If you ask any writer about the process of connecting with their agent (or publisher), the majority will say the most difficult part was querying. Not only the actual process of sending out the letters/emails, but formulating the query itself. In fact, I’ve heard more than a few authors say writing their query took them almost as long as drafting their book!
Some people have the talent of being able to summarize their book in a few sentences, but for those who don’t I wanted to provide a resource where writers could learn what works, and what doesn’t, in a query.
With that in mind, I’m pleased to share today’s successful query from Cindy Baldwin. This great query connected her with her agent, Elizabeth Harding at Curtis Brown, Ltd.
Twelve-year-old Della Kelly vividly remembers the last time her schizophrenic mama had a break with reality that put her into the mental hospital for three long months. But Mama’s on a new medication, and things have been better—until the night Della comes into the kitchen to find Mama obsessively cutting the seeds out of a watermelon, convinced they’ll get into her kids’ tummies and make them sick.
Panicked, Della resolves to do anything in her power to fix Mama’s broken brain. But when Mama’s delusions turn dangerous and an ambulance takes her away to the mental hospital an hour north, Della must work up the courage to seek help from the town’s resident eccentric, who claims to have a jar of magical honey that will help solve Della’s problems… even if it’s a solution that has more to do with healing Della’s heart than healing Mama’s brain.
If the honey works, Della might have a chance to finally let go of her own guilt—spurred by the deep-down knowledge that it was Della’s birth that brought the schizophrenia on in the first place—and learn to truly love her mama, sickness and all.
A SNICKER OF MAGIC meets THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH in this Southern-flavored magical realism, which is a standalone with the potential for at least one companion novel. Although I don’t have schizophrenia myself, many of the themes in the novel are inspired by my lifelong struggle with serious illness (and my frustration with the number of people who have been certain they knew just what it would take to “cure” me!).
Complete at 42,000 words, WHERE THE WATERMELONS GROW won third place in middle grade division of the First Chapter contest at the LDStorymakers 2015 conference. My poetry and prose have been featured in several print and online publications, a complete list of which can be found at my website.
Fun tidbit: This was the third novel I’d queried, and shelving the first two had been really tough! For a few weeks, I was tempted to give up on writing altogether. Once I pulled myself out of the slump, though, my querying process for WHERE THE WATERMELONS GROW was quite quick (likely thanks to a good bit of success in the first #DVPit contest)! The query for this book didn’t change tremendously from first draft to last, mostly because I’d had a fair bit of practice already with the two books I’d queried before.
Cindy Baldwin is a fiction writer, essayist, and poet. She grew up in North Carolina and still misses the sweet watermelons and warm accents on a daily basis. As a middle schooler, she kept a book under her bathroom sink to read over and over while fixing her hair or brushing her teeth, and she dreams of writing the kind of books readers can’t bear to be without. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and daughter, surrounded by tall trees and wild blackberries. Her debut novel, WHERE THE WATERMELONS GROW, will be released from HarperCollins Children’s Books in summer 2018. Find her on twitter @beingcindy and instagram @cindybaldwinbooks, and at www.cindybaldwinbooks.com.