Wednesday, November 16, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #11

Dear Ms. Martindale,

I like your philosophy on characters, how they make the plot captivating because of who they are, not what is going on around them. I know you are looking for contemporary YA, and I’d like to tell you about my YA Romantic Comedy, WHERE ARE BOYS FROM, URANUS?

Every girl dreams about receiving gooey, sappy love letters--just not from herself.

But seventeen year old Camryn McCaleb doesn’t care how pathetic it is. After the dating disasters she’s been through, she decides that making up a boyfriend and writing letters to herself from him is worth avoiding the guys who splash water on her or pretend to get beat up mid-date.

Cam bases her letters on her crush, Beckham, and things are fantastic. She's all set to share them with her friends, until one of her pals announces that she’s drooling over Beckham too. (Gulp.) On impulse, Cam panics and lies about who her letters are supposed to be from. Finally, the real Beckham admits to jonesing for Camryn, but Cam is half-stoked, half-sick when she starts dating him behind her friend’s back. She doesn’t want to lose her friend or her boyfriend, but it’s only a matter of time before they both discover the secret behind who wrote her letters and the truth of her betrayal.

At approximately 80,000 words, WHERE ARE BOYS FROM, URANUS? holds the same flair as Confessions of a Shopaholic, but for teens. It will also appeal to fans of Anna and the French Kiss. The first 250 words are below. The full manuscript is available on request.

I am seeking a partnership for my writing career. In addition to this project, I have two completed YA manuscripts and two works in progress. I have a degree in English Literature from Brigham Young University-Idaho, and I am an active member of SCBWI. Thank you for your time.

Regards,
C.P.


WHERE ARE BOYS FROM, URANUS?

1. Intro To The Dating H*** That Is My Life

Maybe he’s just really shy. That’s why he won’t look at me.

“I like lots of different bands,” I say in response to my date’s fifty-billionth question. But I feel like I’m trying to get to know the steak knife instead of Tyson. All I’ve seen of him since we got to The Mango Grill is the top of his blonde, healthy hair.

He nods. Is it to let me know he’s listening? Or to make me think he’s listening?

Why did I say anything? If I keep quiet maybe he’ll actually look up at me. Maybe he spilled some sauce on his pants and the spot is shaped like a hula dancer.

I tap my fingers on my thigh. The Mango Grill is one of the few good restaurants in Cypress, so I’ve been here a million times. Decals of surfers and beaches cover the walls, and they use real cloth napkins and everything. They even serve sushi here.

“What’s your favorite book, Camryn?” Tyson asks, bobbing his lowered head.

Sorry, are you asking me or your legs? I try to connect how this question has anything to do with what bands I listen to, or if I like sports, or what my religious beliefs are, or any of the other random questions he fired out before those. Up on the mini stage bordered by fake grass, a big Samoan guy starts singing.

7 comments:

Tamara said...

Liking the concept!

The first line of your query is a little confusing. I think you should delete it and start off with Seventeen-year-old (and add the hyphens).

I don't get the connection between her changing who the letters are from and Beckam suddenly liking her. Because they're so close together in the query, it makes me think there's some kind of link.

I love the awkward situation your mc's in during the first 250. Can I just make one nitpicky suggestion? When Tyson says "What's your favorite book", can you leave out her name? That way it's a legitimate concern whether he's asking her or his legs :D

Hope I've been a help, and good luck!

Ru said...

I think your concept sounds like it would be really funny. I have one general comment and then a few minor suggestions.

First - if she's only 17, how does she already have so many bad dating stories? Is the MC including flirting at parties/hang outs as "dates"?

Don't get me wrong, I'd read more based on this, but the premise has me thinking about how all my "bad date" stories come from the college-and-beyond years. I'd want a credible explanation about why this 17yr old is so fed up with the world of dating STAT. Add that to the first 250 words, where she is reacting not-so-sympathetically to a teenage boy who is clearly just nervous and uncomfortable, and I'm not sure I like her all that much. Why did she agree to go out with him in the first place if he's such a weirdo? Why isn't she trying to throw him a bone?

Maybe this is a roundabout way of saying, I really like your writing, and I think the set-up about the fake boyfriend is funny and something a teenager would do, but Camryn's "voice" seems like a jaded mid-20s girl to me.

Minor comments:

I want to love "spanktastic," even though I don't know exactly what it means. I absolutely love (Gulp.) I'm not feeling "jonesing," probably because there's already a lot of slang in that paragraph, and a little because I haven't heard anyone use it for awhile.

