Thursday, September 30, 2010

8 Pitch-to-Query Contest -- Query Letters Open for Critique

Last week, we announced the three winners in the Pitch-to-Query contest, but in truth, all the contestants were winners. Every one of them spent more than a month working with their mentors and other contestants to perfect their pitches, develop their loglines, and put them all together into a query letter. Many of them critiqued far more than the five other contestants we asked them to critique. And now is the final week, the week where everyone who didn't get the accolades for their hard work gets to receive the final help they need to help them win the critical requests when they submit to agents. And we're asking for your help.

The query letters are posted below. We invite you to kindly and courteously provide your comments and suggestions.

Contestants? Please do at least five! Mentors? Get your comments in, too!

  • Entries 1-5: E. M. Kokie's debut novel, Personal Effects, will be published by Candlewick in 2012. After spending most of her life on the East Coast, she now lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with her partner and their imaginary pets. Eventually, she'll have a fully functioning website, but for now she can be found on twitter at @emkokie or hanging around the Absolute Write Forums. She is represented by Chris Richman of Upstart Crow Literary.
  • Entries 6-10: Tahereh a.k.a. T.H. Mafi works as a graphic designer. Her blog Grab a Pen consistently entertains the masses. She writes YA novels and is represented by the ever-fabulous Amy Tipton of Signature Literary Agency.
  • Entries 11-15: Lisa Green is not a demon, ghost, vampire, fairy or shape-shifter*. She has, however, enjoyed reading and writing about them since the age of seven. Her short stories and poems have been featured in several online magazines and her manuscripts are represented by the amazing Rubin Pfeffer of East-West Literary. *Please note that the exclusion of werewolves above is strictly coincidental.
  • Entries 16-20: J.A. Souders was born with an overactive imagination and an abundance of curiosity that led her to befriend the monsters under the bed. When she grew up, she decided to put her imaginary friends to work and started writing. She lives in the land of sunshine and palm trees with her husband and  their two children, and is an active member of the RWA, CFRW, and the SCBWI. She is represented by Natalie Fischer of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.
  • Entries 21-25: After a successful career in journalism, Debra Gersh Hernandez works with press and media advocacy groups as an independent communications consultant. Her first picture books  "The Sneaky Snackers," illustrated by Eric MacDicken, features furry, funny monsters and an easygoing lesson about tolerance. She is represented by Marisa Corvisiero at the L. Perkins Agency.
  • Entries 26-30: Nikki Katz is a freelance writer, author, wife, rocket scientist (aerospace engineer), mother of three, friend, daughter, sister, and often-times more. She lives in San Diego, CA where she works from home as the Managing Editor for the BlogWorld blog. She has published four nonfiction books, and her first novel, a young adult urban fantasy, is represented by Bree Ogden at Martin Literary Management.
  • Entries 31-35: A.E. Rought's love of fantasy started with listening at her mother's knee and turned to writing after she got married and had two beautiful kids of her own. Her work includes children's fiction as well as adult fantasy and paranormal. Her first novel, Nuermar's Last Witch, which has been called a 'spellbinding fantasy,' was published in 2007, with a number of other books published since and more in the works. She is represented by Gina Panettieri of Talcott Notch Literary Services
  • Entries 36-40: Elana Johnson's debut novel, Possession, will be published by Simon Pulse (Simon & Schuster) in Summer 2011. Her popular ebook, From the Query to the Call, is also available for download. School teacher by day, Query Ninja by night, you can find her online at her personal blog or her website. She also co-authors the Query Tracker blog, the League of Extraordinary Writers, and What Writers Read. Elana is represented by Michelle Andelman of Regal Literary.
  • Entries 41-45: Hilary Wagner lives in Chicago with her husband, Eric, two crazy kids and her dog Louie, who sometimes thinks he's human. Her debut novel, Nightshade City (Holiday House) releases October of 2010, with Book II of the Nightshade Chronicles releasing next year. She loves classically written stories with a creepy slant and knows she's read a good book when she's sad she has no more left to read! Her guilty pleasures are bad reality TV, candy corn and Cheetos!
  • Entries 46-51: Gretchen McNeil is a classically trained soprano turned television producer turned writer. She is repped by Ginger Clark at Curtis Brown and her YA urban fantasy BANISH debuts with Balzer + Bray in Winter 2012. Gretchen is a founding member of the vlog group the YARebels and blogs with the Enchanted Inkpot. She is the voice of Mary on G4's "Code Monkeys" and she currently sings with the LA-based circus troupe Cirque Berzerk.

Congratulations to everyone!

Martina & Marissa

4 Query Letter #1

Query Letter #1
Name: Jessica
Title: Dead Ringer
Genre: YA Thriller

Dear Ms. LaPolla:

I enjoyed reading your August interview with the Guide to Literary Agents website. Based on your interest in young adult fiction, please consider DEAD RINGER, a 65,000-word YA thriller. A kidnapped teenager trains in espionage and struggles to discover secrets of her background before taking a stand against an obsessed assassin.

Sixteen-year-old Kae Ringer has finally found a match in her seventeenth foster family, but stability disappears after she sees a murder victim’s photo in a newspaper; the dead girl looks exactly like her. Ten hours later Kae is kidnapped and unconscious on a plane to Switzerland. Her long-lost, newly-dead twin was an international operative at a school/agency called Liberta and the Headmaster thinks Kae will make a convenient replacement.

Despite serious trust issues, Kae cooperates, planning to use her lockpicking skills to break into the Headmaster’s office to discover what he’s hiding about her birth. Between classes like Elements of Stalking and Offensive/Defensive Maneuvers, she battles feelings for two boys, one of whom was her sister’s boyfriend. When a letter surfaces with information about her family history, Kae is ready to ditch school via climbing gear and reunite with a grandfather she never knew existed. Two small problems: one, she’s formed attachments at Liberta and two, the rival agency who murdered her twin believes they missed their target. Now a killer is waiting for the right moment to finish the job. If he strikes, Kae better hope she paid attention in class.

I am a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and have written for the online magazines Stories For Children and The Motherhood Muse. Thank you for your time; I look forward to hearing from you.


Jessica L.

2 Query Letter #2

Query Letter #2
Name: A. Grey
Title: Amarok and the Gone Missing Girl
Genre: Contemporary YA

Dear Ms. LaPolla,

Because you enjoy character-driven stories that are unique and engaging, I think that my 82,000 word Contemporary YA, AMAROK AND THE GONE MISSING GIRL, might be a good fit for your list.

Shy albino Ansel offers shelter to a runaway girl but she soon turns his secluded world upside down and his efforts to help her put him square in the public eye. Home alone when he discovers a traumatized girl in his parents shed, Ansel chooses to let her stay rather than call the police and cause a scene. What starts out as an attempt to avoid attention quickly turns into a personal crusade to help a girl he doesn’t know but is already beginning to love.

Catskin, as Ansel nicknames her, doesn’t seem to care about her own fate, but Ansel believes she can recover from her trauma and devotes himself to helping her sort out the fears she can’t, or won’t, explain to him. When a near drowning leaves Catskin hospitalized and unconscious, Ansel must conquer his own longstanding fear of exposure in order to make contact with her contentious past and the people in it. Which will mean somehow explaining to Catskin’s millionaire parents where she is and why she’s afraid of them.

I have been writing for sixteen years and have had two short stories published in ‘la Joie’ magazine. I have now written five novel length manuscripts.

I would be pleased to send you the entire manuscript for review. Thank you very much for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes,

A. Grey

6 Query Letter #3

Query Letter #3
Phoebe North
Title: Seas Run Dry
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

Dear Ms. LaPolla,

Eighteen-year-old Irene has always been captivated by the beach town where her family spends their summers. Now college looms on the horizon, and she’s dreading giving it up. But one day on the boardwalk she meets a mysterious boy with a secret—and realizes that she may have finally found an excuse to stay by the sea.

Raised by a pod of mermaids, seventeen-year-old Loril never knew the world past the sand. As his childhood draws to a close, he has one last chance to explore his humanity before he’s forced to choose between the dying world of his mother, and the alien universe of a father he’s never met. But he never expected that during his sojourn on land, he’d fall for a human girl . . .

Irene and Loril cannot deny the love that sparks between them like heat lightning. But before they can face their future together, Loril must learn what it means to be human—and Irene must persuade him to stay with her, and leave the world of the water, and his people, behind forever.

SEAS RUN DRY, complete at 78,000 words, is a paranormal romance for young adults.

As for myself, I am a New Jersey native who graduated in 2009 from the University of Florida's MFA program. I write about my life at, have guest blogged for YAHighway, and proofread for the speculative fiction magazine Strange Horizons.

Sincerely yours,

Phoebe North

6 Query Letter #4

Query #4
Monica B.W.
Out of My Body
YA Urban Fantasy

Dear Ms. LaPolla,

After reading and enjoying Glass Cases and your interview for the YA Highway blogsite, I thought you might like my 55,000-word young adult urban fantasy, OUT OF MY BODY.

Whenever her soul feels like jumping out of her skin, sixteen-year-old Tanya Reinhart finds herself hovering over her limp, drooling body. Sure, some might think astral experiences are fun. But they’re definitely not fun when you faint in the middle of class, or—crap—fall into the lap of Dan Eisenhower, the guy Tanya’s had a major crush on since pretty much forever.

