Wednesday, October 26, 2016

An Agent's Inbox #16

Dear Agent,

A few years ago, as I was complaining about the lack of literature with lesbian characters, a friend of mine recommended The Miseducation of Cameron Post. I pick it up at the library the following week and it remains one of my favorite novels. Not long after reading The Miseducation of Cameron Post, I started writing A View From Pokhara. It is a memoir about travel, coming to terms with my queer identity and a bizarre relationship between me and a boy named Anup. It is roughly 90,000 words.

The moment I arrived, I knew I had made a mistake going to Nepal. I was a twenty-two-year-old na├»ve woman who had never traveled alone. More than once I got lost in Kathmandu’s confusing streets until I stumbled into Durbar Square and met Anup, a twelve-year-old street kid, wise in the ways of the world. He quickly saw my desperation. A short conversation and a cup of tea later, he had convinced me that I needed to take him trekking. Hiking in the Himalayan Mountains was arduous. Despite being in shape, I had never encountered anything so physically demanding. I grew ill, first from a head cold and then from altitude sickness. I wanted to give up, but Anup refused to let me. He had promised to be my guide but acted more as a cheerleader. Then he discovered my secret: I was in love with a woman. Instead of judging me, he dared me to confront my emotions and to accept myself as I was.

Books I admire include In Light of India by Octavio Paz, Memoirs by Pablo Neruda, The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemmingway, The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer and Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson. I spent many summers traveling. Recently, I earned an MFA from Fairleigh Dickinson University where I worked closely with Tom Kennedy, Walter Cummins and Minna Proctor. While at FDU, I worked as the assistant editor of The Literary Review. My stories and essays have been featured in several journals including Inside the Bell Jar, Italian Americana, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Atticus Review, and Literary Explorer.

I can be reached by phone at [redacted] or email at [redacted]. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best Regards,



Leaving the plane, I clenched my guidebook to my chest, took a deep breath of stale dry air and tried to wrap my mind around the fact that I had landed in Kathmandu. Korea was light years away and New York even further. Dog-eared pages, splotches of coffee and tiny red spider-like asterisks marred the pages of the book. Having committed places and facts to memory I felt prepared, a student ready to ace an exam. As I approached the exit, I was seized by fear when a child’s flip book rose up in my mind. An invisible hand snapped the photos, a sharp shuffle of forbidden images, tragedies that could occur.

As if to contest my anxiety, the guidebook clearly stated, “Nepal is perhaps among the safest countries in the world for women travelers,” Great! I thought, breathing deeply. For months, I’d been filled with apprehension. The whispered warnings and worse-case scenarios that my mother, the worry queen, had planted in my mind all those years ago blossomed anew. I pored over the pages on “Women Travelers” and “Dangers and Annoyances” in my Lonely Planet. Knowing that the country was safe reassured me, until the following sentence shattered my fragile sense of security; “However, as is the case in most countries, women should still be cautious, especially when trekking. Never trek alone.” Those last three words echoed in my head as I walked off the plane that first day, beating against my brain until I felt the swell of a minor headache.


Ben Langhinrichs said...

I've been advised to think of an agent as a reader with far too much to do and far too little time. With that in mind, your query needs to get right to the point. I'd shorten and tighten the beginning to something like:

A View From Pokhara is a memoir about travel, coming to terms with my queer identity, and a twelve-year-old street kid named Anup. It is complete at 90,000 words.

Keep it short and snappy, and leave the agent wanting to know more. The same goes for the rest of the query. In particular, I'd skip the "Books I admire include" as having little to do with the query. Focus on the book, on you and what you have to offer.

I like the first 250. You do a good job of capturing the experience, and I can see an agent wanting more. But first, they have to get past the query.

The Agent said...

The query does not intrigue me, I don't want to know why you wrote the memoir, I simply want to know what your project is about.

Thus, I would not get past the first paragraph.

Jessi said...

I really love the concept behind this--who would have thought a 22yo woman would find a spirit guide (of sorts) in a 12yo street kid? I love to see more of that story in the query.