Thursday, December 11, 2014

Holiday Query Blog Hop

I have chosen to participate in Michelle Hauck's Holiday Query Blog Hop with my newest manuscript's query. It closes in a couple days so if you want to enter, grab your query and go here for directions.

Dear Amazing Agent,

Twelve-year-old Serena hasn’t had a best friend in forever because her dad’s drinking always scares them away. She wouldn’t dream of doing anything to draw attention out of fear he’ll end up humiliating her. But the perfect potential BFF, smart and eccentric Katie, tempts Serena to change her self-imposed hermit status. After Serena's dad drunkenly interrupts an afterschool study session with Katie, Serena wishes her dad would just disappear. Then one day she opens the door to a policeman who hauls her father off to a work release program, and it appears his drinking has made her wish come true.


With her father temporarily gone, Serena’s friendship with Katie blossoms and she dares to do things she never thought of before, like join chorus and talk to a boy. But her dad being gone doesn't solve all her problems. Her mom works more and more to pay the legal bills while Serena’s grades tank. Even worse, Serena has no idea what to do when her underage brother starts partying with his buddies. Guilt over her wish threatens to pull her down under the sinking ship of her family’s stress.

When her dad returns, he might be sober. Or not. To trust him seems like a short path to more heartache and humiliation. Now she must choose—keep doing the new things she loves and risk her dad making a drunken public scene, or return to her life as an invisible loner.


LISTEN TO ME, a 39,000 word upper middle grade contemporary, explores the conflict of a tween’s need for peer acceptance with the stark reality of living with an alcoholic. I am a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and an online critique group. 

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,
Melissa Menten
@MelissaMenten

14 comments:

  1. Dear Amazing Agent,

    Twelve-year-old Serena hasn’t had a best friend in forever because her dad’s drinking always scares them away. But the perfect potential BFF, Katie, tempts this shy girl to change her self-imposed hermit status, at least while her dad’s at work {You switch to third person here - to be consistent ... "tempts Serena to change her..". After her (Serena's father or Katie's?) father interrupts an afterschool study session with Katie, Serena wishes he would just disappear. Then one day Serena opens the door to a policeman and it appears his drinking has made her wish come true.

    With her dad temporarily (he didn't die ?- I assumed he did from preceding paragraph) gone, Serena’s friendship with Katie blossoms and she dares to do things she never thought of before, like join {the} chorus and talk to a boy. But Serena’s mom has to work {extra hours...all the time seems vague} all the time to pay her dad’s legal bills. Even worse, Serena has no idea what to do about her brother’s attempts (he's trying to be an alcoholic??) to take after their father. Her family’s stress is a sinking ship that threatens to drown her in guilt over her wish.

    When her dad returns, he might be sober. Or not. To trust him seems like a short path to more heartache and humiliation. Now she must choose—keep doing the new things she loves and risk her dad making a drunken public scene, or return to her life as an invisible loner.


    I am a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and an online critique group. My manuscript, LISTEN TO ME, is a 39,000 word upper middle grade contemporary. (In addition to LISTEN TO ME, I have several completed manuscripts.) {query one manuscript at time - I would take this last line out)

    Thank you for your consideration.

    Sincerely,
    Melissa Menten

    Nice job Melissa. I think it just needs a few tiny tweeks. Best of luck to you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your crit. I've made some changes with your comments in mind.

      Delete
  2. Keep in mind, I don't read MG (or MG queries), so my feedback may be a little off :)

    I don't get a very strong sense of what the main driving part of the story is. Is it all the cool things she gets to do with her dad gone? Is it guilt over how much she tore her family apart? You seem to hint at both, but they don't build on each other, so I'm left floundering a little at the end of the query.


    Specific line comments:

    - "because her dad's drinking always scares them away" - this may have a bigger impact if you say what he does, like he's always storming around the house yelling at people who come over. Some concrete example that would scare kids.

