Would You Read It Wednesday #272 – Training Your Human (PB)

I know you all woke up this morning ready to celebrate because. . .

dun dun dun…

it’s Neil Diamond’s birthday!

Neil is a very famous singer/songwriter known for such meaningful lyrics as “and no one heard at all, not even the chair.”

I don’t know about you, but at my house getting the chairs to listen is something I struggle with on a daily basis.  It is uphill work, let me tell you!

Neil was also in The Jazz Singer, a movie that my BFF Caroline and I saw (more than once) in 1980 which is described as “a critical flop”… but somehow we knew every word to every song 🙂  In fact, if pressed, we might still be able to sing a lot of them.  Please don’t tell anyone.

Anyway, feel free to share your favorite Neil song in the comments today 🙂

Today is also my brother-in-law’s birthday – Happy Birthday, Dan!  Luckily he doesn’t seem to have any trouble getting his chairs to pay attention 🙂

Now, because it’s the third week of January and I’m extremely tired of winter already and in these parts it’s going to drag on for months yet, I think we need an extremely cheering Something Chocolate to get us through the day.  How do you feel about French Silk Brownies?  They just sound good, don’t they?

Also they look good!

And I think if we get to work on that recipe, boy will they taste good!

Smooth and creamy and chocolatey and delicious… I feel more fortified to face winter already 🙂

Now then, onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Kari who is an employee by day, mommy, wife, and storytelling superhero by night. She has a master’s degree in business administration, as there was no degree available for pizza connoisseur. She lives in California with her husband, two tiny humans, and three ridiculous cats.

Visit her at her Blog

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Training Your Human

Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4-8)

The Pitch:  Brownie and his human pup Jax are the best of friends, but training is proving to be Ruuuff. Does this dog have what it takes to train his pup, or will his first lesson end in disaster?

So what do you think?  Would You Read It?  YES, MAYBE or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest.  If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Kari improve her pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)

Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on Would You Read it in the dropdown under For Writers in the bar above.  There are openings in March, so you could get your pitch up pretty soon for helpful feedback and a chance to have it read and commented on by editor Erin Molta!

Kari is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to finding a few minutes to re-watch The Jazz Singer, which I have not seen since I was 15, and which Caroline promises me (based on the fact that she re-watched it recently) is really awful 🙂

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 🙂

58 thoughts on “Would You Read It Wednesday #272 – Training Your Human (PB)

  1. Ann Martin says:

    There seems to be plenty of scope for humour in this story and given that the target audience love jokes and pets, I would say this could be a recipe for success. I understand that Kari is only using a working title at this stage, but I think that “Training Your Human” may have already been used. But I’m sure she will have fun thinking up something equally catchy!

    It would all depend upon how Kari handles her story, and her writing style, but going by her pitch, yes, I would certainly read it. Good luck, Kari!

    • karianngonzalez says:

      Hi Ann, this was such a fun story to write and humor is definitely what I am going for. Title is a work in progress, I agree that I need something more catchy. Checking out synonyms and idioms that I may be able to play off of to rename my MS. Thank you for the feedback! Also, if you are a member of 12 x 12 challenge, I actually posted my full manuscript on the feedback forum today if anyone wants to check it out 🙂

  2. Nadine Poper says:

    Susanna, I approach winter this way…there is only one week left of January, then only 28 days of February (we have V-day in there as a distraction), then March, the month of Spring! Now in between there we might see some white fluffy stuff fall from the sky but it is temporary. But in my mind, winter is pretty much over and spring is very very soon. LOL! Does that help?

    Kari, this sounds like an adorable read. Perhaps you could include an example of what Brownie encounters with his human. That may provide a better hook. And I was given advice on keeping questions out of pitches and rephrasing them as statements. I would like to get other opinions on that as well.
    Susanna, what do you think about questions within a pitch? Anyone else?
    Gook luck Kari with this cute idea!!

