Monday, September 10, 2012

Pitch Polish #20

Middle Grade
54, 000 words

 Dear Agent,   
      Trina knows how to train dogs, but growing up is an entirely, different matter.
      Eleven-year old, Trina has an unusual hobby; she’s a Puppy Raiser for service dogs. DOG DAYS OF SUMMER; set on Edisto Island in South Carolina is a coming-of-age story with a twist. Trina, not only must deal with the risk of losing her best friend, Sarah, as she becomes obsessed with boys, but Trina must also conquer her grief over returning her service dog, Sydney, after a year of training and much love. The story combines humor, growing pains and plenty of puppy love-of both varieties.
       My magazine article, Scent with Love, about a Diabetic Alert dog, was published in Clubhouse Magazine in July, 2010. This story received the Special Interest award from the Dog Writers Association of America at their December awards banquet in New York. It can be read on my website; ( I am an active member of SCBWI, helped coordinate manuscript critiques and have written for our Carolinas regional newsletter, The Pen & Palette. 
       With three special education credentials, I treasured every moment of my teaching career. I continue mentoring special children, teaching creative-writing workshops after school and volunteering with an accredited, non-profit service dog kennel, PAALS. Many memorable days have been spent running with my dogs on Edisto Island, capturing my heart and soul. 
To meet specific curriculum needs, a discussion guide could be added on beach ecosystems.  PAALS volunteered to add information on service dogs.  I look forward to hearing from you.

First 150 Words:
Dog Days of Summer  (first words-139)
Chapter 1- Sunday
Sydney and I wrestled in my bedroom until I giggled so hard my insides hurt and his barking made me deaf. I crisscrossed my arms on my chest and said, “Freeze!” He stopped in motion, panting. His head tilted sideways, eyes glued on mine, waiting for the next command. I’d always made sure Sydney got to be a regular puppy. Even when he became someone’s service dog, he’d still have playtime.
 Momma’s voice boomed through the door, “Trina, are you packed?”
“Almost.” I gave Sydney the release word, “Okay,” and he pounced at me. I threw my arms around his neck, buried my face in his red, brown and white-freckled fur and breathed in his fresh vanilla scent. My stomach lurched. Could I survive this next week?         
This week at the beach would be my last with Sydney.


Tamara said...

The first line & paragraph of your query are well done. I wanted to skip right to your first words. The opening is sweet. I got hung up on the phrases, 'my insides hurt' and 'barking made me deaf'. I know the meaning, but the feel or tone struck me as more painful than playful. Good job setting up their impending separation.

Anonymous said...

The first 150 words are beautifully done! I'm no query expert, but I have a few suggestions for your query to try to make sure the agent gets to your ms.

I'd move the second sentence of the first paragraph to the second paragraph and maybe beef it up a little by adding the word count and any comparable works.

It was a little unclear to me whether Trina was losing her best friend because Sarah was obsessed with boys or Trina was. Regardless, this doesn't feel like the problem in the story with the highest stakes. I'd move it after the part about Syndey.

Do you mentor special children or special needs children?

You have a lot of credentials that show why you should be writing this story. I think they are important to include, but I wonder if they shouldn't be attached in a bio and not in the body of a query (anyone else please comment on this)?

Overall, well done and I wish you the best of luck.

Katie Slivensky said...

I'm a sap for a good dog story. This already had me choked up in just a few sentences!

Your first 150 words are well written and I get a great sense of Trina and Sydney and why their separation is going to be hard to deal with. Wonderful and touching.

Your query is pretty long, so as others mentioned, I'd spend some time tweaking it more. First, you include commas in a few places that don't need them (Ex: an entirely, different matter. or Eleven-year old, Trina ---- neither needs its comma). Second, you spend more time on your credentials than the plot of the story.

Credentials are important, but should be summarized in 1-3 sentences if you can. Agents want to hear more about your story itself than you as an author. Your credentials section can be saved to use as a bio, though!

I'd highlight your published magazien article and your volunteering with the service dog kennel. You don't need to mention that PAALS has agreed to add info on service dogs for your book or talk about discussion guides, etc. A query isn't the place to mention those things (they're awesome ideas, but best saved for discussions down the road with your agent!).

So in conclusion, give us more about the story plot and less about your background. The story sounds amazing (you sound pretty awesome, too). I'm sure it'll find a great home with an excellent agent some day!

Anonymous said...

A wonderful idea for middle grade! I agree with the last commenter -- more of the query should focus on more of the story, especially conflict. You mention the tough situations she'll face -- but what makes her overcoming them different from other coming-of-age stories? Does she fight giving up Sydney, for example? A little more plot would distinguish your novel from others. I thought your opening scene was well-composed and sweet.
Good luck!

gailecn said...

I love this concept! It sounds unique, and who doesn't love a dog story? I like that it's set on an island, too.

I agree with the other posters about cutting some of the bio and expanding more on the story. I'd keep the most important bio stuff - the article & the award, and your experience with service dogs.

I think it might help if you brought out more of the story's voice in your query. Right now, it sounds more like an adult writing about the story. But if you put more of Trina's voice into the query, it might make it more vivid. For example: "Dog-crazy Trina can't understand why her best friend Sarah is so into boys all of a sudden." (And I'm sure you can do something much better than I did here!)

I hope that makes sense & is at least a little bit helpful. :)

Your first 150 are great! I can't pick on anything there. I love that you show us the relationship between Trina and Sydney right away, and you hint at the impending separation. I'd turn the page to read more!

Anonymous said...

I think the first 150 are nicely written. You do a good job setting up the problem. I liked that the dog is still a "dog" at heart. I think in the query, the line with the title seemed misplaced. You had just started to get us into the story with the previous sentence about Trina when you broke us out of the story to tell us the title. I like the premise of the story and would read on. Best wishes.

Katharina Gerlach said...

The one thing about your query that really stuck me was the fact that only 1/3 was about your story. All the rest were writing credentials. Can't you par them down some more and add a little more detail about your MC and her problems?

Connie B. Dowell said...

You've got a clear voice and an interesting premise here, but I'll echo previous commenters: You need more about the plot. I'd recommend taking a look at Elana Johnson's awesome (and free!) ebook Her explanations and examples are a great place to get started really drawing out the essence of the story in a query.

Connie B. Dowell said...

P.S. It's called From the Query to the Call and you'll have to scroll down to the bottom of the page to find it. If you are interested, that is.