’s house before and if he knows what to expect. Part of the time it sounded like he had, and part of the time it sounded like he hadn’t.

      It ends on a nice cliffhanger, with the revelation that his memories are gone. Good job.

      This Selkie Can’t Swim—

      Query: Interesting premise. The first paragraph is solid, and intriguing. Second paragraph, final sentence needs some work. It feels a bit long and unfocused. Try: “Emily has to fight to claim her selkie heritage, and to learn the truth about …” Also, how does leaving behind their half-human children protect the selkies?

      In the third paragraph, it’s unclear whether Emily’s pursuit of the truth puts “her and the island’s inhabitants” in danger, of if it’s just supposed to say “puts the island’s inhabitants” in danger. And why will choosing an ordinary human life cut her off from Fiona? Didn’t Emily meet Fiona while in human form? And it’s not completely clear that Fiona is a selkie. If she is, what does this mean? Do selkie’s have to stay in the water, then? And if Emily chooses to stay a selkie forever, won’t she then be with Fiona if Fiona is a selkie too?
      So just some points that need to be clarified, but once you get those taken care of, you’ll be in good shape. The writing is strong.

      First 250: This is a good opening. I’m not sure about describing the water as jelly-like—that doesn’t ring true to me. You’ve done a good job showing her discomfort, even though she’s clearly good at what she does. At the end, I would love to see you separate the last sentence, to deliver more of a punch. “I’m the best swimmer in the state. And I’m drowning.”

      I enjoyed both of these entries. I’m voting for the one that felt slightly more polished, overall.

      Victory to We Kinda Destroyed Paris

    • We Kinda Destroyed Paris:
      Query: In the first sentence, I'd suggest tweaking the wording to say "…and stop his nightmares." It's more active, and is more consistent in structure with the first two items in the list. The third paragraph is pretty dynamite! That really got me hooked into the story. I think you could make it stand out even more with a specific hint about Skyeler's mysterious past.
      1st 250: I loved the way this section ends—with a tantalizing glimpse of Skyeler's dilemma. It's also got a very clear narrative voice. The only thing that threw me was that we don't know why Skyeler sees his current situation as going into hell—especially if he can't actually remember stuff. I assume it's because of the terrible day he's having, but it could be a bit clearer. The writing here was strong, though, and the premise is set up well.

      This Selkie Can't Swim:
      Query: The first paragraph provides a very intriguing setup for a modern take on the selkie mythology. My questions came in the second paragraph–it wasn't clear to me why the selkies on the island would turn away one of their own. Is Emily unique among half-selkies? Do the other half-selkies never experience their selkie side? It is potentially a unique twist on the selkie myth—clarifying some of these questions would help this query shine.
      1st 250: This was a great setup for the story and introduces the complicating element right off the bat. You did a nice job of setting a tone for Emily's overall unease, before she even starts having trouble in the water. You also suggest the importance of companionship and a feeling of being part of a team that is somehow missing from her life. The writing was really tight and fast-paced. I'm left wondering why and wanting to read more!

      Victory to This Selkie Can't Swim!

    • We Kinda Destroyed Paris
      Acclimates is a strange word for a teenager to use, making this query seem distant from Skyeler’s voice. You clearly establish what is at stake for Gavin, and I enjoy how you build up to the main conflict. In the query, I would like to see a little more of Gavin’s voice that you show so well in the first page.

      This Selkie Can’t Swim
      There is an error in the last paragraph: “When Emily’s pursuit of the truth puts her the island’s inhabitants in danger from tourists and pelt hunters, she must choose between an ordinary life…” There shouldn’t be a “her” there.

      While I enjoy you get straight into the action, I wish there was a little more before her drowning. I want to get a good idea of the character before she is thrown into danger. Maybe add just a tiny bit more before she jumps into the water.

      This was one of the most difficult entries to judge, as I think they’re both excellent and in tip-top shape. Still, I feel like PARIS has a slightly stronger query.


    • These are both solid entries. Both have good queries, and the first pages read well.

      For PARIS, the words don't always quite feel like they belong to a teen. It's good. But I think it could wear the voice a little better.

      For SELKIE, the writing is superb. Jumps off the page at me. I might wonder if we're getting to the drowning too fast, in order to jam it into the 250 word constraint of the contest. But that's understandable.

