Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Envelope Please: Son of a Pitch

Now it’s time for my votes.

I can’t even begin to tell you guys how hard this was to choose. I read through every pitch and there were 12 that based on the query and first page, I would have bought the book, so Go forth and get published so I CAN buy your book! There were more books that were just *this* close to being ready to go. Guys, I’m serious, you have to polish the spirit gum out of those manuscripts (note, though, if you aren’t one of my picks, that doesn’t mean you need to go through your manuscript—THERE IS ALWAYS ROOM FOR ONE MORE POLISH!). If I didn’t pick yours, it’s not that it wasn’t super awesome, but I only get five slots. It’s like being in a book store that only takes cash and only having a twenty. This was brutally hard to pick. The writing was amazing, the concepts: awesome.

It has been an honor to host and participate, and I really don’t like that right now, people are scrolling through and being disappointed that they weren’t my top five. I feel you. I’ve been in your shoes. My only hope is that you got good feedback on your query and your first 250 and that you can now move forward to make your writing better and even more amazing than it was before. Good luck out there, and keep your chins up! Publishing is a rough business.

And now my picks, in no particular order:

Virtual Space: I picked this one because I loved the concept and the writing. LOVED. I really enjoyed all the numbers in it. They made me laugh because I do stuff like that.

On The Edge: Oh, I love me some figure skating/hockey player drama! I loved the concept because, among other things, it reminds me of some of my favorite themes that come up around the rink.

The Bookshop: I love this concept so hard, and the writing made me so sad when I got to the end of the words. I wanted more words!

Light Witch: I loved the premise and the writing blew me away. I loved the protag the moment he started sneaking out.

Scales: I loved this one because I seem to really fall for the slacker turns it around and starts putting in the effort stories. And then the writing was really strong too! Ah, love!

So there you have it, my five picks. The biggest thing I can think to say after this is that it’s pretty clear I picked stuff that sort of got under my skin. There were other pitches that were amazing, maybe even better, but these ones had me thinking about them long afterwards. Good luck to everyone, and I want to hear from you guys in the future. Please let me know what happens with you and your books! May the Force Be With You! 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Welcome to Son of a Pitch! #TeamRebels

Welcome to my blog! This week, I’m happy to host some writers and their queries. For those of you new to Son of A Pitch, the only people who should be commenting on these posts are the approved judges and the author of the piece. All other comments will be deleted by me. (don’t make me do it!)

Other than that, look around, read some entries and have fun.


1. UNQUEENLY: YA Fantasy

Category and Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 87,000

The clash of swords has always pumped fire into sixteen-year-old Janai’s veins, filling her head with dreams of becoming a warrior. But everything changes when her father is murdered and she becomes the new Queen of Emerise.
People whisper that she is too young to rule, and even worse, some believe she may become a dark priestess like her mother, who was executed years ago for destroying a village. If Janai must rule, she wants to do so with light magic to continue her father’s legacy. However, when she’s framed for using dark powers to kill someone, she’s stripped of her title and sentenced to death. With the help of her friends, she flees to a city called Sivanna, where the buildings and people are painted with beautiful works of art.
Twice a year, Sivanna hosts an event called the Spar Games, where warriors fight for prestige and gold. Janai uses her skills in swordsmanship to participate, hoping to gain the support she needs to become queen again and save her people from a tyrant who threatens their peaceful way of life. With each triumph in the arena, new enemies begin emerging, and though many of Janai’s allies watch her back, she’s sure at least one wants to put a knife in it. The path to reclaim her throne is fraught with blood and betrayal, not to mention her inner fight against the darkness she may have inherited. And being a warrior on the outside doesn’t always mean being tough on the inside.
First 250 Words:
The darkness below held the traitor in its midst.
With Ralel's steadying arm around my own, we descended, my gold high heels clacking down the stone steps. The odor of mildew, urine, and feces ambushed my nostrils. It was difficult to refrain from gagging.
We reached the bottom of the stairs and continued down a hallway lined with torches whose flames swayed as we passed them. My long gown dragged across the floor, gathering dust and who knew what else, but I didn’t mind. I did, however, tighten my grip on the muscular biceps of my most trusted defender when a rat scrabbled by us.
“I find it amusing that someone who once wanted to become a fearsome gladiator is afraid of a puny rat,” Ralel said, his tone suggesting amusement, but his face as serious as usual.
“I find it amusing that you find anything amusing,” I grumbled, giving the rat a dubious glance.
He worked hard to keep a smile off his face. “I told you this is no place for a queen.”
“You’ve made your disapproval quite clear many times. But it’s time for me to do this.”
“You should’ve allowed the guards to bring the prisoner to you in chains.”
“I want to see where he’s staying. I want to see him suffering.”

