The Girl Who Won the Revolutionary War by Libby McNamee
It’s May 1781, and Patriots are on the verge of losing the war. Only French support is keeping their cause alive. My YA novel, “The Girl Who Won the Revolutionary War,” tells the true story of 16-year-old Susanna Bolling of Virginia and her midnight ride that helped turn the tide of the American Revolution. Think “Johnny Tremain” as a girl (without a burnt hand.)
When General Cornwallis arrived with his army of Lobsterbacks at her family’s plantation on the Appomattox River to quarter, Susanna overheard their plans to capture the French General Marquis de Lafayette the next morning. This would be a crippling, if not deadly, blow to the American cause.
Someone needed to alert General Lafayette, and she decided that person was herself. This freckled girl with emerald green eyes was soon to have the adventure of her life – sneaking out alone at midnight through a secret tunnel, crossing the river in the pitch dark, and then riding a horse for miles. The stakes could not have been higher – the future of the Colonies was in the balance, and it all rested on her.
But could she really find Lafayette, warn him, and make it home before the sun came up?
The Book Doctors: What a great idea for a book! We hear all the time from teachers that they are dying for novels with exciting characters that take kids back in time and make history come alive. If this book is done correctly, it could sell in schools for years. And you present your ideas very clearly. But right now this feels too much like a book report and not enough like a crazy exciting yarn with lots of death-defying action. And there’s not enough world-building in your pitch. We need you to show us this exotic world you’re taking us to with word pictures. That’s part of the joy of a book like this. And we need to know that you’re capable of creating this world that is so familiar because of our national folklore, and yet so exotic because it is so utterly different from our own. I’d also like more of an idea of who this girl is. Apart from the freckles and emerald green eyes, what does she look like? What are her dreams and desires in life? Is she timid or bold, frilly/girly or a tomboy? Why does she feel compelled to take her life into her hands? And you don’t give us enough concrete action. It all seems kind of generic: Sneaking out alone at midnight. A secret tunnel. A river in the dark. Riding a horse for miles. You tell us that the stakes are high, and I understand that from a macro perspective. But you don’t make me feel it. If she doesn’t succeed, what will the consequences be? And from a micro perspective, what specific dangers does she meet on her midnight ride? She has to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds, doesn’t she? Just asking the question you ask at the end of the pitch doesn’t make this pitch build to a roaring crescendo.