Children's Writer's Guild Forum » Writing and Literature

My Middle Grade Novel's Blurb

(27 posts)
  • Started 2 years ago by sunaynaprasad
  • Latest reply from sunaynaprasad
  1. sunaynaprasad
    Member

    Twelve-year-old Alyssa Norris has known nothing but a miserable life in an all-girls orphanage for five years. But one day, she discovers that she has mysteriously received the power to make animals speak. Later, a zoo truck stops by and a monkey invites Alyssa to come to Africa and live with a family. Feeling gifted, Alyssa agrees to go, flees Canada, and arrives in Tanzania. Later, the family leaves Alyssa after she disobeyed a command. When another zoo truck animal suggests a tour of the landscape, Alyssa decides to come. But many surprises and dangers come across their journey.

    That's the back cover blurb. More details to come.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  2. Sheila
    Member

    Hello!

    I am so pleased to welcome you to our communications forum. It seems as though you are hard at work on a middle-grade novel. Did you want to join our NJCWG online critique group?

    There is no charge for participating, but I would need to officially register you for the group. Right now you just have access to the forum, but I'm assuming that you would also like to participate in critiques and receive feedback, etc. You can contact me by clicking on CONTACT at the top of the HOME page which will bring you right to my email.

    I'll look forward to talking with you.

    Warmly,

    Sheila Wright
    NJCWG/Cofounder

    Posted 2 years ago #
  3. MicheleB
    Member

    Welcome to the boards!

    Looking forward to hearing more from you.

    ~Michele~

    Posted 2 years ago #
  4. sunaynaprasad
    Member

    I'm okay with just the forum. That blurb cannot be altered at this point. What would you think of this book for kids 9-12?

    Posted 2 years ago #
  5. Sheila
    Member

    I'm afraid that I would have to read the manuscript before I could make an assessment as to its age appropriateness. That's why belonging to a critique group can be very rewarding.

    Middle-grade novels cover a wide range of subjects, but if you are asking whether or not I think that "talking animals" are appropriate for this age group then I will remind you that C.S. Lewis wrote The Chronicles of Narnia, Frank Baum wrote The Wizard of Oz, and Kenneth Grahame wrote The Wind in the Willows. All have talking animals, and these classics are not only loved by children, but by adults as well. If you have a great story to tell, just tell it–the right audience will find it.

    Best wishes!

    Posted 2 years ago #
  6. sunaynaprasad
    Member

    There are a few MG books with talking animals. There's Wild Magic and Elissa's Quest. They are both about humans communicating with animals, although my book has more about a girl who makes animals talk as a magical power. But she is really trying to look after them since they had just been released from a zoo. It takes up a big amount of the story. But there are a lot of human characters too as well as intense content like deaths, animal violence, and some mild torturing.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  7. Sheila
    Member

    So it sounds like you have found an interesting twist and a story that can examine some important subjects such as rights for animals.
    Have you submitted it to a mainstream publisher yet or are you planning to publish it independently?

    Posted 2 years ago #
  8. sunaynaprasad
    Member

    Rights for animals isn't really a topic. Alyssa's really trying to look out for her herd then being friends with them. It will be available on Amazon in about a couple of weeks with an excerpt.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  9. MicheleB
    Member

    Good luck, Sunayn. Electronic publishing for Kindle via Amazon is becoming a very popular option. Is that the route you are taking? Many believe it is truly the wave of the future. Does Barnes and Noble offer authors a similar option for their Nook device?

    Interestingly, animal rights could easily come up as an issue for discussion among your readers. Any time zoos are involved, some discussion often ensues as to whether or not it is appropriate to cage wild animals for any reason. I'm unclear on what you mean when you mention "mild torturing", but that could potentially spur discussion, as well.

    Be sure to let us know how it goes for you on Amazon. I'm sure Guild members would be interested to hear more about that publishing avenue.

    Good luck!
    ~Michele~

    Posted 2 years ago #
  10. sunaynaprasad
    Member

    There is a small amount of animal rights related topics. The animals were released into the wild because they were uncomfortable in the zoo they'd been living in. The mild torture includes Alyssa getting little rocks thrown at her (but you'd barely see any because once it starts, I switch to the herd's point of view) and an African family being whipped (although no gruesome language is written and the scene is very brief).

