Wednesday, April 10, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #14

Dear Ms. Sarver:

Sicily Carson must be crazy to think that she can fix her family, especially if she’s thinking it from within the walls of a crazy house.

Meet her relatives--a paranoid mother with gambling issues and a favorite child (not Sicily); a doting father who probably would have died from her mother’s aggravation anyway if he didn’t succumb to cancer instead; a selfish playboy of a brother who proudly has a wife, girlfriend, and a mistress; a wandering, irresponsible, and unstable brother who thinks that common sense is a form of currency; and a dependent and helpless younger sister who is held captive by her epilepsy.

With a family like that, particularly one who expects their successful yet gullible daughter and sister to pay their accruing debts and solve their self-inflicted problems, there is no wonder as to how Sicily earned an all-expenses-paid, 30-day staycation in a psychiatric treatment facility.

Upon her release, Sicily tries to resume her pre-committed life. Using a list of goals that she created in the loony bin, Sicily embarks on a mission to mend relationships within her family, including her distant yet devoted husband, who left her when their marriage became too swollen with her family’s greed, and her Luciferistic father-in-law who judges by socioeconomic status. But when a family secret emerges in the midst of reconciling with her mother, Sicily is left to question and consider the real meaning of family.

The diluted meaning of “family” is defined by greed, prejudice, and secrets in WE’RE FAMILY…RIGHT? (women’s fiction) and is completed at 78,000 words. It may appeal to readers who enjoy lightweight family-oriented plots and stories led by a conflicted, yet relatable and witty, female protagonist.

Per your instruction, the first 250 words of my manuscript are included below. Thank you for your time and consideration.



It has been years since I have known such peace, albeit it’s peace that has been forced upon me. No voices exist other than the one I hear in my head. There is no cell phone to answer, and no demands or requests are being asked of me. Sitting here in a chilly corner with my heavy head leaning against my bent knees, my mind ponders the nagging question, “Why did it take me this long to free myself from the incessant stress?” Here I am, isolated in a single room decorated in only one color--white. Even my clothes are white, but that jacket I was forced to wear on Day 1 was insanely--no pun intended--uncomfortable. My hair--oh G**--hasn’t seen a flat iron in 168 hours. My roots are curling, and my poor skin has faded from delicate caramel to gritty sand. I wonder about ways in which my life could have been different, if altering perhaps just one aspect of my past life could have altered my painful present. I don’t want to be here, but my stubbornness doesn’t want to admit that I need to be here.

“Wake up, Ms. Carson,” says an orderly as she lifts me from the floor. After the third day of suffering from bed springs piercing my back, the floor seemed like a bearable solution. “It’s time to go.”

The orderly leads me through a maze of troubled, unfamiliar walls.


dianelashdecker said...

I love the query. I love the 250 words and most of all I love the title! Everyone who reads this will say "gee, and i thought my family was crazy". My book group would love it!

Rosalyn said...

I think the query does a nice job of introducing us to a difficult situation, and of making the various family members distinct. I wonder, though, if there are a few too many people who get introduced in the query--for me, it takes away from the focus on Sicily.

I also question the word "lightweight" at the end of the query--while the query itself has a fairly light tone, some of the characters are dealing with serious issues. I also (and this is just a personal thing!) don't like the trend of labeling a lot of women's fiction "fluff" or "chic lit," as if family issues aren't a worth-while thing to explore on their own. I think the family dynamics you describe here sound interesting and intriguing--hardly "lightweight" material. :)

Jessica Peterson said...

Wow! I thought your query was great!! I love your second paragraph. That's an awful lot to deal with for one woman. Just a few notes, and I'm no expert but... I was assuming her father was already dead so wouldn't it be 'hadn't succumbed to cancer'? I was shocked when I read about Sicily's husband, I wasn't thinking of her as a married woman. I think your query would work a bit better without the father-in-law part because then it is beginning to feel like there are a few too many characters in one little space.

Despite these little things, I thoroughly enjoyed your query.

I loved your 250! I'm glad you cleared up the part about her being on the floor because while reading, the question began to surface. All in all, both your query and your 250 were excellent and I'd love to read your book!

Best of luck!

Mim said...


Wow what a great set up. You've got a lively cast of characters that are generally interesting.

The only thing I see that I might change, is that you use crazy twice in the first line. I might use mental institution instead of crazy house.

And I'm also interested in knowing what drove her there? Did she have an episode or an incident that put her over? Maybe a hint of that in the first 250 (or shortly after).

I'd read on to learn more about her and her family.

Good Luck!

MC #24

Melissa Sarver said...

The query is a bit long and strays too far from the protagonist - I don't think you have to get into the details of all your other characters' shortcomings. Tell me earlier on that this is women's fiction and also how old Sicily is. I thought she was a young/teen girl with the responsibility of caring for her family; we didn't find out till the end of your query that she's married. I was surprised when you described it as lighthearted as I didn't think the tone of the query or the description of the plot and themes felt lighthearted. I would reconsider your title as it really didn't work for me.

The opening 250 work well in putting the reader into Sicily's head. I was confused that we were hearing her thoughts and then an orderly told her to "wake up." She wasn't asleep...
Query should be much tighter and focus on whether this is a plot-driven story or an exploration of family, etc. And if it is women's fiction, it should be more plot-driven. Try to think of comp titles or authors to include in your query.