    • Susanna Leonard Hill says:

      It helps a LOT, Nadine, and in fact is very much the same way I rationalize and coax myself through winter 🙂 I’m also a big fan of the “it’s light for 30 seconds longer every day” line of thinking 🙂 Thanks so much for your helpful comments for Kari. As for my thoughts on questions in a pitch, it is considered a no-no. While questions have their place in a jacket blurb or book description that is intended to entice readers without giving away the ending, that is not exactly your purpose when pitching to an agent or editor. Yes, you want to pique their interest, but with the quality of your idea rather than with unanswered questions.

      • Nadine Poper says:

        Thank you for clarifying about the question within a pitch, Susanna. I also forgot about the 30 seconds more of sunlight each day. SWEET!!

    • karianngonzalez says:

      Nadine, Great advice and thank you for the kind words. I took out the question and am really liking the result. Including the action in the revisions allowed me to insert some fun humor of what to anticipate within the MS. Great ideas, thank you for the feedback!

  3. Lynne Marie says:

    I would definitely read this, especially since I just got a new Schipperke Puppy (Anakin) and he is training me while I try to train him. LOL [[[DELETE]]] The Pitch: Brownie and his human pup Jax are [[[the]]] best [[[of]]] friends, but training [[[is]]] prov[[[ing]]](((ES))) [[[to be Ruuuff]]] (((challenging))). Does this dog have what it takes to train his [[[pup]]](((HUMAN))), or will his first lesson end in disaster? *****So part of me thought the ruff joke was cute, but it was spelt wrong and felt a little too forced. I have no problem with asking a question at the end of the pitch. Questions have always presented as one form of a hook. Hope this helps. Lynne Marie (www.LiterallyLynneMarie.com)

    • karianngonzalez says:

      Hi Lynne Marie! Thanks for the feedback, would you feel better about using the spelling Ruff instead of drawing out the word, or is your gut feeling that I should use proper English here and use rough instead?

  4. karianngonzalez says:

    Thanks Nadine! I had heard not to use questions on query letters as an opening, but I had not gotten that feedback on pitches. Thank you for bringing this up, I would love to have weigh in on this one. Great suggestion on incorporating some of the funny antics Brownie encounters into the pitch, I think this could really help present the type of humor to expect. I appreciate the feedback!

  5. Lynn says:

    I will say MAYBE with the strong possibility of YES. My thoughts: I don’t like questions in the pitch, preferring tempting statements better. Also, Brownie and Jax are the best of friends and the training is proving to be difficult, and yet they are on the first lesson? I’m not sure if the lesson is part of the training or if it is something being learned about how to train. (Does my question make sense?) I think it is likely a cute story, though. I hope this helps even just a little. 🙂

    • Susanna Leonard Hill says:

      Thanks so much for your thoughts for Kari, Lynn. It can be so helpful to know when something that makes sense in your head doesn’t come across quite right to someone else. KNowing that helps to clarify your writing!

  6. karianngonzalez says:

    Hi Lynne!

    Perhaps this could work better:

    Brownie and his human pup Jax are the best of friends, but training is proving to be Ruff. After a misunderstanding with Fluffy the cat lands Brownie on a short leash, he discovers he’s accidentally eaten his pup owner’s manual…Does this dog have what it takes to train his pup, or will training end in disaster?

    I will also try to rework the pitch without a question. Thank you for the feedback! Would you be more inclined to read the story after the revision above?

  7. candicemarleyconner says:

    Great voice in so few words! And a concept most kids and adults are familiar with/have experienced. I also thought the title was familiar. Should have googled before I started this comment, lol. Curious to see the consensus on her use of the question. (I do it too and don’t know if it’s perceived as effective or a bad habit)
    I’d read it!

    • Susanna Leonard Hill says:

      Thanks so much for your helpful comments for Kari, Candice! My thoughts about questions are above in my reply to Nadine, for what they’re worth, although I see that Lynne Marie who is also a published author has a different opinion! Just goes to show it probably works fine either way 🙂

  8. ptnozell says:

    Kari, I love human and pet interactions, so I’d definitely read this. I’d like to know more of what goes wrong, though, so I’d end the first sentence with “best of friends” and add something to the effect of, “Training is proving to be difficult, as Jax refuses to stay, nips at Brownie’s paw and disappears at the park (or clues to whatever Jax does).”

