Another GO at this query #3! Please TELL ME what you think!
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Dear:

I am seeking your representation of Mama’s Shoes, my 100,000-word debut novel. Spanning twenty years, Mama’s Shoes is a haunting saga of love and loss, despair and forgiveness. A cadence of female voices weaves a spell of mountain lore and secrets, defines family as more than blood kin, and proves second chances can bring happiness.

By the time Sylvia Richardson is eighteen, she’s buried her parents; been married for two years to Gaines Richardson – who is ten years her senior; gave birth to a daughter; and become a widow. The year is 1942, and World War II has reached all the way to the little coal mining town of Coal Valley and scattered Sylvia’s hopes and dreams like autumn's first frost. She sinks into depression no one understands, Sylvia most of all, and her life spirals out of control. She spends time in a mental institution and upon release, runs away from Coal Valley and gives her daughter up for adoption.

Years later we meet Sylvia through the eyes of her daughter, Sassy. They are living in Coal Valley and the hub of their life is the Cut and Curl Beauty Shop where Sylvia works. Sassy admires Mama’s beauty and self-confidence, accepts her penchant for beer and cigarettes, and endures her boyfriends. It isn’t until Sassy unearths her mother’s buried past and confronts her, that Sylvia is able to forgive herself and find peace.

Mama’s Shoes, an upmarket women’s novel, is infused with southern mountain culture reminiscent of Amy Greene’s Bloodroot, while capturing the soul and humor of a small town that resonates from Fannie Flagg’s novels.

I am a lifelong resident of the coalfields of Appalachia, where I teach English and literature. I am a consultant for the University of Virginia's Appalachian Writing Project, an active member of the National Writing Project, the Appalachian Author’s Guild, and networked with Appalachian authors through my study at the Appalachian Writer's Workshop with authors Lee Smith, Silas House, and Sharyn McCrumb, among others. My work has appeared in numerous publications, including A Cup of Comfort: Dog Lovers II and The Literary Journal of the Virginia Writing Project. I won first and third place in the 2010 Appalachian Author’s Guild Short Story Contest.

 

Thank you for your time and consideration. I would be delighted to send the entire novel for your review.

 

Sincerely

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Replies
  • I didn't feel like the query actually started until your third paragraph.  Even then it felt flat and I never got a chance to really meet the characters.  I know an awful lot about what happens to them, but not about them.  There isn't a lot of voice here.  I'm from the South and know we have a lot of colloquialisms (my favorite is, "Well butter my buns and call me a biscuit!"  Always makes me smile).  Any chance any of those could fit - something to help us see and hear Appalachia and these women rather than you telling us about them.  

     

    Also, I was confused because I thought Sylvia ran away and gave up her daughter, but then they are working together.  Did Sassy know she had been abandoned?  Does she always know Sylvia is her mother or is that the secret past she discovers?  Perhaps Sarah's suggestion to start with Sassy discovering her mother's past would help sort that confusion out.  

     

    I'd also agree to move the first sentence to the end of the query.  Or leave it out altogether.  Someone once suggested to me I leave out "I'm seeking representation . . . " because the agent knows that.  I've sent her a query for that reason.

     

    Finally, WOW on the biography.  I was stretching to make mine a complete sentence!  I would suggest though that you just state you attended the Appalachian Writer's Workshop and leave it at that.  

     

     

  • I totally agree with Sarah...she's given you some great feedback. I was going to suggest a more intriguing and forceful opening paragraph to hook the reader. Something like what Sarah has here might just do the trick. I don't think starting out with..."I am seeking representation..." is very compelling
  • Hi Rebecca!

    I think you need to go even further.  I can see that you've zoomed the lens in a little tighter, but you're still taking shortcuts.  You write she "admire's Mama's beauty...endures her boyfriends."  But that's all neat and forgiving.  Too pretty.  Too easy to gloss over without inspiring me to want more.

    Can I try giving you a prompt?  You mention that Sassy unearths her mother's buried past.  Instead of saying that half way through the query, start the query with an image of discovery.  "15 year old Sassy's neck tingles when she finds--in the basement of Cut and Curl--a yellowing 1940's marriage certificate at odds with the mother she's always known."  My sentence is a little *cough* rough around the edges (and may have nothing to do with your story) but consider its effect.  Try bringing the reader right into the book's central conflict.