QueryDice #38: BRAVO, AUTHOR!

The following is a query critique. Comments, suggestions and discussion are welcome and we hope you join in. I can only offer one opinion. The author of the query and I would love to hear yours.

Dear Ms. Ruth,

Thirteen-year-old Sabrina Tate has a visibility problem. The local mean girl sees her as an easy target, her parents see her as a weak imitation of her sister, and the cute boy in her English class doesn’t see her at all. When Sabrina finds out about a competition to be the queen of her junior high school’s Arthurian Feast, she thinks winning might be her chance to become visible in all the right ways. After all, the competition only asks her to read books, watch movies, and show up to a few rehearsals—how hard can that be?

But Sabrina doesn’t count on mean girl attacks, cheaters in the competition, or detention as a result of a prank gone wrong. Sabrina especially doesn’t count on her best friend’s growing frustration with her focus on winning. As Sabrina learns more about the Arthurian legends that inspired the feast, she starts questioning herself, her friends, even her enemies. If Sabrina doesn’t win, she’ll stay the same loser she’s always been. But if she does win, she might lose the things she cares about most: her best friend and her identity as a nice girl. Is winning worth the cost?

As a junior high student, I participated in a similar medieval feast. Although the characters and events are fictitious, the backdrop for the story stems from personal experience. I have a PhD in English and teach college-level writing courses.

[redacted] is a contemporary upper-middle-grade novel, complete at 54,000 words, that may appeal to fans of Michael Beil, Erin Dionne and Wendy Mass. Thank you for your consideration!



I tried really hard to find something wrong with this query. There are little things that are just a matter of preference (like the name-dropping) and something about the word “visibility” bothered me. Perception is really more accurate. The only large-scope criticism I have has to do with voice. I would have liked to see Sabrina’s personality a bit. But, aside from those tiny things, most of which don’t matter too much in the larger scope of things, this query has done its job. Bravo! 


Posted on July 26, 2012, in Advice, literary agency, manuscripts, publishing, queries, Query Dice, rejection, slush pile, submissions, writers and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Reblogged this on and commented:
    I love following this blog. There’s a lot to be gleaned from other writer’s successes and failures. As I’ve often said, writing query letters is an art and I like how Lauren Ruth breaks them down in Query Dice. Hope you find this helpful. Have a great day!

  2. ericrickjoezhou

    Lauren, do you think you could put up some sort of query/submission update every now and then, showing where you outline how far through the slushpiles you have replied to, maybe reflect on some of which you asked for more material on and some of which you rejected and why?

    I find the querydice posts very helpful and would also highly appreciate if you could spare some time to update us on your discoveries and opinions towards the massed amount of queries you must receive. If you have the time of course.


  3. I agree, t his reads pretty strong! I also stumbled a bit on “visibility” I kept reading and found enough examples to get the point, but perhaps the author could play around with the concept and try out a few other phrases or word choices. The only other thing is I would suggest to take out the inspiration for the feast from the author’s own experience. It isn’t needed. Lots of people are inspired to write based on their own life. The key factor is that you teach college level writing. I would keep it at one line and mention also if you belong to any national writing organizations — even if it’s for your professional life.

    Overall, nice work!

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