Successful Queries: Agent Lauren MacLeod and "Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings"

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 46th installment in this series is with agent Lauren MacLeod (The Strothman Agency) and her author, Helene Boudreau, for the YA novel, Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings—a book that The YA-5 called "Absolutely fresh and sweet, a quirky coming of age story." The book comes out today (Dec. 1, 2010), and on its release day, Helene is doing free giveaways online.
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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 46th installment in this series is with agent Lauren MacLeod (The Strothman Agency) and her author, Helene Boudreau, for the YA novel, Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings—a book that The YA-5 called "Absolutely fresh and sweet, a quirky coming of age story." The book comes out today (Dec. 1, 2010), and on its release day, Helene is doing free giveaways online.

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Dear Ms. MacLeod,

I am seeking literary representation and hope you will consider my tween novel, REAL MERMAIDS DON'T WEAR TOE RINGS.

First zit. First crush. First … mermaid's tail?

Jade feels like enough of a freak-of-nature when she gets her first period at almost fifteen. She doesn’t need to have it happen at the mall while trying on that XL tankini she never wanted to buy in the first place. And she really doesn’t need to run into Luke Martin in the Feminine Hygiene Products aisle while her dad Googles "menstruation" on his Blackberry.

But "freak-of-nature" takes on a whole new meaning when raging hormones and bath salts bring on another metamorphosis—complete with scales and a tail. And when Jade learns she’s inherited her mermaid tendencies from her late mother's side of the family, it raises the question: if Mom was once a mermaid, did she really drown that day last summer?

Jade is determined to find out. Though, how does a plus-sized, aqua-phobic mer-girl go about doing that, exactly ... especially when Luke from aisle six seems to be the only person who might be able to help?

REAL MERMAIDS DON’T WEAR TOE RINGS is a light-hearted fantasy novel for tweens (10-14). It is complete at 44,500 words and available at your request. The first ten pages and a synopsis are included below my signature. I also have a completed chapter book for boys (MASON AND THE MEGANAUTS), should that be of interest to you. This manuscript has received a revision request from editor, Kathy Tucker, from Albert Whitman & Company.

My middle grade novel, ACADIAN STAR, was released last fall by Nimbus Publishing and has been nominated for the 2009/2010 Hackmatack Children’s Choice Book Award. I have three nonfiction children's books with Crabtree Publishing to my credit (one forthcoming) as well as an upcoming early chapter book series. My writing received an Honourable Mention in the 2008 Surrey International Writers' Conference literary competition (Writing for Young People) and I was recently awarded a juried literary grant from the Ontario Arts Council.

Thank you for taking the time to consider this project.

Kind regards,

Hélène Boudreau
www.heleneboudreau.com
Commentary from Lauren:

One of the things that can really make a query letter stand out is a strong voice, and it seems that is one of the things writers struggle with the most. Hélène, however, knocked it out of the park with her query letter. I find young readers are very sensitive to inauthentic voices, but you can tell by just the first few paragraphs that she is going to absolutely nail the tween voice in the manuscript—you can see this even by the way she capitalized Feminine Hygiene Products.

The first time I read this query I actually did laugh out loud. Instead of merely promising me RMDWTR was funny (which it absolutely is), Hélène showed me how funny she can be, which made me want to request the manuscript even before I got to her sample pages.

I also loved how clearly and with just a few words she could envoke an entire scene. Hélène doesn’t tell us Jade gets embarrassed in front of a local hunk, she plops us right down in the middle of the pink aisle with the well-intentioned but hopelessly nerdy Dad. I felt this really spoke to her talents—if she could bring bits of a query to life, I couldn’t wait to see what she could do with a whole manuscript.

And on top of all of this, she had a phenomenal title, a bio that made it very clear she was ready to break out, and a hook so strong it even made it onto the cover! (Buy the book here.)

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