Query - MG - THE WHISPERING FERNS

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Avalon Ink
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Query - MG - THE WHISPERING FERNS

Post by Avalon Ink » April 6th, 2010, 5:39 pm

I'm new to the forum, though I've been reading the blog for a long time, and I'm finally ready to start officially sending my query around. I need help though. The kind of insightful and useful help that the readers of Nathan Bransford, agent extraordinaire's blog, excel at! So hook me up with some lightbulbs and suggestions so that I may go out into the large, scary world of agents and query!

Thanks!


Dear Makemy Dreamscometrue,

The most adventurous thing eleven year old James “Smith” Campbell ever did was try and run away to the Smithsonian, and he only got one block away and a nickname out of that. However, when Smith is sent to stay with his cousins in the mysterious little fishing village of Moonstone Bay, Washington, he will have to learn how to be brave just to keep up with them! THE WHISPERING FERNS: A MOONSTONE BAY MYSTERY is a middle grade novel, complete at 45,000 words, and was inspired by the rich mythology and landscape of the Pacific Northwest. It will appeal to readers who love their stories filled with adventure, intrigue, haunted forests and rain-drenched beaches.
When Smith's new friend, the bold and outgoing Noelle goes missing, he is sure the townfolk are following the wrong leads. Smith knows she wasn't abducted by a person, she's too smart for that. Instead, he believes that she's vanished into the mist-shrouded woods behind Moonstone Bay, hunting a ghostly shape they spotted earlier. With the adults intent on their own search and his troublemaking cousins under curfew, Smith decides he must brave the forest alone to rescue her!

Raised on a healthy diet of John Bellairs, Roald Dahl and Donald J. Sobol, I am an avid reader and freelance artist. I also have a blog at http://r-o-u-s.blogspot.com. (Agent specific stuff) I would be honored to send you sample pages or the full manuscript upon request.

Thank you for your time,
Kristopher Cowell

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Re: Query - MG - THE WHISPERING FERNS

Post by arielswan » April 7th, 2010, 7:55 am

Dear Makemy Dreamscometrue,

The most adventurous thing eleven year old James “Smith” Campbell ever did was try and run away to the Smithsonian, and he only got one block away and a nickname out of that. However, when Smith is sent to stay with his cousins in the mysterious little fishing village of Moonstone Bay, Washington, he will have to learn how to be brave just to keep up with them! Good start - only I am wondering why he tried to run away to the Smithsonian and why that is not considered brave. Is the running away to the Smithsonian part of your story - or just a piece of his past?THE WHISPERING FERNS: A MOONSTONE BAY MYSTERY is a middle grade novel, complete at 45,000 words, and was inspired by the rich mythology and landscape of the Pacific Northwest. It will appeal to readers who love their No need for "their"stories filled with adventure, intrigue, haunted forests and rain-drenched beaches.I love these settings and this would appeal to me - but I have been warned numerous times about focusing too much on setting...but so what.
When Smith's new friend, the bold and outgoing Noelle goes missing, he is sure the townfolk are following the wrong leads. I'd like to know more about the kid to understand what drives him to be a mini sleuthSmith knows she wasn't abducted by a person, she's too smart for that. Instead, he believes that she's vanished into the mist-shrouded woods behind Moonstone Bay, hunting a ghostly shape they spotted earlier.Nice - this is interesting - I like ghostly shapes and this ties in with the brave new friends thing With the adults intent on their own search and his troublemaking cousins under curfew, Smith decides he must brave the forest alone to rescue her!

Raised on a healthy diet of John Bellairs, Roald Dahl and Donald J. Sobol, I am an avid reader and freelance artist. I also have a blog at http://r-o-u-s.blogspot.com. (Agent specific stuff) I would be honored to send you sample pages or the full manuscript upon request. You might just put the blog address in the contact info and I have read on Query Shark that telling them that you would be honored to send your full ms is obvious and redundant given that you are submitting a query in hopes of representation.

