#18- Assignment 9 (REVISED)

>Dear Secret Agent,

Tragedies have punctuated Casey’s life, but she has never explored them – until a creative writing assignment forces her to delve into the events that shaped her.  An autobiography involving painful and traumatic childhood memories is no picnic, even as an eighteen-year-old who thinks she’s put all that behind her.

When Casey meets Mark, she discovers he is struggling with his assignment too.  Their connection is immediate, and the two are drawn to one another.  Casey wants their relationship to blossom, but is terrified by the possible outcome – everyone close to her ends up abandoning her.

As they write their ‘Assignment 9’, Casey and Mark discover things about themselves, their families and each other that will change their lives forever.  One big question remains unanswered: are they really soul mates, or nothing more than damaged goods seeking solace and empathy?  If Casey dares to find out, she may be surprised by the answer.

Assignment 9, a 71,000 word young adult novel, was a semifinalist in the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.  My short stories have appeared in HER Magazine, All Things Girl, Halfway Down The Stairs, A Fly in Amber, Daily Flash Anthology, The Barrier Islands Review, and Residential Aliens. I am currently revising another YA novel, a companion piece to Assignment 9, and have just completed my first book for adults, a western/romance set at the tail end of the Australian gold rush.
I would be delighted to send you sample chapters, or the entire manuscript, at your request.  Thank you for your time and consideration.  I look forward to hearing from you soon.




He’s going to call on me, I think.  He’s going to call on me and I’ll probably puke. There are only twelve of us in this class – seven boys and five girls – so it will not take too long before it’s my turn to present my work in progress.

Work in progress?  So far I’ve made no progress on this so-called work.  I have no idea how to start writing this.  We were given the assignment almost three weeks ago and I’ve been putting it off ever since.  Now my tutor is expecting something.  A draft perhaps, or at least a detailed outline.  But I have nothing.  So here I am, sitting in class, working knots out of my hair as I think about it.  Above me a near-dead fluorescent tube hums and buzzes, disrupting my chain of thought.  I’ve been thinking a lot, and the more I do, the more certain I am that the beginning of my story was long before I ever imagined.  Perhaps even before I was born.

I pray the class will end before Ian reaches me.  I even pray for Alice Wilkins to be called on before me.  Alice, with her long-winded explanations and incessant questioning, her interminable need for assurance and approval.  Usually it bugs me, the way it bugs almost everyone here, but today I would welcome it.  It may be the only thing that saves me from humiliating myself.

6 Responses to “#18- Assignment 9 (REVISED)”

  1. B. Light says:

    >Query: I like the idea behind this, but your first line is misleading. I was expecting the story to be an UF or paranormal romance and kept waiting for the demons to show up. I would drop the first line or clarify that she doesn't have actual demons coming after her and that her assignment is a school assignment and not an assignment to protect someone from demons.

    You are also rather vague. What things do they discover about themselves? What is that last demon she must face? Be specific. Also, 'facing demons' is a cliche and is used often in queries. You want to stand out, be unique.

    250 words: Love the voice here. I would drop the hair adjectives, though. Most people don't think of themselves that way.

    I got a bit confused at the end of the first paragraph. I'm not sure what she's thinking about. I don't know the nature of the assignment yet. What beginning? What happened before she was born?

    Also, would she call her teacher Ian?

    I do like this idea, though. Good luck with it.

  2. Mermaid says:

    >Congrats on being a semi-finalist. I really like the page you submitted, but the query confused me. At first I thought she was dealing with literal demons and thought the story might be paranormal.

    Also, how is Casey different from every other girl dealing with issues from her past? I think you can reference one to hook the reader.

    I struggle with someone who has unresolved traumatic memories being so easily attracted and open to a relationship.

    I loved your first page. It invokes emotion and I can picture her sitting there freaking out. It gives the reader alot.

    Maybe give the class name so we get a reference of where she is and what's going on. I'm thinking English class but we also had to write alot for Pysch, Health and Social Studies.

    Good Luck!

  3. Dorothy Dreyer says:

    >Let me start with your opening. I loved it! I love the voice and I would definitely read on.

    Your query, however, left me a little confused. I too thought she was dealing with actual demons. There's probably a better way to phrase some of the sentences. Otherwise, it sounds like a good premise. Good luck!

  4. PatEsden says:

    >Congratulations on the semifinal.

    I think the premise of your story is interesting and the query is clear. However I also thought it was going to be a story about demons and was surprised to find out it wasn't.

    You use three cliches in your query: drawn together like magnets, dragged into the light and facing demons. An agent might not notice one cliche, but three could mistakingly lead them to believe your writing is unoriginal–even though it isn't.

    I'm not sure why you chose to use 'he' instead of Ian in the first paragraph. When I came to his name it took me out of the flow to figure out who he was.

  5. Stina Lindenblatt says:


    Basically, I like this query, though I’m with everyone else thinking it was going to a paranormal novel based on the first sentence. I am curious though. Is this a class assignment or what? Maybe you could be more specific. And I’m not sure if I would use the last reference to demon since they mean something else in the rest of the query. But that might be just me.

    You have a verb-subject disagreement. Pair is singular. Their connection is immediate and the pair is drawn together like magnets. (btw, could you use contractions? I found your lack of contractions awkward. You use them occasionally in your ms, so why not in your query?)


    I liked the opening, though I found the voice to be a little awkward with the lack of contractions. When you use them, the voice is great. Is there any reason you’re avoiding them? Read it out loud. It flows better when you add them (though some of the places are great as is). Plus, then it sounds YA. Right now, it sounds like a robot's talking.

    Also, I found the first paragraph kind of went on and on about her not having done the assignment and about her thinking about it. It was your descriptions that saved it for me. I loved them.

    Good luck.

  6. Kate Larkindale says:

    >Thanks for all the very helpful comments! I've already been back and taken out that demons line at the beginning. How dumb was that? Sometimes when you've been working on something so long, you can't see the huge flaws right in front of your face.

    X K8