Pub Rants

Editor Letter for Real Life & Liars

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STATUS: Getting ready for ALA Midwinter Conference which is happening here in Denver. I have a packed weekend ahead of me but it should be fun.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I’M YOURS by Jason Mraz

Because I think my blog readers find the agent-editor interaction fascinating, here’s the submission letter for this project.

Here are two interesting things to note about this letter. Kristina’s novel had a unique POV structure. One narrative is written from first person POV and the three children are written from a third person POV. I decided that I didn’t want an editor to be surprised by what is a complicated narrative structure so I actually highlighted it in my submit letter. I also highlighted that I thought the unique narrative was strength—thus (hopefully) setting the editors perception before they began reading.

By the way, this narrative structure is almost impossible to pull off. It takes a lot of talent—which is how I pitched it in the letter.

I also spent a bit more time talking about how this novel impacted me personally. I wanted to make it clear that this wasn’t “just another cancer” story. That what we had here was an insightful novel about family relationships and how complicated they can be.

I guess I succeeded as several editors agreed with me and Lucia Macro at HarperCollins won this novel at auction.

Hello Lucia,

I hate to be the agent who says this every time I send out a project but I do think that this time, I’ve found the perfect novel for you (and if I haven’t, you have permission to snub me). First off, the writing is just top-notch. This story, REAL LIFE & LIARS seamlessly shifts between the first person POV of Mira, the sixty-something hippie mother who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer and has decided not to fight it, and the three third person POVs of her three, very different children. This would be a mess in the hands of a writer with less talent.

But here’s the other reason why I’m so passionate about this story (besides the fact that I just couldn’t put it down). Even though the Zielinski family is nothing like my own, I just felt like Kristina had tapped into the essential truth of my own family’s dynamics, despite the fact that my mother never has had cancer and my brother is the oldest and not the middle child etc. She has tapped into the core truth of how all families interrelate. How siblings treat each other as adults (our worn and familiar view of each other) as well as all the possibilities that emerge when we realize our love and loyalty. It’s also a very piercing look at the relationship parents have with adult children. And even though the novel is unflinching in its exploration, the reader is left with nothing but optimism that despite our personal failings, our families really do form our core.

So here’s the story: As a wilted flower child, Mira Zielinski has never been one to follow orders. Not from her husband, not from her boss – not even from her oncologist. Mira has her own idea about handling her newly diagnosed breast cancer, and it does not involve hopping up on the operating table. Her grown children will no doubt object — when she gets around to telling them.

As they come home for the weekend of Mira and Max’s thirty-fifth wedding anniversary party, her kids harbor some secret trials. Middle child Ivan’s lifelong desire to be a songwriter is withering on the vine after years of futility and his dating haplessness is so familiar, it’s almost a family joke. The impulsive and very young youngest child Irina will walk in the door with a surprise groom, though she’s already looking for the escape hatch in her shiny new marriage. As for the oldest, Katya, let’s just say that it would be a relief if her husband’s big secret were just the affair she suspects he’s having. As these trials unfold, certain family truths come to light but will they shake Mira’s resolve?

The author, Kristina Riggle, is a freelance journalist and published short story writer. Her credits include Cimarron Review, Net Author’s E2K and Espresso Fiction. She is also the co-editor for fiction at the e-zine Literary Mama, named one of Forbes’ “Best of the Web.” Kristina was also a judge for the 2007 Carrie McCray Literary Awards in the short fiction category. Since she is connected to the writing community, she has already lined up blurbs from published authors such as Kristy Kiernan (CATCHING GENIUS) and Carrie Kabak (COVER THE BUTTER, A Book Sense pick June 2005).

May I send this novel your way?
All Best,

13 Responses

  1. Debra said:

    Good Lord, Kristin. You sure do know how to write a killer letter to the editor! I can only pray that my agent-to-be will be in my court like you are with your writers. Thank you SO much for sharing these letters with us. I, for one, am learning so much.

  2. Kathleen said:

    Since the query hit me the wrong way, I thought I’d mention that this phrase, Kristin: “and has decided not to fight it,” somehow made a WORLD of difference to me. It might not to some people, but I can accept that as a reason not to tell her kids much more readily than I can the reason my mother did (denial and fear) or any of the other reasons that popped into my head. 🙂

  3. Carrie said:

    Man, now I have to go buy another book. I was hooked even before you went into the actual story pitch.

  4. Madison said:

    No wonder agents want good query letters. You guys are so good at it that you naturally expect that from us! Really, a very well written letter, Ms. Nelson. 🙂

  5. Anonymous said:

    This is a nice insight (and example) on the steps from querying the agent to the agent querying editors. Interesting how you incorporated part of the author’s query into your editor query. As Medison pointed out, your writing sets a high-standard.

  6. Anonymous said:

    Loved the fantastic query you shared yesterday and am so impressed you used as part of your query to the publisher. I can’t wait to read the book.

  7. Anonymous said:

    Thanks for the queries, it’s great to see what catches an agent’s eye.

    I was wondering, what books do you feel mix POV successfully?

    Thanks again!

  8. Rock and Roll Mama said:

    I remember when you highlighted this query letter as a good one, and love that some of her actual query made it right into the letter to the editor! Just reminds me that nailing the query is a big part of the keys to the kingdom. Thanks!

  9. Alissie said:

    I love how you kept most of her description of the novel intact. I do not know whether this usually happens or not, but I was under the impression that letters like this sometimes included re-written pitches.

    On a separate note, I have been toying with the idea of adding another POV to my current project. I want it to be 1st POV for most of it, but my FMC misses a bit of the very important action. Hrm… definetly something I’m going to think about. Thanks!

  10. Anonymous said:

    I’m looking for an example of a well-written novel that includes two separate first person perspectives. I’d go with Faulkner, but since I’m writing a YA, I don’t want to confuse the young ‘uns! Any ideas are appreciated! Thanks!