Wednesday, October 19, 2011

An Agent's Inbox #14

Dear Ms. Testerman,

Chelsea Park is pretty sure there's nothing worse than getting kicked off the dance team for a hazing she didn't commit. Wait. Scratch that. Getting kicked off dance team and then being forced to spend senior year in drama class to fill her elective credit is worse. And this social downgrade isn't just a blow to her reputation; she needs to get to the bottom of this hazing or her dream of dancing in college is done.

But it turns out theater class isn’t the nerd parade she expected. Chelsea actually starts to feel at home on stage with the colorful drama kids, despite the fact that the sister of her “hazing victim” is out to make her life h***. Even more surprising, she’s crushing on the adorkable theater boy who stepped up to save her from drama class's biggest bully.

Now Chelsea is busting her butt to save her reputation. Not only does she need to clear her name, she also desperately wants to keep her new thespian life (and boyfriend) a secret from her popular friends. Everything rides on Chelsea discovering the truth about the hazing, but she finds that exposing what happened could actually cut her off from her past life, not bring her back to it. And giving up her reign as campus queen and making peace with her inner dork are both a lot harder than she ever expected.

AVOIDING DRAMA is a contemporary YA complete at 80,000 words. I am a member of SCBWI and YALITCHAT. On a personal note, I am a huge fan of your client list and count Maureen Johnson and Stephanie Perkins among my influences when it comes to writing contemporary YA.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
J.L.


AVOIDING DRAMA

So, no one ever came out and said bad things would never happen to people like me, but, as ridiculous as it might sound, that’s what I always thought.

But here I was, having the worst bad day ever. I mean, it doesn’t get much worse than standing at the door to the school theater on the second week of my senior year, trying to delay walking into the freaking drama class I was now being forced to take.

Well, not for me, anyway.

The only way I knew to get into the theater was through the large doors at the front, but those doors were locked. I discovered this after several minutes of shaking, pounding, and kicking them when I couldn’t get them open. It wasn’t until my third circle around the building that I found the side entrance (down a ramp, totally hidden to the outside world), and now I lurked in front of the mystery door that was hopefully unlocked, my mind grasping desperately for any excuse to keep me from walking into this class.

I was in the middle of a yoga breath when the door swung open. I jumped out of the way, and the lanky blonde guy with glasses who was walking out jumped as well. We locked eyes for a fleeting second, then he shot his gaze down to the ground and we both let out short, uncomfortable laughs. “Sorry, Chelsea,” he mumbled to the pavement. “I didn’t know you were there."

9 comments:

Hope Roberson said...

Great voice!
Your query letter is concise and intriguing. You might consider cutting the sentence 'Now Chelsea is...' since you've made that clear earlier and starting the paragraph with 'Not only...' gets straight to her dilemma.
I enjoyed the beginning of your story and hope to see it published, good luck!

Ninja Girl said...

I really enjoyed this :) I'm a dance instructor so how could I not, but seriously, the concept of a popular in the midst of drama geeks? Very much up my alley. I do think it could be shortened just a tad (but that's what everyone's saying about my entry as well lol). I think it would help to name the theater guy who saves her, who I assume is the boyfriend mentioned later. Giving him a name wouldn't confuse anyone since the only name given is the MC, Chelsea, and I think it gives a second person to latch onto. The pages were very nice. I could picture her standing outside that door, not wanting to go in, teetering on the brink. Great job.
Ninja Girl

Karen Akins said...

Your query's great, nice voice, fun premise.

The first couple paragraphs of your page feel a little telling, but I would definitely read on. In the fourth paragraph, you use the word "door" three times. You could cut the second one in that first sentence: "but those were locked."

Great job, though!

Kelley said...

Yay for Contemporary YA! :)

I'm confused about the hazing thing...mostly why she doesn't know why she was blamed. In the query it doesn't seem like a huge driver, the big story line is walking the tightrope of theater geek and cool chic. I'm wondering if the hazing is even needed in the query?

I like the first 250 words. I would keep reading. I do think they could be tightened a bit. For example:

'The only way I knew to get into the theater was through the large doors at the front, but those doors were locked. I discovered this after several minutes of shaking, pounding, and kicking them when I couldn’t get them open.'

You could make it more punchy and concise with:

'The only way I knew to get into the theater was through the large doors at the front but those doors were locked. I discovered this after several minutes of shaking, pounding, and kicking.'

Really like the voice. Like I said. I would definitely keep reading.

Escape Artist said...

'Adorkable' seems to be the flavour of the month. It leapt out at me because of that.
In your first line, you mention 'bad things would never...'
I thought the use of 'bad things' was a little weak. Also, I tripped up on the rhythm of the first line. I get what you're saying, but perhaps you might consider something short and snappy as your entry.
That is a little nit pick - just something to think about.
You've done a good job here and it sounds like it would be a terrific read. Good luck! : )

Rachel Searles said...

Love the voice here! 'Nerd parade' is great :) Your protagonist sounds both savvy (yoga breath) and neurotic (lurking in front of the door). I would absolutely keep reading.

Your query is strong too, and my only question was when you set up the stakes: 'she needs to get to the bottom of this hazing or her dream of dancing in college is done.' I feel like I'm missing the link between these two things, and maybe if you added 'get to the bottom of this hazing and back on the dance team or her dream...is done,' that might make it even clearer. Just a suggestion!

Melodie Wright said...

Agree with the others. Your writing is smooth, professional and grabby. Go YA contemp!
But like Rachel hinted, I'd love to see stronger stakes. Maybe she's angling for a great scholarship or something else that impacts her future beyond high school...since she's a senior and all.

Maggie Hall said...

I like this! For some reason, the first paragraph of the query confused me a little bit, and I had to read it a couple times. I think it was just the "getting kicked off the dance team..." sentence--maybe it could be tightened a bit?

I liked the first page, though, and would read on! I was interested to know what "people like me" meant, and why bad things should happen to her. Good luck!

Kate Schafer Testerman said...

J.L., this is well-written, and an interesting premise for this drama nerd, though I'd love to see the social microcosm that is found in any special interest group explored a little further. You do hint at that, in the mention of the drama class bully, but I'd love to see more. I'd also want a little more info about the hazing. For something that seems to be the driving plot point, it's super vague.

Unfortunately, I feel that this might be too close to a novel I already represented -- PINK by Lili Wilkinson, which explores the social groups of popular kids and drama nerds (although more on the stage crew side of things). So even if I loved this, it would be a hard sell to compete with something that's already on my list.