Jin in Time #pitchslam #NoQS critique party

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JIN IN TIME

By Anne Van

35 Word Pitch:

Move in with a father you hardly know. Check. Start a new high school where your father is the principal. Check. Clean your grandmother’s vase and a genie pops out. Ch… Wait, what?

Query

Seventeen-year-old Esme’s life is ripped apart when her beloved grandmother dies and she is sent to live with the father who abandoned her at the age of nine. Her only comfort is a gift from her grandmother—a vase with a dragon circling the neck. When Esme runs her finger along the dragon’s tail, a cute young guy in a Victorian suit pops out: Jin, her own private genie! When Jin informs Esme she has ten wishes, she can’t believe her luck. Now she can finally have the happy life and family she’s always dreamed of. But things get off to a bumpy start when the first wish goes terribly wrong (it turns out you can’t randomly wish for “Chunky Monkey” when you have a Victorian-era genie around).

Living with a genie is the least of her problems when she learns her father plans to marry a woman who could win evil-stepmother-of-the-year. Plus her daughter is the top mean girl at Esme’s new high school. Esme hopes to turn things around now that she has a genie to help her deal with her problems. The wishes are soon put to the test when Esme gets so jealous of the daughter for flirting with Jin, she wishes for her to live on Mars. Problem solved, until people at school start asking questions about where she went, Esme realizes ten wishes aren’t so awesome after all. Having a genie in her life just got very real.

First 250

It’s been eight years since I’ve seen my father and black-light posters of his favorite bands are still hanging all over the house. His 70’s obsession is going strong. Ugh. The roller bag wheels catch on the brown shag carpeting in my new bedroom. After the flight from California all I want to do is crash, but I need to make sure my grandmother’s vase survived the trip—the only thing I have left of her.

Carefully removing the bubble wrap, I run my hand along the cool porcelain. I touch the swirling dragon that circles the neck. A spark of energy spreads up my finger. What the heck? Static electricity from a pot? Rays of light radiate through the thin porcelain. Something catches my eye. There’s a note inside! I carefully coax the paper out. Someone has left a message—Grandma.

Dearest Esme,

I trust you will take good care of Jin. He is very old and has quite an impressive history. You will be his fortieth owner. There is something special about Jin you must know. He has a way of bonding with his owner. The more time you spend with Jin the better your life will be. I know you’ve already been through so much. First your mother abandons you, and now I must leave you too. Living with your father after all these years will be difficult. But trust me, things will change for the better soon.

All my love forever,

Grandma

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10 thoughts on “Jin in Time #pitchslam #NoQS critique party

  1. You have a great concept here that sounds really fun. I do like your pitch and your query. The only thing is Esme sounds a little young for seventeen, particularly in regard to the wishes she makes, like sending mean daughter to Mars. I’m not sure about the first 250. Esme hasn’t seen her Dad for 8 years but the main thing she has to talk about is the decor. I’d assumed we were in the present but the fact it’s 70s decor makes me question that, so now I’m not sure what time period we’re in except that it’s somewhere between 1970 and 2014. Then the first thing she does is unpack an old vase and then she finds a note in it. Why hadn’t she found the note before? Is this the first time she examines the vase properly? If so, you can take a little time to build the reader up to it. I understand that you want to get the story moving and of course, that is very important to do, but you also need to ground the reader so that they know what’s going on. I’m not suggesting that you add much to it. I think you have a great sense of pace but just a little bit more information would be enough to let the reader feel included.

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  2. Thank you for the feedback MVB! I’ll see if I can add another sentence or two to the opening to address your questions. Also I’ll check the voice and see if I can tweak it a bit. Thanks again!

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  3. Because I don’t have much to contribute on your Query or Pitch, I’m going to do one of my standard 1st 250 feedbacks and walk through the opening to show you what I’m getting from it:

    1) MC has not seen their father in 8 years.
    2) Father is overly fond of black-light posters
    3) MC has a roller bag
    4) MC is not in California, but was recently.
    5) MC has a grandmother’s vase in roller bag.
    6) MC’s grandmother is likely dead.
    7) MC had the vase in bubble wrap, the vase is porcelain.
    8) There is a dragon on the neck.
    9) Something unusual or magical happened when MC touched vase.
    10) A note came with the vase
    11) MC is named Esme (presuming female)
    12) Grandmother explains about someone or something named Jin that Esme now owns.
    13) Esme’s mother abandoned her.
    14) Esme’s Grandmother is gone (or dead).
    15) Grandmother knew she was leaving Esme, hence note.

    This reads a little young for YA, about right for MG. It also is more focused on events which is much more right for MG. If it’s YA what I really want is to know more about Esme and her emotional state. I want to connect more with her than her surroundings right off the bat.

    I hope that helps some! Writing is always intentional, so I’m hoping that all the things I’m giving you are what you put in, and if they’re not seeing my reaction helps!

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  4. I must agree with the others that this sounds more MG and that the story starts off a bit quickly. I know the pressures of trying to fit as much as possible into the first 250, but actually less in more in this case. Give us more time to get to know Esme and her new surroundings instead of trying to end on grandma’s note. I was enjoying the beginning and her perspective, but then it moved along too quickly. I think if there were more teen attitude (which I got from the query) and angst going on it would read more YA. I agree that the wishes sound a bit young, but maybe a change in character attitude would make her sound older.
    You nailed the pitch and query (just insert more attitude)! Thanks for sharing your fun story with us.

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  5. Actually, I think Kathrine has put it really well and I agree with what she says. Like Kathrine, I think that you don’t need to include the note in the first 250. Building the reader up to the discovery of the note or even just a discovery that’s connected to the vase is a strong hook and I think you would be better off using that space to really build up the significance of the vase to Esme.
    The line between YA and MG can be quite fine, as I’ve found myself. You know the full content of your story and we don’t, so I’m quite sure if you say it is YA, then it is, but perhaps you might consider making Esme younger. If she was 14 or 15, it would still be YA, but 17 is definitely the older end of YA. Since, from your query, it sounds like the high school setting is very relevant, perhaps a younger age might work better.
    At 17, she’ll be off to college soon, so even if she can’t reconnect with Dad or can’t stand the stepmother, it’s not the end of the world because it’s only a temporary situation. If she’s younger, there’s more at stake, because she’ll be stuck with them for years. In that case she really will need Jin to help her out!

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  6. Great points Katherine and MVB! I’ll try doing a first 250 that only has Esme’s feeling about moving in with her dad and the loss of her grandmother. Try to give more of a sense of how lost she is. She actually hates her father for abandoning her but tries to play nice because he’s all she’s got. The black light posters are a symbol of how he hasn’t changed at all. He’s still the guy that walked away from her and dumped her off at her grandmothers. Now I just need to put that on the page!

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  7. My first thought was, oh, change the MC’s name because this name is in Twilight. Esme is Edward Cullen’s mother’s name.
    I also get a MG vibe from it. I’m wondering the same thing, why did she not see the note before now? Maybe a better way is to have it shipped and there’s a box waiting for her to open at her father’s? Also, on the pitch (love it BTW), I don’t think you need to capitalize the word Wait. Ch..wait, what? is fine to do. The query is fine. I think you have a fun story here. Good luck!

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  8. Thanks Kathleea! I’m not into Twilight so I didn’t know the name was the mothers. Esme is a family name. I like the box idea. Thanks!

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