QUERY: SPIRIT HILL - Revision #3

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GeeGee55
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QUERY: SPIRIT HILL - Revision #3

Post by GeeGee55 » February 20th, 2010, 12:39 am

THERE IS A NEW VERSION POSTED ON 31 MARCH 2010

Dear Agent:

In the spring of 1938, a baby boy dies in a remote farm home in drought-stricken northern Saskatchewan. His father, Gus, immerses himself in his daily chores, caring for his beloved horses, worrying about the absence of rain. The one thing he can't allow himself to think about is his son's death and the part he played in it. The infant's mother, Rebecca, cannot find the will to leave her bed. She wonders how her husband could walk away from the grave and back into a life that continues as usual. She can't bear to be touched, not emotionally, not physically. She swears an unspoken vow: no more babies. As their once-happy marriage begins to crumble, and it seems the farm will fail, Gus and Rebecca must put aside their private agonies and work together to survive.

My literary novel, SPIRIT HILL, is complete at 65,000 words. I have published three short stories in Transition magazine. Recently, I earned a post-graduate certificate in Creative Writing from the Humber School for the Creative Arts in Toronto, Canada. Thank you for your time and attention.

Yours truly,

GeeGee[/color] -

Version Two if I can figure out how to do this:'
Nope, I cannot make it work. Can the quote feature be used to edit an original post?
Arggghhh!!

One of the difficulties I'm having with writing the query is trying to make it sound interesting and it comes off sounding like a romance which it isn't, it's a love story, a story about a marriage in trouble. Another difficult thing about the story being character driven is having to pull back out of the characters and figure out what happens in terms of action, weird, I know. But any and all comments are very appreciated. Here it is:


A baby…dead and buried. A marriage…silent and shattered.

That’s the concept behind my completed novel, SPIRIT HILL, which contains 65,000 words.

In the spring of 1938, Thomas Kelman, eleven months, dies in his parents' isolated farm home in northern Saskatchewan. Paralyzed with grief, his mother, Rebecca, cannot find the will to leave her bed. She wonders how her husband, Gus, could have walked away from the grave and back into a life that continues as usual. She swears an unspoken vow. No more babies. No more pain. In this wild and remote country what that means is no more sex. Gus will just have to accept that their marriage will never be the way it was.

Gus immerses himself in the daily chores of the farm he and Rebecca operate for his widowed mother who now lives in New York. He worries about the drought, about armyworms, about his mother surviving with no income from the farm, and about the undeniable fact that his wife doesn't love him anymore. The one thing he can't allow himself to think about is his son's death and the part he played in it. Still, a life of hardship has taught him not to quit while he's down. He has a plan to save the farm and his marriage, if his wife and Fate will co-operate.

I belong to a local writers group and have published three short stories in Transition magazine. Recently, I earned a post-graduate certificate in Creative Writing through the Humber School for the Creative Arts in Toronto, Canada. I was awarded a $500 President's Scholarship on entrance to the program. This is my first novel.

Signed, Me
Last edited by GeeGee55 on March 31st, 2010, 5:41 pm, edited 9 times in total.

jordynface
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Re: QUERY: SPIRIT HILL - Literary

Post by jordynface » February 20th, 2010, 1:27 am

Some thoughts and suggestions.

1. "A baby…dead and buried. A marriage…silent and shattered.
That’s the concept behind my completed novel, SPIRIT HILL, which contains 65,000 words."
I think you could probably delete all of this and insert the title/word count later in the query. It starts off stronger (I think) if you begin with the next paragraph.
2. This is a minor thing, but I'm not entirely sure if you need the sentence "Gus will have to accept that their marriage will never be what it once was." I think that's implied in the rest of that paragraph and could be taken as redundant.
3. Does Gus' mother belong in the query? She seems to take emphasis away from Gus and Rebecca, but that's just me.
4. No dash in cooperate. I think.
5. I'm not sure how important it is that you say you're part of a local writers' group. I might take that part out.

Bottom line, from an amateur: I think this is a solid query. A few tweaks, nothing major. If I were an agent and I represented literary works I think I'd ask for a partial from this.

