The Weight of Our Sky
21 requests & 5 offers of representation & publication
Dear [NAME OF AGENT],
I am sending you my query for THE WEIGHT OF OUR SKY, a young adult novel complete at about 60,000 words and set against the backdrop of an actual black mark in Malaysian history.
By the time school ends on Tuesday, Melati Ahmad’s mother has died 17 times.
On the way to school, she is run over by a runaway lorry. During English, she is caught in a crossfire and hit by a stray bullet straight through the chest. At recess, she accidentally ingests some sort of dire poison. And as they peruse their geography textbooks, Melati’s mother is stabbed repeatedly by robbers.
Melati knows she isn’t to blame. It’s the Djinn, scratching at her mind with his wicked, clawed fingers, squeezing the air out of her lungs and pounding urgent tattoos on her heart. It’s only through an intricate web of counting and tapping rituals that she’s able to tame the beast within her and keep her mother safe. That’s the sacrifice the Djinn demands, and one she’s happy to pay.
But it’s 1969, and on May 13th, the already percolating melting pot that is Kuala Lumpur boils over. As the Chinese and Malays wage war, Mel and her mother find themselves separated by a city in flames. And with a 24-hour curfew in place and all lines of communication down, it will take all of the courage, grit and Beatles songs in Melati’s arsenal to overcome the violence on the streets, her own prejudices, and the Djinn’s surging power to make it back to the one person she can’t risk losing.
Since graduating from Northwestern University in 2007, I’ve put my journalism degree to good use with stints in copywriting, magazines and non-profit communications. My first book, GILA (published locally), is narrative non-fiction that explores the landscape of mental illness in my country, Malaysia – a topic that’s still sadly fraught with stigma. It’s because of my experience in writing GILA that I was inspired to write Melati’s story. As I don’t live with mental illness myself, I was careful to have both neurotypical and neuroatypical beta readers go over this manuscript, and it has been edited to reflect their feedback. The first three chapters are pasted below, as per your submission guidelines.
Thank you for your consideration.
4 requests out of 9 queries
Twelve-year-old Caiden was born a slave with a singular, expendable purpose, on a world serving only one function. When that function runs its course, his masters commit genocide, packing Caiden into a transport with the masses and dumping him on a desert where massacre awaits.
The only survivor, he takes refuge with a compassionate crew who teach him of freedom, stars, and a bubble multiverse teeming with strange species and technology. Intent on revenge and yearning to belong, Caiden accepts an offer to accelerate his aging, gaining four years of instant growth and knowledge. In exchange, he relives his horrific memories so their recording can bring the slavers to justice. An unforeseen side effect leaves Caiden plagued by vivid nightmares, forced to relive the slaughter over and over each night.
Caiden’s former masters are a clandestine and influential group of multiversal oppressors who easily falsify his mnemonic recording, hurling justice out of reach. The only way to beat his enemy is to join them and destroy them from the inside. He could save countless species and planets from exploitation, and utilize their improved acceleration tech to cure the nightmares for good. But he would become everything he hates, forfeit more years off his life, and lose his new family.
NOPHEK GLOSS is a space opera at 140,000 words, with series potential. I am a swordswoman and falconer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. I work as a sound designer on science fiction and fantasy films at Skywalker Sound. Thank you for your time and consideration.
High success rate with requests
Dear Ms. Orenstein,
We met most recently at your seminar, Pitches and Queries at the CCWC in Hyannis, which was instrumental in helping to craft this query letter. My novel, SAVING GRACE (105,000 words), is a multifaceted story of love, turmoil, and perseverance in which two people give up everything, including each other, for their love and for their child. It will appeal to fans of What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman and, The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende.
Told in alternate point of view, SAVING GRACE takes place in 1913 Boston. When Anna McIntosh secretly marries Charles Patrinos, a Greek immigrant, the sacrifices and hardships were to be expected, but it’s not until Anna finds herself abandoned in her fourth month of pregnancy that her struggles truly begin, as she must endure starvation, assault, and being ostracized by the few friends she has left.
When Charles learns he has Tuberculosis, he allows himself to be anonymously exiled to a sanatorium out of state. Expecting to endure his final days alone, he is surprised by the relationships he forms with a fellow patient, an orphaned boy, and a young woman. After the doctor announces Charles may survive, his fight to get back to his family and make things right is complicated by the consequences of his one night of indiscretion.
