chasingthecrazies

Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

Team Sun Alternate 1: THE TASTE OF TURF – MG Contemporary February 5, 2014

Filed under: Blog,contest — chasingthecrazies @ 7:03 am
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Title:  THE TASTE OF TURF

 

Category/Genre:  MG Contemporary

 

Word Count:  52,000

 

 

My main character is most uncomfortable with: 

 

 

Beth doesn’t mind if it is hot or cold as long as she can play football, but she wouldn’t like it if it was so hot she could fry bacon on her helmet or all her chocolate melted.

 

 

Query:

 

 

Beth Painter is in love…with football. She’s spent the last five years supporting her twin brother and coaching beside their dad on the sidelines. In The Taste of Turf, she enters middle school and decides to take her passion a step further: Beth dons a helmet and pads and joins the team. Now that her dad isn’t the coach, she sees her chance to test her skills on a field where no one can say she’s only playing because of him.

 

Coach Kotch welcomes Beth as reserve kicker. There’s only one problem, she can’t kick, and Coach refuses to acknowledge her real skills. She has a better arm and can run faster than most of the boys, including her twin brother, Brock. Facing opposition both on and off the field, Beth vows to sit on the bench until she gets a chance to play, no matter how long that takes. When the rumors start to fly about her dating a girl cheerleader, Beth has to decide whether her sudden acceptance among her teammates is worth living a lie.

 

Though a growing number of girls take the field alongside the boys each fall in the non-fiction world, very little shelf space goes to books that portray female protagonists playing football. Dairy Queen by Catherine Murdock, published in 2006, and Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally, published in 2011, have sold successfully in the Young Adult market. Unlike these novels, The Taste of Turf places sibling rivalry on the field. Millions of girls will watch the Super bowl in a few weeks, this book was written for them and for the all the girls who watch their brothers take the field each fall wishing in their hearts that they were the ones advancing the ball.

 

 

First 250 words:

 

 

Chapter 1 – The Opposition

 

 

Dad has always said we should turn our disadvantages into advantages. So far, I was trying to keep from getting a concussion.

 

With a grunt, I got up on my feet and adjusted my pads. I put my mouthpiece back in and welcomed the now familiar taste of grass and dirt. Determined to survive practice, I hurried over to the line of scrimmage.

 

“Remember, Runt, you wanted to play,” said my twin brother Brock from across the line.

 

I wanted to tell him to shove it. Instead, I took a bigger bite of my grass-stained mouthpiece. He was right. Everyone tried to talk me out of playing, but I love football. I love everything about it. As far back as I can remember, the game has been part of my life.

 

“Down!” yelled Tank, my side’s quarterback for the practice game.

 

I got set in my stance and stared into the blue eyes so like my own. My much larger twin sneered at me. As soon as the ball snapped, he would be headed right through me. I was at a distinct disadvantage as the smallest kid and only girl on the team.

 

The clash of plastic on plastic echoed in my ears. My mouthpiece got a fresh dose of grassy earth as Brock and Bubba again brought me down. Practice was three hours a day of my brother and his friends tackling me. The dizzying sight of blue sky quickly replaced by green field was becoming mundane.

 

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12 Responses to “Team Sun Alternate 1: THE TASTE OF TURF – MG Contemporary”

  1. suja Says:

    You have an excellent premise and a strong character. Just a couple of points in the query –
    – look through and identify places where you could use more decisive verbs, delete any passive wording, filters.
    – Introducing the title here made me pause for a second. In The Taste of Turf, she enters middle school and decides to take her passion a step further: I’d suggest going with something like – Until she enters middle school and decides to…
    – Beth dons a helmet and pads and joins the team. (love this.)
    – Now that her dad isn’t the coach, she sees her chance to test her skills on a field where no one can say she’s only playing because of him. – this seems a bit clunky.
    Suggestion – Beth seizes the chance to prove herself solely on her talent.
    – Coach Kotch welcomes Beth as reserve kicker. (wondering if it should be ‘accepts’, instead of ‘welcomes’. since she seems poorly suited for that position and he doesn’t acknowledge her real talent)
    – When the rumors start to fly about her dating a girl cheerleader, Beth has to decide whether her sudden acceptance among her teammates is worth living a lie. – This threw me for a loop. I’m not sure how this ties in with the premise.

