Friday, October 20, 2017

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1363 would like feedback on the following revision.

Dear Agent[comma]

I had a great childhood, believing I was a girl. I dreamed of being a mom like my own mother in the glamorized media style of housewife in the 50’s. Yet, there were shadows of a different reality. Like the tree of knowledge of good and evil, I’d have to partake of its fruits to understand its secrets. 

Nearing puberty, I was enrolled in a school that separated boys and girls. I encountered a social ordinance that I was a boy, and soon, the harsh realization I was never going to be pregnant. [These opening paragraphs aren't doing it for me. I'd go with something simple:

Growing up, I dreamed of being a 50's-TV-style mom, just like Donna Reed and June Cleaver. Just like my own mother. So imagine my shock and dismay when, nearing puberty, I was placed in the boys' section at my school.]  

A brutal rape in college,[no comma] left me isolated; in denial about fantasies of men that would never be.After a second love interest ended with a violent suicide, I chose to be a man. I discovered the love of another woman and her young child. I became provider in the image of my father, andmother to our three children in the traditional homemaker image of my mom. Fearful of losingthem, [Apparently the words "be./After" "and/mother" and "losing/them" come at the end of a line in your file, so you don't realize you didn't put a space between them. Whether the missing spaces are encountered by the reader depends on the size of the screen she's reading on.] I struggled against growing tension in the marriage, until my two oldest were adults and my youngest was fifteen. I lost my son under allegations a transgender woman was unfit to be a mother.

Despite the overwhelming consensus that no judge would ever give me custody of my son, I was unwilling to abandon him. Forced to become my own attorney, I fought a four-year custody battle.

Isolation and the economic and emotional stress combined with threats from the court drove meinto a near-suicidal depression but the love of my son prevailed. I regained custody while becoming the woman I had once imagined as a young girl.

Whipping Girl took transgender women from the genre of Lesbian non-fiction into the realm of feminism. [My book,] The Transgender Myth, broadens that scope, challenging our perceptions of gender, invoking the complementary notion of gender put forth by The Feminine Mystique [Italicize.] and asserting that men and women do in fact come from the same planet.

The book has a central position in gender studies for its historical context and contemporary view of gender, examining the social, political, economic and legal impact on my life as a transgender woman. It evolves within the context of feminism, gay rights, and today’s transgender movement, while challenging society’s sexual definition of gender. It is not a story about transition. It is a journey from blissful innocence, through fear and isolation, past denial and defeat into acceptance and triumph, examining the best and the worst of living in both genders.

This true autobiography, The Transgender Myth, is complete at 93,000 words. I trust this story will appeal to your interest in LGBTQ narratives. Thanks for your time and consideration.


I think your best bet is to focus the query on your quest to win custody of your son. Presumably that's the main focus of the book, but you call it an autobiography, and devote half your story description to the years before you had any children, suggesting otherwise. Even if you focus on the custody battle, you can (and should) still work the events of your early life into the book, but they may not be needed in the query. The query would begin something like:

In 19__, after __ years of marriage, I lost my 15-year-old son under allegations a transgender woman was unfit to be a mother. Despite the overwhelming consensus that no judge would ever grant me custody, I was unwilling to abandon him. Acting as my own attorney, I fought a four-year custody battle.

The specifics of your 4-year struggle may be the heart of your book, and if so, are more relevant in the query than your childhood. 

Try to limit or eliminate language that suggests this is an academic treatise. It's a memoir. A story. 


InkAndPixelClub said...

This is still long, closer to synopsis length than query. Try to trim it down to three paragraphs worth of plot.

"Shadows of a different reality" and the fruits of the tree of knowledge aren't helping me to understand what is actually happening at this point in your life. I'm assuming you were raised as a girl, but forced to present as a boy when you went to school. Were you home schooled before puberty, or just at a school that was more understanding of your being transgender? Did the school physically separate the girls from the boys or just enforce stricter gender definitions than what you were used to? Did your family try to prepare you or the school at all for what was about to happen or just send you and hope it would work itself out? Had you understood before then that you didn't have a female body?

" denial about fantasies of men that would never be." Again, I'm confused by what you're saying. I think the idea is that the rape made it hard for you to picture a future with a loving male partner, but I shouldn't have to guess, The second love interest and the suicide are also not clear, as I don't know what kind of relationship you had with this person and how the suicide affected you and your subsequent choices. I'm also not sure whether you were presenting as male or female at this time.

"I chose to be a man." I'd go with "I chose to live as a man" or "I chose to present as a man." You presumably still knew that you were a woman at this point. You also say that you acted as a both a father/provider and a mother to your kids. Did you take on a more feminine role at home? What did you do to be a mom to your kids as opposed to a dad?

Did your ex-wife (You only mention growing tensions in your marriage, but I'm guessing you divorced or separated since there was a custody battle) out you as transgender or were you living as a woman again at this point?

I think EE has the right idea that the focus of your query - and possibly your book, should be the custody battle and your concurrent progress towards emotional health and self acceptance. That means trimming the backstory down and focusing on those elements, such as the factors that made it so important that you gain custody of your son and how he was able to help you overcome your depression.

I think you have a good story in here and the fact that it is autobiography make me less worried about how realistically and sensitively you'll handle the issues in it than i would for a fiction piece. The challenge for you will be treating your own life like a story that needs to be as compelling and well crafted as a work of fiction; selecting the parts you need and the parts you don't and finding a narrative with a beginning, middle and end.

Mister Furkles said...

The start is much better; the opening sentence is suspenseful but the last sentence of the first paragraph is too vague and contributes nothing: “Like the tree of knowledge of good and evil, I’d have to partake of its fruits to understand its secrets.“ And worse it obscures this excellent paragraph ending sentence: “Yet, there were shadows of a different reality.”

The second paragraph is factual but doesn’t need to be a full paragraph.

The third paragraph is confusing and again purely factual.

It needs trimming and more emotional impact.

This view differs from EE’s and likely he is right. I might read a high impact emotional book about the early struggle and later adult difficulties. But I’d never read a book about the facts of dealing with courts and custody battles except if it is intensely emotional.

St0n3henge said...

I agree that it needs to be more personal. It's better than it was, but there's still an emotional distance there, partly because it's hard to visualize what's happening at what time. I have the exact same questions as InkandPixel.

You may want to write two books: One a personal memoir, the second, once you've got people's attention, a fact-based treatise on the subject. Write your story first, though. It shows there are real people involved, not just politics and activism. After people are convinced of that they'll be more likely to read an academic book.