Author Topic: A Place for Every Gift [historical fiction]  (Read 245493 times)

Offline Mark_Hughes

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A Place for Every Gift [historical fiction]
« on: August 24, 2013, 11:14:52 AM »
Here's my offering to the crowd:

I’m seeking representation for my historical novel, A PLACE FOR EVERY GIFT. (129,000 words).

In 1932 Berlin, Daniela Goldman is the university’s first female anthropology PhD candidate. Her drive put her at the head of her class, but her new, misogynistic, and very Aryan professor clearly intends to deny her the degree she must obtain if she’s to have a chance of redeeming her past.

April, 1968. A manuscript telling the story of Daniela’s life comes to a senior editor at Scribner’s, a curmudgeon whose belief in both people and the power of story has all but died. When Daniela is twelve, he reads, her part in her mother’s horrific death leaves her aching with guilt, rejected by her only friend, and estranged from her father. Years later, she learns about the science of anthropology, sees her chance to make good, and pours all she has into it. Her last hurdle, the pursuit of her dissertation, takes her across oceans to a strange place (Cahaba, Alabama) where her study’s subjects thwart her at every turn, driving her to the point of physical and mental collapse. Worse still is her growing fear that even if she manages to complete her study, outmaneuver her professor and win her PhD, no contribution to science—no matter what it costs her—will grant her the redemption she craves.

Daniela’s story resonates deeply with the editor. Upon finishing it, he hurries to meet with the woman who lived this inspiring life, little suspecting what wasn’t revealed in the manuscript.

I believe this novel will appeal to readers who liked THE SECRET LIVES OF BEES, THE HELP, and SARAH’S KEY. Thanks for your time and consideration,
Stories are equipment for living - critic Kenneth Burke

Offline augusto

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Re: A Place for Every Gift [historical fiction]
« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2013, 01:01:46 PM »
This sounds very interesting, even if I am confused. Is this Daniela's story as she lives it? Or her story as the editor reads it? Or the story of the editor meeting Daniela? Either way sounds wonderful but I think you have to point us in a single direction or show us how they all fit together. I'd read it just because I'm a sucker for this sort of thing. Good luck!  :up:
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Offline Mark_Hughes

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Re: A Place for Every Gift [historical fiction]
« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2013, 01:37:50 PM »
I get that confusion, and I'd wondered about that hitch in the second paragraph's opening. What makes this story tricky to fit into a query is that it's framed, and the frame is a crucial aspect of the story. Let me know if this version clears the murk a little:

I’m seeking representation for my historical novel, A PLACE FOR EVERY GIFT. (129,000 words).

In 1932 Berlin, Daniela Goldman is the university’s first female anthropology PhD candidate. Her drive put her at the head of her class, but her new, misogynistic, and very Aryan professor clearly intends to deny her the degree she must obtain if she’s to have a chance of redeeming her past.

When Daniela was twelve, her part in her mother’s horrific death left her aching with guilt, rejected by her only friend, and estranged from her father. Years later, she learns about the science of anthropology, sees her chance to make good, and pours all she has into it. Her last hurdle, the pursuit of her dissertation, takes her across oceans to a strange place (Cahaba, Alabama) where her study’s subjects thwart her at every turn, driving her to the point of physical and mental collapse. Worse still is her growing fear that even if she manages to complete her study, outmaneuver her professor and win her PhD, no contribution to science—no matter what it costs her—will grant her the redemption she craves.

April, 1968. A manuscript telling the story of Daniela’s life comes to a senior editor at Scribner’s, a curmudgeon whose belief in both people and the power of story has all but died. Her story moves him deeply, and he immediately arranges to meet with the woman who lived this inspiring life, little suspecting what wasn’t revealed in the manuscript.

I believe this novel will appeal to readers who liked THE SECRET LIVES OF BEES, THE HELP, and SARAH’S KEY.
Stories are equipment for living - critic Kenneth Burke

Offline KimE

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Re: A Place for Every Gift [historical fiction]
« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2013, 02:06:14 PM »
It does sound like a very intriguing story. I also question whose story this actually is- the editor's or Daniela? And whether the bulk of the story/conflict occurs during her struggle to get a Ph.d in the 1930's or during his encounters with her later in life. To be consistent, if you say "In 1932" as your leader in one paragraph, then use "In 1968" in the subsequent. The word count is ambitious too.

I would suggest trying a different approach to see if it flows better by starting the query with the editor in 1968 reading her story, then describing her conflict, then sandwiching in the editor meeting up with her at the end of the query.

Good luck!
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Offline Nostrabuttus

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Re: A Place for Every Gift [historical fiction]
« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2013, 02:53:44 PM »
I get that confusion, and I'd wondered about that hitch in the second paragraph's opening. What makes this story tricky to fit into a query is that it's framed, and the frame is a crucial aspect of the story. Let me know if this version clears the murk a little:

I’m seeking representation for my historical novel, A PLACE FOR EVERY GIFT. (129,000 words).

In 1932 Berlin, Daniela Goldman is the university’s first female anthropology PhD candidate. Her drive put her at the head of her class, but her new, misogynistic, and very Aryan professor clearly intends to deny her the degree she must obtain if she’s to have a chance of redeeming her past.

When Daniela was twelve, her part in her mother’s horrific death left her aching with guilt, rejected by her only friend, and estranged from her father. Years later, she learns about the science of anthropology, sees her chance to make good, and pours all she has into it. Her last hurdle, the pursuit of her dissertation, takes her across oceans to a strange place (Cahaba, Alabama) where her study’s subjects thwart her at every turn, driving her to the point of physical and mental collapse. Worse still is her growing fear that even if she manages to complete her study, outmaneuver her professor and win her PhD, no contribution to science—no matter what it costs her—will grant her the redemption she craves.

