Friday, November 17, 2006

Face-Lift 231


Guess the Plot

Painted Wings

1. Tired of clipping the wings of the Tower of London's ravens, gamekeeper Nigel St. John decides to try weighing the birds down with layers and layers of oil-based lacquer.

2. Icarus discovers that it wasn't such a great idea after all, to go with the less expensive--but highly flammable--paint.

3. In this latest book in the series, plucky spinster Amelia Pettipants leaves her charming village, Boring-on-End, and travels to Paris on the Dan Brown ABC Art Tour. But a devil with spray paint has been at work, vandalizing the Winged Victory of Samothrace. Can Amelia find the culprit before the albino dwarf tour guide herds them to the next desecration?

4. "Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys," as the song goes. So Sarah leaves home for a better life in New York. Better, that is, until her mother shows up and starts whining about losing out on her dream of becoming an actress.

5. Trevor Mann wants to create a tourist-attracting mural on the tallest building in Rosston. Unfortunately, that building belongs to Delilah Hobsworth, who was abandoned at the altar by a roguish painter, and has refused to allow art anywhere near her since. Can Trevor soften her papier-mache heart, or will Delilah pour latex all over Trevor's dreams?

6. Batman gets lonesome and decides to start dating. But how can he and Miss Ginger focus on getting to know each other when people recognize him everywhere he goes? There's only one way -- a disguise: Pink Painted Wings.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

I have written a women’s fiction novel that I hope you will be interested in representing.

Painted Wings explores the relationship between Sarah Richards and her mother Margaret who have communicated mostly long-distance for years, but spend a week together following the birth of Sarah’s first child. Told through the alternating viewpoints of the women, the novel presents the mother-child bond from both perspectives in addition to telling the individual stories of the women: what they had hoped for in life versus what they got.

Sarah has always felt successful for having escaped the stifling confines of blue-collar Munston, Massachusetts for a better life in sophisticated New York with her husband Jack. [They live in New York and Massachusetts, and never see each other? You can walk that far. Assuming we're talking Hudson to Pittsboro; Buffalo to Boston, you'd better book a flight.] But, in the jarring transition from “me” to “mommy”, and stripped of the familiar routines of the job she reluctantly abandoned, Sarah struggles to relate to her husband and redefine herself.

Watching her daughter become a mother stirs memories for Margaret of her own days with newborn Sarah and the many years since that have somehow passed like pages of a magazine - carelessly leafed through and discarded. [Leafed through and discarded isn't that bad, compared to the condition of my Penthouse when I'm done with it.] Nearing retirement age, she continues to work her assembly-line job with no end in sight, having become neither the full-time mother she’d expected to be, nor the actress she’d secretly dreamed of becoming.

When Margaret comes for a week-long visit to help with the baby, the women find themselves re-evaluating the choices they’ve made in life. Through memories and increasingly as the week progresses, in conversation with each other, Margaret and Sarah face the emotional gulf that has grown between them ultimately recognizing the parallels in their lives, beginning a new stage in their relationship and finding their own paths to fulfillment. [That sentence is the worst offender, but many sentences here are too long and unwieldy. Shortening a few, or adding a couple short ones would provide variety.] [In math, parallel lines have no point in common. Yet here, "parallels" means things in common. Go figure.]

Painted Wings - one of the childhood treasures left behind in a song Sarah’s long-absent father used to sing her before bed ["Puff, the Magic Dragon", presumably.] -- is more than a “mommy lit” book about finding happiness in changing diapers. [No need to explain that it's not about finding happiness changing diapers when you've given no indication that it's about that.] The novel will resonate with those who have faced the challenges of managing an infant, raising a child, and finally, letting go. However, the focus on Sarah’s adult relationship with her parent and theme of pursuing a dream before it’s too late should allow the story to reach a broader reader base. [So, the truth comes out. You're Sarah, and you're pursuing your dream of being a writer before it's too late.]

This 87,300 word novel draws on my own experiences as a mother, wife and daughter. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Revised Version

Dear Evil Editor:

I have written a women’s fiction novel that I hope you will be interested in representing.

