Saturday, October 21, 2006

Face-Lift 219


Guess the Plot

Touch

1. Ernie Friks is a champion swordsman. Now if he could just learn enough French to sound good during a match.

2. Men and women try to touch and be touched by each other through the sparks of connection all humans long for. Also, a birdman.

3. In 2012, wearable computers communicate by passing pulses across the skin's ambient electronic field. When Tiffany and LaTis'ua bump in the crowded train, they accidentally switch identities

4. As the Martin family continues their cross country trip, the dreaded cry sounds out from the back seat for the fiftieth time that day: "Mom, Billy's touching me!"

5. Homicide investigator Jill Akron has a secret: she can sense an item's history just by touching it, a skill she has always found useful. Until, that is, she borrows her boss's pen and uncovers a conspiracy that could endanger everyone she loves.

6. A collection of essays about babies and their effect on their single parents. Also, a panda.


Original Version

Dear_________

I am seeking representation for my ten thematically linked collection of short stories, TOUCH. [If you're going to get rejected after only one sentence, you want it to be because of the phrase "collection of short stories," and not because the sentence makes no sense. Move "collection of" in front of "ten."]

Most of the offbeat stories are set in California and feature men and women struggling to find a sense of place and belonging: fitting in, finding roles, and connecting with others and the natural world. [In other words, there is no common theme, but I think the book will sell better if I declare one, so I'll make one up that's so general it could apply to just about any story ever written.] In “Animal Rescue,” a young man examines his commitment to his aging gay parents who are showing signs of mental illness. [Eventually he calls in the animal rescue squad, claims there are two lemurs in his basement, and has them transported to the zoo.] In “Birdman,” a woman struggles with the choice of raising her autistic son alone or remaining in a dysfunctional relationship [with her husband, a salmon-crested cockatoo]. In the title story, a woman receives the remains of her MIA husband and tries to connect to her daughter. It is a collection of experiences, roads not taken, and the intense and unforeseen sparks of connection we all hope for.

I also have a novel nearly completed. [I call it Smell. It's about people struggling to find a sense of place and belonging: fitting in, finding roles, and connecting with others and the natural world. But instead of touching each other, they smell each other.]

Most of the stories have previously appeared in literary journals including: “Lynx Eye,” “Del Sol Review,” “Prism,” “South Dakota Review,” “North Atlantic Review,” and “Isotope Literary Journal of Nature and Science Writing,” among others. [Good strategy, mentioning only the big guns, and not the obscure ones.] In addition, I have attended the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference, and participated in classes offered by Gotham Writers Workshops.

[Cost to attend Santa Barbara Conference, including lodging: $2000
Cost for a Gotham Writers Workshop: $400
Income for selling stories to literary journals: $200
Potential income for selling this collection of stories: $100
No wonder everyone wants to be a writer.]


Notes

If you're going to provide one sentence per story, you have room to describe more than three stories. If you're going to describe only three stories, you have room to go into more depth with each of them. As it is, we don't know enough about what's in the book.

5 comments:

Bernita said...

Something's missing here - it may be action.

GutterBall said...

I knew it was #2. That birdman thing came out of nowhere. It feels a bit like Rainman, what with the autism, but...not.

I think Bernita's right. The stories may well be soulful and touchy-feely, but where's the action?

However, these stories sound like they'd be great separately in the venues in which you've already published them. All at once, though? Umm, not so much.

Word ver: qzgxsuzd - what, are they kidding? Good grief!

writtenwyrdd said...

Author, I don't know if these stories are interesting or not, there is too little information about them. What I would suggest in the query letter is to lead in with the overriding theme of the book in a way that works like a hook. The description of what the book is about. "Offbeat" & "struggling to find sense of place and belonging" don't mesh for me. Are we talking goth chicks who meet men at video game conventions when you say offbeat? And struggling for a sense of belonging is too, too generic.

You can describe the "lead" story (probably the one you should be naming the book after, regardless of where you place it in the collection). Or describe several stories. But tell us what makes these stories special.

The title "Touch" is, frankly, more suited to a sexual escapade than an emotional one, if you compare it to the shelves in a bookstore, you will find that word on teh 'sensual' rack with great regularity (or similarly loaded words.)

Anonymous said...

There would have to be something special about a collection of short stories by an "unknown" for me to buy it. Some cohesive thread or greater theme. I don't see that in the query.

Frankly, I think twice before buying short fiction anthologies by well known authors, and even then, the quality is variable.

Obviously, recycling old material is easier than writing a whole novel, but I'd need a real good reason to actually buy it. I don't see anything that compelling in the query. The fact that something's been published in The South Dakota Review really means nothing to me.

Shelton said...

Do any publishers put out story collections by unknowns? I'm pretty sure Lorrie Moore was making appearances in The New Yorker before anyone considered publishing her story collections, and she's the best there is right now.