Wednesday, September 14, 2016

An Agent's Inbox #16

Dear Ms. Johnson-Blalock,

I am seeking representation for my manuscript, HARVEY THE BEDAZZLER. It is a contemporary middle grade novel with some speculative elements, complete at 37,000 words.

Eleven-year-old Sydney thinks her only problems are losing her best friend to the most popular girl at school and overhearing her parents say something about a divorce. But when her family travels to Amelia Island, Florida to attend the funeral of a grandfather she barely remembers, things really begin to unravel.

For the first time, Sydney hears stories about Grandpa Harvey’s too-incredible-to-be-true adventures. Like the tale about how her grandpa was rescued by a giant turtle when he was in Vietnam. And one where her grandpa entered a pig in a dog show--and won. And another about how he made repairs on a witch’s house in exchange for a map to find his way out of the swamps. But Sydney’s dad, who’s still holding a grudge, thinks they’re all lies and wants to bury the stories with his father.

Sydney, with the help of her new friend, Nick, has only days to find proof and convince her dad that the stories are true. Along the way she might find the courage to have an adventure of her own and finally get to know her grandfather. And just maybe she can help fix the hole in her dad’s heart and save her family from falling apart.

I’m a member of SCBWI and a school counselor in one of the largest school systems in the Southeast. I read that you liked literary middle grade. HARVEY THE BEDAZZLER can best be described as Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions (Daniel Wallace) for kids, alternating between the present and past (1960s-1970s) in a way similar to Holes.

Thank you for your consideration.



It’s weird to go to a stranger’s funeral, especially when it’s your grandfather’s. But there we were, headed to Amelia Island to “pay our respects” to a man I’d only seen once when I was a baby and again when I was five. Pay our respects…what a weird thing for Dad to say, seeing as how he didn’t seem to respect Grandpa Harvey all that much.

At first I’d begged Mom to let me stay home. I mean, I barely knew my grandfather, and I’d planned my first week of summer already. It was opening week for the neighborhood pool and my only chance to win back my former best friend, Jenna.

But Mom wouldn’t understand, so I’d reminded her about the mile-long seventh grade gifted summer reading list and how she’d forgotten to get the books from the library. It would take an average of 19.5 pages each day, including weekends, to finish before school started again, and I had to get to the library pronto.

But she’d said, “Forget it, Sydney. We’re not leaving an eleven-year-old girl home alone while the rest of us go to Florida.” When I reminded her I’d be twelve in thirty-seven days, she gave me a disappointed look like I should be ashamed for trying to get out of going to my grandfather’s funeral.

She was right. I was a horrible person.

At least she let me sit up front with Dad so my younger brother and I were separated for the almost six-hour drive from Atlanta to Amelia.


Unknown said...

I love it! I love the query and the sample. I'd totally read it to my 7 year old.

H.S. said...

I want to read this!

I have only a couple of minor notes about the query.

First, the mention that Sydney's dad is "still holding a grudge" slowed the momentum of the query for me. Maybe it's because it raises too many questions that you don't have time to answer? I think the sentence and the query read more smoothly without the clause.

Second, although I love the comps you chose and they paint a clear picture for me, they seem a little dated. I'm not sure how important this really is, but I thought it was worth a mention.

I have nothing but positives for your sample. I love your opening line and Sydney's voice jumps off the page. I particularly like the details of "19.5 pages" and "37 days". Great job!

Jandi said...

Hi D.E,

What a great title! I imagine that Sydney's story and her adventure would appeal especially to girls aged around seven to ten?
I like the way that your query letter captures Sydney's voice. I think you have done well to identify your main character's problem/conflict: that her parents might get a divorce and that her father won't believe her grandfather's stories. I also like the themes of family, extended family and divorce, issues that many kids can relate to.

I love your first paragraph. In the next few paragraphs you use the past perfect tense a few times. e.g. "I'd begged Mum" and "I'd reminded her" and "She'd said". There's nothing wrong with this, but I wonder if you could continue in the present with Sydney and her family in the car embarking on the trip for more immediacy, and then have her thinking about how she wanted to stay home, and how she needed to patch things up with her former-best friend Jenna.

I enjoyed reading your entry! Good luck.

Jennifer Hawes said...

The query sparked my interest! I'm a little confused about "only days to convince her father..." If Gramps is dead, then what's the rush? Dad's opinion will not matter much. He can't make amends with Gramps. I think you might need to be more specific on the stakes here.
The 250 has great voice! I enjoyed the numbers. I hope this plays throughout the novel as well! Good luck:)

Unknown said...

Interesting concept!

Jennifer Johnson-Blalock said...

Thanks for your entry, D.E.! I have a soft spot for grandparent stories, and I enjoy the specificity of the grandpa tales here. There are a few points where you could make your query a bit more clear, though. First, how are things unraveling? Is the parental relationship getting worse? Second, I don't quite understand the stakes--what exactly is the dad going to do with regards to the story, and what are the negative repercussions of that? Third, I would make it clear in the query what the speculative elements are. Finally, I would search for a comp in your genre; I think those always help to define your book. There's a lot of potential here, though; good luck!