OPENING LINES Results from Chelsea Eberly

In Opening Lines, Natalie Yates gets expert advice from top literary agents, editors & publishers to help you tune up your concept, pitch and opening lines to create the strongest hook.

OPENING LINES gives you the chance to get professional feedback so you can polish your submissions. This month there were a total of 35 entries and Chelsea Eberly gave her feedback on three randomly selected submissions. 

Chelsea Eberly – An Introduction

Chelsea Eberly is the Director of Greenhouse Literary Agency and represents authors of middle grade, young adult, graphic novels, and women’s fiction, as well as illustrators who write picture books. Greenhouse is a transatlantic literary agency which represents authors writing books for children and young adults, with offices in both the US and the UK.


As a former senior editor at Random House, Chelsea edited the Newbery Medal-winning When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller, as well as numerous award-winning and New York Times bestselling authors such as Tamora PierceLeigh BardugoMarie LuSarah J. MaasMark Siegel, and Kim Johnson to name only a few. She has a deep understanding of how publishers think, and is an expert advocate for her clients. Chelsea is also a Publishers Weekly Star Watch Honouree, which recognizes “the rising stars of the US publishing industry.


A Midwesterner turned New Yorker, Chelsea regularly presents at writing conferences across the country and enjoys teaching craft. Follow her on Twitter at @chelseberly and discover more about her taste on her Publishers Marketplace page.

Submission #1

TITLE Livvy Sparrow and the Snowglobe of Secrets


The eleven-year-old daughter of a jailbird becomes a kidnapper’s next victim when she investigates the disappearance of her foster brother, and uncovers a sinister plot to transform children into an army of terrifying beasts.


The stakes are high here! I love that you end the pitch with a surprising twist that makes me want to know more. I was slightly confused about the “daughter of a jailbird” line – how is this important? If it’s difficult to tie-in to the pitch succinctly, I would cut that detail and adjust the opening to “When eleven-year-old Livvy Sparrow investigates the disappearance…”


It started as a trick or treat, under a starlit sky in October. 

    Livvy Sparrow sucked the air between her teeth. From the foster home the hill had been no bigger than her thumb. Blummin’ ek, how she wished she’d used a measuring stick. The hill was massive. She tucked her chin into her chest and stamped down hard on her pedals. Peering over her shoulder, she saw Reuben crawling up the hill like a sloth. “Come on, slow coach!” she called.


Love the voice. Livvy’s miscalculation of the hill is endearing, and readers immediately see her sense of humor and take-charge attitude on the page. Nice job introducing the characterization early on and the fact that she lives in a foster home is subtly woven in. The opening sentence is engaging. My one concern is that “under a starlit sky in October” doesn’t have quite the same voice and tone as the paragraph that follows. Is there any way to bring more of that wonderful voice into the opening line?

Submission #2



What if Red Riding Hood was evil and the wolves were good? – a nod to family loyalty from A Wolf Called Wander meets the cruel energy of Maleficent.


Great pitch. Love that you introduce a question to engage readers and your comp titles are strong as well. I would just finish the thought so that the second sentence is complete. “[TITLE] is a middle grade fantasy that is a nod to family…” or some such.


Red is not her real name, no-one knows what that is. 

    I think it suits her because she has my family’s blood on her hands, the same colour as the cloak that drapes around her neck. The cloak that is lined with the pelts from my fallen kin. We’re getting better at hiding from her and she hates it. I can tell by the low growl of frustration she emits when she passes our intricate hideouts, unseen to her usually all-seeing eyes.

    It may have taken us years but we have become wise to her movements around us. 


Dramatic opening that gets us right into the life-and-death high stakes. I am immediately on the wolves’ side and wanting to learn more. “Red is not her real name” is such a strong, compelling phrase, I wonder if you might keep it simple and cut “no-one knows what that is.” Perhaps go directly to “But I think it suits her because…” You’ll want to get to the present action quickly in your next few paragraphs. One of the most important things an opening does is answer the question, “What’s new?” You’ve successfully grabbed the reader with a strong opening, now cement their interest by helping them understand why the story is starting in this moment in time.

Submission #3

TITLE A Girl, a Bike, and a Dog


A grieving girl finds friends and a summer adventure in the golden hills of Snowdonia.


Nice job introducing what the main character is dealing with emotionally and highlighting a unique setting. I’m curious about the adventure. Consider sharing more info on the problem she and her friends face over the summer?


The grey and red buildings of London dwindled into the distance as we drove out of town in unexploded silence. I clung to HB, my beautiful brown and white cockapoo and refused to cry; I wouldn’t give my dad the satisfaction. 

    Two hours into the journey, he broke the silence. I thought we’d pull in at the next services, stretch our legs and have a bite to eat. What do you think? His reflection in the rear view mirror raised eyebrows in a hopeful question. I had vowed never to speak to him ever again. I returned the raised eyebrow.


Wonderful job with characterization right off the bat. The main character refusing to cry because it would give her father satisfaction tells us a lot about her in just one sentence. I also appreciate that she stays firm for two hours until he is the one forced to speak. She has perseverance and a strong grudge. “Unexploded silence” is a memorable phrase; avoid repeating “silence” in the next paragraph. A small note, if she’s in the back seat, who is the passenger sitting beside her father? Clarify this quickly, as well as the reason for the silent treatment. I’m curious to learn what the father did and hope it is revealed soon.


Look out for our next Opening Lines opportunity in September 2022!


Natalie Yates has been a SCBWI member since 2015. When she is not working as a Teaching Assistant for a local secondary school, she writes for the YA audience. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram.

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