Thank you for your time,
Kristopher CowellAvalon Ink

I love the title and I think this is a book I would buy for my (nonexistent) kids. I think your query is good - it is simple - to the point and sets the plot out nicely. Not much to change in my opinion. Good Luck!!!I am a writer in MA - and am considering having my next supernatural mystery novel take place there. I am in the process of checking out your blog and happy to see another NE writer here. arielswan.blogspot.com

Oh and...ROUS'S, I don't believe they exist (except in my attic)
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Re: Query - MG - THE WHISPERING FERNS

Post by chomsnumnum » April 7th, 2010, 11:08 am

Dear Makemy Dreamscometrue,

The most adventurous thing eleven year old James “Smith” Campbell ever did was try and run away to the Smithsonian, and he only got one block away and a nickname out of that. However, When (you don't need any of this backstory)James "Smith" Campbell is sent to stay with his cousins in the mysterious little fishing village of Moonstone Bay, Washington, where he will have to learn how tobe brave just to keep up with them! THE WHISPERING FERNS: A MOONSTONE BAY MYSTERY is a middle grade novel, complete at 45,000 words, and was inspired by the rich mythology and landscape of the Pacific Northwest. It will appeal to readers who love their stories filled with adventure, intrigue, haunted forests and rain-drenched beaches.this should all go after the next paragraph. Maybe add a description of the scary setting that leads to the conflict.

When Smith's new friend, the bold and outgoing Noelle goes missing, he is sure the townfolk are following the wrong leads. Smith knows she wasn't abducted by a person, she's too smart for that. Instead, he believes that she's vanished into the mist-shrouded woods behind Moonstone Bay, hunting a ghostly shape they spotted earlier. With the adults intent on their own search and his troublemaking cousins under curfew, Smith decides he must brave the forest alone to rescue her! This is your query, it tells the inciting event (Noelle missing), the conflict (the scary woods and ghostly shape) .

Raised on a healthy diet of John Bellairs, Roald Dahl and Donald J. Sobol, I am an avid reader and leave this out freelance artist. I also have a blog at http://r-o-u-s.blogspot.com. This goes at the end with your contact info (good blog by the way)(Agent specific stuff) I would be honored to send you sample pages or the full manuscript upon request. Are you a member of SCBWI? If you're writing MG you really should be. Some agents will only consider MG queries from SCBWI members.Thank you for your time,
Kristopher Cowell

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dahosek
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Re: Query - MG - THE WHISPERING FERNS

Post by dahosek » April 7th, 2010, 2:52 pm

Avalon Ink wrote: The most adventurous thing eleven year old James “Smith” Campbell ever did was try and run away to the Smithsonian, and he only got one block away and a nickname out of that. However, when Smith is sent to stay with his cousins in the mysterious little fishing village of Moonstone Bay, Washington, he will have to learn how to be brave just to keep up with them! THE WHISPERING FERNS: A MOONSTONE BAY MYSTERY is a middle grade novel, complete at 45,000 words, and was inspired by the rich mythology and landscape of the Pacific Northwest. It will appeal to readers who love their stories filled with adventure, intrigue, haunted forests and rain-drenched beaches.
The interjection of the novel info mid-hook is a bit jarring. When I read this, I thought that you were done telling me about the novel with "keep up with them!" and would have stopped reading there.
Avalon Ink wrote: When Smith's new friend, the bold and outgoing Noelle goes missing, he is sure the townfolk are following the wrong leads. Smith knows she wasn't abducted by a person, she's too smart for that. Instead, he believes that she's vanished into the mist-shrouded woods behind Moonstone Bay, hunting a ghostly shape they spotted earlier. With the adults intent on their own search and his troublemaking cousins under curfew, Smith decides he must brave the forest alone to rescue her!
We're getting a bit closer here, but we need to know what's at stake. What happens if he doesn't rescue her? If he's sure she left on her own, why wouldn't she come back? What's at stake if he does go out for her.
Avalon Ink wrote: Raised on a healthy diet of John Bellairs, Roald Dahl and Donald J. Sobol, I am an avid reader and freelance artist. I also have a blog at http://r-o-u-s.blogspot.com. (Agent specific stuff) I would be honored to send you sample pages or the full manuscript upon request.
I'm not sure that any of this is necessary.

