Sunday, December 27, 2009


Sorry for abandoning you guys over the holidays. Hope you had a lovely time.

Sorry also for those of you who have emailed me and are still waiting for a response. I will write back, I promise.

I've starting working on a new project--not a book--and I'm having a good time with it. You can follow me on twitter if you want to track my crashing-and-burning process, because essentially I don't know what the fuck I'm doing.

Anyone have anything exciting happening in the New Year? I have a book going out on submission in a few weeks (hopefully!) I'm psyched.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

How to Contact Me

Do it!

You don't need a good reason or something. I'm not famous. Really. Right now I'm sitting on the couch in my jammies watching some a capella thing my mom TiVod for me (fuck yeah I'm on winter break.) Also, I'm watching the snowpacalypse outside my room (do you know what's going on in Washington D.C. right now? holy mother of...I mean come on now).

So basically, I'm doing exactly what any chick is doing in D.C. right now, I'm just telling you about it because I HAVE A BLOG.


The fact that I have a blog with which to rant about my exceedingly normal life and a few books in which I construct lives that are remarkably less normal than my own doesn't make me famous, and it definitely doesn't make me hard to contact. Here's how to get in touch with me!

Email's probably the easiest way to reach me. I'll get back to you uber-quick because I'm a loser like that. If you ask me to read a query letter, that might take a little longer (I have a few upstanding query letters in my inbox--I will get to you, guys!) because I need to set aside time to read and think about them, and clearly I'm too busy ranting about my life on the internet. My email address is

If you something quick to say, Twitter is great. I always tweet back! @hannahmosk

Facebook is cool too. I have two pages on facebook--a fan page and a personal page. I obviously maintain both of them. You can totally friend my real page, just leave me a note mentioning you read the blog so I don't sit here wondering how the fuck I know you.

You may find me on myspace (I can't even remember) but I'm not really there. I don't even know the passwords. IT'S ALL LIES.

So you can can get in touch with me for any reason, seriously. If you have a suggestion for the blog, I'd love to hear it, or if you have any kind of question I can answer. I'd love to try to help. You can send me your query letters, but it does sometimes take me a little while.

Here are a few other guidelines:

--Right now, I can't read your manuscript for you, even a little bit, sorry, unless we have a previous arrangement. And synopses kill my brain, and it's distinctly possible I might ignore your email out of fear.

--If I don't answer you, try again. Sometimes I'm stupid and don't see shit.

--I have this complete inability to write long emails except in very strange circumstances. Please don't be offended if you write me a few paragraphs and I answer with a few sentences. Rest assured, I feel awkward enough.

--Call me hannah. Seriously. You can capitalize the first h if you want, that's chill. Don't call me Ms. Moskowitz. I'm like an infant.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Happy Editor Appreciation Day!

This post is going to be lame and quick and not NEARLY what Anica deserves, but today is GTFO OF BROWN DAY so hopefully it will suffice.

Anica is my editor at Simon Pulse. She handled BREAK, and she'll also be doing INVINCIBLE SUMMER and whatever that third book turns out to be. And she. Is. Fabulous.

Not only does she do her job with humor, grace, and a hell of a lot of skill, but she makes you absolutely love eviscerating your novel for her. Not to mention, she sends me chocolate bars in the mail.

And every once in a while I'll get an email from her like the one I got this morning...

Do you need any books to read over break? Nothing Like You? Beautiful? The Hollow? Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood? Stupid Cupid? Other Pulse titles? Let me know what you want and I’ll send a package.

Like, are you kidding me? FREE FRICKIN' BOOKS???

I love Anica and I love Simon Pulse.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Let's Answer These Puppies

You guys asked some truly excellent questions. HERE WE GO.

At the moment, would you prefer to write for adults or YAs?

YAs. I just finished my first adult novel, and I'd LOVE to have a career in both adult and YA books, but YA is my passion and probably always will be.

Are you sick of writing for YA?

Nope. But there are things about YA books as a whole that frustrate me. Namely, the hype of fantasy novels to the detriment of contemporary, Twi-hype--I haven't read Twilight, so I have no judgments to make on the quality of the books, but you guys already know I object to the notion that it's the be-all-end-all of modern YA--people's attitudes towards YA and YA writers as a whole...I don't have any complaints you guys haven't heard elsewhere from tons of other people. But, by and large, I love YA and I can't imagine ever getting sick of writing it. I worry that people are going to get sick of me, because a lot of times--big secret here--I do worry that I'm writing different versions of the same novel over and over again. I just hope people disagree.

And I always say I could write about 15 year old boys forever. God, they're so beautiful and angsty. Love them.

What do your parents think of the "content" (gahhh, what a horrible, prissy word) of "Break", i.e. swearing and stuff?

Oh, they're totally cool with it. I learned everything I know from then, y'know? ;)

Plus, my three best friends--all teenage boys--basically live at our house, so they have firsthand experience that some boys really do talk that way.

Do you worry about sharing your writing? I'm not sure what the hard and fast rules are on sharing your manuscript, but I've got a friend who molts whenever I suggest putting an excerpt out on the internet. She is sure people will snatch it up and whore it out and I will be left penniless AND bereft of manuscript rights or something. So, can you spill on the proper pimping protocol of an unpublished, unagented, completely naked of rights novel?

First off, nothing you write is EVER completely naked of rights. Your words are copyrighted (I typed that as "copywritten" the first time. What.) the second you put the down on paper. And, worst comes to worst, there are ways to prove that--your word processor will tell you when you started a document, or if you emailed it to yourself, that's proof, whatevs.

But honestly, I think the chances of someone stealing your novel are really, really slim. And maybe that's naive of me.

i wouldn't suggest putting a whole manuscript online (unless you're doing a serial on your blog or something, and that's a whole different sack of potatoes) but a snippet? Sure.

Yes, there is a chance that someone might steal your idea. But who's left out there who doesn't know that the idea is the easy part? God, I can think of seven ideas for a book a day, but that doesn't mean I have to discipline--or the time--to sit down and write the books for them. And even if I did, it would be a completely different book from someone's based off the exact same idea, just because things always evolve differently, and there is so much variability out there.

And ideas are recycled and reused all the time. And books are similar to other books all the time. And that's entirely okay.

I'll give you an example. A few months before INVINCIBLE SUMMER sold, when the manuscript was already edited, polished, and going out to agents for round of querying numero dos, I started stalking publishers. Because that's how I roll. On Knopf's website, I saw an ad for their new book just out by Brent Runyon, one of my FAVORITE authors. The book? SURFACE TENSION, a coming-of-age about a boy over four summers.

