Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

SVS 1: Welcome H.O.E.M. – MG Fantasy January 23, 2014

Filed under: Blog,contest — chasingthecrazies @ 5:53 am
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Category/Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Word Count: 50,000


My Main Character is most uncomfortable with: snow.


Mason is a baseball player and is constantly active because of his ADHD. He lives for the first little bit of warm weather so he can practice outside on the diamond.




In Welcome H.O.E.M., fifteen-year-old Mason Clark is arrogant and immature, his school records riddled with mischief and expulsions. After pulling one prank too many, the Board of Education at the Charter School for the Language Arts considers revoking his scholarship. He simply never learns. But Mason is also unique, one of a handful of people able to experience memories of the long-dead. In order to keep him in school, the principal, Mr. Rodgers, gets Mason a volunteer position at the Hall of Extraordinary Memories. H.O.E.M., as Mason soon discovers, is a government facility that archives some of the most important memories in history, from Lincoln to Presley, Hitler to Picasso.


Mason is soon traveling history’s most extraordinary memories, meeting Marilyn Monroe through the eyes of Joe DiMaggio, watching the making of a gangster through Al Capone, and getting in touch with his feminine side when he accidentally taps into Cleopatra, all not without complications, of course. He has to survive, save the girl (several times) and learn from his own complicated past. Mason soon learns he is different even than the other travelers, and with Sadie, his co-traveler and friend (wink wink), he begins to learn valuable lessons from the past and realize the untapped potential lurking beneath his own surface.

First 250 words:

Chapter 1: A Date in Mr. Rodgers’ Neighborhood



I never was good at following directions or being the most well behaved kid in class. I liked to cause trouble. I found it amusing and so did my classmates. Teachers never did, but they were never my target audience.


Sit down, Mason. Stop putting gum on that chair, Mason. Pay attention, Mason. Get to class on time, Mason. It was an endless stream of constant reminders that I was not doing what I was supposed to do, but I didn’t care. I had friends, I was good at sports and I was intelligent. I was the star centerfielder for our school baseball team. That alone, allowed me to get away with murder. I hit more homeruns last season than every player in C.S.L.A. history. Our history is not really that long, only ten years, so it wasn’t that hard. People were still impressed though. C.S.L.A. stands for Charter School for the Language Arts and I was one of their best students, believe it or not. I was just a little rowdy. I liked to call it “being a kid”.


My teachers however, did not see it that way. One rainy, windy, gross, October morning, I got the brilliant idea to put strips of double-sided tape all over my English teacher, Ms. Larson’s, chair. She was a good teacher and had a way of making books come alive. It was nothing personal. My ADHD doesn’t allow me to focus all the time. When I get distracted, I cause trouble. So, even though I liked Ms. Larson, she yelled, gave me the “I know you did it look,” and I had, yet another, one-way ticket to the principal’s office.



19 Responses to “SVS 1: Welcome H.O.E.M. – MG Fantasy”

  1. Jeannine Johnson Maia Says:

    Fellow #teamsun member here. I’m intrigued by your premise and would love to see more in the query about how traveling history’s memories works. Can he choose which ones? And why would he want to or be asked to do this? What does he (or someone else) want to get out of his trolling through memories? For the first 250, I agree that I’d like to see more action and internalization. We know he’s both a troublemaker and a stand-out kid, but it would be good to see why he’s acting that way, what he hopes to achieve, where he thinks he’s going with all these pranks, etc. Nice job though, and good luck in the next round!

  2. HI! Mentor Rachel here to chime in.

    I agree with the feedback from the other mentors. I usually write YA. So when I pitched an adventure story to my agent, she let me know the story was a MG and the MC needed to be 13 or younger to fit into a MG. A hint of romance (tiny bit of puppy love) is fine, but not much more than that.

    And as others have said, your hook is his ability to experience memories. When agents read tons of queries a day, they all seem to sound alike. So right out of the gates, you’ve got to showcase that hook. Show them how yours is different.

    You’ve got a great premise here! Good job and good luck!