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Re: Query - MG - THE WHISPERING FERNS

Post by Emily J » April 7th, 2010, 3:18 pm

Avalon Ink wrote:I'm new to the forum, though I've been reading the blog for a long time, and I'm finally ready to start officially sending my query around. I need help though. The kind of insightful and useful help that the readers of Nathan Bransford, agent extraordinaire's blog, excel at! So hook me up with some lightbulbs and suggestions so that I may go out into the large, scary world of agents and query!

Thanks!


Dear Makemy Dreamscometrue,

The most adventurous thing eleven year old James “Smith” Campbell it should be "eleven-year-old" when it comes before the name ever did was try and run away to the Smithsonian, and he only got one block away and a nickname out of that. However, when Smith is sent to stay with his cousins in the mysterious little fishing village of Moonstone Bay, Washington, he will have to learn how to be brave just to keep up with them! I am luke warm about this exclamation point, also, after this sentence I would think we need some colorful description of the kind of shenanigans the cousins get up to THE WHISPERING FERNS: A MOONSTONE BAY MYSTERY is a middle grade novel, complete at 45,000 words, agree with Dahosek, it's weird to have this information here and was inspired by the rich mythology and landscape of the Pacific Northwest. It will appeal to readers who love their stories awkward "appeal to readers who love adventure..."filled with adventure, intrigue, haunted forests and rain-drenched beaches.
When Smith's new friend, the bold and outgoing Noelle i think u need a comma here goes missing, he is sure the townfolk are following the wrong leads. not police? "townfolk?" cuz I have in my head a bunch of villagers carrying torches now walking in circles, how long has she been missing? Isn't there even a gap-toothed incompetent sheriff on the job?? Smith knows she wasn't abducted by a person, she's too smart for that. this sentence sounds strange, like she was abducted by a lemur instead... Instead, he believes that she's vanished into the mist-shrouded woods behind Moonstone Bay, oh okay, why not just say she's too smart to be kidnapped? by human or otherwise? before you have the reader thinking aliens... or lemurs hunting a ghostly shape they spotted earlier. are there ghosts? if there are and they are a big part of the story I think they need more than just this one reference With the adults intent on their own search and his troublemaking cousins i would still like to know HOW these cause trouble under curfew, Smith decides he must brave the forest alone to rescue her! another exclamantion point! pick out or the other! exclamation point!

Raised on a healthy diet of John Bellairs, Roald Dahl and Donald J. Sobol, I am an avid reader and freelance artist. I also have a blog at http://r-o-u-s.blogspot.com. (Agent specific stuff) I would be honored to send you sample pages or the full manuscript upon request. "I would be honored" sounds a bit stuffy, why not just say "the full manuscript is available upon request"? (and always push for the full manuscript, why not? :) )

Thank you for your time,
Kristopher Cowell

Avalon Ink
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Re: Query - MG - THE WHISPERING FERNS

Post by Avalon Ink » April 8th, 2010, 8:28 pm

Some really excellent advice here guys! Thanks so much. How did aspiring authors ever survive without the internet?

The first part of the query doesn't have a lot to do with the plot outside of explaining where his nickname came from and showing that he's a fairly withdrawn kid. Should I leave it off and not mention why he's called Smith?

The odd placement of the book info seems to ruffle quite a few feathers, I'll have to change that. I based it off of a successful query that I found elsewhere. I liked the look of it, but I think you're right, better to stick to convention in this case.

I use too many exclamation points! I don't know why! I actually did a search and replace on my MS after writing it because I kept unconsciously adding them.

