Hi everyone. Here's the new version of my query. I'd love to hear what others think. Memoir is treated the same as fiction, so you don’t have to be a memoirist to comment. I don't take comments personally; it really is about what's on the page/screen. Please provide a link to your query and I will return the favor. Thanks!Dear Agent,It’s 1988. I’m Lakota. I’m ten and I don’t know what to do. I'm not familiar with memoir conventions, so take this with a grain of salt--but this really throws me. Writing in the POV of your ten-year-old self didn't clue me in to "this is a memoir"--it read like one of those disastrous fiction queries that try to be in the first person. I'm not sure how you escape that... it's possible that adopting a more distant, factual tone would fix it.But like I said, memoir queries are totally alien to me. (They're not *exactly* the same as fiction, as you say above. In a fiction query, first person is nearly always a disaster, whereas in memoir, it's perfectly sensible. I'm therefore a little at a loss in how to read queries in the first person. ...Hence the prescribed grain of salt.)When my step-dad brings home the kid he had with another woman, Mom is furious. She comes to me in tears and asks if I’m ready for us to leave him, but I don’t know to say. I’m still reeling from her first divorce, from us leaving my dad. If I side with my step-dad, it’ll hurt Mom and she might not love me anymore. If I say I’m ready to go, I’ll lose the only dad I have left. I'm still rooting for a more factual, distant tone in this. Not emotionless, but with a little more perspective. This hapless, helpless, lost-child voice feels manipulative to me, like you're not trusting your reader to empathize with a child in a terrible situation.I need us to stay together, to be a family, but after I side with my step-dad everything changes. He sees more of his girlfriends and he nearly burns our house down smoking something Mom calls crack. Child-voice is really not working for me. Mom tells him to take his shit and go, but he goes after Mom with a gun. He follows me at school. We flee to a new home, but when he finds me alone, I don’t know what to do. I grab a butcher knife to defend myself. I struggle with whether or not I can bring myself to kill the dad I love. Same feeling as above. You're pushing too hard to make us sympathize. With events as dark as this, you don't need to lay it on as thick as you're doing. (Though, of course, moments of cutting and emotional writing are absolutely the right thing, when you deploy them in the right places.) Trust your readers to be horrified by horrifying things.After Mom divorces and the stalking stops, I think I’m safe. But as the years pass, I discover that nothing was what it seemed. My mother had hidden the truth about my name, my family, even my ethnic identity. (Confused here--you said you were Lakota in the first paragraph, in the voice of your ten-year-old self. Did you not actually know you were Lakota then, or did you later learn you're not Lakota, or did you realize some other part of your identity later...? I can't really tell what you're saying here.) She claims to have been protecting me after everything that happened with my step-father, but I don’t know what to believe. And the deeper I dig, the more the truth threatens to destroy. This last paragraph raises questions for me about when this book takes place. Is the memoir more about your childhood, or about being an adult piecing together the lies you were told as a child? Especially the "as the years pass" line--I'm not clear at what age the bulk of the action of this story takes place.At 96,000 words, TRANSFORMATION is a memoir that will appeal to readers who loved the haunting honesty of The Other Side and the transformative search for identity in Take This Man.I am a recognized thought leader, writer, and commentator Can you be more specific? The phrase "recognized thought leader" doesn't convey much to me. What is your subject? I can't tell whether you're talking about lecturing about your academic work in sociology, or giving talks about your own personal story, or something else entirely. with a doctorate in sociology. I have spoken across college campuses and have made over a dozen television and radio appearances, including on NBC, CBS, and MSN.com. My story has appeared on the front page of The Huffington Post (where I am also a contributor), and has formed the basis of dozens of articles I’ve published in national outlets like The Chronicle of Higher Education and Diverse. This last sentence sounds like you've given talks and written articles about your own life story (though I can't entirely tell). If that's what you're saying, that's HUGE! If your stories about your life and experiences are something that publications and readers and venues have actively sought out/published/etc., that's something an agent looking for a memoir would absolutely want to know! Don't bury that!Thanks in advance for your time and consideration.Sincerely,My Name
Thanks for taking a look, I really appreciate it!
The subject heading / title of my post says "memoir," but I can always be sure to include "memoir" in my email subject heading, too. Good to know that even with the heading / title that some people might still miss that.
The book is written first person, present tense, beginning with my childhood. I'd be curious to know if that changes how you see it.
The paragraph beginning "After the stalking..." is not meant to answer questions, but to raise them, to set up a cliffhanger to entice the reader.