He sighed and rubbed a hand across his close-cut hair. His skin—which was a deeper brown than mine—was already glistening with sweat.

2. The Bookshop: YA Fantasy

Title: The Bookshop
Category and Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 70,000

Alex's last year of school isn't going too well. Finding an infinite bookshop down a London alleyway was one thing, but being locked inside and forced to serve inter-dimensional customers until the Bookshop decides she's a worthy proprietor? Well, that's just one step too far.

Then Hunter, the mysterious supplier of books and other sundry, appears on the scene, and things go from bad to worse. Hunter doesn't seem to understand that the door will open for anyone but Alex - and no matter how many times he takes the last teabag, finishes the milk, or threatens death and disaster, the Bookshop doesn't want to let Alex go.

Meanwhile, in another world, Breeze discovers that having sunlight-enhanced strength is no match for a man hell-bent on saving his city - and using whoever it takes in the process. But when Breeze stumbles into the Bookshop, powerless and close to death, he sees a door that doesn't belong. Then when Hunter gets caught up in an inter-dimensional deal gone sour, suddenly a locked front door isn’t Alex’s only problem, and she's forced to make a choice: continue the fight to return home, or leave the Bookshop in the hands of a madman?

It's not much of a choice.

First 250 Words:

One last story, I suppose. I’m sorry in advance if it isn’t exactly the one you want to hear. But you must understand: back then, I didn’t realise the boy was important.

Two croissants have appeared in the cupboard overnight.
Literally appeared.
I’m trying not to think about it too much.
The window seat not being the most ideal place to sleep, overnight I have become Alex, the Human Cramp. Not the greatest way to wake up. So I stretch, nice and slow. Tie my hair up in a         messy bun. Cup of tea. Jam, cream, croissant.
I sip from my mug, trying not to spill too much as I step around a smattering of discarded novels and over to the pile of unlabelled records on the other side of the room. Butter-yellow sunlight streams into the Cottage, snuggling up to the darkest corners, and for just a moment the whole place feels almost... normal. I ignore that several records appear to be carved out of thinly sliced stone – and that the dull red glow of the one in the corner is slightly more ominous than it was yesterday – and choose one at random.
The needle locks into place.
A few seconds of silence, then soft pops and clicks as the familiar voice of Freddie Mercury rings out.
“Tonight I’m gonna have myself a real good time…”
I curl up on the window seat once more, ignoring my creaky limbs, and watch the world outside slowly pass me by. Men in suits, heading off to work. Cyclists narrowly missing both people and their dogs as they wind their way down cobblestone paths under the swooping shadows of –
Ignore the dragons, for the love of God, ignore the dragons

3. Moonstruck: YA Fantasy

Title: Moonstruck
Category and Genre: YA fantasy
Word Count: 74,000

The gods have prophesied annihilation to Moriah’s sunless, seaside village.
Moriah has one lunar cycle left until her world is destroyed, unless her village provides a worthy sacrifice. She has never condoned violent rituals, but when her high priest, Mercury, chooses the boy she loves to die as an offering, she sets out on a quest to overpower him.
Aided only by her best friend, Moriah seeks to become the next priestess and garner sacred magic to defeat Mercury. But even if she rescues the boy she loves from Mercury’s wrath, she must still appease the gods with an ultimate sacrifice.

