Workshop Wednesday

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Oct 12 2011

By repeated request we’ve started Workshop Wednesday. It will definitely play out through 2011, and beyond that we’ll just have to see. We’ve received well over 200 queries at this point, but we are choosing at random, so don’t be afraid to participate as per the guidelines in our original post.

For anyone wanting to comment, we ask that you comment in a polite and respectful manner, and we ask that you be as constructive as possible. If you can be useful to the brave souls who submitted their query and comment on the query, that’s great. Please keep any anonymous tirades on publishing or other snarky comments to yourself. This is and should remain an open and safe forum for people to put themselves and their queries out there so that everyone can learn. I’m leaving comments open and open to anonymous posters, as I always have; don’t make me feel the need to change that policy.

And for those who have never “met” Query Shark, get over there and do that. She’s the originator of the query critique, the queen, if you will.

Dear Ms. Faust,

I am seeking representation for my 50,000-word contemporary young adult novel, ORBITING JUPITER.

This might be a tad short, but at this point I’m not worried about that. I’ll continue reading.

Addis Paeters was well on his way to becoming high school hockey royalty just like his older brother, Jupiter. But after missing a defensive block that cost his team the regionals trophy, he’s unable to get back on the ice without freezing up. Freezing at the thought of losing another match and freezing from the fear of suffering permanent injury like his dad did while playing in the NHL.

I have to confess here that I’m attracted to anything hockey related, so immediately you have my attention. Beyond that, however, I like this a lot. I’m really intrigued and I think your opening paragraph is perfect. It’s the ultimate setup for a YA.

Junior year everything changes. Jupiter is appointed assistant coach, and promises to help Addis secure a spot on the varsity roster–the perfect cure for Addis’s shattered confidence.

But the first day of practice for tryouts, Addis gets a shock: Jupiter is a no-show, having traded his hockey jersey for a tattered tutu, his hockey skates for roller skates, and his position on the hockey team to be a cheerleader for a local roller derby team.

Addis may have blown the game, but Jupiter’s betrayed Addis and the team. All to impress a girl.

This entire thing, these previous three paragraphs, literally made me laugh out loud. Did he really decide to become a cheerleader for roller derby (another sport I love)? I’m not sure this connects as fully with the opening as I would like, but you have my attention. I’m really liking this story and, honestly, liking the twist it took. I’m not thrilled with the way these paragraphs are written, but I can overlook that for now.

Addis fears he can all but kiss his unclaimed confidence goodbye, when one of the derby girls–a chick who’s got more secrets than a gay senator and is even better at hockey than Jupiter–offers to help Addis get over his fear of contact. With try-outs only two weeks away, Addis must put aside his fears of failure, and find a way to rediscover his love of hockey—and his trust in Jupiter—in time to make the team.

I’d skip the “gay senator” comparison. I’m not sure that sounds YA to me. It just doesn’t sound like the way a teen would think. Otherwise, I’m liking.

ORBITING JUPITER is Will Grayson, Will Grayson meets Whip It—a humorous take on high school, where underdogs struggle to find their place on the team, and everyone learns that the dreams they try to squeeze into aren’t always the dreams that fit.

Perfect. I’d have you send this to me in a New York minute (also not something anyone who is a young adult would say). And, by the way, if you haven’t queried BookEnds yet, you should absolutely send this to me 😉

Thank you for your time and consideration.


21 responses to “Workshop Wednesday”

  1. Avatar Jaime Loren says:

    I've seen the first 250 words (also picked at random!) on another agency blog, and I have to say, the writing matched the awesomeness of the query! Had me laughing immediately! I will definitely read this once it hits the shelves! 😀

  2. I swear I've seen this query critiqued somewhere before (Jupiter is a very memorable character name, and the premise matches up with what I remember, too), but I can't seem to find it on Query Shark, which is where I thought I'd seen it… Anyone else know?

  3. Ah, that's what it was, Jaime — a First Page Shooter! Thanks! 🙂

  4. Avatar Kristan says:

    I have to admit, I'm not as taken with this query as everyone else seems to be. The concept is fabulous, it's the writing that makes me wary.

    The query starts out sounding serious (family pressures, injuries), then gets Middle Grade-sounding and wacky (their names, the tutu), then talks a lot about the brother instead of the protagonist. The last bit was my favorite part — when he meets the roller derby girl and she helps him get his confidence back, in addition to helping him train. THAT, to me, is the heart of the story.

