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TRANSFORMATION (Memoir--New Version)

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#121 Mezzanine

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Posted 02 December 2016 - 04:24 PM

 

 

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.

 

Thanks again!



#122 Mezzanine

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Posted 02 December 2016 - 05:12 PM

Hi everyone. Here's the new version of my query. I'd love to hear what others think. Memoir is treated a lot like fiction, and 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.
 
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 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. 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.
 
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. 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.
 
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 pundit on culture, politics, and civil rights with a doctorate in sociology. I have spoken at college campuses and have made over a dozen television and radio appearances drawing on my life story, including on MSN.com and other national and international media. My life story has appeared several times 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.
 
Thanks in advance for your time and consideration.
 
Sincerely,
 
My Name
 
 
**Note: Like some other memoirs, my book is written in the first person, present tense, beginning with my childhood. The fourth paragraph ("After Mom...") is meant not to answer specific questions that might be raised, but to set up a cliffhanger.


#123 suja

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Posted 05 December 2016 - 09:34 AM

Hi, returning the favor. Thanks for critiquing my query. 

 

Hi everyone. Here's the new version of my query. I'd love to hear what others think. Memoir is treated a lot like fiction, and 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 love the fact that you outright state who you are, and the fact that you are Lakota. I'm not so much in favor of the part "I don't know what to do." It's not in context, it doesn't tell me what happened. And it sort of portents a weak(er) character, which might not be good for a memoir. I know the MC is only 10, a child, but I suggest putting this in context. Maybe something like - I'm ten, and I could lose my dad. Again. Or I'm ten, and I have to chose ___)
 
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. (You could shorten and tighten this. You don't want to give the impression that your story also could have issues with pace. For eg. When...another woman, Mom insists on leaving. But I am still reeling...my dad. If I stay, I could lose Mom's love. If I leave, I'll lose the only dad I have left)
 
I need us (decide) to stay together, to be a family, but after I side with my step-dad that everything changes. He sees more of his girlfriends and he nearly burns our house down smoking something Mom calls crack (the voice here doesn't work. Even if the MC is ten, I think you can just say 'smoking crack.') 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.(Since he grabs a butcher knife to defend himself, he does know what to do. But the dilemma you are talking about is, is he willing to kill his dad to defend himself. So I would place the "I don't know what to do" after he grabs the knife.) 
 
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. 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 is rather vague and unfortunately isn't hooking me into reading. You could take out sentences that offer no new information, like "I don't know what to believe" Or "nothing was what it seemed (too cliche). Also, I don't see the connection between the abusive, addict of a husband and her son's ethnicity. Unless the reason of the abuse was their ethnicity? Offer us some specific detail to hook us in.)
 
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 pundit on culture, politics, and civil rights with a doctorate in sociology. I have spoken at college campuses and have made over a dozen television and radio appearances drawing on my life story, including on MSN.com and other national and international media. My life story has appeared several times 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. (Good. I like your platform.)
 
Thanks in advance for your time and consideration.
 
Sincerely,
 
My Name
 
 
**Note: Like some other memoirs, my book is written in the first person, present tense, beginning with my childhood. The fourth paragraph ("After Mom...") is meant not to answer specific questions that might be raised, but to set up a cliffhanger.

 

Please note that I'm not good with memoirs, so discard any of my comments that do not work for you. Let me know if any questions.



#124 Nonicks

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Posted 05 December 2016 - 10:11 AM

 

Hi everyone. Here's the new version of my query. I'd love to hear what others think. Memoir is treated a lot like fiction, and 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. (That's too vague. "I don't know what to do" - can be so many things. I think you should be more specific)
 
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. (so this is her second marriage?) If I side with my step-dad, it’ll hurt Mom and she might not love me anymore. (what kind of mother is she? The MC should mention a previous trauma if she thinks her mother might stop loving her because of that...)  If I say I’m ready to go, I’ll lose the only dad I have left.
 
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. 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. (this seems like getting into unnecessary plot details)
 
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. 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. (and these are the stakes? I'm not sure what will happen to her if she continues digging. Will she be killed?)
 
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 pundit on culture, politics, and civil rights with a doctorate in sociology. I have spoken at college campuses and have made over a dozen television and radio appearances drawing on my life story, including on MSN.com and other national and international media. My life story has appeared several times 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.
 