    - " the perfect potential BFF, Katie," why is Katie so perfect? A good, vivid detail would go far in making the characters jump off the page

    - "This shy girl" - change in POV from Serena to a different narrator

    - "with her dad temporarily gone" - sounds like he died. Where is he? Rehab? I would say that explicitly

    - "brother’s attempts to take after their father" - this is a problem that was happening already, regardless of her dad getting taken away. It doesn't build on the situation of her dad being gone like the rest of this paragraph does.

    - "he might be sober. Or not." - not really sure what the "might be / or not" adds to the query here.

    - "To trust him" - I'm not really sure what trusting him does or changes.

    Happy to discuss if you have any specific questions or want me to look at re-writes. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your crit, Karrie. I've tweaked a few things-it's always tricky trying to express exactly what needs to be said to give a good hook.

      Delete
  3. Twelve-year-old Serena hasn’t had a best friend in forever because her dad’s drinking always scares them away. {Great way to start - has a great voice, gives the situation and creates curiosity!}


    But the perfect potential BFF, Katie, tempts this shy girl to change her self-imposed hermit status, at least while her dad’s at work. After her father interrupts an afterschool study session with Katie, Serena wishes he would just disappear. Then one day Serena opens the door to a policeman and it appears his drinking has made her wish come true. {Oh! I'm loving this!}


    With her dad temporarily gone {temporarily??},


    Serena’s friendship with Katie blossoms and she dares to do things she never thought of before, like join chorus and talk to a boy. But Serena’s mom has to work all the time to pay her dad’s legal bills. {Ah! He went to prison? I thought he died...}


    Even worse, Serena has no idea what to do about her brother’s attempts to take after their father. Her family’s stress is a sinking ship that threatens to drown her in guilt over her wish. {Love this - gives us a good insight into the main character's personality and her life}


    When her dad returns, he might be sober. Or not. To trust him seems like a short path to more heartache and humiliation. Now she must choose—keep doing the new things she loves and risk her dad making a drunken public scene, or return to her life as an invisible loner. {Clear, and great stakes!}


    Hope this helps!
    Good luck! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Magali,

      Thanks for the encouraging crit. I did change the line about dad disappearing to make it clear he's not dead.

      Delete
  4. Hi Melissa,

    Dear Amazing Agent,

    Twelve-year-old Serena hasn’t had a best friend in forever because her dad’s drinking always scares them away. But Katie, a brainy girl with an unusual way of judging character, tempts Serena to change her self-imposed hermit status, at least when no one is home. After Serena's dad interrupts an afterschool study session with Katie, Serena wishes her dad would just disappear. {Then one day she opens the door to a policeman with a warrant and it appears her dad’s drinking has made her wish come true.} - I would split up the sentence into 2 and tighten things up: Then one day, a policeman shows up at the door: her dad's drinking has made her wish come true.-

    With her father {temporarily gone}-gone where? be more specific-, Serena’s friendship with Katie blossoms and she dares to do things she never thought of before, like join chorus and talk to a boy. But Serena’s mom has to work extra hours to pay the legal bills. Even worse, Serena has no idea what to do about her {brother’s attempts to take after their father}- how old id the brother? Is he drinking too? You may want to be a little ore specific. Her family’s stress is a sinking ship that threatens to drown her in guilt over her wish.

    When her dad returns, {he might be sober. Or not.} Awkward phrasing. {To trust him}-why woul she trust him? To be sober? to not ruin her life?- seems like a short path to more heartache and humiliation. Now she must choose—keep doing the new things she loves and risk her dad making a {drunken public scene}- has he already come back, and he is not sober? I'm a little confused here-, or return to her life as an invisible loner.


    LISTEN TO ME, a 39,000 word upper middle grade contemporary, explores the conflict of a tween’s need for peer acceptance with the stark reality of living with an alcoholic. I am a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and an online critique group.

    Thank you for your consideration.

    Sincerely,
    Melissa Menten
    @MelissaMenten

    This is a great premise, Melissa! I think with a few tweaks, you'll have a solid query.
    Hope this was helpful.

    Best wishes,

    Laurence

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Melissa,

    I've never read an MG (or its query before) so I don't know if I'll be of any help but here goes.