My problem with the query is this - I know you are supposed to be brief and condense everything down to the most important, exciting, compelling parts of your story and for this one, it's certainly his friend going missing, but the first 2/3 of the book is Smith meeting his cousins, exploring the mysterious house they live in and hunting for ghosts in the forest with his cousins and new friends. There is a ghost in the story and Smith actually has a couple of dreams about the ghost too (That ties in to a later revelation) but I'm not sure how much of that to lay out. It's certainly a ghost story, but it's more about an introverted boy being away from his parents and learning how to make friends and act bravely.


Grr. Query Hard. Make Wannabe Writer Head Hurt!

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Re: Query - MG - THE WHISPERING FERNS

Post by Avalon Ink » April 9th, 2010, 1:15 am

Okay, here's my new draft... let me know if you think I'm heading the right direction!


Dear Makemy Dreamscometrue,

The only adventurous thing eleven-year-old James “Smith” Campbell ever did was try and run away to the Smithsonian, and he made it one block away and got a nickname out of that. However, staying with his troublemaking cousins in the tiny fishing village of Moonstone Bay, he is surrounded by secret passages, ghosts, pranks and tall tales. Smith will have to learn to be brave just to keep up.

When Smith's new friend, the bold and outgoing Noelle goes missing, he is sure the townfolk are following the wrong leads. Smith knows she wasn't abducted, she's too smart for that. He believes that she's vanished into the mist-shrouded woods behind Moonstone Bay, hunting a ghostly shape they spotted earlier. With the adults intent on their own search, his cousins under curfew, and a storm quickly approaching, Smith decides he must brave the forest alone to rescue her.

THE WHISPERING FERNS: A MOONSTONE BAY MYSTERY is a middle grade novel, complete at 45,000 words, and was inspired by the rich mythology and landscape of the Pacific Northwest. It will appeal to readers who enjoy adventure, intrigue, haunted forests and rain-drenched beaches.

Raised on a healthy diet of John Bellairs, Roald Dahl, the Hardy Boys and Donald J. Sobol, I am an avid reader and freelance artist. (Agent specific stuff) The full manuscript is available upon request.

Thank you for your time,

Kristopher Cowell
avalon_ink@yahoo.com
http://r-o-u-s.blogspot.com

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Re: Query - MG - THE WHISPERING FERNS

Post by Quill » April 9th, 2010, 1:46 am

Avalon Ink wrote: The only adventurous thing eleven-year-old James “Smith” Campbell ever did was try and run away to the Smithsonian, and he made it one block away and got a nickname out of that.

What do you mean "he made it one block away." He made it a block from home? A block from the museum? Also, are we clear that it is that Smithsonian? Also, might be better to break it into two sentences.
However, staying with his troublemaking cousins in the tiny fishing village of Moonstone Bay, he is surrounded by secret passages, ghosts, pranks and tall tales. Smith will have to learn to be brave just to keep up.
Good. Add comma after pranks. Is trouble-making really one word? Is "surrounded" the best word here? Surrounded by pranks?
When Smith's new friend, the bold and outgoing Noelle goes missing, he is sure the townfolk are following the wrong leads.
Should "townfolk" be townsfolk? Would "he becomes convinced" flow more smoothly?

Smith knows she wasn't abducted, she's too smart for that. He believes that she's vanished into the mist-shrouded woods behind Moonstone Bay, hunting a ghostly shape they spotted earlier.
Good. "They'd spotted earlier." Hunting a ghostly shape is a bit awkward. Hunting a shape.
With the adults intent on their own search, his cousins under curfew, and a storm quickly approaching, Smith decides he must brave the forest alone to rescue her.
Good. Omit "quickly."
THE WHISPERING FERNS: A MOONSTONE BAY MYSTERY is a middle grade novel, complete at 45,000 words,
Period. End of sentence.
and was inspired by the rich mythology and landscape of the Pacific Northwest. It will appeal to readers who enjoy adventure, intrigue, haunted forests and rain-drenched beaches.
How about combining these sentences, "Inspired by...., it will appeal..."
Raised on a healthy diet of John Bellairs, Roald Dahl, the Hardy Boys and Donald J. Sobol,
Add comma after Boys.
I am an avid reader and freelance artist. (Agent specific stuff)
I'm not at all sure that an agent would want to know these things about you.
The full manuscript is available upon request.
Omit as redundant to the fact that your manuscript is complete and you are querying.

