Wednesday, October 19, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #11

Dear Ms. Testerman,

I discovered kt literary through your blog, Daphne!. You reeled me in with the shoes. However, it’s your explanations of what works in a novel (or query) and what doesn’t that I find so valuable.

Lily Josephine Carter can’t wait to meet her first fairy-in broad daylight, with a small crowd nearby (just until they know each other better). Lily and her best friend since Kindergarten spend every recess hiding piles of shiny stones to lure fairies to the playground. Two weeks into third grade, her best friend doesn’t believe in fairies anymore; she likes unicorns now.

Lily makes a fairy trap so dazzling, it puts Barbie’s Dream House to shame. She’s positive that one peek at a real fairy will get her best friend back. After an unfortunate accident destroys her trap and knocks out her first loose tooth (finally), Lily can’t face another day of school without her best friend.

Her older sister reluctantly offers to help her make a new trap. With her baby tooth in hand, Lily knows exactly which fairy to trap first. Daisy’s plan only uses string and super glue. Except, tooth fairies are smarter than that.

After a near success (or failure as Daisy calls it), Lily loses her fairy finding partner again. Turns out she’ll need the help of the third grade nose picker, who just might be more of a hero than a nuisance.

FAIRY FINDERS is an 11,250 word, early middle grade novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Chapter 1: Lily Josephine Carter Hearts Fairies

Lily yanked Skylar behind their favorite oak tree on the playground. The two girls kneeled behind the gnarled old trunk, knees touching.

Lily leaned in toward her best friend, “I found fairy pictures in my mom’s closet yesterday,” she whispered.

Skylar nodded and twisted the hem of her skirt.

Lily grabbed her by the shoulders. “Not drawings, real pictures.”

Skylar gasped.

“The last section is taped shut and it says ‘beware,’” Lily said in a spooky voice.

“What was in it?” Skylar asked, breathless.

“I was hiding under the clothes with a flashlight. That’s not a good place for reading secret pages."

Skylar eased back and sighed.

“I was alone,” Lily repeated, “but I snuck a picture to show you.”

She pulled out a grainy black and white photo from her back pocket. Skylar snatched it away and smoothed it across her lap. “Wow. The wings look like spiderwebs,” Skylar said, tracing the shape of the wispy wings.

“I know,” Lily squealed. “Some look like dragonfly wings and some have feathers like birds.” She pulled another piece of paper from her pocket.

This time Skylar squealed. “You brought me one, too!”

“Rose made you a copy.”

Skylar touched one of the web-like wings, accidentally smudging the tip. Even the tiny nose and lips were drawn perfectly. “Wish I could draw like this.”

Lily nodded. Rose was Lily’s four year old sister who drew better than an art teacher. Both girls kept a notebook of Rose’s fairy drawings.


Elissa said...

I love the concept. A little girl working to trap a fairy. Only I wish your query had more of a hook. What do I have to look forward to after knowing that her best friend and her sister have given up on helping her? Does she finally catch a fairy and mayhem ensues? And who is this “third grade nose picker”? It may help to describe this person more. Other than that, I love your writing style. Your voice is engaging and I’m interested in learning what happens next.

Write Life said...

First off, anything to do with fairies and I'm in!
I liked the idea of the MC wanting to trap a fairy...who wouldn't? But I wasn't grabbed YET with the first page. I'd get stuck into it some more. There seemed to be too much going on, that left me wondering what kind of girl the MC was. I'll explain.

'Skylar nodded and twisted the hem of her skirt.
Lily grabbed her by the shoulders. “Not drawings, real pictures.”
Skylar gasped.'

The twisting of the hem, made me think she was nervous, scared.
Lily grabbing her shoulders felt almost intimidating.

Then you go on to Lily saying something in a spooky voice. Then breathless.
You've got such a cool premise I don't think you need all that.

I think you should consider starting with Lily pulling Sklar by the hand. 'Hurry. I've got to show you something.'

Just a thought, but a very cool premise! Good luck!

Melodie Wright said...

I saw this over at MSFV and must say, seeing the query is so helpful. It makes me read your excerpt in a whole new way.

about this Q - you have some great details but I think there are too many. It reads a bit like a synopsis and I can't figure out where your story is going. What are the stakes? If Lily doesn't trap a fairy, what happens to her? I'd love to see some tension.

BTW, I think your first graph is great. Smooooth. ;-)

Jeff Chen said...

The concept grabbed me, even though this isn't my usual cup of tea. I love the idea of this girl obsessed with finding fairies! I also liked your opening dialogue - it drew me in. I really like how you draw us in with the girls' amazement of real fairy pictures.

I was confused about the character, though. I read that Lily's a third-grader, but then felt there were disconnects. Losing a first tooth in third grade? Making fairy traps at recess? These feel more like first or second grade to me. Maybe even young Ramona-esque.

I love the idea of the fairy trap and the nose-picker, but wasn't totally sure what they had to do with the story. It felt to me like you threw these elements in as spice, which sometimes works, but confused the query for me. It muddled up the plot in my mind.

I'd love to see the query condensed. You don't necessarily need to include all the details just include enough to get someone excited about reading the book. I was almost there, and if you streamlined it you might hook me. The first paragraph is perfect: you get right to the heart of things and I started to care about Lily. The second is still mainly on track, then (for me) the wheels come off in the last two paragraphs. Older sister, details of trap, someone named Daisy, smart fairies, near success, loses some finding partner, needs the nose-picker. It feels to me more a string of thoughts than two connecting paragraphs.

I'm not sure how you could position an 11K book. Too long for a picture book, too short for MG. Any chance you could expand it into a full-length MG? Even hitting 25K words would put it in a more normal range. It seems to me like the second half of your query contains so many ideas, this ought to be a snap. Perhaps it would call for more about the nose-picker or more about her fairy traps?

Best of luck!

Ninja Girl said...

I really enjoyed this! I don't usually read much in this genre, but I have to say the voice comes through loud and clear, a kind of innocent curiosity that really kept me reading. I thought the query had great personalization in the beginning and a lot of fun throughout. I really would love to see Skylar's name in the query though. If she's been her best friend since Kindergarten and you mention her a few times, I think it'd be better to name her. And I absolutely loved the last sentence of the query that starts "Turns out she'll need..." The actual writing I thought flowed well, some great use of phrases and reactions that matched the characters age and tone. Good job.
Ninja Girl

Kate Schafer Testerman said...

This is a little young for me -- it sounds more than an early reader than a middle grade novel. Particularly if it deals with a first loose tooth, which I'm dealing with as a mom at age 6 in first grade, and not in third.

What confuses me a little, however, is whether or not fairies are real in your world. From the query, it's not clear, and I think you could be a little more obvious which way you're leaning.

For what it is, though, this is quite cute.