First 250 Words:
As I climb Mount Halex, I look out at my sparkling village and wish I could save it.
I’ve explored it all as a gatherer. From the glowing seaside shrubs to our thick forests enchanted with sacred light. I’ve swum in the crushing presence of the gods’ magic my entire life.
But I’ve never climbed this mountain, clinging to ropes that threaten to snap. I’ve never risked my life to gather the sacred zyca fruits.
All I can do is try to breathe through the suffocating cold, and remember what it feels like to be warm. Larah climbs next to me, groaning with every pull upward. I imagine her hands are dry and cracked like mine. Our work gloves are too slick for climbing, and without them, my blood pools up around the rope and stains it. I’ll leave my mark on this mountain, one way or another.
I can’t hear much over the wind, but Larah’s breath is ragged. She seems so delicate here. Small frame, small arms, small hands. Not many know her true power. Her true ferocity.
“We’re almost there,” I shout, hoping I’m right. The wind impossibly roars louder and any hope of conversation dies.
               It’s a word that means less every day. I’ve always known about the Prophecy, but sometimes it doesn’t feel real. Still, I can hardly glance at the moon. I don’t want it to know how much I miss the sunlight—that yellow glow and warmth.


Category and Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 107, 000

Seventeen-year-old Nick Espinosa can’t control his muscular dystrophy, his parents’ divorce, or how people look at him. But when he meets Simran, a young witch desperate to hide her powers from a drug lord, he finally gains something that he can control—her magic.

The catch? The ‘gift’ of Simran’s magic comes at a cost. Nick is pushed into the Otherside—a world where spells are black market currency. Simran is nowhere to be found and Nick discovers that he’s not the only one with her magic; stolen fragments of it are being sold on the market by members of her own coven and without it, she’ll die.

With Simran missing, Nick is abandoned in a world where he’s in danger of being killed for the magic she gave him. He must navigate the Otherside and find Simran before they both end up dead. To save her, he'll need to restore all her magic—including what she gave to him. But the more Nick uses, the more addicted to it he becomes and the more he starts to question if Simran’s reasons for giving him magic were as selfless as he originally thought.

First 250 Words:
The annoying thing about being a teenager in a wheelchair is that it’s depressingly hard to sneak out at night. Not that Nick doesn’t manage it, but it isn’t easy.
He pushes the stiff wooden door to his room open and wills it not to creak. His chestnut colored hair is damp against his forehead. He rubs a palm against it and pulls his hand away wet with sweat.
He grips the push rim of his chair and makes his way down the hallway, only pausing to glance at the door to his mom and step-dad’s room. Their door is shut and the hall is silent. He releases and regrips his push rim.
Nick lines himself up at the edge of the stairs and looks at the steps leading down. This is the worst part.
He had to have a room upstairs. He couldn’t stand the idea of being stuck on the bottom floor, chair or not. He felt like staying down there would mean accepting things would get harder. Even if they did eventually.
There’s a stairlift attached to the railing, but unless he wants to wake everyone up, it’s not an option.
Nick locks the brakes on his chair and slides to the edge of the seat. He lifts his legs out from the footrest and sets them out straight on the staircase landing. Small movements are easy, not like standing or walking.

5. Silver and Ice: YA Fantasy

Title: Silver and Ice
Category and Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 80k

Ebraham hunts silvertongues--those born with a voice capable of controlling minds. With the aid of a magicked amulet, an uncanny ability to read people, and just a touch of overconfidence, he has become Elysia's most renowned silvertongue hunter. So when the Winter Queen commands him to capture the silvertongue who has infiltrated the Fifth Regiment, he is sure he'll have this mission closed in a blink.
Until he discovers the regiment’s beloved Captain Alivia Youngblood is the hidden silvertongue. A brilliant military strategist, Youngblood may be the key to finally turning the tides of a decade-long war against the Vigilanthams, the kingdom's mortal enemy. However, with orders from the Winter Queen to seize Dark Water Point--a Vigilantham stronghold impossible to breach--it appears that the Fifth Regiment is doomed to a suicidal battle. . . unless someone comes up with a plan to save them all.
Caught in a world of lies and deceptions, Ebraham must decide who the kingdom's real enemy is: the hidden silvertongue, or the Queen he serves.