      In the end, they're both strong. But victory to THIS SELKIE CAN'T SWIM because it's at the next level.


      First, I got jarred reading the first sentence because I went to double-check gender in it. The name Skyeler threw me off. And I am a gay dude, so take from that what you will. If Skyeler were a more common name I wouldn't have had that hiccup. Another small point: are these bloody memories like "bloomin' memories" or OHMYGODCARRIEMAKEITSTOP ? This is unclear.

      The biggest issue I have with the query is who is Gavin and why is he here? The way the query is constructed — Sky wants X, Y, and Z, with a report on each, leads you to believe that these should each be important things. But is Gavin important? We don't learn much about him, and he doesn't appear to factor into the story, as you describe it. You do say that his life hangs in the balance in the third paragraph, but it's not clear how.

      Also, I don't like "Fate smiles on him by giving him a boyfriend" because it makes the main character inactive.

      I think the query would play better if there were more of a relationship between X, Y, and Z in the second paragraph. For example: When Skyeler meets cute cheerleader Gavin, he finds that his missing memories aren't as important to him as he thought, at least compared to having a boyfriend. But when Gavin introduces him to the teens who have been appearing in his nightmares… something something something.

      That's quick and dirty, obviously, but in that example the three things are connected. In the query, they're discrete. I'd try to change that.

      The 250 is good.


      This query is fabulous, and I am totally down for this Iris Murdoch but with lesbian Selkies thing you've got going on.

      The 250 is fine, but it didn't much capitalize on the sense of mystery you built in the query. I think that the drowning came way to quickly, and also managed to seem more shocking and ominous in the query than the manuscript. I don't know if you're trying to shoehorn it in to show drama in the 250, but I'd push it back out. Another example, the query slowly (for a query) reveals the MC's same-sex interest. It was very subtle. But the MS has the character asking herself on the first page why she doesn't enjoy being coupled with a guy. It felt a little on the nose.

      I feel like you're racing to hit points, a little? I'd let everything breathe a little more. It's clear you can write, so pushing more into the beginning isn't serving the book. Let Emily swim a little!

      Anyway, these are both good. I hate having to choose, but you know, kill your darlings…


    • Just jumping in quick to vote:

      I was immediately pulled in by the premise of one.


    • We kinda destroyed Paris

      Query: the first line is intriguing, but after that I have more questions than answers. How exactly do the teens help stop the nightmares? Is he kidnapped because they're trying to stop him from discovering the truth, or is there something about Skyeler that's important to the mages? I am also curious how the boyfriend comes back into play since he's only mentioned briefly at the beginning, and then we learn his life is hanging in the balance. Is the boyfriend essential to the mages?

      First 250: I like the voice and description of his personal hell. I feel his angst over his new life. The ending was strong and left me wanting to know more.

      This Selkie Can't Swim

      Query: I'm curious about how she got the bundle of letters from family she never knew existed–and why did they give her the letters and then act so cold when she arrived?

      First 250: I like the setup. It's clear she feels disconnected from her team and is playing along like a good team member. The drowning comes on fast (maybe even too fast) but it's a strong ending and makes me want to find out more.

      Victory: This Selkie Can't Swim

  1. Hi all! Another Kombatant here, take my advice with a grain of salt. 🙂

    We kinda destroyed Paris


    Your first line is killer. Love it. As the query progresses, though, I'm left with the question: is there a reason his memories are missing? If this is one of the driving forces behind his actions, I'd be curious to know whether or not he even has an inkling as to where they've gone (further more, how does he know he's missing them to begin with?). I know there's a fine line to walk with queries about giving away too much information or not enough, so I get it. It might not be the right place to introduce it, but it's just something I noticed.


    You probably don't need "Douglasville, Georgia represents my own personal hell" since we already get a MUCH more vivid idea of that feeling from the above two sentences. By all means, keep the following descriptors, but you can probably nix the first half of that sentence. Overall, though, your voice is fantastic. I love it. Great work!

    This Selkie Can't Swim

    Nice! I can see the changes you made to clarify the stakes. Hunters are an interesting twist, my only hangup is that I'm not sure how leaving behind their children (half-human, specifically) protects them (the mothers or the children or both?). Are they hoping the half-human kids never develop fur, so they promote distance in the hopes they lead a normal human life away from the terror of being hunted?

