Wednesday, October 19, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #1

Dear Ms. Testerman:

I was glad to read you’re looking for funny MG, and you’re a fan of Terry Pratchett. I think middle grade readers with Pratchett’s appreciation of the ridiculous will enjoy my MG novel, THE BUNGLEWAD SQUAD.

Stubby Hintertail thought life in his isolated mountain village couldn’t get any worse. The Captain of his Boot Camp already assigned him to the lowly Bunglewad Squad because his corkscrew tail makes him a grade-A klutz. And being squad mates with a monstrous cat who can’t stop eating, a whiskerless close-talker, and a hypochondriac who wraps herself in tree bark is bad enough. But now, Stubby’s mother rescues a peculiar kitten from the river, enrolls it into the Bunglewad Squad, and charges Stubby to watch over it like a brother.

The sadistic Captain Marks detests the bizarre kitten, and Stubby for being its brother. He tries to punish them all with harsh drills, but grows irate when he can’t do a single thing to wipe away the new kitten’s smile. The Captain doubles and redoubles his efforts to make them suffer, but this has unexpected results on Stubby’s squad, due to a fact no one realizes about Stubby’s new brother.

Can Stubby and the rest of THE BUNGLEWAD SQUAD learn to be functioning cats, with a little help from a dog?

THE BUNGLEWAD SQUAD is a completed 41,000 word MG book that’s The Bad News Bears meets Warriors.

As for me, I’m a crossword puzzle constructor published in the NY and LA Times.

Thank you for your time, and congrats on the blockbuster success of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children!



A small gray cat teetered on a high branch with one paw curled around a red crab apple. “Father, hurry!” he shouted. “This apple is burning my nose, and I’m losing my balance again!” A breeze kicked up and he dug his claws into the swaying oak.

“Just a moment, Stubby,” his father said from below. He stood erect on his hind legs and patted down white fur exploding from his head. “Proceed to drop it.”

“Are you sure?” Stubby asked. “You won’t get hurt?” Stubby cracked an eye open, but quickly squeezed it shut as he caught a glimpse of the eerie Zwicksturm River in the distance.

“I don’t know--it may be even more painful than the granite rock,” his father replied. “But science waits for no cat! And please remember: as my apprentice-in-training, you must follow my every instruction.”

“Sorry, sir,” Stubby mumbled. All the other privates are right, he thought. I’m just a stupid, good-for-nothing bungler. He shuddered as he pictured the village sign which haunted his every moment:


What if I fail at Zwicksturm Boot Camp AND this science apprenticeship? I’d be exiled from our village, into the wild! Who knows what crazy beasts live outside the Great Stone Schutzwall?


Unknown said...

I'll preface this with, this isn't what I'd normally read. But I'm quite intrigued. Your voice is hilarious.

The only line that gave me pause was the one about the granite rock. Was this something Stubby had done in the past or was father talking about granite rocks in general? The wording just seemed a little awkward.

Excellent job, though! I'd keep reading.

Anna said...

I don't typically gravitate toward animal MC's. At the onset of the query, I had no idea what the MC was. I would have loved to know that from the top. Also, I'm not exactly clear what the stakes are for Stubby. What happens if he isn't a functioning cat after boot camp?
I loved your squad member descriptions--so cute and quirky.

Melodie Wright said...

Agree with Anna and Karen - i would've liked to know your MC was a cat bc w/ the reference to the curly tail, I thought he was a pig. :)

I love the way you're beginning your world building in your excerpt - only question, why is dad's white hair exploding from his head? Not sure you need this detail.
Good luck!

Write Life said...

I agree with the above. It helps knowing what the MC is right from the get go. This sounds sweet. I love the idea of the experiments.
Good luck!

Write Life said...

Oh, I forgot to tell you that I love your title! : )

Jeff Chen said...

Thanks for the comments so far! I appreciate the useful feedback.

I would love to find another beta reader for critique exchange, so if you liked what you read and are interested, please let me know. I have a couple other books I'm working on in parallel, and they're in a similar style of ridiculousity.

jeffchen1972 (at) gmail (dot) com

Kate Schafer Testerman said...

J.C. -- First of all, thanks for sharing! I think all of you are very brave to put your queries out there in the public for review and critique.

As for an agent's opinion of the query itself, I'm not a big fan of animal protagonists. They too often feel too cutesy for me, and though you hint at the absurdity of a Terry Pratchett-style narrative, I'm afraid I had a hard time getting past names like Stubby and Bunglewad.

So this isn't for me. Thanks!

Jeff Chen said...

Thanks for your comments, Ms. Testerman!