Query Help: Contemporary YA - Sitting on Rooftops

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jordynface
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Query Help: Contemporary YA - Sitting on Rooftops

Post by jordynface » February 19th, 2010, 10:26 pm

EDIT: A revised query is now post #9 in this thread. Please look at that one instead. :)

Quick note: I've sent about 30 queries out using this letter, but I've gotten tons of rejection and since I'm thinking of sending a few more queries I want to make sure my pitch is up to par. Any suggestions & thoughts you have are muchly appreciated. :)

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Dear Agent,

Grayson just wants things to be perfect again.

Three years after the sudden death of her aunt and uncle, Grayson is back at her grandparents' house with her two cousins, Ainsley and Willa, who used to be more like her sisters than anything else. As the three reunite in the dry heat of an Arizona summer, Grayson hopes they can go back to the comfort of the way things used to be before the family was ripped apart by the loss of Willa's parents, back to the old, easy relationship they used to share. She's kept a childhood picture of the three of them in her bedroom for the past three years and despite the tragedy that tore them apart, she knows this will be their summer.

But Ainsley, intent on pushing her cousins away, would rather be anywhere but back in Arizona; Willa's grief over her parents' death is resurfacing in this family-filled summer; and Grayson can't help but notice her feelings toward Willa's boyfriend are more than platonic. It's hard to make things good again when everything is already so messed up, when everything Grayson feels is at odds with what she wants, and when all three girls are carrying secrets that threaten to push them even further apart.

SITTING ON ROOFTOPS, complete at 59,000 words, is a YA novel about family, love, and secrets. It's about 'where do we go from here' and how to put things together when they fall apart.

[bio & pub credits]

[agent personalization]

Sincerely,

Jordyn -------
Last edited by jordynface on February 20th, 2010, 11:27 pm, edited 3 times in total.

Lunetta22
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Re: Query Help: Contemporary YA - Sitting on Rooftops

Post by Lunetta22 » February 19th, 2010, 11:40 pm

It's a bit wordy, and I'm not the best person to suggest how to reword it. You could probably say similar to "Grayson just wants things to be perfect again. Three years after her aunt and uncles death she reunites with her cousins while visiting their grandparents. They used to be like sisters, until the death of Willa's parents threatened to tear their family apart. Grayson hopes to renew their old relationship, but family secrets keep them apart.

Grayson has developed feelings for Willa's boyfriend. Ainsley wants to be anywhere but Arizona. Willa's grief resurfaces in the family-filled summer. It's hard to make things good again when everything is already so messed up, when everything Grayson feels is at odds with what she wants, and when all three girls are carrying secrets that threaten to push them even further apart.

SITTING ON ROOFTOPS, complete at 59,000 words, is a YA novel about family, love, and secrets. It's about 'where do we go from here' and how to put things together when they fall apart.I would delete everything in pink
[bio & pub credits]

[agent personalization]"

Sincerely,

Jordyn -------

***

I think maybe we need to know more. What makes this different than any other stories about family, love, and relationships? Why is Grayson developing feelings for Willa's boyfriend? What do they do during the summer other than keep secrets (Or what helps reveal that htey have secrets?) Just some questions to consider.

Hope that helps! And I hope you try posting the first page, I'd like to see it. :)

jordynface
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Re: Query Help: Contemporary YA - Sitting on Rooftops

Post by jordynface » February 20th, 2010, 1:18 am

Thanks, Lunetta! I've revamped the query and hopefully it works a bit better now... took some of your suggestions, left some out. (I really liked the ending of my query, lol, just changed it a little.)

Anyone got critiques/suggestions for me?
----------------------------
Dear Agent,
Grayson wants things to be perfect again, like they used to be.

After three years apart following the death of her aunt and uncle, Grayson and her two cousins, Ainsley and Willa, are together again to unearth their time capsule buried years earlier. Before Willa's parents died, the three cousins shared a strong, comfortable bond -- one Grayson has sorely missed in the time they've been separated.