Thanks in advance for your time and consideration.
 
Sincerely,
 
My Name
 
 
**Note: Like some other memoirs, my book is written in the first person, present tense, beginning with my childhood. The fourth paragraph ("After Mom...") is meant not to answer specific questions that might be raised, but to set up a cliffhanger.

 

 

I saw agents don't like this kind of query:

http://queryshark.blogspot.co.il/

But this is a memoir, so I don't know. Just wanted to bring this to your attention, and if you're aware of that, feel free to ignore me.



#125 JackW

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Posted 06 December 2016 - 03:05 AM

 

Hi everyone. Here's the new version of my query. I'd love to hear what others think. Memoir is treated a lot like fiction, and 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.
 
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'd rather see the guy's name than "step-dad". It would sound more natural, I think. 
 
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. (I like the way you put that last part of the sentence. It helps creating the perspective of a young kid). 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. (Is step dad out to hurt you, as well, or just mom? What does he want from you? Also, is this still the ten-year-old kid? A ten-year-old isn't going to do much, even with a butcher knife)
 
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. (What made you discover this?) My mother had hidden the truth about my name, my family, even my ethnic identity. 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.
 
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 pundit on culture, politics, and civil rights with a doctorate in sociology. I have spoken at college campuses and have made over a dozen television and radio appearances drawing on my life story, including on MSN.com and other national and international media. My life story has appeared several times 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.
 
Thanks in advance for your time and consideration.
 
Sincerely,
 
My Name
 
 
**Note: Like some other memoirs, my book is written in the first person, present tense, beginning with my childhood. The fourth paragraph ("After Mom...") is meant not to answer specific questions that might be raised, but to set up a cliffhanger.

 

Hope that helps.



#126 Mezzanine

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Posted 20 December 2016 - 09:06 AM

Hi everyone. Here's the updated version of my query. I'd love to hear what others think. Memoir is treated a lot like fiction, and 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,
 
I would like you to represent my coming of age memoir, TRANSFORMATION, which is complete at 96,000 words. My life story has appeared several times on the front page of The Huffington Post (where I am also a contributor). My story has also formed the basis of dozens of articles I’ve published in national outlets like The Chronicle of Higher Education and Diverse. I have spoken at college campuses and have made over a dozen television and radio appearances drawing on my life story, including on MSN.com and other national media. 
 
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’m only ten and I don’t know what to do. I’m still reeling from her first divorce, from us leaving my dad. If I side with my step-dad now and say no, we can’t go, it’ll hurt Mom. She might not love me anymore. If I say I’m ready to go, I’ll lose the only dad I have left.
 
I choose for us to stay together, to be a family, but then everything changes. My step-dad sees more of his girlfriends and he nearly burns our house down smoking something Mom calls crack. Mom tells him to take his shit and go, but he goes after Mom with a gun. We flee to a new home and I pray to Wakan Tanka to keep us safe, but my step-dad follows me at school. When he finds me alone one night and threatens to break in, I grab a butcher knife to defend myself. I struggle with whether or not I can bring myself to kill the dad I love.
 
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. She claims to have been protecting me because of 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.
 
I am a recognized thought leader, writer, and pundit on culture, politics, and civil rights with a doctorate in sociology. 
 
Thank you for your time and consideration.
 
My Name
 
 
**Note: Like some other memoirs, my book is written in the first person, present tense, beginning with my childhood. With the second to last paragraph ("After Mom..."), my goal is to draw up some questions, to give some additional indications about how my book is different from others, and give just enough of a hint at what's in store to entice the reader. Thanks in advance for any help folks might offer. It is greatly appreciated!


#127 Mezzanine

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Posted 20 December 2016 - 09:09 AM

Hi, returning the favor. Thanks for critiquing my query. 

Please note that I'm not good with memoirs, so discard any of my comments that do not work for you. Let me know if any questions.

 

Thanks for your help. I think you have some good points. I've tried to clarify some things a bit. How does the new version look to you?



#128 Mezzanine

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Posted 20 December 2016 - 09:12 AM

I saw agents don't like this kind of query:

http://queryshark.blogspot.co.il/

But this is a memoir, so I don't know. Just wanted to bring this to your attention, and if you're aware of that, feel free to ignore me.

