Wednesday, April 25, 2012

An Agent's Inbox #17

Dear Ms. Shea,

I'm seeking representation for my YA novel, STAGED, and wondered if you might be interested in adding it to your list. A couple of weeks ago, you tweeted that you'd like to see a story set somewhere unusual; this story, which centers around a fifteen-year-old girl who's drafted into a secret acting troupe, takes place largely in an abandoned theater. The novel would appeal to readers who enjoy E. Lockhart's humorous honesty and Sarah Dessen’s explorations into the intricacies of love and friendship. It is complete at 87,000 words.

Camille Galaway doesn’t take the job at run-down Camp Taviwach to make friends. She takes it to make money for a plane ticket away from Grigsby, Colorado and back to California and her dad. Yes, he’s currently otherwise occupied as a contestant on the reality game show, Divorcees, but Camille is sure her balding, tech-geek father will be kicked off after the first round.

Her plans to ditch the camp as soon as she gets paid are complicated when the owner’s bossy, brooding daughter, Luce, ropes Camille into joining her troupe of actors, the Blissters, who secretly meet at the camp’s old off-limits theater at night. When Camille’s dad becomes Divorcees’ surprise star, the curtain falls on her plan to go home, and she starts to connect with the other actors--especially leading man, Sebastien, and not-so-secret admirer, Hart--in ways she’s successfully avoided with anyone for the past year. After faking her way through relationships for years, can Camille figure out how to be a true friend and reconnect with her buried love for theater? If she can, Grigsby might become the first true home she’s had since her parents split. If not, she’ll lose the chance to play the role of a lifetime--herself.

I am a member of SCBWI, and my non-fiction has been published in the Sacramento News & Review, The Women’s International Perspective, and a couple of textbooks. Since high school, I’ve performed in several small-ish roles at various community theaters. I hold a B.A. in English from U.C. Berkeley, and I currently blog for a local theater group at thecollectivemind.wordpress.com.

I appreciate your time and consideration. I’ve included the first five pages and synopsis below. The entire manuscript is available upon request.

Sincerely,
J.W.


STAGED

Of all the shirts Jake Bentley could’ve ruined, why did he have to choose the baby blue Sea World tee that used to be my dad’s?

I was so close to getting away, once and for all--to escaping the grip of Jake and the rest of them who know I owe them for not ratting me out. Who know I’ll laugh along when, for example, I’m on the receiving end of an exploding beer. The shirt is just the latest sacrifice.

I place it carefully on the laundry pile, even though I know it probably can’t handle another wash, and wrestle a fresh tank top from the top drawer of the secondhand dresser my mom bought me when we moved to Grigsby, Colorado last August. If not for the fact that our landlord is over, I would take the shower I so desperately need and skip dinner.

Zig Jensen comes down from his cabin in the mountains once a month to do three things: shop for things in the grocery store that he cannot kill or grow himself, visit his wife’s grave, and collect the rent. The fact that he’s here to bid us farewell confirms my theory that he has a soft spot for my mom. Maybe because she still has all her marbles and he has clearly lost a few of his.

I head to the dining room to get some of the tofu my mom has burned once again. But when I get there, she’s standing at the back door with Zig, thanking him and handing him a check, which makes no sense.

14 comments:

Susan said...

You've got some quirky characters here (that is a compliment), and I like your opening image. It brings up a lot of questions in my mind, which is a good thing.

Cari said...

I like that you cited her tweet, which shows you took more time to research her than only looking up her agency bio or Agent Query profile. The notion of a "secret acting troupe" seems odd - why act if no one's watching? (Then again, we're all writing w/no guarantee of readers, I suppose!) The reality show subplot sounds intriguing. I'm confused by the last sentence of the third graf - "...Grigsby might become the first true home..." I thought she was trying to get away from Grigsby and going to CA? Hmmm. Re-reading it now I think I get that the camp job is in Grigsby and she starts to like it there despite herself, but you might want to try and clarify that. I initially read it as if the job was in CA. Also, who brought her to Grigsby? Mom? How she got to this godforsaken town seems worth a sentence.

