About My Query: THE SUMMER I STARTED A BUSINESS…

January 25th, 2013 • Kate

StepIntoRoom5Welcome back to another edition of About My Query! I’m in transit today on my way to ALA Midwinter, so let’s get this moving along!

Dear Awesome Daphne,

An old folks’ home is far from the perfect vacation destination, but twelve-year-old Haley is stuck tagging along with her mom to work all summer. At least she has plenty of time to figure out a way to make enough cash to buy a cell phone and smuggling contraband in is just the ticket. It turns out old people have a sweet tooth and selling snacks to the residents is a real money-maker.

Things turn less lame when Haley finds out that the newest resident, a retired Marine, likes her favorite TV show. He lets her watch Cajun Pawn Stars with him for the small price of a few Oreos an episode. It gets even better when Haley discovers sixteen-year-old Rachel who’s living at the facility because it’s cheaper than a hospital. The only problem is she’s in a coma thanks to the driver of a getaway car. Rachel’s roommate is 80-something Miss Essie whose best day is remembering where she put her teeth and worst day is over-hearing the strange visitors who just might be bank robbers and now want to hurt the only witness.

If a kid who’s stranded for the summer, a former Marine General who’s given up on life, and an old lady with Alzheimer’s can solve a bank robbery and prevent a murder, it’s possible Haley will have the best How I Spent My Summer essay in the history of middle school.

THE SUMMER I STARTED A BUSINESS, SOLVED A BANK ROBBERY, AND SHOWED UP ON CAJUN PAWN STARS is a 30k middle grade novel. It’s a modern day Nancy Drew with some humor thrown in. I’ve been a teacher and school counselor for over twenty years. Currently, I’m a middle school counselor with the largest school system in the Southeast. I am also a member of SCBWI.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

D.E.

You’ve got a great sense of voice here, but some of the sentences seem a little awkward. Right off the top, “An old folks’ home is far from the perfect vacation destination, but twelve-year-old Haley is stuck tagging along with her mom to work all summer” leaves me with more questions than not. Is it a summer job for her mom? Are they actually on vacation, or in a vacation hotspot? Why is she stuck tagging along? Also, something about the “but” doesn’t ring right for me. Moving on, I think there’s an awkward transition in the next sentence too — maybe there’s an easier way to bring up the idea of how she decides to start smuggling in contraband.

I love the introduction to the Marine, but the coma girl intro feels stilted as well. It may be the disconnect between “Things turn less lame” and “It gets even better” in the next line — maybe even just changing the second line from “It” to something specific — her summer, the old folks’ home, something. Likewise, the comparison between Miss Essie’s best day and worst day doesn’t say Alzheimer’s to me — maybe there’s another way to introduce the may-be bank robbers so we’re not confused.

I do like the wacky team-up aspect, and I’m a sucker for Nancy Drew, so I hope you can find a way to polish this!

Readers, any further suggestions, comments, or ideas for improvement?

Photo above is by Flickr user Stephan Geyer, used under a Creative Commons license.
Be Sociable, Share!

Filed Under: About My Query, Ask Daphne!

Tags: , ,


4 Responses to “About My Query: THE SUMMER I STARTED A BUSINESS…”

  1. Tiana Smith Says:

    I also like the voice 🙂 It definitely sounds middle grade to me. I also like the idea of the plot. I'm assuming that 30k isn't too short, since it wasn't mentioned in the critique, though I would think that middle grade needs to be a bit longer (40-50k? Again, I guess I could be wrong).

  2. Lynn Lindquist Says:

    All structural comments aside, I've got to say this sounds like an awesome plot and storyline. With a cast of characters that wacky and a concept that original, there's a lot to like here. Good luck!

  3. @ericgsteinberg Says:

    This query does have great voice and the story has all the makings of a wacky fun adventure with zany characters.

    There are some issues in the second paragraph that are making it challenging to get a handle on the story. It sounds like Haley's vacation got better when she found out there's a 16 year-old in a coma living at the retirement home. I don't think that's what you mean. Also, while it seems like the girl in the coma is the bank robbery witness, it would be helpful to make this clearer.

    I hope this helps. I think this sounds like a great book and with some tweaking the query will match.

  4. callen Says:

    I love the creative plot and characters, you would have convinced me to read on just on those strengths. I do agree with the previous comment that some of the sentence structure in the second paragraph was a little confusing. At first, I thought it was nice that Haley made a new friend her age, until I realized she was in a coma. I would suggest clarifying how meeting Rachel "makes it better" since Rachel's not an active participant of that relationship. Also, the phrase "It turns less lame" seems redundant to me, since I thought things were already getting less lame when she figured out that she could sell sweets to the old folks to earn money for her cell phone. But, as I said, the premise of the book and the characters alone are such strong grabs that these are really nitpicky points.
    Thanks for sharing!