Wednesday, November 16, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #3

Dear Ms. Martindale:

Eleven-year-old Gladys Gatsby loves to cook, but no one in fast-food-obsessed East Dumpsford shares her passion--especially not her parents, who ban her from the kitchen after one teeny, tiny crème-brûlée-triggered fire. Gladys finds a new creative outlet in an essay contest in which she writes about her dream job: becoming a restaurant critic for The New York Times. But when her essay lands on a Times editor’s desk, Gladys finds herself taking on that job a lot sooner than she expected!

Her first assignment: review Classy Cakes, a fancy new “dessert bistro” in New York City. To sneak into the city and the restaurant, Gladys will need help from every friend she’s got--and possibly from her worst enemy, Charissa Bentley. The most popular, meanest girl in the sixth grade is having a birthday party in Manhattan, and if Gladys can get herself invited, she just might manage to meet her deadline and hang on to her dream job.

GLADYS GATSBY TAKES THE CAKE is a 48,000-word, humorous middle-grade novel about a girl who can’t wait to be a grown-up, even if that means biting off more (delicious, gourmet food) than she can chew. The novel stands alone but has series potential. I’ve read that you enjoy cooking, so I think that this project could be a great fit for you.

I graduated from Dartmouth College with a B.A. in Creative Writing and have a play published in the anthology FISHAMBLE FIRSTS (New Island, 2008). My plays and screenplays have been shortlisted for several major awards, which are detailed on my website, [redacted].

I would be happy to send my complete manuscript upon your request and have pasted the first page below. Thank you so much for your consideration.



Gladys Gatsby stood at the counter, the spout of her father’s heavy blowtorch poised over the top of the first ceramic cup. Her finger hovered over the trigger button that was supposed to turn her plain little custards into crunchy, tasty treats. That's when she heard a car door slam outside.

Gladys froze for a second, but then she checked the clock. 5:16--still a good 44 minutes before her parents were due home from work, and they were never early. It’s probably just the neighbors, she told herself, and with that, she took a deep breath and pulled the trigger.

Several things happened at once. With a hiss, a blue flame several inches longer than Gladys had expected shot out of the blowtorch, passing clear over the far edge of the first custard. With a whoosh, the wind outside changed direction and began to blow in through the kitchen window, setting the gauzy blue and white curtains aflutter. And with a jingle and a grinding noise and finally a click, someone turned a key in the Gatsbys’ front door.

A moment later, she heard her parents’ footsteps in the hall.

“Gladdy!” her dad called. “We’ve got pizza!”

Fudge! Gladys thought. She tried to release the trigger on the blowtorch, but to her horror, the spout kept shooting flame. She pumped on it desperately with her finger, but that only seemed to make the flame get bigger.

Their footsteps were getting louder.


LMT said...

This is really cute. I think you have a strong query and sample. I like "Fudge!" My only suggestion is that I don't think you need "Several things happened at once."

I would read more.

Good luck!

Theresa said...

I love this. It's adorable. Your query grabbed my attention and I couldn't wait to read your first 250 words and they didn't disappoint. This is something I would definitely read.

Stephanie Thornton said...

This is really cute--it sounds like something I'd read with my daughter.

Your query is well-written, but I felt like it only hinted at the conflict of the book toward the end. I'd have liked to see that emphasized--what choice does Gladys have to make? What are the stakes if she fails?

I really enjoyed your sample page!

Tamara said...

I love this too! I agree with the other comments, and I'll add that you say Gladys has to sneak into the restaurant in your query, but a short explanation why might help.

Something like "Since her parents are as opposed to her being a critic as they are to her being in the kitchen," or something along those lines, and maybe add the stakes in there (what will happen if she's caught). This way you might be able to make the reader really fear - therefore really care - about what happens to Gladys.

Krista V. said...

Just popping in to say this was one of the entries that really stood out to me as I was going through them all. I love the character, I love the title, and I love the concept and conflict.

A few small suggestions. In the query, I didn't understand why Gladys has to sneak into the city. Why don't her parents think it's awesome that she wrote this fantastic essay that caught the attention of the Times? I can understand why they don't want her to cook anymore, but why not this? If you help us make that one small leap, I think the query will be pretty much perfect:)

As for the first page, Gladys's voice and situation drew me in from the first word. I love this little eleven-year-old foodie who's daring enough to attempt a creme brulee:) You might cut the phrase "to her horror" from the second-to-last paragraph. The rest of the paragraph shows us her horror well enough, so you don't need to tell us.

Good luck with this! I don't buy many books (I'm more of a library kind of girl), but I'd buy this one in a heartbeat. It sounds adorable!

Kayeleen Hamblin said...

The only thing I have to say is that I really loved this.

Mel said...

I agree with the above comments. The premise is really cute and the voice is engaging.

Melinda said...

I loved this too.

Taylor Martindale said...

Very cute premise. Why does she have to sneak into the city and restaurant, though? Presumably, the New York Times doesn't know she's a child and her parents don't know about the job? If so, bring in those details to help build the tension. I really like the concept, though -- and I do love cooking! I like that the first page starts off right in some action, but I didn't feel that there was quite enough voice to support the disaster moment that gets her in so much trouble. However, because I really like the concept and thought the query letter was strong, I would keep reading to see how it continues to shape up and how the voice develops. Very cute!
Thank you for participating in this Agent’s Inbox!
Taylor Martindale
Full Circle Literary