Ask Daphne! About My Query LXXXVI

November 15th, 2011 • Kate

anthro_shoes_bretcole1Another day, another About My Query post! What do you think of this?

Dear Ms. Testerman:

Mistakes. Can’t live with them, can’t outrun them. For seventeen-year-old Emma Wrangton, life is a series of mud-splattered incidents propelled by one mistake after another.

Mistake #1: Allowing her best friend, Riley, to convince her that immersing her tomboy self on the high school girls’ basketball team is the best thing for her future. Girls. Ugh! Sure, technically, Emma is a girl, but since her dad and four brothers raised her and her best friend is a guy, Emma has no idea how to survive any length of time with the drama-stricken species.

Mistake #2: Developing a weak spot for the team’s knobby-kneed freshman and agreeing to coach her in basketball so she doesn’t kill anyone on the court due to her lack of coordination and basketball know-how.

Mistake #3: Not guarding her heart against a dysfunctional family who still suffers from the absence of a wife-slash-mother who abandoned her family and never looked back.

All Emma wants is to spend as much time as possible with Riley before he heads off to some fancy college and leaves her behind, but with the lines of friendship blurring between them, her relationship with her family splintering due to unresolved issues over her mom’s abandonment, and an entire team relying on her to be some basketball miracle worker, she discovers life has other plans. If Emma wants to gain control of her life, she’ll have to—gulp—embrace the girl within and see her mistakes for what they really are: avenues of healing.

In a society bursting with stories about male athletes, A GAME WORTH WATCHING delivers a humorous and heartbreaking tale of the pressures and expectations a female athlete endures as she struggles to overcome adversity and gain a truer sense of self. A GAME WORTH WATCHING is complete at 83,600 words and aligns with your interest in young adult fiction.

A former three-sport athlete in high school, I grew up with a ball in one hand and a book in the other. My love of writing led to my Bachelor of Arts degree in Creative Writing, and I currently work as a grant writer for the Boys & Girls Clubs.

Thank you for taking the time to consider A GAME WORTH WATCHING. This is a multiple submission. I look forward to hearing from you.


Some thoughts — I like the format of the opening, but I don’t know that “Can’t live with them, can’t outrun them” is the strongest choice to start off with it. In the next paragraph, I don’t know what you mean by “immersing her tomboy self on the high school girls’ basketball team”.

In combination with Emma’s reaction to other girls in the second paragraph — “Ugh!” — I’ve got some questions about what you truly mean about the weak spot she develop for the freshman. It’s probably partly because “freshman” sounds masculine, but it sounds like you’re setting up a romantic relationship, and I don’t think that’s your intention. Is there another way to word this?

For Mistake #3, you’re referring to Emma’s own family, right? I’d say that, then — “Not guarding her heart against her dysfunctional family who’s still suffering”, maybe.

The next paragraph, where you actually set out the plot of the book, makes the query seem over long. Is there a way to condense this information perhaps into one more short “Mistake,” and then move right to “In a society”? (Which is impossible to hear in anything other than the movie trailer guy’s voice, at least for me.) And then maybe find a way to be more specific about what the “pressures and expectations a female athlete endures” actually are, and what “adversity” she faces.

Finally, I think you can drop “This is a multiple submission.” I automatically assume it is, so I don’t think you need to waste time saying it.

Overall, you’ve got some good stuff in here. It just needs a polish. (I’d throw in a sports metaphor here if I knew anything about sports. Anyone got a good one, put it in the comments!)

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6 Responses to “Ask Daphne! About My Query LXXXVI”

  1. Liberty Speidel Says:

    I like this query. The voice of the character comes through clearly, and, being a tomboy myself, I find Emma relatable. As Daphne pointed out, there are some clunky areas. I don't know what the accepted word-limit is for YA, but 83K sounds long to me. Also, I was under the impression that you're to round to the nearest 1,000 where word count is concerned.

  2. Bess Says:

    I like the concept and the voice! One quick thought, the family "mistake" seems a little vague to fall under the category of mistake. If she had been guarding herself against her brothers and dad and then finally tried to open up to them, then I could see the mistake being "finally trying to open up to her brothers and dad who've always picked on her and belittled her [or whatever they've always done that made her mistrust them]." Also, I agree with Daphne that "weak spot" sounds romantic. Just a little logic question: In your story, does Emma have to get in touch with her feminine side and see that her mistakes aren't mistakes but avenues for healing in order to gain control of her life? Something about that sequencing doesn't seem natural to me. Writing query letters is hard, but you're on the right track!

  3. @lizwrites Says:

    Mistake #1 sets up the story nicely. Although wouldn't at least a few of the girls on the basketball team be tomboys too?

    Mistake #2 made me think the book was about her falling in love with another girl on the team. If it is just a friendship, I'm not sure you even need to mention it in the query, if the book is more about her relationship with Riley.

    Mistake #3 doesn't work for me. What does "not guarding her heart" mean specifically?

    I like the next paragraph a lot, and I think it covers some of the above bits nicely. But this line here seems vague: "If Emma wants to gain control of her life, she’ll have to—gulp—embrace the girl within and see her mistakes for what they really are: avenues of healing."
    How/why is she embracing the girl within? What does that mean?

  4. Cam Says:

    I do like the structure of the query.

    What hangs me up is mistake 1 itself. I played on a girls’ team in high school and agree there are a few drama queens everywhere, however most girls were on the team to play and win. In my experience there are always enough girls to field both a varsity an junior varsity team, so I wonder how a klutzy freshman made what I assume to be the varsity team.

  5. Michelle Z Says:

    The only metaphor I could think of was "Too bad life is anything but a slam dunk."

    Anyway the last paragraph of the story synopsis or summary portion of the query is wonderful. It gives a great view of the story, so I guess to me that means the mistakes could be shortened a bit or worded more simply.

  6. Samantha Says:

    Thank you all so much for your great feedback. Looks like I have a few things to work out, but at least now I know the direction to take. Much appreciation for all of you!!