Apr 28, 2009

Middle-Grades Novel Submission Query: The Mighty Pickles

Dear [Agent],

Fourth-grader Reece is determined to join her friends on the local softball team. She has no experience hitting, or catching, or throwing a ball, but that isn’t going to stop her any more than her rapid discovery that she has no ability, either. Still, she makes the team – after all, the league has a no-cut policy.

Calling themselves the Firebolts, the team starts practicing. They begin a season that promises more losses than wins. But the Firebolts have three good infielders, a few solid hitters, an unflappable coach – and Reece. What can Reece contribute besides her fear at bat, her clumsiness in right field, and her tart sense of humor?

A sense of humor, it turns out, is a significant asset. She renames the team the Pickles, and somehow the silly name, along with the building camaraderie among the girls, starts the team on a winning streak. Reece gradually gains confidence by encouraging her teammates. She learns to make the most of what she has, her sense of humor and honesty, and of what she lacks – height, as her small strike zone leads to walks.

The Pickles squeak by into the league playoffs... and the team falls apart under the pressure. It’s up to Reece to pull the team together again by standing up for a disliked teammate, using everything she’s learned during the season. She can’t make a difference with her bat or her glove, but she discovers she has inner resources at least as important.

Join Reece and the Mighty Pickles on their improbable march toward the championship game.

The completed manuscript is about 42,500 words.

I am a first-time fiction author, although I have written a number of professional trade-journal articles. I recently (semi-)retired after 25+ years in the high-tech industry; I continue to do some consulting and technical writing in addition to authoring middle-grades fiction.

Thank you in advance for considering this proposal.

Steven B. Levy (writing as Steven Brant)

[The first few pages will be posted at http://TheMightyPickles.com.]


Kat said...

I love the query--and I suspect that the lack of comments might mean others can't think of a thing to improve it either.

It's not a genre I have any familiarity with (at least not since Grade 7) but, sigh, to be an 11-year-old again, where problems could be washed away with a good sense of humour...

hope101 said...

For what it's worth...

I think you've done a good job of capturing the story, and please keep in mind I'm no expert, but one of the things I'm missing here is the voice. That's pretty essential for middle-grade fiction. Can you give the same information, *showing* us some of Reece's humor, instead of *telling* us that she has it?

Also, I don't really have any sense of an antagonist for this kid. Her coach is nice, she charms the other kids; it sounds like things go very well for her until the playoffs. If you do have more conflict, I'd try to emphasize that more. (Perhaps another, more talented team player who resents the no-cut policy, for instance.)

Other comments I've seen from other forums: round word count up or down to the thousands. Don't draw attention to your status as newbie in fiction world (just omit that this is your first novel). And lastly, put your mms's title in bold where you put its genre description.

Good luck. You're a competent communicator. You just need to put in some zest.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the previous comment. Voice and conflict are definitely lacking in the query.

Steve said...

Thanks you. I agree that voice and conflict aren't represented in the query (nor is a major subplot, the resolution of which leads to the main plot's climax). I do worry about queries becoming too long; I see so many that ramble. That said, Reece's voice is a big part of the tale, and the conflict needs to be at least alluded to.

I'll rework it a bit -- and try, per Kat's comments, to keep from screwing it up :-).