Wednesday, November 6, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #10

Mr. Cusick,

Your reputation, catalog and wealth of experience have inspired me to reach out to you for possible literary representation. Your perspective as an author, educator and agent is invaluable. Most important to me, however, is the passion we share for children's literature. Although your personal website doesn't list PBs as desired projects, I see that they are acceptable here and via the Greenhouse Literary Agency submission process. I am, therefore, pleased to present TRAINING ACADEMY AT PARKSIDE ZOO, a 585-word humorous picture book with series potential.

The animals of the Training Academy have one save the human race.  Although discouraged by the silly behavior of the zoo's visitors, the animals rally to teach simple life skills and help people become productive members of society; a quest that is tougher than it sounds…especially for animals suffering from delusions of grandeur.

I hope that you will enjoy the quirky twists in TRAINING ACADEMY AT PARKSIDE ZOO, which is highly dependent on illustrations for comical value. I have added art notes for clarification purposes only and am anxious to embrace an illustrator's interpretation. I seek a full service partner who can facilitate every aspect of my career; my projects range from PB to YA. I am an educator and have been published in regional and national magazines, am a member of SCBWI and plan to attend its International Winter Conference in NYC in February.
Thanks for your time.


Wallace Owl was president of the Training Academy at Parkside Zoo.
Every day, he recited the mission over the intercom while the other animals followed along.

"Good morning, everyone. Please repeat after me!" Wallace said.
"As a member of the Training Academy.......                                     
I promise.........
to help our human visitors........
learn the skills needed......
to survive out in the world."

Wallace visited the animals to evaluate the training program.

His first stop was the chimp enclosure.

"How's your project going?" he asked Papa Chimp.

"See for yourself. We can't teach them a thing!" he said. "They just scratch their armpits, jump up and down, and yell, oo, oo, aah, aah. They're out of control!"

Wallace took some notes and headed off to visit the reptiles.

"What's with these silly peek-a-boo games?" he asked. "They keep popping their heads in and out of their collars."

"Don't ask me," said Latimer Turtle. "Scares me to death."

"They don't even try to blend in," said Milo the chameleon.

"At least they don't stick their tongues out at you all day," Reginald Lizard said. "How rude!"

Wallace got similar reports from the birds and water animals.

"All they do is balance on one foot,"  said Marisol Flamingo. "I've had it with their shenanigans."

"Just look at those teeth," said Cedric Shark. "They're terrifying."

Even the king of the jungle couldn't get through to them.

"They just stare at me," said Nigel the lion. "I get no respect!"

Wallace could see that they were discouraged.


Rae Chang said...

This is a hilarious idea, but the query letter is a little wordy. I get a lot of wordy emails from my students, and I tend to skip over all of their wordiness and skip straight to what they want. I would suggest going through your query letter and getting rid of anything non-essential.

Kim Van Sickler said...

Very cute concept. My two cents: the first two sentences of your query are not necessary, because they should apply to any agent you query. They're stating the obvious. There are opportunities to tighten your query, eliminate extraneous words, but on the whole it's easy to read and conveys the information you want.

I enjoy how the animals are confused by the activity we humans parrot back to them at the zoo. I think kids will love this! I do think some of the words can be simplified to be more kid-friendly. Like pledge instead of mission (This word is probably more familiar from the pledge of allegiance?) Other examples: evaluate and enclosure.

Great potential here. Kids will be tickled at the message and get to see lots of their favorite zoo animals in the process. Good job!

John C. said...

I like the idea of a zoo-animal's point of view on human behavior, but to me this concept feels a bit vague. Why are all the animals interested in helping the humans? It may seem like a picky question, but I wanted that choice to be motivated. I keep wondering how long they've been trying to help humans, and at what point they'd just give up-- what impact does their training have, in their eyes?

I think the way in which the humans need correcting might be a bit more precise. Do the animals find the humans rude/crude? Or just peculiar?

Perhaps the idea is just too diffuse. Would the story be stronger if a single character (say the owl or some other animal) was interested in correcting human behavior? That way you could draw a clear line between how *that* particular animal socializes and the ways this behavior is different from humans'.


Author Amok said...

My favorite line in your 250 words is: "'They don't even try to blend in,' said Milo the chameleon."

I think paragraph two of your query is strong. Would you consider opening with that?

Anonymous said...

Your concept is so fun. I can imagine how vibrant and funny the pictures could be with this.

The query is a little too formal, I think. I understand you want to be professional, but it should also have the same feel as your writing. Maybe when you describe the book, add in a little more humor or description of Wallace to show a taste of what's to come in the book. Also, the first paragraph feels too long. You want to get to the book description quicker (that's what's going to entice the agent to read more) and the personalization doesn't stand out enough to me to be warranted (i.e., you could say that to almost any agent). I would start with paragraph two, add in a little more, and then condense paragraph 3 to take out some of the flowy language. Good luck!