Guess the Plot
Sammy the Seashell
1. On his journey from the ocean to the beach, a shell named Sammy learns valuable life lessons from an older shell.
2. Mob boss Sammy the Seashell terrorizes Key West, until he messes with the wrong beach bum.
3. Sammy the Seashell has spectacular goals and ambitions. Unfortunately for him, Muriel the Mermaid already has a new bra.
4. After weeks of being washed in and out with the tide, a seashell finds stability as a window in a sandcastle. Or so he thinks.
5. Tight-lipped mollusk Sammy the Seashell is forced to become an informant by Meropolis Detective Jessica Scallop. But when she’s targeted by the Squidfather, Sammy joins forces with a murderous angelfish and a pair of cross-dressing eels to save the pointy gal who made his life a thermal vent.
6. A meteoroid strikes the Atlantic Ocean and causes the intelligence of mollusks to soar. Sammy, a conch, is elected supreme leader. He sends Carla, an oyster, topside to explore. She reports that humans eat shellfish. But there's good news: one religion forbids eating shellfish. Sammy comes up with a plan to convert all humans to Orthodox Judaism.
7. Witty memoir of a Hollywood extra who's worked in hundreds of movies, including Beaches and Castaway. Includes Sammy's favorite clam chowder recipes, and the real story of the obsessed fan who kept picking him up to hear the ocean.
Begin with some anxiety...a bit of stress...a feeling of not belonging. Now stir in a large measure of confidence. Add a generous dollop of self-esteem. Sprinkle on a liberal amount of optimism. Mix it all together with the love and inspiration of a great story. Let it sit for a short time, and you have [heart-rending literary fiction that Oprah would be proud to offer in her book club.] the recipe for a special reading experience! [Technically, the stirring, adding, sprinkling, mixing part was the recipe. What you have when you're done is not the recipe, but your book.]
Sammy the Seashell takes a long journey from the deep sea to the shores of a nearby beach. He encounters many situations that frighten him and cause the symptoms of stress to emerge. [Wouldn't it be better if Sammy were a clam instead of an inanimate object?] With the help of an older shell, Sammy learns some strategies to get through these difficult yet common situations that occur in everyone’s life. He learns that although stress will never go away, he can control the way it can affect his life. [The title/main character make it obvious this is for four-year-olds. The theme of the book seems geared toward adults with high-pressure jobs. For instance, if this was six years ago, I could see Barbara Bush reading it to George in bed. And the next night, when Barb wants to read a romance novel, George says, Can we do Sammy the Seashell again? Pleeease?] Most importantly, he learns the power of positive thinking and how it can change the way he tackles life's problems. [Maybe you should provide a couple specific examples of the life problems encountered by a shell.]
Diane Schute has worked with children for close to 20 years as a teacher, counselor and a therapist in a private practice. One theme has been apparent in all of these years in every place she has worked: kids are stressed! She sees kids on a daily basis struggling to deal with anxiety and not having the strategies needed to cope. Diane was a co-creator of a video titled “Stressball Sally,” [in which Sally the Stressball, with the help of an older stressball, learns some strategies to get through difficult yet common situations that occur in everyone’s life.] which demonstrated strategies to help children deal with stressful situations such as bullying, which we have heard so much about in today’s schools (www.stressballsally.com). [Look, kid, if this shell managed to survive pollution and seaweed, you ought to be able to handle Tommy Parker.] Diane has worked since then to find ways for children to feel good about themselves and ultimately create an environment with less stress and more success!
Gail Marshall is a former elementary school teacher with 35 years of classroom experience. She taught a variety of grade levels and worked with many children who were dealing with a range of life issues and special needs. Gail shared her lifelong love of reading and the craft of writing with her many students. [Which one of you came up with the idea to make your main character a shell?]
We are members of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Over the years we have attended numerous workshops and curriculum-related seminars related to the art of writing and the many issues faced by children today.
We are submitting Sammy the Seashell, our picture book manuscript, along with this letter. We very much appreciate your time and consideration. Thank you very much.
I'd like to see the specificity with which you talk about yourselves applied to the story. Tell me what happens to Sammy and how he deals with it, and I'll decide whether kids will enjoy the story, in which case they will absorb the message through osmosis or through their parents saying, See how Sammy the Seashell stood up to that Great White Shark?
The spiel about stress and life's problems etc. isn't useful in determining whether the story is entertaining. You may say, we're enclosing the manuscript, so why should we discuss the plot? To which I say, you're enclosing the manuscript, so why should you discuss the message? If the message is clear to a child, the agent/editor will probably spot it when you say Sammy gets bullied by a barracuda and raises an army of mussels to teach it a lesson it won't forget.