Wednesday, November 16, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #17

Dear Ms. Martindale,

Joe Kapoor's heart has been wrapped around the adventurous little finger of his best friend, Lilah, for at least ten of his sixteen years. But he's always been the dependable one, nothing like Lilah's string of bad boy ex's. Hoping a little spontaneity will cause a spark, he agrees to leave New York for the summer and accompany her while she visits her father in China. When they arrive in Chongqing, Lilah convinces Joe to skip out on their driver to do a little sightseeing. And everything is perfect, too, until the bag holding all of their valuables goes missing.

Thrust into one of the most densely populated cities in the world without contact information, passports, money, or a phone, they must trek two hundred miles to the closest U.S. Embassy in Chengdu. Joe has always been the one person patient enough to see through Lilah's unconcerned exterior. But when her careless blunders cause a string of disasters, he must find the strength to survive without the comforts of home--and decide if what he wants most is really what he needs.

SURVIVING LILAH is a YA contemporary, complete at 50,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.



I flip my Traveling China guide to the page about Chongqing, and glance over it for the billionth time. I at least want to be able to ask where the bathroom is by the time we land. That way I’m semi-prepared because I know there’s no way Lilah’s going to be. I guess that’s why her mom asked me to come with her to visit her dad for summer break in the first place. Kind of like a chaperon, or something.

I look at her now, blond ponytail wrapped in a high bun on her head. She's got her ear buds in, and she’s bobbing to this electronic music that makes me wish I were deaf. Just another reminder of how different we are. In fact, if our mothers hadn’t met during their residency at Beth Israel, and given birth to us five years later at that same hospital, I don't think we ever would've become friends.

My other best friend, Chad, always brings up how bizarre it is that the two most dissimilar people on the planet are still so close. But I look at it in a different way. I’m the yin to her yang. An opposites attract sort of thing. That--and I'm madly in love with her.

"Hey, Joe. You wanna Twizzler?" her voice booms in the airplane’s cabin, talking over a song only she can hear. She stretches out her tan arm, sticking the candy in my face.


Ninja Girl said...

I love the title. I think it sums up the concept perfectly and adds a dash of adventure. Plus, Lilah is one of my favorite names . The query could use a really strong hook to start out with a bang. Like I said, the premise of this guy being stuck in a foreign land with his long-time love is definitely intriguing. Maybe something like this, "When Joe Kapoor gets stranded in a foreign land with the girl of his dreams" etc. Or (though I'm not a big fan of rhetorical questions) maybe, "What guy wouldn't want to be cuff off from the rest of the world with the girl of his dreams?" I'm not sure either of these is strong enough, but I think you could come up with a one to two sentence hook that would drive you to read the rest/keep the interest high. The excerpt was nice, especially the last few paragraphs. I think you could probably take out some of the backstory, increase the flow, get into the action a bit quicker, but I really liked it. Good job!

Ninja Girl

Krista V. said...

Just wanted to pop in here and say that this was one of the entries that stood out to me as I was getting everything ready to post. LILAH has a great hook for a YA contemporary, and I love Joe already.

A few small suggestions. First off, I don't think you need "But" at the beginning of the query's second sentence. The first and second sentences don't really contradict - if anything, they support each other - so the "but" feels out of place.

As for the first 250, "chaperon" didn't quite seem like the right word. It seems strange for a best friend of a similar age to think of himself that way. Also, in the last paragraph, I'd either capitalize that first "her" (i.e., "Her voice booms...") or change the tag to "she asks, her voice booming in the airplane's cabin as she talks over a song only she can hear." It's a small thing, and you could probably get away with calling "her voice booms" a dialogue tag as opposed to an action one, but it doesn't read quite right to me.

Other than that, I think both the query and first page are pretty solid. If I were an agent, I'd definitely request this one:)

Cortney said...

Great premise! The first sentence of your query stumped me--her "little" finger made me think she was a child. I agree with Ninja Girl, I would change your opening sentence so it's more grabbing, like what she suggested.

