Thursday, March 27, 2008
Guess the Plot
An American in London
1. This edgy travel memoir is loaded with fascinating anecdotes about British vs. American culture, like when the author goes grocery shopping and when she samples England's gourmet foods. Also, traveling with children.
2. This traveler's dictionary provides useful translations of the phrases the American tourist is most likely to hear when interacting with the people of London, alphabetically arranged, from Arsehole to Wanker.
3. Set to the plaintive strains of Hayden's London Trio, a pack of plaid shorts, Hawaiian shirts, gartered socks and flabby arms in muscle tees invades Piccadilly Circus while the new Minister for Cultural Sensitivity quietly climbs to the top of Big Ben and blows his brains out.
4. After years of dreaming and saving, Mabel Abeline from Houston is able to realize her dream -- a two week trip to London, England. At first, though, she is disappointed. Everything is so much smaller than back home, yet so expensive. Then, visiting Trafalgar Square, she finds Nelson and is mighty impressed by the size of his column.
5. Don Liebnitz is overweight and looks ridiculous in his Hawaiian shirt and Bermuda shorts. His camera lens is way too big, he wears sunglasses even though it's raining and he tries to start conversations in the tube (I mean, really!). He goes to expensive restaurants, talks too loudly to the waiters and orders with everything "on the side". Why can't he go back to Yankee-land where he belongs? Wanker.
6. Jovial American tourist Hoagy Williams Jr. mistakes the Queen for a hooker he bedded in college and is sentenced to twenty years in prison for thrusting his tongue into her ear as she presides over the opening of a new branch of Shoppers' Nirvana in East Acton.
Dear Evil Editor,
Two years ago my husband, our two small children, and I moved from Kansas (98% culture-free) to London (diverse metropolis) and I was eager to experience a different country's culture. However, I was surprised that in the process of learning about British culture, I also made a few discoveries about my own.
[Things I learned about British culture and my own:
1. Once you leave London, the place is just like Kansas, except they call it moors and we call it a wasteland.
2. Steak tastes better on a grill than in kidney pie.
3. Counter to assumptions I made thanks to Hugh Grant and Sean Connery, most guys with British accents are not sexy.]
I have completed a 44,000-word manuscript, titled An American in London, describing the joys, surprises and frustrations I encountered as we adjusted to our new European home. Instead of a day-to-day account of our tenure overseas, my travel memoir is more of a collection of essays that lovingly compare and contrast American and British cultures. Humorous, irreverent, and sometimes edgy, [(Did you know they call an eraser a rubber?!)] think of David Sedaris meets Bill Bryson, and then they get into a death match and are coached by Elizabeth Gilbert and Rebecca Ramsey, respectively, and Frances Mayes is the referee. [If that was supposed to give me a better idea of what you meant by "humorous, irreverent, and sometimes edgy," it failed. Right now all I'm thinking about is Elizabeth Gilbert, Rebecca Ramsey, and Frances Mayes mud wrestling.] In fact, this book will rock your world…okay, maybe not. But you will enjoy the journey I take you on and perhaps even laugh out loud. You will walk with me as I learn to do grocery shopping without a car, [I was about to suggest you provide some specifics, but if that's the best you've got, forget it.] taste blood pudding (two words that shouldn't even be in the same sentence let alone describe something you eat),
[Wrong. Sentences that include the words "blood" and "pudding":
"Eat your pudding, Bobby, and then we'll get to your daily blood-letting."
"I don't know what that was, but it tasted like blood and had the consistency of pudding; can I have some more?"
"Mommy, there's the blood of a Chinese man in my tapioca pudding."]
travel around Europe with an infant and a four-year old (a task not for the faint of heart), and ponder the question at the forefront of every Brit's mind: Is James Hewitt Prince Harry's real biological father? [You don't need "real" there . . . unless there are imaginary biological fathers.]
I chose you as the first agent to solicit (you lucky bastard) [Yes, I was just thinking that myself.] for numerous reasons (okay, two):
1) I thoroughly enjoy your blog and have learned from it.
2) You represent Iwanna Beyou, the author of Expat Fever, which is similar to my manuscript (yet different; see above comments).
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Is your audience people who love to travel, or people who never travel? The former group might not find your experiences any more interesting than their own, unless you're holding back your best stuff. And it might be hard to find an agent who handles travel books and wants to handle one for the latter group.
Even if this is going to someone who mainly handles travel writers and is thus familiar with all the authors you name, that space would be better utilized making your adventures sound exciting and hilarious. Tasting blood pudding may be amusing in the book, but in the query it's no big deal unless you also puked it up on David Beckham.
Maybe that's the way to go: embellish your mundane experiences. Like you go grocery shopping without a car, and buy so much you can't carry it, but then Clive Owen happens along and gives you a ride back to your flat and kisses you. And you puke blood pudding all over him.
Note that I said Clive Owen "gives you a ride" rather than "gives you a lift." To those crazy Brits, a lift is an elevator!
If you can prove James Hewitt knew Princess Di nine months before Prince Harry was born, you've got a bestseller. Otherwise you'd better enclose a couple of your essays with the query, as it's a better way to demonstrate your voice than through frequent use of parentheses.
Also, the title sounds too much like An American Werewolf in London. Either add a werewolf (recommended) or change the title to Blood Pudding? Am I in London or Transylvania?