    As for the 250, I would take out some of the passive writing. Otherwise, I think it’s nicely done. I love the voice. Best of luck!

  2. RobL Says:

    Just wanted to say I love the sound of this! I won’t spend ages reiterating what others have said, but I think the main areas in the query to consider are Beth dating the female cheerleader (what exactly that means – whether it’s true or a rumour spread to discredit her) and perhaps cutting back on the comp para and using the additional words to give us more of a sense of Beth and her situation.

    The first 250 is great, but like others have said, I think you could make it even more immediate. Really make us feel what she feels, bring out that impact, the sense of her hitting the ground. A few tweaks should give you that and turn a really solid opener into a brilliant one.

    Good luck!

  3. martymay Says:

    This sounds like a great premise. I’m confused about the cheerleader insert. It seems like it takes the query in another direction. Perhaps you could either expand on it, and show how it ties into the stakes of her playing football, or leave it out of the query altogether.

    I’m not sure you need the third paragraph. To me it’s like the author telling us something about the book, instead of Beth showing us more about the book.

    I enjoy your 250, but would love more action; maybe Beth being tossed to the ground, the feel of sliding along the grass, and the feelings she gets inside when she’s tackled. Also, I’m unsure about this, but is there tackle football in middle grade? I thought that was only high school, but could be totally wrong. I think it’s only touch football in the younger grades. Also, I love the idea of the grass stained mouth guard, but if it’s in her mouth, how does it get grass stained?

    Best of luck with this!

  4. A huge thank you to everyone for their input! I am so crazy, overwhelmed, humbled, and excited by all this feedback. Thank you all for your time and enthusiasm for Beth and her story.

  5. First off, this sounds like a great, great story. I love the girl playing football and I think you’re totally right in your query that it’s a market that isn’t getting enough attention. It sounds like your story and the way it focuses on the family relationship, is a perfect entrance.

    There’s a lot of comments above from other mentors that I think are really helpful. I just want to focus on a couple of things in the query.

    I’m most concerned with this paragraph. I have my comments in parenthesis:

    Coach Kotch welcomes Beth as reserve kicker. (Why? Is this a demotion? Does he think she’s good but not good enough? Does he admit she can play football but is giving her the bottom of the rung position? I don’t know much about football — potentially like the agents looking at this — so I’d be a little more clear.) There’s only one problem, she can’t kick, and Coach refuses to acknowledge her real skills. (This is good but I don’t get why he’d make her a kicker if she can’t kick? Does that mean she’ll never be in the game? Like he’s scared of saying no to her but doesn’t want her to actually play?) She has a better arm and can run faster than most of the boys, including her twin brother, Brock. Facing opposition both on and off the field, Beth vows to sit on the bench until she gets a chance to play, no matter how long that takes. (I think you might need to make this more clear. Raise the stakes here. Why would anyone care that she’s sitting on the bench? Will it hurt the team? Does it make them look bad? If she’s a bad kicker, is this a real punishment?) When the rumors start to fly about her dating a girl cheerleader, Beth has to decide whether her sudden acceptance among her teammates is worth living a lie. (Now this totally intrigues me but I’m really, really confused. Is she gay? Is she straight but doesn’t want people to think she’s gay? Is the cheerleader gay? How did she get acceptance by her teammates? By pretending to be gay or pretending not to be gay? I also don’t know middle grade super well, but is it really dating or being interested in her?)

    Truly, I’m totally intrigued by this story and really can’t wait to see it as a real book. I think it sounds like a real gem and your writing is clearly very strong. And I hope in your comps/ twitter pitches you compare it to Friday Night Lights!

  6. I am definitely hooked. Such a great premise, and I like Beth’s voice from the start. In the query I would definitely address the line about her being rumored as dating another girl because I wanted to know more about that. Is it a rumor to try and bully her off team, or is Beth gay? It’s great to list comp books in that last paragraph of the query, but you give a lot of word count to that paragraph when you could be giving us more depth in the query instead. Overall, though, I love the idea. Great hook, but just focus in on what, exactly, the main hook is.

    As for the first 250, give us all action. Eliminate as much telling as you can. Even with Brock, do we need full description of him right away (my twin brother, Brock), especially since you refer to him as her “much larger twin” in the next paragraph and “my brother” in the last one? This book is about a girl who loves playing football. Let us see as much of the action of that three hour practice as we can.

