Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Face-Lift 164


Guess the Plot


The Yearbook

1. Burt Parge keeps his personal notes on a girlie calendar in the garage. Will a gift from his wife change that bad habit? Or will the Metropolitan Museum of Art Gift Shop get one more floral diary back?

2. One by one the graduating class of Millard Fillmore High is found slashed, their blood drained by vampires, as the yearbook, once a precious keepsake, has become a grocery list.

3. Rebecca had a huge crush on Luke during the one year they attended the same high school. Nothing came of it then, but thirty years later their paths cross again. And . . . Luke doesn't even remember Rebecca.

4. A killer is stalking the students of Elmwood High, indicating his next victims by posting bloodied yearbook pages around campus. Now Marcia Sloan has to find out who's doing it, and why, before she becomes Most Likely To Die Next.

5. For World Almanac editor Miles Arcana, it seems too good to be true: Millicent Small is not only beautiful and really into him, her hobby is memorizing the annual inflation-adjusted GDP of every country on Earth. Is she all she seems, or just a mole from the World Book of Facts?

6. Europia executes all citizens on their 30th birthday - unless they provide society with a Great Work. William West, a novelist who's never completed anything, just turned 29. Will a deadline help him?


Original Version

Dear Agent,

Two former students of a small American school in Mallorca [Mallorca? Sounds like a shopping center for whales.] accidentally meet thirty years later, igniting a relationship that hadn't yet begun in 1974. [Actually, it still hasn't begun if this is the first they've seen of each other in thirty years.]

Luke, a widowed father on assignment in Toronto, [What does that mean? Is he a sports reporter assigned to cover the Blue Jays?] meets Rebecca as she brings her young son to the city for chemotherapy treatments. They had attended the same school in Mallorca for one year, but Luke at first fails to remember her. [Most people, of course, have vivid memories of people they barely knew thirty years ago.] After their impromptu reunion, they meet for lunch on a regular basis. They form a bond [Huh? Oh, I thought you said they form a band.] as Luke supports Rebecca in her fight against her son's illness, Neuroblastoma. [That would be a good name for a killer band.] As the months pass, Luke grows to admire the feisty woman, and struggles to understand why he had never noticed Rebecca in his youth. [Let's not toss the word "struggle" around too lightly. She was there one school year, and he probably already had a girlfriend.]

Rebecca had had a secret crush on Luke during the year in Spain, and the unexpected meeting triggers many memories. She vividly recalls the winter of 1974-1975 in Mallorca, [Vividly? I can't even remember last winter.] when she had first arrived as a shy teenager. Her experiences and lasting friendships had helped her emerge as a confident young woman. The only thing missing was Luke, a handsome, brash young man with a complete circle of friends and a girlfriend of his own. [Aha! I knew it.]

Rebecca's memories provide snapshots of life in 1970's Spain. Although it was a turbulent time, the students had lived an insulated life on the beautiful island, a life far removed from post-Vietnam North America.

At 75,000 words, The Yearbook is a mainstream novel that could be defined as an inspirational love story. Joy and sorrow intertwine as Luke and Rebecca struggle to understand the fickle nature of her son's disease. Both of their children provide a simple outlook on life and death that we adults tend to lose over time. [I hate trying to get laughs when the story's about a kid with cancer. Anybody got a zombie pirate story?]

According to your submission guidelines, I have provided an SASE and the first three chapters. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Regards,


Revised Version

Dear Agent,

I am seeking representation for a 75,000-word novel entitled The Yearbook. It's a love story involving two single parents, Luke and Rebecca, who attended school together in 1974 on the island of Mallorca and who chance to meet thirty years later, in Toronto.

Rebecca is bringing her young son to the city for chemotherapy treatments when she encounters Luke, who fails at first to remember her. After their impromptu reunion, they meet for lunch on a regular basis, forming a bond as Luke supports Rebecca in her fight against her son's illness, Neuroblastoma. As the months pass, Luke grows to admire the feisty woman, and wonders why he never noticed her in school.

Rebecca had a crush on Luke during her year in Spain, and the unexpected meeting triggers fond memories. Her experiences and lasting friendships in Mallorca helped transform her from a shy teenager into a confident young woman. The only thing missing from her life then was Luke, a handsome, brash young man with a complete circle of friends--including a girlfriend of his own.

The Yearbook intertwines joy and sorrow as Luke and Rebecca struggle to deal with the fickle nature of her son's disease, and as both of their children provide a simple outlook on life and death, an outlook that adults tend to lose with time.

In accordance with your submission guidelines, I have provided an SASE and the first three chapters. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Regards,


Notes

It was okay, though I think it needed polishing and weeding out of the junk.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a beautiful story. (and possibly heartbreaking)

But you might want to consider a different phrase than "feisty woman." Just one of those phrases that seems condescending to me (like "the little woman").

acd said...

I thought for sure you made up Neuroblastoma, but turns out I was wrong.

Anonymous said...

