Book Jacket

 

rank 5909
word count 12615
date submitted 18.04.2012
date updated 31.07.2012
genres: Fiction, Children's, Young Adult, C...
classification: universal
incomplete

The Grand Prize

Scott Owen Snarr

When the local junior high school principal refuses to let two overachieving homeschoolers enter the science fair contest, they take it as a challenge.

 

Twelve-year-old Jacob Fenton and his older sister Vicky never shrink from a challenge. They’ve got entire room full of awards and trophies to prove it. So when their nerdy neighbor Barry Plurkin tells them about the school science fair contest, naturally they set their sights on the grand prize. The problem is that Jacob and Vicky don’t go to the school — they’re homeschooled. And getting permission from the principal to join the fair may be their biggest challenge yet. Meanwhile, their research takes them on a journey that will change their lives forever. But when their parents won’t go along with it, they find themselves with more challenges than they ever bargained for.

 
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african-american, animals, bullying, climate change, comedy, competition, denver, discrimination, environment, global warming, homeschooling, humor, m...

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    Vicky’s trophy was almost the same as mine. Almost.

    The metallic figurine serving a tennis ball on the top of hers had a pony tail. Mine didn’t. And hers was on a pedestal that was a foot high — two inches taller than mine.

    A black Honda Prelude rolled up to the curb in front of the SportsCastle. The passenger door popped open. I pushed the seat forward and climbed in the back. Vicky pushed the seat back and climbed in the front.

    “Look Dad!” Vicky waved her trophy. “First place.”

    “First place? See, I knew you could do it, honey.” Dad didn’t look surprised.

    “That’s pretty good for a girl,” I teased. “Try the boys’ competition. It’s a lot harder.”

    “You’re just saying that because you only took second place. Which is not bad, for the little boys’ division,” she taunted.

    That was sort of true. I was in the eleven-to-twelve age group. Vicky was with the thirteen- and fourteen-year-olds.

    “Second place, is that right, Champ?” asked Dad with his head turned to see over the driver’s seat while chewing on gum with his mouth open.

    Dad has called me Champ for as long as I can remember. My real name is Jacob. Jacob Fenton.

    “Yeah,” I sighed, unsure whether he was disappointed or proud of me. “There was this kid, Chad Hickland, who beat me. He’s like a foot taller than me.”

    “You’re the tallest 12-year-old I know. How could he be taller than you?”

    “Come on. He’s only three or four inches taller,” said Vicky.

    “I don’t think he’s really twelve,” I said. “He looks more like he’s fifteen.”

    “You’ll do better next time, Champ. Second place is not bad.”

    My head jerked back when Dad hit the gas pedal.

    “You should have seen how Jacob beat Barry Plurkin,” Vicky started to tell Dad. “He hit the ball so hard, it hit Barry in the stomach and knocked the wind out of him.”

    “Yeah, and that’s not even the best part.” I took over the story. I wanted to tell it to Dad myself. “When he lifted up his shirt, there was a red circle on his stomach where the ball had hit him. And you could see a white number seven backwards in the middle of the circle.

    “I don’t get it,” said Dad. “Why the number seven?”

    “Because that was the number on the tennis ball,” explained Vicky.

    “Did you really do that, Champ?” I wasn’t sure whether Dad was proud or concerned.

    “I didn’t do it on purpose!” I laughed. “But I won that game,  and that’s how I got to advance to the final round against Chad. Oh, and Barry took fourth place. So he didn’t even get a trophy.”

    “Is that right, Champ? You can show those trophies to Mom when we get home. I think she’s cooking up something special for you right now.” Dad looked over his shoulder to talk to us half the time while he was driving. That’s just the way he drove. Sometimes it bothered me, but he thought he was immune from having an accident.

    “Hey, the Nuggets pulled off a win against the Oklahoma Thunder this afternoon. If this playoff round goes to seven games, they’ll come back to Denver next Friday. And I’ve got first dibs on tickets.” Dad is a freelance sportswriter. He always scores awesome seats at games. Usually right behind the home team. “Are you in?”

