Wednesday, March 22, 2017

An Agent's Inbox #18

Hi “Agent,”

Please find enclosed a proposal for a novel entitled My Heart Went Walking. The genre of this novel is adult contemporary women's fiction (upmarket). The word count of this novel is 77,000 and it is now complete. All rights are currently available.

My writing has been compared to that of Sue Monk Kidd, Billie Letts (Where the Heart Is), Lisa Samson (The Passion of Mary-Margaret), and Jane Hamilton (The Book of Ruth). 

The novel:
Seventeen and pregnant in 1983, Una Gallaher is forced to leave home to protect her unborn child. Three years later she wants to push past her shame and give her son what he needs most--his father, whom she still loves--until she discovers he is now dating her sister...



“You stupid, stupid girl!”

I back my way to the door. Mam’s finger is pointing right into my heart. I turn and run.

I have no idea where to run though. Cullen’s house is down the road, but that’s the first place she’d come looking for me, probably to call me more names the nuns would put us in detention for at school. Mam’s never called me that before, never shouted at me like that before. 

I split out the back door and spy a place to hide, even though it’s really lame and she’d find me in a second--the car. Why did I tell Mam at all? Why, why? 

“Dinner time!”

The three boys run past the car in response to Mam’s command, oblivious to my scrunched-up body inside. Ellie’s probably helping Mam get dinner on the table and getting little Ruthie into the highchair, with her bowl first to be filled. 

My stomach is crawling up my insides now. I can smell the shepherd’s pie I helped Mam make earlier...before I told her I was pregnant...before she called me things Father Barry tells us will condemn us to hell forever.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, if you’re up there, help me now. I haven’t a clue what to do.

And now I’m starting to feel like I want to puke and I can’t open the car door fast enough, and I puke all over the green back seat of her Honda Civic. 

About me:
I’m an author, editor, and certified life coach. I founded in 2007, an editorial and author services company through which I have worked with multiple authors through the various stages of publication. I have won awards for my flash fiction at, causing my work to be published in their yearly anthologies numerous times. I also won first place in an iParenting writing competition, and have written numerous articles for local and domestic magazines and newspapers. I am the author of four previously published works, which include: Joy in a Box (and other stories) (2014): a collection of flash fiction; Fix Yourself (2014); a self-help workbook; Empower Yourself (2015): a self-help workbook; Ten Minutes to Live (2016): a memoir I ghostwrote for a client.

I’m a member of four online writing groups and a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and the Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network. Originally from Ireland, I have been based in the US for the last 22 years. 

If you require any further information or would like to review the full text of this work, I would be delighted to supply by return.

Thanks so much,


Tom N said...

This is a compelling drama, a major challenge for a teenager to face. Makes me want to cheer for her.

At the outset I wasn't sure if she was protecting her unborn child from abortion or adoption.

It seemed that Mam called the family for dinner immediately after the protagonist hid in the car. With such a momentous development, there's an opportunity for suspense -- will Mam carry on as normal, or will she cancel dinner, call for a search, make a dramatic declaration?

Regarding the story's opening -- rather than starting with Mam's reaction, it might help readers bond with the protagonist as she makes the final decision, after agonizing over it, to disclose her pregnancy. And then she summons her courage and confesses. That's a dramatic moment that we've been deprived of.

Melissa C said...

The arrangement of the query threw me, simply b/c it's different than everything else I've seen, but I think it works, very well!

As the previous commenter said, opening with more focus on Una would help connect with her, but as it is, I want more!

TM said...

I loved the opening sentence of the manuscript. Kept me reading right away!

Would you consider deleting the following from your query - "All rights are currently available"? I'm about as green to this process as they come but I've read several times that most agents view this statement as unnecessary. If a work has been published before, then address it head on. Otherwise the query process carries the implication that the rights ARE currently available. Probably a minor suggestion in an interesting query. Great job!

Sally Hanan/Inksnatcher said...

Not sure, TM, because I read in another post today that agents want to be certain you hold all rights before they read anything.

The Agent said...

I do like that you give me the genre and word count up front but the word "proposal" confused me - we usually only use this term when referring to unfinished manuscripts - so I would refrain from using that word since you do say this is a completed manuscript.

Instead of telling me what your writing has been compared to (because that makes me ask - who is doing the comparing?) just tell me: "My Heart Went Walking" is adult contemporary women's fiction that can be described as a cross between Sue Monk Kidd, Billie Letts, Lisa Samson and Jane Hamilton" - or something like that. (you can use just the authors names or the titles of the books, or both)

Your actual description of the book is very short - though it does tell me the basic plot. I would move this earlier up in your query so that you're not ending with what is most important for me to know - what your book is about! And try to expand this description to at least 2 paragraphs telling me more about the setting, Una, and what happens in the novel.

I'd also love to see a bio paragraph about you. But your comp titles are strong and I'm intrigued by the story line. I'm curious enough to read on.

The text:

This is well written and I would keep reading - it would be helpful to know Una's age right at the start - also we don't get her name from the 250 words you posted. Are the three boys her brothers? I think so, but I wasn't exactly clear - why not just say "my brothers run past the car"? But I do like the idea of her puking all over her mother's car - so I want to see what happens next. I'd read on.

When we do finally get your bio paragraph you spend more words telling me about yourself than you did describing the actual novel you are querying me with - so I would definitely think about fixing that balance.