Sunday, May 18, 2008


Dear Query Shark,

My lineage made me one of the fortunate ones. But to paraphrase an old Hollywood bumper sticker, “My Mercedes went up my nose.”

My father is A.B. My mother, C.D., came from Hollywood royalty. My memoir, SCARS, is a candid journey through a world of dangerous people, and crimes fueled by an all-consuming battle with drugs and alcohol. And when I found myself dangling on the edge of a New York city subway platform, waiting for the next train to burst through the tunnel and put an end to the horror my life had become, I wondered how it had all gone so terribly wrong. I hoped that this last desperate act would finally atone for years of senseless aggravation, deception and pain inflicted on those I loved and those who had struggled to love me.

This is often a harsh look into life with a father I feared as much as I loved, as he watched me self-destruct and waste away a promising career. Little did he know that from the moment he introduced me to playwright, Miguel Pinero, life would begin to unravel.

From the beauty and wealth of the Hollywood suburbs to sleeping on cardboard in the alleys of San Francisco, it is a story of guns, jail, a lover's suicide, and transvestite hookers turning tricks in my back room. This is an honest, revealing, and sometimes humorous look into a life I didn't find worth living until my father reached out and rescued me from the clutches of death.

I plan to include photographs and letters from this time period and I am ready to send you my completed 171,00 word manuscript.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.


Note; names will be included in mailed queries

171,000 words is about 71,000 words too many.

This is a query that would get an instant "not right for me" and that would be absolutely accurate. You can't pay me to read these kinds of memoirs any more. However, there is an audience for this, and it does sell, particularly if you have a lot of famous names attached so that is why you query widely. After paring it down of course.

And be prepared to prove everything. Memoir, particularly drug recovery memoirs are subject to increased scrutiny by skeptical editors who don't want to the subject of blistering commentary on Oprah.


Kitty said...

Aside from the fact that you don't do "these kinds of memoirs" (let's not even touch the "I look forward to hearing from you" comment), I take it that you thought this was a good query -- right? I mean, if you did do memoirs like this one, would you consider this one?

Although I may not read this book, I was totally involved with the voice.


feywriter said...

I don't generally read memoirs, but this one I would pick up. The voice really drew me in, and I want to know more about what drove him to consider suicide, and how a playwright was instrumental in saving him. I wouldn't even mind the length if it kept this voice. Would there need to be any "celebrity" names if the experience was unique enough?

Lehcarjt said...

Avoid anything celebrity, so I wouldn't touch this. It does seem well written though.

I am curious about A.B. and C.D. Maybe I'm just having a dense day, but what do they stand for?

Gypsum said...

The story would interest me if you wrote about the trials and tribulations of Miguel Pinero.
He had a pretty good resume.
Also, I thought he was a screenwriter, not a playwright (correct me if I'm wrong).

A.B. = Abusive Bastard
C.D. = Constantly Drunk

BTW "Names will be included in mailed queries"
Why'd you drop Pinero's name and no one else's?

Gypsum said...

BTW Janet:

Instant rejection?
Whatever! If the name Morton Downey Jr was attached, you'd be all over it.

Janet Reid said...

If Morton Downey Jr. is writing his memoirs, I'm damn interested..but not in the memoir. I'm interested in that beyond the grave trick he's got going.

Gypsum said...

And the lesson for today: Poofreed yur righting.

And yet another addition to "Why R. Lyle Wolfe doesn't get published."

talpianna said...

Ms. Reid--perhaps MDJr. is reincarnated. After all, Isaac Asimov came back as Evil Editor...

Chris Eldin said...

I'm sorry author, but the first paragraph (as short as it is), makes you sound like a spoiled brat with too much time on his hands. I'd delete it.

JS said...

Miguel Pinero was a playwright and cofounder of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe.

(Now I wonder who R. Lyle Wolfe is thinking of instead?)

Yep, this book needs to be about half the length. I think the querier needs an editor/book doctor, because there are some iffy word choices and punctuation--and given the potential interest in the subject matter, it would be money well spent.

Abby said...

Janet, would you be concerned at this point with the potential liability issues in a tell-all memoir (if you were to rep such books)? Or is proof that it's true good enough for your purposes, and the publisher can worry about the rest?

Anonymous said...

Add my voice to the "memoir's make me gag" list.
Esp. Dolly Parton's two volume set of 'Mammary Dearest'.

Gypsum said...

Julia~ Same guy, except I'd never heard of him outside of tv.
Serves me right for using my memory. Thank you for the clarification.
Now, if you can just find Morton Downey Jr for me. I know he's alive. I saw him in Iron Man.
(wink, wink.)

none said...

Just about every memoir I've ever read, liked and/or recommended to people has turned out to be fake. So I don't read them any more.

vallihi said...

I appreciate the suggestions. Thank you. I hope I don't take up too much space here, but allow me to explain the initials. The reason I did not mention the names of the parents was that I did not want opinions or feelings, one way or the other, to influence or taint the query critiques. Miguel, I suppose, was not quite AS personal and yet, I thought, still interesting.
And Wolfe, they have done a film of "Pinero".
I did not write this story as a gossip rag exposing the seedy side of celebrity or showbiz. It is much more personal.
Mary, I think you hit the nail on the head, "if the experience is unique enough" and that is one thing I wanted to address in the query. Oops, I mean, this is about the query.... isn't it?

JS said...

Lyle, I'm even more confused. Miguel Pinero wrote one episode of "Baretta" and one episode of "Miami Vice" and the adaptation of his play Short Eyes.

I mean, heck, George Bernard Shaw won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, but one doesn't think of him as a "screenwriter" does one?

Morton Downey, Jr. was great in Iron Man--especially in the scenes with Ron Howard!

Gypsum said...

Julia~ if we dug really deep, we would find that Pinero did a lot of ghostwriting to pay for his drug and kiddie habit.
(Speculation. I have absolutely no proof.)

Nancy Beck said...

Morton Downey, Jr. was great in Iron Man

Guys, it's Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man.

Yanno, the dude who was thrown in jail/rehab a number of times?

Morton Downey Jr. was the blowhard talk show host back in the 80s (or was it the 90s?). He died in 2001.

Twill said...

You lost me at "I wondered" in the following sentence...

And when I found myself dangling on the edge of a New York city subway platform, waiting for the next train to burst through the tunnel and put an end to the horror my life had become, I wondered how it had all gone so terribly wrong.

Do you see why?

Compare to this--

With lasers blasting over my head, and bloody chunks of friends splattered across my body, I wondered how my stocks and bonds were doing.

Unless it's for comedy, no one in a life and death situation should be stopping to wonder anything. To me, it's a clear signal of an unreadable story.