    “Count me in.” I said.

    “How about you, Vicky? Are you in?”

    Dad didn’t have a special nickname for Vicky like he did for me. He didn’t need one. Vicky is short for Victoria, which is the girl’s name for Victor, which means winner. So every time Dad says Vicky’s name, it’s like he’s already calling her a winner.

    “I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” she affirmed.

    When we got home, Vicky and I ran into the kitchen to show off our trophies to Mom.

    “Well isn’t that something! See, I knew you could pull it off,” she said. She looked straight at us while she talked. Her eyes barely glanced at the trophies in our hands. She put on an oven mitt and turned around. “Now go and put those away and shower off. Dinner will be served shortly.”

    We took our trophies downstairs to the trophy room. We used to keep them in a big glass case in the living room, but a couple of summers ago Mom said that it was just too much. It was cluttering up her living room, and she couldn’t stand it anymore. She made Dad move the whole case downstairs to what used to be the storage room. He didn’t like the idea too much because it made it harder to show off our trophies to his friends. But we helped him clean out the room, and there’s more space for all of our trophies and awards now.

    We hung certificates, ribbons, and plaques on the wall. We never got to do that in the living room. Like that certificate I got from the library for winning a 300-word essay contest on Black History Month. My essay and the runners up were posted on the walls of the library for the whole month of February for everyone to read.

    Next to that certificate there’s a framed photo of me flipping the switch to light the Christmas tree at the tree-lighting ceremony at Mega Mall two Christmases ago. Technically speaking, it was the day after Thanksgiving. I got to do that because I won the poetry contest on the topic “Kids’ Holiday Wish for a Better World.” I also got a twenty-five-dollar gift certificate to spend at any store in Mega Mall.

    Vicky’s writing has never won any awards. She’s more of an artist. She hung her winning drawings on the wall. Like the pencil drawing that won first prize in a city-wide art contest for Arbor Day. It showed people sitting on a park bench enjoying the shade of a tree.

    She also won an honorable mention with an oil pastel drawing of disabled children playing together happily on a playground that looks like a globe. It was for a contest sponsored by the children’s hospital.

    Another good thing about the trophy room was that we could put the case in the middle of the room instead of against the wall, which made it easier to use because it had sliding glass on both sides. One side was now Vicky’s. The opposite side was mine.

    Inside the case there were three shelves. The bottom shelf was the tallest, so we could put the tallest trophies in there. Like the one for the time Dad coached my little league team,  the Tigers, to the state championship. That was fourth grade. That trophy was as much Dad’s as it was mine.

    The middle shelf was the shortest. We put small trophies and cups there. Like the golden cups I got for winning a ping pong championship three years in a row. And a badminton trophy that was shaped like a birdie resting on its tip. And a small trophy with a figurine of a skier for cross-country skiing. All the finishers got one.

    The top shelf had room for medium-sized trophies. Like the one I brought home today. I had already moved things around to make a space for it. Right between a first-place bowling trophy from last year and a second-place Tae Kwon Do trophy from two years ago. Unfortunately, the new tennis trophy wasn’t quite as tall as I expected. As Vicky placed hers on the shelf, it nearly touched the ceiling of the case. Mine was a couple of inches shy.

    I slid shut the door on my side, and Vicky did the same with hers. We both stood there for a moment, admiring the newest additions to our collection.

    And then, something didn’t feel right.

    I used to think it was the greatest feeling whenever I would place a new trophy in the case. But recently I was beginning to get this feeling that something was missing.

    I wondered if Vicky had the same doubts.

    “Hey, Vicky?”

    “Yeah?”

    “Do you think that there’s more to life than winning?”

    “No. Why do you ask?”

    “I was just thinking. We’ve got all these trophies and awards. But no matter how many we get, it seems like it’s never enough, you know what I mean?”

    “No, I don’t know what you mean,” she said.

    “When you have a trophy, it means you’ve won. The game is over. You can relax and enjoy the victory, knowing that you’re the winner.”

    Vicky stared at me with skeptical eyes.

