Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Query Writing: The Query Letter Strikes Back

I was going to post my re-revised query letter last night, but my general rule is that it's better to sleep on it and give a query letter (or anything for that matter) another look in the morning before making final edits. Sleepiness does not lend itself to effective editing.

Here's the latest iteration, Query Letter Version 6.3. Or something like that. I long ago lost count.

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.

After her mother’s death, Molly Anne McCoy 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. Molly knows her mother would have wanted the family to stay together, so she sets her childhood aside, quits school, and takes over the day to day running of the house.

Not that that’s easy 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. Courageous, headstrong, and absolutely afraid, Molly will have to use every ounce of her resourcefulness and strength, from her skill with healing to her knowledge of herbs to her ability to keep calm in a crisis, if she and her family are going to survive.

A mix of Coal Miner’s Daughter and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Surviving Matewan is complete at 89,000 words and to my knowledge is the only Middle Grade or Young Adult novel to be set specifically in the 1920-1921 miners’ 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, 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.

The partial or full manuscript is available upon request. Thank you for your consideration!

The query is 386 words, a bit on the long side, but I really like it as is, so I'm not cutting anymore. For now. I feel like a teenager who just got a brand new shiny red sportscar, so I'm going to give this new query a spin and see how it goes.


  1. Okay, I'd request a full from this. I do agree that it's a little long, but try it out. The only thing I'd change is the third graph. Not that that's... could it maybe read...Not an easy thing to do... Gets rid of a couple of that's. Since there's three in the graph.
    Just thinking of the "that" debate at Nathan's blog. :)
    The third that could be the and sound good too.
    But yeah, I like this a lot.
    And thanks for your comments on my blog. :)
    I'll look at them again tomorrow when I work on it. For the umpteenth time.

  2. Thanks! I did get a request for a full from this. I'm kind of in shock and I don't want to jinx it, which is why I've been quiet about it.

    Agree about the third paragraph and will make the changes. I use the word "that" a lot I've noticed.