So I basically shot myself and slit my wrists and overdosed on painkillers and told myself my book was never going to sell. And guess what? It sold. We even submitted to Knopf. And they didn't even mention SURFACE TENSION in the rejection!

I didn't steal the idea from Brent Runyon--I swear!--but the two books do have a sort of eerie similarity. They're not by any means identical; INVINCIBLE SUMMER, like most of my stuff, is very very family focused, while SURFACE TENSION is more romantically-based. But if you read descriptions of the two, they definitely sound alike. And they both sold. And, fingers crossed, we'll both be fine.

(Also, you should buy SURFACE TENSION, because I did as soon as I recovered from my wrist-slitting, and it's really good. And also you should buy INVINCIBLE SUMMER, but not for another year, which is annoying.)

Why do you hate Brown? DETAILS PLZ. :)

Bwahahaha. I'm so hard on Brown. To be honest, it's not Brown's fault. Brown is a perfectly lovely school IF you are willing to work your ass off. Which I am not. I want to lie around and write books.

Also, just personal stuff. I don't like being far away from home, and I don't like living in a building full of teenagers. I need my space sometimes. I'm a SENSITIVE ARTIST or some shit.

What's your favorite color? (boring question, I know)

Indigo, due in no small part to my obsession with Hilary McKay's INDIGO'S STAR, which you should also buy. It's MG. I think MGs are some of the best books out there.

How do you feel about YA books today compared to YA books in the past?

I'm crazy about YAs from the 80s and 90s--Joyce Sweeney, in particular. There's this certain kind of angry sitcom feel to them. Everything is super angsty and dramatic and affectionate're not really the same after you read one of them. Stuff now is more realistic, I think, which is cool, but it some ways less fun. I lurve the drama.

Do you think there needs to be more edgy, true-to teenage life, f-bomb dropping books or do you think writers should continue to sugarcoat things?

Ha, I'm sure anyone could predict how I'm going to answer this one--fuck sugarcoating.

What's you favorite song at the moment?

"When My Boy Walks Down the Street" by The Magnetic Fields.

Have you always been a fast writer?

Nope. BREAK was my first fast-draft, and INVINCIBLE SUMMER and the book I just finished (working title THE ANIMALS WERE GONE--more about that in a minute) are the only ones I've written very quickly. Of those, INVINCIBLE SUMMER took the longest--8 days, and was also the shortest, with a first draft of about 23K words--and THE ANIMALS WERE GONE was the fastest and the longest--5 days and 40K words.

I love the ones I write quickly. They feel the most passionate to me, and they're my favorites, and maybe it's not a coincidence that they keep being the ones to sell. But some of my slower drafts turn into good books, too, I think. The first drafts of those generally take me about two to three months.

If you could have one writer, dead or alive, read and critique your work, who would it be and why?

He's not a YA writer, sorry, but...John freaking Irving. I love him so much. And he knows how to pack a punch like no one's business.

I read THE HOTEL NEW HAMPSHIRE when I was staying in a hostel in Florence on a school trip. I was alone in my room, devouring a box of Special K, when I got to the big scary twist. I had to crawl out into the hallway and wait for my best friend to come hold me. I want to do that to someone someday. I want to totally fuck up their lives with words in the middle of a box of Special K.

ooh and how about if they made a movie about your journey/success, who would you want to play you? :)

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, if he doesn't mind the gender-bending.

So I know that your novel-that-hasn't-sold-yet, THESE HUMANS ALL SUCK, is kind of quirky speculative fiction. What's the difference, for you, between writing this kind of YA and contemporary? And which do you like better? And why?

Ohhh, THESE HUMANS ALL SUCK. sniff. I hope someday to bring that shit out of the closet. We'll seeeeeeeeee.

I'm trying to figure out if it feels any different. I think it's scarier for me, trying to write spec; it's like I'm dipping my feet into very unfamiliar territory. I never go very deep into the spec elements, because I'm sure I'm going to screw something up, and intense worldbuilding absolutely scares me. (Pop Quiz: Where is BREAK set? Yeaaaaaaah I don't know either.)

So I probably prefer writing straight contemporary just because it's less scary for me. Btu when the ideas come to me with spec in them, sometimes it's hard to excise out. But I try. Sometimes.

I do love magical realism, so as long as I can tell myself that's what I'm writing, it gets a little easier.

Could you give us a kind of outline of your favourite books that-you-haven't-sold-yet, like THESE HUMANS ALL SUCK and a couple of others? Whenever I read about you mentioning them, I'm always curious :P.

Absolutely. Are you ready? HERE WE GO. Big explanation of ALL MY BOOKS OF ALL TIME.

Warning: This shit is long.

Crash, Burn, Etc. (2005)--a story about a kid named Jason whose mom hangs herself in the basement. His sister tries to keep the family together. Lots of angst. So bad it hurts, but, guys, this was my FIRST NOVEL EVER so it was really exciting. I finished it at the end of 8th grade. I queries FSG with it. I'm so silly.

Color us Blissful (2005)--a boy named Jamie discovers a government plot to eradicate unruly teenagers when his best friend becomes a target. Pretty dumb. I loved it.

Craving Private Ryan (2005)--This was about two half-brothers who met for the first time and fell in love. I was obviously a precocious little thing. No plot, lots of angst. My main character was 19, which was weird, since I was 14. I subbed this one to small presses and got a few partial requests. That was pretty sweet for me. I didn't really know about agents at the time, because I was too busy writing about gay incest to do any research, I guess.

The Sublime (2006)--Jack gets stuck on a mysterious island with some mysterious people, mysterious things ensue. This came out on ebook with a small press. It's out of print now. My agent and I might do something with it, but probably not. We'll see. I like it, but it's very quiet.

Birthday Cake (2006)--The first draft of this one took me 6 months. That's my longest ever. It's been through like a zillion different drafts, and it was the first book I used to query agents. Unsuccessful! Probably won't ever see the light of day. It's cute but quite flawed. It switches viewpoints between 4 best friends the week of their eighteenth birthdays, when they've promised to give up their bad habits.

These Humans All Suck (2007)--So this is the first book I wrote that I think has any hope of being really good. Ian follows his adopted brother to D.C. where he meets his brother's pregnant virgin cousin and wonders if Noel might have been conceived in the same way. I...really, really love this book. I queried my ass off with it, and it's actually the book that got me my first agent, though we subbed BREAK instead and, well, you know what happened after that. We subbed this one after and it didn't sell. I'm not really sad about it anymore. It happens. (Published authors out there--hate to say it, but one book deal, or two book deals, or twelve book deals does not guarantee another.)

