Successful Queries: Agent Ginger Clark and "A Match Made in High School"

This new 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 33rd installment in this series is with agent Ginger Clark (Curtis Brown) and her author, Kristin Walker, for the YA novel, A Match Made in High School (Feb. 2010, Razorbill).
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This new 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 33rd installment in this series is with agent Ginger Clark (Curtis Brown) and her author, Kristin Walker, for the YA novel, A Match Made in High School (Feb. 2010, Razorbill).

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Dear Ms. Clark:

When everyone in the senior class gets paired up for a mandatory course in marriage education, Fiona Sheehan has to survive being pseudo-married to Todd Harding, the most popular jerk in school. In the meantime, she needs to figure out how to 1) forgive her best friend's betrayal, 2) fake being a robot-turkey cheerleader, and 3) decide if she's really falling in love with the fat kid.

Using plenty of humor and the brash voice of a geeky main character, my young adult novel, A Match Made in High School (62,000 words), taps into the growing debate over the need for marriage education in high schools. According to the article, "Marriage Education in High School," published out of Brigham Young University, every one of Utah's high schools has a course called "Adult Roles and Responsibility," and Florida has passed a bill to make marriage education mandatory in high school. Other states are following suit. I think A Match Made in High School speaks to this issue; however, I was careful to avoid preaching any kind of message in my manuscript.

You can get a more thorough sense of my writing through my website www.kristin-walker.com. My work has appeared or is forthcoming in Ladybug, Wee Ones (November/December, 2006), Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler's Soul (2006) and Chicken Soup for the Sister's Soul 2 (2006).

May I send the novel to you? I'd like to mention that this is a simultaneous query. Thank you so much for your time and attention.

All the best,

Kristin Walker

Commentary from Ginger

Here’s what grabbed me about Kristin’s query:

This is the platonic ideal of queries—it's short; it conveys the voice of the book without being gimmicky (particularly important when dealing with children’s books); it’s informative; and it’s also free of any glaring typos. And Kristin spelled my name correctly!

The query was less than 250 words, and yet it conveyed to me the A, B, C and D plots, who the protagonist was, and what kind of book this was. Fiona is a senior in high school (so, 17/18 years old)—and that makes this YA or teen. This has a romantic comedy style plot, so that is how I would be pitching this. After reading the query, I wanted to know more about the best friend’s betrayal. Friendship between teen girls can be both very fulfilling and fraught with complications, and I personally enjoy any novels that explore it. Note that Kristin conveyed all that in just two sentences. And she didn’t weigh us down with character names, or specific details.

In the second paragraph, Kristin discusses what inspired her to write the book, and how it could be positioned when it comes to any publicity surrounding it. I liked the fact that she had done her homework and was thinking that far ahead into the process (but without grasping at straws—“My book is about a show choir and I think kids who watch ‘Glee’ will love it” is a stretch). I also liked the subject itself, personally. I’m married, and I’ve been with my husband since we were close to Fiona’s age. Marriage is such a complicated and intensely polarizing issue nowadays that I wanted to see how Fiona would react to this mandatory marriage class. Lastly, Kristin’s credits indicated she was professional, and probably someone who revised well and without much crying or tears.

What Kristin does so well (Razorbill’s buying a second novel from her partially because of this) is that she has the teen voice down. While there are no direct quotes from the book in this query, you can tell from the use of “pseudo-married,” “a robot-turkey cheerleader,” and “falling in love with the fat kid,” that Kristin has got an ear for teen voice. That’s something very hard to come by, but if you don’t have it down, teens aren’t going to trust you as a writer.

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This post is an online exclusive complement
to a spotlight on Kristin in the May/June 2010
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