In general, very close. Sounds like a good story.

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Re: Query - MG - THE WHISPERING FERNS

Post by Avalon Ink » April 9th, 2010, 2:00 am

Thanks, Quill! VERY useful advice and suggestions. I'm still really mulling over that opening sentence. I think I may just drop it altogether and find a different way to start it. It may be a stronger query if I don't feel the need to explain his nickname and just start in with the story itself.

Thanks again!

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Re: Query - MG - THE WHISPERING FERNS

Post by dahosek » April 9th, 2010, 1:19 pm

Avalon Ink wrote: It may be a stronger query if I don't feel the need to explain his nickname and just start in with the story itself.
Almost certainly. You might want to apply the same to the novel itself (if you open with that event, I'd move it to later in the story when someone asks him why people call him "Smith". It could, in fact, be a payoff that's held off until the end of the book.

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Re: Query - MG - THE WHISPERING FERNS

Post by Avalon Ink » April 9th, 2010, 1:57 pm

I don't open with it, I've just read that agents like to know why a character has a nickname in a query. Which could be off base.

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Re: Query - MG - THE WHISPERING FERNS

Post by arielswan » April 9th, 2010, 5:51 pm

Dear Makemy Dreamscometrue,

The only adventurous thing eleven-year-old James “Smith” Campbell ever did was try and run away to the Smithsonian, and he made it one block away and got a nickname out of that. color=#0080BF] You could just delete the underlined part and it would be the same - trust the reader that they will get "smith" = Smithsonian.[/color] However, staying with his troublemaking cousins in the tiny fishing village of Moonstone Bay, he is surrounded by secret passages, ghosts, pranks and tall tales. Smith will have to learn to be brave just to keep up. Maybe you could add in his smartness if that is something that makes him think of what the true lead might be in the next paragraph. Or just why does he have a sensibility to make him think they are on the wrong lead?

When Smith's new friend, the bold and outgoing Noelle goes missing, he is sure the townfolk are following the wrong leads. Smith knows she wasn't abducted, she's too smart for that. He believes that she's vanished into the mist-shrouded woods behind Moonstone Bay, hunting a ghostly shape they spotted earlier. With the adults intent on their own search, his cousins under curfew, and a storm quickly approaching, Smith decides he must brave the forest alone to rescue her.I like this last sentence - it encapsulates action well

THE WHISPERING FERNS: A MOONSTONE BAY MYSTERY is a middle grade novel, complete at 45,000 words, and was inspired by the rich mythology and landscape of the Pacific Northwest. It will appeal to readers who enjoy adventure, intrigue, haunted forests and rain-drenched beaches.

Raised on a healthy diet of John Bellairs, Roald Dahl, the Hardy Boys and Donald J. Sobol, I am an avid reader and freelance artist. (Agent specific stuff) The full manuscript is available upon request.
Good job - I think this is better
Thank you for your time,

Kristopher Cowell
avalon_ink@yahoo.com
http://r-o-u-s.blogspot.comhttp://r-o-u ... com/Avalon Ink

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Re: Query - MG - THE WHISPERING FERNS

Post by Avalon Ink » April 10th, 2010, 9:58 pm

Thanks, Ariel. You guys are really helping me. I'm currently re-working the beginning due to your advice.

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Re: Query - MG - THE WHISPERING FERNS

Post by Avalon Ink » April 10th, 2010, 11:48 pm

Here's Draft Four... I'm worried that I'm now just re-working the same words over and over...

It's amazing how much time I spend looking at the same 300 words.


