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CLOWN SHOES

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#1 robertguitar

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Posted 24 December 2017 - 08:18 AM

THIS IS THE MOST RECENT ATTEMPT WHICH IS ALSO POSTED IF YOU SCROLL DOWN TO #25. TO CRITIQUE, PLEASE SCROLL DOWN TO #25.

 

Okay smithgirl, RMLucas, Mindy, Kirk, Taylorhale, Springfield, this one's for you. No, this one's for me. Ah, I'm confused. But I think maybe I have something here:

 

Mark Biderman is on the edge of his dream.  But his wife —  the mother of his children — is threatening divorce if he publishes the memoir he’s been working on for years. Too many details of their personal lives; too much information she considers private.

 

Mark’s inspirational New York Times essay on trading his briefcase for clown shoes went viral, resonating with thousands of readers fed up with working soul-crushing jobs. A big literary house wants a memoir in the style of the much-tweeted piece.

 

But Denise isn’t giving an inch, and this is a bad sign. It reminds Mark of his past failures. He quit law when chronic pain in his knees, back, and neck signaled he was in the wrong field. He flopped as a public school teacher because he couldn’t fake the fire in the belly.

 

Denise has stuck with him through all the changes. She is his rock. Now Mark has to decide between his marriage and fulfilling his long-held desire to be a published author.

 

CLOWN SHOES, my debut novel, complete at over 73,500 words, will appeal to fans of coming-of-middle-age upmarket fiction like One Last Thing before I go by Jonathan Tropper and The Reason You’re Alive by Matthew Quick. 

 

I have published personal essays in the New York Times.

 

 

Thank you for your time and attention.

END

 

 

 

 

Mark Biderman has kept a list of his fears since childhood. Instead of pursuing his passions of writing and music he follows the button-down path to lawyer. Now, with wobbly knees and a bad back, brought on by stress, he’s finding out that settling is not as safe as he thought. He makes an unexpected turn and leaves his California practice for Mexico.

 

In Mexico, he meets Silvia, a minister, who tells him that his painful injuries are a result of veering away from his true desires. Mark trades in his briefcase for a guitar, and plays for audiences of tots and parents up and down the East Coast.

 

After marriage and children, Mark gives up being an itinerant musician and takes a teaching job. This time the messenger is not his back or knees, but his principal, who will accept no substitute for a passion that Mark cannot offer. She bullies him over the course of a year. Mark builds up enough bile to clog the Alaska pipeline, as well as copious notes for a memoir.

 

When Mark is fired, he realizes that he has spent his life playing the victim and writes an inspirational essay that goes viral. The article arouses an intense response from people tired of working soul-crushing jobs.

 

On the verge of getting what he’s always wanted, Mark signs a deal for a book in the style of his much-tweeted piece. But his wife, Denise, has a strong sense of privacy, and threatens divorce, as Mark’s memoir promises to expose their bumpy marriage. 

 

Before Mark decides whether to publish the book, he takes his best shot at making peace with with his wife, his ex-boss, and himself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark Biderman yearns to live an artistic life but does not have the courage to trust support he cannot see. When his body breaks down, he makes an unexpected turn and leaves his California law practice. 

 

In Mexico, he meets Silvia, the minister, who tells him that the pain he feels is a sign that he has veered away from his true desires. Mark trades in his briefcase for a guitar, and plays for audiences of kids and parents up and down the East Coast.

 

But that ends when he marries Denise and they have children. Mark retreats to conventional notions of safety and takes a teaching job in the South Bronx. There he meets his principal, Ms. Rodriquez, who accepts no substitute for passion and dedication which Mark cannot offer. She fires him, leaving Denise the sole breadwinner, and Mark with enough bile to clog the Alaska pipeline.

 

With Silvia’s help, Mark sees that he has played the victim and must take responsibility for his life. He pens a personal essay for the New York Times that goes viral leading to an offer by a big literary house to write a memoir in the style of his much-tweeted piece. The article arouses an intense response from people tired of working soul-crushing jobs. But Denise has a strong sense of privacy and threatens divorce if Mark exposes their personal lives. They are at an impasse.

 

Denise and Mark each embark on a new challenge. Denise signs on to give a TED talk in Switzerland despite her acute dread of public speaking. Mark agrees to help a former colleague by appearing as a witness in a Bronx jury trial which involves his ex-boss, Ms. Rodriquez. She’s the last person he ever wants to see.

 

As both push their personal boundaries, they rise from the level of their standoff and make space for new choices.

 

END

 

 

 

 

 

Mark Biderman has worn out his wife, Denise, on his quest for personal fulfillment with stints as lawyer, clown, musician, entrepreneur, and teacher. Now Mark is zeroing in on “writer,” and he’s got a memoir in his laptop.

 

His spell as a teacher almost sank them. Mark’s South Bronx principal, Ms. Rodriquez, fired him, leaving Denise the sole breadwinner, and Mark with enough rage to clog the Alaska pipeline. Denise almost showed him the door when she learned that he had conducted an emotional affair by telephone during this period. 

 

Mark pens a personal essay for the New York Times that goes viral leading to an offer by a big literary house to write a memoir in the style of his much-tweeted piece. The article arouses an intense response from people tired of working soul-crushing jobs. Denise knows that Mark’s memoir includes his affair and promises to divorce him if he publishes it.

 

Chastened, and armed with new clarity, Mark vies to regain Denise’s trust. He also assists a friend by sweating out a face-to-face with his old adversary, Principal Rodriquez. His ex-boss was no monster he decides — just a woman who chased him from where he didn’t belong. 

 

Mark believes that he has to betray either his wife or himself, publish the book or keep the faith with the woman he loves. But letting go of his resentment of Ms. Rodriquez frees him in an unexpected way.

