Wednesday, August 20, 2014

An Agent's Inbox #9

Dear Agent,

I am delighted at this opportunity to be part of Krista Van Dolzer's "An Agent's Inbox" contest and look forward to your input on my novel.

Cole’s Fear List won’t stop growing. Soon it could trap him inside a box smaller than the linen closet where he hides to skip school. But Cole can’t tell Mom and Dad about his phobias, because he’s sure they already think he’s a freak. Worried they’re right, Cole runs. A 79-mile road trip on his tricked-out riding mower is a leap for any twelve-year-old. But for a boy who hates leaving his own house, it’s terrifying.

But not as scary as losing Lace, the long-distance friend who promises she can cure fear. If Cole can get Lace to safety before her stepdad sends her away, maybe then he can outrun his anxieties. But even if he outwits search helicopters, thieves, and the highway patrol, once his fears catch up with him, Cole will need all of his creative genius to reinvent what it means to be brave and normal.

Lawnmower, Leaving, complete at 56,000 words, is a contemporary middle grade. It combines an adventure along red rock trails with Autism Spectrum Disorder elements reminiscent of a higher-functioning Mockingbird, The London Eye, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. 

I am trained as a lawyer, but prefer fiction to legal briefs. I have published magazine articles, and my novels have won writing awards. I work with the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference, including two years as head conference assistant, and am a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
R.R.B.


LAWNMOWER, LEAVING

Leaving Reason, One. Mom thinks I’m stupid enough to run over my best friend.

One, my wheels hit the pressure switch I hid in the grass. Two, the rope tied to the chassis pulls Brock to the right spot in the lawn. Three, one sprinkler spurts up, spraying Brock.

He runs off the lawn. “You planned that.”

“Perfect timing.” I check the camera replay and smile. 

“What’s with the weird grin? Does it look like I peed my pants?”

“Maybe.” My invention worked. At least I’m good at something.

“Delete it, okay?” 

“Fine. But only if you drive.” I reach for the foot sled I made by welding cookie sheets.

But first Mom’s on the porch. Then all the sprinklers go off, soaking the front steps and Mom. The smell of wet cement reminds me I’m not just weird, but stupid. I didn’t unplug the timer. I turn off the water, then she points her pen at me. It’s the one Mom chews when she pays bills. “Mowers have blades, Cole. What if you ran over Brock’s foot?” 

The riding mower’s off, but Mom’s words buzz louder than engine noise. Going barefoot always felt good. Safe. Until now.

Mom taps her pen, probably adding to her “Fix Cole" Plan. Maybe I can make her smile. “We’re recording a video.” I hold up the camera. “It’s called, ‘Don’t Try this at Home.’

Brock laughs.

Mom doesn’t. “You can’t try it at our home either. Sorry.”

9 comments:

Sherri Ogden said...

It sounds interesting. Good luck.

Mike M said...

Best query I've read of all of them. Don't change a word. So good!

I like your pages too. But something doesn't up quite sing in the firs paragraph. Maybe periods after one, two, and three instead of commas?

Don't get me wrong. I'd be asking for more. But with that first page you may only get 20%. You want 50.

Rosalyn said...

I love the voice here. I thought the query was solid, but I wonder if saying something about Lacy earlier will help explain why he ran away. As I read the query, I couldn't figure out why he would make that huge leap to run if he's scared of everything. I'm also wondering, if anxiety is a big part of his character, do we need to see that right away?

These are nitpicky because I think the entry is already good. I'd love to see you snag an agent with this!

Alison said...

Nice query. The chapter is a vivid scene with some good sensory details. The ending line made me laugh.

Laura Moe said...

Great query and sample. The only thing you need to change is either highlight your title in bold or do it in all caps in the letter itself.
Looks like a winner!

Michelle Hubbard said...

Love Cole's creativity. Also, I'm interested in the relationship between Cole and his mother. Great job.

Megan Reyes said...

I think an MC with Autism is wonderful. I spent a summer working as a Behavioral Therapist (working with kids with Autism) and I think the way they see and perceive the world is so beautiful. I wonder though, if you should mention this earlier in the query? It puts Cole in a new light, and as the reader, it sheds a lot more understanding on his “Fear List” and why he’d attempt a 79-mile road trip on a lawnmower (which I think is awesome, by the way).

Good job with the first 250. You capture Cole’s perspective very well. I’d definitely want to read more—well done!

Kiriojo said...

I'm curious if the story is set up as a collection of anecdotal stories explaining his reasons for leaving. I loved this first one! I would recommend amping up the 'fear' element right off the bat. Let us see his fear list from page one. That is the beginning of his arc - we need to see the start so we can appreciate the end.

Secret Agent said...

Query:

I love stories of extraordinary bravery in an ordinary setting and I feel like Cole’s story fits this description.

Since autism is part of Cole’s life, I think it would be wise to mention it when you introduce him. His decision to leave the house is weightier that way.

I’m slightly concerned about the phrase that he thinks his parents think he’s a “freak”. Would parents who know about his diagnosis let their child believe that? I understand that kids can have wrong perceptions of their parents, but it didn’t sit well with me in such a brief overview as a query letter. In the letter, could you clarify the nature of his relationship with his parents? Or somehow let the reader know that it’s all seen through Cole’s eyes?

I would like to know where or when Lace’s step-dad is sending her away. This adds urgency to Cole’s drastic decision to drive a lawnmower almost 75 miles away from home.

And this is a nit-picky thing, but I was slightly lost in the sentence when you mentioned your comp titles since they weren’t capitalized. I had to read it twice. Never good when I’m working on a very full query inbox.

Pages:

I would like to see some of Cole’s fears in the opening pages. The character in the query and the character who laughs to throw his friend under a lawn mower doesn’t seem like the same person. He seems funny and likable in the pages, but not what I expected from your synopsis.

His mom seems pretty great, too.

Thank you for the opportunity to read your work.