 

Thanks for your help. I read all the posts on Query Shark before writing and posting my query, but I appreciate you sharing the resource. It's tricky writing a query for memoir because writing in the voice of the character is appropriate for memoir while in fiction it may come across as gimmicky, which you're right is something Query Shark points out in a number of posts in relation to fiction. While I think it better to not give away all the details and answer all questions in a query, I think you raised some good points and I've tried to address some of them in my new query. How does the new version look to you? Thanks in advance!



#129 Mezzanine

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Posted 20 December 2016 - 09:18 AM

Hope that helps.

 

Thanks for your help. Yes, your comments do help. With "step-dad," my goal was, in part, to differentiate him from my first dad, and in not using his name my goal is partly to simplify so the reader doesn't have to keep track of multiple names and end up with something approximating character soup. In the book I simply call him "dad", but using that in the query with another person I call by the same title seems like it would be too confusing for the reader.

 

I think you're right that my second to last paragraph ("After Mom...") raises some questions about the particulars, but my understanding is that it's not always best to give away all the answers in a query, but rather it can be good to raise some questions and hint at things to come so as to entice the reader to wonder and want to read more.

 

Thanks again for your help. I'd be interested in how the new version reads for you. Thanks again!



#130 Daniel Andrews

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Posted 21 December 2016 - 01:26 AM

 

Hi everyone. Here's the updated version of my query. I'd love to hear what others think. Memoir is treated a lot like fiction, and 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,
 
I would like you to represent my coming of age memoir, TRANSFORMATION, which is complete at 96,000 words. My life story has appeared several times on the front page of The Huffington Post (where I am also a contributor). My story has also formed the basis of dozens of articles I’ve published in national outlets like The Chronicle of Higher Education and Diverse. I have spoken at college campuses and have made over a dozen television and radio appearances drawing on my life story, including on MSN.com and other national media. 
 
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’m only ten and I don’t know what to do. I’m still reeling from her first divorce, from us leaving my dad. If I side with my step-dad now and say no, we can’t go, it’ll hurt Mom. She might not love me anymore. If I say I’m ready to go, I’ll lose the only dad I have left.
 
I choose chose? for us to stay together, to be a family, but then everything changes. My step-dad sees more of his girlfriends and he nearly burns our house down smoking something Mom calls crack. Mom tells him to take his shit and go, but he goes after Mom with a gun. We flee to a new home and I pray to Wakan Tanka Who is this? to keep us safe, but my step-dad follows me at school. When he finds me alone one night and threatens to break in, I grab a butcher knife to defend myself. I struggle with whether or not I can bring myself to kill the dad I love.
 
After Mom divorces and the stalking stops, (so the step-dad lives?) 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. She claims to have been protecting me because of 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. The ending here sounds like a movie trailer voice over and is a bit generic. I'm sure you can come up with something specific to your story.
 
I am a recognized thought leader, writer, and pundit on culture, politics, and civil rights with a doctorate in sociology.  This seems to belabor the point after beginning the query with your bio. I would either include it there, move the entire bio down here, or delete.
 
Thank you for your time and consideration.
 
My Name
 
 
**Note: Like some other memoirs, my book is written in the first person, present tense, beginning with my childhood. With the second to last paragraph ("After Mom..."), my goal is to draw up some questions, to give some additional indications about how my book is different from others, and give just enough of a hint at what's in store to entice the reader. Thanks in advance for any help folks might offer. It is greatly appreciated!

 

 

To me this reads like more of a synopsis rather than a query. I'm not sure if that's OK for memoir or not. I think this would probably be made much stronger by simply focusing on the initial conflict with your step-father, possibly ending with you grabbing the butcher knife. That would make for quite an enticing cliffhanger and probably make it much easier to connect with since you could focus on this conflict of you and your mom vs your step-dad. As it currently stands it's difficult to tell what, if any, conflict remains. Please take this all with a grain of salt though, I'm certainly not a memoir query expert.

 

 

Thank you for your feedback on my query for THE FESTIVAL! Keep up the hard work and good luck.