Singleton (2007)--This book is randomly pretty awful, which is kind of a shame. It's about identical twins, but it's also about, like, every single thing you could possibly imagine. It tried to do way too much and it didn't work. I stole lots of bits from this and used it in later books, though, so there's that. I queried this one, too (basically I was querying four different books at once) and I got all of two full requests for it.

Break(2007)--yaaaaaay. Originally called If It Ain't Broke. Jonah wants to break all his bones. My first novel, Simon Pulse, 2009, you all know the story. Tons of requests through querying, no offers for months, then suddenly three offers in a week. Wrote the first draft in six days. It was less than 30K--basically a detailed outline. The 2nd draft was much different, added major characters and subplots and things.

Pumpkin Patch Kids (2007-2008) Co-wrote with a really good friend of mine, Andrew Carmichael. I'm really, really hoping things will happen with this one. It's about two teenagers at a boarding school who have a fake romance and a very real pregnancy. I wrote a girl's POV for this one!

A La Mode (2008)--a sequel to Birthday Cake, mainly written just for fun.

Invincible Summer (2008)--Written in eight days of not-sleeping. Like I said, it's a coming of age about a boy and his big family that takes place over four summers. I love it. Break sold a few weeks after I finished this one. It comes out in Spring 2011. It's my second novel--do you see now how ridiculous the terms "first novel" and "second novel" are?

The Beekeeper (2008)--my first NaNo! I like this book okay, but my betas basically trashed it. As did everyone in the publishing world who read it. Haha, okay, I get it, it's not going anywhere. It's a cute romance between two boys at boarding school. Super innocent. 3rd present, switches viewpoints. I stole all the good parts for it and harvested them into The Animals Were Gone.

The Support Group (2009) -- really weird and teeny and...weird. And pretty bad, to be honest.

All Together With Feeling (2009)--drama centered around a high school chorus, told from the points of view of a soprano, an alto, a tenor, and a bass. I have hope for this one. I like it a lot.

A.P.D. (2009)--my first adult book. It's about a leper colony of sorts for people with a blood-borne illness that makes them turn into machines. It's pretty sick. And it has PICTURES. Stay tuned (hopefully).

The Animals Were Gone (2009)--finished this last week. It's about two teenage boys falling in love and staying in love over the course of the D.C. Beltway sniper shootings in 2002. I'm...sort of crazy in love with this one.

So there you have it.

It takes a lot of books to get a book deal.

It takes a lot of really shitty books to get a book deal.

It takes a lot of good books to get a book deal.

And most of all, it just takes tiiiiiime.

When you are hammering out a story at the speed of lightening, I'd like to know what's going through your mind. Are you just putting down whatever comes to mind and riding the wave or are you writing carefully from a well-thought outline in your head (or on paper)?

I don't outline. Generally, I won't start writing until I know the beginning, the end, and a few things that happen along the way. I keep the next big plot point in mind while I'm writing, but I give myself a lot of leeway when I'm trying to get there, and I basically just fool around.

What is your energy is like? Urgent or mellow?

Ha, definitely urgent.

How much do you edit your rough draft and when do you abandon? Do you feel that you edit your work to it's satisfying optimum or do you get scrambled at some point and feel like you aren't sure anymore if it is better or worse for the pen lashes? Do you struggle with tuning in on some of your characters? If a character is giving you a hard time, how do you get them clearer?

I actually only like to edit my first draft once or twice before I had it over to my agent, because I like to get feedback early on in the process. I don't want to burn out before I've done the work that it needs. And...this isn't going to win me any fans, but here we go. I'm not an editor. I'll edit to the best of my ability, but I'll be completely honest and say I do NOT have the ability to see or fix what's wrong with my story as well as, like, an editor. So while I'll clean up the manuscript the best it can, I don't edit the thing to within an inch of its life before I actually get editorial feedback.

Are there any themes or subjects in particular you feel you cannot tackle or feel very uncomfortable in doing so?

I have a hard time with race-related issues; I tried to incorporate some into All Together With Feeling and I'm not sure I was entirely successful.

As your next question says, I do a lot with gay teens, and I feel, to be honest, a little weird about that too. I absolutely love writing gay teens and I don't think I'm going to stop anytime soon, and honestly I'd be fine with that being my brand, of sorts. But there are so many GREAT gay men out there writing GREAT YA fiction about gay boys--David Levithan (I LOVE YOU) and Alex Sanchez come immediately to mind--and I don't want to be, well, the fag hag of YA lit. I'm not going to stop what I'm doing, but it does make me wonder if I'm doing the genre a disservice by stepping all over it with my straight girly feet. I just hope I do a good enough job that nobody minds that, no matter what, I will always be an outsider to the issue.

I do a lot with Jewish or partly-Jewish teenagers feeling ever-so-slightly at odds with their surroundings, and that's really the only minority-related issue I feel like I do well.

You've written about gay males more than once. Any plans for a lesbian or bisexual female protagonist/major character?

No concrete plans, but I do definitely want to have one at some point. The only reason I haven't is that I have so much trouble writing girls. A girl who falls in love with a girl means I have to write TWO GIRLS.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Money, Meet Mouth

Thanks for the comments, you kids rock.

Here's how we're going to put this new READER'S INITIATIVE thing into actions.

Between now and...whenever I decide, we're going to have TWENTY QUESTIONS WITH HANNAH here on the blog. Ask me anything you want--personal, professional, serious, funny, as many questions as you want. Just try and make them interesting? (if you answer me a question I get in every interview, I'm prolly going to give you the canned answer I give in every interview. I'm sorry, it's not personal, it's just there's only so many ways to tell the truth.)

So ya. Post them in the comments. Whatever you want to know. And if it's legal, I'll answer. Aaaaaaand go.

Edit--just to clarify, I'll be answering in a separate post once this one's collected enough comments. So HURRY UP. just kidding. kinda.

Monday, December 14, 2009

statement of purpose, I guess

Sometimes this blog annoys me, y'know?

I love you guys, you guys out there reading this right now, and that's entirely the problem. I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO SAY TO YOU. I don't want to just write a whole bunch of shit about myself, because wow that's boring, and if you honestly care about the mundane details of my life, I gotta say I might me judging you a bit right now. juuuuuudge

No but seriously. Obviously part of the point of this blog is publicity--selling books is good for the self-esteem and the bank account and all that, and if this inspires a few people to pick up a few copies of BREAK, yaaaay. But that's not the only reason I'm doing this.