    Good luck! Great start to what sounds like a fantastic book!

  7. As a girl who loves to watch football this really appeals to me.

    Query:

    I admit to being thrown on the very last sentence of the second paragraph. It confused me a little about what it is implying. It seems to come out of the blue and suggests that the other students have a problem with her being on the team so they are putting out malicious gossip. Or is it a true fact about Beth and the story has a LGBT twist? I think I would just stick to something about malicious gossip or drop it altogether and keep the focus on Beth and football for the stakes.

    Also consider whether by shortening the third paragraph you can’t expand on the fact that Beth loves football in the first sentence. Something that would give more of her personality and the voice of the story. Something like: Beth loves football and even dreams about completed passes and Superbowl shuffles.

    First 250:

    Is it cheating to say that I’ve seen another first page of this entry in the Cupid Blind Dating contest and prefer that more active version? I believe that first 250 introduces more action into the mix and also gives a great sensory element with talk of a grass-tasting mouth piece earlier in.

    I have a strange premonition that you’ll be having some luck in CLCBSD. *wink*

  8. Heidi Schulz Says:

    This is a great premise! I love the idea, and the title is great.
    Overall, your query and first 250 are in good shape, though a bit of polish will help garner agent attention.
    Query:
    I love the first line—it’s a great set-up. I think the information that follows, in those first two paragraphs, needs to be tightened, both for greater impact and for clarity. Her background history with football is interesting, but unnecessary here. Make your second sentence start with “When.” Stories start with change. So should your query.
    Maybe something like (but better, because you will write it. 😉 ):
    Beth Painter is in love…with football. When she enters middle school, she decides to take her passion off the sidelines: Beth dons a helmet and pads and joins the team.
    I don’t think we need to know about her dad’s coaching job here. Let’s move along to the stakes. What is the challenge that Beth has to overcome and what will happen if she can’t?
    Like Jessica, I’m a bit confused about what the main challenge of your story is. All her problems are interesting, but only one should be the main issue. I’m suspecting the biggest issue may be team acceptance and/or getting a chance to play, with rumors of her sexual identity playing into that.
    Because this is an MG with some LGBT themes, I thought of Tim Federle’s BETTER NATE THAN EVER. I looked at his summary on Amazon:
    “Nate Foster has big dreams. His whole life, he’s wanted to star in a Broadway show. (Heck, he’d settle for seeing a Broadway show.) But how is Nate supposed to make his dreams come true when he’s stuck in Jankburg, Pennsylvania, where no one (except his best pal Libby) appreciates a good show tune? With Libby’s help, Nate plans a daring overnight escape to New York. There’s an open casting call for E.T.: The Musical, and Nate knows this could be the difference between small-town blues and big-time stardom.”
    That is the hook. Notice it doesn’t mention his questions about his sexuality. Though that was a very important theme in the book, it wasn’t what was driving the plot.
    I’m not saying you should leave that part out. Definitely mention it. But wither weave it into the hook in a way that doesn’t distract from the main issue or mention it further down, with your comps. For example something like: THE TASTE OF TURF also explores LGBT themes, similar to BETTER NATE THAN EVER.

    First 250:
    Great beginning. I love the voice and that first sentence is great! Watch for areas where you are telling vs. showing, like when she talks about everyone that tried to talk her out of playing or that practice is three hours of being tackled.

    Good luck with this!

  9. I agree with the other comments that the query can be tightened up to really make it pop, because you have a great concept. A couple specific notes- I’d use “her twin brother, Brock” right at the top instead of waiting to introduce him. Also, you have an extra “the” here “and for the all the girls”.

    250: “my twin brother Brock from across the line” needs commas- “my twin brother, Brock, from across the line.” I always have to check on this rule!

    And be careful to stay in the tense you’re writing in. This paragraph switches between past and present. “Everyone tried to talk me out of playing, but I love football. I love everything about it.”

    I already love how tough the MC is and that she’s going against the grain for what she wants. 🙂

    Good luck!

  10. Oooo, as a girl who played on the boys’ soccer team in middle school, I love this premise and would really love to see it on the shelves, so I’m going to blather on a whole bunch~ please ignore anything doesn’t resonate!

