Wednesday, September 28, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #6

Dear Agent,

Charlie Burger doesn’t have a problem with superheroes--he’s just not interested in being one. And why should he be? Superheroes are all about responsibility and recognition--two things Charlie has worked hard to avoid.

But Charlie’s turning twelve, and everyone wants him to step it up. His mom is obsessed with his personal hygiene, and his older sister is bent on making him popular this year. Add to that a dad who wants the family to be vegans and a best friend who wants him to take her to the school dance, and Charlie feels like nothing is in his control.

All he wants is to eat a few hamburgers and get Franki to stop acting like such a girl.

When an eccentric science teacher hands out writer’s notebooks instead of data logs, Charlie creates a world totally different than his own, and The Adventures of Dude Explodius is born. But as his stories about an imaginary superhero start to come true, Charlie realizes he has more power than he thought. Unfortunately, the results are not always what he had in mind: turning his kid sister into a dog is one thing…getting his mom kicked off the police force and thrown in her own jail cell is another.

Charlie starts to doubt his abilities and retires “The Dude” for good. But when Franki’s need for a superhero becomes irresistible, Charlie has to figure out if he’s got enough super inside him to help the person who needs him to step it up the most.

SUPERHEROES DON’T EAT VEGGIE BURGERS is a magic realism middle-grade novel, complete at 41,000 words. Thanks so much for your time.



It’s not like I’m looking for trouble.

I’ve just scored two seats in the back of the cafeteria--as far away from the food-fight starters and wedgie-givers as I can get--when I look up to see a kid with arm pit hair and a bad case of acne standing over me.

“You call that a sandwich?” he grunts. A thick finger reaches down and punctures the plastic bag in front of me, grinding into what was about to be my lunch. Ketchup oozes everywhere.

He leans against me and digs his chin into my collar bone.

“What’s wrong, pretty boy?” he whispers. “You got something to say to me?”

What I want to say is that he should consider investing in a toothbrush, but don’t. Instead, I stare at the nutrition facts on the back of my milk carton and pretend to be fascinated by how many grams of protein are in a half-pint of chocolate milk.

A raspy voice from across the table answers for me.

“It’s a veggie burger, you idiot.”

I look up and cringe. Franki Saylor may be my best friend, but if word gets around Gatehouse Middle School that a girl had to stick up for me on the first day of sixth grade, I might as well write my own death warrant.

The kid shoves me sideways.

“You talking to me, girl?” He leans across the table, glaring at her. Franki pushes her nose up against his, so close their freckles mix together.


Jenny Kaczorowski said...

I like the quality of your writing sample. The voice is young, but not talking down at all. The query is a little wordy. I think you could cut the second two paragraphs and not loose anything. The story starts with the notebook, so while the rest does give us insight into Charlie, I think we get that in the first paragraph. Hope that helps! Good luck!

Unknown said...

I agree about your query. When I read the second paragraph I wondered what it had to do with superheroes.

I like the sample too. I can sense the kid mentality.
I was a little lost at "it's a veggie burger". I wasn't sure who was talking and thought maybe it was the bully, making fun of the sandwich again. then when franki touches noses with him I wonder why he lets her get that close. I would have thought she's trying to kiss him, going in like that. haha.

oh and the first paragraph or i mean second sentence was slightly hard to follow with the mix of present tense and grammar.

Janet Johnson said...

I really like this, too! Fun premise and good writing.

I did think the query got a little wordy. I do think you could drop the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs, like Jenny suggested.

The word "irresistible" threw me. I think of a piece of cake or something GOOD as irresistible . . . not something you don't want to do.

As for your sample, the change in tense from the first paragraph to the 2nd line did give me pause, but overall, I really liked it. Great voice, and great middle grade character. I'd definitely read on. :)

Rosalyn said...

I really liked the voice in the writing sample. Middle grade can be hard to catch without sounding like you're talking down to kids, and I think you do a nice job with that.

The query, as others have said, is too long. The inciting incident doesn't show up until the third paragraph. I'd condense it into two paragraphs, if possible. I don't think you need the first paragraph at all. I've been told that the query letter needs to focus on essentials: what launches the story? what does the MC want? What stands in the way of him getting it? What's at stake if he fails?

I think if you keep the focus here strictly on Charlie's superhero notebook, it might help you figure out what to cut. The problems with his family and friends are interesting, but they strike me as secondary plot arcs, not the major arc, and they tend to distract the focus from the MC here.

That said, this is the kind of story I would like to read, so best of luck with your querying!

The Agent said...

This query is quite long and while it's well written, it seems to me that the real thrust of the story doesn't really start until he discovers and taps into his superhero side.--So that's what you should be touting right upfront and emphasizing in your query. Right now it gets lost amongst the more everyday nature of Charlie's ordinary life.

The sample paragraphs have an appealing voice, but I'm concerned that a bullying cafeteria scene, especially for MG boy fare, could be seen as familiar. Perhaps there's a more dynamic place to start, perhaps closer to where he discovers his newfound powers?

MarcyKate said...

Great voice, great premise - but as others have noted you're starting a few beats too early in the query and the pages. Get the action up front and center and this will be stellar!