Wednesday, March 16, 2016

An Agent's Inbox #14

Dear Mr. Taylor,

Alistair Toddlefin spends his days playing in the haunted woods near his house, wishing his too-busy parents would notice him, longing for a friend. So when spooky, freckle-faced Lucy Punch appears near his fort in the laurel bushes, he believes she could be the answer to all of his problems.

Ali follows Lucy deep into the forest, to a dark and looming willow tree. There, she pulls back the Curtain of Illusion, revealing a world where children rule. A world of lantern-lit treehouses and endless fun where Ali might finally belong. But soon, something sinister threatens his newfound happiness and thoughts of Ali’s old life begin to fade. He discovers that Lucy’s lost her memories too.

To save himself and his friend, Ali must find a way to take down the Left Behinders--cursed, dark spirits that destroy memories and devour imaginations, feeding on them for survival. If he doesn’t, Ali may never see his parents again, and he and Lucy will remain captive, their minds ensnared by the Left Behinders for eternity.

CHILDREN OF THE WOOD is a spooky, 32,000-word middle grade fantasy that would appeal to fans of A CURIOUS TALE OF THE IN-BETWEEN and SERAFINA AND THE BLACK CLOAK.

I amicably parted ways with my previous agent and am seeking new representation. A previous middle grade project of mine, THE TRINKET GUARDIAN, was a 2015 PitchWars finalist and the winner of the 2016 Pikes Peak Zebulon contest in the MG/YA category. My middle grade fantasy, LAIMA MONTROVE WANTS TO BE A WITCH, was a finalist for the 2015 Eldin Memorial Fellowship, an award to honor Christine Eldin’s memory and recognize talent in unpublished middle grade writers. I’m also currently interning at Inklings Literary.

The CHILDREN OF THE WOOD manuscript is available at your request. It has not yet been in front of any editors. Thanks for your time!



Alistair Toddlefin peered out his bedroom window for the fifteenth time that day. The world was still bleak and gray and sodden, only slightly more interesting than the world inside. He imagined he was a dragon and breathed plumes of fire over the forest, scorching it, burning it to a crisp, forcing his parents to move back to civilization. Then he leaned back and clasped his hands behind his head, resting against the wall behind his bed, admiring his smoke-singed work.

His parents had moved to the crisp Connecticut woods just four months earlier, wanting a break from the effervescent zip of the city, or so they’d said. Ali couldn’t deny the freshness of the air and the soothing trill of spring peepers, but he hadn’t quite gotten used to the loneliness of it all, and he figured he probably never would.

Ali shoved aside a stack of library books and climbed down the ladder of his bunk bed, shaking off the pins and needles. He jumped off the last rung and landed with a thud. If they’d been in the city, he’d have walked himself to a museum or to the iron-gated park around the corner. But here, there was nothing but miles of trees in every direction. No friends. Nothing much to do.

With a quick look down the hall, Ali dusted off his hands. Perhaps someone could take him to see a movie. Anything would be better than another minute trapped indoors, alone.

“Mom,” Ali asked as he rounded the corner and walked into her office.


Julie Artz said...

Oh, you had me at lantern-lit treehouse! I want to live there. I love the spooky atmosphere of this story. Best of luck.

Karin said...

Ooh, love this concept! I would definitely read more!

Jessica Vitalis said...

Love the voice in your opening. I'd like to get to know this character ...

Eva Folks said...

Love your main character's name. I feel his loneliness. Would definitely read more!

Michelle Leonard said...

THIS gives me tingles. Love your use of evocative language. This takes me back to playing in the spooky forest of my childhood. Kids will dig this.

Mark Holtzen said...

Some great word choice and I dig on those names. Anyone with freckles is going to be up to something. Has a Peter Pan feel to it at mention of the far off land where children rule. I'm intrigued.

Torsha Baker said...

Great query and first page! I'd buy it for my middle grader. Well done and good luck to you!

Laurel Decher said...

I really saw Lucy pull back that curtain of illusion and reveal the world behind. Well done! Love the touch of humor in "wanting a break from the effervescent zip of the city."

Erica Klarreich said...

This is a very strong query and opening. The pitch is tight and engaging, and gives good glimpses into your writing style.

My only suggestion is perhaps to leave out the part about amicably parting ways with a previous agent (unless it's considered bad form to omit something like that in a query -- I don't know enough to say). If I were an agent reading this, I'd instantly wonder what had happened between you and your old agent, and whether you were going to turn out to be a difficult client in some way. There's plenty of time to tell an agent about your previous agent history after they're hooked on your book.

Lm Hersch said...

This is pretty good! I think your query could be tightened up a bit. There are a lot of unnecessary details, and a few plot points that don't really help build up the conflict. Personally, I see you using a lot of "haunted" descriptors, but how do you describe someone as spooky? Is she other-worldly? Distant? Vague? Mysterious? These are more welcoming descriptors - not sure someone truly "spooky" would be the answer to a problem.

Does it matter where Lucy leads Alistair? You could cut out the first sentence of the second paragraph to just "Ali, believing she could be the answer to all his problems, follows Lucy beyond the Curtain of Illusion..." Speaking of, how can a spooky girl get his parents to notice him? Is he literally seeking their attention or has he gotten to a point where he wants to "shake the dust of this ol' town" off his boots and go on an adventure, to free himself from his constraining worries?

The second paragraph loses steam in the details. I would suggest cutting most of it out. It doesn't build any tension like you may think. Maybe something like "... Curtain of Illusion, revealing a world where children rule. Ali was looking forward to forgetting his old troubles, until he realizes his memories are fading just as fast. The Left Behinders have been gobbling up memories, and unless Ali and Lucy can find a way to stop them, Ali could never go home again. But as his memories slip away with every passing minute, Ali will have to recall on his least favorite moments to become the hero the "world of illusion" needs."


Granted, I have no idea what your story is about, but plot by plot points don't build up any tension.

I would completely remove any mention of "it's never been in front of an editor." That just hints that you haven't done everything you can to clean it up before querying. It just sounds sloppy.

Also, kudos for including so many writing projects, though I would again remove mentions of a previous agent. You can TALK to a curious agent about that, but you don't want to turn them off from their first encounter with you.

Anyways, that's just some thoughts. I hope it helps!

Gayleen Rabakukk said...

I REALLY love the setup and the atmosphere you're creating.
I do have a couple of word choice concerns in your opening page (and I readily admit these are Very picky) - the "effervescent zip of the city" - if these are his parents words, use quotation marks to convey that. Likewise, "soothing trill of spring peepers" just doesn't sound very kid-like, although maybe a kid named Alistair would say that and he's thinking about going to a museum, so okay, I'm on board with this sophisticated language. But then in the next paragraph: "No friends. Nothing much to do." sounds very much like a regular kid.
I would love to read more about Ali and find out what happens next.
Good luck!

Brent Taylor said...

Great query and I really enjoyed the voice. I would defer to the greater interest here because this is just too similar to something that's already on my list, and I'm not one of those agents that's comfortable creating competition within my own client list. I'm going to unleash the unpopular opinion and say that I think you should include "This hasn't been seen by any editors." When I see that someone has parted ways with a previous agent, "has this been on submission with editors" is always my first question, so I think it's excellent you included that.