About My Query: THE SUMMER I STARTED A BUSINESS…

StepIntoRoom5Welcome back to another edition of About My Query! I’m in transit today on my way to ALA Midwinter, so let’s get this moving along!

Dear Awesome Daphne,

An old folks’ home is far from the perfect vacation destination, but twelve-year-old Haley is stuck tagging along with her mom to work all summer. At least she has plenty of time to figure out a way to make enough cash to buy a cell phone and smuggling contraband in is just the ticket. It turns out old people have a sweet tooth and selling snacks to the residents is a real money-maker.

Things turn less lame when Haley finds out that the newest resident, a retired Marine, likes her favorite TV show. He lets her watch Cajun Pawn Stars with him for the small price of a few Oreos an episode. It gets even better when Haley discovers sixteen-year-old Rachel who’s living at the facility because it’s cheaper than a hospital. The only problem is she’s in a coma thanks to the driver of a getaway car. Rachel’s roommate is 80-something Miss Essie whose best day is remembering where she put her teeth and worst day is over-hearing the strange visitors who just might be bank robbers and now want to hurt the only witness.

If a kid who’s stranded for the summer, a former Marine General who’s given up on life, and an old lady with Alzheimer’s can solve a bank robbery and prevent a murder, it’s possible Haley will have the best How I Spent My Summer essay in the history of middle school.

THE SUMMER I STARTED A BUSINESS, SOLVED A BANK ROBBERY, AND SHOWED UP ON CAJUN PAWN STARS is a 30k middle grade novel. It’s a modern day Nancy Drew with some humor thrown in. I’ve been a teacher and school counselor for over twenty years. Currently, I’m a middle school counselor with the largest school system in the Southeast. I am also a member of SCBWI.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

D.E.

You’ve got a great sense of voice here, but some of the sentences seem a little awkward. Right off the top, “An old folks’ home is far from the perfect vacation destination, but twelve-year-old Haley is stuck tagging along with her mom to work all summer” leaves me with more questions than not. Is it a summer job for her mom? Are they actually on vacation, or in a vacation hotspot? Why is she stuck tagging along? Also, something about the “but” doesn’t ring right for me. Moving on, I think there’s an awkward transition in the next sentence too — maybe there’s an easier way to bring up the idea of how she decides to start smuggling in contraband.

I love the introduction to the Marine, but the coma girl intro feels stilted as well. It may be the disconnect between “Things turn less lame” and “It gets even better” in the next line — maybe even just changing the second line from “It” to something specific — her summer, the old folks’ home, something. Likewise, the comparison between Miss Essie’s best day and worst day doesn’t say Alzheimer’s to me — maybe there’s another way to introduce the may-be bank robbers so we’re not confused.

I do like the wacky team-up aspect, and I’m a sucker for Nancy Drew, so I hope you can find a way to polish this!

Readers, any further suggestions, comments, or ideas for improvement?

Photo above is by Flickr user Stephan Geyer, used under a Creative Commons license.

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