    Posted 2 years ago #
  11. Sheila
    Member

    Yes. Please let us know how it goes. Things are changing a lot in the world of publishing. I would be very interested in hearing about your experience.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  12. sunaynaprasad
    Member

    Thanks. Here's more details top see if kids 9-12 would like this.
    Twelve-year-old Alyssa Norris has been suffering for five years in an all-girls orphanage and is even the only orphan there who remembers her parents' deaths. The next day, She discovers that she had received the power to make animals speak, but mysteriously. At midnight, a zoo truck stops by, a monkey runs out, and he invites Alyssa to come to Africa where a family awaits an orphan. She says yes, leaves Canada, and goes to Tanzania. She had a lot of luxuries and good times on the ship, but is very unsatisfied with how the African family lives. They don't use any electricity, running water, and they eat food that doesn't look appetizing. Alyssa doesn't want to live her life like that. But early the next morning, the monkey who invited her to Africa tells her that she needs to help the other zoo animals survive in the wild. She does that all the next day which angers the family enough, that they leave her. Another zoo animal cheers her up by offering her a journey throughout the landscape, which she decides to go on. They travel all the way to the Congo and experience more than just beautiful savannas, but dangers. While in the Congo jungles, one of the animals gets shot and causes Alyssa and the herd to want to go back. They experience other dangers along the way. There are some mild torture scenes, animal violence, life or death situations, and strong emotional moments. Alyssa does befriend the animals, but she's really looking after them and making sure they can survive in the wild.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  13. Sheila
    Member

    Sunayn, if you have a concern about whether or not your manuscript is age appropriate you might take a sample section over to your local library and ask a friendly library to take a look. Most librarians are very helpful, and they are well acquainted with what young people read. You might gain a great deal of insight into what this age group likes.

    Mainly, I would encourage you to find a critique group that meets in your area and become actively involved. To be a successful writer, one needs not only talent, but knowledge of the business. You must also promote your work, whether you are mainstream or independently published. A good writer's critique group or guild can help to prepare you for this necessity.

    Many librarians will know of groups in your area. Check it out.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  14. sunaynaprasad
    Member

    OK. I tested this out on Yahoo Answers asking if kids 9-12 would read it. Someone said it was awful and sounded incredibly babyish and another person said it sounded like a picture book for toddlers. Seriously? With a 12-year-old MC, mild torture, strong conflict, serious themes, animal violence, deaths, life or death situations, even a seven-year-old wouldn't read this. Toddlers can't even read Dr. Seuss or Eric Carle. They read books with one word books with textures. It's also way too long to be a picture book. Anyway, I reported abuse for those answers. My book's strictly middle grade and my suggested youngest age to read it would be 9, maybe 8 if they're mature enough for this. The protagonist will be 14 in the second book since she turns 13 at the end of this one, so I'm not sure if an eight-year-old would be willing to read about a 14-year-old MC a year later. I know kids read up, but I don't know if a 9-year-old would read about a character 5 years older than them. The detailed plot doesn't sound babyish at all, right? Especially with the intense elements that usually only kids 8+ could handle.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  15. Sheila
    Member

    It sounds like you are asking the wrong people. I'm going to keep repeating this mantra: Talk with librarians!

    Posted 2 years ago #
  16. MicheleB
    Member

    Sheila has hit the nail on the head with this one. The B & A section in YA, ironically enough, isn't the best place to harvest info from professionals. You'll get everything there from wannabe types to trolls. On rare occasion, you'll get semi-decent advice, but that's often a fluke.

    Librarians are the folks in the know. They are the people you want to tap to answer the questions you've posted about your book. Give it a try. What have you got to lose?

    Good luck!
    ~Michele~

    Posted 2 years ago #
  17. sunaynaprasad
    Member

    I'm going to the library on Monday to arrange a book signing for my book which was published on Friday. I'll ask about it there. I'm sure they won't say it sounds like a picture book or is incredibly babyish. I hate when people say that about my book. I wonder if those people were saying that to be mean.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  18. Sheila
    Member

    Sunayn, if you have a copy of your book already, you might make a signed gift of it to the librarian of your choice. Explain to him or her that you want to target the right audience. Obviously, your book does not sound like a book for toddlers (that is simply ridiculous), BUT it might fall somewhere, for example, between different levels of chapter books and middle-grade readers. It's possible that you even have a Young Adult fiction story. The librarian can help direct you to your audience.

    I wouldn't spend any precious time thinking about insensitive remarks from others not giving sound advice. Keep your focus on what matters, listen to constructive criticism from learned and experienced individuals in the field, and continue to follow your dream. As long as you dedicate yourself to refining your craft (writing) and persevere, your chances of success are greatly enhanced.

    I will look forward to hearing about your visit! Don't forget to make some business cards for yourself (find a source that is free online). They are a nice way to begin an introduction.

    Best wishes!

