Wednesday, April 25, 2012

An Agent's Inbox #15

Dear Katie,

Thanks for participating in this contest. I share your enthusiasm for realistic YA, so I'm happy to introduce my novel COMING UP NEXT.

If you want to meet your father, get on the plane.

When high school grad Jason Wells gets this IM, life as he knows it is turned upside down: he’s never known who his father is. So why now? And what’s with the jet?

Things get even more surreal when Jason learns that his long-lost dad is family TV icon Alex Reno, who’s headline news after getting caught with his pants down (literally) with his 20-year-old costar. The twist is, Alex finds out about Jason for the first time, too--he had a one-night fling with Jason’s mom, and she never told either of them.

The network flies Jason to L.A., hoping Alex can redeem himself by being a father for real…or at least for reality TV. Jason’s regularly scheduled life is forgotten as he gets to know his ultra-famous dad while cameras capture every intimate moment, until the line between TV and reality blurs when a long-buried secret is exposed.

COMING UP NEXT is my debut novel, but I’ve been a WGA member since 1997. I worked for several years as a screenwriter and TV writer under the tutelage of Diane English (creator of Murphy Brown and writer/director of The Women), and I've spent the past decade or so in the advertising trenches as a copywriter and art director. You can interact with me on Twitter or via my blog

Per the contest rules, the first 250 words follow the break. Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,


If you want to meet your father, get on the plane.

The text looks like any other, black words in a pill-shaped bubble on my phone, but the gravity of what it means lands like a punch to the stomach. I’ve never known who my dad is. It sounds like some Bible belt hillbilly joke, but getting pregnant at twenty wasn’t something my mom planned on, and I’m the nine-month dividend of her forgotten one-night stand. She swears she never regretted her decision to keep me, but nobody wants to check the “single mom” box on career day. It's something we don't talk about.

My heart’s pounding. A sleek white jet sits inside the airfield, and a guy who must be the pilot stands beside it. He adjusts his aviators. Somewhere in the distance a dog barks.

I read the text again. Who sent it? And why? Why now?

Just what I need. I start college at the end of summer, but instead of being this chill new adventure, the thought of it makes my stomach hurt. My girlfriend Charlie’s got big plans for us--coordinated schedules, matching Greek houses, an apartment together as upperclassmen--all the premeditations she mapped out (literally, in PowerPoint on her dad’s laptop) when we started going out junior year. Back then it was exhilarating having a girl like Charlie imagine a future with me, but I don’t want anybody flowcharting the next four years of my life before I even go through freshman orientation.


Susan said...

The thought of Charlie mapping out their lives on PowerPoint made me laugh, and is also a great detail that gave me a picture of her character.

Mary Vettel said...

Nice credentials.

I don't get the surreal bit about Jason's father being caught w/costar - that's pretty tame stuff nowadays. Then you mention another long-buried secret is exposed?

I didn't know you could get IMs on phone w/o knowing sender's name or #. A bit cliched re: Bible belt hillbilly joke...9-month dividend - maybe a few decades ago, but not now.

Don't know why Charlie created PowerPoint on her father's laptop and not her own. Nice way of showing her control-freak persona though.

Good luck.

Leslie said...

I like the query. It was clearly explained and easy to follow. I had no trouble reading through it.

I think the story idea is interesting. I read a lot of YA lit, and I think there's a need for more books that would interest boys.

I did have some questions that caused hesitation-- Why would Jason just jump on the plane without knowing who sent it? If he's truly never communicated with his father, I'd think he'd do a little investigation first. It didn't seem realistic, so my interest waned a little. Also, I wondered (from the query) why/how Alex suddenly found out about Jason. Maybe that's explained in the opening pages, but it was a missing piece that caused me to lose a little more interest.

Again, though, I thought your letter was great and I think your story idea is great. Good luck.

Veronica Bartles said...

I also wondered about the timing. Because he was caught in a scandal, Alex suddenly finds out about the son he never knew? How? Did Jason's mom go to the tabloids when the scandal broke? Also, though I personally think it's wrong, I'm not sure I believe it would be considered a scandal these days for the TV star to sleep with his 20-year-old co-star. Isn't that just the norm?

I like the idea of a mystery message bringing Jason to find his long-lost father... but why was he conveniently standing at an airfield when the anonymous text showed up on his phone?

Tess Sharpe said...

I really like this query. I'd pick this book up in a store if this summary was on the back cover. (Though don't mention it's your debut novel, that's not necessary in a query)

I feel like the last paragraph of the 250 words is a little too info-dumpy, however. I'd rather get more of our MC's feelings about this crazy text message.

Valerie said...

Great concept! It reminds me of Elizabeth Scott's "Something, Maybe" except told in a boy's POV.

Great first 250, shows a lot of tension and mystery. This line made me laugh-- "but I don’t want anybody flowcharting the next four years of my life before I even go through freshman orientation".

Jason has a great voice. I would want to follow it right onto that plane.

Owl said...

I like the whole idea I am just not sure if the idea is lost in the execution. Who cares, seriously, who sleeps with anyone these days as long as they are of age? Secondly, a son, might have serious issues with a father who was not there - until now - so that would also factor in to his reaction - i.e. he might have a natural FU reaction to ANYONE who was his absentee father. So, if you can work through those issues, I think the rest of it is really great. i.e. get the plane off the ground and then it will fly

Melinda said...

I agree with the others that the story sounds awesome, but I do have a few concerns.

--Where was Jason when he first received the text? How/why is he already at the airfield?

--How does the network find out he's the TV star's son? Why would his mom (or whoever) suddenly reveal this? I think you need this detail in the query for the story to make sense.

--It should be a text instead of an IM in the query to match the first page.

--Just include your twitter handle and blog address down below your name/other contact info instead of within the query itself.

--The last paragraph of the first page seems to come out of nowhere. I want to know more about the text at this moment, not his girlfriend or college plans. Maybe save this for when he's already on the plane and would have a moment to think about something else.

Kate Larkindale said...

Most of my concerns have already been addressed by others, so I don't have much to add. It's an interesting premise, but I'm not sure the logic holds up.

Love the voice in the sample, although I think you should focus on what's going on in the moment rather than digressing to his girlfriend and college plans. I just want to know who has sent the text and why...

Tricia Quinnies said...

Without reading your query
I jumped into the 1st 250
and thought your MC was a girl. Generally, men/boys don't
speak in such emotional detail. Something to consider
while honing your writer's voice.

Katie Shea said...

Good first line: "If you want to meet your father, get on the plane." This is an interesting storyline, but I'm having a hard time connecting with your writing. Maybe adding some specific characteristics of Jason will bring the reader closer to the story?