However, their years apart have changed things. Ainsley, for reasons they don't understand, is intent on pushing her cousins away and Willa's grief over her parents' death resurfaces in the family-filled summer. On top of that, Grayson's feelings for the boy who used to be her best friend (but is now dating Willa) are far more than platonic. It's hard to fix everything that's broken and get back to who they used to be, especially when Grayson finds it impossible to stop her growing feelings, and discovers the secrets Ainsley and Willa are also keeping. In their first summer back together, everything they've become threatens the foundation of their already-shaky relationship, but Grayson's determined to save it.

SITTING ON ROOFTOPS, complete at 59,000 is a contemporary YA novel about cousins, secrets, and all types of love. It's about 'where do we go from here' and how to put things back together when they fall apart.

[bio & credits]

[agent personalization]

Sincerely,
Me.

CoachMT
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Re: Query Help: Contemporary YA - Sitting on Rooftops

Post by CoachMT » February 20th, 2010, 10:45 am

Don't have time right now to look closely at the writing, but one thing I would suggest is working Grayson's age in somewhere. You state at the end that this is YA but there is no indication of any of the characters' ages in the query.

Also, I had an English teacher in high school rap my knuckles every time I began a sentence with "However" = )

jordynface
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Re: Query Help: Contemporary YA - Sitting on Rooftops

Post by jordynface » February 20th, 2010, 1:25 pm

CoachMT wrote:Don't have time right now to look closely at the writing, but one thing I would suggest is working Grayson's age in somewhere. You state at the end that this is YA but there is no indication of any of the characters' ages in the query.

Also, I had an English teacher in high school rap my knuckles every time I began a sentence with "However" = )
Thank you! I hadn't noticed that her age wasn't presented. I'm wondering if, in YA, you need to work the ages in somehow. Hmm. In any case, I'm going to work on finding a way to slip them in.

jordynface
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Re: Query Help: Contemporary YA - Sitting on Rooftops

Post by jordynface » February 20th, 2010, 6:45 pm

Thanks, guys! Here's my next try... looking forward to your suggestions.

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Dear Agent,

When Grayson was thirteen, her aunt and uncle died, leaving a deep, empty hole in their family. Before, Grayson and her cousins, Willa and Ainsley, were like sisters. After, they were torn from each other, with Ainsley's parents moving her to Illinois and Grayson's to California, leaving an orphaned Willa to be raised by their grandparents in Arizona.

Grayson has been apart from her cousins for three years, but now, in what promises to be a family-filled summer, she's headed back to Arizona to reunite with them. However, despite her excitement at being with Willa and Ainsley again, Grayson ends up in difficult position when she develops romantic feelings her childhood best friend -- a boy who's now dating Willa. This, paired with Ainsley's newfound prickly attitude and Willa's lingering grief, force Grayson to confront the cracks that have developed in the relationship with her cousins, and decide what she's willing to risk in order to get things back to the way they used to be.

SITTING ON ROOFTOPS, complete at 59,000 words, is a contemporary YA novel about cousins, secrets, and all types of love. It's about 'where do we go from here' and how to put things back together when they fall apart.
-----------------------

CoachMT
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Re: Query Help: Contemporary YA - Sitting on Rooftops

Post by CoachMT » February 20th, 2010, 9:34 pm

jordynface wrote:When Grayson was thirteen, her aunt and uncle died, leaving a deep, empty hole in their family. Before, Grayson and her cousins, Willa and Ainsley, were like sisters. After, they were torn from each other, with Ainsley's parents moving her to Illinois and Grayson's to California, leaving an orphaned Willa to be raised by their grandparents in Arizona. Things got muddled up here and we don't have enough of the right information. Why did Ainsley and Grayson's families decide to move when Willa's parents died? By listing where they went, etc., it opens up this question for me when it's not really what you want to focus on— the girls' relationship is the important thing. Maybe something like: Sixteen year-old Grayson hasn't seen her cousins, Willa and Ainsley, who were like sisters to her, for three years since a family tragedy tore them apart. Summer brings a chance for them to reunite in Arizona... (I'm just throwing out ideas here.)

