Thursday, March 29, 2018

An Agent's Inbox #10

Dear Secret Agent,

Seventeen-year-old Charlotte Fairfax has spent the past two months listening to her conservative father give campaign speeches. While he spewed rhetoric about "traditional values" and "the good old days," she planned a very different kind of speech: coming out to the roommate she’s been in love with since freshman year.

The night before she’s due to return to Holmes Academy for senior year, Charlotte finds solace in her favorite queer novel, psyching herself up to come out to her roommate. But when her father interrupts and realizes what she’s reading--and what it means about Charlotte herself--he forbids her from coming out. Ever. If she does, he’ll send her away, somewhere far enough that she can’t hurt his campaign for senate. Or see her roommate again.

Afraid to lose her best friend, Charlotte agrees to stay in the closet. But when all the queer books disappear from the school library--including the one her father caught her reading--Charlotte refuses to remain a silent prop any longer. With the help of her roommate, who Charlotte is half-convinced might be flirting with her, Charlotte launches an underground library. And maybe, just maybe, she’ll find the courage to put her true self on the shelves, too.

THE LIBRARY OF UNSPOKEN THINGS is complete at 78,000 words. In 2017, I was a fellow in the Lambda Literary Writer's Retreat for Emerging LGBTQ Voices, where I workshopped this story. I also worked with mentor Isabel Sterling during Author Mentor Match to revise and edit this manuscript. I have previously written under the pen name Lucy Hallowell for both and, and had my short story Dragon Slayer published as part of an anthology.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



My father's trying to spin money into power. My job is to be nice to the old guy sitting next to me whose idea of conversation involves staring at my boobs while I tell him for the fourth time where I go to school. Nevermind that we're sitting around a table covered with a linen tablecloth, crystal, and silverware made of actual silver, this guy doesn't have the manners to look me in the eye. Instead, he keeps glancing at my chest. This wouldn't have happened if my mom let me where what I wanted to this stupid event.

This afternoon, she sighed and handed me the dress I have on. "Jeans and a t-shirt are not appropriate for a formal dinner with your father's most important donors."

I wonder if she'd think boob staring is appropriate or if it's okay because it's a rich man doing it.

My father's voice wafts across the table. "That's right, Jim. The country's going to h***."

H*** is this dinner party.

I look over at my mom. She's trying to seem interested in what a small man with thick glasses is saying. I don't blame her for struggling to make her face seem fascinated, I got stuck talking to him for fifteen minute during the cocktail hour. I had no idea someone could talk so much about naval history in the 1600's.

A clutch of servers in white shirts appear to clear away our plates.


Lindsi said...


I really enjoyed reading your query letter. I think it was concise and very well-written. I feel like I know what to expect, and look forward to finding out more! However, in your third paragraph, you use Charlotte's name a lot. I don't know why, but that stuck out. Maybe use different pronouns once you've established you're talking about Charlotte? Just a thought!

I think you've written about a great topic, and a secret underground library sounds so fun! I'm not sure why, but the synopsis didn't hook me quite as much as your query letter. It's probably because there is so little to go on! I feel like I need to more to get a better feel for the story, but I also felt like I was drawn in by the brief synopsis of your query.

A few things I noticed in your first 250 words...

"This wouldn't have happened if my mom let me where what I wanted to this stupid event." This sentence was weird. It didn't flow when I read it, so my brain got stuck there.

In the last paragraph, I believe "minute" should be "minutes."

I think you have a brilliant idea based on your query letter! I would love to read more of this. I want to know what happens to Charlotte, her underground library, and if she is ever honest with her roommate. I also hope her dad learns something and stops being a jerk.

Good luck!
Lindsi (L.R.)

Mananda9 said...

Query: I really like your query. It gives the character, problem, and stakes in a clear and concise way. It hooked me from the first paragraph. Well done!

First pages: I don't think the first line ties in with the rest of the paragraph. It confuses me more than draws me in. The writing has good voice! In the second to last paragraph it should be "minutes."

Holly C. said...

Hi L.H.
Wow - this novel is timely. A crushbox of what is happening in our current political world. Your query is great and makes the stakes easy to understand for Charlotte and her father. Their conflict is where your story lives!

In the first paragraph of the 250, there is a tiny typo. Where = wear. Easily fixed.

I'm definitely invested in Charlotte's future. I wish her all the best, but I feel like her life is going to get pretty rocky before it gets better. Lots of painful twists, I'm sure.
Good luck! H.C.

LH said...

Mortified by the typos and grateful you saw them! Thanks everyone!

Krista Van Dolzer said...

What a strong query! Honestly, I have no suggestions (and that hardly ever happens). Moving on to the first page!

First off, a few grammatical tweaks: you're missing a comma between "me" and "whose" in the second sentence. Also, "Nevermind" in the next sentence should be "Never mind," and in the last sentence of that paragraph, I think you're missing a word or two (or perhaps got them out of order?). Finally, in the second-to-last paragraph, the comma between "fascinated" and "I" should be a semicolon or an em dash, and you don't need an apostrophe in "1600s."

As for the scene itself, I think you're off to a good start. Oh, and have I mentioned that the title is perfect? Because it pretty much is:)

Best of luck to you and THE LIBRARY OF UNSPOKEN THINGS!

THE AGENT said...

I love this query! It tells me who Charlotte is, what she wants, what she'll risk to get it, and what she stands to lose if she fails, which is all I can ask for from a three-paragraph summary. Plus it's an f/f novel about f/f novels, and I can't say no to that :)

And I love the voice in this opening page, and how quickly it establishes Charlotte's perspective on the world and on her life.

My one question: Is there a reason it's called Holmes academy? Because we've been trained to see that as a mystery homage and so to suspect a mystery in the book (the disappearance of the queer novels?) when that doesn't seem to be the main point of the book, but more of a side plot, if that makes sense.

L.H. said...

Good morning, Agent!

I picked Holmes as a slight nod to mystery but also for the fact Holmes sounds like an old, New England name (a la Oliver Wendell Holmes), that is not an actual name of an existing boarding school.