Wednesday, April 10, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #2

Dear Ms. Sarver:

Seventeen-year-old April Harding has moved away from family, friends, and the Deaf community she loves to seek a career in diball, the hottest magic sport since aerial ping pong. So far, her water-controlling powers have served her well. But now she's got a new game partner--Travis Park. Their sponsor thinks his skill at sign language will make them the perfect pair. April thinks his lax play style will drive her nuts.

The two have been partners less than a day when April discovers that an old acquaintance has stopped appearing at games. And he's not the first. Several players have been no-shows lately. Even stranger, they always quit after playing one particular opponent, and they're never seen using their powers afterwards. April wants to find out what's going on, but Travis thwarts her at every turn and insists she's overreacting. If the two of them can't find some common ground, April worries they might get some first hand experience with disappearing from the game.

WATER SPEAKER (56,000 words) is a complete young adult novel. I am a Clarion West alumna whose work has appeared in True Confessions, Purpose, and is forthcoming in Highlights for Children. I have also received three Honorable Mentions in the Writers of the Future Contest. Thank you for your time.



The pebbles had started growing again. I sprinted as fast as I could, but by the time I reached them, they'd blown up to the size of refrigerators and blocked the entire length of the playing court. Behind them, my opponent skipped merrily towards the goal.

Not now. Not this game.

I forced myself to focus. My opponent's boulder-growing magic was nice and all, but my power was better.

I called the water over. My floating puddle rejected gravity and flowed into my hands, letting me manipulate it like putty.

25 meters to goal, flashed the glowing blue scoreboard. How was he halfway there already?

I shot a few watery bullets into the closest boulders, making huge cracks in their surfaces. In seconds, the fake rocks crumbled to pieces. Just hollow spheres of clay. Leaping over the rubble, I ran my hand across my face. The stadium's balmy 24 degrees might've been just fine for the few spectators, but all I could taste was sweat. My water followed close behind, unaffected.

15 meters to goal, the scoreboard announced. I split the water again, creating a perfect line of liquid globes. No problem seeing my opponent now--his uniform was an obnoxious bright red with the words, "Harrisburg Fine Chocolate" emblazoned in yellow on either arm. But the gap between us was huge. Maybe I could shoot a few globes past by his face to distract him, and…

I jerked my head to shake the stupid out of my brain.


Lanette said...

Even though I felt the query could be tightened a little, it still intrigued me enough to want to read. A deaf magic user and disappearing game contestants piqued my interest.

I had a hard time following the 250 word scene because I couldn't envision the setting or the game. I think you might be starting in the wrong place. Let us get to know your MC and ground the readers a little more in the setting.

Sarah Diviney said...

The second paragraph of the query starts out good, but loses its momentum and the urgency is lost. Rework the last two sentences into a zinger to wrap things up. We need to know the stakes.

The first page felt like an excerpt from the middle of the book, not the beginning. Perhaps after the second paragraph you could veer off into some background of the game and characters.

Overall, the writing was very nice and descriptive ;-)

Good luck

Connie Mayo said...

I found this query interesting but confusing. Even after finishing the query, I still don't know what diball is. (Nor do I know what aerial ping pong is, which might be part of my problem.) From the first 250 words, I gather that this is a game played with balls of water? But I didn't get that from the query.

The sponsor thing reminded me of the Hunger Games, I wondered if there are more parallels in the novel itself. I'm not sure if that would be viewed as a good thing, that connection - for me it was.

The old acquantance: at first I thought he was a spectator, but then the next few sentence seem to indicate he was a player?

Also, I LOVED the idea of deaf protagonists, but I wanted more of it in the query - I know April is deaf, and Travis at least knows sign language (is he deaf too?), but then what would have been the POW of this query is that their disability/ability is integral to the story, and I didn't see it. But I hope that's in the book!

Jessica Montgomery said...


So, unlike others, I was not confused by your query or your first 250. I like the idea of having a deaf protag, but I agree with whoever said they wished they would've gotten a little more of that in the first 250. It is most likely a huge part of the story, so I would get it in ASAP so readers know from the start your MC can't hear (plus I think it will perk their interest!). The only other comment is that the elements and the game of diball itself are very similar to a television show called Avatar: Last Airbender. Specifically the second one where the main protag's name is Korra. I think if you haven't seen it, it would be worth checking out just to make sure nothing else in your story is too similar to it. But, I did like your writing style and the voice of the MC!
Good Luck!
Jess #3

Melissa Sarver said...

I found your query slightly confusing but intriguing, which is to say that the concept of your story feels fresh and interesting but you need to work on the pitch a bit more. I'd like a better description of how'd you classify this novel - is it futuristic science fiction? Is it magical realism? What kind of world is it set in? I love the idea of a deaf protagonist but the beginning of your query had me thinking this might be contemporary realistic YA. Then you assume the reader knows this world you've created and you use references we don't understand without any explanation or context. Of course, the query letter leaves little room for world building but I think you can do better in grounding us in time and place. I don't really understand what her new teammate and the fact that kids are disappearing have to do with one another. So if they do, explain that a little more - and explain the conflict better. The end of the second paragraph left me disappointed instead of dying to know what happens. Also, does she fall in love with Travis or have another love interest (i.e. is there romance in the story)?

The opening pages were interesting and had good energy but I'd like to have a better mental image of this world and the game. Also, you should make it clear from early on that she's deaf - her perspective of her world is different than most and that should be evident right away.

Jessica Peterson said...

I think the idea of your story is interesting but I think you need to rework your query a bit to highlight the really good parts. For me, you didn't really have a hook. Your first line doesn't grab me enough because I don't know what diball and aerial ping pong are. The fact that you have a deaf protagonist is unique so you definitely want to highlight that in the beginning.

I agree with some of the other comments. I thought the acquaintance was a spectator not a player and I'm not sure what Travis had to do with the disappearances, or whether or not he's on April's side. The fact that people start disappearing is interesting but I don't think it's highlighted enough to create tension.

Your 250 was well-written but I felt confused right off the bat. I don't think the reader has enough information about diball to feel invested in the game, and although you created great visual, I had a hard time really picturing what was happening since I was clueless about what diball was.

Best of luck!