Wednesday, August 21, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #15

Dear Ms. Sciuto,
Instead of having a blast at summer camp, twelve-year-old Rebecca is stuck babysittng her cousin in Iowa. Bo-ring. But once she arrives at her family's old farmhouse, a shadowy apparition starts stalking her every move, and her recurring nightmares about a freaky storm grow more terrifying.

Rebecca's scared she's going crazy, but no one seems to care. Her widowed mom is busy dating an old boyfriend on the neighboring farm. His daughter Kelsie has Rebecca's mom convinced she's adorable, but in reality the kid is a spying troublemaker up to something suspicious. Alone but determined, Rebecca follows ghostly whispers to her uncle's off-limits attic, where she finds letters written by her great-great-grandmother when she was Rebecca's age--letters that hint at a tragic family secret.

Desperate to discover who the threatening ghost is and what it wants, Rebecca struggles to piece together the mystery in her family's past. But when the puzzle starts to form a picture, she realizes it isn't her life in danger. If Rebecca can't face the apparition and her terrifying dreams, Kelsie will suffer the ghost's horrible fate.

GHOST FARM is a middle grade mystery complete at 35,000 words. It will appeal to fans of Michael Beil's SUMMER AT FORGOTTEN LAKE and Mary Downing Hahn's ALL THE LOVELY BAD ONES. Your online interviews and agency's website tells me you are actively seeking middle grade mysteries and thrillers, so I believe you may enjoy my manuscript. 
I am an active member of SCBWI and attended the 2013 winter conference in New York. For the past seven years I have served as writer and director for an annual elementary school stage show. I have a degree in Radio/Television/Film from Northwestern University.

Thank you for your consideration.



Car trips were the worst.

Rebecca winced as she shifted position, and her sweaty legs peeled away from the hot leather seat. Out the windshield stretched an endless two-lane road and rolling green cornfields. The eighties music her mom insisted on playing pulsed from the speakers. The smell of french fries lingered in the air and clung to her clothes.

"There in one minute!" her mom chirped from the driver's seat, blazing July sunlight glinting off her sunglasses.

At least this part's over, Rebecca thought. She loved her family and everything, but she wasn't thrilled to spend the rest of her summer in Iowa. She was supposed to be having a blast with her friends at Camp Pinebirch. She slumped down in the seat. 

The car slowed and turned onto a long gravel driveway. Ahead was a sunny yellow frame house with a wrap-around front porch. Tall trees stood over flourishing flowerbeds, and an old red barn towered in back. The familiar scene looked picture-perfect, like something out of a movie, and despite her irritable mood, Rebecca began to smile. Then a shadow flickered past the side window, inches from her face. She flinched and turned, expecting to see a bird flying off, but no bird was there. The blue sky was empty, hanging above acres of harmless corn.

Weird. A shiver skittered down Rebecca's spine.

Her mom stopped the car with a lurch in front of the house and switched off the ignition. "This," she said, stretching her arms above her head, "is going to be fantastic."


Jamie Krakover said...

This sounds like a great MG mystery with just the right amount of spook! I love your query. I don't think I have anything to add. It's very well written.

I also love your first 250. You have great descriptions and I'm already attached to Rebecca as a character. I'd definitely keep reading!

Carrie-Anne said...

I love the concept of this! It really seems like mystery is an underrepresented genre these days, so it's refreshing to see a mystery book. I also love that this is in third-person past tense, which seems like a dying POV/tense combo in MG and YA these days.

Just a nitpick: Eighties should be capitalized, as it refers to the proper name of a decade. French should be capitalized. I was a newspaper proofreader for five years and my mother is an English teacher, so I can't help but notice little things!

Anonymous said...

Hi there! I love the voice in the first paragraph of the query. It just sets the perfect tone. I like that the stakes are that Rebecca has to save someone other than herself--someone she actually doesn't like. I can see that providing some real internal conflict in the story.

I really enjoyed the first 250 as well. Great use of senses. The only thing I wondered was whether the window is open or not since she flinches from the shadow. But either way, that shadow is great for hinting as something ominous. Good luck!

Candice said...

I enjoyed reading your query and first 250 but afterwards I thought, what about that cousin you mention in the beginning? Hopefully he or she will be important since they're mentioned in the query?

I love the idea of finding letters from a great-great grandmother.

My first thought about Kelsie's life being at stake rather than Rebecca's was whether we, the readers, will come to see Kelsie as something besides a "spying troublemaker" otherwise, we may not be invested enough. But then I read the comment above, "the internal conflict", and thought, nevermind so I'm eager to see how you handled it!

Summer Wier said...

You had me at "her uncle's off-limits attic." I love stories with secrets in attics and the letters from g-g-grandmother just add to that. I also liked the twist that Kelsie will be the one to suffer if Rebecca can't face the ghost.

I enjoyed your first 250. I grew up in Missouri and can totally relate to hot, sticky legs peeling off of a car seat :) I'd love to read more!

Best of luck to you!

Agent Sara Sciuto said...

I love a good ghost mystery! This seems like a fun premise for MG and I was eager to read the full query. I enjoyed the description but it did go on too long for me. I would try and get this down to two paragraphs and cut out some of the more plot-specific details. There was also a lot about different adult family members, which concerned me--for MG we generally want to see the adults stay in the background.

For the sample pages, I wasn't connecting to the character as much as I wanted to. The voice to me felt a bit distant, and for MG I'm looking for that super authentic, intimate, young voice. Overall, a good query though!