First 250 Words:
I once chased a silvertongue up the twenty-third peak of the Devil’s Ridgeback in the dead of winter. Didn’t have a cloak, furs, gloves, or anything a sane person would think to wear in the middle of a blizzard. Nearly lost my left ear to frostbite, and two toenails blackened and fell off afterwards. Still caught the silvertongue at the end though, and that’s what matters—placing the mission above all.
Now I can’t help but compare the coldness settling over my skin to that wretched adventure from two winters ago.
A cool draft whispers against the nape of my neck. The soft swish of a heavy cloak dragging along the marble floor echoes in the throne room. Frost spiderwebs beneath my leather boots, chilling my feet into a deep ache. Only one person in the kingdom of Elysia controls such powerful magic.
“Rise, young Tracer.” Queen Hiema’s voice comes like a breath of snow.
I finally straighten from my deep bow, spine protesting, neck and shoulders stiff. By the time I lift my eyes, the Winter Queen has already made her way onto the dais in front of me, though she doesn’t sit on the throne. My breath hitches at the sight of the queen. In person, her cold and terrible beauty is more devastating than even the most vivid descriptions sung by the bards. Pale lashes frame cat-like eyes the color of ice chips. Lips stained a deep wine red, long fingernails painted gold and studded with diamonds.

6. The Augur of Esteria - Menta's Journey: YA Adventure Fantasy

Title: The Augur of Esteria - Menta's Journey
Age and Genre: YA Adventure Fantasy
Word Count: 95,000

When the prince Menta is expected to marry suddenly disappears in the middle of the night, she realizes that the quiet world she once knew is drastically changing. With little guidance she sets out on a path to find the ancient race of the Faecha who will provide her with the answers she needs to find Zane. The only catch? No one has seen the Faecha in decades and it’s generally believed they are extinct.

As Menta’s journey continues she discovers that there is much about Esteria that she doesn’t know and with a little help from her dead grandfather, a young dweller boy named Gaius and an island man named Duke, Menta and her trusty warecat – Darius – are thrust into a magical world they never knew was real. They venture further south towards the last rumoured location of the Faecha and discover that their journey isn’t as flawless as they’d hoped. While they seek out Zane – the lost prince – another searches for them.

Morarch and his master Rayeon are ancient sorcerers bent on opening the rift between the mortal world of Esteria and that of the spirits. And they need Menta to do it. With the growing evil in Esteria, they pool their resources to track down Menta and her travelling party before she reaches the Faecha and learns the truth about her powers.
Menta soon learns that she and Zane are connected in more ways than she knew and as Morarch and his plans get closer to completion, she has to find Zane before they find her or it could cost not only her life but all of the peace in Esteria. 

First 250 Words:
The door swung open and two clumsy demons pushed their way through, each hoping they’d be the first to deliver the news. The aging sorcerer didn’t flinch when the heavy wooden door slammed behind them.

“Master,” the first squeaked, the smaller of the two. “We have done as you wished!”

Morarch turned from the tower window, facing the two creatures. His cold black eyes scanned over them. They fell silent. 

“You aren’t lying,” he stated, looking back to the darkening sky. A storm was not far off.

“No, Master,” the second speaking now, “never to you.” The dark blue demon held his burnt fingers from sight; a punishment for previous lies.

The sorcerer limped towards his desk, clutching his gnarled staff tightly for support. Still neither demon spoke. But Morarch didn’t rush them. He lowered himself into his wooden arm chair and rested the staff at his side.

“Well?” He asked when the silence continued.

The two began talking at once, excitedly spewing whatever information they could until Morarch held up his wrinkled hand to silence their incessant chatter.

“Peg?” he asked, motioning to the smaller demon.

She bounced forward, ahead of her comrade, fingers interlacing nervously.

“We’ve found her, Sir,” she squeaked.

Morarch frowned. “A girl?”

Before Peg could answer her brother stepped to her side.

“Living in Brydon, Master,” Dob whispered.

The old sorcerer’s eyes flashed angrily for a moment before he folded his hands and rested his chin on top. “And human.”

Peg drew a sharp breath. “Sir…”



Category and Genre: YA Fantasy 

Word Count: 84,000

Ayden Fragonard lives in a museum. It’s not the most glamorous life. In fact, it’s downright boring. There isn’t much to do. He spends most of his time striking a pose and staring at the walls. Occasionally, someone will walk by and nod their head with an inquisitive brow and say boring things like, interesting or not my taste. Then they walk away. That’s because he’s a painting and has been for the last 500 years. 

