All right, here's my revised query letter. As promised, I tried to move the focus away from the history and more to the characters and plot. I also paid special attention to showing Molly as an active participant in events, rather than as a bystander.
I think there's still a bit more work to do before the letter's ready to be sent out. I'm especially worried about "A mix of Coal Miner’s Daughter and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral." Does that work as a hook or is it patently ridiculous? And is it even accurate?
Dear [Agent Name Here],
1920. Matewan, West Virginia. It’s not easy being the woman of the house when you’re only twelve years old. It’s even harder when you’re living in a coal camp, caught up in one of the bloodiest strikes in American history. In the 89,000 word Young Adult novel, Surviving Matewan, courageous, headstrong, and absolutely afraid, Molly Anne McCoy is determined to keep her family together through it all.
When Molly’s mother dies in the Great Flu Pandemic of 1918, Molly has a choice: Step up and run the household or let her brothers and sister go into foster care. There’s just no way her father can raise a family on his own. That’d be women’s work. To Molly, it’s an easy decision. More than anything, her mother would have wanted the family to stay together. Molly’s certain of that. So she sets her childhood aside, quits school, and takes over the day to day running of the house.
Not that that’s an easy thing to do when her little brother Frankie keeps coming up with new and innovative ways to almost get himself killed and her little sister Gracie is throwing toys and tantrums. At least her brother Bobby is too busy reading and obsessing over creepy crawlies to cause her much trouble. Then there’s that awkward Billy Donohue boy Molly keeps running into. Molly’s starting to think he just might like her.
To make things worse, and there’s always something to make things worse, when the local miners, Molly’s father included, threaten to go on strike for better pay, life doesn’t just get harder, it gets more dangerous. Union rallies, gunfights in the street, banishment to a tent colony, and eventually, guerrilla warfare in the mountains. If Molly and her family are going to survive, she’ll have to use every ounce of her resourcefulness and strength to help see them through.
A mix of Coal Miner’s Daughter and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, to my knowledge, no Middle Grade or Young Adult novel has ever been set specifically in the 1920-1921 strike.
I did my best to be faithful to actual events. In the course of my research I visited Matewan, went down into a mine, where I promptly discovered I was claustrophobic, spoke to experts and retired miners, waded through countless archives, and listened to oral histories from the people who lived and breathed the events themselves.
If interested in reviewing a partial or full manuscript, my e-mail address is xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. Thank you for your consideration!