Wednesday, August 21, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #17

Dear Ms. Sciuto,

Keep calm and make it to Prom Night without a legit panic attack. For seventeen-year-old Bree Hughes, it’s easier said than done when gossip, grief, and the opportunity to fail at love are practically high-fiving her in the hallways of Belmont High.

When Bree’s crush, Sean Mills, gives her his phone number, she can’t even leave a voicemail without sounding like a spazz. Then she’s asked to be on Prom Court because the school outcast, nominated as a joke, declined. Ready to spend more time with fellow nominee Sean, Bree accepts the open seat, but feels like a jerk for being a bystander to the prank nomination. She apologizes to the outcast, but it’s too late. After years of torment and an ugly secret shared with the class’s cruel Pageant Queen, the girl commits suicide. Bree is left with a lot of regret…and a revealing letter with a final request.

With Sean by her side, Bree navigates through her guilt, anxiety, and all the Prom Court drama. But when a cheating love triangle secret hits the fan after a night of sex, drinks, and video games, she’s left with new information about Sean and the class Pageant Queen. Bree must now speak up or stay silent. If she lets fear be her guide, she’ll lose her first love, and be heading to Prom to avenge the death of the school outcast--as a "Party of One."

PROM B*TCH, complete at 69,000 words, is a Contemporary YA novel that will appeal to readers of Looking For Alaska and Thirteen Reasons Why. I am a member of the NJ chapter of SCBWI. I have pasted the first 250 words of my ms below. I appreciate your time and consideration.



Two things I’d like to do right now: lean in and kiss the neck in front of me and reach over and give a tiny choke to my BFF's neck on my right. I can’t stop my knee from bouncing all over the place like a dashboard bobblehead. I’ve been looking forward to last period--and dreading it--all day. 

Not having assigned seats in English class is definitely a perk. I super love the days I can sit and stare at the back of Sean Mills’ short brown sexy hair. He’s tall, plays football and the guitar. Which pretty much makes him a triple threat in my book. Thing is, he’s also got these swimming pool blue eyes--the kind you shouldn’t look at for more than a few milliseconds because, if he looks back and there’s eye contact, you’ll drown. Which is why I’m in the seat right behind him. There’s even something about his ears that get me. They stick out a little--not too much--just enough to give him character. They make him more accessible, not so perfect.

Now, if only I could bask in my semi-obsessive fan-girl antics instead of anticipating the lame a** Prom Court Nomination drama that’s about to ensue. I try to ignore my best friend Kallie whose eyes are practically waving a neon “get ready get set” flag in my peripheral.


Anonymous said...

Here we go! Again, these are simply my opinions and suggestions and by no means do you HAVE to do any of them.

The Query: I think the first paragraph is so cute. I definitely get a feel for your character's voice. Just cut a few words here and there to tighten.

"it's easier said than done with gossip, grief, and the opportunity to faily at love practically high-fiving her in the hallways of Belmont High."

There's a lot going on in this query, details and plot points a plenty, but you don't want to bog the query done by trying to fit everything into these few paragraphs. Trust me, I know the difficulty of having a complex tale to tell, but you have to pick one or two major things about the book--whichever ones have the most pull--and focus on those. The point of the query is to leave the reader wanting more, not try and tell them as much as you can.

I love the voice, and the writing. The only suggestion I have is dial down what you're trying to get across, then rework it with those new focuses.

The 250: The first paragraph confused the crap out of me. I had no idea where they were, how anyone was positioned, how close the neck in front of her was, or the one to the side. It wasn't until we get to the second paragraph that I get they're in class, at desks, in rows. Then I was further confused because she'd have to do more than just lean in to reach the guy in front of her. Also, nix dashboard. All bobbleheads bobble, it's an extra word, dun need it.

The second paragraph is really heavy on the guy description. And while I get that she knows all of this about him, and notices these little things, getting all of it right off the bat slows things a little. I would save the football and guitar for later, because the hair, the eyes (fabulous description btw) even the ears are cute little things. But after three, it's a bit much. At least for me, others may feel differently.

Third paragraph, I love this best friend. The neon ready-set flag made me laugh.

Good stuff!

Good luck!

Angela Brown said...

I enjoyed reading the first paragraph of the query. I could get that teen voice right away.

The paragraphs that followed left me a little confused only because I think there may have been a lot of information stuffed in. I can totally understand since I tend to do the same with my own queries. From the sound of things, the suicide is an inciting act followed up by some rough and tumble teen naughty going on that puts he MC in a bad position. If you could hone those two paragraphs a bit more around those concepts, that may tighten it quite a bit.

As for the 250, I was in the story by the end of the sample, but the first paragraph had me a tad lost on what was happening. It may not be needed and possibly combine some things from it into the second paragraph.

Overall, I rather enjoyed this and wish you the best with it. The concept sounds like it has quite a bit of heartbreak along with opportunity for redemption.

K. L. Hallam said...

I like the feel of the first paragraph's voice, but "and the opportunity to fail at love are practically high-fiving her in the hallways of Belmont High." tripped me up a bit. Maybe you could simplify this sentence?

I think the second paragraph needs a little tightening up, too. Love the premise behind this. Feel like we need to get to the punch in a clear--knock 'em out way--that I think this premise deserves. I'd love to read this and find out how Bree navigates her feelings, and her guilt.

250 words: That first paragraph should read cleaner. I had to read it a couple times. And I'd prefer to hear less about the details of the boy in front. Maybe one characterizing detail? And save the rest for a couple pages in? (tiny grain of salt, opinion) The third paragraph has the drama. Can you make that the lead in paragraph, somehow?

I wish you the best going forward with this. Sounds like a gut-wrenching story. --On a platter of familiarity. :)

Candice said...

I thought the first paragraph of your query was awesome but I agree with some of the other commenters on the 2nd one. It threw me for a loop and my biggest question was: Why does Bree feel like a jerk for accepting the nomination? The "outcast" was the one who declined and my first thought was that Bree is in outcast too, but when I read your first 250, she didn't seem that way.

The phrase "give a tiny choke to my BFFs neck" was a bit awkward to me and gave me pause while reading but I thought your/Bree's description of Sean was great. Very descriptive yet "fan-girlish".

Agent Sara Sciuto said...

I'm looking for more contemporary YA so I was happy to see this query. In full disclosure though, I don't do a lot of high school drama based contemporary, so this one wouldn't have been a fit for me just based on the concept. That aside though, I found the description much too long--this is one that got a bit bogged down with synopsis-like plot details. Also, I had to reread the beginning of the description as I had assumed she was the outcast (she sort of sounded like one) and so when you had that line about the outcast committing suicide I was really confused. Overall, keep the description brief and save the plot details for the synopsis.

For the sample pages, I found myself wishing you started out with a great live scene. There was a lot of description, and I think it would be more fun to start with a live scene of the prom nomination. Sounds like an interesting project!