Dear Miss Snark:
A 13-year-old Memphis boy takes over his friend’s newspaper route for one month in the summer of 1959. While he enjoys throwing newspapers, collecting for them is another matter since the boy struggles with a debilitating stutter that causes him to communicate in unusual ways, sometimes humorously and occasionally with catastrophic results The characters he encounters on the paper route change his life unexpectedly as he faces death and longing for the first time. (he faces longing for the first time at 13? Right there you lose me. I don't hang out with kids much, but I ride the subways and I know that kids are magnetic force fields of "longing" from infancy on up.)
Accompanying the boy on this coming-of-age journey is Mam, the family’s housekeeper, who turns out to be both savant and savior. Which tells me nothing.
"A Quartering of Souls" (85,000 words) is presented in a first-person voice that I propose is unique in literary fiction. For instance, the story is told without commas because the boy is afraid of pauses. The stuttering is handled in a way that does not impair readability and
exposes the boy’s love-hate relationship with words. The novel with its simple narrative and fast pace is easily accessible, but the engaged reader will hear a disquieting cry. Telling me how I'm going to feel when I read something is usually the first signal that you like to tell, not show
I’m a 35-year veteran of editing and publishing major daily newspapers in the South and Midwest. Please read my manuscript and consider representing me. (Leave out the second sentence)
A SASE is enclosed or I can be contacted at the email address above. I look forward to hearing from you.
A Quartering of Souls
Throwing the paper route wasn’t the problem. Put that down as the first thing you need to know if you’re going to take time to hear my story. To tell the truth. Throwing seems to be what is holding all the pieces of my whacky life together. A hard throw that got away is the
reason I had to take on the paper route in the first place. It’s all a longer story than I have any business trying to tell. But I’ll give it a try. This is the voice of a 13 year old?
Some of what you will hear I’m not supposed to be talking about. (A person died. Not me. But I came close.) You’ll learn about four special words and the weird way they were given to me. Four words that you probably use everyday but when they are hooked together they become special. (yup, here it is, tell not show) ZAP.
Here's your start
The best place to start is to tell you about my best friend.
His real name is Art but I have to call him Rat. He’s the catcher on my ball team. Don’t call him a “hind catcher” because he hates that plenty. He’s the only kid my age – I’m 13 – who can handle my hard throws and sometimes they are even a little too hot for him. We were
throwing at the end of practice when one of my throws got away from him and busted his lip good. Sometimes my ball does a dipsy-doo at the end when I throw it extra hard and when he tried to catch this one it nicked the side of his mitt and busted him a good one right in the
mouth. His lip puffed up more than it bled but Rat didn’t cry or get red-eyed and runny-nosed. He called me a butt-hole for showing off. That’s why I figured I owed it to him when he asked me to take on his paper route for four weeks so he could spend July on his grandparents’
You also need to know why I have to call my best friend “Rat.” (no we don't) His real name is Arthur and people mostly call him Art. The first time I talked with him was three years ago when he sat next to me on the first day of the sixth grade. He was a little taller than me and he had his ball glove with him and told me he liked the New York Yankees so we hit it off right away. He asked me my name and I showed it to him written in perfect letters in black ink on the back of my glove. He showed me his name painted in white on his blue lunch box. It was easy enough to tell that is name was “Art” but this was on a day I couldn’t get the “a” starter sound to come out of my mouth without a whole bunch of trouble and so I gave him this dumb-kid look and scrunched up my nose.
He laughed out loud which made me like him even more.
“No. It’s Art. But you call me Rat. I like that.”
You're so caught up in the stuttering motif that you forget all you have to do is tell the story and we'll get it. Go read Motherless Brooklyn.