Wednesday, September 14, 2016

An Agent's Inbox #7

Dear Ms. Johnson-Blalock,

I’d love for you to consider my 79,000-word middle grade novel, HERO BOOTS. Eleven-year old Dingo desperately wants to see his dad who lives an ocean away in the Outback of Australia. Dingo’s desperation grows when his mum’s boy boyfriend tries to pinch hit for his dad. The hard earned money Dingo saves to help his dad buy a plane ticket goes missing. Clues point to the same criminals who are breaking into local businesses. Dingo turns detective, matches wits with the suspects, and braves danger to track them down.

HERO BOOTS has the flavor of Sheila Turnage’s THREE TIMES LUCKY with its small town charm and its spunky kids.

In crafting Dingo’s story, I drew on the adventures of my two sons, of my nephews, and of the many sixth grade boys I have worked with.



Dad lives 8,044 miles away in the Outback of Australia. I haven’t seen him in two years. So I’m doing everything I can to get back home, even if it means getting into trouble. That’s why I’m sitting outside Mr. Bronson’s office with his beady eyes glaring down at me. 

Bronson grabs a behavior slip from his mail slot and thumbs through the papers clipped to the report. “Well, well” he says, his face looking like he’s been sucking sour balls. “If it isn’t Steve Dunagan. Back again.” He tosses my caricatures onto his desk. “I’ll give you some think time, Steve. When I return you better have a good explanation for those drawings. ” He adjusts his orange tie and disappears down the hall. 

The money I got selling sketches to my friends is crammed in my pocket. I haven’t counted it yet, but I’ll bet I have twenty bucks. When I add it to the stash I hid in the mound of blackberries across from the school, I’ll have two hundred fifty bucks to send to Dad. 

My feet start jiggling. I need one of those sour balls Bronson stockpiles in his office. I always do better when my mouth has something to work on.

“Good grief, kiddoe,” the office lady grumps. “Sit still. I can’t concentrate with all that jumping around.” She turns back to her computer.

Her wrinkled eyes and bristly baboon hair would make an awesome caricature. My fingers itch for a pencil and my sketchpad.


Unknown said...

Hi P.S.,

Your story sounds like a great adventure! I also really like your first 250!

In the 2nd paragraph of your query, it reads more bulleted, instead of a letter. You have room to give the agent a little more detail instead of jumping from point to point.

Maybe you could tell us:
What does he do to earn money (if this is important to the story)
Why does he buy a ticket for his dad?
What's one way he matches wits with the suspects?

Also, 79,000 is a lot for MG. But Harry Potter is that long so you're in good company. :)

Good luck!

Jennifer Johnson-Blalock said...

Thanks for your query, P.S.! Australia is such an intriguing hook, and it sounds like your story is full of adventure. Your query could be twice as long, though, so use that space, and give me more specifics. Tell me about Dingo's personality, whether he has any friends, what his mom's boyfriend is doing wrong, whether he's still in contact with his dad, what clues suggested the thieves, what kind of danger he gets into. Specific is far better than general in a query letter. Apply the same principles to your opening lines--don't start with the big backstory; start with the specific moment. Finally, 79,000 is far too long for middle grade. Upper MG could maybe go into the 50s, but I think 40s would be far better here.

Anonymous said...

PS said, Thank you Jennifer Johnson-Blalock. I appreciate your valuable input. I'm already figuring out ways to remove 30,000 words from my story.