Hope I've helped. :-)

GeeGee55
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Re: QUERY: SPIRIT HILL - Literary

Post by GeeGee55 » February 20th, 2010, 1:34 pm

Thank you, Jordynface. These are good questions to ask myself and it's great to have someone to bounce ideas around with.

bcomet
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Re: QUERY: SPIRIT HILL - Literary

Post by bcomet » February 20th, 2010, 1:55 pm

GeeGee55 wrote:One of the difficulties I'm having with writing the query is trying to make it sound interesting and it comes off sounding like a romance which it isn't, it's a love story, a story about a marriage in trouble. Another difficult thing about the story being character driven is having to pull back out of the characters and figure out what happens in terms of action, weird, I know. But any and all comments are very appreciated. Here it is:


A baby…dead and buried. A marriage…silent and shattered.

That’s the concept behind my completed novel, SPIRIT HILL, which contains 65,000 words.

I agree with Jordy about the opening:
{1. "A baby…dead and buried. A marriage…silent and shattered.
That’s the concept behind my completed novel, SPIRIT HILL, which contains 65,000 words."
I think you could probably delete all of this and insert the title/word count later in the query. It starts off stronger (I think) if you begin with the next paragraph.}



In the spring of 1938, Thomas Kelman, eleven months, dies in his parents' isolated farm home in northern Saskatchewan. Paralyzed with grief, his mother, Rebecca, cannot find the will to leave her bed. She wonders how her husband, Gus, could have walked away from the grave and back into a life that continues as usual. She swears an unspoken vow. No more babies. No more pain. In this wild and remote country what that means is no more sex. Gus will just have to accept that their marriage will never be the way it was.

Gus immerses himself in the daily chores of the farm he and Rebecca operate for his widowed mother who now lives in New York. He worries about the drought, about armyworms, about his mother surviving with no income from the farm, and about the undeniable fact that his wife doesn't love him anymore. The one thing he can't allow himself to think about is his son's death and the part he played in it. Still, a life of hardship has taught him not to quit while he's down. He has a plan to save the farm and his marriage, if his wife and Fate will co-operate.

I belong to a local writers group and have published three short stories in Transition magazine. Recently, I earned a post-graduate certificate in Creative Writing through the Humber School for the Creative Arts in Toronto, Canada. I was awarded a $500 President's Scholarship on entrance to the program. This is my first novel.

I am not surprised to hear you have already had some significant recognition. Congratulations on your kudos.

Signed, Me
I think this is a wonderful query letter. I am in awe of how well you have consolidated the characters and story into two paragraphs, (a task I find incredibly hard). Well done.

The only note I can think to add is that the title (which I like) initially made me think this was going to be a ghost story. That doesn't necessarily mean I would change it though.
Last edited by bcomet on February 20th, 2010, 2:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Lunetta22
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Re: QUERY: SPIRIT HILL - Literary

Post by Lunetta22 » February 20th, 2010, 2:04 pm

It sounds like a pretty solid query to me too. I like the idea as well. I thought it sounded like a ghost story too!

Good luck with this!

jessicatudor
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Re: QUERY: SPIRIT HILL - Literary

Post by jessicatudor » February 21st, 2010, 2:38 pm

GeeGee55 wrote:One of the difficulties I'm having with writing the query is trying to make it sound interesting and it comes off sounding like a romance which it isn't, it's a love story, a story about a marriage in trouble. Another difficult thing about the story being character driven is having to pull back out of the characters and figure out what happens in terms of action, weird, I know. But any and all comments are very appreciated. Here it is:

The pulling back is the same problem I'm having. :)


A baby…dead and buried. A marriage…silent and shattered.

That’s the concept behind my completed novel, SPIRIT HILL, which contains 65,000 words.

As already mentioned, please cut this! It's generic and a weak start. Include the title/word count/genre at the end.

In the spring of 1938, Thomas Kelman, eleven months, dies in his parents' isolated farm home in northern Saskatchewan. Paralyzed with grief, his mother, Rebecca, cannot find the will to leave her bed. She wonders how her husband, Gus, could have walked away from the grave and back into a life that continues as usual. She swears an unspoken vow. No more babies. No more pain. In this wild and remote country what that means is no more sex. Gus will just have to accept that their marriage will never be the way it was.

I like the set-up, that seems fine.

Gus immerses himself in the daily chores of the farm he and Rebecca operate for his widowed mother who now lives in New York. He worries about the drought, about armyworms, about his mother surviving with no income from the farm, and about the undeniable fact that his wife doesn't love him anymore. The one thing he can't allow himself to think about is his son's death and the part he played in it. Still, a life of hardship has taught him not to quit while he's down. He has a plan to save the farm and his marriage, if his wife and Fate will co-operate.