    I continued. “But what if winning trophies is like a game in itself? How do you know when it’s over? Is there like some ultimate grand prize out there that you need in order to say that you’ve really won? That you’ve had enough? Is there some other purpose to winning? Or are we just going to keep doing this our whole lives until the whole house is so full of trophies that there’s no place to walk or sit down? It all seems a little—” I was going to say pointless, but I stopped myself.

    “You know what I think?” asked Vicky.

    If she was about to deliver some sisterly wisdom, I was all ears.

    “I think you’re just jealous because I took first place today and you only came in second.”

    “Maybe you’re right,” I said. Of course she wasn’t right. But since she obviously didn’t understand, it was better to end the conversation then and there.

    Then again, maybe she was right. Maybe I was just jealous.

    Vicky called the shower first.  I showered after her and sat down at the dinner table at my usual place, with Dad on my right, Mom on my left, and Vicky across from me.

    There was a tray of chicken wings smothered in hot barbecue sauce in the middle of the table. Mom brought out a pan of oven-baked french fries and set that on a trivet next to the chicken wings.

    “Hey, Mom, guess what I did today,” I said. “I hit the ball so hard, it made a red circle on Barry Plurkin’s stomach.”

    “Yeah, and you could see the number seven from the ball on his stomach,” said Vicky. “It even knocked the wind out of him.”

    “And that’s how I got to advance to the finals,” I added.

    “Barry Plurkin? Is he that boy I always see walking around the neighborhood?”

    “That’s probably him,” I said. “He walks everywhere.”

    “I thought you two were friends.”

    “That was like second grade!” I was embarrassed that Mom would think I was still friends with Barry. He is kind of weird.

    “Well I don’t think you need to hurt people in order to win,” said Mom.

    “Give him a break!” interjected Dad. “He didn’t do it on purpose. Besides, Barry will survive. It’s not gonna kill him to take a tennis ball in the stomach once in a while. The boy needs to toughen up a bit.”

    “Well, he seems like a nice enough boy. I hope you apologized to him after the game,” Mom chided.

    Mom was always talking like that. She didn’t like to see anyone get treated unfairly.

    It started from the time she was a girl. Grandpa Dean was black, and Grandma Shira was white. When Mom was little, she heard stories about some of the discrimination they faced. She wanted to do something about it. So she did. She grew up and went to college and became a lawyer. She uses her practice to fight discrimination.

    Mom and Dad are a mixed couple, too. Dad’s white. There’s still prejudice. But it’s nowhere near as bad as it used to be.

    Mom was still waiting for me to respond with her hands on her hips — oven mitt and all. “You did apologize to that boy, didn’t you?”

    “Well, I shook his hand after the game,” I said.

    “Did you or did you not apologize to Barry Plurkin after hitting him in the stomach with a tennis ball?” There was no wiggling my way out of one of Mom’s questions. Even if she didn’t bring her work home with her, she brought her work ethic. If Mom was asking the questions, I was the defendant.

    “Not really,” I had to confess.

    “You had better get your little fingers on the phone and call that boy right now and apologize,” she said, pointing at me with an oven mitt — if you can call that pointing.

    “I can’t call Barry,” I pleaded. “I don’t even have his number.” Mom said that there can’t be too many Plurkins in the phone book, so she made me look him up.

    I should have known there was no point in arguing with Mom. She always wins arguments. She does it for a living.

    “No, wait. Hold it,” she said just as I picked up the receiver. She placed her gloved hand on the edge of her chin. “I’ve got an even better idea. How would you like to invite him over for Sunday dinner tomorrow and apologize to him in person?” That might sound like a question, but believe me, it wasn’t. Asking me how I felt about something was Mom’s way of telling me to do it.

    If she had really wanted to know how I felt, I would have told her that I wasn’t too keen on the idea. Even if I did feel kind of sorry for Barry, it didn’t mean I wanted to be friends with him or have him over at our house.