  3. I agree that the age is an issue. It’s more YA than MG. I had the same problem with a YA I wrote, it sounded more MG to agents/beta readers so I aged the main character down.

    I had the same question as someone else, is this a quantum leap type of memory jump? Or more like Matrix and virtual reality? Need more voice in the query and more showing in the first 250. I like the premise though. Good luck!

  4. michelle4laughs Says:

    Experiencing memories of the long dead sounds fascinating. I imagine people would pay money to be able to do that. Good luck!

  5. Hi there!

    I like this premise, although I was a bit confused about how things actually work. He’s experiencing the memories, like in a simulation? Or is he actually going into the historical figures’ bodies to experience the past? And is he just viewing these memories or doing something that can change them?

    I see you have a lot of discussion about the age, and although you could just change his age, to me the voice and situations in which he finds himself seem older. I can’t see a 10 to 12-year-old handling being inside Cleopatra very well or understanding the dynamics between Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe, but if you age it up to YA, your manuscript would need to be longer. I will also say that I have encountered this issue in the past. I had a manuscript I thought was MG, but when an agent pointed out that the situations were more suited to YA, I tried it and realized she was right. Unfortunately I had already burned through about 2/3 of my agent list at that time. I wish I’d realized it sooner.

    I’d use that answer about what he’s most uncomfortable with to showcase more of Mason’s voice.

    On the 250, I do have an issue with the description of him playing the prank on his teacher because of his ADHD. It might just be that I’m sensitive to it because I grew up with an ADHD sibling, but I think you could eliminate that by showing the incident instead of telling it. If I saw him sitting there, antsy, seeing the tape on the teacher’s desk, getting the idea for the prank, and deciding to do it, afterward regretting that he’d done something to a teacher he actually likes, then I wouldn’t have a problem with it. But having an ADHD kid telling us he pulled the prank because of his ADHD doesn’t ring true to me. Like someone else said, it’s too self-aware.

    Overall, though, I see a lot of potential here. Good luck!

  6. Such an interesting concept. I do think 15 is a little old for MG, you might want to consider bumping it up to YA. In the query I’d get rid of the first section which says “In Welcome H.O.E.M” and just start with Fifteen-year-old Mason…etc.You could also get rid of the part telling the reader how he is arrogant and immature and go straight into how he might be kicked out of school for pulling too many pranks. Other than that I think you’re on the right track with your query! I do agree with the others that there’s too much telling in your 250, but you have a lot to work with. Going straight into the prank and how that plays out would be interesting and would show how his pranks get him into so much trouble. Good luck!

  7. livibuglady Says:

    Thank you to everyone who has commented and given feedback. I am editing my buns off and can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with in the agent rounds! I wish there was a before and after so we could compare.

  8. Pete Catalano Says:

    I love the premise and the idea. I do agree that the first 250 is a lot of telling rather than showing. There has to be a away to show some of his adventures or his pranks, it might be funnier.

    Also with that premise you have to be careful how it’s used because you don’t want it to come off sounding too Quantum Leap-ish because that’s exactly what he did, saw through the eyes of the characters he”leaped” into.

    Good luck in the next round.

  9. RobL Says:

    I think your concept sounds brilliant. I particularly like the idea of the MC experiencing things through the eyes of historical figures. A couple of minor quibbles, which others have already pointed out: 1. Age (as I understand it, 15 would really put you into YA territory, which I think you’re edging towards anyway with some of the knowing innuendo) and 2. the level of familiarity you could expect your readership to have with these historical figures (some, like Hitler, you’d assume they would have heard of. Others, Picasso, for example, I’m not so sure about).

    I liked your first 250. Mason’s an engaging character. However, to me it read a little like a memoir. As if we’re being told the story by an older Mason looking back on things. I’m not sure if that’s deliberate or not, but it might be something to bear in mind.

    Overall, though, I really like what you’re doing and I’m sure it will do well. Good luck in the agent round!

