Wednesday, September 27, 2017


I LOVE being a mentor for PitchWars. BUT there is one bad part - having to choose just one manuscript to mentor when there are so many with so much potential.

And so, wanting to give something back to those who chose Mindy McGinnis and myself as one of the mentor teams to submit to, we decided to offer first page and query critiques on our blogs. Our decision to do this via our blogs, rather than a private email, is so that (hopefully!) everyone can learn a little bit from this feedback.

And for anyone out there looking for personalized feedback, I also offer manuscript critique services which you can find more out about here.  

Dear ,
LIKE BIRDS UNDER THE CITY SKY is a 54,000 word young adult novel with slight I'd cut that one word. If there are sf elements but you're not saying it is a sf novel, then slight is implied. science fiction elements. It might appeals to fans of More Happy Than Not and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.
Seventeen-year-old Micah can deal with being homeless. Like the birds, he trusts God will provide him with food and clothing. I feel like this is an odd belief and you might want to elaborate a bit more here. Like does he get food and clothing. Also how long has he been homeless? However, he has a harder time dealing with armed thugs following him around the city.
The thugs want to use Micah to get Charlie, his hacker boyfriend who escaped from Robo.Me, a shell corporation that does black ops for the CIA. WOH!! So much information here. It's a bit much to take in within just one sentence. Maybe intro Charlie in the above paragraph. Or maybe give Charlie his own paragraph, since he seems to have quite the backstory. Micah will die before giving up Charlie’s location, but he isn’t ready to meet his maker yet since he’s not really sure how The Almighty feels about the sex he and Charlie enjoy. Thankfully, he loses the thugs in a warren of drug-smuggling tunnels. He loses them... how exactly?
While Charlie works on a virus that will wipe out Robo.Me servers and all the information they hold about him, what information specifically? Micah uses his dumpster diving skills What dumpster diving skills? is this how he gets food and clothing? would be helpful to mention this earlier. and the contacts he made through community service to gather intel. Gather what sort of intel? About who? Not sure how this helps. Their plan requires more sins than Micah would like, What sins exactly dumpster diving is not a sin? but if they don’t stop Robo.Me Micah will be killed (probably burn in hell) and Charlie will be pressed into service as a cyber-assassin. How do they know this is what will happen? Also how will erasing the servers help Charlie get away - won't the people hunting for him still know who he is and why they want him?

This novel was inspired by both my own struggle with identity and religion, and by witnessing other LGTBQA+ people hold onto their faith without compromising their identity, even when the church rejected them. This is great! I won second place in Women on Writing’s Winter 2016 Flash Fiction Contest. My YA fiction was published in Youth Imagination and Spaceports & Spidersilk. My short fiction for adults has appeared in dozens of publications including Helios Quarterly, Theme of Absence, and Alternative Truths. Nice bio.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I’ve included


Life as a vagrant isn’t as bad as I once imagined, but it’s far from glamorous. I’m free, I’m alive, and no one is telling me who I can love and who I can’t, but sometimes I feel like the city is swallowing me whole. Skyscrapers, flashing lights, cars, and herds of people surround me. I can barely see the sky through the haze of humanity that is clogging these streets. just a suggestion to help eliminate wordiness My chest tightens, I force myself to take a deep breath, and keep pushing through the crowds.
I miss open spaces: cornfields, lakes, and rolling hills. I’d give almost anything to spend a day in the woods, working my way uphill until I break the tree line and am rewarded with a sweeping view of the Poconos, but going home would mean giving up the one thing I refuse to part with: Charlie period. Nice paragraph.
Charlie is the reason I’m heading uptown today, to scavenge the dumpsters of high-end buildings. He has a long list of items that contain the parts he needs for the computer he is building. At the top of it is a power converter – a device he says will make the energy that comes out of our turbine safe for more than just lights. Safe to power more than just lights? Maybe rework for clarity.
The crowd flows around me, and I fight it like a salmon swimming upstream. salmon upstream is a bit of a cliche. Find some other less used imagery? Some people bump into to me like I’m not even there. I don’t blame the ones who give me a wide berth. Seventeen-year-old boys smell pretty foul when they only shower once a week, especially when the afternoons make it to the nineties and the humidity is high. My jeans are stained from my last excursion in a dumpster and my hoodie has more than one hole. I’m used to being avoided and ignored. If he smells that bad I'm surprised anyone is bumping into him much less brushing against him. 
 I’m not used to being stared at. A man in a loose, gray suit watches from a park bench, tracking my every move like a feral tomcat stalking a rat. I wish this had more voice. Also this city feels pretty generic. Can you give it more specific details?