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Author Topic: I'd Rather be Eating Chocolate - Christian memoir query  (Read 230 times)
montanamom78
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« on: November 06, 2018, 07:00:07 PM »

Hello everyone! This is my first time querying agents for my Christian/inspirational memoir. There aren't many examples online for memoir queries (let alone faith-based), so I gave it a whirl. Thanks for reading and I look forward to feedback (be gentle, lol). XO - Marisa  Smiley
___________________________________________________________________

Dear (agent),

How many of us leave our home in the morning assuming we will return safely later that evening?
 
At the age of 23, I left home one Sunday believing with absolute certainty that I would return hours later to my family. It took being the victim of a violent crime that evening and getting diagnosed with an incurable disease shortly after, to realize my assumptions about life (and my control over it), were devastatingly incorrect.
 
I am currently seeking representation for my inspirational memoir, I’d Rather be Eating Chocolate: How Faith, Love, and Cacao Saved Me from Myself.  Given your interest in inspirational nonfiction, I thought it might be a great fit for your list.
 
I’d Rather be Eating Chocolate chronicles my journey of being hit and run over by a pick-up truck (driven by a drunk driver) at 50 m.p.h. as a pedestrian, and subsequently being diagnosed with Systemic Lupus during my recovery. Despite losing my independence, health, and career, I triumph with the help of faith, food, love, and of course, chocolate.

The life lessons and spiritual foundation I am taught by the women in my life – instilled during my time spent baking and cooking in my grandmother’s kitchen – guide me through the healing process. Though an emotionally and physically demanding journey ensues, I return to the kitchen once again during recovery, a place that has always provided comfort and now reveals my calling. There I discover the magical connection between Jesus and food, and how they both have the power to heal, nourish, and restore someone’s life.
 
Why am I the right person to write this memoir? I have spent the past 10 years as a health and food journalist (Gannett, Healthline, U.S. News, etc.), with over 500 published articles. In addition to being a former Mrs. New York, I am the founder of a successful health nonprofit and online community, LupusChick.com. We currently reach 300,000 people per month via our website and social media platforms. In addition, I am a public speaker and most recently spoke at Simmons College, UMASS Medical School, Janssen, and Novartis Pharmaceuticals. Last, I have been interviewed on the topic of lupus/autoimmune disease in Glamour, Eating Well, WebMD, Yahoo, and many more.
 
I estimate the word count to be 70-80,000 words. Attached please find my proposal and sample chapters (if it is requested on their website).


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Pineapplejuice
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« Reply #1 on: November 07, 2018, 03:31:06 AM »

Hello everyone! This is my first time querying agents for my Christian/inspirational memoir. There aren't many examples online for memoir queries (let alone faith-based), so I gave it a whirl. Thanks for reading and I look forward to feedback (be gentle, lol). XO - Marisa  Smiley
___________________________________________________________________

Dear (agent),

How many of us leave our home in the morning assuming we will return safely later that evening?
 
At the age of 23, I left home one Sunday believing with absolute certainty that I would return hours later to my family. It took being the victim of a violent crime that evening and getting diagnosed with an incurable disease shortly after, to realize my assumptions about life (and my control over it), were devastatingly incorrect ( Misplaced or unfounded might work better ) .
 
I am currently seeking representation for my inspirational memoir, I’d Rather be Eating Chocolate: How Faith, Love, and Cacao Saved Me from Myself.  Given your interest in inspirational nonfiction, I thought it might be a great fit for your list. ( Put housekeeping at bottom on QT, in a query email it's your choice to put it at top or bottom, but it generally doesn't go in the middle like this.
 
