Wednesday, August 21, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #21

Ms. Sciuto,

I am pleased to present SILENT VOICES, a 77,000-word YA Contemporary novel with a paranormal twist, for your consideration. Your commitment to children's literature has encouraged me to reach out to you for possible representation. I am inspired by the fact that your agency works with authors in all aspects of their journey. Guidance in editing, marketing and sales is invaluable. My choice has been further validated by reviewing your body of work. 

Ten days after a horrific accident, fourteen-year-old Callie wakes up with a debilitating head injury and no memory of the last month. Unbeknownst to anyone, Callie now has the ability to hear others' thoughts; willing or not. Questioning her own sanity and fearing the reaction of her psychiatrist father, Callie hides the truth from everyone she loves, only to find that their secrets are far more daunting than her own.

In an attempt to shelter her from further pain, Callie’s parents and her life-long friend Jake conspire to keep jarring events of the past month secret. Pushing through a barrage of emotion, she uses her newfound gift to begin piecing together the truth. Realizing that her parents are actually divorced is only the beginning.

Among Callie’s lost memories is the fact that her relationship with Jake began to blossom soon before the accident. Together they continue to dissect secrets that their parents have been keeping from them both; most notably, the fact that Callie's father--her hero--has been having an affair with Jake's mother. For fourteen years. Callie and Jake share more than a special connection....they share a father.

An educator, writer, magazine editor, and member of SCBWI, I look forward to attending the International Winter Conference in NYC. With the teen angst and suspense of Pretty Little Liars and the emotion and moral dilemma of works by Jodi Picoult, this story could be a stand-alone piece or the first of a trilogy. SILENT VOICES combines love, deceit, and inner strength as a teen struggles to find her own path and come to terms with the blessings and curses of her new reality.

Thank you for your time and consideration.




Callie hit send and saw a blaze of sun reflecting off metal...and heard the screeching brakes...and the screams.


Callie could hear mumbled voices, but she wasn’t entirely sure where they were coming from. She held her eyes tightly shut. The light stung through, its brilliance radiating in streaks and flashes. Why wouldn’t it stop? She groaned in pain and shook her head to deny the voices and the light.

Where was she? What was happening?

“” Callie strained to open her eyes against the blaze.

“She’s awake, someone get the Doctor! Callie, Callie…honey, it’s okay, I’m here!”

So many voices. She recognized them then--her Mother and her Dad, but who else? It sounded like a flock of angry crows…voices coming in and out. Screeching and cooing at the same time.

“Callie, Oh Callie, Thank God you're awake.” Her Mother’s voice shrieked with desperation.

Callie clamped her eyes closed again. The voices came louder and faster, then, cutting through the haze. Why were they all screaming so loudly? Please, God, make them stop. She thought. She felt suffocated… crushed beneath the voices and the light.

Is she okay? My G**, she looks so pale, but she’s awake.” It was her Mother again. “Will she know who we are; will she ever be the same? I don’t care, she’s alive. My baby, my baby, God, please help her!”

Her Mother’s voice sounded different now. Like a bad cell phone connection. Flickering... jumping…. like pieces were missing.


Anonymous said...

Hey C.S,

I really like the concept, I think everyone has wished to know what someone was thinking at one time or another which is what makes SILENT VOICES all the more appealing.

A few pointers you could consider:

-Perhaps try moving the first paragraph of your query so it forms the last, that way the agent gets hooked on the great concept straight away.

-You use ellipsis quite a lot which in part is due to your concept (I get it, it works well- particularly the ' pieces moving) yet when you come to use it in the grammatical sense too, they begin to seem quite distracting. Perhaps try swapping them for full-stops/periods in places for dramatic effect for example 'It sounded like a flock of angry crows. Voices coming in and out.'

-I was thinking you could make 'where was she? what was happening?' into character thought instead so we get inside Callie's head from the onset. This helps to overcome the main disadvantage of third person narrative, allowing the reader to build a relationship straight away. Or will this conflict with your mind reading concept??

These are all just suggestions, so please don't feel obliged to implement them if you they compromise your novels message.
Again, great idea and kudos for the suspense building prologue.

Best of luck,


Agent Sara Sciuto said...

Thanks for all the personalization in the first paragraph. It lets me know that you did your research, and so I'm eager to read on and see what you thought would be a good fit.

For the description, I found it too long. I thought the first description paragraph was really interesting, but I started losing some interest at the second and third description paragraphs. Suggest cutting after the first description para. The last two paras were more about her parents then the MC and so it turned me off a bit. Having the main conflict be about their parents previous affairs I don't think would be very interesting to young readers--keep the focus on the young characters. Is there a larger conflict more central to the MC?

For the sample pages, my general thought on prologues is that they're usually not necessary. When I get a query with one, I usually just scroll down to Chap. 1 so I can see what the current narrative/voice is going to be. I would perhaps cut the prologue here, too. It's a pretty intense scene, with a lot going on and the mortal peril--but we have no connection to your character yet, so I'm not really ready to go on that journey with her. I do get that she's having her first paranormal effects then, but I think I still would have preferred starting the story later. This is subjective though....

Cindy Williams Schrauben said...

Thank you for taking the time to read and respond to my query and first 250. I struggle with an opening greeting vs. jumping right into the action because I have heard both preferences. Personally, like you, I would prefer to jump right in but have been advised otherwise. hmmmm I think that changing the prologue into first person (to match the rest of the ms would be wise and have considered that myself. Your opinion validates that.
Thanks again for your help.

Cindy Williams Schrauben said...

Ms. Scuito,
Thank you for taking the time to read and respond to my query and first 250.

I will work to minimize the description portion of my query. I have been advised in the past to include a great deal of plot detail, but it seems I have gone too far. :)

Following the prologue, the ms is in first person so I hope that the strife caused by the demise of the family will speak to the reader because it comes from the MC POV.

I see your point concerning establishing a connection between the reader and the MC before jumping into the "mortal peril". I will move the prologue later into the story.

Thank you, again. I appreciate your time a great deal.