Here's a secret about me that is probably not a secret at all: I really, really like unpublished writers. Almost 100% of the time, I like unpublished writers best of most people in the world.

Because I still feel like one of you all the time. I still feel like I need help and I have no idea what the fuck I'm doing. And that makes blogging even more awkward, because what the fuck, I don't have words of wisdom, I just happen to have a book deal, y'know? It's just luck and numbers.

But if I can help you, I want to.

So the purpose of this book is basically to ask--how can this blog be the most useful to you? In an ideal world, what kind of things would I blog about? What would I tell you?

If you want to know more about my personal stuff--publication or otherwise--that's totally cool, I can blog about that (but I think you're weird and/or are confusing me with a celebrity). I could talk about (to an extent) what I'm working on now, and what my general writing process is. If you want more query contests and stuff, I can do that to. If you want more ranty advice posts, or more publishing-news type stuff...if you want me to have more attitude, that's easy, or less attitude, which is a little less easy, but still possible...hit me up, guys, how can this blog be the best it can be for you?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Dedication and Acknowledgments

I'm doing this post because I know how badly I'd LOVE to see other authors do it.

I adore dedications and acknowledgments. They're some of my favorite parts of books. Mine were fairly short, as far as I know, but I thought I'd do a post demystifying them nonetheless, in case anyone was curious.

First, my dedication:

To the Musers, who know this was a group effort.

The Musers, The Musers, The Musers. I would be absolutely nowhere without them. the Musers are a writing group I've been a part of since its conception something like two and a half years ago, maybe longer. We were in full, intense swing when the time the idea for BREAK rolled around, and they were absolutely vital to getting it finished. They named the characters, the helped me with the ending (as many reviewers have noticed, endings are not my strong suit), they read draft after draft after draft. They were unbelievable.

And I am SUCH a strong proponent of writer's groups. Find a good one. And I strongly believe that a good group has writer's from all steps of the process. My group has published authors--(Bethany Griffin, of Handcuffs, and Suzanne Young of The Naughty List series), writers currently on submission, writers actively seeking agents, writers working to improve their craft before they look for an agent, and writers who couldn't give less of a shit about getting an agent. And that amount of perspective is unbelievable.

BREAK was absolutely, one million percent a group effort, as emphasized by the acknowledgments:

The ever-fabulous Jenoyne Adams and Anica Rissi, Amanda K. Morgan, Chris, Alex, Emma, Galen, Seth, Abby, Mom and Dad, Motion City Soundtrack, Alexander Supertramp, and Chuck Palahniuk. Thanks for the inspiration.

Jenoyne Adams--my first agent, who sold BREAK.

Anica Rissi--My unbelievably amazing editor from Simon Pulse (more on her next week.) She edited BREAK and will also be doing INVINCIBLE SUMMER and my next book after that (and hopefully more...?) I love her. To pieces.

Amanda K. Morgan--One muser in particular who was instrumental in getting BREAK to be the best it could be.

Chris--Chris is the boy. We've been together for almost three years. BREAK's just about the only book he's ever read. He says he likes it. Thanks, darling.

Alex--my best friend. He reads everything I write the second it's off my fingers. He tells me it's fantastic waaay before it's anywhere near good.

Emma--another best friend, the only female of the bunch. One of the smartest people I've ever met. She sat down with me about halfway through BREAK and helped me plot out the whole thing.

Galen--another best friend. He keeps me fed.

Seth--another best friend. He keeps me sane.

Abby--my beautiful sister.

Mom and Dad--I think this is pretty self-explanatory. They and Abby had very little to do with BREAK or its publication, but they get credit for raising me and stuff.

Motion City Soundtrack--possibly my favorite band of all time, and their angsty energy was a perfect soundtrack to BREAK. I've already shared "Time Turned Fragile" as the song that really echoed the plot for me.

Alexander Supertramp--the codename Christopher McCandless used when he escaped to Alaska, documented in the book and movie Into The Wild. This sounds weird, but he inspired Jesse's character, and I thought of the book just after seeing this movie.

Chuck Palahniuk--hello. He wrote Fight Club.

Hope this was interesting, and if you have acknowledgments and dedications you decide to elucidate, leave a link in the comments so I can see!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Iiiiiiiiiiit's Agent Appreciation Day!

So I have this little agent, I made him out of clay, etc.

Anyway, his name is Brendan Deneen.

When I made the decision to split ways with my first agent this summer, I was completely terrified when no new agent snapped me up right away. I was published! I was hot shit! Blah blah blah. After two aaaaaagonizing months of querying (I know, I know) I finally got an offer from one Brendan Deneen.

I told the other agents what was up, and it eventually came down to a Western-style showdown between Brendan and another agent. I spoke to her on the phone too--she was a big name, very sweet, obviously a complete master of her domain. She knew the publishing world inside and out. There's no way I would have regretted going with her.

And then I talked to Brendan.

"Yeah," he said, speaking of INVINCIBLE SUMMER, "This is going to be a rough sell. I mean, can you imagine someone going into the bookstore and being like...I want a really depressing little book with no plot?"

And I was laughing my ass off.

Brendan sold my book in under a month, I'm pretty sure. And when he called to tell me the news and I didn't have my phone (I was out with my mother, opening a Checking Account. Ain't life grand?) he called the house, talked to my dad, got my mom's cell phone number from him, and tracked me down on my mom's phone. That shit is dedication.

Brendan knows exactly when to tease me and exactly when to tell me I'm a rock star. His emails consistently make me laugh. He has easily the most beautiful baby girl in existence. And he's the only person I've ever met who says "fuck" as much as I do.

He's a rock star, and he's exactly what I needed.

But I want to point out real quick that he was my second agent. My first agent sold BREAK. And things were great for awhile. And then, as sometimes happens in relationships of all kinds, they weren't.

I want to point out that I didn't stick with my first agent when things got too difficult to manage.

Because if you are an agented writer and you're sitting here going, "Shit, my agent isn't NEARLY as cool as Brendan, and s/he would never call my mom/curse with me/tell me I'm fantastic," be open (like I wasn't, for a long time) to the possibility that you might need a new agent.

There are a TON of great agents out there. There are a TON of great writers out there. And there are a ton of ways great agents and great writers can match up that, for whatever reason, don't work. If your relationship with your agent isn't working for you, it really is OK to try again.

The fact that I'm transferring out of Brown next semester doesn't mean it's not one of the best schools in the country, y'know? It's not an insult to Brown. It just means it isn't right for me. (Also, I hate you, Brown, but that's not the point.)

