Wednesday, August 3, 2016

An Agent's Inbox #1

Dear Ms. Nelson,

Thank you for considering my novel LIKE BLOOD FROM STONE, a 60,000-word young adult bildungsroman set in rural Pennsylvania at the onset of the fracking energy revolution. I am sending it to you because of your interest in LGBTQ literature. 

In LIKE BLOOD FROM STONE, high school seniors and childhood friends Nick O’Connor and Rory Amato look for a way to make the most of their last year. They design a scheme to spend more time together, but the pact brings a volatile layer of intimacy and threatens to derail their college plans. At the same time, their home in rural Hartfield, Pennsylvania, is imperiled by the coming of Energon, a natural gas company whose heavy equipment and hefty mineral contracts threaten to industrialize the area and turn families and neighbors against one another. As the boys decide to gamble their friendship for a shot at something more, Hartfield itself is forced to question what it values. When Nick's own family is caught in the crossfire and his relationship with Rory is brutally exposed, he discovers that no cause is ever pure, and that sometimes going after what we want means letting go of what we have.

This is my first book-length work. My fiction has appeared in The Rampallian under my pen name, Heath Fields. I have also published curriculum projects for Journeys in Film at the USC Annenberg Norman Lear Center, and an article in Independent Teacher. I hold degrees from St. John’s College and the Bread Loaf School of English. During the academic year, I teach English at Groton School in Massachusetts.

I have included the first 250 words of LIKE BLOOD FROM STONE. Thank you again for your time and consideration.

Sincerely yours,


Nick looked out the window and traced the rise and fall of the power lines, synchronizing his breath to their rhythm. He closed his eyes against the sun and watched the phosphenes dance like bubbles across his vision. But for his parents’ voices in the front seat, he could almost believe he was back in the water, pushing through the liquid gloaming, watching for that glint of golden light that would lead him to his quarry. He held his breath and leaned deeper into the darkness, his skin reaching out to make contact with the desire of his dreams, his arms closing around the elusive body when the car lurched and brought him rushing back to reality. They were home. 

The O’Connors’ Suburban pulled into the driveway between their house and the Amatos’. Nick’s pulse quickened as he scanned the driveway for the familiar Volvo wagon, but no. Rory wouldn’t return until school forced him to. One more week.

The vehicle came to a stop under the carport behind the house. 

“Ya did good, Sally,” Jack said, stroking the dash as the engine ticked. “This girl’s got life in her yet, ya know,” he said, looking significantly at his wife in the passenger seat.

“She won’t last forever,” Cheryl replied. “One day she’ll turn over for the last time, and I don’t want to be on I-81 when it happens. Poor thing’s eleven years old as it is.”

“I’m just saying don’t put her in the grave before her time is all. We can’t afford to go out and buy a new car every time her oil needs changed.”


Unknown said...

This is a great entry. I just wondered about the genre. What's a Bildungsroman? The guys' drama interested me more than the town drama, I think this might be different if you raised the stakes a bit and gave us more of an idea what's going on with the town.
The first page was very well written, but took a little too long to get going. (I liked the power lines and maybe just a quick reaching for something before the scene starts.) Also, the debate about the age of the car is uninteresting to me and seems out of place for the first page. Maybe just a line about the car and get to the plot or characters? :)
Good luck!!!

Laura Moe said...

Bildunsgroman means coming of age. A agree the author should just ay"coming of age" novel."

Katherine T. said...

Here is my feedback, I hope it helps:

Like the previous commenter, I wasn't sure what a bildungsroman was before looking it up, and I think many agents won't know either. Also, I don't think you need to repeat the title of your book twice.

I want more details in the query. You play coy with the precise nature of the boys' relationship and why it's volatile, and you don't outright state what the conflict is with Nick's family. The concepts you raise look interesting. I'd be even more interested if I had a clearer idea of the stakes.

Your 250 words, I thought were strong. But I didn't think your first sentence was your most interesting line in the first paragraph--if you began with the water, I'd be more instantly grabbed.

Good luck!

Leslie S. Rose said...

You have some beautiful imagery in the sample. As someone with a gay brother and father, I appreciate you embracing an LGBTQ love story.

Patricia Nelson said...

I'm definitely actively looking for LGBTQ YA, so I'm glad that you queried me, and this is a well-crafted query letter with some nice imagery in the sample page. But because YA contemporary is such a competitive genre, I really need to fall in love with the voice immediately to pursue projects in this genre, and I personally didn't find the opening that the voice here reached out in grabbed me in the way that it would need to for me to pursue this further. In general, I also tend to be a tough sell on novels that don't have at least one major female character mentioned in the query. This is a case of a strong query that I can see another agent jumping on, but it's just not quite resonating on my wavelength. (We mean it when we say that it's a subjective business!)

JFC said...

I'm very appreciative of the feedback. Thanks for your time and energy.