Hey there, Peeps!
I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve been working like the proverbial beaver this week and have nothing to show for it except that it’s already Wednesday and I’m still on Monday’s to-do list!
Uh… and that might be last Monday’s now I come to think of it! 😊
It’s possible my to-do lists are too long!
Because, to be fair, I have done Many Things!…it’s just that the list seems to grow at the same rate it shrinks, so it never gets any shorter!
Luckily, I know the answer:
My brother gave me this card for my birthday a few days ago (which just proves we’re related 😊 ):
So you can feel totally virtuous as you dig into today’s Dirty Chocolate Chip Cookies – perfect for springtime! – and 100% healthful!
Dirty Chocolate Chip Cookies
Mmmmm!!!!! Salad-y! 😊😊😊
(you really cannot go wrong with chocolate chip cookies with crushed Oreo in the dough, rolled in Oreo crumbs to bake!)
Now then, onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Sarah, who you know pretty well by now from many previous pitches 🙂 Sarah says, “I am an Optometrist, mother, and lover of the outdoors. I live in NH with my husband and two children. I love to paint in my free time, when I’m not writing.”
Find her on the web at www.sarahheturadny.com
Here is her pitch:
Working Title: Lane Makes Mama Smile
Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 5-8)
The Pitch: LANE MAKES MAMA SMILE is about a boy who wants to make his eighth birthday special. His mama’s depression seems to be getting in the way. Lane finds a clever way to succeed, and he realizes that his mother is still capable of much love.
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 Sarah 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 June, so you have time to polish your pitch before putting it up for helpful feedback and a chance to have it read and commented on by editor Erin Molta!
Sarah is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch! I am looking forward to FINISHING MY TO-DO LIST!!!
Ah! Ever the optimist! One can hope, right? 😊
Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 😊
28 thoughts on “Would You Read It Wednesday #320 – Lane Makes Mama Smile (PB)”
Good morning Susanna and Sarah. Those cookies look amazing! Perfect for this Sunday’s dinner.
Sarah, your topic is important to address. I wouldn’t put the word depression in the actual pitch, but later in the synopsis of your query letter. Your pitch is almost there. I wouldn’t include the title and “about”. Use this room to get to the heart of the story instead.
All children want their birthdays to be special so telling that in the pitch is not necessary. Perhaps start out like “With his eighth birthday around the corner, a boy worries that his mama…. He tries_________ but….”
Just a little tweaking. I look forward to voting.
The cookies really do look amazing, Nadine, don’t they? And I don’t think they’ll be hard to make… :). Thank you so much for your very helpful thoughts for Sarah!
Thank you Nadine for your detailed and helpful reply! I will definitely take your advice to heart. Thank you so much Susanna for letting me participate yet again!!
My pleasure, Sarah! I’m so glad if it’s helpful to you!
Hi, Susanna. Your description of what you’ve accomplished this week reads like mine. Let’s embrace being beavers together! Sarah, I love your topics it’s one that needs to be addressed as we suss out more and more the true umbrella of diversity. Bravo for taking this on. I feel 8 is a bit old for an MC in a PB. Can you just say “Lane” and not give an age? Also you could say “his birthday is right around the corner” and again w/hold the year.(Your illustrator will pic an age.) I agree to leave the depression part out at this point and add it further in a query. Also, a few specifics as to what Lane tries to do to fix the situation. Good luck.
Thanks for the reply, Kathy. Good points! I will consider all of them!!!
I’m intrigued by what promises to be deft handling of a tough subject through a child’s perspective. The title boosts the pitch’s specificity a tiny bit, yet I’d like to know more particulars. What seems to be the book’s softer voice/tone has made this pitch a bit too blurry for me to understand specifically what’s impacting Lane and the type of solution at hand. Logistically, omit the title from within the pitch; use those ‘freed up’ words to share more story detail.
Yes, sounds good, thanks Katie. I will most certainly take your advice to heart.
Susanna, happy belated birthday! I hope your to do list shrinks. If you manage it, do share: I have one that’s growing like a monster & never disappearing. There must be a new picture book idea lurking in these lists somewhere – right?
Sarah, what a timely and important topic! Bravo for addressing it in a picture book! As the others have mentioned, I’d delete the title & the term depression in the plot description of the pitch & add more details. Perhaps you can start something like “As Lane’s birthday nears, his excitement grows. A party, balloons, presents, he pictures every moment of his special day. But Mama [list a few details that shows she is depressed]… Then on to a last sentence that shows how Lane manages to help his mother participate in his celebrations.
I’d then add a second paragraph that mentions depression specifically & indicates why you are the best author to write this.
Sarah, I hope this helps as you revise your pitch.
Thank you… yes, very helpful! I will incorporate all into my revised pitch! 🙂
In your pitch, I was caught up, not in the heaviness of Lane’s mother’s depression, but in the idea that this little boy has to make his own birthday special. I can’t escape this feeling that this boy needs more support from other people. While adult depression is one reason that a child is in this precarious “adulting” position. It can happen to a child for many reasons, such as drug addiction, incarceration, another family member who needs the parents time and support.
I guess what I am thinking is that for me this is not a story about adult depression, but about a child facing the world on his own and trying to get his mother back. Every child wants to feel their mother’s love and will go to great lengths both good and bad to achieve that.
It being’s back the all to familiar lines from my childhood. “You have to be the strong one. You have to do it yourself. ” That innner child wants to know that Lane is going to be OK and not have to always be strong and self sufficient.
