Wednesday, August 20, 2014

An Agent's Inbox #16

Dear Awesome Agent,

For twelve year old Jake Evans, life without baseball is out of the question. This season, his team has a legitimate shot at going all the way to Williamsport. And at the first practice, Jake finds out he's a top contender for the traveling team playing in a tournament in Japan at the end of the summer. But when he finds out he might be benched for the season because he's failing Language Arts, he panics. He'll do anything do play.

Lucky for Jake, his teacher offers him an extra credit assignment to help him bring up his grade. Lucky, that is, until Jake finds out what it is. Advance to the school spelling bee. The problem is, Jake can't spell. He's struggled with school his whole life. In last year's classroom spelling bee, he couldn't even spell tulip right. A mistake his arch-enemy, and school bully, Kyle Filbert still teases him about. Well, that and the fact that Jake's adopted and doesn't look anything like his blond haired, blue eyed parents.

As Jake struggles to learn to spell words he can't even pronounce, he realizes he may not touch the mound this season, much less travel to Williamsport or Japan. So, Jake enlists the help of his best friend, and sixth grade know-it-all, Brit to help him study. Because if he doesn't hunker down and learn to spell, he'll never escape Kyle's bullying, he may not move to the next grade, and he could lose his one and only shot at little league stardom.

BEE STADIUM is a contemporary middle grade novel complete at 44,000 words. I am a member of SCBWI. 

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Harrison Templeton has a big fat head. Thankfully I sit right behind him. When I slouch, Mrs. Cooper, my seventh-period Language Arts Teacher, can't see a single hair on my entirely proportionally sized head. 

My right knee taps in time with each second--thirty minutes to go. I've been waiting for-freaking-ever for the first day of baseball practice. This year we might go all the way to the Little League World Series.

"Can anyone tell me from what point of view the Red Badge of Courage is written?" Mrs. Cooper asks, pacing in front of the white board wielding a dry erase marker like a bayonet.

Ugh. I'd rather eat moldy broccoli than read this book.

They should let us read something cool, like The Boy Who Saved Baseball or The Wild Pitch. Heck, I kind of even liked Holes. All this talk of themes and symbolism makes me want to poke my eye out with my number two pencil.

I duck out of her line of sight. She's going to call on someone to read out loud soon.

My eyes blur and I can smell the grass on the field as I wind up to pitch. "Strike!" the ump yells.

“Jake?” I snap my head forward as my heart hammers.

“What?” My voice comes out high, like a girl.

Next to me, Kyle Filbert snickers, his black hair flopping forward and covering one of his eyes like a pirate's eye patch. I shoot my arch-enemy a dirty look.


Pen-Up Girl said...

While I like your first 250, it's hard for me to get the voice of a 12-year old. For example, "entirely proportionally sized head" doesn't seem like something a 12 year old boy would say. I think you could get rid of the second sentence too, try to stick to less telling. Also, I'd recommend checking out Query Shark. IMHO, the query can be tightened. Also note your last sentence in the first paragraph. Overall, I think a boy who is bullied and loves baseball is something a lot of young boys can relate to, so they'd most likely enjoy reading this one. Good luck!

Mike M said...

Your query...use some of the talent you have in your writing to rewrite your query.

Make it snap. As it stands, sure, it gets the concept across. But make it pop.

For 12 year old MC, life without baseball is unthinkable. This year his team has what it takes to go to Williamsport. He might not be with them. He's got the talent, but he's got a problem. Spelling.

Or something like that.

Would a kid who doesn't like spelling use proportionally or would he say normal sized?

Mel said...

I love the voice in this. The first line of your 250 made me laugh, it starts with a bang and puts us straight into the setting and head (lol) of your character. It may be a bit old language for a twelve year old, I'm not sure. But just because someone can't spell, doesn't mean they can't use long words. Check with you CP's to see if it's too grown up. I think the premise is great and you're tackling important issues with humour too. Good job.

Heather said...

Such a cute story - sounds like something my 11 year old son would LOVE to read!

Laura Moe said...

The voice in your sample is great. I love how he'd rather eat moldy broccoli than read Red Badge of Courage.

The issue I have is with credibility. In the query you mention his teacher insists he win a spelling bee. As a former teacher, I would never have subjected a kid who couldn't spell to such a large task. Perhaps he has to write a series of essays about his trip to Japan instead. That would make more sense as a Language Arts assignment. If he hates writing, he would hate that assignment.

And why the proportionally large head? Is he deformed?

BC said...

It seems that everywhere I look there are countless female main characters in new books. Just look at the rest of these queries if you want an example.

I am a male and I remember sitting in middle school feeling exactly the way Jake feels. I was always getting called on when my mind was wandering to anything but what the teacher was talking about.

I wish I could critique your query in a constructive way but I am not an author or editor. I am just a guy that likes to read so I am not going to try. The only thing I will say is I liked your first 250 words more than your query, a lot more.

That being said I have read a lot of books. I thought your first 250 words were great. I honestly don't know what else someone could want out of 250 words. It was like I was reading about myself 20 years ago.

The only thing I have to comment about in the first 250 words Jakes lack of interest in the Red Badge of Courage. If there is a required reading book that a middle school boy would be interested it is probably one about a person regaining their honor carrying the Union flag in war. Maybe make the book Where the Red Fern Grows? But if it has to be the Red Badge I understand. The Red Badge is not about baseball so why would Jake care? Completely understandable.

Good luck I hope you find representation.

Megan Reyes said...

I love baseball stories. I don’t know what it is, but they always get to me. :)

A few things: I’m not sure what Williamsport is, or why it’s such a big deal, so I’d suggest clarifying that a bit so the reader can understand why it’s so significant. Also, you probably don’t need to be so specific with “Language Arts.” “Because of his failing grades ” or something like that would do just fine.

Okay, I LOVE that your MC struggles in school. I think a lot of kids who would read your book can relate to that, and it helps the reader feel sympathy for Jake. The fact that he’s adopted is also really interesting. It sounds like he’s going through quite the identity crisis.

Again, I really like this premise. I think it would really appeal to middle grade boys perfectly, and we need more great books for boys! Good job.

BC said...

I just realize that when I said Where the Red Fern Grows I meant Island of The Blue Dolphins.

Laurie L said...

BC - don't know if you'll see this, but I chose The Red Badge of Courage because finding courage is a theme that runs through the book. In the end, Jake finds the courage to get up in front of the school and spell. He also finds the courage to be himself - with or without baseball. Thank you for the lovely comments. Means a lot!

Kiriojo said...

Great voice! If you can keep the humor going, that will help keep a book about studying for the spelling bee interesting. You seem to have lots of plot threads intertwining here. I'd ask for more!

BC said...

Then you must keep The Red Badge of Courage in there!

I think that finding courage is a great theme to work with for middle grade fiction, especially for boys. I loved and still do love books where the main character is hesitant and then overcomes.

Maybe work courage as a theme into the query? I think that would make the query stronger.

Like I said, I am not an author or agent so take what I say with a grain of salt.

Secret Agent said...

Great query! Jake’s goals and obstacles are very clearly laid out. It’s just a touch long, but honestly, that didn’t stop me from reading the whole thing.

I know this is nitpicky, but I would lose the sentence “He’s struggled with school his whole life.” The other sentences show that perfectly well. You could also completely cut the first sentence of the third paragraph since you’ve already established everything that is at stake for Jake.

Also, I love that Jake’s adopted and though that's a part of his journey, it isn't the entirety of it.


Great sample! Jake’s voice is funny and engaging. I love that you introduce Jake’s “enemy” immediately, too.