Wednesday, September 28, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #2

Dear Agent,

Eva Hunter knows something’s wrong long before the doctor confirms it. No seventeen-year-old wakes up to a wet bed for the fourth time in as many days and thinks, “Yep, this is totally normal.” Diagnosed as a diabetic, Eva flees her freaked-out parents and heads to diabetes camp, where the counselors are fellow “insulin junkies” and every bunk bed comes with a syringe of emergency Glucagon.

Eva’s heard that diabetes shortens her life expectancy, but she didn't think it would be quite this drastic. Two college-age counselors, who go by the camp names of Rider and Natron, teach secret nighttime lessons: letting campers drink to see how alcohol affects diabetics, giving them insulin to experience what a dangerously low blood sugar feels like, and showing them how to skirt the rules and stay alive. Eva can’t help her unfortunate attraction to Rider, who’s on a kamikaze mission to get himself thrown out of camp--preferably by getting caught with Eva--and she idolizes Natron, a girl who has everything, even diabetes, under control.

As Rider becomes increasingly unstable, the lessons grow more and more dangerous. Eva has to find a way to navigate diabetes, camp, and a lunatic counselor boyfriend--before someone ends up dead.

INSULIN JUNKIES is a 60,000-word contemporary YA novel; the first page follows this e-mail. I’ve had type 1 diabetes since 2000, and I have three YA nonfiction books published: THE DIABETES GAME (Rewarding Health, 2005), TEEN DREAM JOBS (Beyond Words Publishing, 2003), and IT’S YOUR RITE (Beyond Words Publishing, 2003). Thank you for your time and consideration.



We drive across the Oregon high desert--open and sparse and harshly colored, the sky stretching out forever against dry hills. I’ve been rock-climbing out here a couple times with Dad, before everything, but I shut down that line of thinking. My head pounds with my heartbeat; my blood sugar’s high, but I’m not in the mood for endless fussing as my mom tries to divine the cause. Since I was diagnosed, diabetes is all she talks about.

“I’m sure you’ll make lots of friends,” Mom says. We listen to her only classical music CD on repeat. Most song lyrics remind her of the Separation. “You’ll have more in common with them than those kids at school, I’m sure.”

Okay, I don’t love the kids I graduated with, but that doesn’t mean I’ll have any more in common with a bunch of kids who also had to hide in the bathroom and try to dry their pants with the hand-dryer. Besides, the fact that we all have diabetes doesn’t mean we’ll like each other, unless diabetes only attacks the pancreases of extremely cool kids. Since I got it, that seems unlikely. “Yeah, Mom, it’ll be great.” Every time she makes me reassure her, I get more annoyed.

Finally, thank G**, we pull up a long dusty driveway and stop in front of a cabin with a sign that reads JOHN DAY DIABETES CAMP. Mom starts to look around for parking, but I say, “You can just let me out here.”


Roxanne said...

I really like your title and the first paragraph of your query did a great job drawing me in. I wouldn't normally be drawn to a story about diabetes, and I'm not a big fan of contemporary YA but you set up a sense of tension nicely. I also really like the voice of your main character. In your 250 words you not only give a rich sense of setting (very quickly) but also establish that the main character 1. has diabetes and 2. doesn't fit in very well with her friends and family. I liked Eva's voice. It was rich and real.

I did think the second paragraph of the query got a little confusing. I lost track of whether the conflict was really a life or death one, or an emotional conflict about relationships. I know it's probably both, but I wanted to feel that those conflicts were more concretely defined.

The Agent said...

This is a good query and a strong pitch. The combination of an intriguing premise with high stakes feels like a great match.

I'm less fond of the opening paragraphs. I'm concerned by what seems like a bit of a self-pitying tone in the main character's voice--she's not quite as likeable as I'd want her to be. Obviously she's in a difficult situation, but I think having more of a more outwardly focused, maybe lighter or even self-deprecating tone might give readers more connection.

Still, an interesting start. I'd probably read on for a few more pages to see how things move on from here.

Leigh Ann said...

I agree with Roxanne - I am unexpectedly interested in this story about diabetes. I think you had some great characterization and voice in your first 250 - especially heartbreaking was the line about drying pants on the bathroom hand dryer. :(

I also agree with her about the second paragraph of your query - I just think it can be tightened up a lot. What details are absolutely necessary for us to know? I think all the stuff about the camp counselors' goals might be able to be axed? Just a thought.

Great writing! So much luck to you!

Melinda said...

I like the query.
I like the premise.

I thought I read a different first page before that I liked better. (In the bathroom?)

Good luck!

Unknown said...

I like the premise because it seems like it's going to be a different look at diabetes, and how teens deal with it.

The first page doesn't really draw me in. I agree with the agent in that the voice isn't what I expected.

Good luck!

Unknown said...

There are a lot of great things here, as others have identified. However, my biggest concern was that this feels a little like an after-school special. You've got good stakes and I can see how you're trying to up the tension, but I think you're running at about 60% tense at this point, when you could easily run at 90%. In other words, I'd ratchet up the tension some more. Like I said, the stakes are clear and real, but I don't feel it as much as I could.

In my opinion, the reason for this is that I'm not really connecting with the character. I can see how the situation sucks, but I don't really know anything about her other than that she has diabetes. Make me care about her, and the tension will be more relatable. People in bad situations sucks, but people I care about in bad situations makes my heart break.

You can do this by cutting out the last sentence of the second paragraph. If you tell me less about the counselors, then you'll have space to tell us about Eva.