Friday, 10 February 2012

Pitch Pitch: - BENEATH THE RAINBOW

Final pitch of Pitch Pitch week (though I'll do some more irregularly over the next couple of weeks.) Check back over the rest of this week to see what happens, and do do do please add your comments because these brave writers really need you.



Beneath The Rainbow
by Lisa Shambrook
Children's, age 9-12 (I'd like Lisa to say 10-12 or 9-11 because 9-12 is too wide.
Freya's strong-will and determination won’t let death stand in her way. 
When she is killed Freya knows she needs to move on, but is caught within her mother’s grief and the discovery of terminally-ill Old Thomas. She finds she can affect the lives of those beyond her heaven and fights to reach her mother and help Thomas realise his final dream. 
Meanwhile her own list of hopes is found at home and as her family begin to fulfil them, they unknowingly offer Thomas his last impossible wish. 
Freya intends to create a rainbow for her mother, the last item on her list, but struggles. Her pale arcs won’t achieve closure and she perseveres for scarlet like remembrance poppies, sunset orange, sunflower yellow, green like her willow, blue like daddy’s t-shirt, indigo the shade of deepening night and the violet of Purple Ted... 
Freya will reach her mother, wait for Old Thomas and be ready to move on.
I've discussed this a bit with Lisa and I know the background. We've talked about the difficulty with the age range. Lisa is aware of the difficulty of dealing with death for this age. I also have issues with the rainbow aspect, and feel that it seems a little young. Ultimately it comes down to the writing, but a pitch is terrifically important and I do worry that this one doesn't quite grasp the nettle and blurs the age issues somewhat. But I also think it sounds intriguing.


Comments? And even if you don't have anything to add to this, do say something about what you've learnt yourselves this week.


Thanks to only to all the writers but to YOU for your very generous and helpful comments.

25 comments:

JoMacdonald said...

Hi Lisa
I've never written anything for this age group and don't have kids so don't feel very confident on this area but hopefully my comments will be helpful in some way.
I think the idea of this story is great. Reminds me of Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin a bit, although I think that's for slightly older teens.
I liked the first line but was then expecting a "But". The first line and second paragraph seemed to me to be making too similar a point so I wonder if these might benefit from being combined into one somehow.
I also felt there was a little contradiction in saying that Freya fights to help Old Thomas realise his final dream but then it being her list of hopes that unknowingly helps him achieve his last wish. Unless the list of hopes IS how she has fought to achieve this. Sorry I may have misunderstood this but it's possibly worth knowing that I didn't find this very clear.
I think the paragraph about the rainbow is well-written and really lovely. (apart from daddy, I'm not sure if 9 year olds still call dad's daddy?)
The last line is neat but did leave me wondering "How?" (maybe that's a good thing)
I really hope some of this is helpful.
All the best with your book
Jo

catdownunder said...

This is the pitch that I have found the most difficult. I am guessing from Nicola's comments that there is more to the story than we are being told and I am wondering if an agent might feel a need to know more too? It is potentially very distressing subject matter for a child and I think I would want to know more. I suppose I am looking at it as "would I buy this for the children's section of the library on the strength of this?" The answer is "I am not sure" but I might if I knew more.
What have I learnt from this week? (1) the need for clarity, (2) the need to project my voice when I write mine and (3) the need to tell all the story, not just part of it.
I think the people who put their work up deserve a round of applause for their courage - and you deserve one too Nicola. Thanks.

SofaJudgeJo said...

I loved the first two paragraphs but struggled with the third.

The rainbow idea is a beautiful cliche, one that is associated, I think, with death of a loved one.

I was going to say that this would resonate, I believe, with parents who have lost a child but am not sure if it would have the same meaning for a child. And then I remembered a child of eleven telling me that when they saw a rainbow it was their brother saying hello from heaven. So I'm wrong.

I agree that the issues need tightening up but regardless would pick this up for my children. Good luck Lisa.

I have learnt much from pitch week. For me writing one (along with the sell yourself letter) is probably the most agonising aspect of writing. Practise is what it's all about. So thank you Nicola for the opportunity to be involved.

Elizabeth Dunn said...

Hi Lisa,

The feeling is dreamy and touching (especially daddy's t shirt.) It is almost David Almond territory. If you decide the rainbow is too young or sweet, maybe try something more along his peaty lines?

