Wednesday, October 06, 2010
Guess the Plot
1. A novel exploring one year in the lives of a dozen teens as they deal with murder, suicide, gang violence, family tragedy and the other staples of . . . tenth grade. Told entirely in verse.
2. Springfield High was also known as the Temple of Doom, but Sally didn't know why. Now, thanks to the dog that ate her history paper, she is about to find out.
3. After her terrible experiences with the first nine grades of sin, Gladys decides she's had enough and converts to atheism. But can she really get off that easy? Not if Satan has anything to say about it.
4. Swirlies. Atomic wedgies. Bizarre, pointless homework. Girls who've developed too much, too fast, and are oblivious to everyone but the football hero. Yes, for forty-three year old Hugh Smathers, teaching tenth grade is the nightmare he feared it would be.
5. Everyone in the tenth grade at Wharton Memorial High is a vampire. It's so last-decade. But when Steve Chance, a moody, glitterless boy from out west, moves to town, Chastity falls head-over-fangs for him. Trouble is, every other girl in the tenth grade wants a piece of him. Preferably, his jugular.
6. Janelle is a long-lost faery princess with magical powers, but all she wants to do is pass her algebra final. There's only one way to get rid of her pesky faery minions so she can study: wholesale slaughter.
Dear Evil Editor,
When adolescents begin to develop their own voices, they are often faced with roadblocks ranging from personal fears to the extreme of violence in their schools and communities. Told in multi-voiced verse, [Whoa. What is this, an epic poem? A Canterbury Tales teens can actually relate to?] “Tenth Grade” explores a year in the life of a dozen teens growing up in an unnamed rural community somewhere in the Midwest. There is Jasmine, struggling with the resentment she feels towards her long-absent father upon his unexpected return.
[Father, I'm glad that you've returned,
Partly 'cause I love you still,
But mostly 'cause now that you're here
You'll be much easier to kill.]
Aaron faces family tragedy when his sister is killed during military service, but his relationship with Alexie helps him not to linger in grief.
[My sister was blown up
By the Taliban yesterday.
Comfort me, Alexie,
With a roll in the hay.]
Sandra struggles with body image and self-mutilation before she meets artistic Javier.
[I wish you wouldn't cut yourself, Sandy,
But since you do insist,
Let me show you how to make
Cool red designs on your wrists.]
Javier spends the year trying to avoid notice, but he is in the wrong place at the wrong time and is murdered. His death rocks the school and the community, and lies and rumors take the place of truth. While the community points to gang activity, the students remain skeptical: those who witnessed the murder refuse to speak out, but the reader has witnessed it all and realizes that it was not a gang shooting. Marquae, a quiet boy who has been targeted by Dustin, [Dustin? Who's Dustin?] is the one who pulled the trigger, but the death is not entirely his fault. Marquae and Javier were friends, and Marquae only had a gun in the first place to frighten Dustin. When Dustin’s ex-girlfriend, Rachel, saw a gun aimed at him, she acted without thinking, knocking the gun to the side.
[But the trigger got pulled,
And the gun went Bang!
And when Javier died
They said, Let's blame gangs.]
Although the school is plunged into grief, gradually things begin to return to normal. The novel ends with fragile resolution for some characters, like Jasmine, while others, like Dustin and Marquae, cease to speak. [They cease to speak? To anyone?] [That sounds like a fragile resolution. You implied it would be an example of a more drastic resolution.]
Complete at 10,000 words, this realistic novel-in-verse will appeal to [fans of Beowulf and Stephenie Meyer.] reluctant and voracious readers alike. [The only thing reluctant readers will like about a 10,000-word novel in verse is that it's only 10,000 words.] The diverse backgrounds and experiences of the multiple narrators paint a picture of a modern American community that will resonate with young adult readers. [Especially those who speak in iambic pentameter.]
My background is rooted firmly in YA literature. I hold a Masters in Library Science with a k-12 media specialist certification, and I have taught middle school Language Arts for the past four years. On the side, I have reviewed books for Voices of Youth Advocates for the past two years.
Thank you for considering my work, and I hope to hear from you soon.
If someone is pointing a gun at someone else, I wouldn't call knocking the gun to the side "acting without thinking." Possibly Rachel did think. Possibly she thought, My boyfriend's about to be shot; maybe I can save him.
10,000 words is gonna be about 50 pages, on 25 sheets of paper. The spine won't be wide enough for a legible title. And people won't want to pay as much for such a short book, but the book will cost almost as much to produce because the biggest expense is the cover. So the publisher is gonna consider this a money-loser. Thus I recommend turning it into twelve songs and putting out a CD.
If that idea isn't appealing, call it something other than a novel, and be sure to enclose the first few pages so the agent has a strong sense of what you're selling.
It probably seems unfair that telling your story in verse took five times as much work as telling it in prose would have, only to discover that most young adults would rather read the prose version. But unless it sounds like Dr. Suess wrote it, or it's set to music, that may be the reality.