Wednesday, February 19, 2014

An Agent's Inbox #7

Dear Ms. Gref,

I am querying you because of your interest in middle grade manuscripts. I admire the Lowenstein Associates' hands-on approach in contributing to their writers’ careers, and would be honored to be represented by such an outstanding agency and agent.

River has always been a misfit among trolls. He prefers the open sky to the muddy underside of a bridge, and he’d pick Brussels sprouts over bone-bread any day. On top of that, he’s the ugliest troll in the entire forest of Mystwood. But at least his unusual features make him the perfect spy against the enemy fairies. When his father, the Troll King, entrusts him with a dangerous mission, River hopes that this time, finally, he will make his father proud.  

Unfortunately, River is captured by a fairy hunter--a girl, no less--but he realizes that Astrid is different, unlike the terrible stories of winged monsters that go around snatching troll children from their beds. She doesn’t want to kill him, and her reasons for sparing him are more terrifying than the fierce crystal blade she wields. Astrid believes there’s more to River than there appears, and he’s afraid she’s right.

But the truth of his origin is locked deep within Mystwood, and bringing it to the light of day will unleash war and chaos throughout the forest, putting everyone River cares about in mortal danger. To save those he loves, River will have to choose between what he was born to be, and who he really is.

THE TROLL DIARIES is an upper middle grade adventure/fantasy, complete at 46,000 words.

I am a full-time mom with a teaching background in middle school art, and a member of the Houston chapter of SCBWI. I have included the first page, and I can send the completed manuscript upon request.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



I know what you’re thinking. Trolls; nasty, ugly creatures that live in caves and under bridges. And you’d be right, for the most part.

I come from a long line of proud, ugly bridge trolls. It’s what we do. We guard bridges, take tolls, and occasionally grind bones to make our bread.

I’m kidding.

Well, sort of.  

See, I’m not really a normal troll. I guess you could call me the black sheep of the family. Maybe not a sheep though, since my family eats those. I’m pretty sure they don’t want to eat me. I’m a vegetarian, which doesn’t sit well with them at all.

My mother is considered to be the best bone-bread maker in the whole forest of Mystwood, or at least here in the Hob, our home. It’s really the truth. Of course, the last troll who challenged her sort of disappeared. Permanently. I tried to eat it once. Not by choice, mind you. My brothers Bog and Mud held me down and forced me to eat a whole loaf. It was kind of dry… and crumbly, like you would expect bone-bread to taste, I guess.

I prefer to eat things that didn’t scream in fear when they died. Like berries, and mushrooms, and whatever I can poach from the farmer’s crops at the edge of the forest. I’m not proud of stealing the food, but at least I’m not trying to eat the farmer. One night I took my baby sister, Ivy, with me, and things got a little ugly.


eltsmith said...

I think the voice of the main character's narration is charming.

Best of luck with having this novel picked up by an agent and editor. From the opening, it sounds like a fun story.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Just popping in to say that this was one of the few entries that stuck with me. I LOVE the voice in the first page (though I don't think the semicolon in the first paragraph is technically correct), and the concept's fantastic.

In your first summary paragraph, I didn't understand why his ugliness makes him the perfect spy. I wondered if perhaps he's ugly by the trolls' standards--which means he's actually good-looking--but if that's the case, you might want to say that explicitly.

Also, I wondered what you mean by "Astrid believes there's more to River than there appears." I do think this line works, but in general, I think it's best to be as specific as possible in a query. You might try tinkering with it, see if there's a way to define more clearly what makes River special, but if not, I like the last few paragraphs as they are. (In other words, I don't necessarily think you need to go out of your way to make changes.)

Best of luck with this! Like I said, it was one of my favorites:)

P.S. Have you read Liesl Shurtliff's RUMP? She's one of my critique partners, and there's something about THE TROLL DIARIES that reminds me of hers. It might be worth checking out as a comp title in the future.

Donea Lee said...

I also really like the concept of this - the unconventional, vegetarian troll is charming. :)

I'm torn about the first 250 - I really like the story-telling introduction approach to the character, but at the same time, I think it might be fun to read him giving this information in the middle of one of his veggie-stealing runs, just to mix in some action. And in the second paragraph, I think the "It's what we do." line would work best at the end. As is, it's kind of the cart before the horse, the way I read it.

The query I also liked, but I also wanted to know what specifically was special about River and why, specifically, the fairy spared him.

Lovely start, though - best of luck! :)

Unknown said...

I love this! The query is so fun and the first 250 words are delightful. I'd buy this for my MG loving nephew in a heartbeat!

Sarah said...

I loved this query too, and the first 250 words were absolutely brilliant. I was constantly laughing out loud (my favourite bit was "I'm not proud of stealing the food, but at least I'm not trying to eat the farmer")

My only problem was the bit about River too. But apart from that I loved this.

I really hope you get picked by Ms. Gref. This was definitely one of my favourite three entries!!!

Don McFatridge said...

I think you have a winner here! Great voice for a wonderful MG story. Good Luck.

posse said...

This is such a great concept!

I love the first line of your synopsis, "River has always been a misfit among trolls." It immediately made me want to read more.

All in all, I really enjoyed your work. Best of luck to you, JP!

Jenni said...

This is really strong! I love how much your voice comes through in your query, that's no easy task. Oh, and a vegetarian troll! I also loved the first 250. The only thing I might change is that I'm not sure you need this line: "and her reasons for sparing him are more terrifying than the fierce crystal blade she wields"
The last paragraph of the synopsis of the query, "But the origin..." is a little vague, especially in comparison to your very specific and detailed opening. I think you might consider being more specific about the stakes here, because I wasn't clear on what his choice is. What does between who he was born to be and who he really is mean?
But this sounds like such a fun book! I'd read it in a heartbeat.
Best of luck!

Unknown said...

Thanks so much for the comments and suggestions, everyone. They are greatly appreciated.

Emily Gref said...

Hi J.P.,

Here I think we have a prime case of just how subjective publishing can be! While I certainly agree with the above commenters that you have a strong query and an engaging voice for River, this wouldn't be a good fit for me personally - it seems like an Ugly Duckling story, and I feel I know how it's going to go. Of course, I am probably wrong, but that's the impression I get from the query.

To that end, you may want to consider tightening up your query a bit and obscuring the "who he really is" aspect - that is, make the central conflict more about this war than River's identity. But like I said, that's totally subjective!

One last general point - while it is always *nice* to see why you're querying and agent, it should be specific to the agent, not the agency - and genuinely felt. Otherwise, don't waste your query space, because I'll just glaze over it anyway. :)

Best of luck,