    With Mom standing next to me, I dialed Barry’s number. Barry answered. “Barry? Hi. This is Jacob. Jacob Fenton. You remember, from the tennis tournament. . . . I’m fine, thanks. I was wondering if maybe you wanted to come to our house tomorrow night for dinner?”

    “Let me check with my mom to see if it’s all right,” he replied.

    Please say no, I thought to myself while I was on hold. Please say no. Please say no.

    He said yes.

    But it turned out to be good thing. Because I might never have heard about the grand prize if not from Barry.

Chapters

1

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johnpatrick wrote 725 days ago

Chaps 1-2.
Engaging enough and plenty of depth under what at first glance seems quite a thin remit i.e the importance of taking part, not just winning.
Dialogue in the second chapter-between MC and Barry started to sound too long and perfect-as if it was written on a guidance pamphlet-too well-meaning adult, in my view. The dialogue in chap one much better.
''You're a tough competitor '' Jacob. You seem....'' Second speech marks misplaced.
Place and character work well, the exposition folded in seamlessly enough. My mind started to wander with the description of the trophies but I think I understand why it is emphasised at this point. No real 'obvious' characters, each seem real enough.
Tension-that's carried by the competition and whether they'll be allowed to compete. Is that enough? I genuinely don't know but I'm not in the target audience am I.
Good Luck with it Owen and I hope you get the constructive advice this site is good for.
All the Best!
John
Dropping Babies-would appreciated a return read.

JMF wrote 727 days ago

Sorry I've taken a little longer than anticipated to do this. I've read all you have uploaded here. First of all I really like your pitches. They are succinct and to the point without giving too much away. I think you may have taken a different approach to a familiar theme, which is great. You write well but I have a number of points to make about you writing. I hope you take them in the spirit they are intended - to be helpful!
It may be that your sports-orientated first chapter may put off some readers. I know a lot of children are keen on sport, but maybe not to that extent and there are some who just aren't at all. There is nothing wrong with starting off with talking about the sport, after all, it explains about their competitive spirit, but I think you could cut down the amount of time you spend on talking about the awards they've won. You could also cut down some of the other detail which is not really needed and slows the pace down for the reader. For example, you could cut down the description of the showcase of trophies, the description of where they sat for dinner. Putting too much detail can be distracting for the reader. I also think you could cut out the explanation of the no 7 on Barry's stomach. You have already mentioned this earlier.
I have the same remarks to make about the following chapters. I did like the confrontation with the kids by the bike racks. I would be interested to see if these characters make an appearance later on in the story.
The dialogue is generally fine, although you may like to revisit the conversation between the children and their parents. Some of this is a little unbelievable as it tends to be used to provide information, some of which is not really needed.
I found your story was well-written with no obvious mistakes and typos that I could see. This is a good start and with a few minor changes to the amount of detail provided and a look at the dialogue it could be tightened up nicely. I hope you don't mind me giving you honest comments. Please feel free to ignore any you feel are not useful.
Well done and good luck with your writing.
Julia
Shadow Jumper

Owen Scott wrote 720 days ago

Dear Paul,

Thanks so much for taking time to read the first chapter and commenting. Negative or posiive, I appreciate it. I will consider each of your comments when I get back to revising the first chapter with a few exceptions where I think you might have misread:

‘I don’t get it,’ said Dad… - this seems like a rather odd fatherly reaction to hearing your son has intentionally hurt another boy and, moreover, seems rather proud of the fact?
Why would Barry want to have dinner with someone who intentionally hurt him??

S: Jacob said he didn't do it on purpose. They were playing a game of tennis. It happens.

‘He walks everywhere’ – don’t understand this remark. How else is he supposed to get about??

S: Ride a bike, take the school bus, ride in his parents' car. Anyway, you are right to point this out. I have never settled on how to phrase this or decided exactly where Barry lives.

‘Mom was still waiting for me to respond… hands on her hips’ – isn’t she sitting down at the dining table??

S: No. She had just brought out the fries. It didn't say that she sat down.