Here's what I got stuck on:

I fear the first sentence may make an agent's eyes glaze over as characters are always strong-willed. Maybe you should start directly with 'When Freya is killed...'

For me there was a bit of a leap from her list to the rainbow. I later realized it was the last thing on her list. Can you explain why she wants to create the rainbow? e.g. in thanks, as a sign of love.

To allow the last sentence to run smoothly I'd add a 'nevertheless' or 'eventually'.

You have squeezed a lot of feeling and plot into a small space. Congratulations.

What have I learned this week? 1. To go for emotional core over plot points. 2. I'm not sure telling the ending is what agents want but we have to find a way to hint elegantly and leave them gasping for more.

Thanks Nicola for the opportunity and to all of you for your time and generous comments.

Sarah said...

Well I was almost moved to tears by this one. While I had concerns about the subject matter and this age group, I was really impressed with the writing and would definitely want to find out more.

What has struck me this week is how difficult it is to capture the essence of a book in so few words.

All the stories have been amazing,though,thanks and good luck to all the writers involved.

Cameron Writes said...

This pitch worked for parents looking for suitable reading material for a bereaved younger child - totally.

There seemed to be a lot of repetition (my big bugbear too which is why I am picky about it)

Great thanks to all the writers who have participated and to Nicola - this is another subject even more problematic than writing the novel itself. I've learned to write the pitch for the agent or publisher, not the readers.

Helen said...

Like Sarah, I felt moved to tears reading this. I suspect this means the subject matter is too powerful for a young age group. In confronting the death of the heroine, they will indirectly confront the possibility of their own deaths too. As Cameron says, it could work as a book for children who have been bereaved but I think teachers and librarians would be hesitant about offering it to a more general readership. Please feel free to ignore my comments - I know nothing about writing for this age group! Moving adults to tears is an achievement in itself and I wonder if that might be a direction for this book to go in?

Elizabeth Dunn said...

I think as long as the ending is well thought out, tender and hopeful then this subject is fine for kids. Kids are naturally curious about death and maybe more robust and open to talking about it than we are. A book that caters to that in a deep and thoughtful way is quite a gift. The only thing that might be disturbing is that she is killed instead of dying through a sickness.

JO said...

I think it's really brave to tackle this topic - which makes it essential that the pitch is tightly written - and I'm not sure that this deals with the death issue in such a way that parents/kind uncles will buy it. Do you see this in school libraries? Used by Child Mental Health Services? I think you need to think about the shelf it might sit on, and pitch accordingly.

What have I learned - just how difficult it is to write a wonderful pitch. How important it is to get to the core of the book and leave out the waffle.

Lisa Shambrook said...

I really appreciate all your amazing comments.
Freya dies (an accident) in the first chapter, the rest of the book concentrates on her interaction between heaven and earth, the subject is a distressing one, but I hope I’ve made it moving instead.
I hope the new pitch draft makes Freya’s list and Thomas’s dream clearer as advised by JoMacdonald, her uncle owns the one thing Thomas wants! Elizabeth thanks for the ‘nonetheless’!
The rainbow’s recurrent in the book as a heaven-bound Freya tries to ‘contact’ her mother and the ending uses the rainbow to give her mother closure. The ending is (hopefully) hugely uplifting and tender.
I get the age problem, having chat with Nicola. When I wrote the book I didn’t think about a genre or age range…it just had to be written (I know, a cliché!) Nicola’s advice was brilliant and I could alter it to appeal to a more specific age. It’s too short to be for older children and my younger children have always read challenging books, so it’s prob 10-12. I would hope it would fit in the Michael Morpurgo range, and thank you for the David Almond mention!
Here’s another try, thank you so much for your help and encouragement!

Freya won’t let death stand in her way.
When she dies Freya knows she needs to move on, but is caught within her mother’s grief and the discovery of terminally-ill Old Thomas. Finding she can affect the lives of those beyond her heaven she fights to reach her mother and helps Thomas realise his final dream.
Meanwhile her own list of hopes is found at home and as her family begin to fulfil them, Thomas is able to fulfil his last impossible wish.
Freya intends to create a rainbow to reach her mother, the last item on her list, but her pale arcs won’t achieve closure and she perseveres for scarlet like remembrance poppies, sunset orange, sunflower yellow, green like her willow, blue like daddy’s t-shirt, indigo the shade of deepening night and the violet of Purple Ted...
Nevertheless, Freya will reach her mother, wait for Old Thomas and be ready to move on.