After finding her mother unconscious, Tanya realizes being a drooling freak runs in her family. According to an ethereal stranger who sifts through the door, her mom has left her body—as she’s been doing for years in service of the US Government. Only tonight, her soul is MIA. The stranger cooks a deal with Tanya: if she becomes an out-of-body spy and discovers a traitor in his agency, he’ll get her mother’s soul back. But what could be worse than working undercover while pretending to be a normal high school student? Well, finding out you’re actually helping the bad guys, who are brewing an astral army by running lethal tests on homeless people. And now, if Tanya doesn’t turn in the traitor—who just happens to be Dan Eisenhower—she won’t see her mother alive again.

A stand alone novel with series potential, OUT OF MY BODY will appeal to the fans of Lisa McMann. The first page of this manuscript was rated with the top score by a publishing pro on Webook. My short stories have appeared in the Foundling Review, 6S, and, since I’m bilingual, in a Spanish journal, too.

Thank you for your consideration.

5 Query Letter #5

Query #5
Melissa Gill
Zombie Rabbit
Middle Grade/Adventure

In an interview on Mother. Write. (Repeat). you said you were looking for “anything quirky.” A zombie rabbit who leads a group of decomposing rodents to liberate an animal testing lab has a pretty high quirk factor. I hope you’ll consider ZOMBIE RABBIT for your list.

Death as a zombie is not going so hot for Milo the rabbit. His eyeball won’t stop bouncing on his face, and if he doesn't find a way to move on to the Misty Meadow, he’ll have to go to The Hot Place. Being chased by predators for eternity would totally stink.

If he wants to move on, he has to rescue a rabbit from an animal testing lab. As usual, he spaced out when he was getting the directions. Now he has to figure this out the hard way. Lucky for him, he’s got a one armed squirrel and his skeleton wife, an owl pellet, and a dried out frog skin to help him. They’re sure to make all the difference in Milo’s quest.

To succeed they have to get past a riddling fox, a wake of carrion-loving vultures, and a one-eyed Rottweiler. Once they reach the human-infested lab, they have to defeat the dastardly Lady in Pink. But hey, they can’t get any deader, right? So what could go wrong? Oh yeah, if they don’t complete the task by the next full moon, or before he disintegrates, Milo will wind up in The Hot Place. No pressure there.

ZOMBIE RABBIT is a 33,000 word Middle Grade, Adventure.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my query.

3 Query Letter #7

Query Letter #7
Jennifer Armentrout
Title: Half-Blood
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

Dear Ms. LaPolla,

There’s nothing like crushing on the hot and totally forbidden Aiden to take Alexandria’s mind off training to kill her mother.

When Alex’s mother tasted the first drop of aether—the essence of the gods—she lost her humanity. She became a daimon, what the pure-blood Instructor is training seventeen-year-old Alex to kill. And now her own mother is after her.

Falling for her slightly older Instructor is not a complication Alex needs. Her desire for him could get her butt kicked out of the Covenant, a school for preparing halfs like Alex to kill daimons. Relationships between pures and halfs aren’t allowed. Why? The Gods forbid it. Yeah, even Alex thinks that's crap. But even if she can overcome her hormones—and that’s a big if—she’s not sure she can fulfill the duty expected of her.

Killing her mom won't be easy. If Alexandria fails, she’ll be forced into servitude, the only alternative for Covenant drop-outs. Which sucks. Oh, and she faces being turned into a daimon herself and hunted by Aiden. And that sucks, too. Big time.

Half-Blood is a YA Urban Fantasy romance complete at 93,000 words. While attending Shepherd University, studying both Psychology and Sociology with a Criminal Justice track, I rediscovered my passion for crafting stories. Several creative writing classes and workshops later, I decided to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming a career novelist.

I thank you for your time and consideration.

Jennifer Armentrout

3 Query Letter #8

Query Letter #8
Sarah N. Fisk
YA Urban Fantasy

Dear Ms. LaPolla,

Miranda Dakin is the most powerful Fire Mage alive and could win this year’s annual Tournament – if she were three days older. Mages must be at least sixteen to attend The Tournament, the paramount event for the secretive modern-day Mage society. Waiting another year to compete becomes the least of her worries when a horde of supposedly-extinct demons attack The Tournament, killing or kidnapping every adult Mage – and taking her Psychic Mage mother as one of the hostages.

After receiving a message from her mother, Miranda must rescue the surviving Mages from a place she was told doesn't exist. She sets off on a cross-country rescue mission with three others: a strange young Holy Knight, her Witch of a best friend, and a Water Mage she's known since birth.

Miranda grapples with the seductive knowledge in a pair of ancient books from her outcast aunt’s attic, while discovering most of what she’s been taught about her magic is a strategic lie. An intimate betrayal and public demon attacks complicate matters when all Miranda wants is her mother safely back at home.

MIRANDA’S FIRE is a 65,000 word YA urban fantasy novel.

I also wanted to say I enjoy reading Glass Cases and following you on Twitter. Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.


Sarah N. Fisk

2 Query Letter #10

Query Letter #10
Your Name: Natalie Aguirre
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Dear Ms. LaPolla,

When twelve-year-old Jasmine follows a talking doorknob into a strange land, she must unlock her magical powers to save her best friend Austin. Everyone in Myrrdin thinks she has the ability to perform spells, just like her adoptive great-grandmother. But that’s impossible. Jasmine was adopted from China as a baby.

Then they discover that Glazdick is desperately searching for a special wand used to create an invisible wall around his country. Because it was designed by Jasmine’s great-grandmother, everyone believes Jasmine can power the wand. And worry she’ll be coerced into using it to destroy their magic, binding them to the evil would-be king Glazdick.

He thinks so too. And now he’s looking for both the wand and Jasmine.

Jasmine and Austin must find the wand before Glazdick captures them. Because he’ll stop at nothing—even utilizing Austin as a pawn—to make Jasmine help him. Jasmine must discover how her adoption unlocks her magical powers or she’ll face a terrible choice: cooperate in Glazdick’s evil plot or lose Austin forever.

THE THIRD TOWER is an upper middle grade fantasy complete at 70,000 words. While my manuscript is not in the urban fantasy or magical realism genres I have read on blogs you are interested in, I hope you will consider it. Jasmine is a unique character, being both Chinese and adopted.

I am an adoptive mom and founder of an adoption support group for children from China. I am also a member of SCBWI.

Thank you for your consideration.


Natalie Aguirre

5 Query Letter #11

Query #11
Name: Marilyn Peake
Title: Mermaid in the Summer of Burning Water
Genre: YA Fantasy

Dear Ms. LaPolla:

With the help of a mermaid who washes up on shore following an oil spill, three teenagers uncover deeply hidden family secrets, including that of a drowned twin.

In the dead of night, a deepwater oil rig explodes. Workers fall from the platform. The sky bursts into continuous flame and the stars are obliterated from view. Military personnel are sent in to keep reporters and locals away. By morning, oil coats the sea and fish float on the surface. Dispersants are dumped into the water.

Three local teenagers – Shrimp, Raine and Noah – sneak onto the beach one night. Finding an unconscious mermaid lying facedown in the sand, they try to roll her over. As the mixture of oil, dispersant and the natural coating on her scales soaks into their fingertips, they experience a heightening of all their senses. Over the next few months, they see and hear things they never noticed before, symptoms of deeply buried family secrets, including the accidental death of a twin. When the mermaid awakens, she offers the teenagers a chance to heal their families and bring the oil company to justice.

MERMAID IN THE SUMMER OF BURNING WATER is a 58,000-word YA Fantasy novel.

I’m the author of three small press novels and short stories published in anthologies. I’m also a contributor to BOOK: THE SEQUEL published by The Perseus Books Group, with one of my submissions included in serialization at THE DAILY BEAST. My writing has won numerous awards, including the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards, EPPIE Awards, and Dream Realm Awards.

Thank you very much for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

Marilyn Peake

3 Query Letter #12

Query Letter #12
Dawn Malone
Contemporary MG

Dear Ms. LaPolla,

I’m looking for an agent for THE UPSIDE OF DOWN, my contemporary middle-grade novel of 41,000 words, and thought you might be a good fit given your preference for literary coming-of-age-stories.

Meet fourteen-year-old basketball all-star Hobart “Hobo” Crane, who discovers a runaway named Up living in a spruce tree on an empty city lot. At first, Up’s big, bad attitude irritates Hobo as Hobo tries to help him. Gradually the boys form a tentative bond. Each sees in the other what they crave the most − for Hobo it’s a life without boundaries and for Up, it’s someone to trust.

With Up on his mind, Hobo grows increasingly impatient with everyone’s expectations that he’ll help take his team to the State finals. Hobo’s father, a former high school all-star, heaps the pressure on Hobo. Adding to Hobo’s problems is Cherry Chiavetti, the nosy neighbor girl with a Jupiter-sized crush on Hobo, whose constant presence is unavoidable as she helps Mrs. Crane open the new family bakery.

As school and home life pressure grows, Hobo’s connection to Up deepens. Suddenly Hobo is sneaking food to his friend at night, skipping practice to care for Up when he’s sick, and plotting to help Up continue his journey to Florida to find a long-lost sister. Hobo’s plans take an unexpected turn when a mysterious fire destroys Up’s hideout.

