The Sensory Garden - Women's Fiction

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nlshippen
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The Sensory Garden - Women's Fiction

Post by nlshippen » October 28th, 2019, 7:15 pm

Financially struggling office temp, Helen Johnson, thinks she’s been given the wrong handbook to live by. No matter how hard she tries, the Great Australian Dream of happy family, home ownership and career success is slipping further away. When Helen’s husband is laid off at work, she needs to step up and get serious about her career to keep on top of their killer mortgage.

When the position of Home Services Manager becomes available at St Clare’s Elder Care where she works, Helen thinks it is the answer to her problems. The Home Services Department is a mess, but if she can turn it around, she will have a chance at winning the role.

Helen works hard to deliver in home services to her elderly clients and often takes work home on weekends. She hires former football star turned gardener, Matthew Williams, who proves to be a great success. He catches up on the backlog of gardening and maintenance work, and plans to build a sensory garden for client, Carol McKenzie.

Helen misses out on the Home Services Manager role when Accountant Yasmin Soo is seconded from Head Office. She fights to win it back when she learns that Yasmin is neglecting her elderly clients, but proving her case to boss, John McPhee, is not easy.

Then Helen learns there is a side to Matthew she did not know about. He walks out on the sensory garden she has paid him in full to do and she reads an article in the paper about him ripping off his clients.

Unable to win the promotion and save the family home, Helen leaves St Clare’s. While she does not achieve her goals, she gains a new awareness and loses her naivety. She learns to accept life as it is and not how she wants it to be.

With unaffordable housing and job insecurity, many Australians are struggling to achieve The Great Australian Dream today. THE SENSORY GARDEN will resonate with them as it is about the lived experience of trying to live according to an outdated template.

THE SENSORY GARDEN is a Contemporary Women’s Fiction novel of 76 500 words and has the economic hardships of ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF DIRT by Rick Morton and the family crisis of ISLANDS by Peggy Frew.

I live in the Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne with my family and I work in Aged Care. THE SENSORY GARDEN is my first novel. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to assist further.

Thank you for your time and consideration.
Last edited by nlshippen on May 12th, 2020, 8:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

janetpearson
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Re: The Sensory Garden - Literary/Women's Fiction

Post by janetpearson » January 6th, 2020, 1:44 pm

- don't need to use so many proper names. Really just Helen's.
- can you make the stakes bigger than not being able to pay mortgage - how it will effect Helen as a person/emotionally
- don't need paragraph about current situation in Australia
- don't give away the ending - leave us wanting more
- don't need "Please let me know..."

Hope this helps.

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nlshippen
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Re: The Sensory Garden - Literary/Women's Fiction

Post by nlshippen » January 11th, 2020, 12:30 am

Thanks, Janet, I am working on a revised query - I will say she is in fear of losing her home rather than she can't pay her mortgage. I appreciate your feedback. :)

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nlshippen
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Re: The Sensory Garden - Literary/Women's Fiction

Post by nlshippen » January 16th, 2020, 3:12 am

The Sensory Garden - Version 2

I have updated my query letter following feedback from various sources. I would like to know your thoughts.


My novel THE SENSORY GARDEN is complete at 80 000 words. It is a work of contemporary literary fiction about the limits of the Great Australian Dream and is based on my experience of working in the aged care industry.

For forty something mother of two and financially struggling office temp, Helen Johnson, the Great Australian Dream of happy family, home ownership and career success is slipping away. When Helen’s husband is made redundant, she decides to apply for a promotion at St Clare’s Elder Care.

Despite her popular hire of former football star turned gardener, Matthew Williams, who catches up on the backlog of gardening and maintenance work, Helen misses out on the promotion to Yasmin, a younger woman who is brought in from Head Office. Helen worries that she will be stuck with low paying temp work forever.

As Helen and her husband, Tony, struggle to keep their her home, an internal investigation reveals that Yasmin is defrauding St Clare’s by making false invoices. When Yasmin is sacked, Helen thinks the promotion will be hers. Helen pays Matthew in full to build a sensory garden for one of the clients but he walks out with the money and St Clare’s never hear from him again. Turns out Matthew is a crook who has ripped off many of his clients.

