Monday, July 20, 2015

My #NewAgent Entry

Hey!  I love Twitter and Twitter contests. This is my entry in the #NewAgent contest. Got any tips for me??

Title: Crawdad
YA Contemporary


Black teen Jamil Ramos lived all his seventeen years on Alabama’s Gulf Coast believing his mom, Loretta, was his only living relative. She put a trumpet in his hands as a toddler and sparked his love of jazz. Now, sick with emphysema, Loretta drops a bomb on Jamil from her deathbed. She’s not his mama and his daddy is still alive, living in Charleston, S.C.

With the only mama he’s ever known gone and the Loyola University trumpet audition less than a week away, Jamil has trouble feeling his music. When his band teacher tells him to get it together, Jamil decides to hitchhike to S.C. to find his father and get his questions answered. All he has is a name – Leon Ramos. When Jamil is robbed of his most prized possession along the way, his trumpet, his plans go anywhere but where he’d hoped.

First 250 Words:

Theodore, Alabama~ June

Sometimes people do the best they can, but it ain't no good. There's no shame in it. Well, maybe there is, but there ain't nothing you can do about it anyway. No use getting mad about it.

The day my mama died I'd been sitting there, wondering what I was gonna do, just like I had for the last three days of mama's coma. The hospice lady said I should tell mama is was all right to let go, but I didn't want to. I wanted her to sit up in bed and tell me what the hell she was thinking when she said I wasn't really her son. Who else's son would I be? Hadn't she been with me every single day of my life? It was only seventeen years, but I remembered her in almost every one of them. She was my mom as sure as August in Alabama is miserable hot, as sure as honey sticks to your fingers, and then she had to go and ruin it all.

"Jamil," she whispered to me, ‘cause the emphysema had stolen most of her raspy voice. "I need to tell you something."

"It's OK, Mama. I know you wished you'd never smoked."

She done told me that about a million times. Made me swear on my immortal soul I'd never do it. I couldn't tell her I already had. It’d crush her.

"It's not that."

She raised a bony hand for me to hold, her nails like claws they'd gotten so long.


  1. Hi Lisa,

    I really like your query. It's clear and to the point and the stakes are immediately obvious. For your 250, (and this is just my personal opinion) I would almost cut the first little paragraph and start with "The day mama died..." I think it is much stronger. But again, just my preference. Hope that helps!

  2. The idea is great. I think there may be a better way to start the query with a hook and get a little of that 17 yr old attitude in there. Maybe try something like - Apparently it takes seventeen years and a death bed confession for Jamil Romas to find out his family's secret. A trumpet and a love for jazz music doesn't make someone your mother.

    I love the big secret reveal and just think it needs to be the first thing the agent reads to make them keep going! Good luck!

  3. Query: I suggest spelling out S.C. the first time, then abbreviating it the next time (unless you feel like it detracts from the voice you're going for). Otherwise, no complaints. It's engaging and sets some serious stakes right away.

    250: I agree with other comments that starting with The day mama died, etc. is a much stronger hook to open your book. I also wonder if you could work in the introspective thoughts that you currently open with in the sentences below "The day mama died"?

    Overall: It's got a lot of potential and I'd definitely read on! Good luck querying!

  4. I like your query, but I would extend it a little. It seems like searching for his father and having his trumpet stolen are really the start of the story, I 'd like a little more detail to see what he'll have to go through to get it back, or where he'll go from there. You left me wanting more, which is good, but maybe a little tooo much...

    I would trim that first paragraph. Good voice, good thoughts, but keep it sharp and to the point. You have to be absolutely RUTHLESS with your first few sentences. 1 good sentence buys you a second, which buys you two more, which buys you a few more. Make sure each one relentlessly drives me forward. It shouldn't matter whether I like your story or not: I should HAVE to read your next sentence.
    I see wehre your first 250 is going, but I think you should try and fit the confession into that first 250. Your almost there! I love your voice and concept.

  5. Hi, Lisa! I love the idea of your story and your voice! You have a lot going for this because it feels fresh, so you had me glued right away. I think you could tighten up your query. For example, you say teen so I don't think you need to have his age, or choose age rather than saying teen but both aren't needed. I also recommend, if you haven't already, to read your query out loud. I think some of the sentences are long and it would flow better if you shortened some of them and varied the lengths.

    First 250: small thing here, but when I see "June" it makes me want to know the year as well. You mention it's a contemporary story, so we may not need the year, but why is it important to have the month? I also agree starting it with the 2nd paragraph where his mom dies would be a better start, but I actually love your first sentence. Maybe you use that first sentence right before the The day my mama died...and cut some down from that second paragraph? I like your voice a lot and the dialogue feels spot-on, so that's a really great thing! Just needs some tightening of the sentences. I agree with Elle; I think there's a lot of potential here; I'd read through your whole book out loud. It's a lot of work, but will help when it comes to polishing. Good luck!

  6. OK you guys win! The first paragraph will go away! Maybe I can fit in later. Thanks for the great suggestions :)

  7. Query:

    Very engaging query. I’m definitely interested.

    “When Jamil is robbed of his most prized possession along the way, his trumpet, his plans go anywhere but where he’d hoped.” This sentence was a bit awkward. I think if you just remove “along the way” it will be better.

    I think you need a little more information at the end here. The set up is all good and has me interested. But I don’t know what the conflict is or what the stakes are. I assume you can provide that here at the end. What is the story about? Make sure the query addresses this: “Jamil must ABC or XYZ.” He must do something or something bad will happen. That’s what’s missing.


    I’m definitely interested and the writing engages me. The first person is working well for me.

    You have a typo “mama is was all right to let go.”

    I do wonder about the voice. If he’s going to the university, would he say “ain’t”? It seems a little cliché, the tone. But I’m not an expert and don’t live in the south, so I don’t really know.

  8. Query:
    First paragraph: Switch up the wording to avoid repetition with ‘lived’ and ‘living’ in the first sentence. Spell out ’S.C.’

    Second paragraph: Change ‘the only mama’ to ‘the only family’ to avoid repetition with the previous sentence. ‘Jamil has trouble feeling his music’ needs to read stronger. Something like ‘Jamil can’t get in sync with his music.’ I don’t think his band teacher telling him to get it together is a strong enough catalyst for Jamil deciding to hitchhike to another state. I’m sure there’s a different, and stronger, motivation behind his actions there. Show us. Take out ‘along the way’ in the last sentence.

    Overall, I’d like to see more stakes and conflict. What makes Jamil hitchhike to another state to find his real dad? Here’s a suggestion: ‘If Jamil doesn’t find his father and answers about his real family before the audition, black will happen.’

    First 250 Words:

    Change ‘mama’s coma’ to ‘her coma’ in the first sentence to avoid repetition. The last sentence might be stronger if you split it up a little, like ‘She was my mom as sure as August in Alabama is miserable hot, as sure as honey sticks to your fingers. Then she had to go and ruin it all.

    Your first 250 reads well and introduces us to a strong character voice. Queries were created by the devil himself and it takes everyone a ton of tries to finally get something kinda-sorta close to acceptable. Keep at it!