Wednesday, February 19, 2014

An Agent's Inbox #6

Dear Ms. Gref:

Gail has spent her whole life waiting. She's a fourteen year-old with a useless talent and an immense need for fulfillment. When she hears about the Community and gets an opportunity to go, she takes it. They embrace her--tell her she is just like them. Talented. She’s gifted, lucky, part of an important group with a wide range of abilities.

Like every other Talented, Gail feels the Community is the only place where she is needed. But then she meets another Talented who hasn’t joined yet, another kid. He's been around for a little longer, and with his help, Gail discovers why it’s every Talented’s goal to join the Community. They have no other choice. Refusal is suicide.

When she discovers they have controlled her life from the beginning, even taking her from her parents, Gail is done waiting. She attempts an escape from the Community's network with the help of her new Talented friend. They have many secrets, which Gail is only beginning to uncover. The Talented boy might have the knowledge to save her, but his bitter past keeps attracting more trouble.

Gail must decide whether to continue on her own journey for fulfillment or put herself in danger by helping the Talenteds in their fight against the Community. In the process, she will discover what it really takes to be fulfilled.

TALENTED is a 79,000 word MG light science-fiction. Conceived as an adventurous super hero tale, it has retained its adventure while evolving into a deeper story of disappointment, trust, and strength. Things even un-Talenteds have to deal with.

TALENTED was a Quarterfinalist (top 250 of 5,000) in the 2012 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest. My short fiction has also been published in teen literary journals such as Flip the Page of central Ohio.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best regards,


I stepped over to the bathroom curtains and pulled them tightly shut, blocking out the black void that was the starless night sky. It was a rule here, no daytime showers, but I hated the feeling of showering at night. I stood in front of the shower reluctant to turn it on. I was shivering from the bathroom fan blowing and the cool winter chill.

“Gail, why isn’t that water running?” Ruth asked through the door. It was her way of warning me that I better hurry up.

I cranked the water on and stepped into it. It was freezing. Our building had no hot water--one of its many flaws. I stood to the side, trying to let the water pass me, but it was no use. We never had gotten the money for all the extra things that needed done. No one cared enough, I guess.

I paused, listening to the water as it hit the rigid plastic curtain.

I’ve been taking showers since I was eighteen months. I was three when I stopped taking them cold. I don’t remember the transition, but one day I was somehow able to step into a warm shower. Just by thinking about it. I looked at the water again, and drip by drip, it turned warm. With the effort it took, though, I wondered if it was really worth it.


GSMarlene said...

I like the concept in your query that the people most accepting of her might not be the best for her, but maybe it could be shortened with a little tightening. I did really want to know what her talent was (why it's useless.) I was a little confused at the end of the query - if all Talented want to join the Community, then who's fighting. I'd thought just her and the friend. And I still want to know more about the Talents - flying, mind stuff?
For the first 250 - it might be too much discussion of showering to draw readers in. The idea is fine, but it went a little long and seemed told, not shown. For example "I was shivering" - watch passive voice and the was 'ing combo. Instead - My teeth chattered. Goosebumps popped from my skin. My body shook so hard it seemed my vertebra ground bone against bone. That sort of thing anyhow. And why is the bathroom fan blowing?
Glad that we got some idea of her talent at the end of the 250 - good job there. But show us that effort, is she weak, shaky? And why does she spend so much time complaining about the cold shower when she can fix it?

William Bakke said...

Hello M.T. There's two of you in the contest. #13, who I've also commented on, also has the initials M.T.

Now here's an intriguing concept. This is kind of like the X-men if it were turned on its head. Instead of helping these people with powers and providing a good environment for them, the Community is a lot more sinister.

There are some questions raised by the query. Personally, I wanted to know about the Community's relation with the world at large. Is it a secret organization, or is it widely known? I don't know if there's any interplay between the Community and real life organizations (governments, militaries, universities, etc.) but that's something I always find interesting (I assumed the story is set in the present).

