Wednesday, September 28, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #14

Dear Agent,

Sometimes you have to freeze everyone out…to avoid getting burned.

Frosty--a young adult novel, complete at 54,000 words, told by seventeen year old Sydney as she starts the last semester of her senior year with a new foster family, Jim, Lana and Brooke Clayton.

“My dad ditched us when I was little. My mom was a crack smoking whore and now I’m living with Brooke Clayton.” Sydney’s introduction in health class got a lot of laughs--even from the teacher, and they all thought she was joking.

She wasn’t.

Seven foster families in seven years. It’s not like they were entirely her fault, well maybe a few. But when you’re ripped from the arms of your loving crack-addicted mother, because she was selling her body to support her habit...what do you expect?

Maybe her intro was an error in judgment. Just one more in a long line of mistakes, but she didn’t think Brooke would tell everyone the truth. This was all her social worker’s fault. The one that placed Sydney with the Claytons, who only took her in to make themselves look good.

Rich people suck. School sucks. Life sucks.

Sydney just wanted to get through that last semester of school. For the over privileged snobby kids to leave her alone. To keep her secrets safe. The only thing was…she didn’t know they had secrets of their own.

I have included the first 250 words as requested in the submission guidelines. Please let me know if you are interested in seeing my manuscript. Thank you so much for your consideration.



Insolent. Sassy. Contemptuous. Ungracious. Cold.

Of all the words I’d been called, cold suited me best. I was always cold, inside and out. But could you blame me?

I stood outside and waited for my new foster father to pick me up.

Number seven.

That was the seventh foster family I’d lived with since I was ten, when they’d decided my mom couldn’t take care of me. Not that I wouldn’t agree. Even at seven I knew being high on crack wasn’t a good thing.

Mom didn’t know though. Or maybe if she knew, she just couldn’t stop.

But maybe this will be my lucky number. My seventh foster family in seven years and now I was seventeen. That had to mean something. Right?

Wasn’t always my fault, the reason I’d had so many families. I had the worst social workers. They rarely found the right fit. I swear, sometimes they threw a bunch of names in a hat and sent me to the first one they pulled. I was furious when they took me from Mom--No, ripped me from her arms. Literally. So I took my anger out on my foster families.

I hated my mom for what she did to me…to herself. But for everything she put me through, I still loved her. Now some might argue that staying high on crack and inviting disgusting men into our home to have sex might mean she didn’t love me; but underneath that haze of crack, I knew she did.


The Agent said...

I had a bit of trouble finding the storyline within this query, as it's very long and detailed. The pitch should be boiled down to two paragraphs, just sticking to the highlights.

The biggest thing for me is there's a bit of a "poor me" feel to both the query and the opening paragraphs. She's obviously had (and still has) a very tough life, but she's pulling the sympathy card a little too much and it just ends up feeling a little too much. The paragraphs also feel a little talky--take your time weaving info throughout the action rather than coming out with it all up front.

Anonymous said...

I like the premise of the story! I definitely want to hear more about the rich kids' secrets - that was a great hook!
I agree that some of the writing may be a little too casual. It sounds like a great story! Good luck!

Janice Sperry said...

I would start your query with the line where her dad ditched her and her mom is a pot smoking whore. But replace the name of the girl with her status. The agent doesn't know who the girl is so it doesn't make an impact. From there you'll want to state her goal and what's keeping her from her goal. Keep it simple and short.

I agree with the agent. It is a bit "poor me," but I think it's easy enough to fix. You've got a great voice and your plot is solid.

Unknown said...

The query feels like a lot of setup for what could be a very compelling story - it would be nice to see more of the novel's plot in the query, with the backstory covered in a few succinct sentences. I have a little trouble believing that a teacher would laugh when a new student gave that description of her past, so I might suggest cutting that line.

I agree with the other commenters about weaving together action and exposition; the opening page seems a bit exposition-heavy.

Good luck!

Suzanne Warr said...

I like the final line in the query about rich kids' secrets, and what it hints at. I also really love the way she introduces herself to the class--great spunk! I think the query issues and over-narration in the opening pages have been covered, so I only have one other note. If her mother was a drugged up whore, and especially if she also 'worked from home' it is highly unlikely that your character wouldn't have come in for both physical and sexual abuse. Dear old Mum wouldn't have protected her, and drugs don't come cheap. The men in Mum's life would be used to taking what they wanted, no matter what it was. If you want your character's issues to be 'manageable' and limited to a rocky childhood and foster care, you may need to think through the ramifications of her childhood living conditions really carefully.

Best of luck with this--I think you've got a strong story premise backed up by a strong voice. You just need to tease it out, and polish the packaging!