Wednesday, July 24, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #16

Dear­­­ Ms. Smith,

Jon Doe Zane (aka J.D.) wants to get a real life. He’s spent his first sixteen years living in the shadows of an older brother who killed himself on the day J.D. was born, leaving J.D.’s mother catatonically depressed, and his father… well, if he knew where his father was, life would likely be very different.

When a card arrives in the mail three days after Christmas, J.D. finally has a clue as to where dear old Dad has been hiding. If J.D. can track him down, and if his father is ready to come home, maybe J.D.’s dream of going off to college and living outside of the shadows isn’t so entirely stupid after all.

Jason, also sixteen, wants to end his life. He no longer fits into Happy Family Land; not since last year when he met his rock idol, Kurt Cobain, at an airport--three days before Cobain blew his own brains out with a shotgun. Now Jason can’t help but wonder: what if he’d done something differently that day at the airport? What if he hadn’t treated Cobain like a freak celebrity? What if he’d managed the simple word ‘hello’? Would Cobain still be dead?

All the what-if’s in the world won’t change the fact that Jason didn’t say anything, and Cobain did die. And now Jason’s moods swing wildly between a manic need to visit Cobain’s hometown one moment and a crushing desire to jump off the nearest bridge the next.

Both guys grab their closest “friends” and take to the road, each hoping to outrun the long-term side effects of suicide. When their two worlds collide in the middle, nothing turns out as expected.

Told in alternating points of view, Potholes on the Road to Nirvana is a dark, YA, road-trip comedy with rock & roll flare and an unexpected twist. It is complete at 63,000 words, and I would love to send the full manuscript for your consideration. Please find the first 250 words pasted below per the contest entry guidelines.

Given your interest in contemporary YA, I believe Potholes on the Road to Nirvana could be a good fit for your list. I look forward to your response!



Mom was awake, if you could call it that. The sun had barely broken over the roof of our trailer, but from where I stood in the yard, I could see her through the kitchen window gearing up for another busy day. She sat at the table with her ratty nightgown on, her a** planted squarely in her usual chair. She was breathing, not only in but also out. Yep. That was one packed schedule she was working on for sure.

I immediately closed my eyes and shook my head. I couldn’t allow this stupid sarcasm to follow me into the house. It wouldn’t help. And besides, I’d sworn to myself just this morning I was going to be a better person than that. If I’d broken my promise already, I was even more hopeless than I thought.

I climbed the steps to the porch, shifted the grocery sacks to one side, and then fumbled with the lock.

“Mom, I’m--” Before I could get the rest of the sentence out, the toe of my boot caught on the loose threshold I’d been meaning to fix for ages. With all the grace of a two-legged giraffe, I stumbled into the living room, slamming my elbow hard against the wall in the process. Three boxes of mac and cheese tumbled out of one of the overstuffed sacks, but I somehow managed to stay upright without dropping the eggs or smashing the bread.

“--home,” I finished with a manly whimper, kicking the door closed behind me.


Karen Clayton said...

Very interesting. A tempting read.

Natalie Rompella said...

Query: Wow--very intriguing concept. I felt it was well-written and to the point.
250: I liked the voice. First para: I was confused how the boy could see his mom sitting at a table through the kitchen window if he was standing in his yard. Aren't trailer windows fairly small and pretty high? The breathing in and out sentence was a little awkward.
All in all, I got a good sense of the boy and his mom from this short snippet. :)

Susan Oloier said...

What an awesome premise! Is it considered contemporary if it takes place in the 90s? I was initially expecting present time until I read about Kurt Cobain. And why is "friends" in quotes. Maybe a little background about who they are taking--it has the potential to add more character conflict that way (IMHO).
Your sample definitely makes me want to keep reading! I truly adore road trip books, and this one is very unique.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Just popping in to say this was one of the few entries I remembered after I formatted them all. That could just be because my WIP also deals with suicide, but I suspect it has something to do with the fact that you have a FANTASTIC premise.

I'm not as familiar with Kurt Cobain, so I didn't realize that reference immediately dated your project until I read Susan's comment. I imagine every agent and editor will feel differently about where this fits genre-wise, but I'll let them worry about that:)

I thought the first page did a great job of setting the scene and introducing us to J.D. I related to his sarcasm but also to his desire to be a better person. In other words, I'm already rooting for him.

Good, good luck with this. I think this is a story a lot of YA readers would relate to.

Oh, one last thought: The query was really heavy, so I was surprised to see you describe it as a dark comedy. I'd either call it something else or give us a better sense of the dark humor earlier on.

Bridget Smith said...

This is a great way to introduce dual narrators. You’ve effectively described both of their personalities and both of their situations, juxtaposing them to illuminate similarities and differences. What I’d like to see is a little bit more of what happens when they collide. It sounds like that’s where the real story starts: can you give me just a hint of what happens in the plot? And why is “friends” in scare quotes?

I like the sample, too: I like that you twist that teenage sarcasm – overdone in YA, in my opinion – into something different. This is, on the whole, a very strong entry.