Another thing is, what exactly does Gail want for her to feel fulfilled? An adventure? An actual use for her Talent? Finding a purpose or calling in life? I wasn't really sure on that, on what fulfillment meant to Gail. She is fourteen though, so maybe she doesn't quite know what she wants yet. If that's the case, making that indecisiveness crystal clear would help.

I'm sure lots of people will think that "talent" in the second sentence of the query is referring to something mundane, like being double-jointed or something (no offense to double-jointed people, lol). It becomes a bit clearer later on in the query that "talent" refers to a power of some kind, but never really explicit. I can imagine an agent getting the impression that the Community is full of people with ordinary, down-to-earth talents instead of supernatural powers of some kind--especially if said agent skims or reads through it quickly.

And since your protagonist is fourteen, I'm certain that makes this story YA, not MG. Twelve is the limit for MG as far as I know.

For the first 250, I think it's important to clarify where "here" is in the sentence "It was a rule here..." I wasn't sure if it was a foster home (given that Gail refers to Ruth by her first name, I didn't think it was her mom) or if we were in the Community already.

Also, Gail mentions her talent of turning the freezing water warm as taking effort, yet there wasn't any effort displayed. Apparently, all she had to do was think about it. If it took long and hard concentration for her talent to work, then showing that would be an excellent addition. And the harder it is for her to actually use her talent, the more useless it becomes. Which makes it that much more amusing of course, as we, the readers, think something awesome is gonna happen with all the build-up and then...nope. Cold water turns warm. Gotcha. LOL. We all imagine ourselves with awesome, practical superpowers, so its an excellent reversal which I feel needs to be capitalized on.

Good luck in the contest! I really like an unconventional superhero-type story when I can find them.

Rebecca Kagan said...

First of all, what is she waiting for, and why is she waiting for it? If the Community took her away from her parents, what did they do with her, and why didn't she join then? Or at least be conscripted. Then she has to join or, I suppose, be killed for refusing. It might be helpful to clarify the Community and their role in society. Are they good people, bad, goody two shoes, or egotistically superior?
I do like the conflict of having to be a member, or else, and her having to escape.
I don't really understand the goal of fulfillment. What kind of fulfillment? Love? Hard working? Helping others? Making money?
In the 250, I think you did a good job in making sure her talent shows up on the first page, but If her talent is warming the water, I think she'd do it from the outset and not feel any cold spray at all.
Good Luck!

Margaret Telsch-Williams said...

Hi M.T.,
Your query has a lot of great components to it, but I did have a few comments/suggestions/questions.
In the first paragraph, when the Community is first mentioned, I wondered what a "Community" is. Perhaps add in a quick note early to say what this is in the same line. In the second paragraph, I wanted the Talented boy's name. You only have one name listed here, so I think you'd be fine to include his as well. In the third, I love the repeat use of 'waiting' here, a nice circle back to the opening line. Good stuff there.
Overall, the query gives us a lot in terms of her goals and the stakes, which certainly intrigue.

With the first 250 words, I felt a little lost as to where we were and who Ruth was, and I think we need to be more grounded there about these elements. That said, you had me hooked in the last paragraph by seeing her "talent" with the water. So really there are just minor touch ups, but otherwise you have a solid query and start here.
Good luck with this!

M.T. said...

Thank you for these suggestions! It really helps getting someone who doesn't know the story to see what questions need answered.

Emily Gref said...

Hi M.T.,

You've got a strong query and opening here, I just have a few comments.

First, I would play up what Talent Gail has in the query - and make it more clear that not everyone has them. Otherwise, this looks a bit like a query for dystopian fiction re-labeled "light sci-fi". It's true that superpowers are a hard sell, but dystopian is even harder.

I am intrigued by how manipulative the Community is - are there other organizations for Talented people that are more "useful"? If so, and if Gail is ineligible for those organizations, that might be something you should include.

All the best,