3rd SR Crapometer #67-partial most likely

Hello Ms. Snark:(snarl)

Thirteen-year-old Sophia is furious. Luke is only eight years old; he thinks everything's an adventure. And Josh, fifteen—who knows what Josh thinks? He doesn't say a word. (what is this--Facebook captions? Why is this here?)

With time and life racing at the speed of broadband, Carol Hanlin fears her children are growing up as strangers. In a desperate attempt to form a stronger family bond, she drags them from their comfortable Virginia suburb to a remote lodge in Alaska where they serve as winter caretakers. The family must adjust to life without electricity, telephone, running water, or neighbors. Squeezed into a two-room cabin, the kids sleep in modified closets, undertake home schooling, haul wood and water, witness nature and wildlife, and endure each other's constant presence. Through a unique shared experience, in a dramatic setting, the Hanlins discover one another. blah blah blah

(Title) is a middle grade ("whatever") (ok, thatISfunny--for those of you who don't know why, check the Crapometer FAQ) novel of 50,000 words, told through alternating perspectives of the three kids. This project earned a Letter of Merit from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Work-In-Progress grant program. (well I know SCBWI but what the heck is a letter of merit? Varsity author team?)

I spent ten winters caretaking for remote Alaskan lodges from Bristol Bay to the Arctic, where water came from springs and lakes, heat from wood and fuel oil, and light from propane lanterns. The neighbors were the moose, foxes, weasels, wolves, and gray jays.

My first book, an Alaska natural history puzzle/fact/joke book, was released in spring 2006 by (reputable publisher that Miss Snark likes a lot). I currently have three other books under contract: two activity books with movie tie-ins and a fiction picture book, due out in 2007 and 2008 from (other publishers also on Miss Snark's rolodex). So why are you talking to me-did you sell all that stuff without an agent?

Thank you for your time and attention. I appreciate the opportunity to participate in the Crapometer project. (we won't hold you to that if you change your mind)


Sophia didn’t want to sue her mother; she had no choice. She’d tried talking, arguing, wrangling, debating, begging, pleading, urging, entreating, imploring, beseeching, and reasoning, but her mother refused to listen. It was like talking to a parrot—no matter what Sophia said, her mother responded, "This is more important, bwAWK." But she’d listen to a judge: it's illegal to ruin your daughter's life! (sweet mother of dog, why the HELL isn't this leading your query)

Sophia wasn’t sure who was who in the courtroom. She recognized Clarice Langston, the social worker from Child Protective Services, but that was it. The guy up front was probably the bailiff, and the man and woman talking together might be lawyers, or maybe one was a recorder. It seemed like a lot of people to solve one stupid problem. A problem Sophia could have handled on her own if her mother had let her. A problem that her stupid mother made when she decided to move the whole stupid family 6,000 miles away, to some stupid lodge in wilderness Alaska, without electricity and running water, isolated from the world—and hospitals, stores, schools, and sane human beings. Sophia shouldn’t feel guilty: she was the victim! She took a deep breath and sat on her hands to keep them from shaking. How could her hands be so cold when the rest of her was sweating?

The judge came in from a side door. She wore a robe and everything, just like judges on TV. Everyone stood up. Sophia leaned against the table to keep her balance. Was she getting sick? She thought she might throw up, or pass out. It may not hurt her case to look pathetic, but she preferred to look responsible and mature. She was usually good at it.

The judge opened a file folder from the top of a stack and spoke. She might as well have been the teacher in a Charlie Brown cartoon for all Sophia understood—good morning...wah wah...preliminary child protective order...wah wah wah.

Sophia sat up straight, and concentrated on not breathing too loudly. She stole a look at her mother at the other table. Her jaw muscle pulsed in her cheek; she was nervous, too. Look what you made me do! Sophia wanted to shout. It's all your fault! She hated this. But she hated the idea of going to Alaska even more.

People said things. Then it was Sophia’s turn, the moment she’d been waiting and rehearsing for. She felt like a robot walking up to the stand, stiff, controlled by some outer mechanism.

"Sophia," said Judge Wolcott, leaning back in her chair. "Tell me why you're requesting foster placement." She looked at Sophia the way a sales clerk looks at her when she returns a pair of pants—patient, but suspicious and ticked. Where was the sympathy for a girl so completely mistreated? Wasn’t it her job to protect kids? To stand up for them when no one else listened?

"I, um...well..."

yes yes yes Thank all dogs we ask for pages.
THIS is a voice I believe.
This is good. I'd read it. I'd be on the horn asking about your agent situation though before I invested much time beyond those first pages.


Anonymous said...

Hmmm. Girl sues parents over organ donations. Now where have I heard that before?

Sorry. If I want repeats, I'll turn on Law and Order.

Good writing; worn-out idea.

Anonymous said...

Loved the first page! but pleasepleaseplease work on that query letter. I almost fell asleep, *and* I've had my morning coffee.