About me, I was awarded runner-up for an SCBWI Work-in-Progress grant in 2007 for my other middle-grade manuscript, THE NATURE OF ME. I’ve written stories for Highlights for Children, Babybug, and Pockets, as well as hundreds of articles for newspapers. I am also a network representative for the IL-SCBWI chapter.

May I send you the manuscript? Thank you for considering this. I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Dawn Malone

5 Query Letter #13

Query Letter #13
Your Name: Vincent Kale
Title: Blackwatch: Order and Chaos
Genre: YA/Sci-Fi

Dear Ms. LaPolla,

Fifteen-year-old Lamarr Jeffers hopes his newfound ability to control time will be enough to imprison the creatures of Chaos before they destroy his world; too bad he’s the one that let them escape in the first place.

When he messes with a futuristic watch in his uncle’s pawn shop, Lamarr unknowingly stops time and crashes the Gate keeping the creatures at bay. Now free from their prison, scores of them pour through the opening into our world and overwhelm the Guardians put in place to protect it.

To replace the fallen Guardians, Lamarr and his best friend Tinka are recruited by the Blackwatch, a timeless society of warriors that fight the eternal struggle against creatures from the ash-covered jungles of Chaos. The new powers granted to Lamarr and Tinka can make the pair unstoppable, if they can put their egos aside and learn to work together.

Their mentors: an ass-kicking duo of time-traveling, sword-wielding bikers. Their allies: the warriors of the Blackwatch, chosen from history’s greatest champions of past, present and future. Their weapon: a scuffed-up wristwatch…

Now it’s up to Lamarr and Tinka to learn fast, train hard and stay alive. If they succeed in ridding their world of the creatures of Chaos, they will earn immortality in the ranks of the Blackwatch. If they fail, their world will be annihilated.

No pressure.

"Blackwatch: Order and Chaos" is a YA/Sci-Fi novel complete at approximately 60,000 words. And while the fate of our world rests heavily on Lamarr’s shoulders, Tinka is much more than just a capable sidekick. To paraphrase Lamarr, sometimes it seems like she should be the hero in this story!

Also, an outline for the second book in this series, "Blackwatch: The Verge Escapement," is available upon request.

Thank you for your consideration!


Vincent Kale

3 Query Letter #14

Query Letter #14
Name: Suzie Musin
Genre: Young Adult Scifi

Dear Ms. LaPolla,

I'd love to interest you in TIME WILL TELL, my 70,000-word Young Adult novel about Vera, a teenage girl used as a pawn in a war between time travelers who wishes she could choose her own future.

Vera’s hard-hearted father kidnapped her when she was three from 16th century France. Like him, fifteen-year-old Vera will gain the genetic ability to time travel, earning an elite position in the covert Guild of Travelers. In hopes of impressing her father, she earns a trip to ancient Rome for perfect grades. In Rome, she encounters Ethan, a Guild operative. He already knows her name and reads her like a book.

When an enemy agent attacks them in an ongoing war that pits Guild members against Guild defectors who believe changing history is immoral, Vera’s traveling powers activate years before it’s thought possible. Untrained in leading a time jump, she fumbles through the experience and Ethan never makes it back to 21st century Chicago. He could be anywhere, anytime, unable to travel, dead or alive.

Back home, Vera meets Felix, her genetically compatible match whom she’s expected to marry one day, and also a confrontational boy with sharp intelligence...named Ethan. Now he’s her age and by law, she cannot reveal his unfortunate future. In pursuit of the elder Ethan’s location, Vera discovers the enemy knows what sparked her premature abilities. They’ve waited years for her activated powers to set their plan into motion.

I enjoy your blog and your literary tastes are in tune with mine, so I thought we might fit. I’m pursuing a degree in history and children’s literature. I blog here:

Thank you for your consideration.

Best regards,

Suzie Musin

7 Query Letter #15

Query Letter #15
Shelley Watters
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

Dear Ms. LaPolla;

When seventeen-year-old Anna Caerulea's father invites her to excavate a tomb with him in Egypt over the summer, she sees it as the first step in her path to becoming an archaeologist, which she has dreamed of since she was a child. Instead, she finds a different dream come true – Alex, her father’s intern, is not only so attractive he makes her heart ache, he’s the subject of every dream she had, long before she met him.

Together they discover a secret: their lives have been entwined in a millennia-long war between Anubis and Osiris. Anna and Alex must locate Osiris’ tomb before the death god is unleashed on Egypt, or their past is the only thing they’ll have together.

BLUE LOTUS is a paranormal romance targeted at young adults and is complete at 90,000 words.

I am a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a Graduate certificate in Epidemiology from (University).

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Shelley Watters

4 Query Letter #16

Query Letter #16
Name: Brenda Drake
Title: Library Jumpers
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

Dear Ms. LaPolla:

After a spirited girl is yanked into a portal book, which links the great libraries of the world, she discovers she’s a long lost warrior and must now save the world from a wizard hell-bent on creating an apocalypse.

Seventeen-year-old Gia Kearns would rather spar with boys than kiss them. That is, until Arik, a leather-clad hottie in the Boston Athenaeum library, busts her staring at him while she's studying with her friends.

When he seemingly vanishes in musty air, Gia swipes the book of world libraries he abandoned. As she skims the pages, she unwittingly speaks the key that sucks her and her friends into a photograph and transports them into a Paris library, where Arik and his fellow Paladijns--magical knights charged with protecting humans from the creatures traveling across the gateway books--rescue the three from a demonic hound.

Gia learns she's a missing Paladijn and now that she's been found, must train with an eccentric father she never knew existed. Gia and Arik commence a heated relationship as they jump into some of the world's most beautiful libraries and travel to the Mistyk world hidden behind bookcases to stop an apocalyptic force from destroying both worlds. If fighting unfathomable creatures weren't bad enough, Arik's French vixen of an ex-girlfriend is determined to keep Arik and Gia apart.

Combining elements of fantasy and romance, LIBRARY JUMPERS, a young adult urban fantasy is complete at 90,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best regards,

Brenda Drake

3 Query Letter #18

Query Letter #18
Name: June Goodwin
Title: Paying for the Sins of My Father
Genre: Young Adult

Dear Ms. LaPolla:

Hell is just a few states south of New Jersey. When fourteen-year-old Sky Forrester moves from New York to South Carolina, she learns that some of the inhabitants of her new hometown are not what they appear to be—and they have plans for her.

Sky’s father has bilked a lot of people out of a lot of money. When he’s incarcerated, she thinks life can’t get any darker. She’s wrong. One victim believes her own special brand of punishment is called for. This woman has connections, but they’re not of this world. Immortal avenger, Ryan, is part of “the network”, evil and deadly. His mission: make sure the sins of the father are passed on to the next generation. That means Sky. Leading her astray and ruining her life is the perfect fix. There’s just one problem. Ryan doesn’t want to do it. He wants to be a normal boy, a good boy. And he’s falling in love. That is definitely not part of the plan.

The network is not going to allow a rogue member to go unpunished or the mission to be aborted. As Sky and Ryan struggle through love for the first time and try to survive the wicked forces set into motion, they discover it is possible to transform and be someone better than you were, but you may have to pay a price for it.

Paying for the Sins of My Father is a 95,000-word, young adult novel. At the present time, I counsel emotionally disturbed children. I’m a member of SCBWI and regularly attend writer conferences and workshops. Thank you. Your time and consideration are appreciated.


June Goodwin

2 Query Letter #19

Query Letter #19
Name: Jared Larson
Title: I'm Here to Save Your Day: The Adventures of Bo Wolf
Genre: MG Adventure

Dear Ms. LaPolla,

Bo Wolf is not your average bully-slaying sixth grader. Sure, the other kids tease him about his arms looking like flexi-straws, and they tell him to go back to his home on Dweeb Island, but Bo doesn't care. With his mad fencing skills and soon-to-be ravishing good looks, he's convinced he's on the road to awesomeness.

After impressing a schoolyard gang by defeating their leader in a broomstick combat, Bo agrees to help them take on the meanest and ugliest bully known to middle school– Grendul– who's taken the playground jungle gym for his own.

However, when Bo puts the smack-down on Grendul, he finds a much more powerful adversary in the bully's mom, the school lunch lady. Angered by her precious son's defeat, the lunch lady, who's covertly a witch, plots to poison the entire school with her irresistible ginger snaps. But with the help of a spunky girl named Reagan, Bo discovers the diabolical plan.

In his attempt to stop her, Bo befriends a drocket (a dragon that shrinks to fit in your pocket), that’s been enslaved for years by the witch’s dark magic. Bo must face his self-doubt and with the help of the drocket, embark on a rescue mission to save the middle school from an imminent cafeteria-induced death.

Complete at 35,000 words, I'M HERE TO SAVE YOUR DAY: THE ADVENTURES OF BO WOLF is a middle grade retelling of Beowulf, set within the tumultuous battlefields of the middle school playground.

Sarah, I’m submitting to you because I’m confident my book will have a great home with you as its representation. I’m a follower of, Glass Cases, and the first five pages of this MS were posted on your site.
The full manuscript is available at your request.