Thank you Nicola for a fantastic opportunity, we are always learning!

Gail_M said...

I love the concept, and the title. Tackling death for a young age group is a difficult and very brave move, but your pitch shows compassion and perhaps some understanding of how the subject may be received by your target audience.

The pitch seems to be trying to cram a lot in, but I feel it doesn't really tell us much about what actually happens. I'm puzzled by how Freya is caught in her mother's grief and the discovery of Old Thomas - are the two linked? Also, if she can affect the lives of those beyond her heaven, why and what does she need to fight to reach her mother? Perhaps I'll have to read the book to find that out!

These questions are hooks enough to make me want to read the book for myself, and I feel confident that it would be a helpful tool in supporting a child through bereavement or in facing their own mortality.




What have I learned from this week?
1. Writing a pitch is torture.
2. Fellow writers are amazingly supportive and constructive.
3. There are some fab-sounding books out there!



PS. JoMacdonald - I may be old-fashioned, and am most likely much older than the majority here, but my dad was 'Daddy' until the day he died, aged 80 (and still is, in my heart).

Lisa Shambrook said...

Difficult to answer how Old Thomas fits into the story without reading it...the book is about death and hope (the rainbow symbolises hope) and Thomas is old and will die, his last wish is to get back onto a motorbike...impossible being so ill and old, so it's through Freya's family that the bike is found and Freya is the one who gives him strength...
Thanks so much for everyone's comments and kind words!

Kirsty said...

Hi Lisa

Another one who doesn't have much experience with the age range I'm afraid but hope you find my comments helpful.

I prefer the second version where you indicate she dies rather than is killed (which kind of reminded me of The Lovely Bones but Freya seemed too much at peace).

You talk about Freya's heaven but I wonder if you could highlight more that she hasn't quite reached heaven because of concern over her mother's grief.

In the second version I still don't get a good enough feel of who Old Thomas is and why he is so important to Freya. You mentioned in a reply that his wish is to ride his motorbike - why not use that in the pitch - for me that would invite me to read this and I think kids would like the idea of an older gentleman on a motorbike.

I'm not that sure how much detail we need in the pitch about what the colours of the rainbow represent - are these all things from Freya's list? If so does the rainbow start to form as her list gets fulfilled. I wonder whether the rainbow should be mentioned first and then the fact that her list of hopes is found and that her family work to fulfill them. Difficult for us because we don't know the actual story so obviously ignore anything that doesn't make sense in relation to the story.

Hope you found my comments helpful. Good luck with the book - it sounds really worthwhile - death is such a taboo topic that needs to be introduced in an appropriate way so hopefully someone will see the need for this.

Kirsty

Elizabeth Dunn said...

Your new pitch is great, Lisa. It's tight and I understand the story perfecly. Good work!

Gail_M said...

Hi Lisa

Love the new pitch - great work :)

Woosh said...

I think this is a novel than adults and older teenagers would like to read.

I don't think publishers would risk it for the younger readers. It could be too scary for them. I wouldn't buy it for a 9 year old nor 12 year old.

This week, I learnt that it is important to have a good pitch that clearly states the story, especially the end. Thanks!

Whoosh said...

I think this is a novel that adults and older teenagers would like to read.

I don't think publishers would 'risk' it for the younger readers. It could be too scary for them. I wouldn't buy it for a 9 year old nor 12 year old.

This week, I learnt that it is important to have a good pitch that clearly states the story, especially the end. Thanks!

Julie Nilson said...

I'm not going to double up on some of the other comments here, but as a former proofreader, I have to suggest that you have someone proofread this before you send it out. There are some errors in punctuation, and some agents will judge you for that. You don't want to miss out on an opportunity because of some misplaced hyphens!

Lisa Shambrook said...

Hi Julie, I'm assuming you're talking about 'terminally-ill'? I really don't know why I hyphenated it here, I didn't hyphenate it in the blurb! It's one of those annoying things I (and Word) didn't pick up on here...though I don't trust Word much of the time either!
If it's a different problem with punctuation, can you let me know so I know where to correct?
Thanks.

Nicola Morgan said...

Lisa, as a bit of a stickler for grammar and punctuation myself, let me step in and answer in case Julie isn't here! Also, do note that the problem with these sometimes small errors is that it's not a matter of pedantry/rules, but about the ability to wield the tools of language to your own use.

