Wednesday, April 25, 2012

An Agent's Inbox #6

Dear Ms. Shea,

Sixteen year old Barbara Wisnewski doubted her life could get any suckier. But when her totally dysfunctional parents seem to get their lives together she discovers she’s not part of the equation; homelessness and destitution are staring her right in her freckled face.

Left to fend for herself in her poverty-stricken upstate New York town, Barb’s BGFF, Murrow, offers her the chance of escape when he is sent to live with his father in London. When tragedy deletes that option from her world, she implodes.

Barb learns of a teen pregnancy crisis in another town, and the awesome benefits those unwed moms-to-be receive, including a place to live. In a moment of brilliance, she thinks she has found the way out. Barb enlists a group of other disenfranchised schoolmates to form a Pregnancy Pact and decides the arrival of a visiting touring motorcycle club will help them get what they want.

MOTORCYCLE BABIES is 46,000 words of YA commercial fiction told through Barb’s diary entries. I believe it ticks all of the boxes you mentioned: heartfelt, emotional, realistic, dramatic, family-related, and character-driven. Barb's unique life situation and setting will take you through a journey of heartache and hardship to come to a beautiful conclusion.

I am a member of SCBWI. A number of my short stories have been published and a humorous play I wrote (adapted from my novella) was produced.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Dear Diary,

I hate my life and nearly everyone in it. Don't know why Mom gave me this diary. Like I should document my rollicking fun life for posterity. Yeah, right. Stuck in this s***hole with nothing to do. New-frigging-Krumpsberg, for G**’s sake. This wasn’t even a stop on the Underground Railroad--not even desperate slaves would want to stay here.

Then there’s my father. A total waste of space. Seriously. He just sucks the life out of the room, drinking and yelling at the TV, 24/7. I wish he'd just die and leave us alone. Then me and mom could enjoy ourselves for a change. She works two s***** jobs ‘cause he refuses to work. Maybe she does it to keep away from him. That's why I work after school and weekends at Aunt Pitty Pat’s--the only decent restaurant in town--just to be out of this mad haunted house. It's not haunted by ghosts--that might actually be kind of fun--it's haunted by him and his constant belching and farting. I could tape a s***load of those pine tree air fresheners to him and he’d still reek like a dumpster.

Mom says the Waste of Space (she doesn't call him that, she calls him, ‘Your father,’ which sincerely makes my skin crawl) has ‘emotional problems’. She makes air quotes when she says it, but not when she says, ‘your father’. He’s just a lazy a** drunk.

Now the deets about Murrow. My BFF. He’s gay.


Susan said...

The idea of the pregnancy pact is intriguing. I know there were some news articles a year or two ago about real-life girls doing something similar.

I made a similar comment on another YA entry: I'm concerned that your word count of 46,000 may be too low to fully develop the characters and plot, but I'm certainly not an expert...

Jodi R. said...

I think your query is great - it efficiently and entertainingly conveys the major thrust of the story. I did have to re-read the part about her parents and her becoming homeless - it's quite a leap for us to take and I might need a tinch more info. Also, I would cut the part about "I believe it ticks off..." to the end of that paragraph. (In my entry someone noted that you shouldn't use adjectives to describe your piece - I think they were right!)

As for the sample, it's a lot of backstory-ing - too much, I think. If you're married to the diary concept (my novel is all e-mails, so I know the challenges of trying to relay backstory that way - and of hanging on to the format you want), maybe it would be better for her to write letters to someone- her future child? (How you got here... or whatever) I just don't think a teenager would write to a diary describing people like a preteen might. I mean, writing in a diary is like talking to yourself, more or less. In my mind, a teen would just write key happenings and feelings - and often cryptically. Not a blow-by-blow description. I dunno - am I making sense?

I believe diary books are popular, at least with younger kids, but I think her retelling all the stories would make them lose their immediacy. Even though she's cheeky, a description of her view of how she tried to seduce a biker as opposed to us being there when it unfolds could lose some comedic potential. (Or danger potential if you go with the "gang" - see below.) It might be alright if she's not constantly cracking wise - if we get to see her softer, vulnerable side as well.

Let me just say though - OMG, LOVE the motorcycle "club" (not gang) idea as a way to get everyone knocked up! (Having it be a gang would make it darker and more dangerous though - I think motorcycle clubs are just regular folks - not out looking to get action necessarily? Hmmm) This is the part that has the most potential to me - teenagers who think they know it all trying to beat the system an taking incredible risks to do it. Awesome!

I think you're really on to something here - good luck!

Kristin Lenz said...

I had the same thoughts as the other two comments. The pregnancy pact and the motorcycle club are very intriguing and unique. But I struggled with the diary format - not to say that it won't work - but it felt like a lot of telling and in your face attitude. Even though her life sounds awful, I'm not feeling sympathetic. Yet, I'm curious and want to read more! You've done a great job conveying voice in the query. The word count is on the low end, more like a novella or MG novel. Best of luck with this!

Anonymous said...

Definitely intriguing. I know this seems to parallel those high school pregnancy pact stories that came out a few years ago, and I'd be interested to see how this fictional story veers from those real-life happenings. The main character definitely seems to have a strong, sharp voice. Very observant and clever. She seems like someone a reader could, if not relate to, then definitely sympathize with and care about.

will tinkham said...

Very nice query. It gets to the crux of Barbara's plight and the solution is wonderful. Though I had no problem with the short sample, I do wonder how that might be pulled off through the entire book. Would love to find out, though.

Carol Daub said...

You certainly painted a vivid word picture that drew me right into the story. I felt empathy for your main character despite her sharp, cynical outlook on life. Her voice was authentic. I wish her luck. The diary remarks from the other readers are meant to be helpful, but it's your novel. Keep the format if it works for you. I wish you success.

misstante said...

this is great! would like to know a hint of what the tragedy is that prevents her from going abroad, but i think it works! the last line about your publishing and your play seems a little awkward, maybe list where? i love her voice and belive she's real! bought it hook, line and sinker!!

Katie Shea said...

Suckier? Is that a word? The beginning (the first two paragraphs) intrigued me. But the third paragraph got me confused. 46,000 words is a little too short. Aim for at least 50,000 - 60,000 words for YA. Also, I'm not a fan of diary entries. It is a one-note book that gets a little too repetitive.

Owl said...

The voice is consistent throughout the query and the first 250. I think the next to last paragraph of the query where you tick the boxes and telgraph what response the reader would have at the end is probably best left unsaid or at least stated in a less overt way. Let the agent feel all that through the sample pages you would send instead of telling him/her what she would feel because that's a turn off for some.

I feel the length is probably on the short side. The diary entry trope could work because even a book told in first person is really nothing more than a really LONG diary entry when it comes down to it. But, maybe you could still maintain the flavor of it by adding other communications to give it variety - e-mails, texts, etc. as well as the unifying diary.

The MC's voice is certainly strong to the poing of being off putting. Her bitterness comes through so acutely and quickly that is almost like havine someone projectile vomit on the reader all the bad things they think the world has done to them. It might be a case of too much too soon.

The pregnancy pacts that we have all read about in recent years are certainly sad commentary and I am not sure that the morality of it can survive a book long exposition without having some redeeming quality or lesson for the MC to learn that changes how she feels. I think the hidden and humorous irony of the first 250 is how the apple does not fall far from the tree - she despises her father for sitting around, not working and sucking on the government teat no doubt - yet, her aspiration is to do exactly the same. !!!

Your strength is the voice - just keep it in check. The raw emotions you are dealing with might be better doled out in smaller chunks rather than served up in a batch.

Anyway, a promising project. Good luck.