Less than a week after receiving my first rejection, a second appeared in my email inbox. As you can see, this one is much different than the first.
|Not quite as nurturing as the first one.|
So far I am 0-2 as I wait on 28 other queries sent to potential literary agents.
While I am looking at it with optimism, I am planning on revising my query. Perhaps I have not emphasized the guts of the story enough.
Reading about query letters as the rejections trickle in, it is eye-opening to consider just how important it is. To put it one way, a query letter is like a resume sent to a potential employer. It is your college application, admissions essay, and letter of recommendation wrapped into one page.
As it reads now, my query emphasizes who I see as the man character, a sixteen year-old boy named Giuseppi. I did not say much about the fourteen year-old female, Josephine because I was trying to be as focused as possible with my query. Yet, what I have here, now that I look at it again after a week, is a wordy, overwritten synopsis that misses the point of what I was trying to create:
Built against the turbulent backdrop of WWI Italy, sixteen year-old Giuseppi embarks on a journey to escape the war. Illiterate and stinging from his father’s death, Giuseppi is sent by his mother from his home in Turin to southern Italy. Thrust into a world full of starvation, homelessness, and violence, he comes head to head with a loathsome padrone and leads a counterculture against him and all men like him.
Giuseppi bonds with fourteen year-old Josephine whose family lives on land owned by the padrone. This man exploits poor families for their savings and their females. Promising work, food, and shelter in America, the padrone contracts families to sign away large percentages of future earnings, hand over their life savings, and invokes his own “lord’s right” with their females.
Ultimately, my book was always supposed to be about two adolescents who could only survive by shattering the differing norms for males and females in early 20th century society. In the manuscript, each character feeds off the other in order to break those traditional expectations. Yet, my query does not mention that point. I need to revise my query before I send out any more! And I definitely need a revision before I head to the SCBWI conference in February.
Obsessed with his father’s lessons of respect, Giuseppi chooses to help others avoid the exploitation and chaos of their restless country. Choosing a path filled with violence and deception, his first client is the young girl he is falling for, Josephine. Her adoration for her father leaves her in positions she is too innocent and blind to manage. Left for months in charge of her younger, deaf sisters suffering from malnourishment, they perish in her hands. She is labelled and hunted by the padrone as a murderer. Nursing an old grudge with Josephine’s father, the padrone would like nothing better than to exploit her family and invoke his self-imposed lord’s right upon her. Giuseppi’s goal of helping her escape to a new home in America, free and independent, is realized. He returns to his home in Turin to learn how to read and to continue to help the poor find a home. He finds both in one place and enters the seminary.
Outdoor stove, Calabria, Italy. (Family photo)
1st Post in the series: Pitches, Queries, and my YA Novel
2nd Post in the series: Relevant Bones, or the synopsis of a manuscript
3rd Post in the series: The importance of a North Star for writers
4th Post in the series: A Lesson in Rejection