Name: Loretta Chefchaouni

Twitter Handle: @WriterlySA

YA or MG: YA

Genre: Fantasy Retelling

Title: Accidentally Cursed

Twitter Pitch (140 characters max): Mysterious grace-granting shoes are an antidote to Annora’s dyspraxia, but they come with a deadly curse. #YA “The Red Shoes” retelling #OWN

1st 250 words of opening:

I would dance with Holmes Dubose before the night ended. Call it intuition, premonition, or gut feeling, but I knew, root-deep, in that written-in-your-soul way. Against all logic, it would happen.

Granting I didn’t break my neck first.

I concentrated on two things: the steady click-click of my new shoes perforating the silence, and not eating concrete. Pavement was, for me anyway, an acquired taste. One acquired unwillingly, due to my remarkable knack for tripping over thin air. My repertoire of skills also included falling up stairs and choking on my own spit. All sure to impress a sportish guy like Holmes.

I should have stayed home.

Going to the dance was either the bravest or dumbest thing I’d ever done, and I did dumb things—or at least they appeared that way—fairly often. I fought a burst of panic.

𝘉𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘩𝘦.

My mom always said labeling your emotions gave you control over them. So, fear. Definitely fear, laced tight, cloying. But also shivery excitement. And they merged into a strange hybrid of hope.

Streetlamps cast pale rings of empty light at even spaces along the sidewalk. Bright pockets in the wall of darkness. I rubbed early-Autumn goosebumps from my arms and rounded the last corner from school, the rooftop visible over a line of trees. But the next light ring wasn’t empty.

I froze and did a double take at the scruffy man hunched against a lamp pole. Slumped over, he seemed to be sleeping, but I couldn’t be sure.

Synopsis (200 word max): Fifteen-year-old Annora Genn already knows about curses; dyspraxia is one she’s stuck with for life. Bruises, bumps, falls, spills, and other accidental blunders are daily par for the course. Until she receives an anonymous gift: a pair of magic red shoes that transform her from uncoordinated klutz to graceful swan just in time to impress Holmes, a cute practitioner of the urban movement sport parkour, at the homecoming dance.

As Annora continues to wear the shoes, she soon finds herself explaining away eerie dreams, strange scratches on her skin, and ghostly apparitions, with increasingly thin rationalizations. 𝘖𝘯𝘦 𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘦 𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘦, she tells herself as she gives in and wears them again and again. Now that Holmes thinks she’s a veritable ninja like him, she can’t let him find out how clumsy she really is.

When bloody footprints follow her around school and her locker mysteriously catches fire, Annora steels her nerves and investigates the shoes’ haunting origins. And unearths a curse. The ghost girl attached to the shoes is using them to possess her, and if Annora can’t solve the mystery surrounding the angry spirit, she will lose her soul to the temptation of becoming someone else.

Feedback tips (any areas where you specifically want people to focus?): Feedback on everything is welcome, but I’m most worried about the opening. Let’s just say rejection is the norm for me. With a previous book I queried extensively and this one that I am just testing out, between agents and contests, I almost never get requests for more material. After a few rejections from agents who liked my #DVpit pitch for this one, I revamped the first page. I studied the first pages of three published books I would comp to mine, and found they relied heavily on voice. An editor friend who looked at my original opening also noted that it was missing the voice that shined in later pages. I rewrote my first page based on elements I noted these books had in common on theirs. Did it work? Please tell me honestly, as I really want my first page to shine. I would love to have more success querying this novel then I did with the first, which is shelved for now. Thank you in advance for any feedback.