(First sentence is personalized to explain why I'm applying to this agent.) Fiddlesticks: Witches Can't Write is a completed 70,000-word upper middle grade urban fantasy.
If you read my query critiques, you know I suggest this housekeeping stuff should go at the end. But I've said it enough times, so I won't harp on it again here. I will briefly say that upper middle grade urban fantasy is not a genre I've ever encountered. Urban Fantasy tends to be dark, gritty, sexy, and violent, and while none of that says you can't write a MG novel set in a fantasy city setting, it does say it's not often done, and may be a somewhat tougher sell because of it.
What's a mortal-loving witch who was born to write do when it's time to pick a career? Not ask rhetorical questions in query letters, for one. For Saryn Q. Fiddlesticks, a 13-year-old preparing to select her Life's Mission, the writing's not on the wall. Wow. Great name. But that said, I'd like a better sense of character. Age and occupation do help, and they're certainly interesting here, but in order to sympathize with Saryn and her plight, we need to know more about what kind of person she is before her story begins. Saryn's options are to let The Academy of Witches and Wizards tell her what to do, go mortal so she can follow her passion, or there's a third option I'm no grammarian, but I believe this is an independent clause, but it's batty.... you only need three dots for an ellipsis. All she has to do is convince The Academy that their superstition against writing is unfounded, persuade them to change the law, and coax them into recognizing a new Life's Mission of Writer. So ... the execution may need a little work, but as far as your premise goes, I love it. Books about characters who want to write always seem to resonate, at least for me.
As if that task isn't impossible enough, Saryn is ambushed by Gaylord Culbreath, another great name. her half-brother's eccentric mentor, who plans to use her to destroy the world. As Saryn battles Culbreath, then the witching establishment at her Coming-of-Age Ceremony, she must decide how far she's willing to go to follow her dream. Vague. What are her options? Write a scathing letter to the editor? Surely she has some ability to fight back other than with the pen?
Future fans of Cynthia Hand's
My credits include publication of two MG short story fantasies in the Center for Writing Excellence's
Thank you for taking the time to review (however many pages were requested.) I look forward to hearing from you.
Very truly yours,
Kim Van Sickler
So, in summary: if you dig down, you'll realize this query actually covers my three keys. Character (I would definitely like more of it, but it is there), Conflict (this is actually great, a witch who is not allowed to write, but won't stand for it), and Choice (this is completely vague, especially when it comes to how Nasty-Breath-Man is going to use her, but you do have the beginnings, so all you need to do is get more specific, and expand on this choice). That's an excellent start.
Really, all you need to do is flesh out the things you already have. How does Culbreath instead to use Saryn? Why is she the only one who can help him achieve his goals? What does the rest of her school think of him, whether they know about his plans or not?
You've got the makings of a great query already in place. The skeleton is there, you just need to expand it a little.
What do you all think?