Dear Miss Snark:
I read of your agency in the Writers' and Artists' Handbook 2006, and I would like to enquire whether I may submit a manuscript for your consideration.
I am a professional writer living in Karachi, Pakistan. I have gained quite some success as a columnist and features writer for various local magazines and newspapers, as well as the famous South Asian Web site Chowk ( www.chowk.com). My first book of short stories for children, entitled X, was published in 1999 by OUP. Two subsequent novels –Y and Z - were published by Alhamra in Islamabad, Pakistan in 2001 and 2004 respectively. A forthcoming book of short stories called ZZ will be published this fall by Alhamra.
My novel is called X. It is set in Shah Colony, a fictional slum in the southern port city of Karachi, Pakistan, and chronicles the life of Laila, a Punjabi Christian girl growing up and learning to survive in the most dire of circumstances.
I can send you the first few chapters and a more complete synopsis for your perusal and if it seems to speak to you, I would be happy to share more of my work with you. Thanks you for your time and consideration and I am very appreciative of your encouragement and support.
is there a plot?
what's the word count?
are you writing in English or Urdu?
Are your publications in English or Urdu?
The first time I saw a man injecting himself with heroin, I was nine years old. Of course, at that age I didn't know what heroin was; I hardly knew what syringes were, or what injections were for. But my mind's eye took a photograph of it all anyway, like a camera, and stored the negative somewhere deep inside, to be taken out later at a time when my youthful brain had accumulated enough information and experience – had caught up enough with my environment, my surroundings – to be able to understand the sights, sounds, smells, and sensations around me.
Swinging my braid back over my shoulder – I liked to do this ten times an hour, its weight and thickness at my young age pleasing me greatly – I picked my way carefully across the stones. I didn't intend to end up in the filthy water, which stank of urine and shit and chemicals. The whole slum smelled like that anyway, and I didn't want it on my skin as well. And with the water not coming again until Friday, I wouldn't be able to wash it off myself or my clothes if I fell in.
As I jumped, I pretended I was a giant flea, able to leap many miles into the sky with each jump, and able to land perfectly on my target with my feet not even an inch out of place. My braid bobbed from side to side, and I hummed a little song as I cleared the last stone and made it to the dry land on the other side. I wondered what food there might be left at home for me; my mother cooked the way I attended school – as and when she felt like it – and finding something fresh to eat was not always a guaranteed event in my home. Still, I dreamed of hot, fresh daal, with a steaming puffy roti to go with it. My stomach squeaked expectantly at the thought.
I turned the corner at the church, and that was where I saw him: A strange man I didn't recognize, clad in a filthy grey shalwar kameez whose folds were stiff with dirt and sweat. His black curly hair was coated with a film the same color as his clothes, and even from the distance I stood from him, I could smell him, rank and odious, like rotting garbage and dying things. He paid no attention to me, squatting on his haunches against the steel shutters of the church door, swaying back and forth so that the shutters banged and echoed with his movements.
He held his left arm extended out in front of him, and there was a black cord tied around his upper arm, which was skinny as a kitten's leg. In his right hand he clutched a dirty syringe, and the syringe was filled with a golden brown liquid I didn't recognize. An image flashed in my head of three or four men, just like this one, scrabbling through the garbage piles in front of the Colony Dispensary. I always thought they were looking for food. I knew now that I had been wrong.
It's VERY very very hard to write in the first person voice of a child. What happens is that things kids take for granted (leading them to say years later 'we were poor but didn't know it') adults notice. I see that here.
I'd be interested in this for the not-usual setting and perspective but I'm not getting my hopes up that it's marketable.