 

 

 

 

PREVIOUS VERSIONS:

 

 

Mark Biderman has worn out his wife, Denise, on his quest for personal fulfillment with stints as lawyer, clown, musician, entrepreneur, and teacher. But “writer” is the calling he’s really gunning for.

 

His stretch as a teacher almost sank them. Mark’s South Bronx principal, Ms. Rodriquez, fired him, leaving Denise the sole breadwinner, and Mark with enough rage to clog the Alaska pipeline. No picnic for Denise when she learned that he had conducted an emotional affair with another woman during this stretch. 

 

Mark pens a personal essay for the New York Times that goes viral leading to an offer by a big literary house to write a memoir in the style of his much-tweeted piece. The article arouses an intense response from people tired of working soul-crushing jobs. Denise knows that Mark’s memoir includes his affair and promises to divorce him if publishes it.

 

Chastened, and armed with new clarity, Mark vies to regain Denise’s trust. He also sweats out a face-to-face with his adversary, Principal Rodriquez, to assist a friend. Rodriquez was no monster he decides — just a woman who chased him from where he didn’t belong. 

 

Mark is certain that he must betray either his wife or himself: publish the book or hold onto the only woman he has ever truly loved. But forgiving his ex-boss frees him in an unexpected way.

 

 

Mark Biderman is on the verge of getting what he’s always wanted: publication by a big literary house. Unfortunately, his wife, Denise, promises to divorce him if he goes through with it. Mark loves Denise but knows there’s a special corner of hell reserved for people who renege on their heart’s desire to keep the peace.

 

If HarperCollins publishes his memoir, Mark and Denise's private life will be paraded before strangers. He owes his wife better. Already he's worn her out on his quest for personal fulfillment with stints as lawyer, clown, musician, entrepreneur, and teacher.

 

That last one, teacher, almost sank them. Mark’s South Bronx principal, Ms. Rodriquez, fired him, leaving Denise the sole breadwinner, and Mark with enough rage to clog the Alaska pipeline. No picnic for Denise when she learned that Mark had leaned on another woman to get through it all.

 

Chastened, and armed with new clarity, Mark vies to regain Denise’s trust. He also sweats out a face-to-face with Principal Rodriquez to help a friend. No monster there, just an ex-boss who chased him from where he didn’t belong. 

 

Mark is sure that he must betray either his wife or himself: publish the book or hold onto the only woman he has ever truly loved. But forgiving Ms. Rodriquez frees him in an unexpected way.

 

CLOWN SHOES, my debut novel, complete at over 73,000 words, will appeal to fans of “coming of middle age” bildungsromans like The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick and One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper. 

 

I have published personal essays in the New York Times.

 

Thank you for your time and attention.

 

 

Very truly yours,

 

 

 

 

With the death of his older brother, Mark Biderman stands in as first born. He does what’s expected: he takes the designated path to a law career. But when he realizes that he is living out his childhood fears (he keeps the old list of them in his wallet) he makes a sharp and unexpected turn. Traveling to Mexico, and gaining insight from Silvia, a minister, he trades in his wingtips for a guitar, and plays for audiences of kids and parents up and down the East Coast. Along the way, he marries Denise and has a daughter. With new responsibilities he starts a bricks-and-mortar kids music center. When that fails, he veers away from his passions, accepting a job as an elementary school teacher. 

His South Bronx principal, Ms. Rodriquez, teaches him with tough love how to seek out where he is truly meant to be and leave behind long-ingrained expectations of how life is supposed to go. Mark loses the job, almost his wife too. He comes away with a bitter resentment toward the principal, and a marriage in need of repair. 

With Silvia’s help, Mark sees that he has played the victim and that he must take responsibility for his life. To him, that includes overcoming the fears on his list. Armed with a new clarity of purpose, he regains Denise’s trust. But in building back a career in the arts, he wins an opportunity that pits his dreams against her strong sense of privacy. As Mark tries to reconcile the two, he reunites with Principal Rodriquez for a common purpose, and sees that she was never his enemy, enabling him to resolve his final fear.

CLOWN SHOES, 73,250 words, will appeal to fans of “coming of middle age” novels like The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick and One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper.

I have published two personal essays in the New York Times, one of which provoked 465 reader comments and stayed in the top three emailed NYT articles for two full days. https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/08/20/abandoning-the-work-i-hated/?_r=0

Thank you for considering CLOWN SHOES.

Sincerely, 



#2 smithgirl

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Posted 24 December 2017 - 11:18 AM

[insert catchy hook here]

 

With the death of his older brother, Mark Biderman stands in as first born. He does what’s expected: he takes the designated path to a law career. But when he realizes that he is living out his childhood fears (he keeps the old list of them in his wallet) he makes a sharp and unexpected turn. Traveling to Mexico, and gaining insight from Silvia, a minister, he trades in his wingtips for a guitar, and plays for audiences of kids and parents up and down the East Coast. Along the way, he marries Denise and has a daughter. With new responsibilities he starts a bricks-and-mortar kids music center. When that fails, he veers away from his passions, accepting a job as an elementary school teacher. 

 

His South Bronx principal, Ms. Rodriquez, teaches him with tough love how to seek out where he is truly meant to be and leave behind long-ingrained expectations of how life is supposed to go. Mark loses the job, almost his wife too. He comes away with a bitter resentment toward the principal, and a marriage in need of repair. 

 

With Silvia’s help, Mark sees that he has played the victim and that he must take responsibility for his life. To him, that includes overcoming the fears on his list. Armed with a new clarity of purpose, he regains Denise’s trust. But in building back a career in the arts, he wins an opportunity that pits his dreams against her strong sense of privacy. As Mark tries to reconcile the two, he reunites with Principal Rodriquez for a common purpose, and sees that she was never his enemy, enabling him to resolve his final fear.