    I like the hook. It tells me what's going on and what genre it is right off the back. But I kind of get confused about why her wish came true. I mean we know he's an alcoholic but what crime did he commit that ended with a police officer having a warrant for his arrest? Theft to satisfy his drinking problem? Murder? Should state the crime.

    Second paragraph could use a few tweaks. Like where the dad go? Jail? And how long? Also, how old is the brother for him to want to follow in his dad's footsteps. And why?

    In the third paragraph, the sentence "When her dad returns, he might be sober. Or not." You should take out that "or not" (makes it sound flippant) and explain why he's sober all of a sudden. And what does she trust him to do? And why would he make a drunken scene and how does that affect her. Since he's an alcoholic it seems like she'd be used to him making those scenes. Or is it because she's different then she used to be. Or is she afraid he'd relapse and drive her new friend away is she doesn't go back to being a loner. Try to clarify it. Kind of confusing.

    Hope this helps. Good luck.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi Melissa,

    I'm not super familiar with MG but here are my comments in case they're helpful:

    Twelve-year-old Serena hasn’t had a best friend in forever because her dad’s drinking always scares them away. {Good start!} But Katie, a brainy girl with an unusual way of judging character, tempts Serena to change her self-imposed hermit status, at least when no one is home. {Not sure what this means... what kind of unusual way of judging character? And what does "at least when no one is home" mean? Makes me think they're getting into trouble or doing things they shouldn't?} After Serena's dad interrupts an afterschool study session with Katie, Serena wishes her dad would just disappear. {Why? What does he do that's so bad? Barge in drunk? Maybe an example here would be helpful?} Then one day she opens the door to a policeman with a warrant and it appears her dad’s drinking has made her wish come true. {At first read I thought he died... more info here would be good.}

    With her father temporarily gone {in jail? in rehab?}, Serena’s friendship with Katie blossoms and she dares to do things she never thought of before, like join chorus and talk to a boy. But Serena’s mom has to work extra hours to pay the legal bills. {How does this tie in? Sounds like with her mom gone she'd have even more time with Katie and it would be a good thing?} Even worse, Serena has no idea what to do about her brother’s attempts to take after their father.{I don't get it... he's a big drinker too? How does this tie in to the stakes of her dad being gone?} Her family’s stress is a sinking ship that threatens to drown her in guilt over her wish. {I get what you're trying to say here but I'm not sure how a sinking ship would drown her. Maybe take her down with it?}

    When her dad returns, he might be sober. Or not. {Can't she tell?} To trust him seems like a short path to more heartache and humiliation. Now she must choose—keep doing the new things she loves and risk her dad making a drunken public scene, or return to her life as an invisible loner.{I'm not sure why she can't keep doing the same things even with her dad around? Will he come to her chorus concert drunk? How would her talking to a boy be affected by her dad's drinking? I think the stakes need to be clarified a bit.}


    LISTEN TO ME, a 39,000 word upper middle grade contemporary, explores the conflict of a tween’s need for peer acceptance with the stark reality of living with an alcoholic. {I really like this... it sums up your whole book. I'm just not sure the detail you provide above carries through this theme as effectively as it could.} I am a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and an online critique group.

    I like your premise but I think you could clarify things a bit and tighten it up with just a few tweaks. You've got a lot of good info in there! Best of luck to you in pursuing publication!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hey hey, #48 on the Holiday Query Blog Hop here to crit! I’m going to go line by line (crits are in curly brackets) and here’s what I think:

    Dear Amazing Agent,

    Twelve-year-old Serena hasn’t had a best friend in forever because her dad’s drinking always scares them away {That makes me really sad for her. Good opener--I already care}. But Katie, a brainy girl with an unusual way of judging character, tempts Serena to change her self-imposed hermit status {it’s not self-imposed if her dad’s drinking is scaring them off}, at least when no one is home {not sure what this means}. After Serena's dad interrupts an afterschool study session with Katie, Serena wishes her dad would just disappear. Then one day she opens the door to a policeman with a warrant and it appears her dad’s drinking has made her wish come true {Ooh, I like that}.