This is the part I have trouble with. How does Gus react to no more sex? I don't know a guy who isn't going to have a problem with this. I get the sense from 'his wife doesn't love him anymore' that this is how he interprets her vow, and the lines after is the conflict and story - I think the first two sentences of this para aren't working up to 'his wife doesn't love him'. I know you've got to work the farm in there somehow, but it's sort of pulling back after we get into the dead baby and a crazy vow to go to everyday worries.

I belong to a local writers group and have published three short stories in Transition magazine. Recently, I earned a post-graduate certificate in Creative Writing through the Humber School for the Creative Arts in Toronto, Canada. I was awarded a $500 President's Scholarship on entrance to the program. This is my first novel.

I'm not sure about mentioning the scholarship just because it sounds like any scholarship you'd get as part of financial aid. If it's a result of your writing, you may mention that. 'Upon entrance to the program I received a President's scholarship based on the writing portfolio I submitted.' I definitely wouldn't mention the amount, it just has an amateur kind of vibe to me.

Signed, Me
'The world is but canvas to our imaginations.' - Thoreau

KaylingR
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Re: QUERY: SPIRIT HILL - Literary

Post by KaylingR » February 21st, 2010, 6:39 pm

GG- This is lovely. I'll take a pass, but I'm being really nitpicky. Use anything that's of use, and ignore the rest.
Thomas Kelman, eleven months, dies in his parents' isolated farm home
I think Gus and Rebecca are the only characters you want to name. I'd just try 'In the spring of 1938, an eleven month old infant dies...'
Paralyzed with grief
A little cliche, and the rest of the sentence says the same thing more powerfully.
In this wild and remote country what that means is no more sex.
I'm not sure about 'in this wild and remote country.' In 1938 is there any reliable birth control? Would it be any better in the city? "That means no more sex." might be enough.

Again, it's beautiful. Good luck with finding representation!

-K.

kansaswriter
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Re: QUERY: SPIRIT HILL - Literary

Post by kansaswriter » February 21st, 2010, 7:36 pm

In the spring of 1938, Thomas Kelman, eleven months, dies in his parents' isolated farm home in northern Saskatchewan. Paralyzed with grief, his mother, Rebecca, cannot find the will to leave her bed. She wonders how her husband, Gus, could have walked away from the grave and back into a life that continues as usual. She swears an unspoken vow. No more babies. No more pain. In this wild and remote country what that means is no more sex. Gus will just have to accept that their marriage will never be the way it was.
This feels pretty strong. You've set the stage for how Rebecca and Gus got into their mess.
Gus immerses himself in the daily chores of the farm he and Rebecca operate for his widowed mother who now lives in New York. He worries about the drought, about armyworms, about his mother surviving with no income from the farm, and about the undeniable fact that his wife doesn't love him anymore. The one thing he can't allow himself to think about is his son's death and the part he played in it. Still, a life of hardship has taught him not to quit while he's down. He has a plan to save the farm and his marriage, if his wife and Fate will co-operate.
This is the part that I think needs a little...more. I understand what you mean by character-driven, but it seems like you need a little bit more about the incident or choices that represent the fork in the road, the event that forces them to change or the moment where the characters decide to change the outcome of their lives.

Good luck!

Serzen
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Re: QUERY: SPIRIT HILL - Literary

Post by Serzen » February 22nd, 2010, 10:43 am

GeeGee55 wrote: A baby…dead and buried. A marriage…silent and shattered. A baby, dead and buried; a marriage, silent and shattered.

In the spring of 1938, Thomas Kelman, aged eleven months, dies in at his parents' isolated farm home in northern Saskatchewan. Paralyzed with grief, Rebecca Kelman cannot find the will to leave her bed. She wonders how her husband, Gus, could have walked away from the grave and back into a life that continues as usual. She swears an unspoken vow/./ : no more babies. No more pain. In this wild and remote country what that means is no more sex. Gus will just have to accept that their marriage will never be the way it was.

Gus immerses himself in the daily chores of the farm he and Rebecca operate for his widowed mother who now lives in New York. He worries about the drought, about armyworms, about his mother surviving with no income from the farm, and about the undeniable fact that his wife doesn't love him anymore. The one thing he can't refuses to allow himself to think about is his son's death and the part he played in it. Still, a life of hardship has taught him not to quit while he's down. He has a plan to save the farm and his marriage, if his wife and Fate will co-operate. note 1
1 "Co-operate" is definitely the old spelling, which might be what you're going for here, but I think that by the mid-to-late '30s most places had transitioned to the modern cooperate. You're the Canadian, though, so you're in a better position to know when the change occurred in your neck of the woods.

