Another Contest Entry

Gabriela Lessa is hosting another contest!  Below I’ve posted my four entries in order to get feedback before I submit them.  The great thing about this contest is that the judges are editors, so even if you lose you win, having gotten an editor to look at your work.  The entries are supposed to be your first paragraph, and a one sentence pitch.  Wish me luck.

Name: Mary Jean Schiller

Title:  Abandon All Hope

Genre: single-title romance

Manuscript word count: 88,698

Judge:  Deb Werksman

One-sentence pitch:

First paragraph: 

After eight years of trying to forget her, rock star Chase Hatton is to be interviewed by photo-journalist Hope Creswell, the woman who was his childhood friend, turned high school flame, but ended up mysteriously walking out on him the night of their senior prom.  

New, shorter pitch-

Hope, having spent the last eight years trying to forget her childhood friend/high school flame, Chase Hatton, has now been assigned to interview the rock star for the newspaper.

Even newer pitch-

Hope spent eight years trying to forget her first love turned rock star, Chase Hatton, whom she abandoned the night of their senior prom, and now she must interview him.

Most recent pitch-

Rock star Chase Hatton had spent eight years trying to forget Hope, his first love, who had disappeared on prom night, and now he would face her in an interview.  

Chase Hatton had been bewitched by Hope from the very start. 

            He was…ten…no, twelve…definitely twelve, as he was playing American Junior League baseball that summer.  There had been a break in their schedule, so his mom had asked the new neighbor lady over for dinner, along with her ten-year-old kid.  Chase’s mom had told him that he couldn’t go over to Bobby McGraw’s to play catch, as he was needed at home to entertain, of all things, the new neighbor’s daughter.  A girl! 

Name: Mary Jean Schiller

Title: To Hell in a Coach Bag

Genre: single-title romance

Manuscript word count: 110,000

Judge:  Deb Werksman

One-sentence pitch: 

First paragraph: 

When they set off on a cross-country trip, four Midwestern lunch ladies have an opportunity to learn more about themselves, and they also discover romance along the way.


Plan A to get backstage at the Chase Hatton concert was a dismal failure.  By the time Chase took the stage, our sign was beer-soaked and trampled underfoot.  I bent down, as best as I could in the space we had carved out on the floor of Chicago’s All-State Arena, and scooped up the poster-board, being careful to avoid Samantha’s “cheetah-skin” heels.  The “Lunch Ladies Love Chase Hatton!” side had a size-eleven boot-print right in the middle of it, and the “We Have Access to Government Meat!” side was completely smeared.

Name: Mary Jean Schiller

Title: Lady of the Knight

Genre: single-title romance

Manuscript word count: 110,042

Judge:  Deb Werksman

One-sentence pitch: 

First paragraph: 

When two Knights of the Order are sent to the planet Faador to rescue a princess, they both fall in love with the gutsy woman, which changes their lives forever. 

Darrius Lee bolted upright in bed and listened intently to the darkness.  What had interrupted his sleep and caused him to become so fully awake?  Several seconds elapsed while he held his breath and waited, but he heard no noise.  Still, he was aware that someone else was in the suite he shared with his young novice, Orrion Quinn.  He focussed on his Spirit Within to get a feel for the level of danger they were in.  He sensed at once that the outside presence he felt in the room was not threatening.  Yet he knew that something must be amiss for someone to enter their rooms unannounced in the middle of the night. 

Name: Mary Jean Schiller

Title: My Name Is Peter

Genre: middle-grade fiction

Manuscript word count: 4,693

Judge:  Aubrey Poole

One-sentence pitch: 

First paragraph: 

Peter is a gregarious, fallible, big-hearted fisherman and he tells us about the day he met Jesus, and the days that followed.


            My name is Peter and I’m a fisherman.

            It’s a hard life, up before the sun has breathed life into a new day and to bed long after the shadows have fallen across the land.  And the work is physical, leaning over the edge of the boat to pull in nets full of streaming fish is hard on the back–and that’s on a good day.  On a bad day we row and row in search of fish, putting our nets in and hauling them up, each time with precious little to show for it.  It is work that brings you to God.  You have to trust in Him when the sun beats down on you, and you’re hungry, and you know that your family is hungry, too.

Thanks for reading!