I may be totally missing your point. Which makes me think that adding a few details about how Lane makes his mother smile, would clear that up.
When I read just the title, I thought this was going to be a story of an infant about emotions. I have been working on an infant emotions book so there is likely some personal bias happening.
I really like your story idea. Children are often forced to grow up early yet they still want the things, like birthday celebrations, that give them joy and youthful innocence.
Sarah – YES! And good point about the title, it does sound like an infant. Ha! I’ll change that. I really appreciate your candid and helpful response. Children are forced to grow up too fast! It has been (and continues to be) so hard to write this story, with all its nuances and implications, but someday I hope to publish it… I have received the BEST rejections from editors and agents… really tailored rejections… makes me feel like I’m “almost there.” Thanks!
There’s always time for chocolate, no matter how busy!
Sarah, I’m so intrigued by your pitch! I agree with a lot of the comments…leave the title out and get right to the problem. The last line is interesting because it hints that Lane is feeling “not as loved” as perhaps he used to be due to his mother’s depression. This, to me, would seem to be a bigger issue than the party, although I see how they could be interwoven. I think if you hint at how Lane helped in getting his mom to feel better, and how that, in turn, made for a successful party, it would help your pitch. Best of luck!
mmm, yes, I should definitely hint at how Lane tries to help his Mom. Great points, thanks! 🙂
I agree that the word depression is too adult for your readers. “Sadness” my be better, although that may signal grief. You don’t want to give away how Lane succeeds, but may cite at least one example of how he doesn’t succeed at the first attempt. Yes, I’m a yes because i’m curious how he succeeds.
Ooo, good point, thanks so much! I’ll take that and use that! 🙂
This is a tough and sensitive topic. That would make me interested, but I am still a maybe because the pitch feels very somber. I feel mom’s depression more than the kids’ excitement/worry.
I think Nadine hit the nail on the head. The pitch is well written. I would be leery of trying to make changes to it without having read the story.
My only suggestion is to uncouple your idea from a birthday. Again, without reading, I can not be certain, but I feel that a birthday is the extreme of excitement on one end and his mother’s depression is the extreme on the other end. I would be afraid that the message would be that all this excitement is what you need to make a depressed person happy OR set your expectations lower with a depressed person. ***I realize this part is a story critique and not your pitch.
These kinds of stories have a very narrow market and will struggle to find a home. But these stories are needed. Good luck.
Here is a couple of mentor texts: Michael Rosen’s Sad Book (Michael Rosen) and Boats for Papa (Jessixa Bagley).
Thanks so much for the mentor texts and helpful reply. It is a very narrow market … I made the mistake of trying to sell this story first… rejections galore! Haha! Thanks for the advice!
My wife has been in the same boat. She has written a story that falls into that sensitive area of the market. Finding your story a home is going to take more work since you will need to find publishers that are willing to work with stories like yours. They are out there, but the way you contract it may be different.
Be careful not to make too many changes (pitch or story) because people say to and make valid points. Look for trends in what people say. What is in common? What is unclear?
People have not read your manuscript, so they have created a story idea in their head. Are they off the mark? If so, that means that a) their advice needs to be taken with a grain of salt, and b) what gaps does that show you in your story/pitch connection.
Agents and editors that I talk to have told me that the three things in a pitch that typically convince them to read a story are (and not in order): A catchy title that not only plays on words but conveys a sense of the story, a clear character or author voice that tells them how the story will read, and a unique view that makes the story stand out and makes them want to know more.
If your pitch does not match your story, even if it is good, breeds disappointment. Deliver what is promised. It is a tough balance for a somber topic.
Thank you Matthew for the very helpful and detailed reply! And good luck to your wife on her writing journey!!
I think this sounds like an important topic but the pitch isn’t working. The word “about” for some reason doesn’t work. Maybe begin with: Lane is excited for his eight birthday, but doesn’t understand why Mama is too sad to care. I’m not sure if that fits your actual story, but if it does, you can use your last sentence to show that Lane solves the problem. Good luck.
Susanna, those cookies look and sound amazing. TBH, I’m not even a fan of Oreos but within another cookie sounds like a great idea.
Thanks Laura… I will definitely take your advice to heart! 🙂
Maybe,if you give me a hint in the pitch about how Lane would perk up his mom.I believe Kathy Halsey nailed it. Find a synonym for depression, if you feel you can’t do without. There is a need for diverse stories and this one is a particularly difficult subject to tackle. Good luck!
I will, thank you! 🙂 Thanks for the advice! 🙂
Hopefully Susanna you’re taking breaks with the lists and those lists having lists.
Sarah, I would say yes with changes they mentioned above. I do see growth with your pitches. They are tighter. I agree maybe using words describing depression without using the word depression. Like THE REMEMBER BALLOONS never actually mentions Alzheimer’s or dementia. Just the behaviors associated with them. And what are the stakes for your character? Looking forward to reading revision.
Oooo nice, I’ll have to read that one… I actually work with Alzheimer patients during my “day job.” Thanks for the advice! 🙂
Once again, Susanna, thank you for such an invaluable experience having my pitch critiqued on your blog. Such a fabulous service you offer for writers! Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!! 🙂
Sarah, so many wonderful thoughts here! Keep writing the tough stories. There are kids out there that need them. I agree that I would like a little bit of how he solves the birthday despite his mama’s sadness. If it is something unique, it will give us a better idea of his character and draw us in even more.