Wednesday, September 19, 2012

An Agent's Inbox #9

Dear Ms. Marini,

The Wretched Gretchens will shatter your eardrums, and they’re not going to apologize. But the teen all-girl band is facing an inevitable breakup. Lead singer Charlie, who croons like Patsy Cline on steroids, is leaving Portland for college at the end of the summer, and her bandmates won’t fit in her suitcase.

A prom-night battle of the bands victory snags the Wretched Gretchens the opening slot on a West Coast tour with Rorschach, indie darlings hoping to mimic the airy charm of their debut album. Charlie seizes the chance to make her last summer with her best friends matter, even if it means abandoning the unrequited crush all her songs are about.

Charlie’s not the only one running away. Beautiful but impetuous guitarist Roxanne wants to forget the high school diploma she didn’t exactly finish, and Rorschach’s frontman, a golden-voiced Texan with curls luscious as Jim Morrison’s, is a sexy distraction. Earnest Layla, Roxanne’s younger sister, wants a song with a killer bass solo and a closeness with the sister who always pushes her away. And fresh-from-therapy drummer M.J. escapes a secret she can’t even tell her friends--if only every city on the tour would quit reminding her about it. Exhausting shows, all-night parties and piercing heartbreaks strain the increasingly fragile bonds of the Gretchens’ sisterhood as they struggle with what binds them beyond the love of a catchy hand-clap chorus.

RIP HER TO SHREDS is contemporary YA complete at 73,000 words and told from alternating third-person perspectives.

I understand you’re looking for edgy contemporary YA with a commercial hook, and I believe this book would be a great fit. I admire the honesty and humor in interviews you’ve done, and I appreciate the valuable publishing insight you offer on Twitter and your blog.

My background is in journalism, and I produce a public radio show for Seattle’s NPR station. I played in an all-girl band in high school, though unfortunately, no one told me I couldn’t sing on key.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration.



In the green room, she’d be herself again.

Away from the cymbals clanging in her ears and the bass trembling in her belly, she’d be Charlie the dork. Charlie the siren, that girl who shimmied and gyrated and crooned like she knew how to string sentences together, would be dead. The real Charlotte Bray usually fumbled through basic conversations. She was the one who wanted to lose. She was the one who wanted it all to be over.

Charlie clamped the mic back onto the stand, turned her back on the applause and hurried off the stage. Safety. Finally.

But Roxanne Young collapsed onto the couch first, and Charlie watched her skillfully maneuver around the scrubbed-out stain that was once dirt or vomit or something more sinister.

Roxanne hugged her blue Ibanez guitar to her lap. “Well. We were f****** awful,” she said, dragging her lucky pick along the E string she’d re-fitted earlier that day and propping her legs onto her amp. “Weren’t we?” she asked, waiting for someone to deny it.

The rest of The Wretched Gretchens rushed the green room. The air conditioning was on full-blast, but after baking under the lights on stage, Charlie welcomed the breeze, and she could tell at least two of her bandmates badly needed to reapply their deodorant. Charlie tried not to think about her own sticky armpits and claimed her own cushion on the couch, careful not to invade her best friend’s personal space.


Janice Sperry said...

I really enjoyed your query until it got to the part where everyone's goals were listed. Stick to your MC in the query. Everyone else just muddies the water. I love your band name.

Mia K Rose said...

I like how you started your query, but your third paragraph loses me with all those people. I think you can just continue your focus on Charlie, and where you mention 'and told from alternative third-person perspectives' add in that it is from the other band members, or something.

I liked how your opened in your first 250, but you've said "she asked, waiting for someone to deny it" and then the other band members walk in. Wouldn't it be better to say "waiting for Charlie to deny it" if Charlie was the only one in the room with Roxanne?

Also I assume the best friend reference is Roxanne, but as others have walked in it could be any one of them. Unless your next line clarifies then it doesn't matter.

I'd probably keep reading. Good luck with it. :)

Kristen Wixted said...

There is no way I wouldn't give more attention to a ms with a band called The Wretched Gretchens in it! That alone would make me keep reading--but the rest is good too.

Chelsey said...

Oh man. I want this. It is right up my alley.

I do agree with the comments about the woedy paragraph, but I kind of liked it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks all for the feedback! I struggled with the query because the book is written from four different perspectives (a la Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants). I didn't want to throw out all the characters right away, but maybe the third paragraph is too late? I focused on Charlie because she has the first POV chapter.

Thank you all again!


Anonymous said...

I can understand your dilemma, but I've seen agents say to focus on one character in the query, and it makes sense to do that with the one who's introduced first in the story. As Mia said, you could mention the alternating points of view in that word count paragraph. You probably don't even have to say they're third person since they'll get that from the sample.

That being said, I could see keeping the first and last sentences of that third paragraph. The first 250 is strong, although it would be helpful to be a little more grounded in where exactly they are.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Yes! Another Pacific Northwesterner! I promise not to let my bias color my critique :)

The first sentence of your query is a solid hook, and you keep it up through the whole query. Unlike the others, I actually LIKE that you tell us about the other bandmates, because, well, if this was on the back cover of a book, we'd want that information, wouldn't we? Well, except maybe that Layla and Roxanne are related. I do, however, have a few tweaks: would teenagers know who Jim Morrison was? I do, and did, but that's because my parents love classic rock. My point is it can date you (which I've been guilty of myself) so be careful with your comparisons. And is M.J. trying to escape a secret, or has she? Because if she's trying, the rest of the sentence makes sense. If she HAS escaped it, the rest of the sentence doesn't.

B.C. said...

I like this a lot. I think you do a pretty good job establishing both the tone of your piece and your voice as an author even in the query, which is fairly rare. Excellent work.

I didn't have to much of a problem with the alternating POVs paragraph, but I do think you could condense it considerably, just to clue the agent in, something along the lines of "Charlie's not the only one running away-- each and every one of her friends has something they want to escape" and then go right to "Exhausting shows. . ." Hm. Maybe that works-- anyway, I think you see the point I'm trying to make.

The first 250 is excellent. Again, your voice is clear as a bell. One point that struck me as odd though was "Safety. Finally." Odd because only "safety" was in italics, implying it is a thought (at least to me), when it seems like "finally" should be italicized as well.

Anyway, great query and excellent writing!

Victoria Marini said...

I'm into this! I would definitely keep reading, and while I'm all about maintaining focus on one character, I think that for a book told in alternating POV's - equally dedicated to each member of the band - it was okay to list them all. I'm only one agent, so I can't speak for others, but it didn't bother me. Well done!