Other thoughts:
The first sentence of the third paragraph reads kind of clunkily. I might think about something like "Gus immerses himself in the daily chores of the farm he and Rebecca operate for his absent, widowed mother." Even that is a little bad, but it's a start.

Other than that I don't see a lot to harp on about right now. Hope it's useful.

~Serzen
Il en est des livres comme du feu de nos foyers; on va prendre ce feu chez son voisin, on l’allume chez soi, on le communique à d’autres, et il appartient à tous. --Voltaire

BAL
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Re: QUERY: SPIRIT HILL - Literary

Post by BAL » February 22nd, 2010, 1:05 pm

I like the sound of this book a lot, unfortunately I'm not experienced enough to give advice but I can give encouragement. Keep it up. I would love to be able to pick this up and read it someday.

GeeGee55
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Re: QUERY: SPIRIT HILL - Literary

Post by GeeGee55 » February 22nd, 2010, 5:20 pm

Thank you to everyone who took the time to comment. It's really appreciated. Now, back to the drawing board, or the page, I guess.

GeeGee55
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Re: QUERY: SPIRIT HILL - Revision #1

Post by GeeGee55 » February 24th, 2010, 11:39 pm

REVISION #1

My sister remarked to me that after so many versions, the query must feel like word hash. Yes. Yes, it does. Is this version any better? (Just for those of you who wondered. Life in the cities was very different from life on the farm in 1938. In the city there was electricity and telephones and cars and yes, access to birth control, even though it was illegal and not commonly discussed. Rural areas had none of those luxuries and it was a two-day ride in a wagon to get to a town with a drug store. In the earlier 1900's it wasn't uncommon for families to include ten children, by 1938 that number had dropped quite substantially.)

Dear Agent:

In the spring of 1938, Thomas Kelman, eleven months, dies in his parents' isolated farm home in northern Saskatchewan. His mother, Rebecca, cannot find the will to leave her bed. She wonders how her husband, Gus, could have walked away from the grave and back into a life that continues as usual. She swears an unspoken vow. No more babies. No more pain. In this wild and remote country what that means is no more sex. Gus seems to accept the situation, at first. But, Rebecca soon realizes that somehow she must find the courage to overcome her fear or her marriage will not survive.

My literary novel, SPIRIT HILL, is complete at 65,000 words. One of the themes it explores is how what is tragic in life does not cancel what is beautiful.

I have published three short stories in Transition magazine. More recently, I earned a post-graduate certificate in Creative Writing through the Humber School for the Creative Arts in Toronto, Canada. Thank you for taking the time to consider my work.

Yours truly,

Me

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Re: QUERY: SPIRIT HILL - Revision #1

Post by Yoshima » February 25th, 2010, 10:11 am

Hey GeeGee! I haven't read your previous versions so this is with fresh eyes. :)
GeeGee55 wrote:REVISION #1

My sister remarked to me that after so many versions, the query must feel like word hash. Yes. Yes, it does. (Oh man. Yeah. I can't tell up from down with mine right now.) Is this version any better? (Just for those of you who wondered. Life in the cities was very different from life on the farm in 1938. In the city there was electricity and telephones and cars and yes, access to birth control, even though it was illegal and not commonly discussed. Rural areas had none of those luxuries and it was a two-day ride in a wagon to get to a town with a drug store. In the earlier 1900's it wasn't uncommon for families to include ten children, by 1938 that number had dropped quite substantially.)

Dear Agent:

In the spring of 1938, Thomas Kelman, eleven months, dies in his parents' isolated farm home in northern Saskatchewan. His mother, Rebecca, cannot find the will to leave her bed. She wonders how her husband, Gus, could have walked away from the grave and back into a life that continues as usual. She swears an unspoken vow. No more babies. No more pain. In this wild and remote country what (cut "what" and use a comma; I think it makes it snappier like the two previous sentences) that means is no more sex. Gus seems to accept the situation, at first. But, Rebecca soon realizes that somehow she must find the courage to overcome her fear or her marriage will not survive.