Freya's strong-will and determination won’t let death stand in her way. [Strong-will doesn't have a hyphen.]

When she is killed [technically should be a comma to separate subord clause] Freya knows she needs to move on, but is caught within her mother’s grief and the discovery of terminally-ill [not so much incorrect as a bit clumsy] Old Thomas. She finds she can affect the lives of those beyond her heaven and fights to reach her mother and help Thomas realise his final dream. [Three main clauses joined by 'and' is not the best way to do it.]
Meanwhile [comma] her own list of hopes is found at home and [if you have a comma after this subordinate clause you need one before, as well] as her family begin to fulfil them, they [some people might insist that family is singular so needs singular verbs] unknowingly offer Thomas his last impossible wish.
Freya intends to create a rainbow for her mother, the last item on her list, [reads as though her mother is the last item on the list...] but struggles. Her pale arcs won’t achieve closure and she perseveres for scarlet like remembrance poppies, sunset orange, sunflower yellow, green like her willow, blue like daddy’s t-shirt, indigo the shade of deepening night and the violet of Purple Ted... [You're missing some commas to help create sense, but that would be too many commas, so you need semi-colons.]
Freya will reach her mother, wait for Old Thomas and be ready to move on.

Just a matter of polishing, but Julie is right: you need to get these things right in a pitch.

Deborah Jay said...

Hi Lisa,
I don't write for this age group but it sounds like a really good idea; death is a subject kids of that age should know something about, I think.
I like your second version better - tighter and more clear, though I feel you waste words on the rainbow colours which could be used to put over more of the story. I agree with Kirsty about including the motorcycle - this would widen your appeal to include boys whereas at the moment it seems a very 'girlie' book.
Good luck with it.

What have I learned this week?
That you mustn't be timid about including the end of your story in the pitch, even though you really don't want to reveal it until someone reads the whole manuscript.

Lisa Shambrook said...

Nicola, thanks for the answers on punctuation, it does point out my need to revise some of these 'rules' and get my head around them again. I can see I've let some of the basics slip with bad habits over the years.
The comments on this pitch have been a great help and I can see it is still a work in progress! Maybe something like this?

'Meanwhile, her own list of goals is discovered and Old Thomas's desire to take charge of a motorbike is revealed. Freya's family begin to fulfil her hopes and Thomas is able to fulfil his last impossible wish.'

(Forgive me if the commas still aren't right...need to relearn.)

All these comments will help immensely for future work and I am very grateful for the opportunity I've had to take part in this exercise! Thank you!

Nicola Morgan said...

Lisa, re your new wording: there are no punctuation probs but I suggest you avoid the passive voice. (I've nothing against it in principle but your use of it twice in quick succession makes it feels lumpy, detached, and, well, passive.)

So, instead of "Meanwhile, her own list of goals is discovered and Old Thomas's desire to take charge of a motorbike is revealed" try "Meanwhile, her family finds her own list of goals and soon discovers that Old Thomas has a burning wish to ride a motorbike." (Or whatever is the case - no sure if I fully understood.)

Lisa Shambrook said...

I hope no one minds me trying one more rewrite for now...I've tried to incorporate the points that I may have missed, particularly the motorbike!

Freya won’t let death stand in her way.
When she dies Freya knows she needs to move on, but is caught within her mother’s grief and the discovery of a terminally ill old man. Finding she can affect the lives of those beyond her heaven she fights to reach her mother and helps Thomas realise his final dream.
Meanwhile, her family finds her own list of goals and soon discovers that Old Thomas has a burning desire to ride a motorbike. Freya's family begin to fulfil her hopes and Thomas is able to fulfil his last impossible wish.
Freya intends to create a rainbow, the last item on her list, to reach her mother, but her pale arcs won’t achieve closure. She perseveres for scarlet like remembrance poppies then searches for sunset orange and sunflower yellow. She recreates green like her willow and blue like daddy’s t-shirt. Finally conjuring indigo, the shade of deepening night and lastly violet to match Purple Ted...
Nevertheless, beneath these colours Freya will reach her mother, wait for Old Thomas and be ready to move on.

Kirsty said...

Hi Lisa,

I really like the new edit. Seems a lot clearer to me.
The main thing I'd add (but this may just be me) would be a seemingly before impossible wish.