    Re the question at the end, I’m fine either way, but I’ve also heard that it’s better to end with a statement. Perhaps something like, “Brownie is ready to throw in the leash until he remembers the first rule of pet training.” (or some statement that doesn’t give away the ending).

    Susanna, I, too, am tired of winter, especially as the temperatures bounce between Arctic blasts and muggy rains. BUT, February comes soon, with its visit from Phyllis followed by that heartfelt holiday (and hopefully a tiny writing contest…), and then before you know it, it’s spring!

    • Susanna Leonard Hill says:

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments for Kari, Patricia! And yes! Phyllis will be here soon! And I will hopefully be posting the Valentiny Writing Contest guidelines along with PPBF tomorrow (good lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise 🙂 )

  9. authorlaurablog says:

    I love the premise and I agree with some of the previous comments so apologies if it’s redundant. I think this title already exists and it is also reminiscent of “How to Train Your Dragon,” so I would find a different title. Also, the name Jax isn’t clearly a child to me so I first thought it was a mama dog and her puppy until you said “his pup.” I went back and saw it said “human pup.” Maybe just use boy.

    I like a question in a pitch but was advised in comments here not to use a question. That’s easy enough to change. I’d like more – give one lesson Brownie is working on with his new pet.

    YES, I would read this!

    • karianngonzalez says:

      Thanks Laura! I agree, I am working on a new title and am looking at idioms and synonyms to help my title stand out. Good point on using human pup, I thought this terminology could help it stand out, but using boy may be a simpler way to go that would not be misconstrued. Great feedback, thank you!!!

  10. David McMullin says:

    I think this sounds really cute, but a bit like something I’ve seen several times before. Make sure that your pitch brings out the ways that this is unique. Maybe with an example of how things are ruuuff. (I like the use of that word.) As for the question – I personally have no problem with them (and in this case I feel it is appropriate), but I have read enough interviews with agents who don’t like them, so I avoid using them. Good luck,Kari!

  11. karianngonzalez says:

    Great feedback everyone, thank you so much for taking a look! Here is an update based on teh feedback:

    Brownie and his human pup Jax are the best of friends, but training is proving to be Ruff. After a misunderstanding with Fluffy the cat lands Brownie on a short leash, he discovers he’s accidentally eaten his pup owner’s manual…Does this dog have what it takes to train his pup, or will training end in disaster?

    What do you think so far?

    Working on one more prototype pitch without a question as suggested, I’ll post it soon. Thanks again!

  12. matthewlasley says:

    I struggle with this one. It has potential, but I think, based off of the pitch, it would be a no.
    I don’t feel a “new” story here. Has this story been told before? If so, how is this one different?

    I do want to say first off that I like the fact that your pitch is short and concise. That is essential. However, there needs to be meat in it as well. You need to hear the voice. I want to know if this is a quiet story, a humorous story, an adventurous story, etc.

    What problems does Brownie face? How is training Ruuufff? Is this the first time he has trained a human pup? Is Brownie a pup himself?
    I realize these questions are answered in the story, but you need some idea in the pitch.

    In the pitch writing itself, I have a couple of questions. You say that Brownie and Jax are best friends. This infers a closeness and the likelihood of time, but he is training him? Are they already best friends at the beginning of the story?
    In the second sentence you refer to Jax as a “pup” which can easily be misread, despite him being referred to as a “human pup” the previous line. I would add “human” in again or remove it from the first sentence and make that reveal here.
    And as I have seen as I glanced over other posts, you don’t want to ask a question that the editor or agent should already be making. If there I a question, it should be rhetorical, a part of the voice.

    I hope this helps and that you continue to pursue this.

    • karianngonzalez says:

      Hi Matthew, I really appreciate the depth of your feedback. You were absolutely right about it lacking some essential structure, that did not convey the story the way I wanted to. I am currently working on a revision that incorporates the wonderful feedback provided and making sure the differences in my MS stand out. So appreciated! Thank you!