Is it really necessary in the query to give the baby's full name? Generally when I read a name (especially a full one) at the beginning of a query I'm assuming it's the protag. Rebecca seems to be your protag. Maybe mention her first?

My literary novel, SPIRIT HILL, is complete at 65,000 words. One of the themes it explores is how what is tragic in life does not cancel what is beautiful. (Well, to tell you the truth, I'm not crazy about this last line. I already know that's a theme it explores from the above paragraph. It's also because at the end of the query, even though I know you're meaning the children thing, it kind of sounds like "what is beautiful" is sex itself on a first read. Maybe play with the wording a bit, or mention her fear of losing another child specifically? Just my thought. Otherwise it sounds lovely. :) )

I have published three short stories in Transition magazine. More recently, I earned a post-graduate certificate in Creative Writing through the Humber School for the Creative Arts in Toronto, Canada. Thank you for taking the time to consider my work.

Yours truly,

Me

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Ryan
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Re: QUERY: SPIRIT HILL - Revision #1

Post by Ryan » February 25th, 2010, 11:13 am

I agree with Yoshima. Maybe you can say something along the lines of "all physical love is lost" or "all passion is lost, they simply live together..." something along those lines without the word 'sex'. Maybe there needs to be quick mention of Gus's struggle too.

I assume the book has happy ending? A money shot at the end where Gus and Rebeca stand over their late son's grave and tell their kiddo , "This is your brother. He was a good boy....."

These themes about life's cycles never get old. No matter how much we read about death, grieving and recovery it seems we cannot get enough. More so than ever with our fast paced out of touch world. My wife and I lost two before this boy that's sticking(33 weeks!). Brutal stuff, but we are better because of it.

I wrote this in my proposal: Everyone will lose a loved one at some point in their life, whether it be a pet or human. People cannot get enough inspiration when it comes to the cycles of life and death as proven by the strong response to Randy Pauch’s Last Lecture and subsequent book.

Good luck.
Ryan
My love of fly fishing and surfing connects me to rivers and the ocean. Time with water reminds me to pursue those silly little streams of thought that run rampant in my head.
http://www.withoutrain.com/

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danielsmi
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Re: QUERY: SPIRIT HILL - Revision #1

Post by danielsmi » February 25th, 2010, 12:34 pm

GeeGee55 wrote:REVISION #1

My sister remarked to me that after so many versions, the query must feel like word hash. Yes. Yes, it does. Exactly, in my last revisions I began to lose sense of grammar and subject, forgetting I had edited away related clauses Is this version any better? (Just for those of you who wondered. Life in the cities was very different from life on the farm in 1938. In the city there was electricity and telephones and cars and yes, access to birth control, even though it was illegal and not commonly discussed. Rural areas had none of those luxuries and it was a two-day ride in a wagon to get to a town with a drug store. In the earlier 1900's it wasn't uncommon for families to include ten children, by 1938 that number had dropped quite substantially.)

Dear Agent:

In the spring of 1938, Thomas Kelman unless he is the protag or the narrator I would rework this, eleven months, dies in his parents' isolated farm home in northern Saskatchewan for those that do not know, such as most americans, you might want to use an adjective to describe Saskatchewan to illustrate the country vs. city point you made in your note. His mother, Rebecca, cannot find the will to leave her bed. She wonders how her husband, Gus, could have walked away from the grave and back into a life that continues as usual. She swears an unspoken vow., 'No more babies. No more pain'. In this wild and remote maybe wild and remote could go up to your first sentence and this one can be shortened country what that means is no more sex. Gus seems to accept the situation, at first. But, Rebecca soon realizes that somehow she must find the courage to overcome her fear or her marriage will not survive.

My literary novel, SPIRIT HILL, is complete at 65,000 words. One of the themes it explores is how what is tragic in life does not cancel what is beautiful. I have listed themes and been scolded and have also seen in query shark that your query should illustrate the theme. With that said I have read some examples of 'successful' queries that do just what you have. Go figure.

I have published three short stories in Transition magazine. More recently, I earned a post-graduate certificate in Creative Writing through the Humber School for the Creative Arts in Toronto, Canada. Thank you for taking the time to consider my work.

Yours truly,

Me
Sounds interesting and has the premise of a novel I would read. I do not have the courage to call my work literary fiction and stick with the lit-light term mainstream. I am anticipating more marketability by appealing to a wider audience and covering my bottom with a bit less hubris. I will let you know how that works out ;)

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