My short fiction has appeared in such publications as Boston Literary Journal, The Beacon Street Review, Puckerbrush Review, and Grasslimb. A graduate of Emerson College’s MFA program, I went on to teach fiction at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. I have been accepted into the Ploughshares Annual International Seminar, Breadloaf Writers Conference in Middlebury Vermont, and the Grub Street Master Novel in Progress program.
Thank you for taking the time to read my query. I look forward to the opportunity to show you the revisions I made to my manuscript after receiving your feedback at the 2016 Muse and the Marketplace agent meeting.
Anchor (To Your Other Self)
Offer of representation in just 12 days of querying
Remy is a waitress, scraping by in the waking world. Ro is her dream-self, fighting monsters in the dreamworld.
Remy has depression and a catalogue of failure. Ro has magic guns and kickass friends.
Remy is planning to commit suicide. Ro is pretty sold on staying alive.
If Remy dies, Ro is fucked.
Because this is how it works: dream-selves don’t survive the death of their dreamers. If Ro wants to live, she must breach the divide between worlds (no problem) to save someone who doesn’t want saving (little harder), while not breaking reality in the process (no promises).
ANCHOR (TO YOUR OTHER SELF) tells the story of two different women in two different worlds, who share one life between them. This standalone novel of speculative fiction (93,000 words) may appeal to fans of Michael Marshall Smith, or anyone with a bleak sense of humor.
Thanks for your time and attention.
6 full & 1 partial request
Twenty years ago, Captain Alexandria Harding nearly died and became host to the constellation Orion, marking her as Star-Touched and giving her his shield, his sword, and untold power. Since then, she has hidden the secret, leading her merchant crew under the gaze of CISS, the security state that rules the solar system. But, when she receives a coded email Alexandria is thrust into a race across the solar system where shifting alliances threaten not only her crew, but her bond to Orion.
The email leads her to Alun, a curious and gawky teen recently escaped from CISS’ experiments. Alexandria sees herself in him and offers sanctuary. That’s when they are attacked. The Russians, ostracized from CISS, know about Alun. They coerce Alexandria into a meeting to determine Alun’s supposed Star-Touched bond and Alexandria’s secrets unfold. But, that’s not all they want. The Russians are missing their Star-Touched and they think CISS is to blame. They want Alexandria to find her. Refusal is not an option, especially since the Russians are her only way to get Alun off planet. If the Russians are right, it would give CISS a Star-Touched. If Alexandria fails, she’ll be hunted down.
Finding the missing Star-Touched won’t be easy. Alexandria will have to keep her wits about her as she deals with the leader of the black market, pirates, and attacks from CISS on their hunt for Alun. Not only that, but the armistice of the solar system is falling apart. A colony’s open revolt reveals that Alexandria’s been used as a pawn and she must contend with losing Orion to save herself and Alun.
THE EXPANSE meets FIREFLY in RIPPLE, an adult space opera with literary and fantasy elements. It is complete at 110,000 words. RIPPLE has a diverse cast and a strong female lead. It is a stand-alone novel with series potential.
Like Alexandria, I have a love of the stars but would rather stay on Earth. I work as an engineer during daylight hours and run an officially partnered writing group through Discord of over 2000 members on the side all while dealing with Lupus and FMD. It is these diseases that I draw from when writing the hardships and pain that Alexandria goes through during the novel. My previous novel was self-published under the title DREAMLYNC. In 2018 the César Egido Serrano Foundation and the Museum of the Word named me an Ambassador of the Spanish language for my one-hundred-word story.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
The Magical Lemon Tree Recipe Book
Query got her an agent
When twelve-year-old Magenta Wise’s parents announce they’re moving four hundred miles so her selective mute sister can attend a special school, her dreams of attending the Ramsey Duffles Junior Bakers Academy deflate like a souffle. Her only beacon of hope comes in the form of a magical lemon tree growing in her new home’s backyard—complete with creepy blackbird guardians.
Upon finding the companion lemon tree recipe book, Magenta and her baking assistant sister eagerly experiment for the perfect recipe to win the Duffles Academy competition. But the book doesn’t make things easy. After turning a cat invisible, cursing her nemesis with lemon peel skin, and levitating a newfound friend, the book is stolen, threatening Magenta’s confidence in her own talent and her tenuous place in the academy.
With her sister at her side—proving not everyone needs a touch of magic to feel “good enough”—Magenta must learn that sometimes the most magical thing of all is believing in herself.