    I came back eager to see what you did with the swimming terms. One, great job at changing it to a specific time. Two, that's REALLY fast. Like, so fast her coach would be losing her damn mind and it's probably not realistic (no matter her selkie-given talents). The 100 M freestyle record is around 52 seconds, I believe, so I'm guessing you're aiming for the 200 M freestyle record? Which is around 1 minute and 53 seconds. If you're doing short course the times are going to be a tad different, but still.

    My point is, that's WAY fast. Not to say that a 16-year-old selkie-bound swimmer wouldn't be talented, but if she were a solid 10 seconds faster than the world record holder, it would be a HUGE deal (and probably something that would happen outside of her varsity high school swim team). I would definitely consider making this time more realistic. People win races by tenths or even hundredths of seconds.

    Swimming concept aside, I think you do a good job at painting her internal frustration. I'm a little confused with the, "it comes so easily" bit. I was under the impression she didn't know she was a selkie yet. So if she doesn't, then I'm assuming she's put endless hours of hard work and training into this sport. So is it reasonable to think that it was just handed to her? Unless maybe you add some internal thoughts about how she only has to breathe one time for every three breaths her competitors take, or how she recovers faster than the rest, or something along those lines. Just food for thought.

    I like what you did with the drowning portion, too. My only tidbit there is maybe consider taking out "I can't breathe!" It pulled me out for a minute and I think your descriptions of what she's physically going through paint an incredible picture, so it's not needed.

    Great job! Definitely would keep reading.

    Good luck to both of you in the competition! <3

  2. Another Kombatant here.
    Query: I liked this a lot. I wonder, though, what would happen if you changed the following line: "to have a boyfriend, get his bloody memories back, and for his nightmares to stop." In my mind, based on hints from your query, the biggest problem he has is the lack of memory. (Though having a BF would prob be high on his list too!) I feel like if you switched it to: boyfriend, nightmares, THEN memories, it would add more of a punch. Because a lot of people want BFs and have nightmares. Having no memory is unique and I feel like it needs more emphasis.

    I'm left wondering how/why they move from ATL to Paris, but that doesn't hang me up. I'm sure it will be obvious in the MS.

    250: Love the voice in this. But I think there's a little too much Douglasville hate in your opening. I agree with the other Kombatant who said you should lose the "Douglasville, Georgia represents…" While he does give a list of things he doesn't like, I'm wondering how he knows so much about this place if his memories are messed up? Or is it really the idea of going to his Dad's that he hates and not the town? That sentence is great and very descriptive, but I don't know that it adds a lot to it. The rest of your 250 is very voicey and ends at a place where I'd definitely want to keep reading.

    Query: Nice opening paragraph, but I wonder if you can rephrase the following make it punchier:
    Unable to swim in the pool again and hearing voices calling her into the ocean a long-submerged memory floats to the surface. Her dad says her mother died in a car crash, but as a child she watched her mother walk into the sea, never to return.
    Suggestion: Unable to swim in the pool again, she listens to the voices in her head calling her to the ocean. A long submerged memory of her mother walking into the sea, never to return, floats to the surface. She didn't die in a car accident like her father said.

    The only other thing I'm left wondering about is why does leaving the half-human child behind with the intent of not seeing them again protecting the Selkies? Are they trying to save the race by procreating? If that's the case, then why not raise the children themselves? I'm sure there's more to in in the MS, but I had to read it a couple times to understand what you're saying here and I still don't fully get it.

    250:I like her voice, but it did trip me up that she didn't seem to want the accolades she earned from being a great swimmer. If she already knew she was a Selkie, I could understand that reasoning, but based on your query, she doesn't know yet, so I'm thinking a teen girl would be all about the praise. If she doesn't care, why does she swim? Or not throw the races? It's a small detail, but I think it needs to be considered because it's hard to imagine a modest teen athlete, who doesn't enjoy being praised for her efforts.
    This is a good opening though. I'd definitely be interested in the story enough to keep reading.

    Well done, both of you!

  3. Paris:

    Query: Liked the query but it wasn't immediately clear to me that the other teenagers in his dreams were alive and living somewhere else (for some reason, I thought they were ghosts, likely from use of word haunt). Maybe make it clearer that the other people in his dreams are alive and real?

    250: Great opening, and I think it sets up the story well by making it clear that he has no memories. great job!