 

CLOWN SHOES is a 73,000-word [genre?] novel. It will appeal to fans of “coming of middle age” novels like The Silver Linings Playbook (italicize titles)by Matthew Quick and One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper.

 

I have published two personal essays in the New York Times, one of which provoked 465 reader comments and stayed in the top three emailed NYT articles for two full days. https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/08/20/abandoning-the-work-i-hated/?_r=0

 

Thank you for your time and consideration. considering CLOWN SHOES.

 

Sincerely, 

 

Hey Robert, this is not a query; it's a synopsis. You should review how query writing works, read successful queries on this site, look at Query Shark (http://queryshark.blogspot.com), read and critique other people's queries.

 

That said, you've done a good job of condensing your novel and the three paragraph structure is good. But you need a hook and to make it less "telly" -- it shouldn't read like a synopsis. Also, a query ends with the stakes (like a cliff-hanger); never include the actual ending in your query letter! It's also important to include line spaces between each paragraph. I don't know if that was a formatting issue when you pasted into the forum, but the line spaces are very important to include when you actually send your query to agents.

 

Work on your query some more then post the new version in this same thread. Good luck!



#3 RMLucas

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Posted 25 December 2017 - 06:27 AM

Couldn't have said it better than smithgirl. Great synopsis material, but it doesn't read like a query. Good luck!



#4 robertguitar

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Posted 25 December 2017 - 11:52 AM

Revision #1 (Thanks to smithgirl and RMLucas.)

 

Where does lawyer Mark Biderman draw the line between following his bliss and being a good family man? 

After trading in his wingtips for a guitar, he plays for audiences of kids and parents up and down the East Coast. Along the way he marries Denise and has a daughter. With new responsibilities he starts a bricks-and-mortar kids music center. But that fails, and he veers away from his passions, accepting a job as an elementary school teacher.

 

His South Bronx principal, Ms. Rodriquez, shows him with tough love that he has strayed off his path, teaching him to leave behind long-ingrained expectations of how life is supposed to go. Mark loses the job, almost his wife too. He comes away with a bitter resentment toward the principal, and a marriage in need of repair.

 

Armed with new clarity of purpose, he regains Denise’s trust. But in building back a career in the arts, he wins an opportunity that pits his dreams against her strong sense of privacy. Meanwhile he is thrown together with Principal Rodriquez for a common purpose. Mark must differentiate friend from enemy, reconcile calling and family, and ultimately decide whether he is living in a friendly or hostile world.

(How is my hook? Have I cut too much?)



#5 smithgirl

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Posted 25 December 2017 - 05:46 PM

Where does lawyer Mark Biderman draw the line between following his bliss and being a good family man? 

 

Never include a question like this in your query -- agents hate them. It will usually get you an auto-rejection. 

 

This new hook is better in that it's nice and short, but it still doesn't pull me into the story.

 

After trading in his wingtips for a guitar, Maybe this is just me, but I don't know that it means to trade in your wingtips. I googled the phrase but didn't find anything. he plays for audiences of kids and parents up and down the East Coast. Along the way he marries Denise and has a daughter. With new responsibilities he starts a bricks-and-mortar kids music center. But that fails, and he veers away from his passions, accepting a job as an elementary school teacher.

 

His South Bronx principal, Ms. Rodriquez, shows him with tough love that he has strayed off his path, teaching him to leave behind long-ingrained expectations of how life is supposed to go. Mark loses the job, almost his wife too. He comes away with a bitter resentment toward the principal, and a marriage in need of repair.

 

Armed with new clarity of purpose, he regains Denise’s trust. But in building back a career in the arts, he wins an opportunity that pits his dreams against her strong sense of privacy. Meanwhile he is thrown together with Principal Rodriquez for a common purpose. Mark must differentiate friend from enemy, reconcile calling and family, and ultimately decide whether he is living in a friendly or hostile world. This is all very vague.

 

So this new query is better; it feels less synopsis-y, but it does still feel like just a series of events, and none of the events feels terribly important. I'm not really sure what's backstory and where the real story begins. There isn't a sense of one event leading to the next, there is no urgency. I'm not clear on Mark's problem, on what he really WANTS. It seems like maybe he wants to follow his passion -- but what is his passion? Music? Having a kids center? What prevents him from following his passion? What is his struggle?

 

It feels like Mark is just rolling through life and things happen to him, but in your query Mark needs to be active, he needs to be struggling with something, and that something needs to be really important and specific. I don't have a clear idea what your book is really about, specifically. It seems like it's the story of a middle-aged man having, maybe, some mid-life crisis issues, but aside from that I'm not clear.

 

Writing a query is very different from writing a book; you have to reset your brain. The best thing is to go back and read queries that worked. Focus on those essential questions:

 

1. What does your MC want?

​2. What is getting in his way?

​3. What will happen if he fails?



#6 robertguitar

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Posted 25 December 2017 - 11:25 PM

Revision #2 (smithgirl I love you)

 

Mark Biderman is on the verge of realizing his greatest ambition but his wife will divorce him if he goes through with it.

 

Mark has always dreamed of a life grounded in writing and making music. After trading in his lawyer satchel for a guitar, he plays for audiences of kids and parents up and down the East Coast. But after marriage and fatherhood, he gets off the road and opts for the safer choice: a kids music studio. The business fails, and Mark drifts further from his passions, accepting a job as a school teacher.