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#131 Mezzanine

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Posted 22 December 2016 - 07:51 AM

Hi everyone. Here's the updated version of my query. I'd love to hear what others think. Memoir is treated a lot like fiction, and 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,
 
I would like you to represent my coming of age memoir, TRANSFORMATION, which is complete at 96,000 words. My life story has appeared several times on the front page of The Huffington Post (where I am also a contributor). My story has also formed the basis of dozens of articles I’ve published in national outlets like The Chronicle of Higher Education and Diverse. I have spoken at college campuses and have made over a dozen television and radio appearances drawing on my life story, including on MSN.com and other national media. I am a recognized thought leader, writer, and pundit on culture, politics, and civil rights with a doctorate in sociology. 
 
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’m only ten and I don’t know what to do. I’m still reeling from her first divorce, from us leaving my dad. If I side with my step-dad now and say no, we can’t go, it’ll hurt Mom. She might not love me anymore. If I say I’m ready to go, I’ll lose the only dad I have left.
 
I choose for us to stay together, to be a family, but then everything changes. My step-dad sees more of his girlfriends and he nearly burns our house down smoking something Mom calls crack. Mom tells him to take his shit and go, but he goes after Mom with a gun. We flee to a new home and I pray to Wakan Tanka to keep us safe, but my step-dad follows me at school. When he finds me alone one night and threatens to break in, I grab a butcher knife to defend myself. I struggle with whether or not I can bring myself to kill the dad I love.
 
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. She claims to have been protecting me because of 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.
 
Thank you for your time and consideration.
 
My Name
 
 
**Notes:
 
Like some other memoirs, my book is written in the first person, present tense, beginning with my childhood.
 
When I mention praying to Wakan Tanka, I'm trying not only to show part of larger events, but to also indicate my ethnic background as Lakota. Some agents say it's best to show ethnicity by what a character says and does, but that can be problematic because of course not everyone knows Wakan Tanka is Lakota (though readers will get that in the book). On other hand, in previous queries, coming right out and saying I'm Lakota seems to throw some people.
 
With the second to last paragraph ("After Mom..."), my goal is to draw up some questions, to give some additional indications about how my book is different from others, and give just enough of a hint at what's in store to entice the reader.
 
Thanks in advance for any help folks might offer. It is greatly appreciated!


#132 Mezzanine

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Posted 22 December 2016 - 07:52 AM

To me this reads like more of a synopsis rather than a query. I'm not sure if that's OK for memoir or not. I think this would probably be made much stronger by simply focusing on the initial conflict with your step-father, possibly ending with you grabbing the butcher knife. That would make for quite an enticing cliffhanger and probably make it much easier to connect with since you could focus on this conflict of you and your mom vs your step-dad. As it currently stands it's difficult to tell what, if any, conflict remains. Please take this all with a grain of salt though, I'm certainly not a memoir query expert.

 

 

Thank you for your feedback on my query for THE FESTIVAL! Keep up the hard work and good luck.

 

Thanks for your help. I greatly appreciate it!



#133 John_Angel

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Posted 22 December 2016 - 01:13 PM

 

Hi everyone. Here's the updated version of my query. I'd love to hear what others think. Memoir is treated a lot like fiction, and 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,
 
I would like you to represent my coming of age memoir, TRANSFORMATION, which is complete at 96,000 words. My life story has appeared several times on the front page of The Huffington Post (where I am also a contributor). My story has also formed the basis of dozens of articles I’ve published in national outlets like The Chronicle of Higher Education and Diverse. I have spoken at college campuses and have made over a dozen television and radio appearances drawing on my life story, including on MSN.com and other national media. I am a recognized thought leader, writer, and pundit on culture, politics, and civil rights with a doctorate in sociology. 
 
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’m only ten and I don’t know what to do. I’m still reeling from her first divorce, from us leaving my dad. If I side with my step-dad now and say no, we can’t go, it’ll hurt Mom. She might not love me anymore. If I say I’m ready to go, I’ll lose the only dad I have left.
 
I choose for us to stay together, to be a family, but then everything changes. My step-dad sees more of his girlfriends and he nearly burns our house down smoking something Mom calls crack. Mom tells him to take his shit and go, but he goes after Mom with a gun. We flee to a new home and I pray to Wakan Tanka to keep us safe, but my step-dad follows me at school. When he finds me alone one night and threatens to break in, I grab a butcher knife to defend myself. I struggle with whether or not I can bring myself to kill the dad I love.
 
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. She claims to have been protecting me because of 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.
 
Thank you for your time and consideration.
 
