Happy Thursday, everybody. It's been a little while since I've had a query to critique, so please remember to spread the word: I do this for free, for anyone who asks, and all you have to do is email me.
I'm not sure how Augustine found me, or whether he has a blog of his own (please link in the comments if you do, Augustine!) but the important thing is that I enjoy doing this, because writers helping writers is a passion of mine, and because there is honestly no better way to learn to improve your own writing than by spending time in deep analysis of what works and what doesn't about other people's work.
With that, his query:
Dear [ ],
[THIS PARAGRAPH WOULD BE TAILORED TO AN AGENT] I read that you look for fiction that introduces readers to a fully realized world, and a voice that no one can forget. I am hoping that you will find all this and more in my adult novel coming-of-age debut, Think of the Children. It is complete at 97,000 words.
Daniel Hoover, a twelve-year old latch-key kid, lives in a small, rural Midwestern town. He has a special bond with his mother, but she holds down three part-time jobs to make ends meet and he never sees her. In her absence, he has to look after his mentally-challenged younger brother, keep the household running, and balance his mother’s checkbook. In spite of this, he has never been in trouble at school, and manages to become a division-level wrestling champion with an unblemished academic record.
Daniel has everything going for him. He believes his life would change completely if he won a sports scholarship to the elite Fieldstone Place Academy. If he succeeds, he’ll be able to rise above his family’s staggering poverty and the weight of his mother’s expectations. Today, a recruiter will be visiting, watching him during practice and informally interviewing him after. But the school bully, Sammy, is out to get him, and has promised to ruin his interview. By the end of the day, in one terrible moment, Daniel’s entire world is shattered.
By turns poignant and tragic, Think of the Children is a cautionary tale about bullying, a critical dissection of a child’s indomitable spirit and fire against all odds, and a deeply moving story of hardship and hard-won triumph. The book captures, without flinching, those moments in the day of a life forever altered by the actions we do and do not take; and the story of a person turned away from his natural path, turned to a new way of being. It is akin to Tobias Wolff’s This Boy’s Life and, more recently, Jean Kwok’s Girl in Translation.
I received my MFA from Columbia and for three years I was the assistant to the editor of Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards. Twice I was a writing fellow at the writer’s colony, Artcroft.
Upon your request, I would be happy to provide the complete manuscript or the first three chapters. Thank you for taking the time to consider my work, and look forward to hearing from you.
Augustine Reyes Chan
Please save your feedback for tomorrow, and thank Augustine for sharing in the comments.