Saturday, May 28, 2011

Shelley Watters Contest!

Shelley Watters is having another great contest for an agent critique by Judith Engracia of Liza Dawson and Associates. Here is my entry:

Young Adult Fiction/Magical Realism
56,000 words

When you kill someone, your life is never the same again.
Most people can’t understand that.
My parents couldn’t. They tried pretending it never happened. Impossible. Might as well try to pretend the sun wouldn’t rise in the morning.
They wanted to put me in counseling, but I refused. No way was I going to confess all to some balding stranger. Besides, I was concentrating more on suppressing.
They tried waiting. Waiting for this phase to pass.
Turns out killing your boyfriend is not something you can recover from very easily.
Then they decided what I needed was a change of scenery—to get away. At last I thought they might be on to something. Dad invited me to go work with him in Alaska, digging up decaying dinosaur bones. Given their previous attempts, this idea was not half bad. A whole summer without people prying into my emotional wreckage.
I accepted.
We left Seattle at the crack of dawn, just me and my dad, flying in his airplane on our way to the North Slope. I turned my face to the window, then reached up and smoothed down my bangs to cover the scar that outlined half my forehead, just below the hairline. My own scarlet letter—a permanent mark telling the world what I had done. That and the jagged scar that ran down the side of my left leg. An exquisite gash connecting my knee to my ankle. Shame and guilt pressed down on me so hard I was surprised we could maintain our altitude. 


  1. This definitely grabbed me and I want to keep reading. At this point, of course I'm very curious as to why the mc killed her boyfriend and have to assumet it was self-defense since she's not in jail.
    I think you can drop "to get away". "Then they decided what I needed was a change of scenery" is enough to bring the point across.
    I love the last sentence: "Shame and guilt pressed down on me so hard I was surprised we could maintain our altitude." Great description.
    Good job!

  2. Why did the MC kill him? And how? (I'm guessing struggle over a knife.) I like how you refer to it as a scarlet letter. The last line is also great. Really good first page.

  3. Shame and guilt pressed down on me so hard I was surprised we could maintain our altitude.

    that last line is killer! why not use that as the first line? it is an attention grabber for sure. good stuff, keep on writing!

    douglas esper

  4. Really was drawn in by the character's emotional turmoil, but I disagreed with the second line:

    When you kill someone, your life is never the same again. Most people can’t understand that.

    I think it is easy to understand for most people. Her parents are the ones who seem to be the ones who can't/don't accept that because they want her to act like it never happened.

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  6. Had to delete my post since it appears I can't read. This is great, good luck in the contest!

  7. this is a good set up for your story, i think, but i'm curious where the magical realism will fit in. this sounds kind of comtemp romance to me?

  8. I love Burning Amber. It draws you in from the first page to the last.

  9. I love this! Your prose is terse and strong. The character's voice is vibrant. You have a great hook. What's not to love?

  10. Great opening and non traditional. You did great on sentence structure - with several short yet explosive sentences. Sentence 2 could be more like: Most people think they understand, but how can they? Then the sentence about recovering from - the "very easy" part seems out of place. Maybe you could incorporate it - in the sentence instead of at the end.

    Great Job - very interested in continuing to read.

    Good Luck

  11. (okay, were they in a car accident and she was driving?)

    I liked it, but I don't think that people don't understand how that would change your life - it totally would change anyone's! I like Logan's suggestion above. (and also agree that I don't see where the magical realism comes in, but that's easily solved in book form by reading the back!)

    Good job and good luck!

  12. Interesting opening scene and concept. I'm struck, though, by this line: Turns out killing your boyfriend is not something you can recover from very easily.

    It seems that THIS is your opening line.

    Note that you do a lot of directly addressing the reader, which is slightly distracting.

    Best of luck!

  13. Wow! Love it :) I'd def keep reading.

  14. Look, I really like this. I do. You hooked me in with the opening line and I kept reading until the end. I'd like to read more.
    What I have a problem with is very, very small, and please forgive me for being so picky. You said that dinosaur bones are 'decaying'. And I'm sorry, but if dinosaur bones were decaying, they would have decayed out of existence in the 65 million years since they all died out. Preserved bones (which is all we have left) don't decay over a short amount of time like a human lifetime: they're fossils. If they're being dug up, they'll be preserved. So please consider replacing 'decaying dinosaur bones' to 'dinosaur fossils'.
    But I really did like this entry and I do want to find out more.

  15. This is a great opening. Fantastic voice, and you leave the reader with so many questions, there's no chance of not reading on.

    Great stuff!

  16. Julie, I love this page and I adore your book. It's amazing. My only comment will be about the last sentence, which is awesome, but--gasp!--you name 2 emotions!!! Just giving you a hard time. No wonder this chapter won first place at the conference last year. It's great!

  17. Wow! Please let me know when this book's available for order. :)

  18. This is really awesome, the only thing that bugs me is the second line. I thought, really? Most people don't think killing someone changes your life forever? I felt like that parents understood her life had changed but they wanted to deny it or erase it. Just my two cents. Really, everything was stellar though. You'll be hard competition for the rest of us! :)

  19. Jody said the exact thing I was going to type. This book sounds great. I am sure the rest is as wonderful as this, which means I would read it in a day. I am very disappointed that the rest of the ms isn't after it. ha, I wish. Great job and I can't wait for this to get published.

  20. I really enjoyed your submit! Great opening, great flow, and a great set-up for the reader to turn the page for more!

    My guess is something along the lines of a car accident (I see I'm not the only one with that guess!) and something tells me it won't be long before that realistic magic element will be coming into play.

    I have a few of the same comments as the others - the second line is a little off, as I think everyone would understand a life not being the same, after a death / murder.

    Also, in your last paragraph, you say the word "my" 8 times - see if there are a few you can remove, to tighten this up a bit, since we already know it's your MC we're talking about.

    Other than that, great job and great submission! Good luck in the contest.

  21. WOW - this is great! I'd totally keep reading.

  22. Very nice! I'm hooked already. Are you done with this story? I'd love to read more!

  23. Very intriguing. I would definitely read more. Good luck! :-)

  24. I saw this entry over at the contest and thought I'd stop by and say hi. Great voice! I'm intrigued.