 

His South Bronx principal, Ms. Rodriquez, shows him with tough love that he has strayed off his path, teaching him to leave behind long-ingrained expectations of how life is supposed to go. Mark loses the job, and breaks faith with his wife, Denise. He comes away with bitter resentment toward the principal, and a marriage in need of repair. 

 

With the help of Silvia, his minister friend, Mark sees that he has played the victim and that he must take responsibility for his life. Armed with a new clarity of purpose, he regains Denise’s trust. 

 

He composes an essay for the New York Times that goes viral and attracts the attention of President Barack Obama. This leads to media attention and an offer to write a personal memoir in the style of the Times piece. 

 

But Denise won’t tolerate him parading their private life before strangers. At the same time, Mark, in helping a friend, meets Principal Rodriquez in a new light. Mark must reassess Rodriquez, reconcile ambition and family, and ultimately decide whether he is living in a friendly or hostile world.

 

CLOWN SHOES, a 73,250 word novel, will appeal to fans of “coming of middle age” bildungsromans like The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick and One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper. I have published personal essays in the New York Times and elsewhere.

 



#7 robertguitar

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Posted 26 December 2017 - 02:16 PM

Revision #3

 

Mark Biderman is on the verge of reeling in his biggest catch but his wife promises to divorce him if he lands it.

 

His New York Times essay went viral and won a nod from President Obama. The media attention resulted in an offer from HarperCollins to publish the memoir he’d been working on for years but never completed. 

 

But Denise won’t tolerate him parading their private life before strangers. Mark owes a lot to his wife. He’s put the family through hell on a quest to follow his bliss. In fact his resume reads like a job fair: lawyer, clown, musician, entrepreneur, teacher.

 

The last one almost sank them. Mark’s South Bronx principal, Ms. Rodriquez, busted him on back talk, then fired him, leaving Denise the sole breadwinner. No picnic for her, especially when she learned that Mark had gotten tangled up emotionally with another woman.

 

Chastened, and armed with new clarity, Mark vies both to regain Denise’s trust and harvest his new opportunity. When Principal Rodriquez jumps back into the mix, Mark must reassess his grievances, reconcile ambition and family, and ultimately decide whether he is living in a friendly or hostile world.

 

CLOWN SHOES, my debut novel, complete at over 73,000 words, will appeal to fans of “coming of middle age” bildungsromans like The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick and One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper. 

 

I have published personal essays in the New York Times and elsewhere.

 

Thank you for your time and attention.

 

Very truly yours,



#8 RMLucas

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 03:48 AM

THIS IS THE MOST RECENT ATTEMPT:

 

Mark Biderman is on the verge of reeling in his biggest catch (What is the catch? A little vague. Needs more to hook me in) but his wife, Denise, promises to divorce him if he lands it.

 

His New York Times essay went viral and captured the attention of President Obama. The media attention resultsed in an offer from HarperCollins to write a personal memoir in the style of the Times piece.

 

But Denise won’t tolerate him parading their private life before strangers. Mark owes a lot to his wife. He’s put the family through hell on a quest to follow his bliss. In fact his resume reads like a job fair: lawyer, musician, entrepreneur, teacher.

 

The last one almost sank them. Mark’s South Bronx principal, Ms. Rodriquez, busted him on back talk, then fired him, leaving Denise the sole breadwinner. No picnic for her, especially since Mark had been leaning on a mystery woman to shore him up. Seems like a side story that may be important to your story, but not necessary for the query. What is the MC's main struggle? What is getting in his way?)

 

Armed with new clarity, Mark is vying to both regain Denise’s trust and harvest his new opportunity. When Principal Rodriquez crops up again, he must reassess his grievances, reconcile ambition and family, and ultimately decide whether he is living in a friendly or hostile world.

 

CLOWN SHOES, my first novel, complete at over 73,000 words, will appeal to fans of “coming of middle age” bildungsromans like The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick and One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper.

 

I have published personal essays in the New York Times and elsewhere.

 

Thank you for your time and attention.

 

Very truly yours,

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the death of his older brother, Mark Biderman stands in as first born. He does what’s expected: he takes the designated path to a law career. But when he realizes that he is living out his childhood fears (he keeps the old list of them in his wallet) he makes a sharp and unexpected turn. Traveling to Mexico, and gaining insight from Silvia, a minister, he trades in his wingtips for a guitar, and plays for audiences of kids and parents up and down the East Coast. Along the way, he marries Denise and has a daughter. With new responsibilities he starts a bricks-and-mortar kids music center. When that fails, he veers away from his passions, accepting a job as an elementary school teacher. 

His South Bronx principal, Ms. Rodriquez, teaches him with tough love how to seek out where he is truly meant to be and leave behind long-ingrained expectations of how life is supposed to go. Mark loses the job, almost his wife too. He comes away with a bitter resentment toward the principal, and a marriage in need of repair. 

With Silvia’s help, Mark sees that he has played the victim and that he must take responsibility for his life. To him, that includes overcoming the fears on his list. Armed with a new clarity of purpose, he regains Denise’s trust. But in building back a career in the arts, he wins an opportunity that pits his dreams against her strong sense of privacy. As Mark tries to reconcile the two, he reunites with Principal Rodriquez for a common purpose, and sees that she was never his enemy, enabling him to resolve his final fear.

CLOWN SHOES, 73,250 words, will appeal to fans of “coming of middle age” novels like The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick and One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper.

I have published two personal essays in the New York Times, one of which provoked 465 reader comments and stayed in the top three emailed NYT articles for two full days. https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/08/20/abandoning-the-work-i-hated/?_r=0

Thank you for considering CLOWN SHOES.