Thank you,

Jared Larson

4 Query Letter #20

Query Letter #20
Your Name: Andrea Pelleschi
Title: The Carousel Ghost
Genre: Mystery/Paranormal

Dear Ms. LaPolla,

The Carousel Ghost is a 63,000-word middle grade novel that’s part mystery, part ghost story. I am submitting it to you because I saw that you were recently reading paranormal mystery stories and because you’re interested in strong female characters.

When 14-year-old ghost detective, Kate O’Reilly, takes on a new case at an amusement park, she finds herself pulled back in time into the body of a woman whose husband may have murdered her and stuffed her into one of the carousel horses.

Hired by the curator at the park museum, who’s tired of her artifacts being tossed around in the middle of the night, Kate thinks it’s a simple poltergeist. But when she rides the antique carousel, she finds herself transported back in time and into the body of Isabelle, a ghost who died 80 years ago. In fact, each time Kate rides the carousel, she relives another snippet from Isabelle’s life. Rumor has it that Isabelle’s husband, a famous carousel carver, murdered her and put her body inside one of the horses.

Kate rushes to solve the case before curator puts the beautiful horse on display in the park museum, meaning Kate won’t be able to ride it anymore and learn all of Isabelle’s secrets—-or solve the case. And if she can’t solve the case, Isabelle will haunt Kate forever because, as Kate knows from her 14 years of ghostly experiences, ghosts have all the time in the world.

Currently, I am a children’s book editor and have experience in mass market, trade, and educational publishing. My writing credits include novelty books, storybooks, and leveled readers. I have an MFA in creative writing from Emerson College and also belong to SCBWI.

Thank you for you time and consideration. May I send you sample chapters or the complete manuscript of The Carousel Ghost?


Andrea Pelleschi

3 Query Letter #21

Query Letter #21
Middle Grade
Maddie & Mook And The Message In The Bottle

Dear Ms. LaPolla,
When young Maddie and her puppy Mook find a mysterious old bottle with a message inside, they begin an adventure to the Caribbean to find the boy who set the bottle into the sea.

The mysterious bottle crested the wave and glimmered in the sun, catching twelve year old Maddie’s eyes as it surfed the foamy water to the shore. Mook, her rambunctious little puppy barked and hopped in the water dodging the bottle that attacked him while he played with the crabs.

Salt water and seaweed splashed in Maddie’s face as she jumped for the bottle before the tide sucked her treasure back out to sea. It was an old message in a bottle and the treasure hunter in Maddie made her wonder where the bottle had come from. Who wrote the message?

The message inside the old bottle challenges Maddie to find the boy who threw the bottle in the sea, but all she has to go by are a few cryptic initials and the name Wendell Chinnery. A chance trip for her mother to do a tropical photography shoot brings the little girl to the Caribbean and her quest begins. With the companionship of Mook, the help of the internet and good detective work, Maddie is on an adventure that takes her across the ocean to find the boy who wrote her the message.

Maddie & Mook and Message in the Bottle is a middle grade adventure that will appeal to any young reader and is complete at 27,830 words. The story was inspired by a real message in the bottle. The message inside was written by a little girl who wanted to make a new friend. I currently write two online entertainment columns, freelance for regional magazines and am a member of the SCWW. Maddie and Mook is my third book.

Thank you in advance for your valued consideration.


RC Shivers

3 Query Letter #22

Query Letter #22
Name: Stina Lindenblatt
Title: Lost in a Heartbeat
Genre: YA romantic suspense

Dear Ms. LaPolla,

Most seventeen-year-olds keep secrets, but Calleigh’s could cost her best friend her life.

A guy assaulted Calleigh at a party. There’s no way she can tell anyone why she quit competitive swimming. He threatened to kill her best friend if she did. After looking over her shoulder for the past ten months, Calleigh finally thinks she’s safe—until she and her friends visit the local Renaissance festival. A stranger passes her a message given to him by a masked guy: “Hope you haven’t forgotten your promise, Calleigh. I haven’t.” She’s afraid to tell the cops because the psycho might strike before they can track him down, and she doesn’t remember what he looks like (dissociation, anyone). The only person she can tell is her new friend, Aaron. He kinda figures things out— never a good idea to approach a girl who has pepper spray and not give her some kind of warning first.

Aaron comes up with a plan: pretend they’re dating so he can keep an eye on her and figure out who the stalker is, then they can go to the cops. But as she falls for Aaron, she discovers they’re linked in a way she could never have imagined—a connection that could be deadly for Calleigh.

LOST IN A HEARTBEAT is a 77,000-word, YA romantic suspense. It will appeal to readers who enjoy the character-based stories by Sarah Dessen and Sarah Ockler, which deal with healing and moving on. It will also appeal to those who love the romance and danger in PERFECT CHEMISTRY and THE BODY FINDER.

I’m a member of the SCBWI and YALitChat. During the past four years, I’ve attended New York City and Los Angeles annual SCBWI conferences, and recently completed two online fiction writing courses through Writer’s Digest, including one on writing for teens.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

4 Query Letter #23

Query Letter #23
Rak M Nay & Sangay Glass
Title: Arcanom: The Forgetful Future
Genre: Y/A Fantasy Novel and Manga Series

Dear Ms. LaPolla

Sorry, but I have to quote your blog post because it had me in stitches, and it perfectly reflects the moment when kids realize they’re reaching adulthood. You said, "If 16 is supposed to be this great and wonderful age, and I don't feel any different, then what the hell is 17 going to feel like?" Caught in the middle of a very grown up war, the high school students of Arcanom feel the same because they’re wedged between being eligible to fight while still being treated like kids.

In Arcanom: The Forgetful Future, a Y/A modern time travel fantasy, 138,000 words that will appeal to older readers of His Dark Materials and Harry Potter...

The future seems bleak when Allix dreams a classmate must die by her hand to prevent a bloody conflict between sorcerers and the ordinary people of Earth, but it’s only a dream, right?

Perhaps, let’s start at the beginning.

Allix has great expectations after she’s taken from her Ukraine homeland on the Black Sea and sent to Arcanom’s military academy to become a warrior sorceress. However, her childish fantasies about magical realms and casting spells soon dissolve into a grim reality. Magic is hard work, boys are still goofy, fairies fart, and young mages are dying in a multiple world political war over Earth’s fate.

Allix knows things won’t get better. She’s been to the future and seen what it’s like, according to what the people in her dreams keep telling her. By the time she discovers the deceptive true purpose of her dreams, the window of opportunity is closing. She finds herself forced to choose between killing a classmate to save millions or taking a risk to save everyone.

The future will never be the same once Allix and her new friends unite to change destiny before it changes them forever.

As a writer, I use my experiences as a psychiatric nurse and a mom with two learning disabled (LD) teenagers to address really tough issues for teens and help parents and caregivers teach LD kids social and life skills in my two web series, Teen Angst: Truce and Colorful Minds. I’ve published several inspirational true stories in Chicken Soup for the Soul and Haurah Magazine.

My co-writer and genius behind the Arcanom series is Brazilian Y/A author and comic book creator, Rak M Nay. He and I are also developing a manga series for Y/A and M/G reluctant readers and colorful kids based on the Arcanom characters, called, Arcanom Quests.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks for your time. Have a Great Day!

5 Query Letter #24

Query Letter #24
Name: Carol Riggs
Genre: YA light science fiction

Dear Ms. LaPolla,

I read with interest your recent interviews on the Market My Words and YA Highway blogsites. Based on your interest in original, character-driven stories, I would like to submit my light science fiction novel, SHAPERS.

In 2039, seventeen-year-old Morgan Dey's job as a Shaper involves helping other teens lose weight--by temporarily inhabiting their bodies. The transformation from flabby to fabulous is made possible by replacing an overweight client's brain waves with hers, and exercising the pounds away. However, when Morgan becomes Shaper for a teen client who is 100 pounds overweight, she soon discovers it's not a simple "walk in the park" to shed that many pounds.

Along with various diet and exercise obstacles, Morgan faces a tangle of identity issues. Is she a real person in her client's body--or a copy of brain waves that merely thinks she's Morgan? Also, how much of her budding new romance is based on her borrowed self, and how much is due to her own personality?

External pressures soon shove Morgan's identity issues into the sidelines. Anti-Shaper groups begin protesting the ethics of brain-wave shuffling in increasingly violent ways, turning from heckling to bombings. As Morgan makes a horrifying discovery at the heart of the clinic, she finds that she stands to lose much more than the 100 pounds she'd originally signed up for.

SHAPERS is complete at 61,000 words, and is currently being reviewed upon request by Christy Webster of Random House. I am an active member of the SCBWI. Thank you for your time in reviewing this query; I look forward to hearing from you.

[name, address, email, phone, website]

1 Query Letter #25

Query Letter #25
Your Name: MarcyKate
Genre: YA Ghost Story

Dear Ms. LaPolla,

Seventeen-year-old Tessa James does her damnedest to ignore the implications of the letters appearing on her nightstand, but when the accidents begin there's no more ignoring the ghosts in the theatre next door.