Normally, Ayden waits until people have left the room before he speaks. It’s unusual for someone to stick around a bunch of stuffy art. They’ve got better things to do. Then one day Stefan Vermeer, a young artist sat down on the bench in front of him and dozed off. It’s kind of rude, but not as bad when people point and stare at him. So Ayden decides to wake him up and find out why he’s taking a nap in the museum. 

Stefan is in udder disbelief. The boy in the painting is alive, but bound by the oils on the canvas. Stefan tells him he wants to be a painter, but his father disapproves. Ayden can relate. That’s how he became a painting. He was imprisoned in the canvas by an evil painter with a magic paintbrush. This brush can bring inanimate things to life, like turning flowers into butterflies, trees into monsters and tattoos into paint breathing dragons. Intrigued, Stefan spends a night in the museum listening to his story. 

First 250 Words:
In the sleepy town of Holbein, where dreams are never had and stars are rarely seen shimmering above the hazy city lights lived Stefan Vermeer with his father, a stern and quiet man of few words. While young Stefan lay there in bed dreaming of the next masterpiece he would bring to life, the door to his room slowly swung open and a dark shadow crept in. His father then quietly entered the room, as he looked down upon a dreamer sleeping the day away, wasting his youthful years.
From a distant view his eyes quickly grew dim, as he glanced above his son’s bed where just a sliver of light could be seen. There hung a painting very special to Stefan’s heart, his rendition of Starry Night. Something that meant a great deal to him and very little to his father. His father stood there in the dark, grazing the sharp lines on the sides of his chin with two fingers and a thumb in deep thought. He curled his lips together and let out a strong grumble, then paused for a moment to let the air wither down. This was no way to live, he thought to himself. Dreams die quickly and so would his son if he continued allowing him to follow after his dreams.
With this notion in mind, he violently ripped the painting off the wall and started screaming and yelling in an intolerable sense, determined to change his life for the better.

8. Scales: YA contemporary Fantasy

Title: Scales
Category and Genre: YA Contemporary Fantasy
Word Count: 80,000

Eric was the only orphan at Kingston Prep—a hidden school for magic users in rural Illinois—until Ben arrived, scared and crying about monsters. Within days he’d latched on to Eric and soon the two were as close as brothers.

While Ben reaches the top of their Sophomore class, Eric squeaks by and focuses on making sure his stash of drugs lasts the whole summer. Even his favorite teacher gave up on him developing his weak abilities and it’s common knowledge his future promises menial jobs at best. He might as well have fun on his race to the bottom.

When Eric’s arch-nemesis (and Ben’s crush) warns him about the Curator, a man who traffics magic users, he dismisses it as a childish conspiracy theory. Eric gave up believing in monsters and fairy tales a long time ago.

But, Ben has a secret, one that makes him the perfect addition to the very real Curator’s personal collection. It’s the secret that brought him Kingston, and—despite Eric’s assurances otherwise—proves at least one monster exists.

When the Curator’s Hunters attack their school in search of him, Ben and Eric escape and go into hiding where they think they’ll be safe. They’re wrong.

Now, to save Ben from a life of slavery, Eric has to believe in another person he dismissed long ago: himself. 

First 250 Words:
Eric took his exam. The words “Magic Theory, Practice, and Society” were centered on the cover.

What a joke.

This test was a joke.

The practical portion would be a joke.

The whole class was a joke.

All the knowledge in the world wouldn’t make him stronger. And it wasn’t like he would be able to get a job in any Luxen field either; he’d be doing construction or flipping burgers alongside Anluxen even if he studied hard and aced the test. He thought he’d done well enough in English, passable in Geometry, miraculously managed a C- in Chemistry, but here in this cruel joke of a class was where his worth was defined.

Worth. The word echoed around his mind, making him laugh to himself.

Behind him, Alex received her test. Her self-satisfied sigh warmed the back of his neck in a humid puff. Without thinking, he turned to glare at her. She was a dusty-looking girl with dusty blue eyes, wrapped in dusty tanned skin, topped with dusty blond hair.

Dusty, dusty, dusty.

And evil.

