Lara Apgar

Rowdy McConnell and the Cowboy Way

by Lara Apgar

Rowdy McConnell shoves his Stetson down hard, digs in his elbows, and concentrates on not sliding down the hillside. He takes another shallow breath and tries to fade into the dusty landscape. He shouldn’t be here, watching the yard behind Old Man Shivers’ barn.

Finally two men struggle out of the barn, wrestling with a heavy bundle. One of the men – Bronson, the oldest Shivers brother – kicks open the door to a strange pen, like no kind of livestock enclosure Rowdy has ever seen. The two men heave their load into the pen and dump it in a heap. The heap twitches, tries to jerk itself up, but collapses. And Rowdy knows exactly what the Shivers are planning.

Rowdy backs out of his hiding place, keeping low so they won’t see him. His mind races: I’ve got to tell Father and my brothers. Will they listen? I’ve got to try!

As the useless youngest son of an 1880’s cattle rancher, now Rowdy has to prove he has the skills, the drive, and the determination to save his family’s cattle ranch.

ROWDY MCCONNELL AND THE COWBOY WAY is a complete Middle Grade novel.


Arielle: Great setting. Nice to see a struggling boy character set in history. However, I don’t get that this takes place in 1880 until you tell me. The pitch should be filled with details to cue us in to the fact that this is historical fiction. And I’d also like to see a little more sense of where the novel is going, not just the setup.


David: I love how you start right in with the action. Something mysterious and dangerous is happening, and it totally hooked me. I agree that you should give us some more word pictures that show what your version of the American West is like, how it’s different than the countless books and movies that have been set there. I also like how our hero is undermanned, in every sense of that word. I love how he feels useless in a place where being a man has a very specific meaning. And how you’ve put him in a position where he has to man up. But the last paragraph seems to again fall into generality and non-specificity. I need to know more about what’s gonna happen in the story, what skills, what drive, he’s going to use, and how, as well as what villain he’s going to have to overcome. Again, I don’t want you to give away too much of the story, just word pictures and details that show me how exciting the stories going to be, and what a great writer you are. That’s all.