Monday, March 05, 2007

Face-Lift 286

Guess the Plot

Voza Sings

1. The Romanian village of Voza was invaded by 27 different armies in a hundred years. The Voza Surrender Chorus is still sung in church on Sundays. But Dracula tourists with plastic fangs are worse than Huns! Vladimir Creanga begs the people to stop the Chorus and use real weapons.

2. Chained to a post in a windowless room by mobsters, ace reporter Nick Voza laughs. Torture him all ya want -- he'll never tell where Maryanne is. So the fiends deploy a secret weapon -- Big Sal, the belly dancing hypnotist.

3. Voza has a singing voice that could fell a deaf yak. When an unlikely series of events has her singing the national anthem in front of the president of the United States, hilarity ensues.

4. Voza travels medieval England alone. He sings, dances, recites poetry, plays a charming lute -- and seduces multitudes of nuns and ladies -- until the Duke of York promises half a kingdom if he leads the Queen astray. But things do not proceed as planned. Is the old bat deaf, or what?

5. The only sound more dreadful than Vogon love poetry is heard, briefly, in the mating season of the greeble-throated Voza. Deaf Dora is the only survivor on the island, but now her hearing is getting better. If she can't attract a rescue ship before next mating season, she's doomed to die horribly when next the . . . Voza Sings.

6. Voza was a chubby little girl. She was a fat teenager. Now, an obese adult, she decides to try out for American Idol. We all know the old phrase, "It's not over 'til the fat lady sings." We just didn't realize "over" meant "Armageddon."

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

In most books, the lovable loser transforms herself into a winner everyone admires -- in a span of mere pages. [While in a query letter, the lovable loser has only one page to transform herself into a winner.] What happens if the loser tries with all her might, but still fails spectacularly? [Form rejection letter.]

That's Voza's story. Voza Sings encourages perseverance and rewards heart in this well-paced picture book for early elementary grades. Voza's teacher appoints her to the made-up position of Rest Leader because she has the worst pipsqueak voice in the entire fifth grade chorus, but that doesn't stop Voza's determination to sing. Similar to Bob of the namesake title, [Bob of the namesake title? Meaning Bob from the book Bob Sings? I'm not having any luck with Google or Amazon--unless you're talking about Bob Dylan. Is Bob in this book?] Voza finds her voice differently than most: by inadvertently screeching the national anthem to the President of the United States. [Sadly, Voza's singing is mistaken for ululation, and an overzealous secret service agent concludes she's a terrorist and shoots her.] [How do you inadvertently sing to the president? It's pretty hard to get into the same room with the president inadvertently, and belting out the national anthem without realizing it seems unlikely whether the president's in the room or not.]

Thank you for reading my enclosed manuscript, which I am sending exclusively to you. I hope you fall in love with Voza as much as I did.

Yours sincerely,


If singing for the president turns out to be a good thing, tell us how. It sounds more like an embarrassing situation.

Perseverance is fine in many fields, but if music is your life, and you can't sing, maybe you should take up a musical instrument. Occasionally the American Idol judges tell a contestant to stick with it, but even Paula seldom says that to the ones who truly suck. Wouldn't the better lesson be Everyone can be good at something, and you should look for your area of talent, rather than Keep trying and you'll be singing at the Met before you know it?

It's awfully short. I realize you are enclosing the entire book, but it wouldn't hurt to describe the plot more fully in the letter.


Anonymous said...

I agree with EE. Redirection would be better than misguided persistence. Especially with music. When I was in college we had a roommate who fancied himself a great singer, had years of private lessons, etc. They didn't help. He used to belt out grating noise on the walkway to our building and all the way up the stairs and through the hall. To this day he has no idea how many times we discussed whether or not to kill him as he came in the door. Thank God he discovered the joys of composing and conducting and learned to hum and wave his arms instead. We could all live with that.

Blogless Troll said...

Chapter books and picture books. These are the ones Miss Snark sent over, right?

Rei said...

I was secretly hoping that it was #1. Oh well.

Anonymous said...

If the notoriously litigious Bobby Zimmerman is in this book, they'd better just refer to him as "musician," a la Factory Girl.

Dave Fragments said...

I getting the twitches about weird names and stupid words.

Can we ban the word "ensue" from the English language? I really mean never use this again. Banned in all it's forms, all it's pomps, all it's circumstances, and all it's weird-assed tenses.

THis book seems a little short. I thought GTP #3 refered to Rosanne Barr. She once sang an awful version of the National Anthem, grabbed her crotch, shook her nuts and spit. Boy-O-Boy was that wrong.

Anyway, Whatever, and Gag Me with a Spoon,
I think the story needs a little bit more plot.

Brenda said...

LOL blogless troll!

shaded-lily said...

Yeah, I'm totally in the dark about the resolution of this story. She "fails spectacularly" but still "finds her voice"? Are you using "finds her voice" in a figurative sense?

Anonymous said...

The point of this book is lost on me. Voza is a lovable loser (i.e., a rotten singer (not too many fifth graders are good singers, so I'm not sure it's such a great idea to load kids up with performance issues at that age, but whatever...)) who fails spectacularly (is that the part where she sings for the president?). And kids are supposed to read this and come away feeling...what? That the lovable loser really is a loser?

At the very least, the plot needs to be clarified.

Anonymous said...