Soon Tessa discovers the letters are pieces of a diary and the tale of Ava Dubois, a runaway millgirl turned rising starlet, begins to unravel. As Tessa is unwillingly drawn into Ava’s past, connections to the present become stark—and scary. Manchester’s Castle Theatre, her employer and once Ava's, is about to produce Hamlet, the very play canceled by Ava’s untimely death in 1935. A bizarre series of accidents plague the theatre staff, while the steady stream of letters and rumors of ghosts force Tessa into a dangerous game. She wants no part, but the spirits won’t leave her alone, nor will the suspicious detective investigating the accidents. With the body count piling up—in the past and present—Tessa must checkmate her ghosts and Ava's if she wants to live long enough to have a future.

I'm seeking representation for THE GHOST WRITER, a YA ghost story complete at 60,000 words. I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Literature and Music from Hampshire College. As the former marketing director of a professional theatre, I have the skill-set to actively promote my work. That theatre and its longstanding legends of hauntings inspired my book.

Last spring you read GLOW, another project of mine, and I hope you’ll find THE GHOST WRITER to be more to your taste. I would be happy to supply sample chapters or a full manuscript upon request.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


3 Query Letter #26

Query Letter #26
Name: Jamie Manning
Title: Ever
Genre: YA Paranormal

Dear Ms. LaPolla,

Waking up in a coffin hungry for blood is only the beginning for Everly Blue. Her desire to pound back plasma, though, pales in comparison to her desire for Chance Caldon, the hottie who dug her up. He's gorgeous, super-nice, and has delicious-smelling blood that Everly very much wants to taste. But when Chance tells Everly that she's now half vampire, her world turns upside down.

Half vamp? No way. Everly can't believe it. Not until Devon, a thousan-year-old vampire, shows up and tells her it's true. And that he's the one who turned her. Now Everly has to deal with that sudden lust for blood and a sudden desire to see Devon dead. She's a monster now, she can feel it. And her life might as well be over.

But redemption may not be lost. Devon turned Everly to save her life after finding her nearly dead, and now he's giving her a chance to reclaim her humanity. The price? Kill 100 vampires or stay a bloodsucker forever.

So with Chance by her side and no other choice, Everly sets out to get her life back. All the while dealing with her growing feelings for her human saviour, her hatred for Devon (who she knows is hiding something), some new-found vampire-hunting friends and that pesky taste for blood that just won't go away.

But when Everly starts killing vampires, the local coven decides to find her first, igniting a battle that could destroy all that Everly has worked for. In the end, Everly is forced to make a decision that may be impossible to live with, undead or not.

My young adult novel, EVER, is complete at 70,000 words. I think fans of the supernatural will enjoy this story of a girl thrown into a life of danger and romance. Thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.


Jamie Manning

2 Query Letter #28

Query Letter #28
Only one man can make the magical stones that repel dark creatures and keep the island safe; and when that man goes missing, a shipwrecked twelve-year-old, Bennett Nelson, sets out to find him.

Bennett Nelson washes ashore Isla de Sangra Mala after a fiery shipwreck, only to find the natives have been anticipating his arrival. Years before his birth, Bennett’s name was carved into the Shield of Stone by a mystical, prophetic creature. A stone that holds the names of every hero or warrior to walk the island.

Because his name is on the stone, Bennett is placed in a special camp for children of the Brotherhood; an organization bound together against an evil man who wants control of the island, Luciadoye the Great. There he attends lessons, learns of magical stones that can do almost anything, plants that can gobble you up in three bites, and potions that would make for an awesome practical joke.

It's all fun and games until Dr. River, the only known maker of the stones, goes missing, and Luciadoye is the number one suspect. Wanting to prove himself to the Brotherhood, Bennett sets out to find and rescue the Doctor, taking his two new friends with him. But rough terrain and lying adults stand in their way. They must hurry before Lucidoye can use Dr. Rivers' power to take over the island.

I am seeking representation for my middle grade heroic fantasy, BENNETT NELSON AND THE MAKER OF THE STONES. It is complete at 55,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

A. J. Spindle

2 Query Letter #29

Query Letter #29
Jess Pettit
Leeam and the World of Two Moons
YA Fantasy Fiction

Dear Ms. LaPolla,

When people read fiction, they escape from the mundane into the fantastic. A good work of fiction is an open door to somewhere the reader never wants to leave. In that way, anyone who's ever read a good book will empathize with the plight facing Leeam Lace, the main character of my story.

Fifteen-year-old Leeam regains the ability to use his legs after waking up in a mysterious, parallel world, but each step he takes into this empty, dying land brings him closer to disaster.

The story begins as Leeam chases his cat, who he thought was dead, into the woods. His wheelchair catches on the touch terrain and spills Leeam head first into a rock. When Leeam wakes, he's shocked to find that not only can he walk, but that he is among strange and fantastic creatures, including shape-shifters like Maybelle, who discovers Leeam in the forest her tribe has taken refuge in.

Maybelle's tribe survives through secrecy—through them, Leeam discovers secrets about his own past and disability. He'll have to come to grips with these and a budding romance with Maybelle; though, time is running out for the World of Two Moons. The tyrannical Overseer of Day, an angry Living God draws near, bent on reclaiming what was stolen from his childhood, and will stop at nothing short of global genocide to do so. Ultimately, Leeam must decide if he is ready to give his life for a world that isn't even his; to risk returning to a life without Maybelle. And worse: to confront the possibility that like good fiction, Leeam's entire adventure may have been too good to be true.

Thank you for taking the time to read this query about my 50,000 word Y.A. fantasy, Leeam and the World of Two Moons.


Jess Pettit

2 Query Letter #30

Query Letter #30
Your Name: Jim Hill
Genre: Middle-grade novel

Dear Ms. Dear Ms. LaPolla,

Sixth-grader Marshall spent the summer preparing; downloading school bus schedules, memorizing teacher names, studying school maps, and practicing clarinet (because in sixth grade you never know when a jam session will breakout). He has the perfect plan to kick-start a new year and really make a name for himself. M.Alice, his evil, older sister, has other ideas (put Lucy Van Pelt, a pit bull and every mean girl you’ve ever known in a blender and you might end up with her equal).

From the moment he arrives at school, Marshall’s plan gets tossed in the dumpster. The school web site didn’t mention gym class with fitness evaluations. Or the schedule changes “to accommodate testing” that put band at the very end of the day. And it definitely didn’t talk about Big Mike, the sixth-grade bully (for three years running).

And if he somehow overcomes those obstacles, he still must outwit her.

M.Alice begins her takedown during class assembly, hitting him with nuclear-level humiliation by way of a hacked presentation and damning photographic evidence of Marshall’s loserdom (two words: superhero underwear). Then she gets personal and steals his clarinet. His only chance to find it and get to jazz band on time is to overcome the class bully, survive gym, and solve the riddle she left in his empty instrument case.

When your evil sister promises to ruin your life, believe her.

THE CASE AGAINST MY SISTER: SIXTH GRADE is a 30,000 word, fast-paced middle grade novel. It’s like a Michael Bay movie set in a middle school, without the explosions and with a coherent plot.

I am member of the SCBWI and a Board member for the Cape Cod Writers Center, and I too want to see Ender’s Game made into a movie. Just not directed by Michael Bay.

Thanks for you consideration.

Jim Hill

2 Query Letter #31

Query Letter #31
Genre: Upper Middle Grade – Contemporary

Dear Sarah LaPolla,

When 14-year-old artist Inky Kahn picks the new girl, Amanda, as his secret muse, he never imagines his drawings will be used by a creepy game developer to lure his classmate to danger.

Thanks so much for offering your time to allow us to pitch. I’m looking for representation for MEGALAND, a 50,000 word high-tech YA thriller set in the under-parented, high-expectation world of a Manhattan international prep school.

Inky’s cyber-geek friend, Rungs, turns him on to a computer game in development, thinking it’ll help Inky get over his father’s death and be a way to showcase his art. But when the new girl cuts her hair to mimic one of the drawings and starts talking about an upcoming date as if Inky was the developer, Inky and Rungs do some cyber-sleuthing and discover that Amanda has made a date with a convicted child molester.

But they’re smart kids, too smart to be duped, especially when Inky thought the game developer was his friend, or at least someone he could open up to when they chatted. Equipped with spy gear from Rungs’ intelligence-officer father and a provocative drawing by Inky, they try to trap the creep before he can put his hands on their friend.

My essays and articles have been published in The New York Times, The Boston Herald, Sojourner, The New York Press,, Yahoo Shine and other publications. My professional background in media marketing and I’m currently an interactive content manager. I would actively use my contacts and experience to market this book.

Thanks so much for your consideration.


3 Query Entry #32

Query Entry #32
Name: Lindsey
Title: requiem
Genre: YA Contemporary

Dear Ms. LaPolla:

As a sixteen-year-old social pariah and reform school attendee, Ben Callahan knows what it’s like to feel invisible. It doesn’t help that his older brother Crick is *that* guy— the one every girl wants to date and every guy wants to be. But when Crick decides to chase a handful of Tylenol with a bottle of vodka, it flips the world on its axis for everyone he leaves behind, including Ben.

When Ben rummages through his brother’s stuff— mostly to see if there’s anything cool he can swipe— he uncovers a note from “M” and two simple words complicate everything: I’m pregnant. It’s soon obvious that Miriam, Crick’s perfect girlfriend, is not pregnant. But Marissa, the so-called school skank, is.

As Ben digs into his brother’s past, he must reconcile the fact that the Crick everyone knew was only one version of the whole. And ultimately Ben must decide what’s more important: revealing the skeletons in his brother’s closet or getting rid of the ones in his own.