“Eyes on your own test, Eric,” Ms. Finley said, causing the entire class to look at him. He cursed at her inwardly, but complied.

“Ms. Finley,” Alex stated. Eric rolled his eyes and a wave of sighs and creaks of desks spread around the classroom. 

“Here we go,” someone whispered a little too loudly.

“Yes, Alex?” the teacher responded, her face a mask of professional caring. 

9. Renegade: YA Fantasy

Title: Renegade
Category and Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 110,000

Query (UPDATED):
When Nathan Coleman’s vision tells him that his younger brother, Jeffrey, will meet an early death, Nathan plots to steal supernatural power in an attempt to make Jeffrey invincible.

Visions like Nathan’s come with one of ten available abilities, but Nathan doesn’t believe one is enough. Through the creation of his own rogue power generator, he should be able to tap into the source of the supernatural and control the flow of power to channel more towards his brother. However, the last time someone tried to harness the source of power, it bit back. It sparked a civil war between the two secret coalitions boiling beneath modern North American society: the Fortis and the Renegade.

For years, the Coleman brothers called the ancient Fortis compound their home. But in uncovering the bloody history of his world, Nathan soon realizes his quest for Jeffrey’s salvation must take him down the unruly streets of the Renegade. He leaves the Fortis, but his influence lingers as he uses amiable yet naive Fortis arrival, Quinn Hale, to watch over Jeffrey. But in Nathan’s mind, even Quinn’s help is not enough to keep his brother safe. His obsession with granting Jeffrey invincibility grows, posing more danger to his brother than the threats of the vision he first feared.

First 250 words:
"Moonlight streaming through the broken window glinted off my silver blade, winking at me as if we shared a secret. I twisted the weapon between my trembling fingers. As if the stacks of withering books lining the walls of the library could see through me, I tried to hide my uncertainty.

I forced my eyes away from the knife to look back at Jeffrey, my younger brother by four years. Fiercely intuitive, his deep eyes bore into me, daring me to give him a good reason as to why I'd retreated from the world for the past week. I had one, but I offered nothing more than his name and a request.

"Jeffrey, I need to do something you're not going to like."

My brother did no more than roll his eyes like any other fourteen-year-old kid would have. "If you know it’s something I won’t like, what makes you think I’ll do it?"

That was how we usually talked, comments shot dryly at each other because we knew it was its own weird form of affection. Serious stuff usually went down well, but this was something more than serious.
"Because," I said, "I'll make you."

Jeffrey kicked his heels into the floor like this whole thing meant next to nothing. After my week of solitude, this conversation was what he thought he wanted.

"How do you think you'll do that, then?" he shot back. "What is it anyways?"

I paused a moment, glancing down at the small knife and flipping it from hand to hand." 

10. Da Capo al Fine: YA Literary Sci Fi

Title: Da Capo al Fine
Category and Genre: YA, literary science fiction
Word Count: 73,000

Celeste “Cece” Lauren is a young girl whose life is turned upside down when she is shot in the head and falls into a five-year-long coma.  When she wakes up, her brain is crippled, struggling along with the help of an artificial host, and her body is dying.  However, Celeste is kept in the dark about exactly how close to death she is; so, when her body fails a second time and she spirals suddenly into another coma, it takes her and her friends completely by surprise.

The doctors have a solution – take the memories saved on the artificial host, and use the host to transfer Celeste’s consciousness into a brand-new, lab-grown body.  However, when her friends excavate an old, long-buried secret, they realize the operation could mean death, and they hurry back to stop the procedure – too late.

The procedure works.  All is well.  Except…except Celeste looks nothing like the girl they knew – and some people are too stubborn to look beneath the surface.  When publicity attempts go wrong and the friends release their dirty secrets to the world, it’s up to them to figure out how to keep Celeste safe.

First 250 Words:
When I wake up, it’s to walls that are too shiny and too white, to a sterile-something that smells too artificial and too clean.  There’s a faint beeping somewhere to my right: my hearing feels dull, muffled, as if I’m wearing earmuffs, and my head is plagued with a throbbing ache that makes it hard to think.  I don’t recognize the place – all of the white and silver looks so different from my room back home – and the people here all talk in unfamiliar voices.  It hits me hard, the realization that I truly have no idea where I am, that I’ve never met these people before, that for all I know, I’m on Mars (although, admittedly, that does seem a little unlikely).  At some point, I hear someone say excitedly, “She’s awake!” and white-robed doctors come crowding into the room.  It’s a med center.  It has to be.