    With her father temporarily gone {Who is caring for her if her dad is gone? I assume her mom would, but since her mother hasn’t been mentioned at all I assume she doesn’t have one}, Serena’s friendship with Katie blossoms and she dares to do things she never thought of before, like join chorus and talk to a boy. But Serena’s mom {Oh, I see now. But I was perplexed as I read nonetheless}has to work extra hours to pay the legal bills. Even worse, Serena has no idea what to do about her brother’s attempts to take after their father {I’m a little confused by this sentence. Does this mean her brother is trying to be a fall down drunk too or just trying to be the man of the house? Either could be stressful for her, but one more than the other}. Her family’s stress is a sinking ship that threatens to drown her in guilt over her wish.

    When her dad returns, he might be sober. Or not. To trust him seems like a short path to more heartache and humiliation. Now she must choose—keep doing the new things she loves and risk her dad making a drunken public scene, or return to her life as an invisible loner.


    LISTEN TO ME {I really like the title}, a 39,000 word upper middle grade contemporary, explores the conflict of a tween’s need for peer acceptance with the stark reality of living with an alcoholic. I am a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and an online critique group.

    {I like how bleak the story is, that makes it more real to me. I care about Serena from the very beginning. If you make changes to this query I highly recommend keeping that feeling of hopelessness by the end because I think it makes it very relatable (if that makes sense)}

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hello Melissa! Nice to meet you. I wish all you all the bet with your querying. Feel free to use or disregard my subjective advice. My thoughts are in [ ].

    Dear Amazing Agent,

    Twelve-year-old Serena hasn’t had a best friend in forever because her dad’s drinking always scares them away. [I'm not hooked yet, but interested to see where you are going.] But Katie, a brainy girl with an unusual way of judging character, tempts Serena to change her self-imposed hermit status, at least when no one is home. [Maybe....But Katie, a brainy girl, convinces Serena to stop being a hermit-at least when no one is home? I think it's too wordy, and I'm unclear what you mean by 'unusual way of judging character'.] After Serena's dad interrupts an afterschool study session with Katie, Serena wishes her dad would just disappear. Then one day she opens the door to a policeman with a warrant and it appears [possibly delete? Get straight to the conflict: her dad’s drinking has made] her wish come true.

    With her father temporarily gone, Serena’s friendship with Katie blossoms and she dares to do things she never thought of before, like join chorus and talk to a boy. But Serena’s mom has to work extra hours to pay the legal bills. Even worse, Serena has no idea what to do about her brother’s attempts to take after their father. [Is her brother into drinking? Or does he demonstrate other reckless behavior? How old is he?] Her family’s stress is a sinking ship that threatens to drown her in guilt over her wish. [I get you're going for a metaphor but I don't think it's working.]

    When her dad returns, he might be sober. Or not. To trust him seems like a short path to more heartache and humiliation. Now she must choose—keep doing the new things she loves and risk her dad making a drunken public scene, or return to her life as an invisible loner.


    LISTEN TO ME, a 39,000 word upper middle grade contemporary, explores the conflict of a tween’s need for peer acceptance with the stark reality of living with an alcoholic. I am a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and an online critique group.

    Thank you for your consideration.

    [Overall, I like the material and I think it could connect with many tweens. In my two cents, I think the query needs to be more snappy and needs to clearly stake the increasing stakes.

    Best of luck with your querying!]

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hiya! Sorry it's taken me so long to get here, but I've been recovering from surgery and playing catch-up all week. Anyway, here are my thoughts on your query:

    Twelve-year-old Serena hasn’t had a best friend in forever because her dad’s drinking always scares them away. She wouldn’t dream of doing anything to draw attention out of fear he’ll end up humiliating her. But the perfect potential BFF, smart and eccentric Katie, tempts Serena to change her self-imposed hermit status. After Serena's dad drunkenly interrupts an afterschool study session with Katie, Serena wishes her dad would just disappear. Then one day she opens the door to a policeman who hauls her father off to a work release program, and it appears his drinking has made her wish come true.