Sarah Richards has escaped the stifling confines of blue-collar Munston, Massachusetts, for a better life in sophisticated New York City with her husband Jack. But when her first child is born, the jarring transition from “me” to “mommy" leaves her struggling to relate to her husband and to redefine herself.

Watching her daughter Sarah become a mother, Margaret recalls her own days with newborn Sarah and the years that have passed her by, like pages of a magazine carelessly leafed through and discarded. Nearing retirement age, she continues to work her assembly-line job, having become neither the full-time mother she’d expected to be, nor the actress she’d secretly dreamed of being.

When Margaret comes for a week-long visit to help with the baby, the women find themselves re-evaluating the choices they’ve made in life. Through memories and conversation, Margaret and Sarah face the emotional gulf that has grown between them, ultimately recognizing the parallels in their lives. They begin a new stage in their relationship and find new paths to fulfillment.

Painted Wings presents the mother-child bond from both sides, while also telling the individual stories of the women: what they hoped for in life versus what they got. This 87,300 word novel draws on my own experiences as a mother, wife and daughter, and should resonate with anyone who has faced the challenges of raising a child.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Notes

The introductory paragraph was okay; I removed it because the information was available later on, and the query was a bit long.

I assumed NYC because I couldn't picture Sarah being thrilled to escape blue-collar Munston for the sophistication of Rochester.

Everyone has a "What might have been" story. If there's something that makes this one special, tell us. Surely it's more than Sarah has a baby, her mother visits, and they have a 75,000-word conversation. Tell us something that happens.

24 comments:

illiterate said...

"finding happiness in changing diapers"

I've changed a few diapers my self and found my happiness, when my nose was clogged.

P.S. EE, stop pouting about that
Angelina thing. Everyone knows, that you're hot, but Mrs EE will not share.

nut said...

75,000 word conversation with my mom... Yep, that rings true.

74,999 of them, are her words.

Zany Mom said...

Women's fiction novel? I thought that was a no-no. Aren't all novels fiction?

Evil Editor said...

Presumably this is like "science fiction novel," with "women's fiction" being the genre. Better than saying a women's novel.

Anonymous said...

As a mother of multitudes, no novel about the struggles of raising one will 'resonate' with me.

Sarah better have a bunch of siblings--and children--or I'll think those broads need to grow some balls.

Sheesh! "I ain't got a life 'cause I got one kid!"

Cry me a river and get off my boat.

nut said...

Batman in pink tights... scary.

Dave said...

a) Nigel St. John could put lead weights on the raven's feet.
b) A village named "Boring-on-End" - I like that.
c) Do you know where the Winged Victory of Samothrace sits? That's one helluva spray paint artiste!
D) GTP #5 sounds like the Pittsburgh City Council - afraid of art for all the wrong reasons.

Anonymous said...

I might be the only dad to admit this, but I love diapers. They keep my mom, my mother in law, and my wife busy, and Jr loves to watch catfights.

shelby said...

I think this novel definitely has an audience--not a wide one, but a large one. There are certain phases in a woman's life--childhood, coming of age, mommyhood, a sort of in-between period that most people don't write, empty-nesting, retirement, and grandmahood (often in conjunction). There are many books that focus on those transitions--teenager/college student to career woman, career woman to SAHM (or working mom), SAHM to empty-nester, empty-nester to grandma, and, well nobody really writes past that unless you're Anne Tyler. Anyway, this is clearly about career woman to SAHM connects with empty-nester to grandma. A lot of mothers and daughters (or those with relatively healthy relationships) go through this kind of thing. It's also extremely common to see an estranged mother and daughter come together when a child is born. It's a part of the American Dream--when a woman has a baby, her mom comes to stay with her, helps with childcare, and passes on the Wisdom of the Ages.

Which is to say that this is a common, easy-to-relate-to theme, but is also pedestrian and overdone. You're going to need to show me here what makes Sarah and Margaret different than the cliche'd "daughter becomes mother meets mother with failed dreams connecting with daughter via grandchild" thing. What distinguishes them? I need more to go on than just the theme of two women meeting at these junctions that they come to realize are very much alike. The failed actress aspect is interesting--what did Margaret do to pursue that? Does she resent Sarah for holding her back (although even that is cliche'd).

