Blogfest Week 3 Query Letter

I know some of you (mainly friends/family) looked at my query a few weeks ago when I posted it, asking help with the title. BTW, I’m still not sure between 18 Things or Random Lee Chosen, but I guess the publisher chooses when it’s all said and done. Now I’m posting it again as part of the month-long blogfest I’m participating in. Can’t wait to get back valuable feedback from this AWESOME writing community:)

July 18, 2011

Marsal Lyon Literary Agency LLC

Dear Kathleen Rushall,

After reading about you on Deana Barnhart’s “Gearin’ Up to Get an Agent” Blogfest and noticing you have a soft spot for humorous voices, I’d love to send you my 74,000 word novel. Random Lee Chosen focuses on a teen who finds herself when the boy she loves is diagnosed with leukemia. This coming-of-age story about friendship and the turmoil of real life is a young adult version of The Bucket List meets A Walk to Remember.

Can eighteen things save Random’s life?

 RANDOM LEE is emotionally unprepared to deal with life’s hard truths after he’s diagnosed with leukemia towards the end of his junior year of high school. His childhood best friend, OLGA MURPHY, writes a prescription in the form of a list, titled, “18 Things,” helping him discover the will to live and helping her discover the beauty and strength within herself. “18 Things” consists of eighteen quests Random must accomplish before his eighteenth birthday. The two of them complete his mixture of outrageous, dangerous, and poignant tasks with humor and style, juxtaposed with serious questions about identity and tragedy. Through their journey, cancer unveils the most gripping question of all.

Is life, as Random’s name suggests, a random act without purpose, or does tragedy help give life meaning?

I’ve dealt with many adolescents as a full-time teacher for the past ten years. I’m a member of SCBWI, RWA-PRO, YA-RWA, and Southwest Florida Romance Writers. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society already agreed to review the book upon publication in its national newsletter. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best Wishes,

Jamie Ayres

*left off usual contact info for blogfest

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15 comments on “Blogfest Week 3 Query Letter

  1. Hi, Jamie,

    I’ve put my suggestions in parentheses and all caps:

    After reading about you on Deana Barnhart’s “Gearin’ Up to Get an Agent” Blogfest and noticing you have a soft spot for humorous voices, I’d love to send you my 74,000(HYPHEN)word novel. (Random Lee Chosen=ALL CAPS) focuses on a teen who finds herself when the boy she loves is diagnosed with leukemia. This coming-of-age story about friendship and the turmoil of real life is a young(HYPHEN)adult version of (The Bucket List=ALL CAPS) meets (A Walk to Remember=ALL CAPS). (AS YOU MIGHT HAVE NOTICED FROM THE OTHER POSTS, I’M NOT A FAN OF STARTING OFF WITH THE TITLE, GENRE AND WORD COUNT. HOWEVER, YOUR VERSION TOTALLY WORKS!)

    Can eighteen things save Random’s life?

    (DELETE EXTRA SPACE)RANDOM LEE is emotionally unprepared to deal with life’s hard truths after (he’s diagnosed with leukemia=?AFTER BEING DIAGNOSED, SINCE YOU MENTIONED LEUKEMIA IN THE FIRST GRAPH?) toward(s=NO “S” ON THE END, UNLESS THIS IS FOR THE BRITISH MARKET.) the end of his junior year of high school. His childhood best friend, (OLGA MURPHY=USUALLY CHARACTERS ARE IN ALL CAPS ONLY IN THE SYNOPSIS), writes a prescription in the form of a list(,=DELETE) titled(,=DELETE) “18 Things,” helping him discover the will to live (and helping her discover the beauty and strength within herself=CONSIDER DELETING, SINCE THE BOOK IS FROM HIS POV, RIGHT?). (“18 Things” consists of=?WHAT ABOUT: The “things” are) eighteen quests Random must accomplish before his eighteenth birthday. The two of them complete his mixture of outrageous, dangerous, and poignant tasks with humor and style, juxtaposed with serious questions about identity and tragedy. (Through their journey, cancer unveils the most gripping question of all.=COULD DELETE THIS TO KEEP QUERY SHORTER.)

    Is life, as Random’s name suggests, a random act without purpose, or does tragedy help give life meaning? (GREAT)

    I’ve (dealt=WORKED) with many adolescents as a full-time teacher for the past ten years. I’m a member of SCBWI, RWA-PRO, YA-RWA, and Southwest Florida Romance Writers. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society already agreed to review the book upon publication in its national newsletter. (NICE!) Thank you for your time and consideration.

    You have me hooked, and I think this is a book teens will want to turn to. Wishing you a great day!

    Michelle

    • Thanks for your suggestions. The book is actually her POV, that’s why the first paragraph states . . .”focuses on a teen who finds herself when the boy she loves is diagnosed with leukemia.” And later the part where you said to delete . . . I was trying to get across that it’s her POV. I thought writing a book from the POV of a cancer patient would be way too depressing. It’s about both of their journeys though.