Grayson has been apart from her cousins for three years, but now, in what promises to be a family-filled (awkward to me) summer, she's headed (tense change) back to Arizona to reunite with them. However, Despite her excitement at seeing Willa and Ainsley again, Grayson ends up in difficult position when she develops romantic feelings for her childhood best friend (wait, weren't her cousins her best friends?)-- a boy who's now dating Willa. This, paired with Ainsley's newfound prickly attitude and Willa's lingering grief (need to expand these somehow, show why), force Grayson to confront the cracks (need something much stronger) that have developed in the relationship with her cousins, and decide what she's willing to risk in order to get things back to the way they used to be. Just some observations: I don't think you've established enough conflict in the query to make it enticing. There's a love triangle, okay, but what is Ainsley there for? Second, as adults we come to realize that things can never go "back to the way they used to be". We might want them to, but in the end, people change and grow. Grayson's initial goal is probably to make everything be like it was before, but is that a realistic ending to your story? I'm rambling now but hopefully you can see some of what I'm yammering on about here = )

SITTING ON ROOFTOPS, complete at 59,000 words, is a contemporary YA novel about cousins, secrets, and all types of love. It's about 'where do we go from here' and how to put things back together when they fall apart.
Queries suck to write. I've been horsing around with mine for three months and still don't have it right, so don't get discouraged. It's really difficult to sum up your multi-thousand word story in just a couple of paragraphs. You'll see a thousand times: "Show, don't tell" and that's the hard part. Keep working and please have a look at mine and give me your thoughts since I've bled all over yours ; ) --- It's here: viewtopic.php?f=12&t=881

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ryanznock
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Re: Query Help: Contemporary YA - Sitting on Rooftops

Post by ryanznock » February 20th, 2010, 9:56 pm

I liked the second version, but I want to link in some of the better elements of the third version. Here's my suggestion. (It might not work based on the timeline of the time capsule, but if it works I think it's a good way to work in dates and ages.)



Dear Agent,
Grayson wants things to be perfect again, like they used to be.

Three years ago, Grayson and her two cousins Ainsley and Willa buried a time capsule so they could remember the close friendship they had before Willa's parents died. Now thirteen-year old Grayson reunites with her cousins at their grandparents' home in Arizona, hoping to rekindle friendships she has sorely missed. However, their years apart have changed things.

Ainsley is intent on pushing her cousins away for reasons Grayson doesn't understand, while for Willa the reunion serves as a fresh reminder of her grief over her parents' death. Meanwhile, Grayson starts to develop romantic feelings for the boy who used to be her best friend -- and who now is dating Willa. Grayson wants to mend the rifts in her relationship with her cousins, but she has to decide what she's willing to risk in order to get things back to the way they used to be.

SITTING ON ROOFTOPS, complete at 59,000 is a contemporary YA novel about how to put things back together when they fall apart.



I think I want to see a tad bit more about conflict, or some hint about what the resolution might look like. I agree with a comment CoachMT made, that right now we have a teenage love triangle with Willa, but there's nothing concrete about what the conflict with Ainsley is.

Oh, and I really like the "put things back together when they fall apart" line, which I think is much more interesting than the kinda bog standard "it's a novel about friendship and love."

Good luck.

jordynface
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Re: Query Help: Contemporary YA - Sitting on Rooftops

Post by jordynface » February 20th, 2010, 11:27 pm

Thanks to everyone who's given me advice so far. Hope you're not sick of me yet because here's take #whateverthisis and I still need critiques. :)

---------------------
Dear Agent,

Grayson was thirteen when her aunt and uncle died, leaving an emptiness that shattered the family. Before, Grayson and her cousins, Willa and Ainsley, grew up together like sisters. After, they were torn apart as their individual families tried to move on from the tragedy.