My Name
 
 
**Notes:
 
Like some other memoirs, my book is written in the first person, present tense, beginning with my childhood.
 
When I mention praying to Wakan Tanka, I'm trying not only to show part of larger events, but to also indicate my ethnic background as Lakota. Some agents say it's best to show ethnicity by what a character says and does, but that can be problematic because of course not everyone knows Wakan Tanka is Lakota (though readers will get that in the book). On other hand, in previous queries, coming right out and saying I'm Lakota seems to throw some people.
 
With the second to last paragraph ("After Mom..."), my goal is to draw up some questions, to give some additional indications about how my book is different from others, and give just enough of a hint at what's in store to entice the reader.
 
Thanks in advance for any help folks might offer. It is greatly appreciated!

 

I'm not good at looking for mistakes in queries, reason why I come on here and need help lol. But this looks and sounds good to me. And thanks for checking out my query, really appreciate the help on THE LAST DECEPTION. I know it needs work, and I'm trying hard. Good luck and thanks again.



#134 CFrances

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Posted 23 December 2016 - 02:25 PM

 

Hi everyone. Here's the updated version of my query. I'd love to hear what others think. Memoir is treated a lot like fiction, and 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,
 
I would like you to represent my coming of age memoir, TRANSFORMATION, which is complete at 96,000 words. My life story has appeared several times on the front page of The Huffington Post (where I am also a contributor). My story has also formed the basis of dozens of articles I’ve published in national outlets like The Chronicle of Higher Education and Diverse. I have spoken at college campuses and have made over a dozen television and radio appearances drawing on my life story, including on MSN.com and other national media. I am a recognized thought leader, writer, and pundit on culture, politics, and civil rights with a doctorate in sociology. I'm no expert on memoir queries, but I've been reading some online, and I wonder if maybe this part should go last?
 
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’m only ten and I don’t know what to do. I’m still reeling from her first divorce, from us leaving my dad. If I side with my step-dad now and say no, we can’t go, it’ll hurt Mom. She might not love me anymore. If I say I’m ready to go, I’ll lose the only dad I have left.
 
I choose for us to stay together, to be a family, but then everything changes. My step-dad sees more of his girlfriends and he nearly burns our house down smoking something Mom calls crack. Mom tells him to take his shit and go, but he goes after Mom with a gun. We flee to a new home and I pray to Wakan Tanka to keep us safe, but my step-dad follows me at school. When he finds me alone one night and threatens to break in, I grab a butcher knife to defend myself. I struggle with whether or not I can bring myself to kill the dad I love.
 
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 cliche' My mother had hidden the truth about my name, my family, even my ethnic identity. She claims to have been protecting me because of 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.
 
Thank you for your time and consideration.
 
My Name
 
 
**Notes:
 
Like some other memoirs, my book is written in the first person, present tense, beginning with my childhood.
 
When I mention praying to Wakan Tanka, I'm trying not only to show part of larger events, but to also indicate my ethnic background as Lakota. Some agents say it's best to show ethnicity by what a character says and does, but that can be problematic because of course not everyone knows Wakan Tanka is Lakota (though readers will get that in the book). On other hand, in previous queries, coming right out and saying I'm Lakota seems to throw some people.
 
With the second to last paragraph ("After Mom..."), my goal is to draw up some questions, to give some additional indications about how my book is different from others, and give just enough of a hint at what's in store to entice the reader.
 
Thanks in advance for any help folks might offer. It is greatly appreciated!

 

Overall, this seems too specific to me, especially the first part about your mom asking you what to do about your stepfather. The general theme - that you were put into difficult positions no child should be subjected to, and then given false information about virtually every aspect of your life - should be peppered with examples, but in such a way as to tease the reader, not spell situations out. As I said, I'm unfamiliar with queries for memoirs, so take what I say with a grain of salt. I'm just basing this on successful queries I've been able to find.



#135 dmsimone

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Posted 26 December 2016 - 12:27 PM

Hi there - I am trying to return the favor but have no idea of how a query for a memoir should look. Sorry about that. But I can comment on structure, grammar, clarity, etc. I hope my comments are helpful.