“Call her parents, please.  Christine, if you’d just -”

I don’t understand.  I don’t understand why they’re calling my parents – why aren’t my parents here already? – or why I’m here in the first place, why they’re making such a fuss about the fact that I’m awake.  What, do they think it’s weird for people to wake up?  I had been given the impression that sleeping was a natural process for humans, and that so was waking up, too.  But then again, I guess I could be wrong.

Friday, February 17, 2017

How Participation Awards Sabotaged My Accomplishments

I know I’ve mentioned it here before, but I have a hard time recognizing actual real life accomplishments. I suffer from “they’re just being nice” syndrome with a side helping of “everyone gets that.”

As a kid, I played soccer, and at the end of the season we all got trophies. When we got to the end of fifth grade, we all went on to sixth. When enough of us passed the Golden State Exam with REALLY HIGH MARKS, we all got a pizza party. We all graduated from High School. We all got the diplomas. I graduated from college in a really large group of people, and all my friends in the same grade graduated at the same time. With my masters, I got to the end of the study, jumped through the hoops and, tadah! I have a Master of Science degree.

Some of those don’t really look like accomplishments, but my inability to decipher what was, in my eyes, a participation award and what was real accomplishment became blurred. I feel like the pizza party was probably where it started.

I was one of the high marks that got us the party. At the time they didn’t tell us who had passed (to be fair, I might have been out of class that day for a swim meet or a soccer game, or even a band trip; it’s a miracle I managed to pass highschool with all my extracuriculars!). I didn’t know I’d done well on that particular exam until I saw my transcripts later—teachers tend to assume that if you’re doing really well in a class, you know what your grade was on the exams. I got high honors and no one told me. I think they didn’t tell me because they figured I knew. Maybe they didn’t tell me because they didn’t want me to have one more thing to lord over my classmates as I already had the high grade in the class, but even that didn’t feel like an accomplishment. Besides, the guy who sat next to me did okay, at least he told me so, but I had no way of knowing how I’d done. And everyone got to have pizza because it would be cruel not to let the rest of the class have some pizza.

I know it seems like something silly to bring up now, decades later, but people have been saying a lot of mean things about participation award recipients lately, and I wanted to put my thoughts out there. Participation awards when I was 5 were really important to me, but they are important to every five year old. By the time I was eight, I knew that everyone was getting them and they were basically meaningless, but if everyone else was getting one, I certainly didn’t want to be left out. By the time I was ten, they didn’t mean anything to me except to mark my years of playing soccer.

Somewhere between everyone gets one, and I completed a Master’s degree, I began equating more than one person getting an award as making the award meaningless. As in, I graduated with a large group of scientists to get my bachelor’s of science, but since there was a large group, it didn’t mean anything. We’d all made the same accomplishment, so it was no accomplishment at all.

To be fair, when I graduated from college, my family came and made a fuss over me. They gave me all kinds of gifts and what not, but I treated it like a neat birthday party, something that was expected and just part of the game, not a celebration of the fact that I’d done something that’s actually kind of hard. I was unable to accept it as an achievement (bleepbloop).

This inability to decipher participation awards from real achievement went right up through my first book contract. I treated it like a participation award. Which is a big trap, because people don’t understand that when everything is viewed as a participation award, it means that if you don’t make the curve, how bad were you at it to not even make the participation award level??

When I started to fail at things, it felt like being the only kid at the soccer team party who didn’t get a trophy, and not because they didn’t have enough, but because they singled me out to deny me one. I know this is largely the fault of depression (Yeah, I’ve got some of that), but it was also because the expectation had been set.

What I’m upset with is that the people calling young people weak and needing a participation award don’t realize is they’ve twisted expectations in the generation younger than they are because of these awards. There’s a whole generation of people who have a hard time sorting out real accomplishment from participation awards. Mine found my depression and went on a destructive tear through my psyche.

So what’s your take on participation awards? Do you also suffer from a lack of achievement?