Sincerely, 

 

You are heading in the right direction, but I think the main problem in the query is the vagueness and narrowing it down to the MC and what the current problem is. Hope this helps. I am by no mean an expert, so please take it as a grain of salt. I'd recommend looking at some of the successful queries in this site. They were a great resource for me as far as format and what to look for. Good luck!



#9 robertguitar

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 04:23 AM

Thanks RMLucas! Yes, I can see that "catch" is vague. I think I erred toward the catchiness of the hook at the expense of meaning.



#10 robertguitar

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 04:41 AM

Latest draft:

 

Mark Biderman is on the verge of getting what he’s always wanted: publication by a big literary house. His wife, Denise, promises to divorce him if he goes through with it. Mark loves Denise but knows there’s a special corner of hell reserved for people who renege on their heart’s desire to keep the peace.

 

His New York Times essay went viral. The media attention resulted in an offer from HarperCollins to publish the memoir he’d been working on for years but never completed. 

 

Denise won’t tolerate him parading their private life before strangers. Mark owes a lot to his wife. He’s worn her out on his quest for fulfillment. In fact his resume reads like a job fair: lawyer, clown, musician, entrepreneur, teacher.

 

The last one almost sank them. Mark’s South Bronx principal, Ms. Rodriquez fired him, leaving Denise the sole breadwinner, and Mark with enough rage to clog the Alaska pipeline. No picnic for Denise when she learned that Mark had gotten tangled up emotionally with another woman. 

 

Chastened, and armed with new clarity, Mark vies both to regain Denise’s trust and harvest his new opportunity. When Principal Rodriquez jumps back into the mix, Mark must reassess his grievances, reconcile ambition and family, and ultimately decide whether he is living in a friendly or hostile world.

 

CLOWN SHOES, my debut novel, complete at over 73,000 words, will appeal to fans of “coming of middle age” bildungsromans like The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick and One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper. 

 

I have published personal essays in the New York Times.

 

Thank you for your time and attention.

 

Very truly yours,



#11 smithgirl

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Posted 30 December 2017 - 01:51 PM


Mark Biderman is on the verge of getting what he’s always wanted: publication by a big literary house. Unfortunately his wife, Denise, promises to divorce him if he goes through with it. Mark loves Denise but knows there’s a special corner of hell reserved for people who renege on their heart’s desire to keep the peace.

 

I like this hook. I wondered at first why Denise would oppose his book, but you address that quickly.

 

His New York Times essay went viral. The media attention resulted in an offer Unnecessary backstoryfrom HarperCollins to publish the memoir he’d been working on for years but never completed. 

 

Denise won’t tolerate him parading their private life before strangers. Mark owes a lot to his wife. He’s worn her out on his quest for fulfillment. In fact his resume reads like a job fair: lawyer, clown, musician, entrepreneur, teacher.

 

I feel like the third paragraph partially restates your hook. Avoid redundancy. I tried to move your query forward below.

 

But when HarperCollins publishes his memoir, Mark and Denise's private life will be paraded before strangers. Mark owes a lot to his wife. Already he's worn her out on his quest for personal fulfillment with stints as lawyer, clown, musician, entrepreneur, teacher.

 

That last one, teacher, almost sank them. Mark’s South Bronx principal, Ms. Rodriquez fired him, leaving Denise the sole breadwinner, and Mark with enough rage to clog the Alaska pipeline. No picnic for Denise when she learned that Mark had gotten tangled up emotionally with another woman. I can see that his wife is getting fed up.

 

Chastened, and armed with new clarity, Mark vies both to regain Denise’s trust and harvest his new opportunity. The book? When Principal Rodriquez jumps back into the mix, How does the principal jump back into the mix? She's just an ex-boss who fired him. Mark must reassess his grievances, reconcile ambition and family, and ultimately decide whether he is living in a friendly or hostile world. This last paragraph needs work. Up until now your query had focus but here it becomes vague and confusing. You also need a very specific statement of the skates: Mark must decide to publish his book or love the only woman he truly loved. The stakes need to be very clear-cut. 

 

CLOWN SHOES, my debut novel, complete at over 73,000 words, will appeal to fans of “coming of middle age” bildungsromans like The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick and One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper. 

 

I have published personal essays in the New York Times.

 

Thank you for your time and attention.

 

Very truly yours,

 

Hey Robert, you query has gotten so much better! Good job! I'm starting to see the mechanics of the story. It works pretty well until the third paragraph, which is muddled and unclear. But you're making  progress so keep working. Good luck!

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for considering CLOWN SHOES.

Sincerely, 



#12 mindy24601

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Posted 30 December 2017 - 05:28 PM

Latest draft:

 

Mark Biderman is on the verge of getting what he’s always wanted: publication by a big literary house. His wife, Denise, promises to divorce him if he goes through with it. this is certainly an interesting hook. Mark loves Denise but knows there’s a special corner of hell reserved for people who renege on their heart’s desire to keep the peace. instead of knows i might go with thinks or something more subjective. this is certainly not a rule held by everyone.

 

His New York Times essay went viral.ooh, this seems disjointed. is this the big publication? or something different? The media attention resulted in an offer from HarperCollins to publish the memoir he’d been working on for years but never completed. ah, i see. maybe fix this up a bit; add a transition piece to the first sentence? i feel like just writing a single new york times essay to a memoir might be a stretch, unless there's something fantastic he wrote about? i know spoilers, but you might want to allude to it.

 

Denise won’t tolerate him parading their private life before strangers. ooh. so the times essay was about something personal? And Mark owes a lot to his wife. He’s worn her out on his quest for fulfillment. how? this is vague? travel? chores? heartbreak? In fact his resume reads like a job fair: lawyer, clown, musician, entrepreneur, teacher. ...so, he's often unemployed? changes jobs? can't keep a job?