M. Takhallus. said...

The fact that one may have had an agent in the past does not necessarily mean one has an agent now. Maybe one's agent was an idiot or ethically challenged. I've had both.

Cheryl Mills said...

I must have missed the part about organ donation.

Love the writing, but it's hard to tell what the book is about from the query letter. Ahhh...that's where the credentials come in, right, Miss Snark?

viscose turnip said...

"Girl sues parents over organ donations."

Eh? Did I miss something, Anonymous?

I agree that it's good writing though.

Virginia Miss said...

I think anon #1 may be referring to "My Sister's Keeper" which is NOT a middle-grade (whatever).

I like the beginning, but I'd want to see more about the conflict in the query, to see if anything exciting happened in AK.

Anonymous said...

re: organ donations, sorry - typed that pre-coffee.

What I meant to say was: a child suing their parents is nothing new. Organ donation, of course, referred to "My Sister's Keeper." In real life, and again in Grisham's "The Client", kids hire lawyers. It's curious the first time and a yawn after that (if you ask me and I know my opinion means diddly.)

I still say, "Yawn," even though the writing is good.

AMP said...

FYI, an SCBWI Letter of Merit means you didn't win one of the SCBWI grants but were darned close. It's a very good thing.

Congrats, author, on your achievement.

In kidlit, it's not impossible to sell quite a few books without an agent. It's not impossible to have an entire career without an agent. However, if you can find the right agent, it would be much nicer. :)

Anonymous said...

Although suing your parents may not be a unique idea, it's still different enough for me to sit up and take notice.

And congrats to the author on the award...those are tough to get!

desert snarkling said...

Suing your parents may not be original, but this suing your parents story has voice. I'd absolutely keep reading.

FWIW, I gather that for children's books, not having an agent is a lot more common than it is for adult books.

overdog said...

Just because something's been done before doesn't mean everyone's read it. I haven't read about kids suing their parents, so this is new to me. I like this voice. I'd read this.

xiqay said...

I liked it, but...

Miss Snark says this has "voice" but to me it sounds like the voice of an adult, with references to things adults remember from their childhood (e.g. Charlie Brown), and with too much knowledge of the courtroom (the bailiff and recorder for example).

[Perhaps I'm just another jealous member of SCBWI.]

I liked the comment on the judge's look-not entirely supportive or taken-in by this teen.

The writing is clean and there is movement, we're getting to the story issue quickly. I would keep reading.

BJ Nemeth said...

The query letter seems to be for a completely different (boring) book. I am shocked by how many seemingly good writers have horrible query letters in the Crapometer.

I always assumed that it would be the other way around.

Your query letter is your first impression. Why not put your blood, sweat, and tears into making it as compelling as your first chapter?

Even though Miss Snark liked the pages, the overall impression would have been much better if those pages followed a great query letter.

Anonymous said...

I agree that you need to work on the query. The sentence 'With time and life racing at the speed of broadband, Carol Hanlin fears her children are growing up as strangers.' made me think this is a single-parent novel written from the parent's POV.
I was surprised to then read it's a midgrade, told from 3 POV's. Maybe you could try to angle the query differently.

I have to say, the opening made me pause - it made me think that the suing-for-emancipation is the big issue in the book, and I wasnt' sure I wanted to read about some whiny kid's poor-me issues. It would take a LOT for a kid to be able to take that as far as court... it seems like there's a book just in that. Not every kid can just cry 'my life sucks!' and have it taken to COURT. I'm wondering, should you ditch this idea for an opening scene and head straight for Alaska? -- just a thought.

Natalia said...

I really like this. You rule. I honestly can't say anything else. You've already been told to work on that query letter, but otherwise, rock on.

I'm not the target demographic for this book, but I was enjoying it right away.

Spooks said...

I work with children and teens - this sounded authentic to me. I'd definitely read on. Quite enjoyed it in fact.

wonderer said...

anon said:

I agree that you need to work on the query. The sentence 'With time and life racing at the speed of broadband, Carol Hanlin fears her children are growing up as strangers.' made me think this is a single-parent novel written from the parent's POV.
I was surprised to then read it's a midgrade, told from 3 POV's. Maybe you could try to angle the query differently.

Seconded. Give the children's names and their arcs/conflicts, not the mother's.

I liked the voice a lot - it felt authentic - but when I was that age, a scene that opened in a courtroom would have put me to sleep. (Even now, it's touch and go.) I agree with the same anon again in that the girl comes across as whiny here. Show us her sense of loss and displacement when her mother takes her away from her home and she's faced with the new one, or even when her mother first tells her they're moving for reasons she doesn't understand or care about. Then we'll be drawn right in.

Good luck with this!

Anonymous said...

this is good, but i don't believe the voice.
i think that the author needs to read some more middle grade, because it comes off as writing down to the reader to me.