Would You Read It Wednesday #349 – Spotlight (PB)

Hi there, everyone!

Before we get to Would You Read It today, I have a tidbit of helpful information!

I know we’re barely into February, but March isn’t that far off.  For those of you who wonder how to find mentor texts and how best to make use of them, Carrie Charlie Brown and Kirsti Call are once again running ReFoReMo (Reading For Research Month.)


Far be it from me to tell you what to do, but . . . hustle on over there and sign up!  You’ll be glad you did.  It’s going to be amazing!

I actually wrote a guest post for ReFoReMo in 2015 which you can see HERE if you’re interested.

And speaking of helpful tidbits, if you need a little inspiration why not have a go at the 5th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest?  It opens February 12 – a week from tomorrow – so you’ve still got plenty of time to write!

Wow!  All that talk of craft improvement for our writerly selves has put me in the mood for Something Chocolate!  (Chocolate fuels creativity, you know.  And I’m not just saying that.  I have done extensive research on this and have empirical evidence to back it up!)

It seems like everyone is talking Girl Scout Cookies at the moment so let’s make cake out of them!  How about some Samoa Sheet Cake for breakfast?!  (Is there a “drool” emoji? 🙂 )

Samoa Sheet Cake

Screen Shot 2020-02-04 at 2.42.04 PM

Recipe (including helpful video) HERE at Food.com


How delicious does THAT look?!  I may have to make some later!  Strictly in the interest of fueling my creativity, you understand . . . 🙂

Now then, onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Augusta who says, “Greetings!
My name is Augusta McMurray. I am a preschool teacher, mother, wife, sister, and a daughter, who loves to dance, paint, read, and explore the world. I live, in my opinion, on one of the most beautiful islands in the world – Orcas Island – in Washington State. I love reading children’s literature, as much as I love dreaming up stories for children.”

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Spotlight

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

The Pitch: Hank feels out of place in his theatrical family. Everyone has a talent
to showcase on stage, but him; his dad is an acrobat, his mom a ballerina, and his sister a magician. Hank longs to to shine in the spotlight too. Will Hank be able to save the day and get his chance to discover his talent under the spotlight when an unfortunate accident renders his family unable to perform on opening night?

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 Augusta 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!

Augusta is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to taking Phyllis on a library visit this weekend!  She is milking the Groundhog Day time of year for all it’s worth, packing her calendar so she can show off share her knowledge with children!


Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 🙂


35 thoughts on “Would You Read It Wednesday #349 – Spotlight (PB)

  1. Katie Engen says:

    This seems primed for rich, exciting visuals (both language and art). Also, it’s a fresh perspective on big ideas like belonging and/or autonomy. In the pitch itself, the ‘but him’ phrase is clunky and not needed for clarity. The final question is both wordy and rushed. I’d split to at least 2 sentences. Flip the family accident to the front end of the set up for Hank’s big moment. Consider NOT phrasing Hank’s dilemma/moment to shine as a question. Questions seem to allow room for “don’t know/don’t care” reader response more than a cleanly stated cliffhanger may.

  2. Sarah Tobias says:

    Augusta I am sure where you live is one of the most beautiful places on earth.

    I think your theme of discovering your talent is one that will appeal to many people.

    However, I am a maybe who could be swayed with a bit more information and clarity.

    I am confused about how Hank goes from not having a talent to taking over for his whole family on stage in in a 32 page picture book. This sounds like a pitch for a much longer story. There seems to be a lot that happens. Hank feels out of place in his family. (Has he tried all these things and failed?) Then there is an unfortunate accident that makes it impossible for any of his family to perform so Hank is “forced” into the spotlight. I am wondering if throughout the story we are seeing Hank change and grow so that when the time comes he is actually ready? Is the story more about the family and the accident?

    If this is really Hank’s story, I would like to know more about his journey from feeling like he doesn’t fit in to being able to perform successfully on stage.

    I heard or read someplace that a query pitch should not end with a question about whether the MC will succeed because the answer is generally yes.

    Shine a spotlight on Hank in your pitch and I think you can make me a yes.

  3. Judy Sobanski says:

    Susanna – Yum!! ‘m gonna want Samoa of that cake!! 😉
    Hi Augusta!
    I would definitely read your story. I like how you set up the problem right away. I think your pitch is close… but instead of ending with a question (which some agents/editors don’t like), perhaps something like: When Hank’s family is unable to perform on opening night due to an unfortunate accident, Hank must discover a way (discover his own talent in order) to step into the spotlight so the show can go on (or something like that).
    It might be really fun, too, if Mom was the acrobat and Dad the dancer…just a thought!!
    Best of luck!!

    • Augusta McMurray says:

      Judy, thank you for reading! I agree. I was thinking that the dad should be the dancer, so it is nice to hear other people think so too! I really like your idea of Hank discovering his talent when he goes on stage. I’ve been struggling with ideas of him having his talent the entire time and his family not recognizing it, or if he discovers, it on stage, when he fills in for his family under the spotlight.

  4. ptnozell says:

    Hi Susanna, so glad you plugged ReFoReMo – I’ve been participating, and loving, that month of mentor texts & posts for years! And a big plus is the mentor text lists that I’ve often referred back to when stuck writing a story.

    Augusta, I like your focus on a child not seeming to share the talents of a seemingly-talented family. I think that’s a situation that kids often grapple with (at least this kid did). I’d like to know more about the setting – is this a circus family? If so, I’d mention that in the pitch. I also don’t think that the first sentence is necessary – you’re telling us that Hank feels different and left out, not showing us. I agree, too, not to end with a question. Finally, I’d suggest giving a hint of what Hank’s talent is, and his progression from untalented on the sidelines to star in the spotlight. I hope these comments help as you revise the pitch!