 

The last one almost sank them. Mark’s South Bronx principal, Ms. Rodriquez comma fired him, leaving Denise the sole breadwinner, and Mark with enough rage to clog the Alaska pipeline. nice metaphor, especially if this choice of locale relates to your book...? No picnic for Denise when she learned that Mark had gotten tangled up emotionally with another woman. i'm getting a bit lost with how this all relates together and relates to the essay/memoir

 

Chastened, and armed with new clarity, Mark vies both to regain Denise’s trust and harvest his new opportunity. When Principal Rodriquez jumps back into the mix, Mark must reassess his grievances, reconcile ambition and family, and ultimately decide whether he is living in a friendly or hostile world. i'm so confused. what happened to the memoir? how does any of this relate to his essay or memoir? 

 

CLOWN SHOES, my debut novel, complete at over 73,000 words, will appeal to fans of “coming of middle age” bildungsromans like The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick and One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper. 

 

I have published personal essays in the New York Times. ack, not sure about this. is the book semi-autobiographical, then? you could probably say that, if it is

 

Thank you for your time and attention.

 

Very truly yours,

 the biggest thing i think is that you need to tie everything in. the query reads like a straight line, but you need to loop it back. how does any of this relate to his memoir? the essay? i understand suspense but i feel you should at least say what the essay/memoir is about. otherwise, it sounds like a guy who had an affair and can't keep a job is suddenly somehow interesting. not a good book premise. 

i think with a bit of editing this could work well. 

just some thoughts.



#13 robertguitar

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Posted 30 December 2017 - 11:00 PM

Thank you Smithgirl (who ought to do this for pay) and Mindy (whose musings helped me a lot)!

 

LATEST LATEST DRAFT:

 

Mark Biderman is on the verge of getting what he’s always wanted: publication by a big literary house. Unfortunately, his wife, Denise, promises to divorce him if he goes through with it. Mark loves Denise but knows there’s a special corner of hell reserved for people who renege on their heart’s desire to keep the peace.

 

If HarperCollins publishes his memoir, Mark and Denise's private life will be paraded before strangers. He owes his wife better. Already he's worn her out on his quest for personal fulfillment with stints as lawyer, clown, musician, entrepreneur, and teacher.

 

That last one, teacher, almost sank them. Mark’s South Bronx principal, Ms. Rodriquez, fired him, leaving Denise the sole breadwinner, and Mark with enough rage to clog the Alaska pipeline. No picnic for Denise when she learned that Mark had leaned on another woman to get through it all.

 

Chastened, and armed with new clarity, Mark vies to regain Denise’s trust. He also sweats out a face-to-face with Principal Rodriquez to help a friend. No monster there, just an ex-boss who chased him from where he didn’t belong. 

 

Mark is sure that he must betray either his wife or himself: publish the book or hold onto the only woman he has ever truly loved. But forgiving Ms. Rodriquez frees him in an unexpected way.

 

CLOWN SHOES, my debut novel, complete at over 73,000 words, will appeal to fans of “coming of middle age” bildungsromans like The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick and One Last Thing Before I Go by Jonathan Tropper. 

 

I have published personal essays in the New York Times.

 

Thank you for your time and attention.

 

 

Very truly yours,



#14 Kirk39

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Posted 31 December 2017 - 08:43 AM

I don't really get the sentence "Mark loves Denise but knows there’s a special corner of hell reserved for people who renege on their heart’s desire to keep the peace." Maybe omit it altogether? Agents might consider it to be using cliches.

 

I feel like the Ms. Rodriquez stuff could be described in a more interesting way. Or at least in a less vague way.

 

The title is good. I know he had a job as a clown, but are clown shoes a metaphor for something greater? Maybe give a hint of this toward the end of the query.



#15 robertguitar

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Posted 06 January 2018 - 04:43 PM

Thanks Kirk. Here's another go at it:

 

 

Mark Biderman has worn out his wife, Denise, on his quest for personal fulfillment with stints as lawyer, clown, musician, entrepreneur, and teacher. But “writer” is the calling he’s really gunning for.

 

His stretch as a teacher almost sank them. Mark’s South Bronx principal, Ms. Rodriquez, fired him, leaving Denise the sole breadwinner, and Mark with enough rage to clog the Alaska pipeline. No picnic for Denise when she learned that he had conducted an emotional affair with another woman during this stretch. 

 

Mark pens a personal essay for the New York Times that goes viral leading to an offer by a big literary house to write a memoir in the style of his much-tweeted piece. The article arouses an intense response from people tired of working soul-crushing jobs. Denise knows that Mark’s memoir includes his affair and promises to divorce him if publishes it.

 

Chastened, and armed with new clarity, Mark vies to regain Denise’s trust. He also sweats out a face-to-face with his adversary, Principal Rodriquez, to assist a friend. Rodriquez was no monster he decides — just a woman who chased him from where he didn’t belong. 



#16 EmperorOfTheNorth

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Posted 07 January 2018 - 11:46 AM

Thanks Kirk. Here's another go at it:
 
 
Mark Biderman has worn out his wife, Denise, on his quest for personal fulfillment with stints as (A) lawyer, (A) clown, (A) musician, (An) entrepreneur, and (A) teacher.
Unless you mean that he combines all these jobs into one conglomerate.

But “writer” is the calling he’s really gunning for.


I don't like the word gunning for. Perhaps (interested in?)
 
His stretch (stint?) as a teacher almost sank them. Mark’s South Bronx principal, Ms. Rodriquez, fired him, leaving Denise the sole breadwinner, and Mark with enough rage to clog the Alaska pipeline. (Nice imagery).

