Wednesday, March 16, 2016

An Agent's Inbox #3

Dear Mr. Taylor,

After a grueling year at her pressure-cooker middle school, surely Tiffany has earned a summer off to reconnect with her best friend. So she’s furious when her parents pack her off to spend the summer with her aunt, who directs a Shakespeare festival in a sleepy Connecticut town. Tiffany’s certain she hates Shakespeare--until she discovers a magical jester’s staff with the power to whisk her into the worlds of Shakespeare’s plays.

Pretty soon, Tiffany--along with her younger brother and two new friends--finds herself stealing Romeo’s heart, falling into Macbeth’s clutches, and playing Scrabble with the Princes in the Tower.

At first, these adventures seem to Tiffany to be a pure romp, without any connection to the real world. But the real and magical worlds collide when the children accidentally break the jester’s staff. It’s the festival’s mascot, and now the festival seems to be under a curse: rehearsals fall into chaos and the festival’s irascible, conflicted donor, Mr. Cargon, walks out.

As the children--and Mr. Cargon--unexpectedly find themselves in one final adventure, Tiffany realizes that her own life circumstances give her a unique insight into Mr. Cargon’s inner conflict. This new understanding allows her to heal both him and the magic, and in the process, she finds the courage to start building a more meaningful life for herself than the narrow one her success-driven parents envision.

MUCH ADO ABOUT MAGIC is a complete, 82,000-word middle grade novel. In terms of length and sophistication, it is aimed at the kind of confident reader who would happily dive into a book like The Mysterious Benedict Society. We saw that you like humorous, intelligent fantasy, so we hope you might enjoy our book.

This is our first children’s book, but we both have careers in the publishing world. E K is a widely published science journalist whose work has appeared in Nature, Science News, and other magazines, and R K is a freelance editor with more than ten years of experience, who was also a dramaturgy intern at the California Shakespeare Theater.

Our first 250 words are below. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best regards,
E.K. and R.K.


A Ruined Summer

Some are born to adventure, some achieve adventure, and some have adventure thrust upon them. Tiffany belonged to the last category.

The day it all began, there was little to suggest that any kind of adventure was brewing, let alone a magical one. And even if there had been more clues, Tiffany still might not have noticed. Her mind was fully occupied by exciting but decidedly unmagical thoughts about the new rollerblades she had bought the day before. So when the first unusual thing did happen--when her mother popped so unexpectedly out of the subway--all Tiffany could think was, Great. I had to get caught the one time I ducked out of homework to go rollerblading.

She hadn’t intended to blow off her homework. It was all the rollerblades’ fault, really, for being so distracting. Today at school, images of rollerblades had danced across the pages of her social studies textbook, and floated in front of her eyes as her English teacher, Mr. Sanger, read aloud from Romeo and Juliet. (“Most miserable hour that e’er time saw in lasting labor of his pilgrimage!” he bleated in a fake English accent, waving his arms melodramatically.)

And when she’d gotten home after debate team, the rollerblades had gleamed enticingly at her as she tackled her mound of homework. In typical fashion, her teachers at Marchmont Academy--“New York City’s premier middle school”--were completely ignoring the approach of summer vacation.


N.H.G. said...

Cool premise!

Tiffany's quest to repair the broken staff strikes me as the primary thing at stake, at least for the purpose of the query (no doubt it's all important to the manuscript as a whole). The final paragraph of the pitch ("As the children--and Mr. Cargon--unexpectedly find themselves...") feel to me like it gets away from this central conflict a little. I wonder whether eliminating Mr. Cargon from the query might allow the central idea to shine through with more clarity?

Good luck with this one!

RC Hancock said...

Your query read very smoothly, but it was a little long. Still I loved the concept. I also like your writing in the first 250, but my only beef was that it sounded like you were trying to hard to copy the tone from HP #1 and that the flashbacks of rollerblade dreaming made it hard to invest myself in the story. Start with the actual scene. Why was her mom there? What problems did that cause?
Very strong entry! Good luck!

Brent Taylor said...

What a fresh premise! I thought you did a great job setting the novel up in your query letter. That being said, I didn't feel a true sense of stakes. You want to end your query on a note that makes the reader think, "Okay, what happens next? I HAVE to know."