Wednesday, July 27, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #10

Dear Agent,

Seventeen year old Olga finally has a plan: make Random notice her as more than the girl next door. She’s only been in love with him ever since they bonded over their horrible names in kindergarten.

Just as Olga dares to hope her plan is working, lightning strikes during their first spring sail on Lake Michigan. She barely saves his life and they’re rushed to the hospital. There, a nurse orders some tests which reveal Random has leukemia. So much for the saying “lightning never strikes twice.”

The cancer is treatable, but Random develops a defeated attitude after breezing through life until now. Olga decides to write her own prescription in the form of a list titled “18 Things.” The list consists of eighteen quests they must accomplish before his eighteenth birthday. Now all she has to do is learn how to heli-snowboard, pull off the perfect prank, break a world record--oh, and cope with interferences from her strict mother, a smitten head cheerleader and Random’s cynicism. What she doesn’t count on is discovering the beauty and strength within herself, and his secret love for her, in the process. Time for a new plan: persuade Random to believe in the same lesson she’s learned on their journey. Pain is the price you pay to love, and it’s worth it. She must risk her own heart, but if she fails, she risks losing her soul-mate forever.

At 75,000 words, 18 THINGS is a coming-of-age story about friendship, love, and the turmoil of real life. In its own unique way, it could be described as a young adult version of The Bucket List meets A Walk to Remember with some unexpected twists.

After working with adolescents as a youth group volunteer and teaching elementary school for the past ten years, I feel connected to today’s young adults. I’m a member of SCBWI, YA-RWA, RWA-PRO and Southwest Florida Romance Writers. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society already agreed to review the book upon publication in its national newsletter. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Very Best Regards,


I needed a change. The first of April caused me to realize I’d been a fool carrying a secret crush for Random Lee since kindergarten. The hair dye was step one in my master plan of making him notice me as more than the girl in pigtails he used to chase at recess.

“Why does my shower look like a scene from a slasher movie?” I ask my best friend Nicole, towering over me. She laughs diabolically, pretending to wield a knife. “This is not funny. Did you read the instructions right?”

Cocking her head to the left, she says, “Hang on, this may hurt a bit.” She scrubs in the conditioner and rinses fiercely.

Five minutes later I study the color in the mirror. “Crap.” Although curls turn darker in winter when Michigan doesn’t see sunlight, it had never before been devoid of all brown and gold.

“You look like you dyed your hair with Kool-Aid,” Nic comments, not helping.

I pick up the box and examine the photo. “I don’t understand. It warns the results may vary slightly from the color in the picture, but this isn’t even close to Strawberry Blonde.”

Nic gives me a one-armed hug. “You’re red-hot, Olga. If Random can’t see that, then he’s the fool.”

I still cringe at the sound of my name. My parents wanting to honor my Russian grandmother, they dubbed me Olga Worontzoff. They had good intentions, but whatever, the world is full of those. Case in point, my debauched hair.


Emily said...

This sounds like a beautiful and heartbreaking story.

Query: I like the bit of detail you gave about what's on the list.

Half of the third paragraph is about lessons. Maybe instead you could show us that she has a choice between avoiding pain or being happy with him for a short time before he dies.

I don't think you need to compare it to the bucket list or walk to remember. It's a given (plus a walk to remember is also YA). Also the first sentence in the last paragraph may not be necessary.

Sample: I like this sample. Good character and voice. There are a couple grammatical errors to fix though. I like the best friend. She sounds blunt and fun. Random question- why doesn't she go by her middle name? Or does she and we don't find out until later?

Ru said...

Your query definitely makes me want to read it, and I love your sample pages. "My parents wanting to honor my Russian grandmother, they dubbed me Olga Worontzoff. They had good intentions, but whatever, the world is full of those" - cracks me up. It's smart to throw humor in there so the somewhat grim subject matter doesn't seem overwhelming.

Jo said...

You could cut the first paragraph and a half and I wouldn't have missed anything. It would still make sense and you'd sharpen the query (which you need to do). I really like the idea, but I'd like to get a better sense of Olga and Random's personalities, not just the long standing crush. As other's have pointed out, comparisons are a no-no. Let your work speak for itself and you'll do great! :D Good luck!

Melanie Stanford said...

Sounds like a great story- love the list of 18 things. But the query was a little long, wordy. It feels like you're giving away the end of the book in the query.
And it's probably just me- I have a thing with names- but the name "Random" is difficult for me. I know that's your point- they bond over their weird names- but I just can't get it. It stops me.

Perri said...

I loved the query! It seemed so effortless in its description and the story sounds really sweet to me.

I was prepared for the same sort of voice on the page and the first paragraph sort of threw me off, maybe because it's so crammed with info and sort of forced in a way the query isn't(?) But I like the dialogue that comes after, though I wasn't sure if she was dying her hair red (slasher movie comment) or black ("hair turning darker" and "devoid of brown and gold" comments) I love the part about her name!

Sounds like a great story!

erica and christy said...

I like both the query and the pages - good idea and strong writing. The one thing I notice in the query is that I'm not sold on how a list that Olga comes up with for Random can lead to her possibly losing her soul-mate...(it sounds like a fun list). And as others said, I don't think you need to reveal that he secretly loves her, too.

On the subject of comparisons - I think you should use them in a query and I didn't have a problem with yours.

On the page - I know you want to bring up the name right away, but as her best friend, Nic would certainly know how much Olga hates hers, so would she use it in casual conversation?

Good luck!

The Agent said...

J.A. - The first thing I said to myself when reading this was "no one is named Random." You can't pass this off as a weird name because it's not a name at all. Having the characters bond over their names doesn't seem like a strong enough basis for a relationship, and as I kept reading this query, I kept asking myself what the other one was getting out of the other's company. What is it about their personalities that draw them to each other? I think, for me, the story seems too quiet and sentimental, so I'd pass on it. When you research agents, make sure comparisons to "A Walk to Remember" will work in your favor. For me, it's a turn off, but other agents might think otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the valuable feedback everyone:) @ Agent--I actually do know someone named Random Lee, as well as Tru Lee, and they were part of the inspiration for this story. Yes, it is odd but as a school teacher, I've seen lots of weird names & no doubt we hear about plenty of unusual names in Hollywood. Of course their weird names are a starting point for friendship, but it becomes much more than that. Thanks for the bit on comparison-I've heard agents love & hate them, as you say. I definately could do away with it though.

As for some of the story comments--it's not quiet and sentimental at all so I guess I'm really gonna need to fix this query. FYI--Random doesn't die. That's why I put that line in there about it being treatable. The part about losing her soul-mate forever is more about getting the courage herself to tell him she loves him.
AH! Back to the keyboard!