No picnic for Denise when she learned that he had conducted an emotional affair with another woman during this stretch. 


Ummm rework this last sentence for clarity maybe? I know what you mean but the verbiage is clunky.

Mark pens a personal essay for the New York Times that goes viral leading to an offer by a big literary house to write a memoir in the style of his much-tweeted piece. The article arouses an intense response from people tired of working soul-crushing jobs. Denise knows that Mark’s memoir includes his affair and promises to divorce him if (HE) publishes it.
 
Chastened, and armed with new clarity, Mark vies to regain Denise’s trust. He also sweats out a face-to-face with his adversary, Principal Rodriquez, to assist a friend. Rodriquez was no monster he decides — just a woman who chased him from where he didn’t belong. 


This sounds very interesting. I think you are almost there.
Go on and stamp your forms, sonny.

#17 robertguitar

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Posted 07 January 2018 - 12:15 PM

Thank you, Emperor of the North. I'll give it another shot as follows:

 

Mark Biderman has worn out his wife, Denise, on his quest for personal fulfillment with stints as lawyer, clown, musician, entrepreneur, and teacher. Now Mark is zeroing in on “writer,” and he’s got a memoir in his laptop.

 

His spell as a teacher almost sank them. Mark’s South Bronx principal, Ms. Rodriquez, fired him, leaving Denise the sole breadwinner, and Mark with enough rage to clog the Alaska pipeline. Denise almost showed him the door when she learned that he had conducted an emotional affair by telephone during this period. 

 

Mark pens a personal essay for the New York Times that goes viral leading to an offer by a big literary house to write a memoir in the style of his much-tweeted piece. The article arouses an intense response from people tired of working soul-crushing jobs. Denise knows that Mark’s memoir includes his affair and promises to divorce him if he publishes it.

 

Chastened, and armed with new clarity, Mark vies to regain Denise’s trust. He also assists a friend by sweating out a face-to-face with his old adversary, Principal Rodriquez. His ex-boss was no monster he decides — just a woman who chased him from where he didn’t belong. 

 

Mark believes that he has to betray either his wife or himself, publish the book or keep the faith with the woman he loves. But letting go of his resentment of Ms. Rodriquez frees him in an unexpected way.



#18 Springfield

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Posted 07 January 2018 - 01:04 PM

THIS IS THE MOST RECENT ATTEMPT WHICH IS ALSO POSTED IF YOU SCROLL DOWN TO #17. TO CRITIQUE, PLEASE SCROLL DOWN TO #17. Just looking at the current version.

 

Mark Biderman has worn out his wife, Denise, on his quest for personal fulfillment with stints as lawyer, clown, musician, entrepreneur, and teacher. Now Mark is zeroing in on “writer,” and he’s got a memoir in his laptop. Okie, I''m with you. 

 

His spell as a teacher almost sank them. Mark’s South Bronx principal, Ms. Rodriquez, fired him, leaving Denise the sole breadwinner, and Mark with enough rage to clog the Alaska pipeline. I don't get the connection between these two things. Also don't get the connection between his being fired and rage, besides that I'm getting a strong unlikable protag vibe. Denise almost showed him the door when she learned that he had conducted an emotional affair by telephone during this period. 

 

 

Mark pens a personal essay for the New York Times that goes viral leading to an offer by a big literary house to write a memoir in the style of his much-tweeted piece. The article arouses an intense response from people tired of working soul-crushing jobs. Denise knows that Mark’s memoir includes his affair and promises to divorce him if he publishes it.

 

Chastened, and armed with new clarity, Mark vies to regain Denise’s trust.  He also assists a friend by sweating out a face-to-face with his old adversary, Principal Rodriquez. What? This is disconnected and unclear, also, you have Ms. Rodriquez above, which I'm guessing was to show she's female, which is going to raise questions. His ex-boss was no monster he decides — just a woman who chased him from where he didn’t belong. If you're doing an unlikable protag, you generally need to have a thread of something universal for people to latch onto, or some reason behind why they are the way they are that'd garner some kind of sympathy. Barring that, you need flaming-hot interesting, which this doesn't have for me in the query.

 

Mark believes that he has to betray either his wife or himself, publish the book or keep the faith with the woman he loves. I presumed in the previous graph he'd decided not to publish. But letting go of his resentment of Ms. Rodriquez frees him in an unexpected way. First, there are no stakes here. Second, I don't know from what, or what way, or, why the reader should care, based on the query, see above something to hold on to -- this query is set up as deeply self-involved jerk has a moment of thinking perhaps that's not the way to be, then goes back to self-involvement. I don't know what's in the book, just dealing with what's here. You can absolutely do unlikable protag, it's a thing. However, you need to show why someone will follow an unlikable protag around for an entire book. Not that it's a book, but Tony Soprano (as it's a fairly universally-known example) is a good example. He's a terrible person, who does terrible things and treats people like shit. However, he was also a sympathetic character, in many ways, with universal problems. He was also super interesting -- you never quite knew what he might do, and his life was not normal. A character doesn't need all of that, but that's how to get people to follow someone who they'd not normally want to spend time with.

 

 

 



#19 robertguitar

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Posted 07 January 2018 - 09:41 PM

Springfield, thank you for your valuable insight! I took great care not to create an unlikable protagonist in the novel. But since the query does not lend itself to nuance, I focused on conflict, and made the protagonist sound a lot more craven than he is in the book. I've decided to take a different tack. My book doesn't really lend itself to a hook, and I was distorting it to fit a hook on it. This is my new attempt.

 

Mark Biderman yearns to live an artistic life but does not have the courage to trust support he cannot see. When his body breaks down, he makes an unexpected turn and leaves his California law practice. 

