Monday, September 1, 2008

#75

Dear Query Shark:


Angie Porter has never wanted kids. Instead, she has an apartment above the bookstore she owns with her friend Peter, two cats, and a boyfriend who doesn't ask for more time or commitment than she's willing to give. Her life is as comfortable and confining as a snail's shell. Then Iraq invades Kuwait and Peter is called to active duty. His anthropologist wife is in Africa and unreachable. Angie reluctantly agrees to take care of Peter's three boys until Maureen comes home. Weeks pass by with no word from Maureen. Angie becomes “not-mom” to kids devastated by their parents’ absence. The pressures of a life she never wanted knock down the protective walls Angie has built around herself. By the time Maureen finally comes home, Angie has lost everything that mattered to her, gained some things she never knew she wanted, and is ready to rebuild her life.


WINNING THE WAR AT HOME is a 68,800-word novel in a vein similar to the work of Laurie Colwin and Cathleen Schine. The first chapter took third place in the Alabama Writers' Conclave's 2008 writing contest.


After twenty-five years as a small business owner, I am now a full time freelancer. I have two mid-grade books scheduled for publication in the next six months and am a regular contributor to Learning Through History, Piecework, and the "Artists on War" department of Military History Quarterly.


I would be pleased to send a partial or complete manuscript of WINNING THE WAR AT HOME for your review. Thank you for your consideration.







And we have a winner. I'm all over this one.



Here's what I like: it's topical for starters, and yet evergreen. The voice is taut, not over-emotional, but we know the emotion is there. It's been seen by what sound like knowledgeable folks. And I just plain want to read it.

27 comments:

Joe Iriarte said...

Heh. I want to read this one too!

No fair, though, for a published author to be showing off here. I mean, doesn't s/he already have an agent?

:-p

Jolie said...

I've heard that children's authors don't necessarily need agents if they can get publisher interest on their own. Or maybe this author just wants a new agent?

Good query. I like the title, too! Clever.

Just_Me said...

I'm borderline on this one... I want to see where the politics go with this.

Arlyle said...

Perhaps I'm just being petty, but I felt as though I had to infer too much information.

I've seen this theme a thousand times (sans the Iraq) and I understand how it will work.

Now I need to use this query as a template. It shows the cards without revealing the hand.

Gypsum said...

I like it

Adam Heine said...

I have a curiosity question for the shark. When you get good queries like this and say (for example) "Send pages. Do not pause to sleep or eat," do you ever actually want the submitter to send you pages?

Or do you simply mean (as I understand you to mean) "If you were to query me with this, I would ask for pages"?

Janet Reid said...

Adam, when I want pages I do email the shark bait directly to ask. Then, if I don't get the pages, I slither over to their house, pound on the door and ask nicely. If I don't get the pages then, I arrange with several of my devious chums to break in, steal the computer,and print out the pages to read. Then I drug the writer, truss them to my handy stripper pole, and sign them to a contract.

We're very up to date in our offer and acceptance business practices. None of that stand around and wait for people to query stuff,no sirreee bob.

magdalune said...

I kind of agree with arlyle. It sounds like it would be interesting, but it's so brief that it's almost a template for a certain kind of story, rather than a specific one.

Janet Reid said...

Magdalune, that's really an interesting comment. I hadn't really thought of it that way but I think you're right. This kind of story appealed to me and the writing is good, so I pounced.

Thanks for some food for thought!

mikandra said...

I'm probably just weird, but I've seen this 'childless person looking after someone else's kids' theme so many times that I feel you need to bring something fresh and specific into this query to make me interested. Anything about the kids that make them specifically challenging? Or anything about the main character's situation? Not a bad query at all, but without that something a little different, I'd put it in the done-too-many-times pile.

Thomma Lyn said...

I don't like the story's implication that there's something wrong with people who don't want to have children ("confining", "snail's shell", "protective walls"). Parenthood is not a one-size-fits-all proposition.

Elissa M said...

This is why you query widely. Janet loves it and wants pages. Other agents may feel as some of the posters here feel, been there done that, or dislike it for other reasons. There's no winning formula that will hit with everyone.

reality967 said...

I am with Janest's initial response to this query. Not the second 'food for thought' one.
The query is a device, as we all know. And the author used it well. Now, it's upto the MS to do the talking.
Every story under the sun has been done. It is how the writer does it in this particular novel that makes the difference.