    Posted 2 years ago #
  19. sunaynaprasad
    Member

    I just spoke to my local librarian today. She thought of it as young adult, but hardly any teenagers other than the ones I know personally would be willing to read a talking-animal story or about a 12-year-old MC. The authors on Absolute Write Water Cooler told me that talking animals almost always falls at the lower side of MG, but I've read on another website that a twelve-year-old protagonist almost always falls at the upper level of MG. I think my book's classified more as true MG. Although I've looked through true middle grade fiction and there were hardly any books with 12-year-old MCs. Almost all the MCs of those books were between 9 and 11. But kids read up now these days, so I'm sure that kids 9-10 wouldn't mind reading about a 12-year-old MC.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  20. Hi, Sunyan! I'm a little late to be joining in on this string, but I've had a chance to read all of the comments that have been posted, and I felt it was time to add my 2 cents worth.

    It seems to me that some genres overlap, depending on the publishing company to whom you are speaking. Like you, I write stories that involve talking animals; however, none of my stories involve any conversation between an animal and a human. That's beside the point. The point is, you have written what you like, and now you seem to want others to "bless" what you wrote and to do so in the manner that pleases you. If you are comfortable with your story, including the interactive conversation between animal and human, the "mild" cruelty, etc., just go for it! You may have to search deeper and deeper to find a publisher, but more than likely, one will emerge PROVIDED that the story is good and well written. (I'm not qualified to judge either of those qualities since I've not seen the manuscript.)

    When I write a story, I try to find readers in the target age group to be my critiquers. For obvious reasons, I prefer to find kids who don't know me, and I encourage them to be "brutally" frank about their comments. One 11 year old wrote a detailed critique of one of my stories and sent it to me in a 3-ring binder! On another story, she told me she thought it would be popular with her age group because it reminded her of another author; one who has written a whole series of MG books that the 3rd-6th graders simply love! Thus far, neither a publisher nor an agent has tended to agree with her! Although school is out for the summer, you might check with your local schools and see if a 4th or 5th grade class (or portions thereof) would be willing to read your manuscript when classes reconvene and share their feelings about it with you. Perhaps you even know a teacher or two.

    Whatever you decide, good luck. And if you don't think you can find an established publisher or even a small, boutique publisher who would want to publish your story, you can always consider self publication and/or publishers like PublishAmerica.

    Marvin in Tyler

    Posted 2 years ago #
  21. sunaynaprasad
    Member

    It's already published by Infinity Publishing. If you want to read it, you can go on their website and go to the bookstore section. The title of the book is Alyssa's African Adventures.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  22. Fernando
    Member

    Sunayna,

    I have been to Infinity Publishing and Amazon. In general, I will not buy a book based only on the cover or the flap inside. I need to see at least the first page or something in the middle at random. It is the story that will sell. Having said that, and after reading the information available, your story seems to have interesting elements, and from the description, there are scenes that might inspire suspense and transport the reader.

    Still, we cannot give any sort of input that might be valuable to you without seeing the actual story. Please provide what you are comfortable with, for a critique.
    Regarding the comments from authors that you have seen about your story, fear not. They might be assuming that you have the same (or better – since you have published) credentials as they do. With that experience, perhaps they believe you have the skin of a box turtle. Bad reviews, like rejections are for learning experience and entertainment only.

    Thanks, and welcome to the boards.

    nando

    Posted 2 years ago #
  23. sunaynaprasad
    Member

    People on Absolute Write Water Cooler have been saying that my book was awful and not something publishable. So I rewrote it and hopefully, my mom will cancel the publishing agreement. Here's the first few hundred words:

