Friday, June 18, 2010

THE ART OF ELSEWHERE

Today's guest blog post is being done by Faith E. Hough. Please be sure to visit her blog and become a follower.

She does not have an agent but she does have an interesting query that earned her a full request - from an editor. I don't have any experience with querying editors directly but if I had to guess I would imagine that they're even pickier than agents.

As usual Faith's query is in plain black text, her analysis is in blue and my own thoughts are in red.

She would like to explain her situation first:


This is from back when I was querying editors because agents were mysterious to me. :) I sent it out to five editors...three asked for a partial and one of those three asked for a full from that. One of the five sent a form rejection the next day, and the last sent a personal letter telling me how much she enjoyed the query (pointing out specific elements), and though the book wasn't right for her house, she'd be love to see queries for anything else I had.

Of course, this book still isn't published—and I think that is due in large part to the query promising a kind of adventure the book doesn't deliver. So I've been working on that. I'll be grateful to hear what everyone thinks of this so I can perfect it along with the manuscript!

Her query:

Dear (Editor's Name),

The Pieta disappears. The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is left white, dry, and peeling. The tomb of Julius II is gone (good thing old Julius wasn’t actually buried there). David is missing, from the curl on his forehead to his perfectly chiseled toe and, well, everything in between.

I wanted to begin with the fun stuff—the problem that the novel is going to hopefully solve. And I wanted there to be humor right off the bat, to make it clear that solving the problem is going to be enjoyable!

I think this is a pretty good hook. It certainly has voice, and does a nice job of hinting at some of the flavor of the humor that I'm sure must be in the novel.

When every piece of art Michelangelo Buonarroti ever laid his hand to vanishes, everyone—and I mean everyone—sits up and notices. But when, in the same disastrous moment, a skinny twelve-year-old named Walter also vanishes, even his classmates in the desks around him don’t realize it. Chalk one up for normal; since Walter’s mother died, he is lucky if his own father remembers to say hello to him in the morning. Suddenly, when he is transported to Gambee, a world where time-traveling villains are obsessed with stealing earth’s greatest art, a forgotten hello becomes the least of his worries.

I hoped to convey here what the MC was like, and what his personal problem is. I tried to carefully choose words that would make you empathize with Walter while wondering about what such a kid would do with such a big problem dumped on his shoulders.

This is fun. I mean sure the premise is a little wacko but as I suspect this is a MG novel that fits perfectly. I can also sympathize with the MC right off the bat - I can remember feeling totally invisible in middle school.

Lucky for Walter, fate (or was it one of the time-traveling villains?) gives him two allies: Michelangelo himself, fifteen years old, plucked from history, but alive and kicking…and spitting and swearing and yelling and punching; and Cassandra, the only girl in Gambee with the courage to stand against her prejudiced world. When Michelangelo and Walter learn the role they are meant to play in an unjust war led by Gambee’s leaders, the three children are determined to stop it by any means necessary, from eavesdropping to espionage to art forgery by a boy who will become one of the world’s greatest artists—if Walter can find a way to get him home.

I wasn't sure—and I'm still not—whether this paragraph was really needed. I felt that it was important to introduce the other two key players in the story and expand upon the plot a bit...but it does begin to drag on. In the new version of the query I'm working on, after revising the ms a bit, I was able to incorporate the important bits into paragraph #2.

I can understand Faith's point - and certainly usually less is more but I think the idea of running around having adventures with a 15 year old Michaelangelo is just so zany that it may just be the highest spark of this query. Remember, sometimes a premise that is unique enough is all you need.

This 51,000-word manuscript, The Art of Elsewhere, was the winner of Connecticut’s 2009 Tassy Walden Awards Program for New Voices in Children’s Literature in the Middle Grade category.

Let's face it: this might have had more to do with the partial request than the query itself. This was a contest judged by agents and editors, and I was really lucky to have something like that to put in my otherwise clean slate of a bio!

I'd say it helps. I'm not familiar with the award but I'm sure an agent would be.