I’d Rather be Eating Chocolate chronicles my journey of being hit and run over by a pick-up truck (driven by a drunk driver) at 50 m.p.h. as a pedestrian, and subsequently being diagnosed with Systemic Lupus during my recovery. Despite losing my independence, health, and career, I triumph with the help of faith, food, love, and of course, chocolate. ( this is a suspense/curiosity killer. I'd not tell you triumph here )

The life lessons and spiritual foundation I am taught by the women in my life – instilled during my time spent baking and cooking in my grandmother’s kitchen – guide me through the healing process. Though an emotionally and physically demanding journey ensues, I return to the kitchen once again during recovery, ( this is a bit confusing. I thought first sentence you were saying this. then in this sentence with 'I return' etc, it alluded to the 'now' so it needs to be a lot clearer/ or lose the past reference/tidy the though up )  a place that has always provided comfort and now reveals my calling. There I discover the magical connection between Jesus and food, and how they both have the power to heal, nourish, and restore someone’s life.
 
Why am I the right person to write this memoir? I have spent the past 10 years as a health and food journalist (Gannett, Healthline, U.S. News, etc.), with over 500 published articles. In addition to being a former Mrs. New York, I am the founder of a successful health nonprofit and online community, LupusChick.com. We currently reach 300,000 people per month via our website and social media platforms. In addition, I am a public speaker and most recently spoke at Simmons College, UMASS Medical School, Janssen, and Novartis Pharmaceuticals. Last, I have been interviewed on the topic of lupus/autoimmune disease in Glamour, Eating Well, WebMD, Yahoo, and many more.
 
I estimate the word count to be 70-80,000 words ( You should know within the closest 5k ). Attached please find my proposal and sample chapters (if it is requested on their website).




I think it needs to be a lot tighter. The first bit is interesting and hooky but then it  gets real vague about the cooking and healing.. Can you say specifically , or give a general idea of what it will be like to read those parts of book? What's exciting about it? Because all I picture is a kitchen and laughing, and some feeling sick ( And I guessed at the sick bit. It really is pretty vague ) . It's not very interesting as it is. )
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montanamom78
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« Reply #2 on: November 07, 2018, 03:42:52 AM »

Thanks! You gave me a lot to think about. I am going to tighten this up. I'd love to repost a second version with some of your suggestions intertwined.
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Pineapplejuice
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« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2018, 03:51:20 AM »

I didn't explain myself well enough there I think, so just going to clarify.

By tighter I mean the writing itself and ideas. But I do think you need more ideas conveyed in there. ( Like how did the incident affect you/ how did the illness affect you ( was it a hard journey of acceptance - what were your new limitations, did you have to find a new normal? Did people around you understand, what were your symptoms? ) how did you wind up deepening your relationship with god, and what was the connection about cooking and food and the religious enlightenment?( I think all these things would be interesting )  So I don't mean tighter as in shorter, just in clearer and more succinct, so there is more room for more information.  Grin
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montanamom78
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« Reply #4 on: November 07, 2018, 07:18:11 AM »

Hi PineappleJuice! Thanks again for the feedback. For the middle area of the query, does this make more sense and offer a little more detail?

I’d Rather be Eating Chocolate chronicles my journey of being hit and run over by a pick-up truck (driven by an ex-boyfriend) at 50 m.p.h. as a pedestrian, and subsequently being diagnosed with Systemic Lupus during my recovery. Readers are pulled into the day my life’s course changes from healthy college student to a violent crime victim who is then given an incurable illness diagnosis. Despite losing my independence, health, and nursing career, I triumph and transform my story. 

Once disabled and dependent, today I am a determined and successful journalist, speaker, and founder of one of the fastest growing autoimmune nonprofit communities. I share with readers how my growing faith in Jesus, coupled with life lessons I am taught growing up baking and cooking in my grandmother’s kitchen, help guide me through the healing process.  As I recover, I return to the kitchen once again, a place that has always provided comfort and now also reveals my calling. There I discover the magical connection between Jesus and food, and how they both have the power to heal, nourish, and restore someone’s life.
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kaperton
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« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2018, 08:39:42 AM »

Pineapplejuice has given fabulous feedback, as usual. I just want to give my thoughts on the last paragraph. The "in addition" and "last" read to me like a school essay.


