Wednesday, April 25, 2012

An Agent's Inbox #3

Dear Ms. Shea:

Samantha Cooper always believed that if you build it, he will come. Just like the whispering voice said in Field of Dreams, right? So she did. She earned good grades, made smart choices, and grew into the nice girl her mother’s friends adored. The picket fence and handsome husband had to follow. But as she approaches thirty, disillusionment has set in because nobody has come and apparently, all she has built is a lonely, empty life. So one day, Samantha Cooper tears the whole thing down.

In WILD CHERRIES, Samantha (Sam), an aspiring-writer/waitress in a California beach town, is brooding over the loneliness in her life, due to being a romantic outcast in a Sex-in-the-City world and a failure in becoming the writer everyone said she should be. Sure, there are laughs with her long-time friends Claire and Joe--especially Joe who’s harboring a secret crush on Sam--but those moments are lost in Sam’s growing dissatisfaction with such an uninspired life. Then her life changes in one unexpected moment. She meets handsome and bookish Nick, and inexplicably, she feels the spark of inspiration. Her joy is short-lived, however, when she discovers that he’s married. But tired of lonely Saturday nights, Sam chooses to be reckless for the first time in her life and begins a relationship with Nick. What begins as a wild ride toward forbidden places becomes an inspiring journey home to a love that had always been right in front of her. Turns out, he’ll only arrive if you’re building something for yourself.

WILD CHERRIES is women’s fiction and is approximately 84,000 words.

I am an English teacher and graduate of UCLA. I am a first-time novelist, but I’m committed to writing and willing to do whatever is necessary--editing and promoting--to work with you to get my writing published. I follow you on Twitter and appreciate your query tips. You said in the "Writer Unboxed" interview that as a little girl, your dream was to have a best-selling novel. Me, too. I hope that's something that can bring all of us--Samantha, you and I--together.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my work. Per the submission guidelines, the first 250 words are included below. The completed manuscript is available upon request. I look forward to hearing from you.



I think I peaked in the sixth grade. As a writer, that is. Maybe romantically, too, considering that was the year of my epic first kiss with Collin Crosby, the boy who earned "cutest" honors in every yearbook from elementary school through high school. But definitely as a writer. Since that time, I’ve never come close to achieving the accolades I received during the springtime of that year.

Friday afternoons in Mr. Adamson’s sixth-grade class were devoted to Writer’s Workshop, a two-hour period when we hunched over our desks as we wrote and erased until we had finally come up with the perfect paper. Well, everyone but Ricky Simmons. He usually stared at Jenny Freeman the entire time; Jenny had been the first girl in our class to get boobs.

Writer’s Workshop was also the key to the best thing possible for a sixth-grade girl at Maple Dale Elementary School: a paper adorned with a shiny gold star, displayed on the Spotlight Wall and a Friday trip to Baskin Robbins with Mr. Adamson, probably the cutest teacher in the history of the world. It might have been his closely cropped brown hair or maybe those bright blue eyes. Most likely, though, it was his smile that made girls swoon.

So, I slaved away each Friday, hoping that on Monday I’d see my paper in the spotlight dressed with a brilliant gold star and start to plan out the perfect outfit to wear on my fake-date with Mr. Adamson.

There was always one problem, though: Susie Sloan.


Rebecca said...

Interesting story! I like "romantic outcast in a Sex-in-the-city world." The query sounds interesting and filled with drama.
In your paragraph that talks about your credentials, I would delete, "I am a first-time novelist, but I’m committed to writing and willing to do whatever is necessary--editing and promoting--to work with you to get my writing published.....You said in the "Writer Unboxed" interview that as a little girl, your dream was to have a best-selling novel. Me, too. I hope that's something that can bring all of us--Samantha, you and I--together." Everyone who is querying wants their novel to be a best seller and is willing to do anything to get to that point. But by saying that in a query sounds a little desperate and not very appealing. As a suggestion, I would change this paragraph to read something like this:
"I am an English teacher and graduate of UCLA. On your website, you said that you specialize in Women's Fiction, so I thought you might be interested. I follow you on Twitter and appreciate your query tips." That's not the greatest, but you get the idea. In summary, less focus on your inexperience and more focus on your willingness to research the agent and how you two are a good connection without sounding desperate.
I hope that doesn't sound to harsh. Your first 250 words were engaging and I love that it starts in sixth grade, showing the character's crush on her teacher. It's cute and has a great sixth-grader perspective.
Good luck!

Charlotte said...

I love the concept behind this story and it is something I think a lot of people can relate to. (Or at least I can) We are always told that if you follow certain rules, or a certain plan, then you will get the desired end-result. Sounds like this story addresses that type of scenario in an interesting setting. I think it would appeal to a lot of young women because that is what is happening more often than not. Sam sounds like a lot of us. Personally, I would like to find out how she makes it work into a happy ending! It seems like the novel has an interesting perspective and will be funny and poignant. It's something I would like to read!

Anonymous said...

I am a ninth grade English student and am planning to write a book myself. Overall, I really like this story. I believe a lot of people can relate to Sam, she is so easy to like. I am very eager to read the next part. Who is this Susie Sloan? I'd like to know.
P.S. I want a teacher like Mr. Adamson.


Anonymous said...

When will this book be published? I want to read more. This introduction is engaging. Sam's crush seems so real and is like a normal school life. I want to read the rest.

Lindsay C said...

I think the beginning was really nice and sounded a bit like something Sarah Dessen would write. I liked how the writer focused on how she began writing. It was interesting that the write included this but then related it to real life school experiences.

Sara DSpain said...

The line, " I think I peaked in sixth grade" is hilarious! I agree with above comments about the query - I am more sold on your 250 words. Good luck!

Stellaluna said...

After reading this excerpt I am very curious about the rest of this novel. I enjoyed the refreshing voice and the realistic approach to this "un-sex and the city" love story. A different perspective and fresh voice is needed desperately in the genre, I think WILD CHERRIES can finally bring it. This story will appeal to anyone who lives the single life and anyone who aspired to write. I want to read more and hope to see more from this fresh perspective.

Jodi R. said...

I agree with many of the other comments here - drop the desperate-ish sounding bits of the query for sure. You don't need them!

I really liked the concept and the voice. And that first line!

In the query the only other thing I found that hasn't been mentioned was that the ending sounded like a bit cliche - "journey home to a love that had always been right in front of her" is a bit of a cliche - I don't think it does your writing and story justice. As soon as you said her friend had a crush on Sam, I figured they would end up together - you don't have to spell it out, I think. I do like the last line about building something for yourself though...

Tenses seemed a little wonky at times in the query.

Great job - best of luck!

misstante said...

ok, dying to know about susie sloan, and love the first line about peaking in 6th grade. wonder about leaving out the? i agree with rebecca about the first time novelist and working together part - i don't think you need it. i'm intrigued and think it reads beautifully - i get the idea of sam and her dilemma. and nice voice in the sample. good job.

Katie Shea said...

I read this entire entry. There is a sense of warmth and truth with this writer. But there is something missing in the query - a bigger conflict must be presented. This is quite quiet. I like the first sentence in the writing sample: "I think I peaked in sixth grade." Good writing, but I'm not sure if I'm grabbed by the conflict of the story.