 

 

Hi everyone. Here's the updated version of my query. I'd love to hear what others think. Memoir is treated a lot like fiction, and 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,
 
I would like you to represent my coming of age memoir, TRANSFORMATION, which is complete at 96,000 words. I don't think you need to say it's complete - otherwise you wouldn't be querying. My life story has appeared several times on the front page of The Huffington Post (where I am also a contributor). So, I'm a scientist/engineer and my first instinct here is to specify exactly how many times your story has appeared on the front page. My story has also formed the basis of dozens of articles I’ve published in national outlets like The Chronicle of Higher Education and Diverse. You started two sentences in a row with "My life story" or "My story" and it really stood out to me. Suggest to reword. I have spoken at college campuses and have made over a dozen television and radio appearances drawing on my life story, including on MSN.com and other national media. Are any of the college campuses Ivy League or top tier schools? It would sound very good if you could say...I was an invited speaker at Princeton and have made.... I am a recognized thought leader, writer, and pundit on culture, politics, and civil rights with a doctorate in sociology. 
 
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’m only ten and I don’t know what to do. This is very poignant. I’m still reeling from her first divorce, from us leaving my dad. If I side with my step-dad now and say no, we can’t go, it’ll hurt Mom. She might not love me anymore. If I say I’m ready to go, I’ll lose the only dad I have left.
 
I choose for us to stay together, to be a family, but then everything changes. My step-dad sees more of his girlfriends and he nearly burns our house down smoking something Mom calls crack. Mom tells him to take his shit and go, but he goes after chases Mom with a gun. We flee to a new home and I pray to Wakan Tanka to keep us safe, but my step-dad follows me at school. Are you Sioux? I now fully understand why you thought Pippa was Native American when you ready my query :) When he finds me alone one night and threatens to break in, I grab a butcher knife to defend myself. I struggle with whether or not I can bring myself to kill the dad I love.
 
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. She claims to have been protecting me because of 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.
 
The way you present your childhood is compelling. I can see there is a lot of grief and it must have been hard to put into words. But the piece that really draws me in - the piece that I think is most relevant to your memoir - is that you were ignorant of your ethnic identity and the truths you must unravel. Prior to this your story is heart-wrenching, to be sure, but I think we get to the meat in that last paragraph.
 
Does your memoir focus more on your childhood struggles or your maturation as an adult learning about his/her ancestry? Note I put his/her here because I don't actually know your gender.
 
Thank you for your time and consideration.
 
My Name
 
 
**Notes:
 
Like some other memoirs, my book is written in the first person, present tense, beginning with my childhood.
 
When I mention praying to Wakan Tanka, I'm trying not only to show part of larger events, but to also indicate my ethnic background as Lakota. Some agents say it's best to show ethnicity by what a character says and does, but that can be problematic because of course not everyone knows Wakan Tanka is Lakota (though readers will get that in the book). On other hand, in previous queries, coming right out and saying I'm Lakota seems to throw some people. Lakota - ah, here were are. 
 
With the second to last paragraph ("After Mom..."), my goal is to draw up some questions, to give some additional indications about how my book is different from others, and give just enough of a hint at what's in store to entice the reader.
 
Thanks in advance for any help folks might offer. It is greatly appreciated!

 



#136 Mezzanine

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Posted 27 December 2016 - 08:11 AM

Hi there - I am trying to return the favor but have no idea of how a query for a memoir should look. Sorry about that. But I can comment on structure, grammar, clarity, etc. I hope my comments are helpful.

 

Thanks for your help, dmsimone. I greatly appreciate it!

 

To answer your question about focus between childhood and adult, my book is evenly split between childhood and adulthood, which in my story are deeply inter-related. Everything shown in my childhood is a set up for later events and is needed to understand events that come later, and the events that come later lead the reader to rethink everything that came before, much as I did in reality.

 

thanks again!



#137 Mezzanine

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Posted 02 January 2017 - 07:33 AM

Thanks for taking a look John_Angel!



#138 Mezzanine

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Posted 02 January 2017 - 07:37 AM

Thanks for your help CFrances!

 

I've read many agents commenting on fiction that it's best to put the author bio or agent personalization last, which is what I've done previously. But my experience with folks here suggests that without the information giving context so people know this is a memoir in the query itself before the story description that my query is often then misread as fiction, and therefore many read my writing "in the voice of my character" (me) as a gimmick (which, being memoir, it of course isn't). 

 

Thanks again!







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