Apr 25, 2009

Query - WHERE THE DOVES FLY

Dear Agent:

Anna Markowicz is mute, yet she has mastered still life painting as a style and personalized it to fit her own hand. In 1965, at seventeen years of age, she desires to let her fingers dance freely across the canvasses forever. However, not only does the Communist regime in Poland prohibit artists from pursuing their creative expression, it does nothing to protect her from her father’s abuse. When she meets Rafal, a fellow artist from school, he probes at her weaknesses until she is naively pulled into the promises of escape and chooses to travel with him to London. There she participates in an intenvise painting program, undergoes a culturally unacceptable affair with an Iranian, and begins to lose her mind due to the irregular contact with those around her. Unable to speak and having fallen out of love, Anna chooses between remaining a victim and making one final jump of hope, a jump that lands her in America where her spiral out of sanity cements with suicide.

In 2009, Fatemah Essa, Ania’s illegitimate daughter, has developed superior abilities at conceptual and abstract painting. Those abilities have provided enough satisfaction for her to avoid the Twin Cities social scene. When she stumbles upon sketches and letters from her mother’s past, she is forced to undertake her greatest challenge alone: to uncover why her father has lied about her mother’s death and to determine to which extreme she can take her own love of art.

WHERE THE DOVES FLY is a 94,000-word YA novel that explores, in a dual POV, the lives of two women struggling to find themselves artistically in radically different worlds. The novel examines contemporary Polish and Minnesotan history and holds a touch of romance.

I’m a high school junior born 100% Polish but currently residing in the U.S. My short stories, poetry, and essays have appeared in mutliple Creative Communications publications, Alive Magazine, Teen Ink, and others. In 2003, I also self-published a short fiction manuscript, entitled “Allie’s Journey.”

I would be pleased to send you a partial or full manuscript of WHERE THE DOVES FLY.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,
Author

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Note for The Public Query Slushpile: I've been struggling a lot with the query letter, particularly providing the right information. It seems to work in my head and on paper, but I don't know if it works for the reader.

Thank you!

5 comments:

folksinmt said...

Nice job. I was completely floored to read that you are still in high-school! While it is incredibly cool that you have completed a book at so young an age, I maybe wouldn't mention it to an agent. Let them find out how old you are after they fall in love with your ms.

Your first paragraph is a bit too long and makes me wonder: is this all backstory or is this where the book begins? I kept wondering how interesting a book with a mute mc would be. Maybe you could skip this part and just mention it briefly after you introduce Fatemah.

Also how old is Fatemah? You need to mention this otherwise it doesn't feel like YA.

Good luck!

Kat said...

Quite impressive, indeed. I'd be curious to see the whole manuscript if I received this letter (but, alas, I'm no agent).

I'd only suggest that you let the reader know at the outset that this is a YA novel (move the 3rd paragraph to the beginning and revise for better flow to the next paragraph).

Just two small typos, too: "intenvise" in the 1st paragraph, and the Anna/Ania references in the 1st & 2nd paragraphs (I had to read it twice to figure out that Ania wasn't a new character but the same, mute girl from the 1960s).

Otherwise, like I said, very impressive...

hope101 said...

I, too, am impressed with the sophistication of what you're tackling, particularly given your youth. But I'm going to assume you want the same kind of suggestions that I'd give anyone else.

My sense is that this novel is truly Fatemah's story. She's facing x, y and z at present in her life as an artist, then she stumbles across her mother's documents and must wrestle with a whole new version of reality. It forces a change in her relationship with her father, her art, and presumably the larger community she shuns at present. Is that accurate?

If so, I'd write the query from this perspective, ensuring that Fatemah gets more billing time than her mother. As you have it written now, her mother is discussed first and gets more physical space in the query.

In essence, this is a coming of age story with a mother who is both posthumously parenting and mentoring her child on her artistic path. Does that make sense?

Also, just a thought, but this might actually be more a literary fiction novel given the subject matter. I'm no expert on that at all, but I'd get a beta reader to make comments about your genre.

Good luck!

Judy said...

I don't have anything to add, except I am rather impressed. I think it is well written.

Also, no matter your age, it is not something you put into a query. Your age doesn't matter, but your writing does.

And be sure to correct the grammar mistakes.

MeganRebekah said...

I agreed that the query should focus more in Fatemah.
The first paragraph is a ton of backstory and a lot of it could be cut without taking away from the overall premise. Is it really necessary that we know up front about the fellow art student that convinces Anna to move to London?

Realize that just because something isn't right for the query, doesn't mean it's not a wonderful part of the book.

I also recommend joining absolutewrite.com forums, where you can post your query and excerpts from your book for critique. You also can gain valuable lessons on writing and the query process.