THE MAGICAL LEMON TREE RECIPE BOOK is a Middle Grade Contemporary Fantasy novel, complete at 56,000 words with series potential, and will appeal to fans of The Truth About Twinkie Pie and The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street.
Query got her an agent and publisher
Please find enclosed the synopsis and first three chapters of my 67 000 word young adult novel ‘Yellow’. Set in a small sea-side town north of Byron Bay, ‘Yellow’ is a murder mystery with supernatural elements, but at heart it’s a coming of age tale about the redemptive powers of kindness. It’s ‘Puberty Blues’ meets Laini Taylor’s ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bones’ with a dash of ‘Jasper Jones’ for audiences 13+ although I hope the quality of writing and strength of story will allow it to cross over into the adult market.
If fourteen-year-old Kirra is having a mid life crisis now then it doesn’t bode well for her life expectancy. Her so-called friends bully her, whatever semblance of a mother she had has been drowned at the bottom of a gin bottle ever since her dad left them for another woman, and now a teenage ghost is speaking to her through a broken phone booth. Kirra and the ghost make a pact. She’ll prove who murdered him almost twenty years ago if he does three things for her. He makes her popular, he gets her parents back together, and he doesn’t haunt her. Things aren’t so simple however, and Kirra realises that people can be haunted in more ways than one.
I’m 30 years old and work in TV news production at the ABC, although I’ve previously worked as an in-house script story-liner and script editor for the Seven Network TV drama ‘Headland’ and for the Emmy nominated ABC children’s series ‘Dance Academy’. I’ve also worked as the assistant to the head of ABC Drama, where one of my roles involved assessing incoming scripts. I have had stories published in the Sydney Morning Herald, produced and aired on ABC radio and I was published in the 2010 UTS Writer’s Anthology ‘I Can See My House From Here’ – a collection of works by Australia’s pre-eminent emerging writers and editors. My writing awards include winning ‘The Sydney Morning Herald Young Writer of the Year’ and ABC Radio’s ‘Heywire’ short story competition. I received runners up in the Qantas Spirit of Youth Awards (SOYA) words section and highly commended for the Northern Territory Literary Awards. I also received a script development grant from the Northern Territory Film Commission for a feature film screenplay and have co-written a television series ‘Significant Strangers’ which we’re currently pitching. In 2002 I was asked to be a guest panelist at the Byron Bay Writers Festival, discussing what it was to be a young writer. The other panelist was an up and comer called Markus Zusak.
I’m currently working on my second novel ‘The Build-Up Season’ and look forward to hearing from you, Kind regards,
11 full requests & 3 offers of representation
Thank you so much for expressing your interest in my pitch for LUCID during the #Pitdark Twitter event. LUCID is a 93,000 word #ownvoices YA contemporary psychological suspense, featuring a diverse LGBT cast and a protagonist struggling with major depression. It may appeal to readers who enjoyed the setting and atmosphere of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History or the dynamic ensemble cast of Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys.
All Marlowe wants is control. Of herself, of her environment, and most importantly, of the people around her. When an attempt to prove the strength of her self-control through sleep deprivation lands Marlowe in the infirmary of The Diana Banesbury School for Exceptional Young Women, she crosses paths with Gwyn, Sloane, and Ellie. Gwyn, who developed major depression after the death of her brother, wants closure she’ll never get. Sloane, recovering from a black eye, wants an adventure to save her from the monotony of her daily life. Ellie, a student volunteer who recently transferred from her small hometown to the exclusive girl’s boarding school, just wants friends to make the adjustment easier.
When Ellie offers lucid dreaming—the ability to control one’s dreams—as an unconventional solution to each of their problems, Marlowe sees a better opportunity. Under the pretext of a club for learning lucid dreaming, Marlowe convinces the girls to move to an abandoned classroom in the woods around the school, aiming to gain control by gaslighting and manipulating them until they’re incapable of differentiating reality from dream. As Gwyn, Sloane, and Ellie question their identities, realities, and the lies Marlowe has bound them with, they must find a way to wake themselves from her influence before they reach the end of a path leading to psychological destruction and death.
I’m currently pursuing a major in Creative Writing at the University of Washington in Seattle. Last year, I was selected as the recipient of the Edith K. Draham prize for short fiction. I’ve included the first ten pages below, as requested. Thank you so much for your time and consideration.