Wednesday, August 21, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #11

Dear Sara Sciuto,

Oh no! Hotdog chases Cheesy Cat smack into the Dark Forest where all the monsters live including the giant, green, bagel eating monster. Finney, a plain bagel, must enter the Dark Forest to save them. Will he bump into the Giant Green Monster and become a bagel kabob platter or  will he return with his pets in one piece to his brown bag house in Plain York City?

FINNEY AND THE GIANT GREEN MONSTER is a picture book. Children will learn to love and not fear people who are different through Finney's dealings with the "monsters" of the Dark Forest.

I am an aspiring writer. I taught preschool and elementary school for ten years.My childhood was spent traveling to and living in different parts of the world. This story is based on my experiences as a student in a small non diverse high school in upstate New York.

I hope Finney finds a brown bag house in your agency's multicultural town. Thank you for your time.



Finney was a plain bagel--crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. He wore a bowtie below his chin and a black hat on his head. He lived in a brown bag house in Plain York City.

One day, Finney rolled to the park with his dog, Hotdog. It was crowded that morning. The whole city was there for the annual celebration parade. Mayor Bagel kept asking bagels to stop tumbling onto the parade route. “Oh dear,” Finney sighed. “There isn’t any space to watch the parade. Let’s go home.”

Suddenly, Cheesy Cat, Mayor Bagel’s cat, jumped through his bagel hole and onto the only empty trail in the park. “Wooof!” yelled Hotdog as he dashed after her.

“Come back! Don't go there.” Finney shuddered. Bagels stayed far, far away from this path. It led right into the Dark Forest where the Giant Green Monster lived and the Giant Green Monster loved to eat bagels!

Finney bravely crept after Hotdog and Cheesy Cat into the Dark Forest, ready to hide at the first sign of the monster. But he didn’t see the Giant Green Monster anywhere. Instead, he saw Hotdog trying to climb up an apple tree to catch Cheesy Cat.

“Hotdog. Cheesy Cat, come here.” Finney whispered.

THUD! Yellow apples crashed onto the grass. “Yikes! The GIANT GREEN MONSTER!” Finney dove behind a lilac bush.  Hotdog yowled as he raced back to the park. Cheesy Cat climbed into a hole in the tree.

The tree shook ferociously and out flipped...


Andrew said...

HA! Cute! I like it.

Elizabeth Prats said...

This sounds totally adorable!

I might consider adding a hyphen for "bagel-eating" had to reread that sentence a bit to get it. And love your point about Full Circle's multicultural family. You've done your research :)

But how long is this picture book? Make sure to include word count.

As far as the first 250--it sounds adorable. But there are a few instances where you can cut a few details, like what Finney is wearing (trust me the more I read my own PBs the more times I see extra details I can cut).

And I think this line doesn't have to be here: "It was crowded that morning. The whole city was there for the annual celebration parade."

It's something that can be shown through illustration.

Overall, it sounds pretty cute :) Good luck!

Jill said...

very cute. Nice job. I agree with cutting some words, but I thought your query letter was good. Best of luck!

Pamela Brunskill said...
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Pamela Brunskill said...

This sounds like a fun story!

A few things stood out to me, either wording that could be improved or something that I thought was great.

Starting with the query, I'm confused by this line: "will he return with his pets in one piece to his brown bag house in Plain York City?" What pets? How does a bagel have pets? I thought you might have meant to say parts. In that same sentence, I'm not sure you need the last part starting with "to his brown..." I agree with Elizabeth that you should put in the word count.

I like how you say how your experiences helped you write this book. Can you suggest any other picture books with similar themes or styles? I'd delete,"I am an aspiring writer." Don't draw attention to the fact that you haven't published yet. Love your last line about the agency's multicultural town.

As for the story, like others before me, I think you can cut some words here and there. For example, you can completely cut, "It was crowded that morning." The following line confused me: "Suddenly, Cheesy Cat, Mayor Bagel’s cat, jumped through his bagel hole and onto the only empty trail in the park" Did Cheesy Cat jump through the mayor's bagel hole? It sounded like the cat jumped through its own bagel hole (and hence kind of dirty!) which is not what I think you intended.

Ultimately, I think the problem arises too late in this story. I've read to get to the problem right away, by the first 10% of your story. A lot of what you've written is back matter, unless you're going for a chapter book. The following is great! "THUD! Yellow apples crashed onto the grass. 'Yikes! The GIANT GREEN MONSTER!' Finney dove behind a lilac bush."

I think you've got some great writing. To make it stand out, I think you should cut out the stuff that doesn't add to your plot or character building.

Good luck!


Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Andrew: I'm glad you liked it. :)

Elizabeth: Thanks for reminding me to write the word count. I didn't realize it was necessary. I went to a couple SCBWI conferences and the speakers never mentioned word count. I will definitely put it up next time. The MS is 900 words.

Jill: Thanks for your input. I will go over the MS and reduce the wordiness. I kept Finney and his description because an agent at the last SCBWI conference told me she liked it. But I am always open to people's critique. That's how I learn.

Pam: Thanks for the feedback. :) I went back to my MS and brought the plot out earlier and fixed some of the other details. Hotdog and Cheesy Cat are pets- something an agent at the SCBWI conference in Los Angeles, recommended me to do. I've tried to mention in the beginning everything that may come up later on.

All: Thanks for taking the time to read my story! :)

Agent Sara Sciuto said...

Thanks for this query. I like the fun factor here, and I'm sure kids would like seeing food items come to life. Though, I wasn't really sure what the message or purpose of the story was based on the story description. I'm not sure surviving in a dark forest feels like a substantial enough concept for a picture book. I also had a hard time picturing these food item characters in a dark forest filled with monsters--it feels like two different concepts.

When I got to the sample pages, I did feel like it did indeed need more focus. I can't quite picture this bagel and hot dog at a parade than going into a monster filled forest. I just can't picture what that world looks like (or envision the illustration for it). Also, I know you mentioned that the message was not to fear people who are different, but I don't really have any sense of this in the sample pages. For picture books, readers should have a clear sense of where the story's going from the beginning. Overall, I just felt the concept needed a bit more focus. It's a fun idea, though!

Unknown said...

Dear Sara,

Thank you for taking the time to read my query and the first 250 words. I appreciate the valuable feedback and will make my story better. I can see your perspective and understand what you mean by the need for more focus. I have ideas on how to make the more world real in the reader's head.

Again, thank you for the great critique!