Mary Vettel said...

Following the intriguing query, I would have liked the story to start with the MC already at camp. Maybe it's just me, but I would've liked to be certain that the person with the ruined T-shirt is Camille. Good luck.

Melinda said...

Seems like a fun story and fun characters. I love this line: Maybe because she still has all her marbles and he has clearly lost a few of his.

I was confused about the secret acting troupe. I get that they are sneaking around to practice, but the word 'secret' made me think there was something more to this.

Veronica Bartles said...

I loved the first line. Brings me into the action, and gives me a sense of her missing her dad all at once. I got kind of lost in the second paragraph, though. Who exactly is she escaping, and why? And why does she owe Jake for ruining her shirt? I think I'd like a little more here before skipping to her mom and the landlord, because I'm having trouble getting a sense of who this girl really is. (Incidentally, why does it make no sense that Mom is handing him the rent check? She said he had come around to collect it...)

Valerie said...

This is the line that hooked me: "If not, she’ll lose the chance to play the role of a lifetime--herself." It's incredibly relatable. Also, I really like the title as well and am partial to one-word titles that pack a punch. And I want to read about how Camille feels about dad's reality show stint-- what a great twist!

The only snag I hit was wondering how has she been faking her way through relationships? Is it because of the divorce? If so, I feel like a little bit about that needs to be woven into the second paragraph.

Owl said...

Sounds promising but the query is too detailed and the confusing reference to "secret" just adds to it. The first 250 - given the query - should showcase the bizarre world. As it is, the reference to Jake just makes you wonder , huh? who?, and that's not how you want to start what sounds like could be a great book.

Escape Artist said...

The first paragraph of your query I felt was too long. Save the story explanation for the meat of your query. I'd consider getting straight into her reason for wanting to get back to her dad. I loved the idea of him being on a reality game show!
You're getting up there in word count too.

Lori L. Clark said...

It's a preference of mine, and so it's probably quirky, but I actually like reading query letters that start out with a bang -- a hook. So I would probably start yours out with the 2nd paragraph first. Saving the 1st paragraph for third.

Your bio could lose the "Since high school..." line which talks about performing in community theater. In my opinion.

The story itself, I like. It shows good promise. The 2nd paragraph trips me up when I read it. The sentence that starts out "Who know I'll laugh..." that seems awkward to me, and I might start it out "Guys who know" or something else. But starting the sentence with "who" makes it sound like a sentence and I had to stop and re-read it a couple of times to get past it.

Good luck.

Janelle said...

Do you guys know how helpful you are? SOOOOO helpful! Thank you all : )

Janelle said...

P.S. The idea of the theater group is similar to the idea of the poetry club in Dead Poets Society. Would it be an improvement to say "Dead-Poets-Society-like theater group"? Or maybe "underground theater group"?

Escape Artist said...

I'm not sure I'd understand what a underground theatre group would be, but then I'm not sure about the dead-poets society either.
Give me a bit more. What's with this group? Tell me. I want to know. : )

Janelle said...

Thanks for being interested, EA : )

Ok, so in the movie Dead Poet’s Society, a group of boys secretly meet in a cave to read poetry. The meetings are about expression and bonding and subtly rebelling against the strict rules set up by their school and families.

The members of the acting group in my book take on roles in various plays, including one that a member (Camille’s nemesis) wrote herself, also as a means of expression, exploration (trying to get outside of themselves) and bonding. The plays aren’t performed in front of anyone, but everyone (esp Camille) gets something different out of working with Luce, the daughter of the reclusive camp owner, who is pretty secretive herself. The reason for Luce keeping the group under wraps is part of a larger mystery surrounding the camp that involves the history of Grigsby and her family.
“Secret” or “underground” is the closest I’ve come to encapsulating this into a single word.

Katie Shea said...

I like the beginning of this query - making a connection with me and narrowing the audience of the novel. However, by the second paragraph, I am already a little confused. "After faking her way through relationships for years, can Camille figure out how to be a true friend and reconnect with her buried love for theater?" - this conflict is not strong enough for my interest. And to be honest, I'm lost.