    [I think you could change the beginning of the fourth sentence to, "When Serena's dad interrupts an afterschool..." The repetition of the word "after" really stood out to me, and while this wouldn't change the meaning of the sentence, it would give it a little more urgency. The last line confuses me a bit, though - why would he be hauled off to a work release program? I thought that was something a prison would have, where you're temporarily released from whatever it is you normally do to do some kind of work (maybe I'm ignorant as to what that really is, but I think this could be explained a bit better. Also, I can totally relate to this first paragraph, having grown up with an alcoholic dad. I'm just glad that my friends weren't afraid to come over anyway.]


    With her father temporarily gone, Serena’s friendship with Katie blossoms and she dares to do things she never thought of before, like join chorus and talk to a boy. But her dad being gone doesn't solve all her problems. Her mom works more and more to pay the legal bills while Serena’s grades tank. Even worse, Serena has no idea what to do when her underage brother starts partying with his buddies. Guilt over her wish threatens to pull her down under the sinking ship of her family’s stress.

    [Contrary to some of the other commenters, I can understand why her mom's absence would be more of a problem than a boon - it would leave Serena more time on her own, sure, but she then has to take on additional responsibilities at home. I totally get that. But this still feels a little vague - if he's got lots of legal expenses, maybe this would be a good place to hint at what he's done (aside from drinking) to land in such hot water. Or is she working so hard to try and raise bail money? I think this could be explained better.]

    When her dad returns, he might be sober. Or not. To trust him seems like a short path to more heartache and humiliation. Now she must choose—keep doing the new things she loves and risk her dad making a drunken public scene, or return to her life as an invisible loner.

    [I love this whole paragraph, especially the is-he-isn't-he sober part. My dad was in and out of rehab three or four times, and I always wondered whether he was really sober when he got out, or whether he'd just managed to play the game well enough to get out without having really changed. I think this paragraph is perfect.]

    Okay, so those are my thoughts. I do think this still feels a little vague, but I hope my comments have helped and I would totally read this just because of how well I can relate to Serena's character, even if I'm no longer a tweenager. :) Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kay,

      Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I hope your post-surgery recovery is going well. Your tweenager self is exactly the audience I intended for my book, so I am happy to get your suggestions for improvement. :^)

      Delete
  10. Hi Melissa!

    Thanks so much for having a look at my query and for letting me hop on over here to see yours. ☺

    I really love the story that you’re telling here. As someone who suffered through a bit of the circumstances you’re mentioning, I really commend you for tackling this subject at the Middle Grade level. I also think you’re really onto something by creating a character who feels like responsible for taking care of everyone around her, as I feel this is pretty common in the children of alcoholics. I wish I’d had this book when I was 12!

    On the query, I feel like the writing is very strong overall, but (for me) it’s creating a bit of an ambiguous picture of Serena’s situation. For example, when you say, Serena’s dad, “drunkenly interrupts an afterschool study session,” I feel like that’s not quite capturing the emotional weight of what drives a kid into self imposed isolation. Is this Otis on The Andy Grifith Show drunk? Or Dad throwing up on Katie’s homework drunk? I think it would be a stronger query if you created a bit more of a picture.

    This is coupled with the fact that I came out of the query wondering about Serena’s friendship with Katie. I couldn’t quite determine if it’s positive or negative. On the one hand, I understand Katie is the catalyst for positive change (thanks to Katie, Serena joins the chorus and talks to a boy). But later, we find out that Serena’s grades go downhill and I was wondering if that was Katie’s influence as well. I was left wondering if Katie is the bad girl who fosters a desire to take chances or the altruistic friend who draws Serena out of her shell.

    So my advice would be to do some subtle tweaking of the language in those parts to drive home how bad the dad’s drinking is and to clarify Katie’s role. I don’t think it would take much, just a few word changes here and there.

    Also, I know agents tend to be hit or miss on the issue of comps, but in my opinion, adding some would be really helpful here. I think it would really help to establish the tone or voice of the book which is so critical in middle grade. But please note that I am not an expert by any means, so please take my suggestions for whatever they’re worth. ☺

    Thanks again for letting me take a look and thanks for your helpful notes on mine!

    ReplyDelete