Wednesday, April 10, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #4

Dear Ms. Sarver,

“Lotto fever” isn’t just a catchphrase for eighteen-year-old Mallory Van Pelt. For her, it’s the ticket to saving her family and the comfortable life that she doesn’t want to lose.

It’s been forever since Mallory’s father had a job, her older brother drags his shadow of misery all around the house, and the sister she idolizes has taken off without even saying good-bye. The only bright spot left in her life is her boyfriend--until she catches his lips attached to another girl’s at the end-of-summer party. After a humiliating first day of school, Mallory ends up at a mini mart famous for selling winning lottery tickets, and she’s so desperate for a touch of hope, she joins the crowd of dreamers to try her own luck at a Super Lotto Plus jackpot.

Mallory develops lottery fever instantly as recurring trips to the mini mart gift her with daydreams of the picture-perfect lives she wants so much for those she loves. In these fantasies, Mallory’s parents are worry-free in their newly-remodeled home, her brother is free from financial handcuffs and able to return to Indiana where he belongs, and the best private investigator money can buy has found her sister. But while she waits for her jackpot dreams to come true, her real life worsens. It becomes increasingly difficult for Mallory to keep up with her wealthy friends and to be the beacon of light that’s holding her family together. Time is not on her side either; if she doesn’t find her luck soon, her parents could lose the house, Mallory could lose her college dreams, and the distance with her friends could become permanent.

However, beneath the rubble of her crumbling year is a budding relationship with Adrian Lopez, the tough yet totally hot transfer student with his own family struggles. Despite running in different crowds, Adrian becomes the one person Mallory can confide in and their growing friendship is just the thing she needs to help her find her luck.

HOPE IN BLOOM is a 75,000 word contemporary YA novel. I am an English teacher as well as a member of SCBWI and CBW-LA.

Thank you for taking the time to review my work. Your interest in a high concept contemporary YA makes me think my manuscript would be a good fit with you. And like you, I also happen to like all things Irish for no particular reason.

Thank you again. I look forward to hearing from you.

Every girl needs a good luck charm. Mine was a shirt, emerald green with rainbow embroidery along the neckline. I was convinced that magic pulsed through every thread. It was the shirt I was wearing to the summer league baseball game when my boyfriend Ben asked me out for the first time. I'd also worn it the day I found out I’d finally made the varsity cheerleading squad and the day I’d gotten my first ‘A’ on a pre-calculus test.

It was definitely a lucky shirt, which is why I was planning on wearing it to the party that night. I’d seen that hint of green hanging in my closet all week long, but when I reached for my lucky shirt on Saturday night, I discovered I’d been duped. The green fabric in my hand belonged instead to my “Dublin Rocks!” T-shirt. Unluckily for me, my good luck charm was in the laundry room, buried under Monday’s dirty sheets.

I was in a near panic when Sara, Taylor and Nicole--my friends since seventh grade--Came to pick me up. They stared at me from the doorway of my bedroom as I stood shirtless, surrounded by the aftermath of a cotton-polyester tornado.

“Geez, is there anything left in your closet?” Sara asked as she darted over to the mirror and began combing her fingers through her long blond hair.

“I have to look perfect for Ben tonight. It’s been a month since he’s seen me!” Ben had already left for college but was back for one night--for the end-of-summer party and to see me.


Katrina S. Forest said...

I think your query's opening line is awesome. I've read about characters winning the lottery, and this feels like a cool twist in that I'm guessing she doesn't win. It's cool to see a teen character with this odd addiction. I think your query could be half its current length and work just as well -- a lot of your lines say a lot on their own and don't need as much elaboration as you have.

The voice in your first page is also strong. I like that I can already tell this is exactly the type of character who would develop a lottery addition. I also like that she's reasonably nervous about seeing a guy she likes, but neither is she giving me paragraphs and paragraphs about how he personally escorts the sun into the sky every morning.

I'd definitely be sitting down to read more pages if I found this in a store.

Laura Edwards said...

The part in your query where you say the boyfriend had his lips attached to someone else had me laughing out loud. Good writing! I do think it's a little too long though. Reads more like a synopsis. Try paring it down.

Lanette said...

I agree with the two above. You have an interesting take on a familiar trope, which makes me curious enough to want to read your novel. But you could cut a few sentences in the query without losing anything. Also, the title seems cliche. You might want to find a title that catches the essence of your story better.

Your first 250 are very good. I felt like I was in the room with Mallory, and you show us quite a bit about her character. She's superstitious and a bit of a control freak while enduring at the same time. This is someone I would want to spend 75,000 words with.

dianelashdecker said...

Strong voice! I love the lucky shirt ..... everyone has one, right? A lot of YAs will relate. The query could be half as long. You can definitely write, so all you have to do is cut unnecessary words like "it's been forever since Mallory's father had a job ". I like Mallory !!

S.M. #12 said...

Great concept! This seems like such a fun read.

As others have mentioned, definitely tighten the query up. It could be half as long as it is now, and it would still get me to read on.

You show in your first 250 that you're a gifted writer. I love the first paragraph and how it gives a sense of Mallory's character. And the phrase "cotton-polyester tornado" is awesome.

Good luck with this!!

Jessica Peterson said...

I enjoyed your query. I loved the 'lips attached to another girls' line. I didn't find it long because I liked reading and wanted to know more. But that's just me and agents who read so many of these would probably prefer a bit shorter version.

'It’s been forever since Mallory’s father had a job, her older brother drags his shadow of misery all around the house, and the sister she idolizes has taken off without even saying good-bye.' This sentence did bother me a bit because the tenses didn't match.

I thoroughly enjoyed your 250 and would definitely keep reading.

Best of luck. :)

Elizabeth said...

I loved your entry!! What a hilarious take on teenage angst! At the same time, I felt for Mallory. She was having bad luck, but she didn't sit back and feel sorry for herself. Your voice was fabulous!

Regarding the query, I also felt it read more like a synopsis, and it was quite long. Besides shortening it, I'd also maybe recommend saying something at the end that Mallory realizes lottery tickets can't buy happiness, and she needs to make her own luck. Not those words, exactly, of course. :) I'd also like to get a sense of what Mallory intends to do besides hang out with Adrian as her world tumbles around her. What actions does she take to gain control?

Loved it, though! You have a smooth, humorous writing style I adore!

Melissa Sarver said...

I love realistic contemporary YA and I think you've got a nice hook here with the lotto ticket obsession. I like the fact that she doesn't win, though I'd like to see the obsession take hold of the story a bit more or else it's just a jumping off element. And I wouldn't want this to be yet another crappy-family YA novel. The query is twice as long as it needs to be and I'm still unclear what the major conflict or climax will be. The love interest is thrown in here as an afterthought. Remember you don't need to give us all the details of all the characters in your query.
I love the detail of her lucky shirt - I think this is something teenagers can relate to and it also sets up the theme of luck with the lottery. But don't spend so much time on the lucky shirt, even in the opening section. A little goes a long way to make your point. Be careful not to have your narrator tell the reader details like in a synopsis "my friends since seventh grade" and "Ben had already left for college but was back for one night." - these take us out of your narrator's head, which is a problem since you've written this in first person.
Have you played with titles with the word "luck" in them? The current title feels generic to me.