  10. Jennie Bates Bozic Says:

    I really like your idea of accessing memories, but the others are right: 15 is too old for MG and the memories you’re talking about here (especially Marilyn) are a bit too old for MG.

    There’s a lot of telling in the first page. Mason tells us what he is like rather than allowing us to see him through his actions. He is also an incredibly self aware 15-year-old in the way he describes himself, so it’s not sounding like the voice of a teenager to me. His personality definitely comes through in the showing parts that you have and I like that very much. He just sounds a lot older to me.

    I love this plot concept though! Really cool.

  11. Query:
    I’m stumbling on the opening to the query, and I’m trying to pinpoint why. It feels very “telling” to me, and while the important things are all there (conflict and unique premise), I think you could work on the phrasing. It may be the “In Welcome HOEM” part that trips me up and frames the rest of it awkwardly for me.

    Age is an issue – 15 is a bit too old for MG. 13/14 is really the upper limit. And the adventures he has feel like something the younger MG set would enjoy more. It actually feels a bit off to have the implied innuendo with Marilyn Monroe and his (wink wink) girlfriend. It sounds like you may need to decide to age some details up or down to make this work (I realize this is probably not a comment you want to hear, so let me just say that I’ve been there and had to do that – it’s worth it in the long run!)

    And lastly – stakes. I don’t have a clear sense of them from this query. Is there an antagonist? Are there any repercussions for doing what he does? I think that needs to be fleshed out a lot more.

    250 Words:
    • Loving the target audience line!
    • This all feels very telling to me, and a lot of it feels repetitious.
    • I think you may be starting in the wrong place. Perhaps start in the principal’s office instead? That would allow you to weave in the backstory alongside him being punished and really starting the story off.

    Good luck!

  12. S.M.Johnston Says:


    Before I read the other mentor comments I was “How is this MG if he’s 15?” You either need to make this YA or lower the MC’s age. Reading the query and the romance in there, I think you need to re-label it as YA.

    I found it was reading too much like a synopsis – this happens, then this happens, rather than a query. I didn’t connect with a voice, which I really think is important to creaking a hook in a query.

    I think you need to tighten it up and have the most important facts. Names of places and people need to be kept to a minimum. Consider starting it with something like:

    After one ADHD prank too many, fifteen-year-old Mason Clark must volunteer at the Hall of Extraordinary Memories to keep his prestigious school scholarship.

    Then move into what H.O.E.M. is and what Mason can do.


    Most of the opening is an info dump. Way too much telling. You could show all of this instead of telling up through the MC narration.

    But I do like the voice. Mason is quirky and fun to read.

  13. Love this premise – very cool!

    Query: You do well to give us some of Mason’s voice. We could stand to get a better idea of what is at stake for him though – what does Mason have to lose in all of this adventure? The first paragraph is bogged down a bit with information and doesn’t truly hook us until later when we find out about Mason’s gifts. Consider coming up with a hook that pulls us in to your story from the get go?

    250: Nicely written, but heavy with backstory. You could easily lose the majority of it and begin with “One rainy, windy, gross, October morning…”. That’s where I finally perked up and wanted to keep reading – it’s the first time we really hear Mason’s voice. I’d keep reading based on the premise, but would hope to connect more with Mason soon.

    Good luck in the agent round!

  14. Lanette Kauten Says:

    This is a very unique concept and a cool way to learn bits about historical figures.

    Query: Strong query with a good voice, but there are two things that I don’t feel are strong enough. You say that Mason is different from the how travelers. How? A detail or two would be good. Also, what are the stakes? What choice does Mason have to make? Answer this in a compelling way and you’ll have a solid query letter.

    250: This is all back story and very telling. Start with the story. Show us something compelling about Mason in his actions or words. Show him doing something that irks his teachers. I believe you’re close to nailing this submission. Good luck.

  15. Really interesting set-up. Love the title and what the acronym stands for. I will agree with everyone else that Mason needs to be aged down to call this MG, and that’s easy enough to just say he’s 13 instead of 15. Lots of good comments have been made already about the query, so I’ll just add to that. What is the point of H.O.E.M.? Why does it exist? What’s at stake for Mason in Mason’s volunteering here? The last line of the query says he learns valuable lessons and realizes his untapped potential. What’s Mason’s goal? What stands in his way? We need some conflict here.