  13. Wendy says:

    I read yesterday that Neil Diamond had to cancel any future touring because he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. 😦 I sing along with Sweet Caroline at my kids’ college football games.

    I had to reread the reworked pitch. The human pup owner part wasn’t clear enough for me. I’m not sure if that’s the real dog’s owner or the boy’s parent. I think there’s a similar book (taking the dog’s POV on training) already on the market (sorry, I can’t remember the title!) so just be sure to make sure yours is different. I love doggie stories and think they’re perennial evergreen topics. 🙂

    • Susanna Leonard Hill says:

      I know, Wendy 😦 I read that too, belatedly, after I’d posted, and felt guilty for making jokes. But Neil has many great songs, and Sweet Caroline is one my favorites too, especially because I have a granddaughter by that name and it’s hard not to sing it 🙂 Thanks so much for your helpful comments for Kari – I know she’ll appreciate them!

    • karianngonzalez says:

      Thanks Wendy! I changed the child’s name and I agree it seems to work much better. I’ll keep looking for comps and similarities, I appreciate the feedback!

  14. lisabilla says:

    Yes, I’d read this- I think there’s good humor potential in the role reversal, and puppy trouble can be entertaining. You might think about giving his boy a more clearly human name, Jax sounds like it might be another dog. I prefer your more specific revised version. I also wonder about “best of friends” vs. “first lesson.” If it hasn’t been done too much, I’d think about having this be a new human pup for him to train. I’ll go read this on the forum- where I also have a new pup story posted 😉

  15. karianngonzalez says:

    Great comments everyone- so appreciated. How about this for a revision:

    Brownie and his kid Timmy are the best of friends, but training an unruly kid on his first assignment is proving to be Ruff. Luckily, dogs are excellent trainers, but Brownie hopes he hasn’t bitten off more than he can chew. After a misunderstanding with Fluffy the cat lands Brownie on a short leash, he discovers he’s accidentally eaten his pup owner’s manual. If Brownie can’t measure up, he may have to throw in the leash.

    I changed the kid’s name, and removed the question while keeping some of the action. Does this read better? My mentor text on this is Children Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown. In my manuscript it is differentiated by primary animal character and the opposite perspective that Children make wonderful pets if their four legged friend is up to the training task.Lots of humor and word play.

    I hope this helps for perspective. Please keep the comments coming, I love the ideas that are stirring based on all of your fantastic feedback!

  16. Maria Marshall (@MariaMarshall_) says:

    Kari, I too feel that I have read this premise/book before. If you have done a google and “www.worldcat.org” search and your book is different that all the other “train your” books, then the pitch has to let the agent know immediately HOW. I like Pat’s suggestions, but again they feel familiar. How is Brownie training Jax? What madcap misadventures are they having? Why is this unlike all other kid/dog books?
    Looking at the revision, I can see the improvements. I have a few questions – “assignment” how does this correlate to them being best friends? Is training Timmy his “job,” or a condition of keeping him? If he “throws in the leash” what does that mean? What is at stake for Brownie if he can’t train Timmy?
    Here is a “formula” you can try and see if it helps. “Brownie wants/needs/desires _______, but Timmy is __________. So, Brownie tries/does ____. _____. and _____. Until ____________. (Then smooth it out.)
    Hope this helps. It is intriguing so I would probably read it.

    Susanna, I would be hard pressed to name a Neil Diamond song I didn’t like. Even like the remixes of Red, Red Wine and I’m a Believer. I grew up singing his songs and have gone to almost every concert he held in Seattle. Even got to take my Mom to one! That was a blast – as she is one of his first fans. So this news hit hard last night. Enjoy those delicious brownies. 🙂

    • Susanna Leonard Hill says:

      Thank you for your very helpful comments for Kari, Maria! As for Neil, oh boy do I feel guilty for joking now! I also grew up listening to his songs and loved so many of them, and it’s just awful that he has Parkinsons. I didn’t mean to be insensitive! I just always thought that line was funny and I didn’t know what had just happened. Hope you like the brownies too!