Find an agent who makes your soul sing. Find your Brendan.

Thursday, December 10, 2009





Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Dear XYZ:

In a world with two socially divided classes, made up of genetically-enhanced "gens" and the now substandard bio-originals, or "subs", the classes clash. 

Ruby is a circus star ordered to train on the flying trapeze. She’s appalled to find her partner-to-be, Jobe, is a sub. Everyone knows that subs are incompetent; putting your life in one of their hands means certain death.

Jonah is a sub with a whole different set of problems. He travels to the circus hoping to find solutions. Instead, he finds complications; he finds Ruby. He's drawn to Ruby the first moment he sees her, undeniably attracted to someone who undeniably hates him, and all like him.

CONTORTED is a love story set in a futuristic world where a new kind of class division makes that love forbidden. Written in alternating points of view, the complexity of discrimination is presented by characters on opposite sides of the issue. CONTORTED is complete at 75,000 words.

I chose to submit this novel for your consideration because XYZ.

I have pasted the first pages of my manuscript below per your submission guidelines. I am prepared to send the full manuscript or synopsis if desired. I would like to note that this is a simultaneous submission.

I am a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators as well as an active member of the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, MN. At the Loft, I have taken classes from such people as Andrew Karre of Carolrhoda and Brian Farrey of Flux. I attended the Big Sur Children’s Writing Workshop in December 2008, the Loft’s Festival of Children’s and Young Adult Literature in April 2009, and the SCBWI Conference in LA in August 2009.

Thank you for taking the time to consider representing my work. I look forward to hearing from you. 



I think the problem here is length—you've got a 300-word-plus query, which isn't a humongous problem, but it is indicative of a letter that could use some trimming. And yours could.

Your second paragraph is great: full of action, directly to the point, wham bam bam. Excellent. The first and third really linger where they don't need to. And the additional summary after the summary isn't necessary; it's just telling what you've already shown.

Jonah's paragraph takes a lot of words but gives us no new information beyond his attraction to Ruby. It could benefit from some strong specifics—give us his problem and his solution, and show us how Ruby gets in the way. I think the “and all like him” is a bit awkward, too, since at first read it's unclear if “like” is a verb or not (clearly it's not, but whatever, I STUMBLED OK??)

Beyond that, I'd like to see more of what the gens and subs have to do with Ruby and Jonah's individual cases. Is she genetically-enhanced to be a good trapeze artist? Anything like that would be a sweet tidbit to throw into that already tight 2nd para—just don't mess up the great flow!

(also, no need to say it's a sim. sub. They assume for queries.)

Here's my rewrite:

Dear XYZ:
In CONTORED, a YA novel from two viewpoints, Ruby and Jonah clash in a new kind of class war between the genetically-enhanced "gens" and the now substandard bio-originals, or "subs.” Ruby is a circus star ordered to train on the flying trapeze. She’s appalled to find her partner-to-be, Jobe, is a sub. Everyone knows that subs are incompetent; putting your life in one of their hands means certain death.

Jonah is a sub with a whole different set of problems. He travels to the circus hoping to find solutions (here's where we need some more specifics). Instead, he finds a complication: Ruby. He's drawn to Ruby the first moment he sees her, undeniably attracted to someone who undeniably hates him.

CONTORTED is complete at 75,000 words.

I chose to submit this novel for your consideration because XYZ.

I have pasted the first pages of my manuscript below per your submission guidelines. I am prepared to send the full manuscript or synopsis if desired.

I am a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators as well as an active member of the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, MN. At the Loft, I have taken classes from such people as Andrew Karre of Carolrhoda and Brian Farrey of Flux. I attended the Big Sur Children’s Writing Workshop in December 2008, the Loft’s Festival of Children’s and Young Adult Literature in April 2009, and the SCBWI Conference in LA in August 2009.

Thank you for taking the time to consider representing my work. I look forward to hearing from you. 



Dear Agent:

What happens when four teens become entangled in a love square?

Kyle is afraid of love. He does not want anything to do with girls. However, when Rosabelle, the girl he liked growing up, and he become friends again after the end of their friendship in seventh grade, he finds he is starting to fall for her all over again.

Rosabelle has a boyfriend, Chase. They have been dating for one year. Now that Kyle and her are friends again, she realizes the feelings she had for him throughout her life had never left her all this time.

Chase is madly in love with Rosabelle. He never wants to lose her, so he warns and fights other boys he sees as competition, but he keeps this a secret from Rosabelle. When he sees that Rosabelle is friends with Kyle, he struggles with himself not to fight him.

Jeanette is Rosabelle’s best friend. Her own secret is her love for Chase. She is jealous of her best friend that has a perfect life, a perfect GPA, and the perfect boyfriend. She wants to be something more than the most popular girl’s best friend.

As junior year progresses, conflicts threaten to break apart old friendships and relationships. It's their choice to break free from old bonds or to stay in their current situations. But both sides of the decision have their positives and negatives. And if they're not careful, all four of them could walk out of this brokenhearted.

I am seeking representation for my multiple-perspective young adult romance novel, LOVE SQUARE, complete at 75000 words. I have a synopsis and the full manuscript available upon request.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.



This query is very clear, but it lacks voice. Voice is so huge in YA, and it's really what's going to set your manuscript apart.

Unless your manuscript is told in a very plainspoken, adult, un-nuanced voice, don't write your query in that way.

I'm sure you've heard how many agents hate rhetorical questions (hey there, Nathan!). Personally, I'm not bothered by them a bit, but it's something to keep in mind.

I'm not going to rewrite this because I don't know the voice of your novel, but I'm going to suggest that, for an experiment, you write the query in first person. Switch 1st person narrators for each paragraph as you switch from character to character. Then go back and switch it back into 3rd, but see if you can keep some of each character's spunk in the transition. Cool?


Dear Agent:

Princess Sadie might have a face that can enchant a crowd, but a goddess wants her head. 

When Sadie receives a prophecy that she must marry a creature even the gods fear, she’s sure that Venus is finally taking her revenge. Sadie has no idea that her intended groom is really Venus’s handsome son, Cupid, who intends to wed Sadie without Venus finding out. Following a wedding procession more appropriate for a funeral, Sadie is left on a hilltop, swept away by the West Wind, greeted by invisible servants, and ends up married to a man whose only visible feature is his enchanting blue eyes. Then, as if overnight, Sadie finds her fear washed away by the unexpected kindness of her new husband. 