Re the first 250 words:

You paint a really clear picture in your first 250 words. I can completely picture the restaurant and Tyson and Camryn's awkward exchange. There's a good flow and I'd want to read more, but mostly out of curiosity about what made Camryn such a bitter-bear at such a young age.

Melinda said...

Seems like a cute story, though I'm not one-hundred percent clear on what the stakes are. If her friends find out she faked the letters, she'd be embarrassed, but there aren't any lasting consequences, right? I can't see how that would ruin her relationships. Lying about the boyfriend is a bigger deal, but I think I need to know why she lies/keeps it a secret for this to have more impact. Again, if it’s just to keep from hurting her friend’s feelings that the boy picked her instead, it seems like her friend would get over it pretty quickly. I’m thinking there has to be more of a reason why she lies and why the lies matter, and I think that needs to come through in the query.

Delete the extra ‘her’ here: …they both discover the secret behind [her] who wrote her letters…

I don’t love all the slang like ‘spanktastic’ and ‘jonesing’, but that might be a personal taste thing. I also don’t like “I am seeking a partnership for my writing career” because it almost sounds like you are looking for a writing partner, and it’s not necessary to say why you want an agent.

It’s great that you start with a bad dating scene, but I’m feeling more sympathy for the poor clueless boy than I am the MC. It might be better if he was truly ignoring her/not asking any questions, and just shoveling food into his mouth while she tries to make conversation.

Robin Weeks said...

I really like the concept here and would definitely read more.

Just a few comments:

How can things be "fantastic" before she's even shown the letters to her friends? Do they know about them before they actually see them? Also, are these pen-and-paper letters or emails (which seem more teen appropriate and less that's-not-his-handwriting dangerous)?

How can she "lie" about who the letters are supposed to be from when the letters themselves are a lie? Try a last minute "substitution" instead.

Also, the central conflict is a tad scattered. Is it keeping her boyfriend or her friend, or is it the comedy of errors? Maybe pare down the subplot references?

Completely contradicting what I just said above, does the guy she substituted as the letter-writer ever come into play?

I've been counseled myself to avoid comparing your book to non-YA books, since they won't have the same audience and are therefore irrelevant. Just passing it on. Comparing it to ANNA is very cool.

Good luck!

Riley Redgate said...

Your query isn't really that long, but I still think it gives us too much, plot-wise. When you reveal that Beckham really does like her, I'm like, dude, how far are we through the book right now? Don't give it all away!

"Cam bases her letters on her crush, Beckham, and things are fantastic. She's all set to share them with her friends, until one of her pals announces that she’s drooling over Beckham too. (Gulp.) On impulse, Cam panics and lies about who her letters are supposed to be from. Finally, the real Beckham admits to jonesing for Camryn, but Cam is half-stoked, half-sick when she starts dating him behind her friend’s back. Here's where I get uncomfortable. Especially since the use of 'jonesing' makes me super-uncomfortable. I'm 17, and I've never heard anyone use it, and it makes me wonder if Cam is going to be one of those post-Juno pop-culture teens who uses cute slang in every piece of dialogue. She doesn’t want to lose her friend or her boyfriend, but it’s only a matter of time before they both discover the secret behind who wrote her letters and the truth of her betrayal. Yeah, I feel like the first conflicty part (her having to squirm her way around writing love letters from a guy her friend is lusting after) is more fun and more direct. Just my two cents, of course. Take them as you will.

Re: the pages:

"If I keep quiet maybe he’ll actually look up at me. Maybe he spilled some sauce on his pants and the spot is shaped like a hula dancer." I don't get how those two sentences are logically linked together.

"Sorry, are you asking me or your legs? I'd put this in italics. Maybe the formatting just got lost. I try to connect how this question has anything to do with what bands I listen to, or if I like sports, or what my religious beliefs are, or any of the other random questions he fired out before those. I'd make a new paragraph here Up on the mini stage bordered by fake grass, a big Samoan guy starts singing."

Very best of luck!

Escape Artist said...

Hi! I'd drop that first sentence in your query. Keep it clean. Simple introduction and get to the idea of the book!

Taylor Martindale said...

I love romantic YA, and I like the triangle you’re setting up here between these friends. Unfortunately, I found myself confused over characters’ motivations in this query. Cam is writing to herself, but with what purpose? At the start of the letter, it seems as though this is just a way for her to avoid bad dates, but the next paragraph implies that she has a plan for these letters. I like the first page, though, so I would likely keep reading, while keeping these concerns in mind.
Thank you for participating in this Agent’s Inbox!
Taylor Martindale
Full Circle Literary