Thursday, March 29, 2018

An Agent's Inbox #9

Dear Mystery Agent: 

When eleven-year old, Kimberley Adams’ Shakespeare-scholar grandfather, Abu, suddenly dies, Kimberley worries he won’t be able to fulfill their plan of contacting her from the afterlife. Her frustration grows worse when Abu’s sister, Tia Tatiana, explains Abu’s remains will be interred thousands of miles from her in Puerto Rico, which Kimberley, despite her Latinx roots, fears is too far away for a spiritual connection.

In a desperate attempt to make her great aunt change her mind, Kimberley unwittingly splits herself in two. Her double, a crying girl who remains passively obedient, assumes Kimberley’s role in her family while the real Kimberley becomes invisible to her loved ones. 

Following cues from a bat, seemingly a spirit guide, the invisible Kimberley pursues her goal to communicate with her grandfather. However, the spirit world and the real world continue to overlap mysteriously. When she meets a ghostly young boy and his sister who ask her to retrieve a lost book of Shakespeare, her actions initiate a chain of events that reveal sorrowful family secrets. To win back her place in her own family, Kimberley must decide who she is and what she believes or she will be destined to watch from a shadowy limbo as her crying double bumbles through her own life without her.

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY is middle grade contemporary, with a good helping of magic, complete at 46,000 words.

I am an English and ESL teacher in Arlington, Virginia and am a member of SCBWI. I have an MFA in poetry and in working on this manuscript have become a mentee in Author-Mentor-Match (rnd 3), a YA and MG, web-based mentorship opportunity.



Something’s squeaking under the bed, maybe an animal.

I wish I were home in my own bedroom in LA. Instead, I’m alone, eating leftover pizza in Aunt Gloria’s guest bedroom. The ceiling fan going tick-tick-tick makes the humid Connecticut August almost cool. I pull my legs up under me--criss-cross applesauce--on the nubby quilt. 

It’s true. Most of the time, I like being alone. Being alone gives me time to think about stuff. Trouble is, the stuff I’m thinking about today takes me back to that depressing aquarium in the hospital waiting room. All day I sat there watching the guppies chase the angel fish and trying not to cry.

Because I’m eleven and a half, I was supposed to sit and read. Even if Abu is my very favorite person in the whole wide world, no one under 12 is allowed in the ICU. 

ICU is a funny name for the emergency wing of a hospital. I imagined a big glass room with glass walls around all the beds. There, all the important relatives and specialist doctors can watch the patients hooked to machines without touching, only looking. They’re like, “I see you.” But Mama says ICU stands for Intensive Care Unit.

Mama and Aunt Gloria are still there with Abu, my grandfather. 

There’s the squeaking again. It’s probably a mouse. It’s true I’m not afraid of mice, but I don’t want one running up my leg. My leg kind of tickles when I imagine that.


Winter said...

I really like this, it sounds so fantastically otherworldly!
Everything looks very clean, I would only recommend stating something magical early on in the query.
When I read the first lines I thought I the book was about a girl who got her grandfather to promise he would talk to her even when he was dead, (sort of an "I'll always be there for you" thing) but she's coming to learn that's not possible and is having to accept what death really is. Then when there was mention of his remains, (a very detached word) to me, Kimberley seemed like a child who is on the psychopath spectrum. That was an interesting story idea, but obviously not this book. I feel like this would have been cleared up with a comment about magic earlier on.
Even still, the information in the query had me reading on, so that beginning confusion wasn't a big deal for me. Best of luck!

K. Stoker said...

The first sentence was confusing – I think at “Shakespeare-scholar grandfather I got a little lost. But the rest of the query communicates the what’s at stake really well. I also really liked the imagery of the crying girl bumbling through Kimberly’s life.
For the first 250 I thought you did a great job of grounding us in the present time (with the possible mouse under the bed) while also giving enough background. I’d totally read more!

M.R said...

The query made me interested to read more and I was curious about how she unwittingly split herself into two. Like someone commented above, I was a little confused reading the first line of the query the first time, but it made sense the second time I read it.
The opening of the book sets the scene well, and I could picture it easily. I found her thought process to be relatable, and would have liked to read more.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

I think your query's almost there. On the whole, you've done a good job of introducing us to Kimberley, summarizing the plot, and setting up the stakes, but there were a couple of places where I didn't quite make the logical leaps you wanted us to. How does Kimberley's desperate attempt to make her great aunt change her mind unwittingly split her in two, and what exactly do you mean by "the invisible Kimberley pursues her goal to communicate with her grandfather"? What does she actually do? (That said, I love the idea of her taking orders from a spirit bat!) Also, you need another hyphen between "year" and "old" in your first sentence, but you DON'T need the comma between "old" and Kimberley."

Your first page is sad and sweet. I especially liked the last line, and the mystery of what's under her bed gives this scene a nice touch of intrigue. Since numbers under twenty are generally spelled out, I'd spell out "12" in your fourth paragraph, but other than that, I have no suggestions.

Good luck to you and UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY!

THE AGENT said...

I'm very intrigued by this query! You summarize what sounds like a complex and surreal plot very well, while introducing a strong Want for your character.

One note: I think the letter is a little bit cluttered with details that we don't absolutely need. For example, the "Shakespeare-scholar grandfather" and related book. While it might be very important in the novel, it pulls attention from Kimberley, her goal of contacting her grandfather, and her journey through the spirit world. So I would recommend cutting that description, and "However, the spirit world and the real world continue to overlap mysteriously. When she meets a ghostly young boy and his sister who ask her to retrieve a lost book of Shakespeare, her actions initiate a chain of events that reveal sorrowful family secrets. "

Instead, I want to know how she discovers her family secrets, and how it jeopardizes her ability to switch places with her double. After that, I love how the query ends!

I'm also impressed by this opening scene--it has such a strong voice, and an understated but believable grief. I'd read on!