My contemporary YA novel REQUIEM is complete at 49,000 words and is told through multiple points of view. I have an MFA in creative writing and am a member of SCBWI.

I’m querying you because you’ve requested material from me in the past and I know you are a fan of coming-of-age stories, specifically The Catcher in the Rye, which in many ways inspired my manuscript.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Lindsey C.

2 Query Letter #33

Query Letter #33
Laura Diamond
YA Dystopian

Dear Ms. LaPolla:

A genetic mutation makes seventeen-year-old Justin Talent an outcast—it also makes his anemic blood a drug. A drug that can kill his sister’s murderer.

In a world where a vaccine-induced immortals drink blood to survive, Justin knows his days in government sanctioned safe houses are numbered. Especially since he failed to stake Alex, the wannabe vampire who snapped his sister’s neck. The one thing he wants to do before he dies is get revenge. Justin searches the human slave district, even the wilds outside the city for Alex, but the leech finds him first and decides to keep him around for his rare blood.

Justin has no intention of becoming the bloodsucker’s drug dispenser. He’s got a great plan to kill Alex—overdose him with his own blood—but he’s got to figure out how to get close enough to do it without losing his own life in the process.

My YA dystopian, TALENT’S BLOOD, is complete at 64,000 words. I am a psychiatrist with clinical and teaching experience in an academic setting as well as one of the semi-finalists of the St. Martin's Press New Adult contest of 2009. I would be happy to send a complete manuscript of TALENT’S BLOOD upon your request.

Thank you for your consideration,

Laura Diamond, MD

1 Query Letter #34

Query Letter #34
Your Name: Bethany Morrow
Title: The Last Life of Avrilis
Genre: YA Dystopian

Dear Ms. Sarah LaPolla,

When Avrilis saves the life of a boy meant to die, her unscripted behavior forces the two of them to run - not knowing whether the hunters or the end of the age will catch up to them first.

As one of your followers on Twitter, I am pleased to submit my novel, THE LAST LIFE OF AVRILIS, for your consideration based on your interest in science fiction, literary and young adult literature.

Sixteen-year-old Avrilis isn’t sure a world that replays is worth saving. An orphaned Sentient living at the end of the age, she knows that time repeats and that any Sentient guilty of change becomes prey for the hunters. When she saves the life of a street urchin meant to die, the two discover the Sentient Underground – and that the father she believed dead is the prophet with a plan to end the world for good.

Staying one step ahead of the hunters and the end of time, Avrilis must uncover her father’s motive and choose a side. She can join the fight with the boy whose life she saved or face the aboveground while she searches for the one she’s loved in every life before.

THE LAST LIFE OF AVRILIS is a YA dystopian steampunk that leans toward the literary and is completed at 55,000 words. It has a vivid binary world as its setting, series potential and is a multiple submission.

Thank you for your consideration,

Bethany Morrow

3 Query Letter #36

Query Letter #36
Your Name: Larissa
Title: Lure
Genre: YA Paranormal

Dear Ms. LaPolla,

Fifteen-year-old Mitch would rather pound a nail through his thumb than read, so when everyone in his small South Dakota town starts obsessing over a book, he hopes the craze will pass quickly. But LURE is no ordinary book--soon teachers are stopping class to read, and Mitch's mom forgets to make dinner as she turns the pages.

Before long, it seems only Mitch and his best friend Jen have avoided getting sucked in--and the situation has become more dire. The streets are empty. People aren't eating or drinking. When Mitch's dad is injured, he continues to read through the pain, and the hospital is full of nurses and doctors absorbed in LURE, their jobs forgotten. Even as Mitch realizes the town is reading itself to death, Jen succumbs to the book's pull, leaving him alone. He must find LURE's secret ... or lose everyone he loves.

Thank you for considering my YA Paranormal novel, LURE. I am a member of SCBWI and the Florida Writers Association. I follow you on Twitter and read your blog, and hope LURE fits what you are looking for. Thank you for your time.


Larissa Hardesty

3 Query Letter #39

Query Letter #39
Carrie Dair
Control Line
YA Contemporary

Dear Ms. LaPolla,

In an interview you did with the YA Highway I noticed that you were looking for older YA, as well as strong characters and a coming of age. In CONTROL LINE, seventeen year old Kate McCormac struggles with a new home, old dreams, and a firefighter who will do anything to help her overcome her fear of fire. Even if it means putting her own life on the line.

When her fire fighting father is killed in a house fire, Kate knows her life is in ruins, confirmed when the government questions the means to his death and challenges her family’s claim to financial compensation. Emotionally and financially drained, Kate’s family is forced to leave the lush beaches of California to the barren desert of Panaca Nevada where her mother’s childhood home promises to do more than give them a fresh start. It threatens to reveal a secret that Kate has held for nearly a year. A secret that could destroy what’s left of her life.

Betrayed by the government and the decisions of her mother, Kate fights against moving on; battling with nightmares and past memories, as well as the one person who can give her hope. Grant is the young smoke jumper who has known Kate forever, and is now willing to do whatever it takes to make her well. Even to the point of risking her life. Now Kate must choose. Accept Grant and the dangerous future he holds, or reject his love and risk being trapped in the past forever.

CONTROL LINE is a contemporary YA, complete at 120,000 words. Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Carrie Dair

1 Query Letter #40

Query Letter #40
Your Name: Cheryl Angst
Title: Nikko's Bond
Genre: Upper MG dystopian

Dear Ms. LaPolla:

When his best friend is sentenced to death, Nikko must choose between saving her or betraying the soul he's been bonded to since birth.

I follow you on Twitter as well as read your blog, and I love how you're providing an open mike of sorts to writers who wish to share their work. I am submitting my upper MG dystopian (with light sci-fi elements) for your consideration.

Twelve-year-old Nikko has never left the nursery. He’s never been to the corner store, or met anyone from outside the compound – not even his parents.

Nikko is a host, a child bred to symbiotically support one of the beings known as the Guardians. Bonded at birth, he’s lived his entire life with a single goal: prepare for the moment when he and his symbiont physically become one. With his merge only days away, Nikko must leave the nursery and say goodbye to the one person he loves as much as his symbiont, his best friend Samatia.

Unwilling to face the future without each other, Nikko concocts a risky strategy to bring Sam along. His plan succeeds, but what began as a means of staying together becomes a death sentence for Sam when her symbiont dies. Torn between friendship and desire, Nikko must decide: merge with his symbiont and become truly whole, or save Sam and spend the rest of his life a fugitive from the Guardians.

Nikko’s Bond is a stand-alone with series potential and can best be described as Schooled meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The novel may appeal to readers who enjoyed Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Shadow Children series or Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy.

1 Query Letter #41

Query Letter #41
Your Name: Shelliep
Title: The Last Stationmaster
Genre: Contemporary/Historical

Punished with a summer stay on a remote family farm, a delinquent fifteen-year-old finds ties to the Underground Railroad that stops a national disaster.

Nate Daniels lands in trouble one too many times for his parents' comfort and ends up in North Carolina with his grandparents for the summer. Soon after he arrives, he discovers a long kept family secret.

Nate learns that his grandparents' estate dates back through the family since the antebellum era. He questions how his African-American forefathers ran the farm during the South's heydays of slavery. Why hidden rooms are built into the house? And why his family won't talk about it.

With laptop and cell phone privileges revoked, Nate's efforts to research the farm's history stalls until he meets Hannah and her brother. The snooping trio uncovers a link between the farm and the Underground Railroad. Good, right? But more research suggests that Nate's very distant and very black grandfather owned slaves. Nate's convinced an explanation for his ancestor's actions lay hidden in a series of ghostly clues.

But not all the mysterious happenings on the farm can be blamed on the ghost. Nate finds a falsely accused terrorist who's using the rambling property to escape a manhunt. Hajji claims to be a government spy with crucial information that a mole at the Pentagon wants to keep him from delivering. Nate isn't convinced until Hajji saves his life. Now, to get the Intelligence to safety and stop an ambush of U.S. military troops, Nate must use everything he's learned about the farm, the UGRR, and follow in the footsteps of his forefather as he becomes THE LAST STATIONMASTER.

Greetings Sarah! I love writing stories with a bit of history. My writing won Honorable Mention in the RPLA and was a quarterfinalist in ABNA's 2010 competition.

3 Query Letter #43

Query Letter #43
Author: Britt Leigh
Genre: YA
Title: Shot on the Wing

Dear Ms. LaPolla:

Calling foul is quick-witted17-year-old Angela Bennett's favorite part of being a reporter, but when she exposes a varsity basketball recruiting scandal, she finds herself out of bounds with the team, the public, and worst of all, her crush, the Ian, star of the JV team.Told entirely through varied media – class notes, bathroom wall graffiti, blogs, and even news scrawl – Shot on the Wing gives you the scoop from every angle.

Angela’s assignment: the BirchDown BullDogs basketball team. While the town glorifies the varsity players, covering them is not exactly how Angela envisioned launching her reporting career. But the adorkable and athletic Ian at least gets her romantic life on the court. When Angela accidentally leaves her still-hot tape recorder in the office after an interview with the varsity coach, she stumbles upon a college recruitment scandal involving sex, money, and drugs. Angela must find her voice to raise up the truth.