I have enclosed a SASE for your response should you wish to review the entire manuscript. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Faith E. Hough

So what do you guys think? I'm sure it's a little different writing directly to editors but I would say that Faith's query would probably work for agents.

Please leave your thoughts, ideas and questions in the comments and don't forget to visit Faith's blog and become a follower.

20 comments:

Vicki Rocho said...

I love the premise of this book. I didn't realize at first it was MG. I'd read it as is, but I'd really like to see it translated into a full-length adult novel.

Great job! I'm hooked!

salarsenッ said...

Thanks for sharing, Faith. I really liked the opener. As far as the last chapter, I think it clarified a few details for me but it was long. Maybe shorten it or condense it with the second.

Best of luck to you.

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

That does sound fun. And a great hook.

Jen said...

I loved the opening of this Faith. I can see why they wanted partial and full requests, too bad at that point you were unable to deliver! I know you had me hooked and I look forward to reading the query letter that gets you the gig!

Once again great job Matthew!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I was hooked. I loved the premise, and it sounds like something my kids would love to read.

Good luck with it Faith. Definiely query agents next time round. I hear they're looking for MG books with a male protagonist. :D

Palindrome said...

I thought it was great! Short, sweet and to the point!

Candyland said...

Very brave sending directly to editors! I wish you the BEST of luck!!!

Michelle McLean said...

I think this was a great query, and sounds like an awesome book! Definitely something I would read :D

KarenG said...

Wonderful query! No wonder you got a request for a full. I'll look forward to hearing more news!

Creepy Query Girl said...

I loved the hook and the story sounds so fun and original-perfect for MG! Thanks for sharing this and I wish you luck with the querying process!!

vmichelle said...

Very interesting premise... Thanks for sharing your query process.

Joanne Brothwell said...

I loved the first paragraph! Great query - thanks for sharing.

Jaydee Morgan said...

Thanks for sharing. I think you really have something here - it sounds fun and it piqued my interest :)

Courtney Barr - The Southern Princess said...

Great hook! I am definitely intrigued!

As always, thanks Matt for a fun post!

Visit My Kingdom Anytime

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

At least there's a lot more publishing house editors than agents so that probably tips the odds.

Tahereh said...

this is very interesting -- i, too, didn't realize it was an MG MS at first! but wow, to get attention from 5 editors is impressive!!

clearly you're on the right track! :D

thanks so very much for sharing!!

Faith E. Hough said...

Wow, you guys are great--of course Matt is the greatest, but we all know that and not everybody can be him. Oh well. ;)
Seriously, thanks for having me, Matt! This was a lot of fun, and I found that analyzing my own query as you asked really made me look at it more carefully.

Vicki-- thanks for the encouraging first comment so I could stop holding my breath. :) wow, I'm glad that the premise sounds interesting enough for an adult novel, though I'm not sure I'm ready to take on that challenge yet. Maybe when I grow up I can be an adult writer, but I believe I've been stuck in neverland for twenty years or so. ;)

Jen--maybe Matt will let me revisit when I land an agent someday (soon, I hope!) I'm glad you liked the opening!

Stina--thanks! I know, everyone does seem to be looking for "boy books", and I hope this works as that...maybe I should draw attention to that? Or I guess they're smart enough to figure it out for themselves. :)

Ok, wow, I just realized there are a lot more comments than I realized, so I'm going to shout out a blanket, "THANK YOU; YOU ARE WONDERFUL!" to all of you!!!!

JustineDell said...

I really like the premise of this story!! I liked the query too!

My only thing is (and trust me, this is a personal thing) I have a thing about names and there are a lot in this query. I have a hard time remember who is who in my own household..lol..so I struggled with this.

The voice was good and I really liked it. I hope you start sending this out again (to agents)!

~JD

Faith E. Hough said...

You make a good point, Justine. I never thought of the number of names I include, and I'm definitely going to have to whittle them down here. Thank you!

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

I like the sound of this book. I agree with Vicki, it would be great to read it as an adult novel. :)