As she spends her evenings recounting every detail of her life to the most doting man she’s ever met, Sadie succumbs to the contented bliss of love. That is, until her jealous sisters convince Sadie she’s been tricked by the monster foretold in the prophecy and killing him is her only escape.

When Sadie nearly kills her beloved and, in doing so, learns his true identity, she realizes too late all she has thrown away. Cupid flees, forcing Sadie to journey alone through Greece and come face-to-face with Venus if she wants to reclaim his immortal love. On her road to redemption, Sadie finds the strength to take on the gods and challenges the ancient adage: you cannot escape what is destined.

Complete at 94,000 words, “Destined” is a YA historical romance novel and a modernized retelling of Greece’s most captivating love story, that of Cupid and Psyche. I am a member of SCBWI and was a classical studies major in college. 

As per your submission guidelines, I am enclosing the first ten pages of the novel with this e-mail. Thank you in advance for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you and hopefully working with you.


Definitely a well-written query, but I think there's also a bit of a voice problem. I'm really familiar with the story of Eros (if you're saying this is Greek, make sure you use Eros, not Cupid; Cupid is the Roman name) and Psyche, so I was reading this going “okay, okay, this is Eros/Psyche...what's the difference?”

I need to see exactly how this is a modernized retelling, because right now it just feels like you're telling me the story of Eros and Psyche. I think voice could be your savior, here—if the query sounded more modern, I'd be more inclined to believe you.

I'm worried that “historical” and “modernized retelling” might be a contradiction in terms, too. Make believe this really is modern and really is different from the original! Show how you're different.

I'd suggest ending the query at “killing him is her only escape” and using the space you save from deleting the last paragraph to add uniqueness to your query. I'd also restructure the query to edit out most of the mentions of Venus—keep it focused on Sadie/Cupid's drama and save Venus for the book.


Dear [Agent Name],

The year is 1985, and seventeen-year old artistic genius Anna Sokolowska struggles to balance a growing artistic obsession with what is a consistently violent father-daughter relationship. 

Her father’s unexpected disappearance and a chance opportunity to attend a prestigious art conference force Anna to make a decision: Her obligation lies in providing for her mentally fragile mama, but her desire is to take a chance and risk joining the ranks of the famous, freeing herself in the process. Her decision will determine not only her future, but that of her mother and brother, as well as the boy that might just be her savior.

WHERE THE DOVES FLY is a 76,000-word literary YA, marked by the culturally unique 1980s Poland. I'm querying you because [of XYZ].

I’ve been published in New Moon, Teen Ink, Alive, and multiple Creative Communications anthologies, and I currently write for Pol-Am, Minnesota’s Polish-American newsletter. I also serve on a sub-council of Minneapolis' Loft Literary Center and have interned with acquisitions editor Brian Farrey of Flux.

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


The wording in this query is pretty awkward--”what is a consistely violent father-daughter relationship” reads clunky (how about “her consistently violent relationship with her father”?)--and the “force her to make a decision” construction is overused.

I feel like this story is so cool but I'm not seeing any of it because it's tied up in the language. 1980s Poland is so entirely wicked cool and it's SO interesting, but I'm not seeing anything unique in your query. Family obligations, main character with a talent, a boy.

I'm going to suggest rewriting this. Don't make it pretty, make it very plain and clear and make it focus on the parts of the story that make it really interesting. Show us what about this story was cool enough to make you write it.


Dear Agent:

THE BEAST'S APPRENTICE is a YA steampunk re-telling of "Beauty and the Beast," complete at 95,000 words.

Growing up, Faye had no interest in her mother's bedtime fairy tales, as all her time were spent trying to keep herself and her ailing mother alive on the cold and ruthless streets of London. She never imagined that one day, she would have to seek help from the Beast, a vain and prickly creature who cares only for himself. If given the choice, she would rather die of starvation and frostbite than to do menial work as an apprentice in his rundown and dangerous mansion.

However, the Beast needs to have his curse broken before the winter passes, and Faye needs his magical expertise to stage a revenge on her father, the cause of her mother's death. Their bargain: Faye will find him his true love and he will teach her enough magic to topple her father's prosperous magical artifacts and potions business. It is the perfect arrangement.

The arrangement slowly crumbles, however, as Faye finds herself drawn toward the Beast and entertaining the thoughts of being the curse-breaker herself. Except she has already kissed him. And failed.

The synopsis and the full manuscript are available upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you!


I'm sold on this one. I'd request.

Quick question, though—isn't the original Beauty and the Beast kinda steampunk? I'm totally going off the Disney movie, but I remember the things her father invented gave me that sort of impression...and I don't see anything particularly steampunk in your query, so I might leave that out.

I'd revisit your second summary paragraph and work on making the wording a little clearer, but yeah, I think this is really good. Full of voice!


Dear [Agent],

Ricky Marquard and his girlfriend, Sofia Bowen, are gifted, to say the least. He can control the earth’s elements while she’s got full control of people’s minds. Quite the dream team, right?

You’d think so, but then some guy tries to kill Ricky’s mom at a football game, so Ricky has to fry him to death in front of 90,000 people watching on the Jumbotron. Nobody hurts Mama Marquard and gets away with it. No one suspects a thing—who’d believe he murdered someone with lightning?—but he decides to lay low for a while.

That is, until Weather and Isochronal Natural Disasters International, or W.I.N.D.I., shows up. W.I.N.D.I.’s members dictate the world’s weather patterns and natural disasters, and boy, are they thrilled to have finally found the hilarious wisecracker who decided it would be nice for Orlando to have its first white Christmas last year. Better still, they don’t even care about the dead guy. 

Ricky is shocked there are others like him in the world (Sofia’s a tad peeved there aren’t more like her), but his excitement quickly downgrades to alarm as he discovers W.I.N.D.I. is as crooked as a tree in hurricane-force winds. Political gain and big money are the bottom line for the organization with six billion lives in its hands, and when W.I.N.D.I. spies its newest member’s quavering loyalty, it charges him with a rather difficult task. 

Whip up a natural disaster to destroy tens of thousands of lives, or lose his own.

W.I.N.D.I. is a young adult novel complete at 66,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

This is strong. But I think the voice gets a little too wink-wink-nudge-nudge in places.

I think you should cut Sofia out of the story entirely—she's probably awesome in the book, but here she's just taking up space. Focus it on Ricky.

Start your query as close to the actual jumbotron murder as you can. “Ricky can control the elements, which seems like a pretty cool power until some guy tries to kill his mom and he's forced to...” etc. That gets you into into the meat of the story quickly and cuts out the grating bits of the query's voice.

