Wednesday, April 10, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #17

Dear Ms. Sarver,

I think you'll enjoy my quirky, light-hearted middle-grade novel, BEING THE QUEEN. While the novel itself is firmly contemporary, I believe it will also appeal to your interest in "a hint of historical" as the main character learns about medieval English history and the Arthurian legends.

Twelve-year-old Sabrina Tate doesn’t know who she is anymore. Last year, she was Kayleigh’s best friend and popular, and no one knew about the Me’s--the imaginary identities Sabrina still uses when she’s stressed, even though she knows she’s past the age of pretending. Now, following a very public confrontation with Kayleigh on the first day of seventh grade, everyone thinks Sabrina is crazy and Kayleigh won’t talk to her.

When Sabrina’s middle school hosts a competition to be the queen of the Arthurian Feast, Sabrina thinks winning may be her chance to get noticed for something good. But Sabrina doesn’t count on Kayleigh’s desperate need to win or her refusal to let their friendship die quietly. As Sabrina struggles to compete with Kayleigh and learn about the Arthurian legends, she begins to question almost everything she thought she knew about herself.

Eventually, Sabrina must confront what happened between her and Kayleigh and take responsibility for the new identity she’s forging. If she doesn’t, she could win the competition but lose everything else: her new friends, her self-respect, and the only boy who can actually see her behind all her Me’s.

BEING THE QUEEN is a contemporary upper-middle-grade novel, complete at 58,000 words. It may appeal to fans of Michael Beil, Erin Dionne, Jenny Lundquist, and Wendy Mass.

Thank you for your consideration.



The first day of seventh grade, I was almost late to school--because of pirates. Not Johnny Depp pirates or even cool historical pirates like Sir Walter Raleigh. But still, pirates.

I circled my room like a giant bird of prey, my backpack flapping on my back. My feet, encased in shiny new Mary Janes, tapped out a restless rhythm as I moved around and around the wood floor, dodging the edges of my desk and leaping over a small pile of dirty laundry.

“Sabrina?” My little sister’s voice jolted me.

Grace stood in my doorway, her blonde hair already coming out of her two braids. She held out a battered eye patch. “Play pirates with me?”

I looked at my watch. 7:54. Six minutes until it was time to leave. Thirty-six minutes until I officially started middle school.

“Please?” Her voice lifted, pleading. “I need you to help me find my lucky rainbow socks. I buried them, and now I can’t find them.”

“How buried? In-the-garden buried or under-your-bed buried?” With Grace, it was always better to ask.

She rolled her eyes at me. “In my room. Duh.”

“Okay, I’ll play. But just for a minute.” I let my backpack slide to the floor.

I put the eye patch on.

As I followed Grace across the hall, a familiar swagger came into my walk. It shouldn’t feel this good to be Raven--not today, not when I was starting seventh grade and officially too old to pretend like this.


Anonymous said...

I think the intro for your query is fine. It shows you've done your research.

I felt a bit of a disconnect between the query and the first page. I think it's because the query is written as though the inciting incident already happened instead of introducing it. You might consider dropping the line about not knowing who she is anymore.

In the paragraph about the competition, I wonder as a reader who judges the competition, because if everyone thinks she's crazy, her peers won't vote for her. If it's judged another way, you might mention it. There also are a couple of vague phrases that could be more specific. How is Kayleigh refusing to let the friendship die quietly? By drawing more attention to Sabrina's "craziness"? And also, I don't understand how Arthurian legends can make her question herself.

As a side note, do they call it middle school when it starts at seventh grade?

The last line has a good list of the stakes, but the new friends and boy are not mentioned until then, so it kind of comes out of nowhere.

I like the list of comp authors--names an agent will recognize but not too over the top.

When it gets to the first page, I think there are some places you can tighten up. Details are good, but I wonder about Mary Janes in middle school--particularly if she was part of the popular crowd before. And the connection between playing pirates and finding the socks could be fleshed out a bit more. I had to read it a couple of times.

All of these suggestions aside, I really like the premise for this. It sounds like the kind of thing an MG reader would enjoy. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

First of all, I love your opening paragraph on your first page. It was an instant hook for me.

I had the question about starting middle school at 7th grade too -- here it starts at 6th. And the Mary Janes...they make me think of a very young child, not a pre-teen.

This line: "As Sabrina struggles to compete with Kayleigh and learn about the Arthurian legends, she begins to question almost everything she thought she knew about herself." I think you can just cut the "and learn about the Arthurian legends" part. We assume that because it's an Arthurian fest, you don't need to state it.

It sounds REALLY cute, and definitely like something I'd read. Good luck!

Entry #20

LH27 said...

I really enjoyed this. I especially liked the opening few lines about being late because of pirates.

Regarding other comments, middle school is different depending on where one lives. In Ohio, where I'm from, there is a 5-6 school and a 7-8 school...middle and intermediate. But where I teach now, middle school is 6-8. So that detail didn't bother me much because it varies.

I really liked the idea that Kayleigh wouldn't let it go and that the public outburst would lead to shunning. That's totally how it is in 7th grade.

It's difficult to gauge in just 250 words, but the start is okay with me if the big falling out happens within the next few pages. I like the set up of getting to know Sabrina first so I will care about the fallout.

Good job. And good luck!

Unknown said...

Your query was good, there were just a few things I would suggest. I think your second sentence in your first second paragraph, 'Last year,...' is a bit long. I think it might work better if it were broken into two.

I'm very curious as to what the girls' fight was about, especially since it was bad enough for Sabrina's friend to call her out in front of the school.

'But Sabrina doesn’t count on Kayleigh’s desperate need to win or her refusal to let their friendship die quietly.' This line confused me a bit because I wasn't sure which girl was refusing to let the friendship die.

And your second to last paragraph left me confused because you brought up things you hadn't previously mentioned, making me feel a bit left behind. With just a little tightening though, I think this query would be great.

Your 250 was cute. Your last paragraph caught my attention the most and left me wanting to read more. Overall, this sounds like a good book and I'd read it.

Best of luck!

Melissa Sarver said...

The query is organized and well-done but too long, especially for a middle grade novel. You don't need to tell us the whole story - just the set up and the conflict. Leave us wanting more! I love the idea of bringing in the Arthurian legends but I'm unclear on how much they will be incorporated into the story or is it merely the feast that offers the plot point of the two girls fighting to be queen? Does it provide more of a metaphor in other ways? Are there stories told from this time period? Don't rely too heavily on it being a teaching lesson if it merely a plot point.
I would suggest cutting the fourth paragraph. The last sentence of the third paragraph is nearly there in summing up the story and intriguing the reader. I think a little tinkering and that would be the perfect spot to end.

I think your first 250 are great! Set up the voice nicely and start building the character without telling us too much. I don't think seventh graders are wearing Mary Janes these days - unless you are purposely portraying her as a young, immature seventh-grader. Maybe they are there for a reason later. Nice start.