Mahalo,
Scott

Paul Beattie wrote 720 days ago

Not for me, I’m afraid, Scott. While the writing, although pretty stiff and uninvolving, is competent enough, I found the whole tone of the novel rather preachy and one dimensional. I appreciate I’m not your target reader but, even so, I found the thrust of the narrative offputtingly simplistic, almost flimsy and the general characterisation unappealingly clichéd. Even for a children’s novel, the blatant moralising feels far too ‘in your face’ and unsophisticated. I really think you need to take a step back, concentrate on building character and plot and let the whole ‘message’ of your book emerge subtly as opposed to the sledgehammer approach you appear to be adopting at the moment. I’d also recommend rethinking the characterisation of Jacob and Victoria. At the moment, they feel unpleasantly full of themselves, almost brattish and I’m sure younger readers will find them similarly unattractive. Sorry to sound so negative. Best of luck with this. P


For what it’s worth, I made some notes on the opening chapter as I went along:

‘A black Honda Prelude rolled up…’ – POV-wise this feels wrong. We’re in Jacob’s POV. He’d think of the car as ‘Dad’s car’ or something similar. He may go on to describe it as a black Honda Prelude etc but his initial thought would be that it was his father’s car.

‘That was sort of true. I was in the eleven-to-twelve-age group…etc’ – in light of what Vicky has just said, this doesn’t make sense. Also, feels like a pretty blatant info dump re J and V’s age.

‘asked Dad… while chewing on gum…’ – you can’t talk and chew on gum at the same time.

‘twelve-year-old’ not ’12-year-old’

‘I don’t get it,’ said Dad… - this seems like a rather odd fatherly reaction to hearing your son has intentionally hurt another boy and, moreover, seems rather proud of the fact?

Why does the father keep using ‘Champ’ at the end of every sentence? No-one talks this way. It’s obvious he’s talking to his son. There’s no need to keep mentioning his nickname. Feels very unreal.

‘Count me in [comma not full-stop]’ I said.

‘Victoria… is the girl’s name for Victor’ – find it very hard to believe anyone – particularly a child - would think of the distinctly unremarkable name ‘Victoria’ in this way??

‘she affirmed’ – how old is J again??

‘Dinner will be served shortly’ – feels very stiff/unnatural?? Why not simply ‘Dinner will be ready shortly’??

‘shaped like a birdie resting on its tip’ – I have no idea what this means??

‘Do you think there’s more to life than winning?’ – really??!! I can’t believe any kid would talk this way. Also, if this is the central ‘message’ of your book, it does feel like an incredibly clumsy, rather heavy-handed way to introduce it to the reader.

‘Of course she wasn’t right’ quickly followed by ‘… maybe she was right’- which one is it??

‘He walks everywhere’ – don’t understand this remark. How else is he supposed to get about??

‘Mom chided’ – again, the vocab doesn’t feel age-appropriate.

‘Mom was still waiting for me to respond… hands on her hips’ – isn’t she sitting down at the dining table??

Why would Barry want to have dinner with someone who intentionally hurt him??

Owen Scott wrote 722 days ago

Dear John,

I appreciate all of your comments. Indeed, your feedback is helpful to me. I will get to Dropping Babies soon.

Scott Owen

Chaps 1-2.
Engaging enough and plenty of depth under what at first glance seems quite a thin remit i.e the importance of taking part, not just winning.
Dialogue in the second chapter-between MC and Barry started to sound too long and perfect-as if it was written on a guidance pamphlet-too well-meaning adult, in my view. The dialogue in chap one much better.
''You're a tough competitor '' Jacob. You seem....'' Second speech marks misplaced.
Place and character work well, the exposition folded in seamlessly enough. My mind started to wander with the description of the trophies but I think I understand why it is emphasised at this point. No real 'obvious' characters, each seem real enough.
Tension-that's carried by the competition and whether they'll be allowed to compete. Is that enough? I genuinely don't know but I'm not in the target audience am I.
Good Luck with it Owen and I hope you get the constructive advice this site is good for.
All the Best!
John
Dropping Babies-would appreciated a return read.