  2. I also thought the POV was Random’s; I have a suggestion for changing that.

    Olga Murphy is emotionally unprepared to deal with life’s hard truths after her best friend is diagnosed with leukemia towards the end of their junior year in high school. She writes a prescription in the form of a list titled “18 Things,” The list consists of eighteen quests Random must accomplish before his eighteenth birthday. Olga hopes this journey will help him discover the will to live while helping her discover the beauty and strength within herself.

    What do you think of that? 🙂

  3. I’ve read on queryshark that you should never do your characters names in all caps—only do the chapter title that way.

    I’m with the others, I think you should start your query with the MC. This book feels like a character or theme driven book. I’m not sure what to focus on without a plot. If I’m wrong and your story has a plot—focus on that.

    I feel like a broken record because I have posted this on so many comments, but it helped me so much. Author Elana Johnson—founder of querytracker—has a great blog about writing queries: http://elanajohnson.blogspot.com/p/writing-query-letter.html
    It really helped me focus my query.

    Good luck. This sounds like a poignant story.

  4. I like your query, especially the question in the second to last paragraph. Also, saying “The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society already agreed to review the book…” is a great addition. I think it’ll add to your query. Good job and good luck!

  5. I’ve heard the same on Query Shark, only do ALL CAPS for titles. It may just be the agents preference but I have a feeling it’s for all. It helps them seperate what title they’re looking for.

    This is told from Olga’s POV? I would say that definitely needs some adjusting considering I felt like it was Random’s POV. I feel right now that the whole story is about Random’s struggles throughout the book rather than Olga learning something about herself. I think there needs to be definite clarification.

  6. I’m really sorry to say this … but I’m totally distracted by the obviousness of the kid’s name. It’s a hard bit of suspension of disbelief to think a parent would name their kid ‘Random’ and have it fit so perfectly into your story mold. Beyond that (which I realize won’t be changed), I think your summary is too long. Trim it back, assume we are following you when you make leaps and don’t be afraid to jsut tell us what you mean rather than skirting around it and trying to be overly descriptive.

    • Hi Amber, I see what you’re saying about the name but as a teacher I have taught a boy named Random. Other unusual names include twins named Chaos and Havoc, Chevy, Trouble….the list goes on!

  7. Hey Jamie,

    I am so horrible with queries myself so I’m not sure what advice I can give. My initial thought is that it is a bit long so I get thrown off by all the words and can’t get into the story which really sounds amazing. I actually like the play on words for the name and the title for the book. I think Stephen Kin has done a book like that and I loved it. I guess the trick would be picking the agent who would love it…maybe Kathleen is your girl:)

    If you want to submit the query for the contest, please have it to me by 12PM ET Tuesday.

    Good luck!
    D

  8. Marcie, I love your rewording. Ahhh,so much work to do on this thing and so little time:( Amber, sorry to tell you this but, I actually do know someone named Randome Lee, and someone named Tru Lee! It was part of the inspiration for this story.Parents have named their children much worse, lol. And in the context of the story, where Random’s parents are existentialist hippies, I think it fits fine.

  9. I think your query does too much telling instead of showing. Try to give an idea of some of these 18 things they do and that way give us an idea of how they find their will to live and their strength. So instead of telling us there are outrageous and dangerous tasks, give us an example, that will help the voice of your novel come through because to me the query doesn’t give the warmth and poignancy that I think you’d want to convey. I think your concept is pretty sweet though =)

  10. Hi Jamie,
    I love the sound of this novel. I really like the length of your query. The only thing I’d change is the2nd paragraph as per Marcie’s suggestion. Sorry I can’t be of any more help 🙂

  11. Hi Jamie, nice to meet you.

    Let me quote agent Rachelle Gardner in her blog posted today. (See http://www.rachellegardner.com/2011/07/pitching-your-novel/)

    “One thing I’ve noticed lately in fiction pitches – verbal pitches or queries – is that some writers want to tell all about the theme or the emotional journey of the story, but they have a hard time conveying the actual story.

    Every novel has a theme. There’s a character arc, in which a character grows and/or changes over the course of the story. There’s an emotional progression. But that is NOT the story. That is what is illustrated by the story.

    What’s a story? It’s a plot. It’s scenes with action and dialogue. It’s people going places and doing things and talking to other people. It’s characters taking action to make something happen, to change their situation, to solve a problem, to avoid danger.”

    There is a lot more to her post, but basically she says she’s not interested in the theme, only the story. This is where I think your query lands. Your are telling about the journey and what they get from the journey, but you’re not showing us what they actually DO on their journey. This is what the query is for, to show what the characters DO, not what they learn.

    And one more thing, if you look back in Ms. Gardner’s posts that show actual query critiques, she warns against playing cutesy with the title, such as you have done with “Random Lee Chosen.” Now, I think it’s clever, but I just thought I’d mention it since, by reading your intro, you don’t seem married to the title yet.

    Overall, the book idea sounds sweet, but it does feel an awful lot like A Walk to Remember.

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