    Query: Really loved the updates to the query, though (very minor nit) I still think the last line is a bit disconnected to the rest of the story.

    250: Love the voice and the tension, great job!

  4. Fellow Kombatant here – –

    We Kinda Destroyed Paris

    Query: I love your first line. When I get to the 3rd paragraph, I question how they get to Paris? Is it through the nightmares or do they travel in reality?

    250: I love this concept and again – great first line! One thing – I took a class (run by an agent) on writing first chapters. She warned us to stay away from cliche openings – dreams, looking in mirrors, and arriving/driving in a car. I don’t know if there’s another spot to start the story – maybe he’s already in the house and you can sprinkle in bits about his arrival and why he doesn’t remember anything or why nothing looks familiar – just something to think about. Overall this sounds like a great story that I’m picturing as a movie in my head.

    This Selkie Can’t Swim:

    Query: Love this one also! I’m confused about the stakes. It sounded as if you were setting up stakes at the end of the 2nd paragraph, but then you added more stakes in the 3rd paragraph that are different. Is there a way to combine and streamline?

    250: I’m holding breath reading this because it’s so exciting, but I’d like to know more about Emily’s personality before she goes under – why is she embarrassed about her time, what's her relationship with the rest of her team that she'd think they'd be jealous, what's the deal with her male counterpart? I think the writing is strong though – there was no question what was going on in the scene.

    Great job to both of you – best of luck and congratulations!

    Q: I'm wondering if there's a way for you to work in how your MC lost his memories in the first place. I can't quite connect this tangent to the ancient magic arc this story embarks upon, and I desperately want to, because it's a really cool premise. Other than that, I think you do a great job here.
    250: I would actually cut the first couple sentences and start with "Douglasville, GA is my personal hell."
    Is Bermuda not humid? My recollection is that it is – and your MC seems very focused on the heat and humidity of Georgia. I definitely dig the MC's voice and you do a great job painting his circumstances to start, but maybe scale back on the humidity a touch. Also – how does the MC know the people who walk out are his dad and stepmom if he can't remember them?


    Q: Your query has undergone massive renovations. Kudos to you! I think that the stakes are really clear, but some of the transitions feel a bit abrupt. This is true for me in the first sentence, actually — I think I need a bit more of a lead-in to the chlorine burning.
    250: An above kombatant had the same recommendation as me with regard to the time of the swimming. I would possibly advise you to worm your way in here a bit more – the opening feels a bit like a "tell." I don't think I'm going to care very long for Coach Gina. Maybe give us the experience of the race? The chlorine burning?

    Overall, both really strong entries for two books I'd love to read. Good luck to you both.

  6. We Kinda Destroyed Paris:

    Love the nickname. 🙂 Your query is great, but I wouldn't mind just a little more grounding info. How did he lose his memories? Is it somehow related to when the nightmares started? "Untangle the mysteries of his forgotten past"—could you be more explicit without giving too much away? Like is his memory loss/what happened in the past related to the mages and their dastardly plan, or ? Also, I think you can take out "It's in the City of Lights" because you just stated the setting moved to Paris. Just start with "They learn the mages…" Did the boyfriend come to Paris with them? I'm wondering how he's directly in harm from the mages? Love the voice in your 250.

    This Selkie Can't Swim:

    Wow, love the first line of the query. I'm immediately wondering why she can't swim. I think the whole thing is well-written and a really interesting concept. Like some of the other comments, I wouldn't mind the stakes being clarified a little more but combing what you have at the end of the 2nd paragraph with the stakes in the third. I enjoyed the first 250 and would have kept reading. I couldn't decide how I felt about the MC after the first paragraph– I realize she's trying to be humble, but it's also a little off-putting to hear someone say how good they are at something. I was over it by the end of the excerpt, though.

  7. Sorry for the late comments:

    Query: The only thing I wonder, because it feels like you have some room to develop in the query, is maybe a line or two describing the other three teens? Otherwise, I liked the build up to the conflict and the stakes.
    First 250: To me, the population 32,000 to 32,001 feels cliché. But you get right into the voice of the character and the clear starting point lays the foundation for where the character is going.

    Query: I liked this. There’s a lot of mystery in the first paragraph and clear stakes.
    First 250: I like how you establish the specialness (and ambivalence) of the character upfront. Good description and build-up of the drowning feeling is great.

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