Poor EE, you didn't have fun with this one. Sorry 'bout that. I like Guess #2 the best.

Anonymous said...

As the mother of two children, and the wife of a man who lost his 12-year old sister cancer, I woulding read this, nor do I know too many mothers of young children who would.

Brenda Bradshaw said...

I hoped for #4.

I'm with anon 8:10.

Anonymous said...

Yuck on the story line for me. Just not my taste. But, then again, I was disappointed in X-Men III because I think it turned out to be a chick-flick.

I really hoped it was #6. -JTC

Jean said...

We lost our 5 year old daughter to neuroblastoma after a year of chemo and a bone marrow transplant. I can honestly say, this is something I'd NEVER read. I'm betting most people who have had anything to do with cancer in any form or fashion will pass on this too.

Been there, done that, don't want to read about someone else doing it.


word veri... puomg My thoughts exactly...pu, oh my gosh:--)

Chumplet said...

It seems that the premise of this story causes a strong reaction. My question is this: would ANYONE read it, given that the message is a celebration of a young life, and a tribute to a strong mother?

My cousin's little boy was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma Stage IV when he was three. He and his mother battled the disease for five years, a period that included a one-year remission and the arrival of a new baby sister. My cousin kept a detailed journal almost every day, and she shared with us her many joys and sorrows. We all benefited from it.

It is with her permission that I decided to write my little cousin's character into the book.
Yes, it's painful - my cousin can confirm that. But she shared everything with our large family and anyone else who logged onto her blog, and we were all inspired by her strength, her spirit and her bravery. We also swelled with pride for our little boy who gave us so much joy in his short life.

I think, perhaps, a book like this can help readers understand what a parent goes through. Maybe they have family members or friends who are going through the same thing, people who can't communicate their pain.

Jean, and anon 8:10, I feel terrible for your loss, and sympathize with you, and totally understand why you wouldn't want to read about such a painful subject. I guess my final question is: would anyone read about it if it's presented in a sensitive and sympathetic manner? If not, then I'll stop right now and rewrite.

I am a mother of two children too, and during Austin's battle, I thanked God for my kids' health every day. They got lots of extra hugs.

Think of this as an impromptu market research session. I value everyone's opinions.

(EE, sorry about the long post.)

December Quinn said...

Jean, I am so sorry for your loss.

Evil Editor said...

Would ANYONE read it, given that the message is a celebration of a young life, and a tribute to a strong mother?

It's a rare disease or tragedy that hasn't been written about and published. Of course people read them. My guess is, there are people who lost loved ones on 9/11 who couldn't handle seeing World Trade Center, but millions are seeing it. Whether the book celebrates a young life and a strong mother, or attempts to get out information about neuroblastoma, or is a standard tearjerker, it should have an audience if it's well-written. Even those who today couldn't handle it may feel differently in ten years.

Chumplet said...

EE, I am printing your comment and pasting it to my forehead.

Jean said...

Thanks guys. It was in '99 and life does go on. I mean, I have three other great kids.

And...yes, as presented in the comments I'd be more apt to read it. I have plans on a nonfiction dealing with the subject from another point of view. I've queried several agents and they like it, but I don't have the name or platform yet. Sigh.

But, from what I read of the opening, it didn't sound like the same story mentioned in the comment thread.

The story of a strong mom dealing with a special child during a tough time...yes.

As a plot device just to move the story along and play on the reader's feelings...nope.

Good luck with it:--)

Robin L. said...

Somebody should write #4!

Gaia Girl said...

I also offer my sympathy for your and your family's loss. And if you want to write this book, then I think you should. Miss Snark is addressing this question on her blog (can't appeal to everyone).

Assuming you will go ahead with the story, I have a question about the dates and the child's age. If Luke and Rebecca first met in 1974, what is the setting of the book? If it's contemporary, then Rebecca will be a little long in the tooth to have a "young son." If it's not 2006 or thereabouts, when is it? That will affect other aspects of your story and a reader's assumptions as s/he reads your query.

Chumplet said...

It's set in about 2004. She was sixteen in 1974, so she'd be in about her mid-thirties when she had the child. Late baby, a bit of a surprise to her husband, therefore now she's single. That makes the boy about ten years old. It's rarely diagnosed before age ten, but in the story they'd been dealing with it for 2-3 years.

kis said...

I have no problems with the plot, and won't comment on the cancer issue other than to say: My aunt is dying of brain and lung cancer. My nephew beat his brain cancer into remission at age four, and at twelve is all clear so far. Cancer is a part of life. Childhood cancer is particularly bitter, but writing (or reading) about another person's struggle with it can be cathartic. There are people who will read this book.

EE's revision of the letter is good--except for that problematic "feisty." Unlike Anon #1, (and with apologies to our resident Feisty commentor) I don't find the term condescending--it just doesn't quite fit the somber tone of the story. Maybe change it to "indomitable." Feisty seems too chicklit.

Other than that one nitpick, well, as long as I had a full box of kleenex, I'd read it.