Shot on the Wing is a 33,000-word young adult novel, a project originated in the mentorship portion of the Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children program at Simmons College. It draws upon my passions and studies from my degree in Journalism from the University of Florida. My writing for young adults has been featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Getting into College with the story “It’s a Sure Bet” and “Sweater Girl” in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Middle School, and online at I am a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.


Britt Leigh

0 Query Letter #45

Query Letter #45
Name: Angela Goughnour
Title: Where The Stones Speak
Genre: YA Historical Fantasy

Dear Ms. LaPolla,

In ancient times, standing stones were erected to protect the purveyors of divine prophecy known as sibyls. Sent to the sons of man during the deluge of Noach, their lives were in constant peril as many an empire sought control of their prophetic gifts.

Banished by those too fearful to harbor one so marked with magick, sixteen-year old Iona, clan ruler on The Isle of Virgins, wields a javelin and sword to protect her refuge and ensure the existence of her kind. But when she discovers she is more than a fledgling prophetess, she is a sibyl of ancient lineage, Iona must embark on a journey to find her sacred circle of stones, where they say no dark magick can breech, and proclaim her oracles to the multitudes before they fall victim to false truths— But there are many who seek to silence the ancient world’s last free sibyl.

When King Tarquin of Rome learns of Iona, he dispatches Rome’s legions and a prophetic pawn of his own: Attius, a young augur able to locate Iona by divining the heavenly signs. But when Attius notices how King Tarquin corrupts the prophecies for his own glory and greed, he begins to reconsider his purpose. And a recently unleashed demon seeks revenge towards the sibyls for his centuries of enslavement. Fearful of being bound again, he will misalign the signs and incite confusion so that man does not once again learn the craft of magick from the sibyl who holds the knowledge to bind him.

Based on the historical legend of the sibyls, The Sibylline Prophecies and The Lesser Key of Solomon the King, Where The Stones Speak, a Young Adult Historical Fantasy, is complete at 75,300 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Angela Goughnour

3 Query Letter #46

Query Letter #46
Traci Van Wagoner
Title: Searching
Genre: MG Historical Fantasy

Dear Ms. LaPolla,

Found in an old Indian granary, a magic stick drags twelve-year-old Chris into an ancient quest to save a Thunderbird spirit trapped within the coal mine; but the mine owner has other, greedier, ideas for the buried Thunderbird.

Crystal, called Chris, had no idea she’d be plopped into the middle of a living ghost town when Dad moved the family out west. Some fresh start—midnight ghostly figures pointing at her, mysterious drums, magical sticks and hidden secrets. She wants to go home. But home is gone, buried along with Mom.

When she finds a carved stick in an old Indian granary, she’s pulled into ancient quest from the first age of man when Thunderbirds flew the skies. The last of the Thunderbirds was buried beneath the mountain, and now the quest falls to her to free his spirit. Problem is, she’s not the only one searching for the burial chamber. So is Mr. Blackley, the boss, and he’s not about to let anyone stand in his way of making the biggest find of the century which will make him rich and powerful. Locked in a root cellar, Chris must find a way out to save the Thunderbird spirit and send him home. Everyone should get to go home when they want to.

SEARCHING is a 45,000 word MG historical fantasy set in 1932 in Rains, Utah. Spring canyon was once filled with many coal mines which are now all ghost towns. My dad lived in a couple of these coal camps when he was a kid.

I am a member of SCBWI. My short story, SASSY SLIME SLIDER was purchased by Highlights. I am the illustrator of the picture book DADDY DID I EVER SAY? By 10 to 2 Children’s Books, 2007.

Thank you for your consideration.

1 Query Letter #48

Query Letter #48
Your Name: Charlie Eve
Genre: MG Adventure/Humor/Fantasy

Dear Ms. Lapolla,

When twelve year-old writer Mason Grey’s fictional characters come to life and Princess is kidnapped, she must find her muse and help this misfit band of heroes save Princess from an evil doll collector.

First Mason must maintain her sanity as this neurotic cast of characters takes over her home. Hero is constantly dragging his phobic friend, Sidekick, on backyard blunders where Sidekick is on the receiving end of swollen hips and bruised lips. Villain loves Princess and is convinced Mason is trying to poison him. Meanwhile, bible-thumping Gran and her daffodil spray bottle are determined to rid the house of these “abominations” by dousing them with a daily dose of holy water.

With all the commotion, Mason has lost her inspiration to write and it is only when Princess is kidnapped that she picks up her pen again. Along the way, Mason finds out she is not good at writing under pressure and soon horses become wild boars and saving Princess is no fairytale.

HERO AND VILLAIN is a 32,000 word MG adventure/humor/fantasy novel. I follow your blog, Glass Cases and I am seeking representation from you based on your interest in character-driven stories. I am a freelance writer and member of SCBWI. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Charlie Eve

2 Query Letter #49

Query Letter #49
Valerie Norris
Title: Shattered Glass
Genre: YA Contemporary Coming-of-Age

Dear Sarah LaPolla,

A teenage summer nanny tries to shield children from their parents’ alcohol abuse and violence, while sad secrets tear her own family apart. Your web page indicates that you like coming-of-age stories; SHATTERED GLASS is a YA contemporary coming-of-age story complete at 78,650 words.

Emily is a good, slightly sarcastic teen who expects her worst problems at the lakeside rental cottage to be the young children in her care. She discovers that their parents, the Lockes, fight, drink heavily, and cheat on each other, but she stays to try to shield the children from their parents. Mrs. Locke spends too much time with the man next door, and may have been messing around with a teenager the previous summer. Shocked, Emily seeks advice from her parents, but they are unavailable, emotionally and geographically. The summer continues to spiral downward, with the Lockes’ fights escalating into physical, and Emily is gashed with broken glass while trying to shield one of the kids from harm. She realizes that, although she would do anything for the children, the Lockes’ problems are beyond what she can handle. She goes home, but finds her family fractured beyond repair, her parents separating.

After a summer of trying to hold together another family, she is faced with the wreckage of her own. Emily must make an impossible choice between two parents who love her, but no longer love each other.

I’ve had short fiction published in Golf Digest, Mother’s Manual and The Petigru Review, and won first place in South Carolina Writer’s Workshop 2009 fiction contest. Would you like to see the manuscript?


Valerie Norris

3 Query Letter #51

Query Letter #51
Liz Heinecke
Genre: middle grade fiction

Attn. Ms. LaPolla,

Twelve-year old Jess has heard of Merlin, but she'd rather read about horses than King Arthur. If you told her she’d be torn away from a backpacking trip in California and flung into the aftermath of a spell cast by Merlin’s son, she'd look at you like you were crazy. If you said she'd be stuck on this adventure with her little sister and a teenage boy, you'd see the biggest eye-roll ever. The part about getting lost in a strange world where she'd have to battle monsters would get her attention though. She acts tough, but Jess would rather eat sand than take a risk.

From a granite slab where she's hanging out, Jess is transported to an ancient alter. She wakes up next to her sister Piper and a teenage boy named Will, who joined them just before they vanished. Standing stones surround them, but Jess is pretty sure they're not in England when they're attacked by strange wolves, stumble on Moonstone Castle and discover a society where the adults have been spirited away.

Teenage girls, led by a teen queen named Morgan, have taken over the stone fortress and forced the boys into servitude. Jess makes friends with an outcast named Sela and things are fine until Aisling, a black stallion coveted by Morgan, chooses Jess as a companion. Morgan exiles Jess and her friends to the mountains.

Sela admits that she’s Merlin’s daughter and that her brother took a magic stone California, where Jess found it and a second stone to King Arthur’s England, where Morgan stole it. The friends face a series of adventures as they search for the missing third stone that will take them to Merlin.

MERLIN’S DAUGHTER is complete at 41,500 words.

Thank you!

Liz Heinecke

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

18 WOW Wednesday: K. M. Walton

Today's guest blogger, K.M. Walton, spent ten years as a public middle school language arts teacher and loved every single day in her classroom. She now spends her time coaching teachers on highly effective instructional practices and writing, writing, writing and more writing. She is represented by Sarah LaPolla from Curtis Brown Ltd. and considers herself blessed on many levels.

You can find K.M. on her blog, on Twitter, on She Writes , and on Teen Fire.

Finding the Nugget of Gold

First, thank you to the lovely Marissa and Martina for extending their guest post invitation. I’m honored.

This post is for three kinds of writers:

Writer A: You have this genius idea for a book, maybe even a few notes on said book, but have conjured every know excuse to mankind…and just haven’t started it.
  • My eyes water when I stare at my computer screen for extended periods of time – I’m a human being, not a machine!
  • My bangs prevent me from seeing what I type.
  • The sound my office chair makes when I sit down annoys me and I don’t like to be annoyed.
  • I’ll hit the wrong keys because my nails are just too damn long.
  • And the ever popular and ever persistent…I don’t have time.

Don’t hide, you know who you are.

Writer B: You have completed a book, maybe even revised it until your brain exploded, but can’t seem to get a second book written. Your excuses may sound a little bit like this…
  • It’s only been two years (one year, ten years, etc…) since I wrote my first book, what am I a machine?
  • I’m not starting anything new until my first novel is as perfectly perfect as perfect can get. 
  • I have this idea for another book but geez, I can’t do it again (to be perfectly honest, I can’t believe I did it the first time).
  • I know the first book was a fluke and there is no way in hell I can write another book, no way.
  • And the ever popular and ever persistent…I don’t have time.