Why am I the right person to write this memoir? I have spent the past 10 ten years as a health and food journalist (Gannett, Healthline, U.S. News, etc.), with over 500 published articles. In addition to being a former Mrs. New York, I am the founder of a successful health nonprofit and online community, LupusChick.com. We currently reach 300,000 people per month via our website and social media platforms. In addition, I am a public speaker and most recently spoke at Simmons College, UMASS Medical School, Janssen, and Novartis Pharmaceuticals. Last, I have been interviewed on the topic of lupus/autoimmune disease in Glamour, Eating Well, WebMD, Yahoo, and many more print and online publications .
 

Whoa, I just read your revised paragraph and saw that it was your ex-boyfriend that hit you. Holy cow. Definitely use that over "drunk driver;" it's a hundred times more powerful. I would take it out of parentheses also. The parentheses make it seem not essential, when to me, it is the most shocking part of your story. Lots of people are injured by drunk drivers, unfortunately, but not many are injured by someone they know.


I’d Rather be Eating Chocolate chronicles my journey of being hit and run over by a pick-up truck (driven by an ex-boyfriend) at 50 m.p.h. as a pedestrian, and subsequently being diagnosed with Systemic Lupus during my recovery. Readers are pulled into the day my life’s course changes from healthy college student to a violent crime victim who is then given an incurable illness diagnosis. Despite losing my independence, health, and nursing career, I triumph and transform my story. 


Here's how I would put it.
I’d Rather be Eating Chocolate chronicles my journey of being run over by a pick-up truck driven by an ex-boyfriend, and subsequently being diagnosed with Systemic Lupus during my recovery. ["run over" implies you were a pedestrian so I don't think that's necessary. I went back and forth about the 50 m.p.h. part because, while it makes the description more dramatic, it slows down the sentence and makes it clunky. Also, I'm not sure it's necessary. If someone tells me they are run over by a car, I automatically picture the car going fast. But like I said, I'm torn on this one.]
« Last Edit: November 07, 2018, 08:56:05 AM by kaperton » Logged
montanamom78
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« Reply #6 on: November 07, 2018, 09:31:02 AM »

Thank you, Kaperton, for the great feedback! I appreciate the comments about the drunk driver part. It is hard for me to determine if I should put it in there to really show the magnitude, or leave it out because well, it just sounds crazy! And it was, obviously. I am going to keep it in now and I will also make the other changes. I really appreciate the feedback from you both!
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slightlysmall
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« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2018, 04:06:57 PM »

Definitely include that part!

By the looks of your original last paragraph, you haven't finished writing yet. It's worth noting that memoir is non-fiction, but agents usually prefer it to be queried the same way as fiction: with a completed manuscript rather than a proposal. Unless an agent specifically says that they take memoirs on proposal, you're probably better off finishing it before querying it, just in case someone asks you for a "full manuscript" that you don't have.

I love your title and you've done great revision work so far. But one final thing, "readers will learn" and "I share with readers" don't feel quite right in terms of the tone a query takes. Usually they can be deleted from the sentence and the sentence still works. Like, "My growing faith in Jesus, coupled with life lessons from baking in my grandmothers kitchen, helped guide me through the healing process" is fine without the opening.
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Pineapplejuice
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« Reply #8 on: November 08, 2018, 12:45:10 AM »



I agree with Kapertion on these points. I did notice them but felt incapable of articulating it last night:
_ use ex-boyfriend  over "drunk driver;" it's a hundred times more powerful. I would take it out of parentheses also.

_"run over" implies you were a pedestrian so I don't think that's necessary. I went back and forth about the 50 m.p.h. part because, while it makes the description more dramatic, it slows down the sentence and makes it clunky. ( I agree with this also, I did clunk and bump over that sentence. )

_ the 'in addition''s and 'last' reads too clinical.
« Last Edit: November 08, 2018, 12:48:04 AM by Pineapplejuice » Logged
Pineapplejuice
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« Reply #9 on: November 08, 2018, 01:14:30 AM »

Hi PineappleJuice! Thanks again for the feedback. For the middle area of the query, does this make more sense and offer a little more detail?

