Wednesday, July 29, 2009

8 Query Contest

Dear Jodi,

Always in control and the constant planner, being dumped and broken-hearted was not a part of Josie’s plan.

SMILING THROUGH PAIN is a 94,000-word women’s fiction. Josie Watkins has the friends, the career and the perfect boyfriend. When her perfect boyfriend dumps her after seven years of waiting for a marriage proposal, she is left searching for a new plan that doesn’t involve being a spinster with cats. She’s allergic.

A typical and desperate phone call from her sister, Anna, leads her back to the home where she grew up. Hoping for some consoling, Josie is annoyed when Anna shows up dumped and pregnant. If there is one thing Josie can count on, Anna always has a worse problem. Resuming the role she loathes of mothering her free-spirited sister, she slowly begins to embrace the simplicity of home.

The humiliating reality of dating again and admitting her vulnerabilities is humbling yet healing. Instead of leading with her head, she listens to her heart, enjoying the freedom from having to control everything around her. Being less controlling, she finally begins to value the bond she shares with her sister. However, when her sister ends up betraying her, she must choose to stay the person she has become or go back to the way she was. Most of all, Josie has to decide if forgiveness is possible when you love your betrayers. Can her heart survive another break and what’s the plan now?

I am an active member of The Writer’s League of Texas and have spent the last five years honing my craft and choosing the exact type of stories that I’d like to tell. I am an avid reader of most anything but find myself drawn to authors like Sophie Kinsella, Jane Green and Jennifer Weiner. I find SMILING THROUGH PAIN encompasses many of the qualities I love in women’s fiction. The decisions every woman makes throughout her life regarding friendship, family and love inspire me.

I would love the chance to send you a few more chapters and synopsis, or the entire manuscript of SMILING THROUGH PAIN at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.


I wasn’t sure how long I lay on the floor, curled in a way to most would have looked broken. Long enough for the loops of carpet flattened against my cheek to become painfully itchy. My back ached as my knees bent awkwardly toward my chest. I didn’t want to move and my earlier jagged sobs had subsided to slow, even waves of breath as my knees moved slightly out from my body after each one.

The phone chirped like an excited cricket, ripping me from my silent trance. I held my breath and squeezed my knees prisoner against my body again. I couldn’t lose it again. I counted down the rings, hoping the machine’s volume was low enough to allow me the little peace I had found before. Three…two…one…

After a long beep, my voice, sounding happily medicated filled the room.

You’ve reached Josie and Kevin. Please leave a message and we’ll get back to you.

I closed my eyes, squeezing out more tears. I made it sound so easy. Josie and Kevin.

“Jojo? Are you there? Jojo? I really need to talk to you and I don’t have a number for you to call back. Pick up, pick up, pick up!”

Typical Anna. Releasing my knees and slowly peeling my face away from the carpet, I crawled toward the phone. I took a deep breath before pressing the ‘talk’ button.

“I’m here Anna. What’s wrong now?”

I hadn’t seen Anna since I said goodbye to her at the airport after our grandma’s funeral six months ago. When I heard her frantic voice on the phone, all I wanted to do was hang up.


  1. I think your first sentence is well written, very "hooky".

    The first paragraph sounded fairly typical, but I like the hint of voice with "She's allergic." Gives me a sense that there will be a humor angle to this one.

    I like everything about the query, actually, except this line: "Josie has to decide if forgiveness is possible when you love your betrayers." It seems like an obvious answer...

    The page seems solid as well. I like this. I don't read a lot of women's fic, and there are elements of this that sound familiar to the few titles I have read, but I like what I have so far and would read more.

  2. I'm not hooked. But that might be because I'm not into this type of book. I'm not all that interested in a woman who can't deal with change.

  3. Query:

    First line... a little clunky...
    I'm sorry, not hooked. Admittedly, my impression is there was probably a reason why the guy dumped her. She doesn't sound terribly likable.

