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Successful Queries: Agent Tina Wexler and ‘Tagged’

Categories: Breaking In (Writer's Digest), Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents Blog, Successful Queries.

This series is called “Successful Queries” and I’m posting actual query letters that succeeded in getting writers signed with agents. In addition to posting the actual query letter, we will also get to hear thoughts from the agent as to why the letter worked. 

The 26th installment in this series is with agent Tina Wexler (ICM) and her author, Mara Purnhagen, for her young adult book, Tagged.

 

Dear Ms. Wexler,

Sixteen-year-old Kate Morgan is just as baffled as the rest of the Cleary High School student body when gorillas invade their town. Okay, they’re not real gorillas, just life-like renderings painted on the buildings, but
still. Why would anyone go to so much trouble?

A mysterious graffiti artist isn’t the only thing causing an uproar in Cleary. The school’s resident rich girl is throwing a sweet sixteen bash complete with an MTV camera crew, a live band, and an ultra exclusive guest list, which, to Kate’s shock, includes her but not Lan, her Vietnamese best friend. Kate is determined to acquire an invitation for Lan, but the birthday girl isn’t budging- until she needs a peculiar favor from Kate.

Shy and sensitive Kate is also trying to conceal her crush on Eli, a guy she works with at the local coffee shop. Ever since she was dumped by her first boyfriend months earlier, Kate has turned to Eli for support and now hopes their friendship can turn into something deeper. However, Eli’s girlfriend, Reva, has made it clear that he’s taken, and with her fiery temper and razor-sharp nails, she’s the last person in the world Kate wants to anger. Kate suspects that Reva may be involved with the graffiti, or worse, that she’s covering for Eli and his friends.

Both the graffiti and the party spark debate among the students at Cleary. Some think that the graffiti is a
crime while others classify it as art. Some want more than anything to be invited to the party so they can cash in on their fifteen minutes of televised fame while others plan to boycott the over-the-top snobfest. Kate falls somewhere in the middle of both issues until the night of the party, when she learns the truth behind the graffiti- and the real reason why Lan has been left off the guest list.

My short fiction has been published in Orpheus and the GSU Review. I won the 2003 Hardegree Prize for Fiction, a regional award sponsored by the Hub City Writers Group. I am also a member of the SCBWI.

Tagged is a completed 49,500-word young adult novel. I would be happy to send sample chapters. Thank you very much for your time.

Sincerely,

Mara Purnhagen

Commentary from Tina

Mara’s query caught my eye with the very first sentence. (Did she say gorillas?!) I had to find out more based on that line alone.

And who doesn’t love a secret crush and a school divided by the whims of the popular, tough choices between best friends and peculiar favors? I’m also interested in art and in general interested in YAs that
explore issues beyond the high school bubble, so I was excited to see that this story would be exploring What IS art?. Lastly, I was a big Veronica Mars fan (sniffle), and the mysteries at the core of this story made me think that Tagged might fill the void left by that show’s cancellation, which in my mind is as good a reason as any to ask to see a manuscript. ; )

Of course, it’s also just a well-written query, with the right amount of personality and professionalism, a solid bio, etc. I was thrilled when I received pages and found Tagged to be exactly what her letter promised–and more!

This post is an online exclusive complement
to a spotlight on Mara in the March/April 2010
issue of WD. If you don’t have a sub to
Writer’s Digest, what are you waiting for?
Get one now!


 

 

 

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0 Responses to Successful Queries: Agent Tina Wexler and ‘Tagged’

  1. ali says:

    It just goes to show you just how subjective the whole biz is. *I* would have thought Mara’s query was too wordy, too busy. *shrug* BUT I loved her opening and I think her whole subject matter is unique and interesting enough to warrant a read.

    This’ll be a book I’ll be excited to read. LOVE the graffiti angle :)

  2. Beth says:

    Thanks so much for this series of successful queries. One sees so much of what not to do, but it’s so helpful to see excellent queries that work. (When you think of it that way, as writers we don’t spend our time studying poor examples of writing that we don’t want to emulate, but writing that inspires us to reach for our best.) Are there any books out there just about successful queries? I can’t help thinking what a wonderful resource a book like that would be.

  3. Julia Smith says:

    Thanks for the example and the agent response. Queries are dreaded even more than the dreaded synopsis, but this makes the wall a few inches easier to scale.

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