In other words, you need to tell us what makes Margaret and Sarah different than every other mother and daughter. I say this as someone who is also in the me to mommy transition with an empty-nester to grandma mother. 4 of my friends had their first babies this year and every single one of them did this bonding thing with their mothers. While on the one had it's comforting to read about someone just like us, on the other hand I'm not sure I would read something that just doesn't have any appeal or interest--originality or fresh take on the subject.

I'd focus your query on what really defines Sarah and Margaret. How are they both different and just like the rest of us? If you're going to sell to an audience of me and my friends, that's what we're going to want to know before we buy the book. Because as you well know--when you're juggling diapers and bottles, a book has to be pretty darn good to be worth our time ;).

Good luck with this. I think you've got a solid story if you can bring out in the query just what it is that makes me want to put down What to Expect in the First Year and read some fiction.

Bernita said...

Please.
I'm with Anon.
"managing an infant, raising a child" is an extraordinarily common condition.
Many manage it without considering themselves victims of Great Trial and Sacrifice.

Beth said...

We get quite a lot on setting and theme here, but where's the story?

Anonymous said...

Is there a market for "Men's Fiction"? You know, novels about grunting, scratching, that sort of thing?

Anonymous said...

"Painted Wings - one of the childhood treasures left behind in a song Sarah’s long-absent father used to sing her before bed ["Puff, the Magic Dragon", presumably.]"

Puff the magic dragon would make a nice daddy. Another good choice would be a magic unicorn, but where to get all that grass...

Anonymous said...

Shelby - I actually got the opposite impression, namely that this was about the mother and daughter NOT doing the expected bonding, but actually finding conflicts in their relationship due to the new baby. If I have that right, that seems more interesting (and realistic, to me -- my mother and I started to really irritate each other after I had a kid). And one kid CAN in fact be just as much of a challenge as six kids -- a different kind of challenge. At least six kids can entertain each other and leave you alone sometimes.
That said, I agree that it would be good to hear more about what makes these characters unique and interesting.

Anonymous said...

Is there a market for "Men's Fiction"? You know, novels about grunting, scratching, that sort of thing?

Chuck Palaniuk writes it. It just never gets called "Men's Fiction".

Anonymous said...

author here...
many thanks to EE for re-write & minions for comments (Shelby - your post was especially thoughtful & constructive)

Is there enough of a story and characters different enough to merit publication? I guess only my query responses will tell, but I appreciate the suggestions that this a necessary focus for my pitch.

To address the one vs many, great sacrifice and all that...the novel takes place during Sarah's first week home with the new baby - an eye-opening and challenging time for most mothers I know. Usually those feelings change with more distance, perspective and children.

illiterate said...

"At least six kids can entertain each other and leave you alone sometimes."

Hahahahaha... Oh, wait... you were for real? Yeah, maybe you should try it sometime. Then write a book about it. If you still have your fingers attached, after a couple of years of those... Personally, I find it hard to type with my thumbs, but that's after surviving JUST 4.

P.S. If you're wondering how I manage to be online, if i'm so buzy, its quiet simple. I let the kids trash the house.

Ann Onymous said...

Actually, the diaper changing is great fun. I remember washing my firstborn (yeah, I got many of em). My mother was lecturing on the technique. My head was about to burst. Then, my son did something wonderful. He sprayed my mother in the face. Priceless.

Dave said...

Anyone who changes diapers knows that you never expose little boys to cold without the protection of a washcloth or umbrella. Those little bladders just contract like steel traps in the cold.
And remember, I'm a bachelor uncle, not a daddy.

Ann Onymous said...

Dave, I was a new mom then, and since my mother only changed girly diapers, she didn't know about the umbrella. She said, it was like a fountain of youth! Grandmothers.

Wow, a bachelor uncle that actually knows stuff about diapers! How did you manage to protect your bachelordom?

Anonymous said...

Illiterate! I can so identify! My poor house. If I ever begin to stress, I simply look at the ceiling. Half my house is clean. The top half.

Dave said...

How do I stay single?
I write.

nut said...

Dave, beware of the online vultures, who hunt down innocent writers, and make them change diapers... and stuff.


BTW, could you, by any chance turn my kids' teachers into jellybeans (ones that can't talk)? Much appreciated.

GutterBall said...

Amen, Dave. Amen.