About M.J. Schiller

I am a mother of four/writer/lunch lady. I set my blog up when my son looked at my Facebook wall and said, "Mom, you don't status, you blog!" Let's put it this way, I'm one of the only people that constantly comments on my own statuses!
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15 Responses to Another Contest Entry

  1. Cat says:

    Both pitches are too long. You’ve got 30 words max (by the rules). Try to focus on the important things in your stories:

    My suggestion for pitch 1: For an interview, rock star Chase Hatton faces his childhood love turned photo-journalist, whom he still loves and who walked out on him the night of their senior prom. (29 words)
    If you make Chase the MC of your pitch, your first para should normally start with him, but I don’t think that’s a problem in a love story since the readers expect there to be two MC (male and female) 😉

    My suggestion for pitch 2: When they set off on a cross-country trip, four Midwestern lunch ladies need to learn more about themselves, so they can discover romance along the way. (26 words, so you could add one detail they face that forces them to rethink their lives)
    I like the first two paragraphs (remember, you’re only allowed two), but would someone really say girlfriend? I would expect pal or friend or her name but girlfriend?

    • Thanks for the suggestions, and especially catching the rules violation. I was actually on vacation in the mountains without internet connection until last night and had to rush to get these together, so I appeciate your pointing that out. I’m going to add one more book that I realized fits the criteria, too, and then get reading on others! Truly grateful that you shared your thoughts!

  2. Cat says:

    The new pitch is better but still to vague, and it leaves out the most interesting bit of the forst pitch. I merged them, hope you like it:
    Hope spent eight years trying to forget her first love turned rock star, Chase Hatton, whom she abandoned the night of their senior prom, but now she must interview him. (30 words)

    The others are great. I especially love the voice in the last sample.

  3. For the first pitch I’d get rid of childhood friend. the rest I like. If I had to vote. I’d go for one and three. I would read the first and I want know more, and I intrigued by three, I’m interested in where you are going and want more. Just clean up the first sentence, I had to read it twice, but it’s also early and I haven’t had my coffee yet, because then it clicked, Duh. LOL I hate the teases, but so much fun!

  4. Eva M Pohler says:

    Wow. You have a lot going on!

    For Abandon All Hope, can you begin in real time? Instead of “had,” just rush us through the morning right along with your main character instead of beginning with a flashback.

    I love the knight one (my favorite)> I would omit “Intently.” Also change to “focused,” or better, yet, omit that whole line.

  5. I love the first story. I want to read the whole book. New pitch is great!!! Run with it! Are you a super writer!??!? OMG…lots of fun entries!! All look great. Good luck. At least one of them has to do it!!!

  6. I’m an idiot! I just remembered that after a workshop I revised “Abandon All Hope” starting it in Chase’s POV to avoid the cliche, waking up in the morning scene, and also to avoid a long flashback from Chase before we even get to know him. This is the new first paragraph, and so I needed a new pitch, too.

    • I also did some quick revision on “To Hell in a Coach Bag”, which is semi-autobiographical, and thus in need of a lot of thinning out. (You tend to add stuff that is only relevant to you and whoever you were with, and that stuff needed to go.) So I ended up with a new first paragraph.

  7. Mary, I love your revised one-line pitch for Abandon All Hope. The fourth version is tightly written and riveting. I liked the voice of the first graph. Is there any way to not have two ages for two different characters mentioned so soon?

    For To Hell in a Coach Bag, what about this for the one-sentence pitch? When they set off on a cross-country trip, four Midwestern lunch ladies have an opportunity to learn more about themselves and discover romance. (I just shortened the last portion a bit.) The first graph has some serious voice and a good hook.

    I’m not a very good judge about the third genre, but I love the voice of My Name is Peter’s first graph.

    P.S. I’m a new follower. And thank you for the comment you left on Bird’s-eye View.

  8. Hi there,

    I see you don’t have any comments on your last entry, and I don’t read much romance anyway, so I’ll offer my thoughts on the last one. Remember they’re just my opinions, so take them with a chunk of salt.

    Firstly, your imagery is beautiful. I see what you’re doing with this. But Middle-grade fiction is for kids who are aged 9-12, so it’s pretty short for that audience. Also consider that kids that age are less interested in whether something is hard on your back, and more interested in whether it involves monsters or miracles or magic. I see where you’re going, but I think you could liven this up a bit to make it more appealing to a young audience. As it’s written, it reads more as something written as a memoir for an adult audience. Just something to think about.

    I wish you the best of luck!

    • Thanks for the comments, Ishta. I think you’re dead on. I’ve never really thought about it that way. I’m not really sure what I want to do with this piece so I think I’ll sit on it for awhile.

  9. Maddy says:

    The only useful thing I can mention is that for a debut novel I’m told that if you’re over 65,000 – 75,000 you’re tossed. The word count tells that you’re a newbie – so they say. Might be worth considering- not a criticism, just an observation.

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