  4. I’m not a huge fan of women’s fiction in general, so take my comment with a pinch of salt.

    My key problem here is that I feel like you’re telling me your protagonist is one way, and showing me she’s another. You *tell* me that she has friends, a career and a perfect boyfriend - so she has an enjoyable, balanced and fulfilling life, she’s emotionally attached to her friends, and she values her career. You *show* me that when she’s dumped by her boyfriend she abandons her career, ditches all those friends and regresses to her childhood role taking care of her sister. I feel like these are two entirely different and incompatible scenarios.

    Trouble is, I’m not sure I want to read about the second.

  5. I actually liked this. The query seems a little long (might want to thin the herd a little), but it got the point across.

    The sample starts of with her life in chaos, which is good. And you've given us just enough backstory (the answering machine message) to explain why she's on the floor weeping. I'd keep reading. Consider me hooked.

  6. Wasn't that hooked. The first sentence felt unnecessary and "searching for a plan that doesn't involve being a spinster with cats" doesn't feel so exciting. I need to know what she wants, not what she doesn't want. Lots of word repetition makes it feel clunky. Sorry. Sound like the bones of a good story are waiting to be conveyed with a tad more zing.

  7. The story coming through in the query wasn't interesting to me. Maybe focus more on her sister's betrayal as this seems to be the main story and what drive's Josie to change.

  8. Sorry, not hooked yet, but there's a possibility I could be. I found your sample a bit stronger than your query. If you do a lot of tightening (eliminating superfluous words & sentences) I think it would flow better. I think you need to get to the punch faster in both sections.

    Hope that helps you out a bit - good luck with this :)

  9. I think you have some good material here--I like the dumped pregnant sister who always has bigger, badder problems than Josie. Didn't care for the first sentence, you might drop the first half and start with "Being dumped..." If you called it a five-year plan, you'd get across that she's a planner/controller without telling us (just a suggestion--don't mean to put words in your mouth). First line of 4th paragraph is too ordinary. Show us with a concrete example or leave it out. Also, I'd leave out the fact that you think your story encompasses qualities you love...the agent's not going to care. Ditto the line that follows.
    Not hooked yet, but you have some good elements. Keep at it!

  10. I really enjoy this type of book, unfortunately your sounds a little too similar to books by the authors you named in your query without having any fresh or new twists added in that would sufficiently differentiate it from them. Sorry - I'm just not hooked.

  11. "The Hong Kong Connection" is a legal thriller about a gutsy female attorney who takes on high ranking International officials. It's a taut, rollercoaster of a ride from New York to Palm Beach to Washington D.C. to Hong Kong. The plot is expertly woven, the characters persuasive, and the dialogue snappy and spot on.

  12. The query and the first 250 words are well-written. I also like the light tone. Ex: "She's allergic."

    The only confusion I have is that Josie is very familiar with her sister's constant, bigger, worse problems, and she doesn't want to deal with them.

    And then we learn she's gone back to the family home to take care of her sister. During that period, she heals herself. I'm not exactly sure how.

    I'm also curious to know what Josie wants. Do her goals change during the story? What causes her to change? Seems to me there has to be a pretty cataclysmic event so it isn't like all of Anna's previous dramas.

    I do like the story. There are just some issues that puzzle me. I'm sure they're addressed in the novel, but perhaps they should be hinted at in the query.

  13. I'm not a big women's fiction fan, so for something to grab me, it needs to be *really* awesome.

    This is close. The touches of humor ("She's allergic.") make me like it. However, some of this just feels a bit familiar. Her boyfriend dumped her and she's nothing without him? No more friends or job? Seven years is a long time, but where are her friends to lean on?

    The writing in the sample is nice. If the next couple pages were compelling (our agency takes 5ish pages), I might request.

  14. Okay, so I'm understanding the questions and I see that I've portrayed the main character as a wimpy, sad woman. Got it. She is most definitely NOT. I appreciate all the advice and encouragement. I will revamp to make the character as strong as she's portrayed in the actual story. Thank you so much. I'm in awe at the advice from both sets of readers. The ones that find interest in women's fiction and the ones that don't.