johnpatrick wrote 725 days ago

Chaps 1-2.
Engaging enough and plenty of depth under what at first glance seems quite a thin remit i.e the importance of taking part, not just winning.
Dialogue in the second chapter-between MC and Barry started to sound too long and perfect-as if it was written on a guidance pamphlet-too well-meaning adult, in my view. The dialogue in chap one much better.
''You're a tough competitor '' Jacob. You seem....'' Second speech marks misplaced.
Place and character work well, the exposition folded in seamlessly enough. My mind started to wander with the description of the trophies but I think I understand why it is emphasised at this point. No real 'obvious' characters, each seem real enough.
Tension-that's carried by the competition and whether they'll be allowed to compete. Is that enough? I genuinely don't know but I'm not in the target audience am I.
Good Luck with it Owen and I hope you get the constructive advice this site is good for.
All the Best!
John
Dropping Babies-would appreciated a return read.

Owen Scott wrote 727 days ago

Dear Joe,

Thanks for your reading and your comments.
I don't think it's possible to give the grand prize the kind of meaning you suggested with this story, although I can tell you that the stakes are raised at two points in later chapters. The importance of winning it tends to build up gradually, but that comes at the cost of less urgency from the outset.
I will think of how to make a stronger hook that doesn't put off non sport-lovers.
I'm grateful for your comments and suggestions!

Scott

p.s I'll get to Ginger right away.

Hi Scott! I've just read your first few chapters, and really enjoyed them. You've got an ease with dialogue and characterisation that I personally find very appealing. I also like the 'message' that competition for its own sake is meaningless, it should have a point. If I have one suggestion, it is this: how about giving that 'grand prize' a more...ahem..."dramatic" point? I mean, if you made your central MC DESPERATE to win - maybe to save his folks from eviction, or to prove he's not a loser geek? - you might have a stronger 'hook' to the book. As it stands, as suggested by JMF, you may lose a lot of non-sport oriented readers. I'm thinking films like 'Cool Runnings' or 'Bend it Like Beckham', where we really WANT the 'poor desperate underdog' to win - regardless of what sport/competition it is!

High stars, and will be back.

Joe Kovacs
Ginger the Buddha Cat

(my young friend Tristram Kane was home-schooled. Maybe approach him for an exchange read?)

Owen Scott wrote 727 days ago

Dear Julia,
Thank you so much for taking the time to read and give useful comments about my story. Your feedback is valuable. Indeed, to get comments like that is the reason I joined authonomy. I will consider thinning out some background and details of the trophy room on my next revision.
A couple of responses:
The kids at the bike rack are there because some of them do appear later in the story, and I wanted to introduce them in context.
I'm not sure exactly which parts of the parent-child dialogue sounds like an info dump, but much of it is setup or subtle foreshadowing. I hope tried to work them in smoothly so that they don't stand out. However, the flip side of that coin is that after reading only part of the story, one may wonder why those parts are there at all.

p.s. I was out of town for a conference, but now I'm back and I'll look at your book first thing.


Sorry I've taken a little longer than anticipated to do this. I've read all you have uploaded here. First of all I really like your pitches. They are succinct and to the point without giving too much away. I think you may have taken a different approach to a familiar theme, which is great. You write well but I have a number of points to make about you writing. I hope you take them in the spirit they are intended - to be helpful!
It may be that your sports-orientated first chapter may put off some readers. I know a lot of children are keen on sport, but maybe not to that extent and there are some who just aren't at all. There is nothing wrong with starting off with talking about the sport, after all, it explains about their competitive spirit, but I think you could cut down the amount of time you spend on talking about the awards they've won. You could also cut down some of the other detail which is not really needed and slows the pace down for the reader. For example, you could cut down the description of the showcase of trophies, the description of where they sat for dinner. Putting too much detail can be distracting for the reader. I also think you could cut out the explanation of the no 7 on Barry's stomach. You have already mentioned this earlier.
I have the same remarks to make about the following chapters. I did like the confrontation with the kids by the bike racks. I would be interested to see if these characters make an appearance later on in the story.
The dialogue is generally fine, although you may like to revisit the conversation between the children and their parents. Some of this is a little unbelievable as it tends to be used to provide information, some of which is not really needed.
I found your story was well-written with no obvious mistakes and typos that I could see. This is a good start and with a few minor changes to the amount of detail provided and a look at the dialogue it could be tightened up nicely. I hope you don't mind me giving you honest comments. Please feel free to ignore any you feel are not useful.
Well done and good luck with your writing.
Julia
Shadow Jumper

