Wednesday, November 6, 2013

An Agent's Inbox #9

Dear Mr. Cusick,

Three idyllic town. Over the course of two years, three strangers from upper class families living in the tony enclave of Gullybrook, are kidnapped. The local mall is their ingress into a sex slave industry they never knew existed. What awaits them is a future of handing over their bodies to those who eagerly pay. The girls turn to drugs, mind games, and each other to cope. 

There's Sissy. The 16-year-old junior from Sweethaven Academy who's nabbed when a friendly shopper leads her on a wild goose chase for the perfect Homecoming dress. Two months later, Candace, a freshman cheerleader at Gullybrook High disappears after a secret job interview. One year later, Megan, a sophomore at Lake Catholic High School is pinched trying to shoplift a present for her maybe girlfriend.

Through the violence, degradation, despair, and heartache, these girls find strength they didn't know they possessed to keep going. Fighting to endure, until they can find a way out of their sex prison.

The Mall in Gullybrook is a contemporary YA complete at 61,000 words. It is along the same vein as Lucy Christopher's Stolen, Patricia McCormick's Sold, Elizabeth Scott's Living Dead Girl and Theresa Flores' The Slave Across the Street, but told through three interconnecting viewpoints and with an uplifting aftertaste. A beta reader compared it to Room by Emma Donoghue.

I have consulted with human trafficking expert, Dr. Jacquelyn Meshelemiah, at The Ohio State University to bring to light a lesser known aspect of human trafficking, a sex trade that effects suburban girls. These are born and raised Americans, girls who never dreamed anything like this could ever happen to them...until it did because they didn't recognize the red flags. Dr. Meshelemiah wants to make The Mall in Gullybrook required reading for her classes. She currently teaches a MOOC (massive open online course) on human trafficking with 10,000 enrolled students this semester.

I am an active member of SCBWI, blogger, and short-story award winner.

The first 250 words are below. I hope to hear you'd like to read more.

Very truly yours,


October 3-4, 2013

"You encourage her!"

"You are being ridiculous. We work together. We HAVE to talk."

"You are her boss. She's using you, and you're too big a fool to see it. She's half your age. It's disgusting!"

They're still at it. Even being in my own room isn't enough to get away from it. I readjust my Beats headphones and let Justin Timberlake's voice wash over me. Have you ever heard his song "Mirrors"? Or seen the video? It's a song he wrote to his girlfriend when he knew he wanted her to be his wife. And he wrote it honoring his grandparents. It's like you're my mirror. My mirror staring back at me. I couldn't get any bigger, with anyone else beside me. 

He's got it figured out. That's exactly what love should be. Did my parents ever feel that way? Hard to imagine, the way they fight now. 

On to better things. Like what to wear to Homecoming. I find a real possibility on the Jovani website: beaded halter bodice, chiffon ruffles cascading off a cocktail-length skirt. It's sexy but subtle. The emerald green or snow white versions will work better with my hair and freckles. But to know which one looks best, I'll need to try them on. And seriously, I could use the distraction of a shopping trip now.

My phone vibrates and it's Kristen. Best friend and best shopping companion. That jolt of energy shoots through me at the thought of another trip to the mall.


Unknown said...

I love that you wrote about sex trafficking! It's a very overlooked problem, particularly in the U.S.! Your query letter feels a little disjointed and fragmented, though. Also, it's a little lengthy. I think you could get the same information across with fewer words. Also, I would try to smooth the transitions between the paragraphs. They feel as though they have been constructed separately and then put together.

Cindy Williams Schrauben said...

I commend you for taking on such a sensitive subject. I often struggle with how much information to give our young people, but your novel will educate while entertaining. I like the multiple-view approach; it is a writing form that I like reading. It sounds as if you have a ready-made audience with the help of Dr. Meshelemiah. That is a valuable marketing tool. Good luck

rena traxel said...

Be careful with using an artist's lyrics. I think you have to get permission. See this interview on Writer's Digest:

I'm sure his song is still under copyright protection.

Your concept is intriguing. Clearly you have done your research as pimps often recruit girls from malls. I think it's great that you took the time to talk to an expert especially when dealing with a topic a lot of people don't know about. However I don't get a sense of the danger to come from the opening.

And to tighten maybe drop "Have you ever heard his song "Mirrors"? Or seen the video? It's a song he wrote to his girlfriend when he knew he wanted her to be his wife. And he wrote it honoring his grandparents." - I don't think we need to know all this at least not at this point. I would just jump into the lyrics (take it you have permission to do so) and leave the bit out of why he wrote it. The lyrics and her comment about love is enough to understand what's going on.

I find the switch from her parents fighting and thinking about love to what she'll wear abrupt. Perhaps think about skipping to the part where her friend asks to meet her at the mall. At the mall you could go into what she thinks will look good on her and the homecoming. I find her talking about the dress at this point is slowing down the story. Where as I think if she's at the mall relaxing and that's where she's picked up. The juxtaposition of her being carefree and thinking about her dress against the danger of the pimp will just heightened the tension.

Anyways I'll quit blabbing. I just like your story. I would read more.

John C. said...


That's a good "whoa".

This concept is so bizarre and striking, I immediately sit up and take notice. It sounds a bit grim, but that's okay!

While I'd like to read more, here is one concern I have going in: your comps are to titles that are extremely gritty and realistic. Something about the synopsis here suggests a more commercial read, and I'm wondering whether the focus will be on the gritty realism, or the thriller aspect. Falling somewhere in between could be off-putting, tonally (as the subject matter is so intense).

In any event, I'd like to see how things unfold. Would you send me the first fifty pages?

Author Amok said...

Congrats on getting a request!

Rena is right about song lyrics.

Stacey Trombley said...

Hi there! I don't have much to add but wanted to pop in and say hi because I wrote a book about teenage prostitution too (working on a big R&R so not currently querying)

Hit me up on twitter if you'd like to talk and/or compare (dont worry, the two books are very different :) I'm @trombolii

I love this kind of issue driven/ emotional books. Good luck!

Kim Van Sickler said...

Thanks for commenting Rae, Cindy, Rena, Amok(LOL), and Stacey. I'm heading over to Twitter to find you now, Stacey.