Good for the writer and Best Luck.

Amie Stuart said...

I'd totally read this. I hope the writing holds up Janet!

Julie Weathers said...

"Adam, when I want pages I do email the shark bait directly to ask. Then, if I don't get the pages, I slither over to their house, pound on the door and ask nicely. If I don't get the pages then, I arrange with several of my devious chums to break in, steal the computer,and print out the pages to read. Then I drug the writer, truss them to my handy stripper pole, and sign them to a contract.

We're very up to date in our offer and acceptance business practices. None of that stand around and wait for people to query stuff,no sirreee bob."

This made me laugh.

What I wouldn't give to have someone that anxious to see my work.

And the stripper pole is obviously how your assistant stays so svelt.

Julia said...

Everyone who's all "Well, it might not be good, so why are you asking for it?" seems to be missing a key point: agents reject most of the partials they ask for, and most of the fulls they ask for as well.

This could turn out to be a dud. Or it could turn out to be the Greatest Book Ever Written (TM).* That's why Janet is asking for pages--in order to find out.


*Or it could turn out to be "a manuscript that isn't ready yet, despite some interesting ideas," which is probably the largest category.

nn Angel said...

I agree with Julia in her thinking. From what I've researched, lots of people are rejected at the query stage, but a lot are also rejected at the manuscript/partial stage as well.

While I also agree that this is rather general query letter, I also agree that it's interesting. Not something I personally would ever read (at least in this stage of my life), but still worthwhile to all of those people who like these kind of stories.

When I read Mikandra's comment, it reminded me of Saving Sarah Cain (I think that was the movie title). It's an excellent movie, that I highly recommend, but it too had this general theme of a childless woman who suddenly is taking care of children (granted these are Amish children who are left parentless...which would be the twist). So, yes, the general area of interest has come up, but it all depends on how it's carried out, really.

Taymalin said...

Sounds like 'Raising Helen' to me, only less permanent.

Well written, but I'd like to see more about the characters. But then, I read for characters rather than plot. The plot is just an excuse to do something extraordinary with an amazing person. Window dressing, IMNSHO.

But the writing is good enough that if I were an agent (and if I liked the genre) I'd ask for pages.

B

BuffySquirrel said...

I got a bit fuddled cos I thought she shared the apartment with Peter (and the cats and the boyfriend!) so I didn't see how she could not be sort-of parenting the kids too.

Eh. Wake up before reading queries!

The Rejection Queen said...

Hey can I send you my query?

Chumplet said...

I like the topical and evergreen comment. It clears things up perfectly for those who aren't sure if their subject matter will have a good shelf life.

Barbara's Spot on the Blog said...

This one baffled me. I found the query nicely worded but that was all. I thought it lacked a good hook or sufficient detail to make it interesting. It's true this theme has been done over and over. I didn't understand what the hook was for this query. Is it a comedy or a tradgey? Was it the last paragraph about the number of books already published that made you want to request pages? I wonder if you would have viewed the query in the same light if this author was unpublished?

Reb said...

I was confused. It clearly says she lives with Peter, cats, and her boyfriend. It doesn't say a word about kids being there too; Maureen the kids' mother is in Africa, so where are the kids? Why would someone who doesn't want kids agree to live with someone who has kids? Why didn't the author SAY the kids were living there too? It sounds to me like the kids live somewhere else and then have to move in when Peter is called up. But that can't be true because Maureen is in Africa. My brain is imploding.

Laina said...

Reb: Old, but in case you subscribed to comments - she owns the bookstore with Peter. Lives with the cats. Boyfriend lives somewhere else.

The kids were living with Peter, their father, while their mother was in Africa. Not in her apartment. Because they aren't living together :P

Flamefire123 said...

I liked how it doesn't seem to imply she'll fight for the kids that aren't hers, the way a lot of these stories go.

The plot it self is done to death but the writing is good. I dunno if I'd read it (I don't tend to read books like that) but it looks like it could be a good sale.

Mark Bray said...

The checklist step 8 advises, "no big chunks of text". Doesn't the first paragraph break that rule?

Shabaescaba1 said...

This reminds me of Housekeeping (might be my favorite book) by MR. I enjoyed the query, but I agree with Magdulane on its brevity. I'd like more specifics.