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Ask Daphne! About My Query XVII

basketball-heels-2Basketball-skewering heels for RLA, who’s our latest “About My Query” participant. You know the drill: I post a query, make my comments on how it reads, what I would do to improve it, etc., and then you add your notes on the same in the comments. Ready for the tip-off? (Don’t worry, that’s the last of my sports metaphors. I’m much more comfortable talking about shoes.)

Dear Superagent Daphne Unfeasible:
Kate is propelled into the world of privilege when her dad becomes coach of one of the state’s top high school basketball teams, but when a player violates her trust, she must decide whether to stay silent or expose the corruption, destroying her father’s career and bringing down a town’s heroes. I would like to introduce you to Kate McCrea, the main character in my 62,000 word young adult novel Canary.

Kate McCrea’s dad is good at coaching basketball; what he isn’t good at is communicating with Kate and her brother Brett. When her mother dies, he shuts down, throwing himself into basketball as a way to cope with his grief, leaving Kate alone in silence. He lands a job at Beacon, where Kate and Brett enter a world of expected entitlement and idolatry among the athletes. Kate finds it easy to slip into this lifestyle when she starts dating a player on the team, while her brother, shy and weak, is rejected by the school. Kate quickly learns to overlook the perks given to the athletes who openly disgrace her brother for not being one of them. When her brother is placed in a position that might possibly take him away from Kate forever, she finds herself alone, unable to share her fears with anyone, those at the school too engrossed in their own lives and uninterested in helping her. Kate realizes that she needs to stand up for herself and speak out in order to save those she loves, no matter what the costs.

I may not be in high school anymore, but I am a high school English teacher and experience daily the struggles teenagers have trying to find their own voice among the heavy influence of their peers. My students and I are avid fans of Maureen Johnson, and I feel I would be the perfect fit to the type of clients you represent. I am also a graduate of Boston University, where I earned a Masters in English Education. I am currently working on a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Cleveland State University.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to sending you sample chapters or the completed manuscript of Canary.

Thank you,

First of all, great opening hook. Definitely makes me want to read more. The next sentence, beginning with “I would like to introduce you…” is a little more awkward. I would strike it, and find a way to fold that information into another sentence, even if it’s as simple as “In CANARY, my 62,000 word YA novel, Kate McCrea’s dad…”

One of things I would have you watch for, however, is repeating yourself. Now, this is partly because you’ve summed up the entire book in your one-sentence hook, and then find yourself filling in the details in later paragraphs. But it reads a little bit like the agent is getting information they already know. Your first sentence: “Kate is propelled into the world of privilege when her dad becomes coach” is somewhat reiterated in the second paragraph, “He lands a job at Beacon, where Kate and Brett enter a world of expected entitlement and idolatry among the athletes.” Can you jump into the action in the second para more quickly? You don’t need to tell us again about getting the new job, but you can concentrate more on what that means to Kate and her brother.

As for Brett, is he rejected by the school, or the students? I’m also less than keen on keeping secrets from the reader — what position is Kate’s brother placed in? Can you tell more? You’re not giving away the story — you’re adding more drama to it.

Otherwise, I think this is a pretty strong query! What do you guys think?

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