Wednesday, September 24, 2014

An Agent's Inbox #16

Greetings Melissa Jeglinski,

The Knight Agency has a great reputation. When I discovered you were up for the September Agent Inbox, I jumped at the chance to introduce for consideration of representation my 72,000-word-count YA dystopian, DEAD GIRL RUNNING.

Eighteen-year-old SILVIA WOOD has never heard of an unplanned pregnancy. Because of the New Order, there is no more war. Rape and domestic violence have been eliminated. Unemployment is at zero percent. The cameras of Panopticus keep the citizens safe…and obedient.

Eight years ago, Silvia's father died in an industrial accident. After suffering through years of Psychotherapy Services and Mandated Medications for depression and multiple suicide attempts, she longs to work in Botanical Sciences. When the Occupation Exam determines she must work in Mortuary Sciences instead, she wonders if the New Order assigned her to the morgue to push her over the edge.

To appease her disappointed mother, the once famous violinist YOSHE WOOD, Silvia enters the Race for Citizen Glory, in an attempt to stand out in the crowd of Equals. After she begins training with "golden boy" LIAM HARMAN, she discovers he also lost his father in the same accident that ruined Silvia's life. When Silvia meets and falls for FRANCO HARMAN, Liam's older cousin, his paranoid intensity makes her question what really happened to her father. As the race nears, Silvia realizes that she's not only running for glory, she's running for her life.

DEAD GIRL RUNNING is a cross between THE GIVER, THE HANDMAIDEN'S TALE, and Agenda 21.

My first novel, How to Date Dead Guys, (a New Adult Urban Fantasy) was published in July 2014 by Curiosity Quills. I've learned so much this past year about making important connections and promoting myself as a professional writer. Now I'd like an agent's guidance to take my career to the next level. Besides writing fiction, I’ve penned articles for the Post Bulletin newspaper (for my Pet Vet column), RunMinnesota magazine, the DVM360 journal, and The Wagazine.

Per your instructions, the first 250 words are included below.

I look forward to hearing from you,



My tenth birthday was the worst day of my life. Dad had to work late, because his replacement didn't show up on time. Mom and I waited for him to come home.

Eight years later, we're still waiting.

Most kids would've requested a Vacation Pass for their eighteenth birthday, but not me. I'd rather forget the whole thing and help Gus prepare the chilled bodies in the hospital mortuary. I drag myself out of bed and pull on teal scrubs.

I fumble for socks and shoes, and a ray of early sunlight glints off my dad's picture hanging on the wall across the room. Once again, his blue eyes capture mine, as if he needs to tell me something important. On the floor beneath the photo sits a memory trunk full of how things used to be. But I won't open it today. I just can't.

Dishes clink in the kitchen. Mom calls out, "Hurry up, Silvia. I've got a surprise for you."

She sounds happy, but I can't tell if it's real. Since Dad's death, both of us have done a lot of pretending. So far this year we've been able to avoid Psychotherapy Services and Mandated Medications, but sometimes I wonder if I was sent down to Mortuary Sciences to push me over the edge. Fortunately, I find autopsies intriguing, not depressing. And since I never got to see Dad's body after the accident, caring for other people's dead soothes the empty ache inside.


black cat said...

Thanks to Krista for organizing this. Excited to be here.

Elizabeth said...

Hi Ann, I love your story! This world sounds very intriguing. In the last paragraph of the blurb, I was curious about what exactly the Race for Citizen Glory is. Maybe add a few words of description? Also, it might be good to be more specific about Franco's "paranoid intensity". Is there something he does?

I really like your first 250. Especially how you begin with the 10th birthday part. I'd definitely keep reading!

black cat said...

Thanks! I find it hard to both say all I need to in a query and still stay within a strict word count. :)


Patrick said...

Hi Ann,

I really like the complexity of the story. There seems to be a lot of different elements weaving together. I know that makes it especially hard to write a query.

One line that I wondered if you could drop is the one that introduces Liam. You mention him and then move straight on to his cousin. I feel like you could go straight to Franco without losing anything too major.

Just a thought.

Good luck.

black cat said...

Thanks. It's always so interesting to see what others say to keep and what to toss. Lots of opinions to consider.

Laura Moe said...

Nice work! I didn't stop adding at any point in your query or sample. Your tone throughout is professional and the Comparisons to other works apt.

The opening line in your sample really brings the reader in. Suspense!
Much better than my own! I haven't read comments on mine yet, but it imagine they're pretty paltry. Maybe I should hire you to wrote my query and novel. :)
Best of luck.

black cat said...

Thanks! This is the second book I've truly queried, and after revising the first book's query a TRILLION times, this time around it wasn't QUITE as painful--but my CPs did have to go a few rounds with me. :)

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

The personalized intro was very polished, except for the “consideration of representation”. Maybe this instead: “I’d like to submit my 72,000 word YA dystopian, DEAD GIRL RUNNING, for your consideration.”

You have a good start here, but the query is too long and confusing. The trouble I had was determining what Silvia wants. Is it her career as a botanist, trying not to be pushed over the edge, or not disappointing her mother? You have all three presented. Then, she goes off and joins this race. The sentence "Silvia realizes that she's not only running for glory, she's running for her life" is one of those big statements that sound good--but in this case don't mean anything. How is this connected to what she wants? Given what we know so far, it feels like an orphan, meaning-wise.

I haven't read your comps, but this sound a lot like The Hunger Games.

Your bio is nicely done, one of the best I've seen. Clearly, you are a pro and have some experience. I'm confident you can take this and make it into a winning query.
Best of luck,
Spike (M.P., my entry is #12, so have at it!!)

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

Sorry, I had more to say on the 250. It's well-written and engaging. I have two suggestions. First, either match her feelings towards the morgue work between the sample and the query. In the query, it seemed she was averse to this, but no so in the sample.
Also, this is a great sentence: "Since Dad's death, both of us have done a lot of pretending."
That grabbed me! With some clever rearranging, you could begin your novel with that.
Spike (yes, I intend to critique every entry here except my own!)

black cat said...

Thanks for commenting.

Agreed I should drop the representation. Good call.

Although I LOVE, love, love HUNGER GAMES I think the only thing my book has in common with it is the genre. The race Silvia enters is indeed a running race and not the very ingenious games Suzanne Collins devised. Someday I hope to be that brilliant, but I'm not sure it will happen. haha

Anonymous said...

I'm no expert but this looked to me to be a good query letter. Only one thing I did notice and that is that you use one of the phrases from the text in your query (about the mortuary service job being intended to push her over the edge). Since we don't have much space in a query letter it might be better not to repeat. Unless that was your intention, of course!

Inspired Mom said...

Sounds like you do a good job with your query and setting up the premise. I normally am not drawn to dystopian stories, but I was with this one. I thought that you did a good job with describing your bio. Made you sound accomplished (and I love that you write a Pet Vet column!) I'd want to read more.

Good luck!

black cat said...

Thanks to all who commented. I really appreciate it!

Melissa Jeglinski said...

Query: It is a well presented query but the line about the "unplanned pregnancy" made me immediately think that was what the book was about. So it was confusing. Focus on what it is, not what it isn't. I'd get rid of one paragraph to shorten it. Less set up, more about what the story will focus on.

Pages: It's a very clever opening but I actually thought it took away from the story. It left me confused and you don't want to do that at the start of a project. Also, overuse of initial caps. But there is a nice tone to the work and I was intrigued to read more.

black cat said...

Good day, Melissa Jeglinski,

Thanks for taking the time to give us writers the benefit of your knowledge and experience in the field. To be honest, I found all your comments interesting and used them as a learning experience.

thanks again,
Ann Noser