Unable to win the promotion and save the family home, Helen leaves St Clare’s. Tony convinces Helen that they should cut their loses and start again. They sell the family home and move into a rental property. Free from the burden of their killer mortgage and with a great new job, Helen is much happier. She learns that home ownership and career success are not necessary to live a happy life and that the love of her family is what matters to her most.

With unaffordable housing and job insecurity, many Australians are struggling to achieve The Great Australian Dream today. THE SENSORY GARDEN will resonate with them as it is about the lived experience of pursuing this dream in a society where the old supports of extended family, community and economic security are gone.

THE SENSORY GARDEN combines the economic hardships of ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF DIRT by Rick Morton, the lyrical storytelling style of THE LOST FLOWERS OF ALICE HART by Holly Ringland and the vibrant characters of THE SINGLE LADIES OF JACARANDA RETIREMENT VILLAGE by Joanna Nell.

I have lived in Melbourne all my life and I work in aged care. I have two adult sons and a husband who has been a great support in giving me the time, space and technological assistance I needed to write this novel.

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nlshippen
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Re: The Sensory Garden - Women's Fiction

Post by nlshippen » May 12th, 2020, 8:09 pm

I have updated my query following a professional critique from Nathan Bransford. I feel this version is a lot more succinct and I have changed the genre from literary fiction to women's fiction. I can see this version is much improved after following Nathan's advice. I would love to hear your feedback.


Helen Johnson’s always played by the rules; she’s been to university, bought a house and had a family, yet her hopes of creating a successful and happy life are buried under a killer mortgage and a string of exhausting and soul-destroying temporary jobs.

When Helen’s husband, Tony, is made redundant, she worries that she will lose their home and the sensuous, tranquil garden she has created, where she retreats from the pressures of work and the demands of raising teenage children. Helen applies for a promotion at St Clare’s Elder Care, but despite her popular hire of former football star turned gardener, Matthew Williams, she misses out on the promotion to Yasmin, a younger woman who is brought in from Head Office. Helen thinks she has missed her last chance to make something of herself and win the management role that would ensure her success.

As Helen and Tony struggle to keep their home, Yasmin is found defrauding St Clare’s by making false invoices and it turns out Matthew is a crook who has ripped off many of his clients. Still unable to win the promotion and save the family home, Helen thinks her efforts have been for nothing and she leaves St Clare’s. Tony convinces Helen that they should cut their losses and start again. They sell their home and move into a rental property, forcing Helen to confront whether home ownership and career success are necessary to live a happy life.

The Sensory Garden is a debut work of contemporary women’s fiction complete at 82,000 words. Like Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn, it tells the story of a woman fighting to save her home and of finding solace in a garden of her own creation. It combines the economic hardships of One Hundred Years Of Dirt by Rick Morton, and the vibrant, intrinsically Australian characters of The Single Ladies Of Jacaranda Retirement Village by Joanna Nell.

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Re: The Sensory Garden - Women's Fiction

Post by NicoleS » May 22nd, 2020, 12:18 am

I like the improvements you've made! But one quick note, I don't understand your use of the words 'redundant' and 'sensuous.' I'm an American, and to me the word 'sensuous' has very sexual connotations and 'redundant' means unnecessary or duplicate, which doesn't make sense in this context. If it's an Australian thing and you're querying Australian agents, then feel free to ignore, just thought I'd mention in case you are planning on querying American agents.

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nlshippen
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Re: The Sensory Garden - Women's Fiction

Post by nlshippen » May 23rd, 2020, 7:57 pm

Hi NicoleS,

Thanks so much for your comments, I'm glad that you liked the improvements. Nathan was a huge help in getting my query into better shape. In Australia, "redundant" is a term we use when your job is no longer needed, I will alter that when pitching to American agents.

Sensory refers to something that appeals to the senses in a general way and sensual refers to the senses being aroused sexually. I know they sound similar but there is a subtle difference. I had a funny experience at work when we were doing a team building exercise and the boss sent around an email saying that we were all going to do a sensual activity - he very quickly clarified that he meant sensory!

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