    First 250: When the voice shines through, it’s great, but for me it’s getting lost in the telling. Amy mentioned the “to be” verbs. This gives a lot of passive voice and also plays a part in the telling vs. the showing. Plunk us down in the action of one of Mason’s pranks. Rather than telling us he’s a prankster, show us what he does. This will let the reader connect with Mason. Telling about him distances the reader from the experience. Let us be there for it instead.

    Good luck! Can’t wait to see this in the agent round!

  16. Let’s get this out of the way – other posters mentioned his age. I think he *sounds* younger than fifteen, so you can age him down and it’s more MG.

    Ok, so I really, really like this idea! I’m a history nerd. This is fabulous and so cool. And Cleopatra? I’m sold.

    I don’t think in the query, you need to tell us he’s unique. You already say that when you say he’s a “handful of people who can…” That shows me.

    As far as your 250 – I like Mason’s voice. A lot. But you know what I want? I want the action of him doing something that gets him into trouble. I want you to tell me how he creeps up on his teacher, sticking his tongue out of his mouth in concentration as he places the tape right on that one piece of fabric… Oh no! She’s turned around! Crud! I scurry back to my desk and tap my finger on my desk like I’m bored and totally wasn’t just trying to mess with my teacher.

    See? Get us right in there. Show us what a little troublemaker he is. 🙂

    This is a really cool idea. I’m rooting for you. Good luck!

  17. amyereichert Says:

    Katie and Liz already addressed the writing in the query, so I’ll just say I agree with their comments. You mention in your query that Mason is 15. That’s too old for a MG. Can you either age him down or rework this as a YA? To Katie’s point about his voice being too old, I think YA would suit you better – especially if he’ll be saving the girls.

    I think this premise is fantastic and fun. Something I would enjoy reading, so execution and solid writing is critical. You have a distinctive voice, but be careful it doesn’t cause your writing to become sloppy. Little things like repetitive words are very distracting to a reader. In your 250 words, I counted 15 versions of “to be.” While there is nothing wrong with repeating words, or using the passive voice, this much can be an indication your sentence structure could use a shake up.

    I also agree with Liz that rather than have Mason tell us how he gets in trouble, rework with him actually getting in trouble (everyone’s favorite adage; show don’t tell). I also think first person narrative’s make it easy to fall into that pattern. Perhaps a 3rd person narrator would help. But do get to the action in showing us how he is arrogant, unique, and a prankster. I think you have the pieces, it’s just reworking them so they engage the reader and draw us into Mason’s world as soon as possible.

  18. Katie French Says:

    This is a clever premise. A fantasy plot with a historical sub genre, kind of like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (Whoa!). The query has some sentence structure and wording that makes it hard for me to really feel engaged. I think a good line edit and some separation of comma-spliced sentences would help. Maybe read it all out loud. The voice is fun, but sometimes borders on being cheese (the wink, wink) comes to mind. It is a hard line to walk between being clever and being cheesy. Get someone you trust to give you some feedback on it so you can see what lines are working and what lines are off-putting.

    I am not sold on the voice of the narrator as a ten-year-old. It sounds more like an adult trying to write as a ten year old. Maybe a third person narration would work better. That or you really have to spend a lot of time with ten year olds and see how they talk. Then go back through and rewrite the language. Good luck!

  19. Liz Fichera Says:

    I love the second paragraph of this query–it shows voice and humor and is definitely intriguing. I think the first paragraph needs a little work, however. Why not lead with why Mason is unique? I started to care when I read this: “But Mason is also unique, one of a handful of people able to experience memories of the long-dead.” That’s your hook.

    Regarding the first 250 words, again, the voice is good and hints at a humorous and relatable protagonist. However, why not lead with showing why Mason is unique? Get right into it. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your work! Good luck!

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