But I really like this, and I think your story sounds siiiick.


Dear Agent,

It’s not like sixteen-year-old Skylar Jones’ druggie mother ever came round for a cup of tea when she got out of jail. Maureen never wrote, emailed, facebooked or phoned. So when mommy dearest roars into town on the back of some guy’s Harley and demands to see her, Skylar has no idea what to do.

She wants to forgive and forget, but the puckered scars on her stomach from when Maureen burned the house down make her hesitate. “Sorry” just doesn’t cut it when you nearly kill someone, especially when it comes ten years too late. Prompted by her aunt, Sally, Skylar reflects on the six years she spent with Maureen, looking for a grain of truth. Her mother’s motto “Heaven on Earth” permeates her childhood. If she can find heaven, she decides, she can trust her mom. 

Obsessed with beauty, Skylar reckons she can get blissed out on “Beautiful Places” like her mother did on drugs. For her, heaven’s just a particularly stunning colour palette. She makes a list of places she finds magical and tears through it, but heaven's yet to appear, and the guy on the Harley just revealed the reason Maureen finally came back: She wants to see Skylar before the cancer she’s refusing to seek treatment for kills her. 

Time is running out for Skylar to decide whether to see her mother. But she's holding out for heaven, despite the pull she feels towards Maureen. If there was no mother-daughter relationship before her mother took off, Sky doesn’t see why they should fake one because Maureen’s dying. 

SKYLAR’S STORY is a contemporary YA novel complete at 45,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.


So I'm kind of confused about what actually happens in your story, and how “heaven on earth” can really be a motto, per se. Is Skylar traveling? Because that's cool, and I want to hear about it. How is she “tearing through” this list? What is she doing?

Trim the fat—the guy on the Harley, facebooking, her aunt Sally—and focus on what actually happens in your book.

I'm going to suggest writing a synopsis, if you haven't—I know, I know, I hate them too—and using that to write to your query. Don't forget to add voice and a hook at the end, but use that to pick out your most interesting plot elements and include them, because I feel like this query is all set-up and I don't know what your book is about.

(Don't let anyone tell you your book is too short.)


Dear :

With a family primed for Doctor Phil and a job involving a toilet brush, Daniel Cole realizes he's twenty-one and he has nothing to show for it. When people hear Dan's name, they think of his dropout brother- a candidate in the Board of Education election who destroys his opponent's lawn with thousands of anchovies and some stray cats. When Dan meets Aidan, a heartthrob guitarist for a local band needing a drummer, he has an epiphany: music, his long lost love, will bring him friends, girls, and popularity.

Instead, chaos ensues. With songs like "Fluffy Didn't Run Away (Your Parents Lied to You)" and "You Looked Better on the Web," joining Lincoln's Navigators doesn’t give Dan the aura of coolness he expected. With a front man who meditates to Enya and a crybaby bassist trapped in the body of a WWE wrestler, Dan's band mates are even more bizarre than their music. Just when Dan thinks he has found his equal in Shannon, a film-school dropout and a seasoned musician hater, he learns she is the lead singer’s sister, and the reason why Aidan has been ignoring his groupies. Dan can either win Shannon and get kicked out of the band for screwing over an unexpected new friend, or he can follow a dream he never knew he had. Because for Dan, growing up and growing a pair might just be better than getting a record deal AND the girl of his dreams.

This was in the new adult contest, yeah? I remember reading it and loving it.

But I think your whole query needs to be your second paragraph. And I think you need to ditch some of the lists, as cute as they are. And I think Dan needs to do something. A lot of this query seems to happen to him by coincidence
There are a few parts I don't understand—his brother's a drop out who was a candidate for the board of education? Definitely strike him from the query. Why is Aidan ignoring his groupies? I don't get it.
Simplify your query—streamline it, make the plotline easier to follow. Focus on your story. But I think your story sounds awesome. I hope you find a place for it—I don't have to tell you that a 21 year old protag is hard. Good luck!


Dear [Agent],

When 18-year-old Anne Marie Gessner goes in search of her deceased mother's past, she instead tumbles - literally - into the life of a distant relative, Charlotte Corday. After Anne is shipped off to Paris to live with her grandmother, she tries to sort out the lies about her mother's death that have been propagated by a cold grandmother and a distant father. She also turns to the diary of Charlotte Corday, a French revolutionary woman who sacrificed herself for the good of France, and someone Anne's mother once considered a hero.

But strange things start happening with the diary, and Anne time-travels to the French Revolution and becomes Charlotte, a seemingly calm and unpretentious woman who is known in history for having murdered Jean-Paul Marat. 

Her two realities become increasingly intertwined. From back home in Chicago, her father nags her about what she plans on doing with her life since she doesn't intend to go to college. A new friend of hers, Pierre, tries to bring her in touch with her mother's past, while dealing with his own present troubles that revolve around the riots ravaging the Paris suburbs in November 2005. Her best friend Lisa, attending college in Illinois, is still mad at her and refuses to respond to any of her emails. And, as Charlotte, Anne struggles in deciding whether or not to follow through with what Charlotte considered her destiny: killing Marat, killing one man to save 100,000. 

THROUGH CHARLOTTE'S EYES is a 55,000 word YA historical fiction novel. I wrote a version of this story for my Masters thesis at [redacted], where I also received an Honorable Mention in the 2007 Emerging Writers Series for Fiction. 

While publishers have previously strayed away from protagonists 18-years-old who are no longer in high school, I've noticed a new trend for "New Adult" literature that targets this age group, with decisions and themes that are central to THROUGH CHARLOTTE'S EYES. Anne is trying to figure out what it is she wants to do with her life, while reconciling that with her place in her family.

Thank you for taking the time to consider this work. I look forward to hearing from you soon. 


Cut the paragraph after the credentials—agents know the market better than you do.

I want more specifics on how exactly her realities get intertwined, and I want you to cut basically everything that comes before the time traveling. Give me the first sentence—she tumbles into her life—and then open the diary and have her fall in. Mother's death, cold grandmother, distant father—that can all really go for the purposes of the query.

This query needs voice voice voice all over it—it's reading very old. You know that there are time travel books out there—what makes your special? The part about killing Marat sounds so cool, but you barely touch on it. Either make the stuff in her life at home sound more interesting (and therefore connect her two lives better, because I don't understand how she's living them both at once) or concentrate on her life as Charlotte. Good luck!


