Wednesday, April 25, 2012

An Agent's Inbox #8

Dear Ms. Shea,

Since you mentioned that you’re looking for heartfelt, emotional, realistic, dramatic, family-related, character-driven stories, I thought you might be interested in THE BOYFRIEND PLAGUE.

Things at home are rough for fifteen-year-old Livvie Quinn. Jules, her beloved older sister is sick again after being cancer free for almost ten years. Her mom becomes more frantic and unapproachable every day. School isn’t much better. Just when she needs them most, her closest friends get boyfriends and have little time for Livvie--except to set her up on a series of disastrous blind dates.

Livvie seeks refuge in the art room and finds Bianca, the school ‘freak’. Free-spirited and confident, Bianca is everything Livvie isn’t. Shaken by her mom’s desperation, her sister’s deteriorating condition, and abandoned by her friends, Livvie finds comfort and an attraction she never felt before with Bianca.

When their relationship is discovered, Livvie and Bianca become victims of persecution and bullying. School authorities won’t help and even forbid the pair to attend the Winter Formal as a couple. If Livvie defies them and goes, she risks expulsion and further ridicule from her classmates. At home, her mother’s behavior escalates to new levels of crazy and Jules is begging for help to end the pain once and for all.

While searching for the strength to make her life her own, Livvie must decide how far she’s willing to go for the people she loves.

THE BOYFRIEND PLAGUE is an 84000 word contemporary YA novel that should appeal to readers who enjoyed Cris Beam’s I Am J and Cheryl Rainfields’s Scars.

My short stories have appeared in Halfway Down The Stairs, A Fly in Amber, Daily Flash Anthology, The Barrier Islands Review, Death Rattle, Drastic Measures, Rapunzel’s Daughters and Cutlass and Musket--Tales of Piratical Skullduggery among others.

Per your submission requirements, you will find the first page of the manuscript below. I would be delighted to send you further sample chapters at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon.



I squirmed on the wooden bench, trying to avoid getting poked by loose splinters. The room was too small and the irregular buzzing that crept over the lopsided swinging doors set my teeth on edge. Each burst sent a cloud of rusty orange scattering through my skull.

“Is this okay, Livvie?” Mel leaned over and pressed a slip of paper onto my knee.

I studied it for a moment, still trying to shake off the burning color my synesthesia had painted the world. “Yeah. It’s perfect.” I grinned at her, but my lips trembled so much I’m sure it was more a grimace.

“What about yours?” Mel turned to Hannah who had her paper crumpled in her fist.

She smoothed it out against the taut fabric of her jeans. “It’s good. I don’t think Mom could tell she hadn’t signed it.”

Mel sighed and glanced down at her own scrap of paper. “At least they’re all different. And how close are they going to look?”

Hannah’s eyes roved the enclosed space, photographs curling on every wall. “It’s a business right? They want to make money. I bet they just ask for these things ‘cos they have to.”

“You’re probably right.” Mel stood up and folded her permission slip back into her pocket. “I wish they’d hurry up.”

“Me too.” I shifted again, my butt numbing against the hard surface. Coming here had seemed a good idea, but now, after almost half an hour on the wrong side of the doors, the stinging scent of rubbing alcohol drifting across us, I wasn’t so sure.


Janelle said...

This definitely sounds like an emotional story, full of dramatic elements. You can tell from the query why Livvie would find comfort in a relationship with Bianca, and you've laid out why that would be a problem at school.

Based on the title & the information in the query, as a reader, I'm not sure what the focus of the story is, though. The main plot seems to center around Livvie & Bianca and the Winter Formal. But then the title is The Boyfriend Plague, which seems to match up with a sub-plot mentioned in the second paragraph.

In your first 250, the first sentence is a tad awkward, and I think there's a little too much left unexplained for the reader. You might start with the 2nd paragraph and just move the dialogue to the spot after "knee." Pressing a paper into a knee if nice and visceral and presents a clear image. As the scene goes on, I think you could reveal the room they're in, focus on the paper, and leave the synesthesia until later.

That said, I am very intrigued by the purpose of the forgery.

Kristin Lenz said...

I was intrigued by your story and read through to the end. I was curious about her synesthesia, and wondered why it wasn't mentioned in the query. I'm also wondering if the query is a tad long - maybe the story summary could be reduced to 2 paragraphs? Lots of interesting elements and high stakes - best of luck with this!

Valerie said...

First, great choice in using Cheryl Rainfeld as a comp. I could see immediately a similarity in your writing styles/voice.

I would challenge you to see if you can get your query down to 3 paragraphs. The second one I think you can condense into two sentences, and I would cut the first sentence (Things at home..) because you are already doing a great job showing us what's going on at home in the details about the sister and mom.

Like Kristin, I want to know what the synesthesia is about, and if its a bigger issue/theme, you should definitely mention it in the query--if only because it would make your character very unique!

Good luck!

Jodi R. said...

Sounds like a great story!

I agree with what other posters have said about the synesthesia - it was really jarring after reading the quer, which had no mention of the condition. If it's not an imprtant thing but just a quirk, maybe leave it till later. If she's getting a tattoo here, you could do something fun with that!

I know we're suppose to personalize queries where possible, but it can really seem forced and artificial sometimes. I'd drop your first paragraph and jump right into the action.

I like the way you set up the query - it drew me in without a lot of telling. I wasn't as keen on the fourth paragraph - there seems to be a change in tone and you do veer towards telling more here, in my veiw.

Hannah's quote was a little stiff.

I think this is really good - best of luck!

Jodi R. said...

Sorry for the typos here! *blushes*

Melinda said...

The others have already mentioned most of my concerns. I just wanted to add that if you do keep that first paragraph of your query, please cut it down to one or two adjectives that describe your story, instead of the six you have now. I'd use 'family-driven' as the rest is probably what most agents are looking for.

If you can get the query tightened up, I think this story has a lot of potential.

misstante said...

LOVE the title, and the first line brings me right into the story. I'd maybe pick two adjectives as well in the first line of the query, but I am interested in reading this!

Katie Shea said...

My first thought is that this query is too long. 15-year-olds go on blind dates? Bianca - good name for a 'freak'. I'm not sure if this premise is strong enough for me to move forward. There seems to be a friendship conflict that branches out to a disaster at home and school. But I'm not sure if this is grabbing my attention enough. May want to think about how to incorporate Livvie's situation at home and her new 'secret' best friend.