Don’t hide, you know who you are.

Writer C: You have written multiple books, maybe even have some published, but you consistently sabotage yourself at every twist and turn. Your excuses go like this…
  • I can’t do it again, I just can’t. 
  • I’m out of ideas -- what do you think I am a machine? 
  • I’ve already written two (three, six, ten) books, can’t you leave me the heck alone already? I have television to watch!
  • And the ever popular and ever persistent…I don’t have time.

Don’t you hide either, you know who you are.

So, Writers A, B and C, have you ever been asked -- How did you write an entire book? How did you do it? I could never write a book! After I’d written my first novel I typically replied, “I don’t know…it’s crazy, isn’t it? I can’t believe I did it either.”

Two and a half years (and five novels) later, if someone were to ask me today I’d say, “I just sat down and I wrote it.” And that’s the hand-to-heart truth. There is no other way to get a book written. No mystical sparkle dust to sprinkle on your keyboard. No magic wand to wave across your forehead. No double rainbow to gaze into for “the answers.” There’s just your idea and the computer, and that’s it. We all know (and secretly loathe) the saying, “Butt In Chair” because deep down, in our writer’y souls, we know it is the only way for writing to occur...the only way for our book to get written.

One. Word. At. A. Time.

Will our first draft blow chunks? Most likely. Will it require hours and hours of revision? Absolutely. But there is supermodel-like beauty in that vomit covered first draft. And the beauty, when we wash away the ick, is the one gold nugget (sentence, paragraph, page) that when we read it, we smile ear to ear and look around for someone to read it out loud to.

See, we writers are not machines. We are human and flawed and fantastic. We gnaw at our cuticles till they bleed. We have hidden stashes of chocolate in our desk drawers. We have breathy whispers that gust on our inner fires of doubt until they blacken and singe our hopes…our confidence…our dreams.

I don’t know about you, but when my “butt is in chair” actually writing, I feel plugged in and alive. In those moments, I’m pretty sure I have superpowers too, like I could fly, knock out the bad guys, lift up a bus…and definitely put out the fire.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

21 GMCT: Goal, Motivation, Confict, Tension

One of the first lessons a creative writer learns covers GMC: Goal, Motivation, Conflict.  Without a viable GMC combination, it's impossible to create characters that leap off the page and burn themselves into your heart, so GMC is at the core of every memorable work of fiction. Not only does each major character have their own GMC, but ideally, each relates to the major theme and they all come together to govern the characters' actions in the climax.
  • (G)oal. What the character wants and strives for to move the story forward. It must be difficult to achieve and come with its own inherent challenges and obstacles, and each choice and character change through the novel must make it harder or easier to attain that goal.
  • (M)otivation. The logical, believable reason or reasons the character wants that goal more than anything else in the world and is willing to work toward it instead of giving up when the going gets tough.
  • (C)onflict. The seemingly impossible obstacle or obstacles that will keep the character from attaining the goal until she has proven herself worthy through struggle and hard choices--and the way you keep your readers turning pages.

 Ideally, GMC is both internal (emotional) and external (physical) for every character, which provides them with depth and believability. More ideally, the internal and external GMCs will oppose each other. And most ideally, the GMCs for your critical characters are also in opposition. Those last two steps ensure that your novel not only contains conflict, but natural tension on every page. But bear in mind that natural does not equate to realistic. To create tension, conflict in a novel must be magnified, just as characters must be larger than life.

Tension, according to literary agent and author Donald Maass, is what makes a novel breakout, what makes it sell. He explains it like this:
All of this comes down to opposition of one type or another:
  • The character's external goal conflicts with her internal goal.
  • Circumstances put two of her external goals in conflict with each other so she must choose between them.
  • Another character she loves wants something that conflicts with her own goal.
  • Attaining one suddenly changes circumstances and makes achieving the other impossible.
  • Achieving one would have an impact on others her conscience would not allow.
The options for creating opposition are nearly infinite, but they must arise naturally from the GMC to be believable and truly compelling, and there must be an equally compelling reason why those circumstances occur. Similarly, the reader must understand and believe the reason why opposing characters are thrown together and kept together in a situation of conflict. Externally, their characteristics and goals must be interwoven into the novel's plot so they physically can't evade the conflict that is thrown at them. Internally, their motivation must make it impossible to give up.

To set up this kind of situation, as with anything in your manuscript, it helps to start with a macro view. Debra Dixon provided a simple chart in her excellent book, "GMC: Goals, Motivation, and Conflict.

GOALTo escape her drab existence.To go to the ball and have a chance to marry the prince.
  • She's tired of being her stepmother's scapegoat.
  • She's exhausted by all the work she has to perform.
  • She's worn out by her stepsister's demands.
Marrying someone is her only option for escape.

  • Her innate goodness and loyalty make her reluctant to go against her stepmother's wishes.
  • She is conditioned to fear her stepmother's retribution if she fails to complete her tasks.
  • She knows what she looks like and knows she has no chance of attracting the prince in her rags and cinders.
  • Her stepmother gives her extra work she must perform.
  • She has no dress to wear and no transportation to the ball.

GOALTo keep Cinderella from outshining her own daughters.To prevent Cinderella from going to the ball.
  • She loves her daughters and wants them to prosper.
  • Having once mistreated Cinderella she can't afford to have anyone. know what she has done.
  • Having stolen Cinderella's birthright, she needs to keep Cinderella powerless; a husband would have the power to force her to turn over Cinderella's  share of the father's estate.
She and her daughters are blowing through money so fast she has to help them hook husbands quickly and she wants one of them to land the prince.

  • She knows what she is doing to Cinderella is wrong, but she loves her daughters so much she can't deny them anything.
  • She doesn't want to lose her daughters and knows she will if they get married.
  • The invitation to the ball was phrased in such a way that she would break the law by prohibiting Cinderella from attending.

There's a simple formula to filling out this chart:

Character X wants Goal because  Motivation but Conflict.

That's the overall framework. To turn this into a story though, we need to add a few layers, things like plans and reactions and revised plans, and each plan should create a new opposing factor which will add a new complication. (For a complication worksheet, see here.)  This creates a recursive chain:

Character X wants Goal because  Motivation but Conflict so
New Micro-goal because New Micro-motivation but New Conflict so...

The more interesting the GMC, the more interesting the character and the story. Obviously, the most fascinating GMC should belong to the main character, and based on the above, I'd much rather write about the wicked stepmother than Cinderella because she provides far more opportunities for tension.

To help find and focus the tension in a story or scene, tack an extra column on the right hand side of Debra Dixon's chart.

GOALTo keep Cinderella from being reintroduced to the society she should be part of.To prevent Cinderella from going to the ball.

This opposes what Cinderella wants both internally and externally.
  • She loves her daughters and wants them to prosper.
  • Having once mistreated Cinderella she can't afford to have anyone. know what she has done.
  • Having stolen Cinderella's birthright, she needs to keep Cinderella powerless; a husband would have the power to force her to turn over Cinderella's  share of the father's estate.
She and her daughters are blowing through money so fast she has to help them hook husbands quickly and she wants one of them to land the prince.

There is a ticking clock on her goal, and there are consequences for her success that put constraints on how she will go about achieving the goal. At the same time, there are consequences for failure. This makes it clear she has to walk a knife edge all the way.

  • She knows what she is doing to Cinderella is wrong, but she loves her daughters so much she can't deny them anything.
  • The more she knows what she is doing is wrong, the angrier she is at Cinderella.
  • She doesn't want to lose her daughters and knows she will if they get married.

  • The invitation to the ball was phrased in such a way that she would break the law by prohibiting Cinderella from attending.

Attaining her goal will result in her losing what she loves. At the same time, the more overtly she acts against Cinderella, the more guilty she feels and the angrier she becomes, which she justifies so that she can act against Cinderella even more overtly and egregiously. Her behavior in turn empowers her daughters to also act against Cinderella.

This is, of course, just a very quick example, and it is only the first step. But you can see how important it is to create the set-up for tension in the overall GMC so that you have the opportunity to put tension into every scene.

I, personally, would find it very difficult to write Cinderella's story the way I set her up in this example. I would have to give her a much more compelling reason for going to the ball and far greater opposition to keep her from getting there. On the other hand, I could write the stepmother's story in a heartbeat. Already, I'm wondering what made her the way she is, what makes her love her unworthy daughters so deeply, and whether her conscience will let her find redemption in the end. I feel the need to know, and the outcome isn't clear to me. There's room for her to change what she wants, to get what she wants and find it bitter, to fail and be happy to have done so. THAT provides room for tension and reader engagement.

What do you think? Which story would you rather write? Which story would you rather read?

Happy plotting,


About the Author

Martina Boone is the author of Compulsion and Persuasion, out now in the romantic Southern Gothic Heirs of Watson Island trilogy from Simon & Schuster, Simon Pulse. Illusion, the final book, will be out in October of 2016. Martina is also the founder of, a three-time Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers Site, and, a site dedicated to encouraging literacy and reader engagement through a celebration of series literature. She's on the Board of the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia and runs the program to distribute books to underfunded schools and libraries.