Dear Agent,

There are seven people who could have murdered Margot Matlin.
There’s Jenny. The best friend: obsessive, unreliable, two-faced and desperate.
There’s Ethan. The boyfriend: loving, jealous, violent and lost.
There’s Marisa. The nurse: sweet, kind, twisted and secretive.
There’s Naomi. The stepmother: hated, hateable, shallow and ruthless.
There’s Adam. The stranger: enigmatic, mysterious and bizarrely omnipresent. 
There’s Cameron. The conflict of interest: fiercely intelligent, analytical, down-to-earth and lying through his teeth.
There’s Jonah [now, how’s that for a weird coincidence?]. He’s the detective. He’s the narrator. He’s Cameron’s best friend. He’s telling the truth. 
Isn’t he?
As Jonah and Cameron travel through their small town, listening and interrogating, they must unravel the stories and the truth. There are seven people who could have murdered Margot Matlin. There are seven stories, seven endings and seven murderers. But the truth can be adjusted. Who is telling the truth? And who can Jonah and Cameron trust, when they can’t even trust each other?
FULL STOPS is a Young Adult mystery, complete at 50,000 words. I believe you would enjoy this novel because...etc. etc.
I am a member of the Poetry Society (UK), one of Foyle Young Poets of the Year 2009 and have published a short story, THE GREATER GOD, in Cantaraville Nine.
Thank you for considering my query. I look forward to hearing from you.

I'm so in love with your story and so hating on your query.
Start with Jonah and Cameron investigating a death, and why. The character profiles don't work because no one is going to remember the last one by the time they get to the next.

So expand the paragraph about Jonah and Cameron investigating and make that your query. Give us some specifics about what happens in the story—you've done a GREAT job with voice and setting the mood, now give me a good reason to really be invested in your story. Give us some exciting plot points.

And once that paragraph's done, THEN throw in the twist about whether or not Jonah's telling the truth. 'Cause I like that.

Oh, and I love your title.

Also, if you could shoot me an email, that'd be sick. (nothing to do with your query.)


Leila Lefley is awkward. While the rest of the students in Eastbay High are panicking over prom and college applications, Leila struggles to come to terms with the real meaning of idioms, people’s lack of interest in van Gogh’s disfigured ear, and the need to wear heels. Why would someone willingly risk a bunion the size of a golf ball? Leila resigns herself to drooling over her crush Neil from a distance. What would the insightful, heartthrob want with Loony Leila? Especially since Leila has Asperger’s syndrome.

Then she bumps into the Thor, literally. He tells her that he is a nymph and she is his charge. His mission is simple-- make Neil fall in love with Leila. Welcome to Dating 101. As a nymph, Thor is a master of seduction. A simple look from Thor and the school’s ancient Latin teacher is ready to drop her pants. But this nymph has his work cut out for him since Leila is different. Cue uncomfortable silences, unnecessary rambling and cringe-worthy situations.

The rules are straightforward. Follow Thor’s instruction, don’t look like an idiot and most importantly, don’t fall in love with the nymph. Some things are easier said than done. The closer Leila gets to Neil, the more she finds herself longing for Thor. But, Thor's mission comes with a timestamp, and with it, his own expiration. Leila has to make Neil fall in love with her fast, or she'll lose Thor forever.

So I'm going to give you the same advice it seems like I'm giving everyone—lose your first paragraph. Leila has Asperger's syndrome and her crush on the football star (or whatever) looks hopeless, until she bumps into Thor. Bam. There's your start.

Your query is adorable, but the first paragraph is really unnecessary (we don't need a sentence and a half about high heels! Your query is not about high heels!)

Does Thor only die if the mission fails, or is he screwed anyway? If it's the first, make it clear, because right now it doesn't seem like seducing Neil is going to help Thor at all.

Cut the first paragraph (have I said that enough times?) and I love it.


Dear [Agent's Name],

Jenna knows the sound of her mother's voice when she's buzzed, knows the angry defensiveness when she's drunk, and knows to make the morning-after coffee strong and black.

For years Jenna and her mother have been each other's only family, leaning on each other for everything. However, as her mom's drinking habit has gotten worse, Jenna's gotten stuck cleaning up her mother's alcohol-laden messes. It's been going on for too long and now, in Jenna's last month of high school, she's not sure how much longer she can handle it. Her boyfriend Brady is her most solid ally, the person she runs to when she needs to get away from the tiny apartment she shares with her mother. Unlike life with her mom, the relationship she shares with Brady is stable and reliable; she finds herself spending more time with him as graduation nears, trying to get away from the life she has cleaning up her mother's many messes. However, when Jenna comes home late one night to find her mother unconscious, passed out from a combination of alcohol and sleeping pills, she ends up in the ER waiting room, pulled back into her mother's orbit by the powerful mother-daughter bond she doesn't know how to escape.

With weeks left until graduation, her mother's drinking getting increasingly worse, and her boyfriend moving at the start of the summer, Jenna must find a way to separate herself from her mom in order to make her own life and stop the horrible, dizzying anxiety that comes from her mother's dysfunction. THE EMPTY BOTTLES is a 46,000 word young adult novel set against the backdrop of motherly love and dysfunction.



First thought—is making coffee black really a skill? Don't you just...not do anything to it?
You have a ton of “is” constructions in this query—count the number of this you say some “is” or “has gotten” or “is growing,” etc. Use stronger verbs.

Beyond that, I feel like this query takes three paragraphs to say the something very simple—Jenna's mother has a drinking problem, it's disrupting her life, and she runs to her boyfriend for help. Cool. But what happens in your story? What does Jenna do? What is this story beyond the premise?

I need to know what happens in this book and what makes it different from other books about children of alcoholics. Right now, your query reads pretty generic.

Monday, December 7, 2009


Seems to be a popular name.

Almost done with the queries, guys.

Friday, December 4, 2009


Free query crits are now CLOSED. I'm going to finish the crits and get them up ASAP, hopefully by tonight!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

General Query Advice

Keep submitting to the post below!

I just wanted to give some general advice, based on what I've gathered from reading a few of the entries so far.


I am a whore about voice. I want more voice, always, all the time.

I will choose strong characters with strong voices over plot any day of the week, which I know works better for some genres than others--YA benefits hugely from characters and voice, SFF needs more of a backbone in plot and worldbuilding and other un-voicey stuff.



Your voice is what sets you apart. You have to understand that you did not stumble across a wholly original story that isn't at all like anything else out there (and if you did, no one will be able to sell it ;)) Your voice is what makes people sit up and take notice. It's one of the only ways left to be truly original. Take advantage of it! FILL YOUR QUERY WITH THE VOICE OF YOUR SOULLLLLLL.