Grayson has been apart from her cousins for three years but now, in what promises to be a family-filled summer, she's heading back to Arizona for a reunion. Despite her excitement at seeing Willa and Ainsley again, Grayson finds herself developing feelings for Hunter -- a childhood friend who's now dating Willa. This, paired with Ainsley's confusing, prickly attitude, and Willa's lingering grief, pushes the cousins apart once more. Thus Grayson is forced to confront the rift growing between them, especially when Ainsley, determined to redeem herself after betraying Willa years earlier, takes a stand against Grayson. Now Grayson must decide how much she's willing to risk in order to restore her relationship with the cousins.

SITTING ON ROOFTOPS, complete at 59,000 words, is a contemporary YA novel, about family, secrets, and the different types of love. It's about making the wrong turn and how to put things back together when they fall apart.

Sincerely,
Me.

GeeGee55
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Re: Query Help: Contemporary YA - Sitting on Rooftops

Post by GeeGee55 » February 21st, 2010, 1:37 am

I think perhaps the problem is that some things are not clear in the summary of the story. If the cousins are reuniting at her grandparent's home - does that imply that before the death of her aunt and uncle they all stayed with her grandparents? No. Of course not, but it 's not clear. Why were the families separated? Does she know? Is this a part of the secret being kept by her cousins? So...

What happens? What is the action? Grayson steps on a plane looking forward to seeing her cousins. When she deplanes in Arizona one will barely speak to her, and the other is accompanied by her former childhood friend, Hunter. This is way condensed, but maybe you see what I mean?

Family-filled summer is awkward on the tongue, say it out loud.

Just my opinion of course and It is so very late here and I cannot think anymore, so take it for what it's worth.

Good luck. I love the names you have chosen for your characters by the way.

jordynface
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Re: Query Help: Contemporary YA - Sitting on Rooftops

Post by jordynface » February 21st, 2010, 3:55 am

GeeGee55 wrote:I think perhaps the problem is that some things are not clear in the summary of the story. If the cousins are reuniting at her grandparent's home - does that imply that before the death of her aunt and uncle they all stayed with her grandparents? No. Of course not, but it 's not clear. Why were the families separated? Does she know? Is this a part of the secret being kept by her cousins? So...

What happens? What is the action? Grayson steps on a plane looking forward to seeing her cousins. When she deplanes in Arizona one will barely speak to her, and the other is accompanied by her former childhood friend, Hunter. This is way condensed, but maybe you see what I mean?

Family-filled summer is awkward on the tongue, say it out loud.

Just my opinion of course and It is so very late here and I cannot think anymore, so take it for what it's worth.

Good luck. I love the names you have chosen for your characters by the way.
I think some of your questions/the confusion may have been cleared up with my last effort (for instance, no mention of the grandparents' house is made). Does that last one clear things up?

Mjwolf
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Re: Query Help: Contemporary YA - Sitting on Rooftops

Post by Mjwolf » February 21st, 2010, 10:07 pm

Note: I tried to show my edit changes but the Word code didn't translate. So here is a rewritten version.


When Grayson was thirteen, her aunt and uncle died, leaving a deep hole in her family. Before, Grayson and her cousins, Willa and Ainsley, were like sisters. Afterward, they were torn from each other with Ainsley moving to Illinois and Grayson to California, leaving orphaned Willa to be raised by their her grandparents in Arizona.

After three years apart, Grayson is heading back to Arizona to reunite with her cousins for what promises to be a fun-filled summer. Despite her excitement, Grayson ends up in a difficult position when she develops romantic feelings for her childhood best friend -- a boy who's now dating Willa. The romantic triangle paired with Ainsley's newfound prickly attitude and Willa's lingering grief forces Grayson to confront the cracks in the relationships with her cousins. She has to decide what she's willing to risk to restore the friendships.

SITTING ON ROOFTOPS is a contemporary YA novel complete at 59,000 words.


You have quite a few passive verbs, which makes for delayed writing. You should go through your manuscript to change passive verbs to active ones. I rearranged sentences and tried to make them more compact.
In the last paragraph you don’t need to sum up the book’s themes because that’s what should be obvious in the query.
Hopes this helps.

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