    My advice may not be needed, given everyone else's reaction, but I'll say it anyway: refocus the query on the protagonist and the girl, and make sure the whole thing sounds mature but humorous, instead of just wacky.

    (Also, this is a miscellaneous note, but am I the only one who thought — between the title and the names — that this was going to be scifi?)

  5. Avatar i'm erin. says:

    Ha, I love it. But I kind of love the "gay senator" thing. You really think a teen wouldn't think that? Just curious.

  6. Avatar Colin Smith says:

    I think Kristan is right–there are some problems with the query–but ultimately, the point of the query is to get the agent to want to read the novel. And clearly, this worked! I wish the writer every success, and hope the full lives up to the promise of the query.

  7. Avatar wry wryter says:

    Kristan, you are not the only person who thought sci-fi.

    My first thought…another teen saves the universe. I guess that's why it pays to read beyond the title and weird names.

    I'm not the writer's customer so perhaps I'm the wrong person to be commenting.

    Having said that, the last line will stay with me for awhile,

    "everyone learns that the dreams they try to squeeze into aren't always the dreams that fit."

    That line alone makes me think beyond my assumptions.

  8. Avatar Amy says:

    I have a question — I thought 50,000 words was fine for YA. I've even seen agents commenting on Twitter that they're relieved when they see YA in the 50s because they are all getting so long now. I know the "how many words should my novel be?" questions can get annoying, but that just caught my eye. 🙂

  9. Cool post! Thanks a lot.

  10. Avatar Danielle says:

    I was also confused with the title, but I saw it was labeled as a "contemporary YA" so I felt a little misled. If I saw that title on the shelf, I'd think scifi (and really, what popped into mind was a joke novel a fellow CNA brought up about a zero-gravity nursing home lol)
    And I have the same question as Amy — is 50,000 too little or just right for YA?

  11. Avatar Jodi says:

    Sounds interesting, and I too found the tutu part funny and unexpected. Good combo. However, this part jumped out at me: "Freezing at the thought of losing another match and freezing from the fear of suffering permanent injury like his dad did while playing in the NHL."

    It made me wonder why only after his mistake he is worrying about suffering from an injury like his dad did. It seemed odd to me.

    Otherwise sounds cool. Good luck with it!


  12. Hockey and roller derby? I'd read it! 🙂

  13. Avatar T. Wolfe says:

    Not sure about the hockey but as a member of a women's derby team I'd love to see this book on the shelves! I'd so buy it just for that alone! 🙂

  14. I'm an avid SF reader, but even with "Jupiter" in the title, it didn't strike me as particularly SF-ish. It'd almost be too straightforward for most of the SF coming out today.

    That said, I thought the query was cute–quirky and a bit zany without being over the top or trying too hard. Some teens I know (the smarter ones) might use the gay senator analogy, but it really just depends on the individual.

  15. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I'm with Kristan and some of the others–the title, while cute, is promising a book that the text doesn't deliver.

    As a fantasy/sci fi lover, I would've picked up this book…then put it right back down. It's not that I don't love humorous contemporary, but when you have a taste for a chocolate milkshake and what you get is an apple cider, nothing will do until you get that chocolate milkshake.


  16. Avatar scifi13 says:

    I thought it was scifi from the title too!

    But then, with my namesake, I would wouldn't I?

  17. Avatar Tess Grant says:

    I would request it as well. I agree with Colin–the point is to get a request and this works.

  18. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I'm not loving the title but I have to say it's refreshing to NOT see another YA paranormal. Sounds like a fun read!

  19. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Not a great title. Combined with the query, I'm guessing the title refers to the younger brother's path revolving around his older brother's choices? I would pick it up expecting SF and be disappointed. But that aside, I hope the book gets published. I love derby and I think the idea of a high school jock getting involved in derby as a cheerleader is delightful, and I want to read the story1

  20. Avatar Gabbi says:

    /Question- I am probably the oldest in this group-It is ahrd for me to realte to Sci Fi-My daugher-in law loves these and Harry Potter etc to which I don't relate-I grew up in the Ann Tyler -Little Woman etc generation-Do teens read the more classical type of book today-for example To Kill A Mockingbird or is it so few that writing this type doesn't pay?-Just curious-And yes, the query was good for as much as I can relate-Gabbi