    • karianngonzalez says:

      Hi Maria, I am working on a revision with the formula you provided. Thanks for breaking this down for me. I will use this to start out in the future. So helpful! Thank you!

  17. karianngonzalez says:

    One more revision. What do you think now?

    Brownie and his kid Timmy are the best of friends, but training an unruly kid on his first assignment is proving to be Ruff. Dogs are excellent trainers, but Brownie hopes he hasn’t bitten off more than he can chew. After a misunderstanding with Fluffy the cat lands Brownie on a short leash, he discovers he’s accidentally eaten his owner’s manual… If Brownie can’t measure up, he may have to throw in the leash.

    Does the last line work or does it end on too much of a negative note?

  18. Gregory E Bray says:

    Hi Kari,

    Great to see your pitch on here. I would read it. I don’t have anything to add that hasn’t already been addressed by others. I’ll bake the brownies Susanna posted for our next critique group. 🙂 Good luck!

  19. heavenlyhashformoms says:

    Since my daughters’s name is Carolyn, we often break into renditions of “Sweet Caroline!” (One of the best songs ever!).
    The title and pitch immediately reminded me of Childrn Make Terreble Pets, and I thought, “Oh, no! She doesn’t know this story has already been done!” But, I see in one of the posts that you are aware and have your own unique twist on it. Still, I wonder if that would also strike an editor? I wonder how you can really make your unique version crystal clear? We happen to own that book, so it came to my mind right away.
    Good luck with it…you seem super talented!!!!!

    • Susanna Leonard Hill says:

      My granddaughter’s name is Caroline, and as you know from the post, my best friend growing up is also named Caroline, so Sweet Caroline has always been on of my favorites! Thanks so much for your helpful comments for Kari!

    • karianngonzalez says:

      Thank you so much for your comments. Yes, definitely something I am aware of, but if its still drawing too many parallels, I need to keep revising until it stands out more. Thank you for pointing this out and your kind words!

  20. karianngonzalez says:

    I wanted to say thank you to you Susanna for providing such a great forum to get feedback on projects we are working on, and of course the wonderful recipes!

    A huge thank you to everyone that provided such incredible feedback on my pitch. As a new writer, the supportive feedback and considerations everyone here shared, sent me in such a great direction to form the best pitch I can for my manuscript. Very much appreciated!

  21. kathalsey says:

    Kari, love the premix sand yes, I would read it. I wonder if there is another way you can approach the phrase “his human pup Jax.” I understand the phrase, but will the youngest kids? I follow a blog about a Corgi named Jasper. He calls his “people” “Uprights.” Maybe you can play with that idea.
    Susanna – how about Cracklin Rose? So sad Neil has to retire.

  22. Robyn Campbell says:

    Hi Kari, I enjoyed reading your pitch. I would read it because I love any great doggie picture book. The human pup makes me have to reread to understand. So maybe change that. I reread it three times before I realized that was the one thing I would change about the pitch. Did you know that dogs are the only NON-primate animal to look their humans in the eyes? They think we are their parents. Maybe something like his human Jax. OR his pup Jax. Either way.

    Sus, I want that pie. I am craving it. Love Neil too. And besides, need I remind you Hugh Jackman might be jealous? 😉

    • Susanna Leonard Hill says:

      Thanks so much for your helpful comments for Kari, Rob! If you want pie, talk to Greg. He’s making it this weekend 🙂 We can jaunt over to San Fran and get some 🙂 And Hugh never has to be jealous. He knows he is my one true love 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • karianngonzalez says:

      Hi Robyn, I had no idea, thanks for sharing that tip, that helps bring more perspective to how I am portraying the story. Definitely updating the verbiage for clarity. I appreciate the feedback!

  23. Candy says:

    Whew! Just read through all the great comments left for you. I like your revision. I was a little confused, after reading the original pitch, as which character was the boy and which was the dog. I think you’re definitely headed in the right direction. Sounds like potential for lots of fun and mayhem – I’d read your story!

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