I’d Rather be Eating Chocolate chronicles my journey of being hit and run over by a pick-up truck ( driven by an ex-boyfriend ) at 50 m.p.h. as a pedestrian ( you don't need this. And I'm on the fence with 50 mph. You don't really need it as it's shocking enough ) , and subsequently ( I think this is a problem here.
 you sort of skip over this. Can you think of a way to put the event of post accident and the diagnosis, in a more lengthy way. Ie, how did you feel upon getting diagnosed and what did the diagnosis mean for your life? Were you injured in the accident? There's not anything to picture after the accident, and everything is just a blip of information without giving us a chance to connect or care )


being diagnosed with Systemic Lupus during my recovery. Readers are pulled into ( You can't tell an agent 'readers are pulled in. You don't have readers in that sense yet. Also it sounds stiff and presumptuous and most importantly it's redundant phrasing that also waters down the points you're making. Just start this sentence without the intro ) the day my life’s course changes ( this is vague and redundant. Just tell us how your life changes, not that 'your life's course' changes ) from healthy college student to a violent crime victim who is then given an incurable illness diagnosis. Despite losing my independence, health, and nursing career, I triumph and transform my story.  ( This is pretty much a logline and it's too listy to interest reader. It also sums things up too quickly when in previous paragraphs you haven't really given us a sense of what journey you'll take us reading the book. We know how it starts, the accident and lupus - but we don't feel anything for you because the rest is so impersonal )

Once disabled and dependent, today I am a determined and successful journalist, speaker, and founder of one of the fastest growing autoimmune nonprofit communities. I share with readers how my growing faith in Jesus, coupled with life lessons I am ( the present tense here throws me as your growing up was in the past and you were speaking in the previous sentence about the now, and your successes ) taught growing up baking and cooking in my grandmother’s kitchen, help guide me through the healing process.  As I recover, I return to the kitchen once again, a place that has always provided comfort and now also reveals my calling. There I discover the magical connection between Jesus and food, and how they both have the power to heal, nourish, and restore someone’s life.

The last paragraph is confusing to me. It sounds like it's starting off as a bio then goes back to what seems like the  middle-or end of your story where you make discoveries about jesus through food.

I'd try to make a query that is chronological at all points- ending with a bio that only says what things are like now. As that's what normally goes in a bio anyway. You'll have already explained the dependence in synopsis bit by then, so you don't need to say things like ' Once disabled and dependent ' in the bio.




I just read slightly smalls comment and realised that I'd not noticed the 'estimate' wording of word count. ( I never really read that stuff carefully as it's not normally that hard to fix. That explains why you don't know the whole word count lol - I thought you were just writing on Wordpad like I did )  In this case though it's a problem. It's best to finish book first then query, even for non fiction - as far as I know. You might have connections though. Has someone asked you to write this book, who has the ability to publish it? Or do you have reasons why it doesn't need to be completed in your case?

I think the main problem I have with the query is it's not specific about what your book is - the feel and unfolding of the journey isn't coming across - and I think it's because it's not finished. [/color]

 [/color]
« Last Edit: November 08, 2018, 01:27:10 AM by Pineapplejuice » Logged
montanamom78
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« Reply #10 on: November 08, 2018, 08:52:25 AM »

Thank you all for comments! You are all so helpful. There were some questions, so let me clear those up really fast. Most editors and agents I have spoken to have mentioned they prefer a memoir to be sold on proposal and sample chapters, with a detailed chapter summary section without completion of the book. The reasoning I have heard from this is because the agent and publisher like to have input in completing the remainder of the book. I don't think this is across the board but I have heard the same thing multiple times from editors (when I worked as a ghostwriter for a NYC pub house). I do have a complete proposal at 30 pages with about 10 devoted to full chapter summaries that flesh out the book...now I just need it to come across in my query, which apparently isn't happening just yet.
PineappleJuice, to answer one of your questions, I do have an editor at Hachette that reached out to me regarding my story/platform and the possibility of writing  a book and that is what started me on this journey. We are in contact now regarding my proposal and chapter summaries.
In the meantime, back to the drawing board to work on my query. Thanks everyone for your insight!
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