John Cusick from Scott Treimel NY!
Now for John's picks. The winner of a full manuscript request is...
Genre: YA Thriller
For sixteen-year-old Alex Tanner, finding a webpage of himself five years into the future is totally cool and all until he logs on one morning and his status reads: DECEASED.
This is a great pitch: it describes both given circumstances, and a complication. It leaves me wanting to know more while still relating the conflict and giving me a sense of the story. The ‘totally cool” also hints at a light-hearted tone, which I like. I love stories that introduce weird and fantastical elements into our contemporary world. The use of a website, rather than some ancient rune or talisman, also ads a fresh, modern flair. I can’t wait to read it!
Congrats, John. Please send your winning entry to John Cusick with your query pasted into the body of the email, and your full manuscript attached as a word .doc to jmc (dot) st (dot) ny (at) verizon (dot) net
Please be sure to put "Operation Awesome Contest Winner" in the subject line.
But that's not all. John picked out 3 other pitches he'd love to read more of. Here are John's runners-up!
Title: THE ACTUAL & AWFUL TRUTHFUL ADVENTURES OF BECKY THATCHER
Genre: MG Retelling (of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer)
Mark Twain probably didn’t mean to be a big fat liar, but eleven-year-old Becky Thatcher is about to set the record straight on facing outlaws in the cemetery, stealing from Witchy Widow Douglas, and clearing an innocent name…all while ditching the biggest tattle-tale that ever lived—Tom Sawyer.
I’m so intrigued by this concept. I love retellings of familiar tales, and tackling such a boy story from a female point-of-view is so intriguing. I’d love to read the first 50 pages.
Congrats, Jess. Please send your entry to John Cusick with your query pasted into the body of the email, and your pages attached as a word .doc to jmc (dot) st (dot) ny (at) verizon (dot) netPlease be sure to put "Operation Awesome Contest Winner" in the subject line.
Genre: MG fantasyGretel needs to save her brother from a witch, but it may mean becoming a wicked witch herself.
In my classes on writing I often teach an exercise that involves reimagining Hansel and Gretel, so I’m eager to see this author’s take. Please send the first 25 pages!
Congrats, Rachel. Please send your entry to John Cusick with your query pasted into the body of the email, and your pages attached as a word .doc to jmc (dot) st (dot) ny (at) verizon (dot) netPlease be sure to put "Operation Awesome Contest Winner" in the subject line.
Title: THE LONG-TIMERS
Genre: YA sci-fi/thriller
When a privileged teenage boy learns the horrific truth behind a miracle drug that prolongs the life of the rich, he must try to bring down his parents' company from the inside.
Another example of a great pitch: the story and conflict are hinted at without being over explained, and what makes this story unique (the miracle drug, the theme of aging, the class issues) is all right there. I’d love to read the first 25 pages.
Congrats, Triona. Please send your entry to John Cusick with your query pasted into the body of the email, and your pages attached as a word .doc to jmc (dot) st (dot) ny (at) verizon (dot) netPlease be sure to put "Operation Awesome Contest Winner" in the subject line.
Congrats to all our winners!!!!
And we couldn't let John go without asking a few questions...
1) What are some of your pet peeves for queries?
I like queries that simply describe the manuscript using clear, precise language. Gimmicks, jokes, and “clever” queries won’t get you noticed— at least, not in the good way. I’m not a fan of rhetorical questions, such as, “What if you knew your boyfriend was Satan?” Queries written in the protagonist’s voice are another pet peeve.
2) What are you seeing too much of in your query inbox lately? What would you like to see more of?
Generally, I see too many books about demons, dark lords, the occult, and the afterlife. We receive many queries about teens tasked with saving the world or universe. Also, teens with super powers, specifically the ability to predict the future, or when and how someone will die. We see too many prescient visions and dreams. Also, I see a lot of characters working for Death, the Devil, or generally having some kind of Cosmic Day Job. For contemporary y.a., we also receive many stories about a best friend or boyfriend dying, either in a car accident or from mysterious circumstances, and resulting secrets that are unearthed.
3) Any tips for writers struggling with their one-line pitches?
You can try what I call the “Chunk Down” method. Summarize your book in three paragraphs. Then try cutting it down to two, then one, then to just a few lines. If your story is a small town murder mystery, make sure to mention what makes your work different from all other small town mysteries. Don’t be too coy; if your protagonist discovers “a dark secret,” I want the pitch to tell me what that secret is. In other words: spoil it for me.
4) If you could pick one book that every writer should read, which one would it be and why?
Stephen King’s On Writing gives the most practical and fulsome advice, not just on craft, but on the writing life. For fiction, especially fiction for young people, Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babitt is one of the best books ever written. The opening pages are genius, and can be studied line by line, word by word. Highly recommend!
5) Do you have any exciting client/agency news to share?
This year the agency signed several new clients, and I myself took on six, including Bettina Restrepo (Illegal, Katherine Tegen Books, 2011) and Hannah Moskowitz (Gone, Gone, Gone, Simon Pulse, 2012). Several of our picture books are getting multiple starred reviews and some great critical attention, such as Ame Dykman’s Boy + Bot (Knopf, 2012), Maurie Manning’s Laundry Day (Clarion Books, 2012) and Rick Walton’s creepy/kooky Madelien parody Frankenstein (Feiwel & Friends, 2012). And we’re always actively seeking new talent!
Thank you to John for being our August Mystery Agent.