Query - MG - THE WHISPERING FERNS

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Quill
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Re: Query - MG - THE WHISPERING FERNS

Post by Quill » April 11th, 2010, 1:17 pm

Avalon Ink wrote:
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.
I guess I am really wondering why we must know right off the bat how he got his nickname and that he reads books. I mean, this is your all-important opening.
However,
However is a word I would include in a query very carefully, if at all.
in the tiny and remote fishing village of Moonstone Bay,
I would open with this and omit "tiny and", which adds little (pun intended).
where Smith is sent to stay with his trouble making cousins,
I'm liking your setup a lot. I wonder if trouble-making would be better. At a glance what you have looks like he's having trouble making cousins, as if he's a mad scientist with a cloning program. Hey, could be.
life is a bit more exciting than he could have ever imagined.
This sentence doesn't pop. At the least, I'd take out "is a bit" and "ever". Those type of little qualifiers sap the life out of a sentence.
Between the eclectic residents,
Again, I'm liking where you're going with this but not sure about some of your word choices. Not only is "eclectic" and "residents" unspecific, but they are words an eleven-year old probably wouldn't use. Do they really fit the voice of your book? Eclectic how? What residents? Other kids? Their parents? Shopkeepers?
secret passages, tall tales, pranks, and ghosts, he will have his hands full just keeping up.
Keeping up with what, or whom? Sounds like keeping up with the secret passages, which doesn't make sense.
When Smith's new friend, the bold and outgoing Noelle goes missing,
Great! I already like her. And Smith, too.
he knows the townfolk are following the wrong leads.
Not coherent, to me. When she goes missing, he knows they are following? There are two jumps here; sounds like as soon as she's missing they are following leads, and the minute they follow he knows they are the wrong leads. Don't a certain number of hours need to go by before a person is officially missing? Doesn't it take time to organize a search?

You've also introduced Noelle in the same short sentence. I think some of these four things need to be separated. Uncompress this part of your query somehow for greater clarity and heightened drama.

Also, townsfolk is a bit generic. Simplistic. Are the shopkeepers and old widows combing the woods? Isn't there a police department conducting or at least spearheading the search?
Noelle wasn't abducted by the stranger seen in town,
I believe "the stranger seen in town" is passive voice, though not sure what to do about it. At least maybe say "the stranger she and Smith had seen..."
she's too smart for that.
I love this line. It shows Smith's personality in volumes.
He believes that she's vanished into the mist-shrouded woods behind Moonstone Bay, searching for a ghostly shape that they had spotted earlier.
"Vanished" seems deceptive, like she was taken or magically transported, when it appears later in the sentence that she has merely gone off to look for something. Is that it? She simply wandered off? Do you want to tell us anything more to increase the tension, something about the shape; is it dangerous, ominous, portending a deeper mystery to the story?
With the adults intent on their own hunt for her,
How about "embarked" instead of "intent."They are already more than intent, are they not? And, reach for the strongest possible verbs, to punch up the query representing this obviously fine story.
his cousins under curfew, and a storm approaching, Smith decides he must brave the forest alone to rescue her.
Good. See, that word "rescue" points to more. See if you can reinforce it with something more than "ghostly shape that they had spotted earlier." I have a feeling that the word "shape" may not sell (do justice) to this story. Apparition?
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.
Again, I think it is unneeded, thus unprofessional, to state that the manuscript you have completed and for which you are querying, is available.
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)
I think it is great that you compare to other books! I still do not know why you consider it a benefit to state that you are a reader.

Again, I do like the atmosphere, characters, and what part of the story you have shared here!

A.M.Kuska
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Re: Query - MG - THE WHISPERING FERNS

Post by A.M.Kuska » April 11th, 2010, 2:06 pm

Awww, and of course you're done with it. >_> This would have been a perfect crit swap with my MG novel.

cjtrapp
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Re: Query - MG - THE WHISPERING FERNS

Post by cjtrapp » April 14th, 2010, 4:07 pm

Queries should start with a conflict or problem whenever possible. For example:

James "Smith" Campbell's only friend in his new home of Moonstone Bay has gone missing. Smith knows there is foul play, and he also knows that the adults and law enforcement are following the wrong trail. But no one wants to listen to an eleven-year-old, expecially when his main supsect is a ghost.

See the difference?

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