Wednesday, September 14, 2016

An Agent's Inbox #5

Dear Ms. Johnson-Blalock:

I was so pleased to see your introduction of the new Twitter hashtag #querywin--what an encouragement to writers! I hope you’ll enjoy DROWNING IN AIR, an 82,000-word young adult contemporary novel told from dual point of view.

The first time seventeen-year-old lifeguard Calli tries to save Noah, he’s poised to jump from a way-too-high roof into a way-too-far-away pool. When he jumps anyway, she walks away. She has enough problems of her own. Like caring for her dying mom while trying to cinch the valedictorian spot and win a swimming championship.

New in town, Noah knows he has to do something big to keep from earning a reputation as a loser--or the sick kid. He doesn’t need some lifeguard with a hero complex telling him “no” like she’s his mother. Besides, he’s invincible. Surviving the heart transplant that killed his twin brother proved that.

Hard as they try to stay away from each other, Noah and Calli are drawn together by a mutual love of the water. But as Calli turns to Adderall to keep her grades up and Noah performs ever more daring feats to prove his survival wasn’t some cosmic mistake, both spiral closer to a devastating end. They have to figure out how to save each other--before it’s too late to save themselves.

DROWNING IN AIR will appeal to fans of emotionally resonant novels such as Jessi Kirby’s Things We Know by Heart and Jasmine Warga’s My Heart and Other Black Holes.

I am the author of more than 200 children’s nonfiction books for the school and library market, published by Lerner, ABDO, Creative Education, and The Child’s World. I also make frequent author visits to schools and am a member of SCBWI.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best wishes,


I bury my face in the sticky-sweet grass and try to tune out the shrieks and splashes coming from the pool on the other side of the yard. The sun sears my limbs, making them heavy and light, solid and liquid, at the same time. I never want to move again.

A sharp fingernail pokes my side.

I crack one eye open, even though I already know it’s my best friend Sashi. I swat her hand away, but she pokes me again.

“What?” I grumble. 

“Check this guy out,” Sashi says, her Indian accent making “guyout” sound like one word. 

I groan. I should have known this was about a guy. The faint bite of chlorine penetrates through the smell of burgers as I push myself onto an elbow.

“First you drag me to this party. And then, when I finally manage to relax, you...” My words evaporate as I follow her gaze across the backyard, over the pool, and to Tom Brant’s mansion, site of this annual end-of-summer soiree. 

I wait a second for my brain to catch up with what I’m seeing. 

Then I spring into full-on lifeguard mode, launching myself toward the pool deck. My feet sizzle when they hit the concrete, but I keep running. 

Idiot. He’s going to kill himself. 

A guy I’ve never seen before balances at the edge of the second-story porch roof. He leans forward and flexes, the outline of his pecs and biceps standing out through his blue Superman t-shirt.


Unknown said...

You've done a really nice job on both!

Jennifer Johnson-Blalock said...

Thank you for your entry, V.M.B., and congratulations! You've written a really fantastic query. The personalized opening gives me immediate warm fuzzy feelings towards you. The stakes are established immediately, and I get a great sense of the characters. You have really strong, current comps, too. So good! My only advice would be to tell us a bit more about Noah and Calli's relationship with each other. The words "the first time" are so intriguing, but what keeps pulling them together, and what's the nature of their relationship? You hint at this with their love of water, but I think you could do a tiny bit more. This is definitely something I'd request if it showed up in my inbox, though.

Vanessa said...

You did wonderful on both! This is something I would grab from Barnes and Noble in a heartbeat.

Unknown said...

I love it! I loved it when I read it on the CP matchup on! You've changed it, and I recognized it from the way you described the Indian girl's accent. Mine's the first entry, and if you'd like to be CP's, contact me.

Jandi Crocker said...


Your query letter is very intriguing, and if I was an agent I'd definitely ask for more! I loved your line that they "have to figure out how to save each other before it's too late to save themselves."You've done a good job of explaining Calli and Noah's goals as well as their obstacles.

I also loved your first 250 words and the way you weave in sensory details so that the reader feels like they are there with the characters. As I read I could feel the sun, smell the chlorine and hear the shrieks and splashes. The setting isn't overdone either and all of this unfolds in the midst of action. There is immediate conflict with the guy standing on the roof at risk of hurting himself.

Jennifer Hawes said...

I love the premise. This strikes me right away as a page-turner. I only have one problem: the query states that she walks away but the 250 suggests she's actually running toward him. It's a bit confusing. But overall, I think this is a winner for sure! And the fact it is written from a dual POV, makes it even more appealing to me! Good luck.

Valerie Bodden said...

Thanks, everyone, for the lovely comments, and thanks to Ms. Johnson-Blalock for the valuable feedback. So thrilled to hear this is something you'd request!

Judy DaPolito said...

I really liked your query letter--it did it's job by making me want to read more. And the sample page made me want to go on reading. I felt connected to your lifeguard character right away.