Thursday, May 01, 2008
Guess the Plot
Expedition Between Two Worlds
1. Holly's goal for high school is singular: become one of the cool kids. Having made the cheer squad, she's well on her way. But as she looks back on what she's giving up--including the girl who's been her best friend since fourth grade--she begins to wonder if her new world is worth the sacrifice.
2. Dr. Edward Malone's team of archaeologists discover an ancient interdimensional portal and find themselves in a strange world of prehistoric creatures. Mistaken for members of a lost environmental assessment team, Edward and his people must find a way to keep the high-tech Kollons from consuming every natural resource on the planet.
3. A geographer and his nineteen-year-old daughter set out on a 500-mile horseback ride to explore backcountry of the American southwest. After dealing with peevish animals, saddle sores and unpredictable weather, they run out of water. Will they die of thirst before they find a working divining rod? Probably.
4. Carly always knew that she was a man trapped in a woman's body. But just as she decides to take the surgical plunge to become Carl, she discovers she's pregnant. She has nine months to decide--will she make a better mommy or daddy?
5. Megalomania and agoraphobia don't mix, and Hank 'The Swank' Closetsniffer treads the fine line between life as an exuberant belly dancer and intern #2396645r with aplomb. When Sally the Go-Go dancing manic depressive discovers him in a karaoke bar, his future hinges on a single synaptic knob.
6. A decade after the death of his wife in a tragic sculling incident, border patrolman Clint Fujimaki still believes she was murdered. The serial killer known as "The Drowner" hasn't sunk a victim in years, but when illegals begin bobbing up in the Rio Grande, Fujimaki has a sinking feeling that his wife's murderer has returned.
Dear Ms. Agent:
EXPEDITION BETWEEN TWO WORLDS will be a narrative nonfiction book which will retrace the route of the first American military incursion into Navajo country in 1849, shortly after the U.S. occupied New Mexico. The book will examine the political and cultural positions of Navajos and Anglos, past and present, and give Navajos opportunities to express their perspectives. ["You subjugated my proud ancestors more than a century and a half, and now you want my perspective? Bite me, pal. How's that for perspective?"] Their views are often overlooked since, in general, history is written by the victors.
The Simpson Expedition, named after its leader Lt. James Simpson, is significant for several reasons.
1. It was the first American exploration of the vast land of the Navajos,
2. The United States made a noble, but naïve, attempt to end raids between New Mexicans and Navajos,
3. Navajos assessed the "New Men" and exhibited remarkable forbearance in the face of provocations,
4. Americans stumbled upon the extensive ruins of Chaco Canyon (larger and better preserved that those at Mesa Verde) and the sublimely beautiful Canyon de Chelly, the Navajo heartland, and
5. The expedition yielded a clash of cultures where values, objectives, and political systems were totally different and incompatible.
I propose to ride on horseback with my nineteen year-old daughter, [Are you sure your horse can handle that much weight?] accompanied at times by Navajo leaders, scholars, and other tribal members, [My God, that poor horse!] along 500 miles of the route taken by Simpson. [500 miles? That's like riding a horse from Maine to Virginia. And then the horse dies like in Gone with the Wind and you have to walk all the way back. And your daughter's okay with this? How many ways has she tried to get out of it so far? I suggest you leave immediately, before she comes to her senses.] The journey will explore Chaco Canyon, Canyon de Chelly, El Morro (also called Inscription Rock because of the carvings made on it over thousands of years), and Blue Bead Mountain, renamed Mt. Taylor by Simpson. [He should have renamed it Bluebeard Mountain and turned it into a pirate theme park. He'd be as famous as Disney instead of an obscure footnote in history.] It is sacred to Navajos as the site of creation of the Diné, the Navajos' name for themselves. [They thought the Europeans would be nicer to them if they had a French-sounding name. Didn't work.]
The book will:
1. Examine the attitudes of both nations in 1849 and the present,
[Attitude of the Navajo Nation, 1849: Friggin' Anglos.
Attitude of the Navajo Nation, 2008: Friggin' Anglos.]
2. Demonstrate the outlooks of young people in both cultures as my daughter makes acquaintances with Navajos her age, [So that's why you're dragging her along. Keep an eye on her or you might end up riding home with a papoose.]
3. Provide striking photographs and vivid descriptions of spectacular landscapes, ruins, and rock art few people see, and
4. Convey the adventure of traveling across roadless backcountry, dealing with fractious animals and unpredictable weather, hunting for water, and unusual encounters (from both perspectives) between Navajos and Anglos.
[5. Be given free to anyone who shows up for weekly slide shows of the trip at my place.]
My platform is that I was a professor of geography at the University of New Mexico where I became an ardent student of the Southwest. [Can I email you the next time I can't remember whether it's Arizona left of New Mexico or vice versa?] [I also get Alabama and Mississippi mixed up, but apparently that's not your area of expertise.] I am an accomplished photographer, and my daughter and I are veterans of long horse trips.
At your request I will provide a [more] detailed proposal. The book's length is expected to be 80,000 words.
The second list is okay, as there's not much connection among its items, but the first list could easily be converted into a meaty paragraph (or two) about the Simpson expedition. You may have to add some information to make it flow smoothly, but this is where you sell the proposal and where you show you can write. Make the expedition sound worthy of a book. Throw in specific examples of provocations, values, objectives. That list didn't make me want to know more about the Simpson expedition.
You might consider opening with the expedition info.
Although nonfiction is often sold through a proposal, this sounds like something they'll want to see the goods on before making a commitment. It's not clear what you're going to come up with. If you can arrange to get attacked by a Navajo war party, it would help.