How many words does a picture book have? Maybe the query "hook" should be as short as a guess plot, since the story's not much longer. You might try writing some of those for a while to get the technique down.

Anonymous said...

Like theo katz, I'm a bit confused by the whole premise as worded in the query. Encourages perseverance and rewards heart? Um, how? I hope you'll explain for us, author. I'm also stumped at how Voza manages to sing the entire national anthem -- wouldn't she figure out after the first couple of notes that she was making noise?

It's probably a cute story, and it's just the query that needs a bit of work.

none said...

I see Dave does intend being the editor of the first Newspeak dictionary. I suspected this all along!

Poohba said...

Two Words:

William Hung

Anonymous said...

I'm all for a book that teaches the kids the hard realities for life from the get go. Forget all this "no child left behind", "everyone's a winner" stuff. Life has losers, and losers need to get used to their humiliations. After all, where would those busy, successful, jet-hopping executives be without someone to flip their burgers?

This could be a series: look forward to "Voza Drinks" and "Voza Injects".

(You can tell I know nothing about kids and picture books and therefore have nothing useful to contribute, right? Loser? You betcha.)

Anonymous said...

You seem to be targeting quite a small audience here.
Picture books aimed at children over 5 or 6 will be competing against chapter books, which have (the potential for) more exciting adventures, and look more grown-up (imagine being the only one in class reading picture books when everyone else has moved onto chapter books).
Most picture books are read to (and later read by) children between 2 and 5 or 6. School’s not relevant for most of those years. Therefore most popular picture books aren’t set in school. Instead, they have what young children like best: monsters of various sorts (The Gruffalo, Where Wild Things Are), strange visiting animals (Dr Seuss, The Tiger Who Came to Tea), Pirates (The Night Pirates)… In comparison, is singing in front of the President as exciting as having a tiger over for tea?
For more realistic settings, you can look to Lauren Child’s picture books. Note how most of Charlie and Lola is set at home, an environment relevant to children of all ages. Note how they’re about bedtime, picky eating, and trying to look after pets. In comparison, will children relate as well to singing in a school choir?

But what I'd really like to know is: Who's Bob?!?!

Rashenbo said...

You know... I saw one of the American Idol auditioners who said they wrote a book based on the show!!! This must be it!!!! I am totally diggin sal the dancing hypnotist... when will we see the next installment! :)

Anonymous said...


I wonder if the author was referring to the Bob Books? They're a set geared to early readers.

Sandy :-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Sandy! Never come across that series before.
However (I may be going mad), after a browse around the Bob Books website, I can't seem to find a Bob in those books.

Dave Fragments said...

I think the author means a book series like :The Magic Treehouse" by Mary Pope Osborne and other books like it. They are short stories with the same characters and growing up or coming of age stories. They might be like mini history books, too.

A youngster who sings for the president is typical of the theme of those books. What I don't see in the query (And what I tried to say before) is a convincing plot and storyline of how the kid got to sing and why it works or doesn't work well for the kid.

Anonymous said...

A good hook is basically a brief setup for your story. Not the whole story. You should include enough information about the main character[s] and their Big Crisis situation to give us a sense of where you're going, and whether we want to go there, too.

In a joke the payoff is the punchline, but for a query, the payoff should be in your manuscript. If you blow the setup by blithering on and making allusions to a paradoxical ending in vague terms like -- she fails spectacularly and thus finds her voice -- it raises skepticism about the value of your payoff. We're all confused, what the heck does that actually mean? It doesn't seem to compute. And where's the suspense? Gone. Form Rejection follows.

The cliffhanger would perhaps be a more enticing form of setup for this query. Shows you can create suspense, etc. You want the reader to be eager to look at the pages to see what happens next. Tell how the girl gets into her musical crisis and make it sound important. Leave her hanging on the cusp of doom. Don't mention how the story ends.

Stacia said...

I have to agree. I do really like the idea of a children's book that teaches kids it's okay to fail sometimes, or to concentrate on the things you're good at instead of beating a dead horse (though you may want to be careful there, as I see countless children using it as an excuse to forever avoid math homework.)

But I don't understand her motives, either, and I agree I think she's rather slow-witted indeed if she A)somehow manages to sing without realizing it, and isn't jumped by Secret Service forces when she bursts in on the President and begins yowling; and B) Can't figure out how to throw a bubble-blowing contest.

Anonymous said...

Can we ban the word "ensue" from the English language? I really mean never use this again. Banned in all it's forms, all it's pomps, all it's circumstances, and all it's weird-assed tenses

Can we ban people who use its and it's incorrectly?

Anonymous said...

blogless troll -

Is your beef with writing for children or Miss Snark? Either way, it's the nitwit of the day award for you, dear.

Miss Snark's sister (and children's author)

Bernita said...

What's so "weird-assed" about its tenses?

Dave Fragments said...

oh, ooops!
Sorry about Its and It's. My itty bitty oversight.

Bernita - it was a cute turn of phrase, nothing more. The word "ensuing" is so bureaucratic, officious, and self-important. It should be banned like bad politicians, off-key bagpipes and crabgrass.

Blogless Troll said...

anonymous 10:05,

I am beef free. Just asking a logical question.

Anonymous said...

Dave, I was going to offer to trade my use of "ensue" for your spelling "its" and "it's" right, but you so graciously admitted your error that the deal's off.

Hilarity ensues.