 

In Mexico, he meets Silvia, the minister, who tells him that the pain he feels is a sign that he has veered away from his true desires. Mark trades in his briefcase for a guitar, and plays for audiences of kids and parents up and down the East Coast.

 

But that ends when he marries Denise and they have children. Mark retreats to conventional notions of safety and takes a teaching job in the South Bronx. There he meets his principal, Ms. Rodriquez, who accepts no substitute for passion and dedication which Mark cannot offer. She fires him, leaving Denise the sole breadwinner, and Mark with enough bile to clog the Alaska pipeline.

 

With Silvia’s help, Mark sees that he has played the victim and must take responsibility for his life. He pens a personal essay for the New York Times that goes viral leading to an offer by a big literary house to write a memoir in the style of his much-tweeted piece. The article arouses an intense response from people tired of working soul-crushing jobs. But Denise has a strong sense of privacy and threatens divorce if Mark exposes their personal lives. They are at an impasse.

 

Denise and Mark each embark on a new challenge. Denise signs on to give a TED talk in Switzerland despite her acute dread of public speaking. Mark agrees to help a former colleague by appearing as a witness in a Bronx jury trial which involves his ex-boss, Ms. Rodriquez. She’s the last person he ever wants to see.

 

As both push their personal boundaries, they rise from the level of their standoff and make space for new choices.



#20 taylorhale

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Posted 07 January 2018 - 10:35 PM

Hi there! I'm new to this site and pretty inexperienced with the whole querying business, but I'm an experienced writer, ghostwriter and editor, so I'll be as honest and thorough as I can as a first time reader :-)

 

 

Mark Biderman yearns to live an artistic life but does not have the courage to trust support he cannot see. When his body breaks down, he makes an unexpected turn and leaves his California law practice. (Hmm... something feels very mundane about this. Artistic life - in what sense? Does he yearn to be a painter? Because that's the sense I immediately got, diving into this with no idea of what your story is about. Perhaps be specific. I also find the latter of the sentence vague and confusing - the trust support he cannot see? Am I missing something? As for the second sentence, why does his body break down? Does he have cancer? Car accident? Or is it just stress? These are the questions I wonder - and want immediate answers to.)

 

In Mexico, he meets Silvia, the minister, who tells him that the pain he feels is a sign that he has veered away from his true desires. Mark trades in his briefcase for a guitar, and plays for audiences of kids and parents up and down the East Coast. (Maybe in the previous sentence say he goes to Mexico. Flows nicer. And I'm sorry, but how could he feel pain from "veering from his true desires"? It gave me a sense that this is somehow paranormal or something... lol. Maybe say that Silvia suggests that his heart is hurting because he feels he's aging and wasting his life away? He has heartache due to the fact that he's getting older and has not fulfilled his dreams? Might make more logical sense. With the second sentence, I like what you're saying but I think it could be worded better. Maybe "Mark trades in his briefcase for a guitar and busks his way up and down the East Coast." Or something. I'm not sure if it's necessary to mention kids and parents, unless that is his specific audience and is plot-relevant? I thought it could have been a generalization.)

 

But that ends when he marries Denise and they have children. Mark retreats to conventional notions of safety and takes a teaching job in the South Bronx. There he meets his principal, Ms. Rodriquez, who accepts no substitute for passion and dedication which Mark cannot offer. She fires him, leaving Denise the sole breadwinner, and Mark with enough bile to clog the Alaska pipeline. (This is starting to feel like the story begins here, and everything before hand is like a prequel. Settling down and having kids isn't climactic so the previous promise of a plot of a man busking the east coast immediately fizzled away. This is also feeling very step-by-step.)

 

With Silvia’s help, Mark sees that he has played the victim and must take responsibility for his life. He pens a personal essay for the New York Times that goes viral leading to an offer by a big literary house to write a memoir in the style of his much-tweeted piece. The article arouses an intense response from people tired of working soul-crushing jobs. But Denise has a strong sense of privacy and threatens divorce if Mark exposes their personal lives. They are at an impasse. (Played the victim of what? He seems like a relatively normal man with dreams he gave up on, so I fail to see the impact of the actual content he is sending to the NYT.)

 

Denise and Mark each embark on a new challenge. Denise signs on to give a TED talk in Switzerland despite her acute dread of public speaking. Mark agrees to help a former colleague by appearing as a witness in a Bronx jury trial which involves his ex-boss, Ms. Rodriquez. She’s the last person he ever wants to see. (There are a lot of random characters without much impact or introduction - I got the sense in the para where Mark marries Denise that she like, stood in the way of his busking dreams. I don't think it's necessary to name in queries any more than the necessary characters, so maybe just say his villainous ex-boss, or some other descriptor). 

 

As both push their personal boundaries, they rise from the level of their standoff and make space for new choices. (I still don't really understand the plot or the stakes)

 

 

So, here's what I got from your plot. Mark was a man who wanted to be an artist, he almost got there by busking the east coast then married Denise, a reclusive(?) woman. When Mark is fired from his job, he realizes that he has been playing the victim for his whole life and writes an inspirational essay that goes viral. But because of the essay, Mark runs into marital problems with Denise, which eventually leads to both of them breaking out of their shells...?

 

I think you need to be more clear and concise on what your plot actually is and what is at stake. If Mark can't help Denise get over her fears by getting her to do a TEDtalk, will their marriage fail? Or does Ms. Rodriguez try to ruin Mark's newfound fame? Something like that. 

 

These are just my first impressions. I'd try the "when" formula and work up from there. It has helped me get to the core of my plot (not that my query is perfect lol). Hope this helps :)

 

Here is the link to mine if you ever feel like ripping me apart!: http://agentquerycon...ya/#entry350359







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