Wednesday, September 28, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #35

Dear Agent:

In Shakespeare on the Lam, middle school siblings, Jared and Athena Hearne, find a magic orb that allows them to hear voices from the past. And the first voice they hear is that of a teenage Shakespeare, pleading to be rescued from execution.

The siblings can’t just let Athena’s favorite dramatist be hung, drawn, and quartered. Using the orb, they zip to Elizabethan England and spring Shakespeare from his cell. But talk about a comedy of errors. Shakespeare hijacks the orb and returns to modern times with Jared, leaving Athena stranded in the sixteenth century. Then, thrilled with this brave new world, the Bard goes on the lam. He “borrows” the high school quarterback’s Mustang, shoots 'em up at Laser Tag World, and asks the immortal question at The Burger Barn: "Wherefore dost thou shake thy milk?"

Jared gives chase, desperate to herd the problematic poet back to 1582 and save his sister. Until, that is, the orb is stolen. Now Jared has a new mission: to hunt down the thief. Or else, Shakespeare’s marauding through high school next semester. And Athena’s history.



A ghost lurked in his house; Jared Hearne was sure of it. A ghost who prowled the corridors, muttered in strange voices, cackled. Sometimes, the ghost flitted around the dinner table. Sometimes, it sneaked into the family room when Jared was watching TV, coming so close he could feel its eyes fastening on the back of his neck as it readied itself to pounce.

Nobody else seemed to notice, that was the weirdest thing. Mom, Dad, his sister Athena--all of them slurped their soup, or yawned on the couch, or yakked on their cell phones without even a furtive glance or a frightened tremor. While Jared could practically feel the thing poking him in the ribs. Like right now, at 5:30 on a dark, rainy Oregon morning. The ghost was once again on the move. The chills running down Jared’s spine proved it.

He shivered as a spatter of rain hit his bedroom window. Taking a deep breath, he switched on Dad’s camcorder. If he got this ghost on camera, he’d be famous. It would be on TV, all over the internet. Kids at school would gape when he walked past.

One final check of his equipment. The strap of his bicycle helmet pinched his chin. His swim goggles were vacuum tight. Whoa, epic eyeball bulge. Excellent. No way would the ghost now be able to yank out his hair or claw out his eyes. He was ready for action.


Roxanne said...

I think this is the neatest premise. Maybe it's the English teacher in me....It reminds me a little of Bill and Ted (showing my age) in a good way. I liked the query. I don't really read middle grade fiction, but this is the kind of book I would want my middle grader to read. :) It would be fun as a teacher to pair it with an introduction to Shakespeare.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

I just wanted to say, while I was formatting/posting all the entries, this was one of the few that I remembered when I was done. I love the tone of the query, and like Roxanne pointed out, I think the concept is stellar.

The first page didn't quite deliver for me - I wasn't completely sold on making the manuscript seem like a ghost story, then pulling the old bait-and-switch - but the query was strong enough that, if I were an agent, I'd definitely request some pages:)

Lori M. Lee said...

Love the query. It's fun and, like the others said, the premise is fantastic.

MarcyKate said...

Love this!

On the Query: You give great voice. It definitely makes me want to read it. however, you're missing a few important bits - the genre/age group (I'm guessing MG sci-fi, but you need to specify that) and the word count. Otherwise, AWESOME.

On the Opening: The main issue I had is that the first half of the page is back story. We don't know where Jared is and what he is doing now, just that he's giving us information about the ghost. I'd suggest combining the third paragraph and your first one, so that the reader will be grounded in the scene first.

Anonymous said...

Whoops, thanks MarcyKate! I was so excited about entering Krista's contest that I just sent her the "pitch" part of the query letter. It actually does start with "Dear + the agent's name" and then the housekeeping (MG time-travel adventure, 36,000 words!)

Jess said...

In terms of feedback, I agree with everything Krista V. said above. I really love your title and query! Sounds like a fun, fantastic book!

Karen Denise said...

I'd love to keep reading this!

gretchen said...

There's so much I like about this: the title, the voice, the premise and--oh yeah--the writing! :)
Seriously, I think you've done an awesome job nailing the middle grade voice while coming up with a unique and fun plot. Also, I have total query envy! We know exactly what Jared wants and what he's willing to do to get it. And, it's just plain funny.
Great job...I can't wait to read more!

The Agent said...

This is an interesting premise, and definitely a very strong query. The question that I would personally have when considering this is the feasibility of taking a real-life historical figure and shaping his life in different directions from the norm. To me, the juxtaposition of a young Shakespeare in the modern day doesn't completely work; but it might well be that others think differently.