Sunday, August 3, 2008

#59

Dear Query Shark:

Cassie’s stepfather wants to control her life.

He wants to send her to some private Catholic powerhouse school because he thinks she’s a soccer prodigy, and okay maybe she is, but it doesn’t mean she should go there. Especially when Cassie thinks Coach Z, the soccer coach for the local high school, is like the coolest lady on the planet.

Cassie’s controlling stepfather is just the beginning of her problems. Her mom is a dizz. Her brother, Jesse, is a total drug-freak. Worse is that her real dad, who supposedly died when she was three years old, has a stranglehold on the family.

Whoa, stop right there. What??

Her mom and stepfather are too freaked out to breathe his name and so they go on pretending each day that he’s one of the silent dead but Cassie is positive he is not because he stalks her at soccer practices.

What? Her dead father stalks her at soccer practice? Why?

ZEN AND THE ART OF SOCCER, complete at 79k words, is a quirky suburban YA story about the beauty of soccer and a coach that is dying of cancer, and about a family re-uniting against great odds.

Suddenly Coach Z is dying of cancer? And who's reuniting? The dead guy? You have dead fathers stalking and the word "paranormal" better appear somewhere in the query.

I’ve been coaching travel and high school soccer for over ten years and know the thrills and potholes of teenage sports. Cassie must learn the hard way that: It’s not about what you are. It’s about who you will become…

It's not about who you are, it's about who you will become? What the heck does that mean? And what does it have to do with her dead father, controlling stepfather and her dying coach?

Thank you for your time. Please let me know if you would be interested in seeing a portion or all of the manuscript.


I'm really confused about the plot. Who is the antagonist? What does the dead father have to do with stuff? What's at stake? This book can't be about soccer. It has to be about Cassie. Thus your query letter should be about Cassie, not soccer.

6 comments:

walkie-talkie said...

I hate soccer.

talpianna said...

It sounds like the father faked his death rather than that he is a ghost or zombie. The stepfather is apparently Catholic, so if her mother married him believing she was a widow, the situation can't be easily fixed by divorce.

Southern Writer said...

I agree. You're going to have to clarify the part about the biological father. As a reader, I have no clue what's going on there.

I would be curious to see, though, how you manage to let the coach die of something horrendous like cancer in a "quirky suburban" YA novel. Is it a black comedy like Harold & Maude, maybe?

beth said...

I think this sounds like a great book! Have you read Keri Mikulski's Screwball? It sound like a lighter, softball version of your book (I've got a review of it on my blog).

I think your problem could be solved by shortening it and maybe adding some cliff hanger questions. A query doesn't have to answer every single subplot, after all. Here's my stab at it, hope you don't mind.

Dear Query Shark:

Cassie’s stepfather wants to control her life. [I think the opening line could be amped up a bit. The focus of the book sounds, to me, to be more about the father/coach issue, not about the stepfather controlling. Could you bring in something from there?]

He wants to send her to some private Catholic powerhouse school because he thinks she’s a soccer prodigy, and okay maybe she is, but it doesn’t mean she should go there. Especially when Cassie thinks Coach Z, the soccer coach for the local high school, is like the coolest lady on the planet.
[Awesome use of tone]

Cassie’s controlling stepfather is just the beginning of her problems. Her mom is a dizz. [did you mean ditz? It seems like a typo here--and even if you meant dizz, that's a new word to me. I think an agent might just assume it was a typo...not an impression you want to make.]Her brother, Jesse, is a total drug-freak. Worse is that her real dad, who supposedly died when she was three years old, has a stranglehold on the family. [I have issues with this line for several reasons. 1) You're saying it's worse than the brother on drugs...not a good comparison, IMO, seems to minimalize the drugs. 2) this line is confusing, see Shark's comments. How about something like this: And Jesse thinks that the mysterious stranger showing up at her soccer games looks a lot like her father....who's supposed to be dead.]

[The whole next paragraph is confusing. How about: As Cassie fights to stay at the local high school with her beloved Coach Z, she wonders why her mom and stepfather [insert something they do or say that makes Cassie think the father has a stranglehold on the family]. However, the mystery surrounding her father pales in comparison to Coach Z's confession that she has cancer...and the treatments aren't working. Now Cassie must....[give us an idea of the ending--does she decide to learn to let go of the ones she loves? does she blow off her crazy family for the coach?]

ZEN AND THE ART OF SOCCER, complete at 79k words, is a quirky suburban [I'm with the other person...the story sounds too dark at this point to use "quirky"] YA story about the beauty of soccer and a coach that is dying of cancer, and about a family re-uniting against great odds.

I’ve been coaching travel and high school soccer for over ten years and know the thrills and potholes of teenage sports. Cassie must learn the hard way that: It’s not about what you are. It’s about who you will become… [I think this last line should be cut. We know enough now; this sounds reaching]

Hope that helps!

Just_Me said...

So, what, her Mom ran off and married someone else and her ex is stalking Cassie?

That's not actually why I would pass. I pass because of the cliches: ditzy mom, teenage drug addict, and controling step-parent. It's been done. It's been done from every angle. And as cool as the soccer coach is and as life affirming as the message of growing up is that isn't enough to cope with the cliches.

beth said...

PS-- 79k sounds a bit lengthy for a YA. Just sayin'. As an agent, I would wonder if you'd cut enough.