Wednesday, April 10, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #6

Dear Ms. Sarver,

Fat girls can't be in beauty pageants--unless they have to save their best friends.

All thirteen-year-old PHOEBE FRANZ needs is her best friend LACEY, an extra-large T-shirt, and a carton of her favorite Black Sludge ice cream, which tastes better than it sounds. But when mean girl STELLA SILVERS lures Lacey away to enter a beauty pageant, Phoebe freaks out. To save her friendship, Phoebe joins the competition. But dresses don’t fit, her father hates the idea, and Phoebe has a major fear of public appearances. She must learn to believe in herself. And that means conquering the stage and standing up, once and for all, to Stella.

I invite you to join Phoebe as she swims with her clothes on, masters the art of yo-yoing, and allows her obese, chip-loving father to escort her on pageant night.

I am a graduate of the advanced novel-writing course of the Institute of Children’s Literature, and have attended the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, for the past three years. I am published in my church’s youth magazine, and won second place in a contest for YA personal experiences sponsored by the Children’s Newsletter.

I am excited for the opportunity to submit the first 250 words of my 35,000-word, middle-grade contemporary novel, PHOEBE FRANZ CAN--and I'm especially excited to hear that you are now seeking MG fiction.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Fat girls can’t be in beauty pageants.

That’s why the bright pink sign over my locker was such a joke:

Enter the Three Corners Princess Pageant! Open to Girls Grades 6-8. $500 Grand Prize!

The sign was also in my way. I couldn’t even get to my locker because a clump of girls stared at it with heads up, mouths open.

Fabulous. Now I’d be late for class.

“Excuse me.” I slid around a retro blue-and-brown polka-dotted backpack and moved toward my locker, only to have a zebra-striped backpack block my path.

Double fabulous. I needed the poster in my locker for my geography presentation next period.

“Excuse me,” I said again, and stuck an elbow into the crowd, trying to find a hole I could slide through.

Zebra-backpack Girl moved, like, two inches.

At this rate, I’d be giving my geography presentation in high school next year.

Lucky for me, the warning bell rang, and the crowd hurried to their own lockers, leaving behind a jumble of flowery-spicy scents. I rubbed my nose. Give me good old Irish Spring soap, any day.

“Feebs! Isn’t this so exciting?” Two hands waved in front of my face.

Lacey. I spun around. My best friend bounced on the balls of her feet.

A geography presentation, exciting?

I took her wrists. “Down, girl. I’m only doing the Four Corners Monument, not Fiji.”

She rolled her eyes, something she’s good at because of her farting, burping four brothers. “Not your presentation. The pageant!”


Erin Shakespear said...

Ok. That has to be the best opening line of a query letter. Ever.

Love it!

Jonene Ficklin said...

I agree with Erin! And what a test of friendship. That's asking a LOT. I can see this as a very timely and appealing story for what children are facing now. And I like that it's more than a story about a fat girl. It's about friendship and sacrifices for the right thing.

Anonymous said...

I love this! You've really boiled down the the story into a single paragraph, which is great, and then the extra paragraph gives a glimpse of humor.

My only reservation is that the voice in the first 250 sounds a little older. I can't quite put my finger on what it is, and it might just be me anyway. The writing itself is fantastic and draws me right in. I'd definitely read this!

Angela Citte said...

What a great premise for a story--and so timely in this day and age. I like reading about a protagonist that isn't "the chosen one" with her undiscovered "abilities." How refreshing!Soooo many girls will be able to relate to Phoebe and cheer her on. Thanks for creating a fresh, new, spunky character. :)

Maria said...

I agree with the previous comments that your query does a wonderful job of getting to the heart of the story and opens with an attention-getting line.

In terms of the first 250, I wanted more description of the girls wearing the backpacks--and not just of the backpacks. If they are interested and she isn't, you could highlight her frustration more by having her throw an elbow that jams a hip bone or such.

Sounds both humorous and poignant. Hope this helps!

Anonymous said...

I really like this entry. The query is engaging and highlights both the plot and the underlying theme in one sentence. The rest of the query is also brief and catchy. Nicely done.

I am intrigued with the premise and enjoyed the writing itself. Phoebe sounds like a character I'd like to be friends with.

LeishaMaw said...

I also enjoyed this entry. The query got right to the point and engaged me immediately. The first page had nice voice and made me want to read more.

Great job.

Lanette said...

This is a very good query-- sharp and succinct. I want to know why entering in a pagent will save her friend, but other than that I'm with you.

I don't think the first 250 delivers the promise of the query. The voice seems off, maybe a little older than 13, and the spark that's in the query isn't in your first page. Perhaps it's in your first five pages and will carry the readers forward from there, but I would like to see a hint of that spark in the first page. I'm sorry this critique is vague, but sparks are subjective. Hopefully, Ms. Sarver will feel the zing even though I don't.

Ru said...

I love your query. (Love it!) I kind of agree though that the voice in the 250 words sounds a little older than (I'm assuming) 13, but I'd keep reading.

Rosalyn said...

I agree that the query letter here is a lot of fun. The premise reminds me quite a bit of Erin Dionne's Models Don't Eat Chocolate Cookies (also about a plus-sized girl dragged into a beauty contest). You may want to check that out as a comp title.

One little thing: 35,000 words sounds a little short to me for a novel that's going to be pitched at the upper end of middle grade.

dianelashdecker said...

Your query is fun!! I didn't have to re-read any part - it just flowed!!! Your title is fabulous, and your voice is strong ! I can picture zebra-backpack girl and I like the "down girl" line. Good luck

S.M. #12 said...

This query made me smile. The hook is so strong, and when I finished the letter I was eager to get to the pages-- I knew they'd be solid based on the writing in the query.

I think you've got something special here because so many girls can relate to Phoebe- young and old alike.

The first 250 didn't disappoint. The expression "Double fabulous," made me laugh. Great voice! Good luck with this.

Jessica Peterson said...

I loved your query! That first line was definitely a winning hook! My only issue was things got a bit confusing for me when you introduced Stella, I had to reread that line a few times to figure out who was who, but that's obviously just me because everyone else loved it! :)

I LOVED your 250 too!!! At first I wasn't so excited about your first line (just because I'd already seen it in your query), but as I read on, I realized it fit and I forgot about it. Great voice. Great story. I think you've got a real hit!

Best of luck! :)

Melissa Sarver said...

The opening line of this query doesn't make sense to me - I see what you are going for but it isn't quite working. I can't imagine a scenario in which a fat girl being in a beauty contest would save a friend. On the other hand it's not such a crazy cause and effect that makes me curious to know what you mean. I actually love the first line of paragraph two and would suggest starting there.

You do a wonderful job of establishing humor and voice in the query. Be careful not to include so many "lists" (sentences one and three in paragraph two; paragraph three).

I'd be interested in seeing Phoebe's emotions pushed a bit more in the opening 250. She describes herself as fat right away... so how does she feel? Is she self-conscious as she's trying squeeze through and get to her locker? Are her classmates rude to her? or is she well liked? How uncomfortable is she in her own skin?

One line that didn't work for me: "something she’s good at because of her farting, burping four brothers." Too much telling and not enough showing.

I really do enjoy Phoebe's voice.