    Let’s see, a few things with your query~

    I agree with the above that we need to establish the key hook. Is it Beth earning respect on a boys’ team? Is it her finding a way to get playing time? Or is it the fact that she’s going to have to deal with being a rumored lesbian? All three can totally be part of the novel, but for the query, it’s best to focus or blend the three more smoothly (either way, I’d nix the bit about your story “placing sibling rivalry” on the field because I feel like your story is MORE about other things).

    I love that your “stakes” are stated so clearly at the end of that second paragraph:

    When the rumors start to fly about her dating a girl cheerleader, Beth has to decide whether her sudden acceptance among her teammates is worth living a lie.

    So, just checking, are you saying that her teammates would accept her more if she was a lesbian? My only issue with this is that she’s determined to sit on the bench until she gets playing time, team acceptance wouldn’t really convince the coach to place her on the field, would it? If it would, you need to find a way to support that (and also, why would the coach allow her on the team as a reserve kicker if she can’t kick? Is he being peer-pressured to allow a girl on the team? Again, I’m sure it’s all part of the novel, but as presented, it’s an inconsistency–might be better to just say that she makes the team, but doesn’t get any playing time.)

    All the information is there, I just think maybe you could simplify it and blend your themes to pack a bigger punch. Something like:

    Beth Painter is in love…with football. She’s spent the last five years supporting her twin brother and coaching beside their dad on the sidelines and now that she’s in middle school, she’s determined to take her passion a step further. After all, she has a better arm and can run faster than most of the boys, including her brother. Coach Kotch welcomes Beth to the team, but refuses to acknowledge her real skills or actually put her in a game.

    Beth vows to sit on the bench until she gets a chance to play, no matter how long that takes. When the rumors start to fly about her dating a girl cheerleader, Beth’s teammates begin to treat her like one of the boys…and so does Coach Kotch, who sees the team’s newfound acceptance of Beth as a sign that she’s finally ready for a chance to play. Now faced with unexpected social complications off the field, the only thing Beth knows for certain is that all she’s ever wanted is to play football. And, if she wants to do that before the season ends, she has to decide is whether it’s worth living a lie.

    In my opinion, much of that third paragraph may not be necessary. It’s always a fine line when you suggest that your premise hasn’t been done much/at all before. Maybe you can put your title/word count at the bottom and shorten that last paragraph to something like:

    “THE TASTE OF TURF is a 52,000-word contemporary middle grade novel that might be described as a MG cross between Miranda Kenneally’s Crossing Jordan and Catherine Murdock’s Dairy Queen.” (no need to state the year those books were published).

    In terms of the excerpt, I love it! Love the voice, love the action. My only suggestion might be to either delete this part or move it somewhere further down in the manuscript: “He was right. Everyone tried to talk me out of playing, but I love football. I love everything about it. As far back as I can remember, the game has been part of my life.”

    The only reason I suggest that is because it’s a tiny bit of “telling” that just very slightly slows down a page that already does a great job of showing us Beth’s personality.

    Great job, thank you for sharing! I’m wishing you the best of luck with your querying and really hoping to see this agented/published!

  11. Super fun and relevant premise! I’m definitely hooked.

    Query: Nice work overall, but it could be simplified a bit. That last paragraph could be whittled down to a sentence or two. Also, I’m missing Beth’s voice. The first sentence is great.

    250: I’m intrigued. This section is well done. You’re showing us several bits of Beth’s life. Her and her brother’s relationship (at least on the field), her determination, that she’s quite the underdog, etc… We also get a much better sense of her voice than in your query. Your descriptions are relatable and palpable. Also, another wonderful first line. I’d totally keep reading.

    Thanks for sharing and best of luck to you 🙂

  12. Liz Fichera Says:

    I’m a fan of girls playing sports in MG and YA, so this appeals to me.

    That said, the query. There’s too much going on and I’m not sure what your real hook is: is it playing football or dating the girl cheerleader? What’s the heart of this story? Secondly, the query reads too much like a synopsis and less like a query. Way too much detail. What’s your story in 2-3 sentences?

    The excerpt. I loved the voice and I loved how you opened the story with those first two lines.

    Thanks for sharing your work! Good luck to you!


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