Wussyboy wrote 727 days ago

Hi Scott! I've just read your first few chapters, and really enjoyed them. You've got an ease with dialogue and characterisation that I personally find very appealing. I also like the 'message' that competition for its own sake is meaningless, it should have a point. If I have one suggestion, it is this: how about giving that 'grand prize' a more...ahem..."dramatic" point? I mean, if you made your central MC DESPERATE to win - maybe to save his folks from eviction, or to prove he's not a loser geek? - you might have a stronger 'hook' to the book. As it stands, as suggested by JMF, you may lose a lot of non-sport oriented readers. I'm thinking films like 'Cool Runnings' or 'Bend it Like Beckham', where we really WANT the 'poor desperate underdog' to win - regardless of what sport/competition it is!

High stars, and will be back.

Joe Kovacs
Ginger the Buddha Cat

(my young friend Tristram Kane was home-schooled. Maybe approach him for an exchange read?)

JMF wrote 727 days ago

Sorry I've taken a little longer than anticipated to do this. I've read all you have uploaded here. First of all I really like your pitches. They are succinct and to the point without giving too much away. I think you may have taken a different approach to a familiar theme, which is great. You write well but I have a number of points to make about you writing. I hope you take them in the spirit they are intended - to be helpful!
It may be that your sports-orientated first chapter may put off some readers. I know a lot of children are keen on sport, but maybe not to that extent and there are some who just aren't at all. There is nothing wrong with starting off with talking about the sport, after all, it explains about their competitive spirit, but I think you could cut down the amount of time you spend on talking about the awards they've won. You could also cut down some of the other detail which is not really needed and slows the pace down for the reader. For example, you could cut down the description of the showcase of trophies, the description of where they sat for dinner. Putting too much detail can be distracting for the reader. I also think you could cut out the explanation of the no 7 on Barry's stomach. You have already mentioned this earlier.
I have the same remarks to make about the following chapters. I did like the confrontation with the kids by the bike racks. I would be interested to see if these characters make an appearance later on in the story.
The dialogue is generally fine, although you may like to revisit the conversation between the children and their parents. Some of this is a little unbelievable as it tends to be used to provide information, some of which is not really needed.
I found your story was well-written with no obvious mistakes and typos that I could see. This is a good start and with a few minor changes to the amount of detail provided and a look at the dialogue it could be tightened up nicely. I hope you don't mind me giving you honest comments. Please feel free to ignore any you feel are not useful.
Well done and good luck with your writing.
Julia
Shadow Jumper

Owen Scott wrote 730 days ago

Hi Tod,
Thanks for taking the time to read and being the first person to comment on my book!
Thanks also for the correction. I have fixed it. I will think about "chewing on gum."
And I will have a look at your book soon.
Scott

Hi Scott,
I just read the first chapter. I think this looks very promising! You introduce topics that parents and schools will appreciate, I expect, and have compelling characters.
Minor errata you might consider fixing:
I thought the sentence in which dad "chewed on gum" sounded awkward.
And just an editing error: "looked straight at us while she said talked".
Other than that, I think you're in good shape. Good luck with this!
--Tod Schneider
The Lost Wink

Tod Schneider wrote 730 days ago

Hi Scott,
I just read the first chapter. I think this looks very promising! You introduce topics that parents and schools will appreciate, I expect, and have compelling characters.
Minor errata you might consider fixing:
I thought the sentence in which dad "chewed on gum" sounded awkward.
And just an editing error: "looked straight at us while she said talked".
Other than that, I think you're in good shape. Good luck with this!
--Tod Schneider
The Lost Wink

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