Wednesday, September 24, 2014

An Agent's Inbox #11

Dear Melissa,

“I will always hate IT!” Ali, age twelve, protests angrily when she learns that she will be getting a sibling. She is happy as an only child, and likes her three-person family the way it is. This news, received on the heels of a rejection from her beloved ballet school is more than she can take. On top of all that, her friends abandon her for summer camp while she is stuck babysitting her neighbor’s kid, and Ali is dreading the summer before it even starts.

But, when Ali discovers her mother's diary written when her mother was the same age, her world is rocked and becomes her focus. Ali immerses herself in the parallels and differences of her life vs. the snapshot of her mom’s life from the diary and uncovers more about herself and her family than she bargained for, including a horrible tragedy that she knew nothing about.

Complete at 22,000 words, The Diary of Lois Lane tells the story of pivotal periods in both Ali’s and her mother’s life as they struggle to come-of-age during different decades. This middle grade novel might appeal to the readers of Judy Blume’s realistic fiction books, such as Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret and recently, Lindsey Leavitt’s Going Vintage.

I am seeking an agent who shares my interest in helping children touched by loss to understand that life can be complicated, with sometimes unforeseeable highs and lows.

I won a short story writing contest on and was published in a monthly parenting magazine, Parentguide News. I am also a member of SCBWI.

I look forward to hearing from you.



Saturday, 8/2/1980, 9:30pm

Dear Diary,

It was so hot today--over 91. Like everyday this summer, Mom and I went to the beach. The weatherman called it the 3 H’s--hazy, hot and humid, and all you could do was sit in the water. I'm so waterlogged that the tips of my fingers are still pruny. The air didn't move at all, and despite what Mom says, there’s not always a breeze at the ocean. Anyway, I think I like the lockerboy with the green eyes that crinkle when he smiles. He asked me today if I’m enjoying the summer. I bet he thinks that I’m older than I am, like maybe 16 or 17. A lot of people at the beach assume that I’m older.

I wish that my friends were around. I think that I'm the only Jewish kid on Long Island who doesn't go to sleepaway camp. The beach is okay, but I wish I could go to camp instead. Where else will I ever kiss a boy? Last summer, all my friends came home gushing about boys. The raids when the boys and girls secretly get together at night sound weird, but fun. Mom says sleepaway is too expensive. I think that she just wants me around. Grrrr...
Lois Lane

Ali slammed the leather diary shut. Her mom was talking about kissing BOYS! Who is Lois Lane? Her mom’s name is Lois, but Lane wasn’t her last name--it was Berman.


Anonymous said...

I really like the idea of a daughter connecting to her mother through a diary.

I do have a few issues, though. First, I'm not sure what getting a new sibling has to do with anything. It isn't really mentioned again. Also, starting a query with dialogue (or including any dialogue at all) is frowned upon.

Also, unless the mother here really is Superman's love interest, Lois Lane is probably not the best choice for a name. 22,000 words seems short, even for middle grade, and "Are you there God", if I remember the themes right, has an older audience than what you'd be looking at.

While the diary entry works, and reads like someone of the same age, I'm not sure it's an interesting enough start. I want to see Ali finding the diary, or something really interesting happening in her life, before we connect with her mother.

Good luck with this! I really do enjoy the concept.

Laura Moe said...

Interesting premise. Don't we all wonder wonder what our parents were like as kids?

I think this one needs some revising, though. Both the query and the sample. Be careful of addressing an agent by his/ her first name unless you have met this person. And make a statement about why he/she is someone you wish to work with.

Another unwritten rule is not to begin a tale with a weather report. Strike the first line,a and start with Ali and Mom going to the beach. You do a nice job of. Describing the heat in your sample.

Good luck!

Julie C said...

I'm intrigued with this story! I found the query engaging and I think that Judy Blume is a perfect reference point.

I like the first 250 and love that you're reading it thinking it's the MC and it turns out to be her Mom's diary.

I would also suggest starting down the story a bit, maybe with the line...despite what Mom says, there's not always a breeze at the ocean.

Best of Luck!

Spike Taterman (M.P.) said...

Do we need to dilemma about the baby? You begin with that—then abruptly switch to the discovery of her mother’s diary. Which of these things matter the most? We need to know, and it’s your job to tell us.
The writing could be a bit tighter, especially in the first two paragraphs. And 22K seems short to me, but I don’t claim to know the MG market. The bio is well-done.
The concept is a good one.
Best of luck,
Spike (aka M.P.)

Unknown said...

I really like the idea of your MC learning about her mom as a girl to help her come of age herself. Be careful that you are telling Ali's story though, not her mom's. I would recommend starting with Ali - not a diary entry. The reader needs to connect with Ali first, be drawn to her, before bringing the mom diary in. I love 'Lois Lane', and want to know why :)

Kara Reynolds said...

I also think it was a neat little twist to have the diary entry end up being her mother's. I see a problem with verb tenses after the entry, however. It seems like it is written in past tense ("slammed...shut") but then you switch to "mom's name IS Lois". It was jarring to me, which is not the effect you want in your first page, especially after coming off the cool reveal of the diary.

Melissa Jeglinski said...

Query: This was a bit over written. I would condense her issues with just expecting the worst summer ever and then finding her mom's diary. What does THAT mean for her; that's the heart of the story, no? But 22k words for a book geared more toward upper middle grade is still pretty short. I would suggest above 40k for that age group.

Page: I was very confused that this was a diary entry. It was very wordy and I thought it was bad writing on your part--though it was bad writing on young Lois Lane's part and I get that. Still, not really how you want to start a book. I was not compelled to read on.

Overall: I'm just now sure if there is enough her to engage a young audience. Remember, this is for a probably 10 year olds--sure, they may be interested in connecting with their mothers, but they want to be entertained.