Your query and the excerpt left me wondering how he really feels about Lilah, because he seems to be annoyed with her, even in the query (her careless blunders leading to disasters). And the last sentence, "if what he wants most is really what he needs," was good, but also vague for me. Is he talking about Lilah? I wanted it to be a little more specific.

I love your excerpt, I was drawn right in. But the way you've worded things, how he's annoyed at her music, about their mothers and how different they are and how they would probably never have even been friends--I just didn't get the I'm Crazy For This Girl vibe until you came out and told me, "I'm madly in love with her." And when I got to that sentence, I was like, really? It just wasn't established for me.

All this having been said, I would definitely pick this up and read it. I want to know more!

Tara said...

Ooh, a YA set in China! The setting definitely interests me, and it sounds like you’re throwing some serious adventure and drama your characters’ way once they arrive. I think that your query is concise and well-written overall.

The sample, however, feels a little info-dumpy to me in places. “I guess that’s why her mom asked me to come with her to visit her dad for summer break in the first place” could be shortened to something like “I guess that’s why her mom asked me to go with her in the first place.” I trust that we’ll find out soon enough that it’s summer and that they’re supposed to meet her dad. Same with “My other best friend, Chad, always brings up how bizarre…” – In Joe’s mind, he would just think of him as “Chad,” not “my other best friend.” And I wonder if you can condense the sentence about their mothers meeting during their residency, etc.

A couple of other things that took me out of the world of the story: a ponytail and a bun are two different hairdos, so maybe just “blond hair wrapped in a high bun” would be better. And if she’s listening to a song that only she can hear (which you say in the last paragraph), then how does Joe know it’s electronic music that makes him wish he was deaf (2nd para)?

Finally, a couple of grammar tweaks: in the query, 1st para, hyphenate “bad boy” (since it’s a compound adjective modifying the following word), and it’s “exes,” not “ex’s.”

I’m nitpicking because I like this entry; it pulled me right in and I zoomed through the whole thing. I think that with a little polishing it’ll be super-strong. Good luck with it!

Maggie Hall said...

I love the idea of this! I totally want to read it. :)

I do agree, though, that in both the query and the excerpt, it sounds more like Joe is annoyed with Lilah than that he's in love with her. Maybe if he can think a little more about her positive qualities, and a little less about the negative ones, at least at first?

But I really liked it!

Melinda said...

The others gave you some great advice and I agree with most of their points.

I love how he just states 'and I'm madly in love with her.'

Elizabeth Briggs said...

I have nothing new to add to the excellent feedback, except to say I also wasn't sure in the query how Joe felt about Lilah, and if this was a romance (or if one develops between them). So just make that more clear and I think you're set. Great, unique premise.

Escape Artist said...

Your query begins with the second paragraph. That's your hook. The first part could be axed completely or certainly bits worked into the second paragraph.
Begin with your hook. No hook. No read further! : )

First paragraph of your sample piece, sounds like you're trying to set me in the story too much.
I'd start with the idea of, "I'm the yin to her yang."

Hope this helps. I'm at work so I'm trying to squish in a few of these during breaks! Good luck!

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

I was definitely intrigued by your query. The writing was good on the first page, too, but I thought there was too much telling. I'd love to *see* this boy being in love with this girl instead of him just telling me he is. Lilah comes across as really annoying in this first page--which might be your intention--but it's hard to understand right off what Joe could possibly be attracted to! Or is it just me? :) Show the little things he is attracted to instead of telling us he likes her just because they're so different. I hope I'm making sense and this is helpful! Your premise sounds exciting! Best of luck.

Holly L'Oiseau said...

Thanks everyone for your help! You made some really great suggestions,and I've already made changes to my first 250, with changes to my query to follow!

Taylor Martindale said...

I thought this was a fantastic query. Great concept, really well-written, and sets up all the right details. The first page has good voice, humor, and also gives great important details so that the reader is right in the middle of the scene. This query has me looking forward to the adventures and relationship of these characters, and I would definitely request more material.
Thank you for participating in this Agent’s Inbox!
Taylor Martindale
Full Circle Literary