Dear Agent of my Dreams,

For eleven-year-old James “Smith” Campbell, apart from a failed attempt to run away to the Smithsonian, the only adventure he has experienced is in the many books he reads. However, in the tiny and remote fishing village of Moonstone Bay, where Smith is sent to stay with his trouble making cousins, life is a bit more exciting than he could have ever imagined. Between the eclectic residents, secret passages, tall tales, pranks, and ghosts, he will have his hands full just keeping up.

When Smith's new friend, the bold and outgoing Noelle goes missing, he knows the townfolk are following the wrong leads. Noelle wasn't abducted by the stranger seen in town, she's too smart for that. He believes that she's vanished into the mist-shrouded woods behind Moonstone Bay, searching for a ghostly shape that they had spotted earlier. With the adults intent on their own hunt for her, his cousins under curfew, and a storm approaching, Smith decides he must brave the forest alone to rescue her.

THE WHISPERING FERNS: A MOONSTONE BAY MYSTERY is a middle grade novel, complete at 45,000 words, and was inspired by the rich mythology and landscape of the Pacific Northwest. It will appeal to readers who enjoy adventure, intrigue, haunted forests and rain-drenched beaches. The full manuscript is available upon request.

Raised on a healthy diet of John Bellairs, Roald Dahl, the Hardy Boys and Donald J. Sobol, I am an avid reader and freelance artist. (Agent specific stuff)

Thank you for your time,

Kristopher Cowell
avalon_ink@yahoo.com
http://r-o-u-s.blogspot.com

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Re: Query - MG - THE WHISPERING FERNS

Post by rainbowsheeps » April 11th, 2010, 12:23 pm

Avalon Ink wrote:Here's Draft Four... I'm worried that I'm now just re-working the same words over and over...

It's amazing how much time I spend looking at the same 300 words.


Dear Agent of my Dreams,

For eleven-year-old James “Smith” Campbell, apart from a failed attempt to run away to the Smithsonian, the only adventure he has experienced is in the many books he reads. (This is good, much better.) However, in the tiny and remote fishing village of Moonstone Bay, where Smith is sent to stay with his trouble making cousins, life is a bit more exciting than he could have ever imagined. (The underlined portion is rather passive. I'd say just switch it around a bit: "When Smith is sent to stay with his troublesome cousins in Moonstone Bay, a tiny, remote fishing village, life becomes more exciting than he ever imagined.") Between the eclectic residents, secret passages, tall tales, pranks, and ghosts, he will have his hands full just keeping up.

When Smith's new friend, the bold and outgoing Noelle goes missing, he knows the townfolk are following the wrong leads. (This is a concise description, but I wonder if it might be stronger if you set up Noelle with a more specific description than "bold and outgoing" before she goes missing? Your original query gave her a bit more attitude, which I think is lost a little bit here) Noelle wasn't abducted by the stranger seen in town, she's too smart for that. He believes that she's vanished into the mist-shrouded woods behind Moonstone Bay, searching for a ghostly shape that they had spotted earlier. With the adults intent on their own hunt for her, his cousins under curfew, and a storm approaching, Smith decides he must brave the forest alone to rescue her. (Good!)

THE WHISPERING FERNS: A MOONSTONE BAY MYSTERY is a middle grade novel, complete at 45,000 words, and was inspired by the rich mythology and landscape of the Pacific Northwest. It will appeal to readers who enjoy adventure, intrigue, haunted forests and rain-drenched beaches. The full manuscript is available upon request.

Raised on a healthy diet of John Bellairs, Roald Dahl, the Hardy Boys and Donald J. Sobol, I am an avid reader and freelance artist. (Agent specific stuff)

Thank you for your time,

Kristopher Cowell
avalon_ink@yahoo.com
http://r-o-u-s.blogspot.com
I'd say this version flows better than the previous one, but I think it wouldn't hurt so much to describe the character Noelle a little before she goes missing. A sentence would do. It would help clarify the stakes. The query is definitely progressing in the right direction though. Good improvement!

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