    “Attention, orphans, dinner is prepared!” the announcement blared. “Come to the dining room… NOW!”
    The hallways thumped with footsteps. But in this room, a depressed young girl of around twelve sat on her bed knitting a scarf from sea green yarn. Despite her mournful face, she was very pretty with her straight, thigh-length platinum blonde braids, medium skin, blue eyes, and tall, skinny body. She even looked beautiful in her hot pink V-neck sweater over her white shirt and denim knee-length skirt over her black and white striped leggings. But all she cared about was how she missed her parents since she felt like she was the only orphan who remembered when her parents died. The girl heard a knock on her door.
    “Come in, Melanie,” she said mournfully.
    The door opened to reveal a shorter girl with very wavy black pigtails that fell from the top of her ears to her shoulders, dressed in a matching blue shirt and skirt. She appeared to be the same age as the girl sitting on the bed.
    “Hey, Alyssa, aren’t you coming down to dinner?” she asked in her dreamy voice.
    “Do I have to, Melanie?” Alyssa asked in her slight teen-like voice. “I’m afraid of Mr. Frank. Why did he have to run this adoption center?”
    “I don’t know,” Melanie asked shrugging her shoulders. “But we still have to go down. Or else we’ll be in big trouble.”
    “Alright.” Alyssa got up from her bed and walked out of her room with Melanie.
    “So, Alyssa, I’d like to know why you’re always feeling depressed,” said Melanie. “You seem more depressed than the rest of the girls.”
    “I remember my parents’ deaths like it was yesterday, even though it was five years ago on January 15th, 2004.”
    “What happened?” asked Melanie.
    “My parents and I were on our way to Edward’s Ski Resort in Fort Nelson, British Columbia, which is my hometown. Everything went well until we were about a kilometer away. An avalanche tumbled down a mountain and headed towards the road. I was so afraid, that I jumped out of the backseat of my parents’ car and ran towards the other direction.”
    “What did your parents do?”
    “Yelled at me to stay in the car. But I ran and ran until it had finally stopped. I turned and called for my parents. There was no response, so I made my way back to the car and I couldn’t believe what I saw after wiping the snow off the front windows… they were dead. I was so horrified and sad, that I cried nonstop. Even when the rescuers arrived, I was still crying. They flew me all the way from Fort Nelson to here in Burnt Church, New Brunswick in their private mini plane.”
    “How long did that take?”
    “About six and a half hours. At the site of where my parents perished, I told them that my grandparents died and my parents didn’t have siblings. So Teal Spruce Adoption Center was the only home available for me.”
    Teal Spruce Adoption Center was the name of the adoption center Alyssa and Melanie lived at.
    “When I moved in, I felt like I was entering hell. Mr. Frank abused me, tortured me, and treated me like a slave. And nobody showed any sympathy for me. Even you didn’t until seven months later. You ignored me.”
    “I know and I really regret doing so. I’m sorry. But now we’re friends and I show sympathy all the time. Can I tell you how my parents died? But I don’t remember their deaths from memory. I was just told by Mr. Frank.”
    “Okay.”
    “When I was five, I tried to jump out my window to escape. Mr. Frank caught me and after beating me, he gave me a lecture on how I should never leave his sight. He told me that my parents jumped out of our apartment window In Regina, Saskatchewan to commit suicide.”
    “Why?”
    “They lost their jobs. I don’t know what they did, but they must’ve really enjoyed it.”
    “Did they have low self-esteem?”
    “I guess.”
    “Alyssa Norris and Melanie Johnson, You guys are late for dinner!” growled a gruff voice. Alyssa and Melanie came face to face with a huge, heavy man with a wrinkly face and a big white bushy mustache, dressed in a white t-shirt under black overalls.
    “We’re sorry, Mr. Frank,” said Melanie. “We were just…”
    “I know you two were doing! Norris won’t stop mourning over her parents’ deaths! So you just gave her a moment of sorrow, Johnson! If I ever catch you doing that again, you’re dead! And Norris, if you are late again, you’re dead! Now march inside the dining room!”

    People complained a lot about the introduction with all the details. What do you think of it?

    Posted 2 years ago #
  24. MicheleB
    Member

    Sorry to hear you had a bad experience on AW. There is no reason to be cruel, and even less-than-positive feedback can be provided in a constructive way.

    EB White wrote Stuart Little and Charlotte's Web -- timeless classics with talking animals. He was on the mark when he said "the best writing is rewriting".

    If Mom can cancel your contract, that might be the smart move at this point. Your plot idea is interesting, but your mechanics and writing style could use some polishing. It's best to be as polished as possible before going to print.

    Don't be discouraged. Keep writing. Your mastery of the craft will grow with time and practice.

    Hang in there,
    ~Michele~

    Posted 2 years ago #
  25. sunaynaprasad
    Member

    I'm actually changing the story. Certain elements will stay the same, but the beginning will be totally different. There will be no adoption center. Instead, Alyssa will be living with her uncle who abuses her (her aunt and parents passed away). She'll sneak out at night to see Melanie (who won't be an orphan).

    Posted 2 years ago #
  26. edkowalski
    Member

    Welcome, Sunay! I'd strongly recommend registering with our group. I find my peers' comments invaluable, but its better if you can post full chapters. The gang can tell you, I like a story about talking animals. It sounds just a bit younger than 9-12. 12yo's I know like Percy Jackson and mythical content. No wizards, please. heh Don't let insulting critiques get to you, but try to use constructive critiques while keeping your voice and vision. I like your style, but you could work on phrasing a bit. There's always room to polish. My stories don't get good until about the seventh draft. Writing is all about rewriting. Ask children you might know, relatives, children of friends, to read your story for feedback. When you're satisfied it's the best it can be, try shopping it to Publishers and Agents before you self publish. It's a great way to gauge if its marketable before you spend too much money. You can find publishers guides at the book store, probably online too. If you can't cancel your contract, push on, make the most of this book, market it all you can (without spending more), and work on the sequel or your next project and hone your craft. Hope you register! We're always glad to see another.

    Posted 2 years ago #
  27. sunaynaprasad
    Member

    The chapters of my new version are actually available at WorthyofPublishing.com. Right now, only the first 3 chapters are up. I may put the 4th one up as soon as possible.

    Posted 2 years ago #

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