    • Augusta McMurray says:


      Thank you for reading the pitch – it is so helpful! I agree, I need to clarify more in the pitch. He is a clown, by the way. He is excellent at pratfalls, and making people laugh. I am struggling with the idea of whether his family, until opening night, does not recognize his clown abilities as a talent, or whether he discovers them himself on opening night…

  5. matthewlasley says:

    Good morning!

    I love the concept for your story, but as a pitch, I am a maybe leaning towards yes.

    I can hear your voice which is good. I can visualize the story and understand the stress. But I want to feel what Hank is feeling.

    That, I believe, can be resolved by changing your last sentence. Pitches are supposed to get the reader (editor/agent) to ask questions. When you give it to them, for many, it is a let down. It is where you have the story going and there is no surprise.

    So how can you change the last sentence (which is long for a question) into a statement but still get the point across and build the tension?
    Here is a possible example, but please, make it your own: When his family gets sick, Hank is thrust into the spotlight and he knows it is up to him to save the show.

    Good luck, this sounds like a fun story!

  6. Angie says:

    I think this sounds like a fun story to read! I like your focus on the family talents and that Hank doesn’t have one (that he knows about). I immediately wanted to know what happened at the opening night and what Hank did. I love that he is going to (I hope!) discover his talent. I think you could reword the final question and turn it into a statement that engages interest and excitement in potential readers. I’ve heard that many editors/agents do not want to read a question in pitches (though I have been guilty of this and have had to rework several pitches of my own). Fun story, great premise! I would read it. 🙂 Also, I would visit you on Orcas Island if you invite me. LOL. I live in the Yakima Valley. Orcas IS gorgeous. I’ve been a few times. Best wishes!

  7. Kathy Halsey says:

    Yum to Girl Scout breakfast, Susanna. Augusta, I feel your idea of not being as talented as others is universal. You might want to look at EXCELLENT ED by Stacy McAnulty for a mentor text, even though it’s about a dog. Agree about ending w/a question – kinda frowned upon. Like others I’d like to know more about the circumstances: is it a circus, has Hank tried and failed at an artistic endeavor before? Good luck with this.

  8. rosecappelli says:

    This sounds like a fun story, Augusta! I would say yes, I would read this story…probably. I agree with others that the question at the end should be reworded. (I just did this in one of my pitches and one of my critique partners helped me see its ineffectiveness). In the beginning, perhaps say more about Hank and the talents he has tried instead of focusing on the family. I am curious to see what he comes up with. Good luck!

  9. Mona Pease says:

    I am curious to read this. The pitch is enticing, although like others have said, questions are sometimes the no no in a pitch. How about something like this…still a question without asking the question.
    While moping around thinking he is talentless, an unfortunate accident happens. Hank wonders if is non-talents may be just what is needed to help save the day.
    Fun writing and good luck!

  10. palpbkids says:

    Hi, Augusta,

    This sounds like a wonderful story! There’s plenty of room for great illustrations and the plot sounds well thought-out. I would love to know more details, but as it stands you’ve written a lovely pitch. That said, I mentioned last week about removing the question from a pitch because it (as a reader today has already mentioned) it opens the door for an agent/editor to say, “Who cares?” and drop it. I tightened it up a bit, do what you want with this. Toss it or maybe it will help you get your pitch to where you want it to be. Either way, good luck!!

    PITCH: Hank wants to shine in the spotlight just like his acrobat dad, his ballerina mom, and his magician sister. But he can’t, because he thinks he doesn’t have an ounce of talent. But when an accident happens, it’s up to Hank to save the day.

    Cheers, PALPBKIDS

  11. authorlaurablog says:

    I’m a yes because the story sounds like a fun take on the evergreen idea of not fitting in. I like that Hank is in a theatrical family, but the way you worded the beginning sentences felt a little awkward.
    Maybe try, “Hank’s theatrical family always takes center stage. Dad is an acrobat, Mom is a ballerina, Sister (does she have a name?) is a magician and Hank is left waiting in the wings. When Hank finally gets his chance to perform, he fears he doesn’t have the talent to shine in the spotlight.” Good luck!

  12. Patti Ranson (@RansonPatti) says:

    A revision to the pitch – Just some thoughts!
    As stated above, avoid questions in your pitch.

    Hank feels out of place in his theatrical family. Everyone but him has a talent for the stage.; dad is an acrobat, mom a ballerina, and sister a magician. Hank’s efforts to be in the spotlight go unrewarded/unnoticed until his unforeseen/hidden talent saves the show on opening night.

  13. ingridboydston says:

    Why yes, Augusta, I would your book! My family runs a theatre and this is right up my alley! The pitch itself could use some polish but I think the concept shines through. I’m curious to find out what Hanks talent is. Will it be onstage or off? Will his “save the day” (opening night) moment be intentional as opposed to a happy accident? ( I hope it will!) You’ve already gotten some useful advice. Shorten the first sentence and don’t end with a question. But by all means, pursue this story! Break a leg with this one!

  14. Lauri Meyers says:

    I suggest tightening the last sentence and replacing any passive phrases with theatrical ones. The Pitch: Hank [“feels out of place”–can you make this a stage reference? He is stuck behind the scenes, not performance ready] in his theatrical family. Everyone has a talent
    to showcase on stage, but him;[Delete “but him”] his dad is an acrobat, his mom a ballerina, and his sister a magician. Hank longs to to shine in the spotlight too. Will Hank be able to save the day and get his chance to discover his talent under the spotlight when an unfortunate accident renders his family unable to perform on opening night? [rework: When an unfortunate accident sidelines his family on opening night, will Hank discover his talent and save the stage?]

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