April, 1968. A manuscript telling the story of Daniela’s life comes to a senior editor at Scribner’s, a curmudgeon whose belief in both people and the power of story has all but died. Her story moves him deeply, and he immediately arranges to meet with the woman who lived this inspiring life, little suspecting what wasn’t revealed in the manuscript.

I believe this novel will appeal to readers who liked THE SECRET LIVES OF BEES, THE HELP, and SARAH’S KEY.

I vowed to never rewrite anyone's query again, but in this case I'm going to make an exception. My idea may not work for your story. Much depends on whose POV character the story is told. in any event, you might consider using some of the rewritten sentences in your query. I hope this helps you. Best of luck with your project.   

I’m seeking representation for my historical novel, A PLACE FOR EVERY GIFT, complete at 129,000 words.

In April of 1968, a manuscript which tells the story of Daniela’s Goldman’s life comes to a senior editor at Scribner’s. He’s a curmudgeon whose belief in both people and the power of story has all but died. Paragraph by paragraph, page by page, he becomes enthralled. 

Estranged from her father and rejected by her only friend, at the age of twelve, Daniela’s part in her mother’s horrific death left her aching with guilt. Years later, she learns about the science of anthropology, sees her chance to make good, and pours all she has into it. By 1932, in the city of Berlin, she is the university’s first female anthropology PhD candidate. Her resolve has placed her at the head of her class, but her new, misogynistic Aryan professor clearly intends to deny her the degree she feels she must obtain to have a chance of redeeming her past.

Her last hurdle, the pursuit of her dissertation, takes her across oceans to a strange place (Cahaba, Alabama) where her study’s subjects thwart her at every turn, driving her to the point of physical and mental collapse. Worse still is her growing fear that even if she manages to complete her study, outmaneuver her professor and win her PhD, no contribution to science—no matter what it costs her—will grant her the redemption she craves.


Deeply moved by what he has read, the senior editor rearranges his schedule in order to meet with Daniela, unaware of what wasn’t revealed in the manuscript.

I believe this novel will appeal to readers who liked THE SECRET LIVES OF BEES, THE HELP, and SARAH’S KEY.



« Last Edit: August 24, 2013, 02:58:52 PM by Nostrabuttus »
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Offline Mark_Hughes

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Re: A Place for Every Gift [historical fiction]
« Reply #5 on: August 24, 2013, 03:16:56 PM »
Thanks for making the exception, as I believe you gave me several good tidbits.
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Re: A Place for Every Gift [historical fiction]
« Reply #6 on: August 27, 2013, 01:04:05 PM »
I’m seeking representation for my historical novel, A PLACE FOR EVERY GIFT. (129,000 words) This seems forced in here. Why not say: complete at 129, 000 words?.

In 1932 Berlin, Daniela Goldman is the university’s first female anthropology PhD candidate. Her drive put her at the head of her class, but her new, misogynistic, and very Aryan professor clearly intends to deny her the degree she must obtain if she’s to have a chance of redeeming her past. That is one very long sentence. Besides I don't understand why she needs to redeem her past if the past wasn't her fault.... or is it?

April, 1968. A manuscript telling the story of Daniela’s life comes to a senior editor at Scribner’s, a curmudgeon whose belief in both people and the power of story has all but died. When Daniela is twelve, he reads, her part in her mother’s horrific death leaves her aching with guilt, rejected by her only friend, and estranged from her father. This sentence is a little hard to read. Did Daniela kill her mom? The meaning to this sentence is muddled with a bunch of extra information.Years later, she learns about the science of anthropology, sees her chance to make good, and pours all she has into it. Her last hurdle, the pursuit of her dissertation, takes her across oceans to a strange place (Cahaba, Alabama) where her study’s subjects thwart her at every turn, driving her to the point of physical and mental collapse. Worse still is her growing fear that even if she manages to complete her study, outmaneuver her professor and win her PhD, no contribution to science—no matter what it costs her—will grant her the redemption she craves. This is a good ender right here.

Daniela’s story resonates deeply with the editor. Upon finishing it, he hurries to meet with the woman who lived this inspiring life, little suspecting what wasn’t revealed in the manuscript.


I believe this novel will appeal to readers who liked THE SECRET LIVES OF BEES, THE HELP, and SARAH’S KEY. Thanks for your time and consideration,

This is good. It reads very nicely except for that one sentence that makes me entirely confused.

Offline Mark_Hughes

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Re: A Place for Every Gift [historical fiction]
« Reply #7 on: August 27, 2013, 01:18:30 PM »
Having thought it over more, I just can't have the hook concern itself with the story's opening frame. I've been down that road and it simply doesn't resonate (nor draw agent interest). The fact is, a framed story is tough to squeeze into the query format.

Augusto wrote: Is this Daniela's story as she lives it? Or her story as the editor reads it? Or the story of the editor meeting Daniela?

Answer: it's all three. The manuscript is told in 1st person, the outer frame in third. Daniela lives it, Burt reads it, and then he goes to meet with her.

My biggest concern is that if I don't mention the frame and then send, say, the first ten requested pages, the agent will say - what story is this? Where is Daniela? Who the hell is Burt and why isn't this 1932 Berlin? And so on.

That said, I have incorporated some of your suggestions. I've also moved the word count to the end so agents don't stop reading in the first line (as it is a long novel). Here is the latest incarnation:

I’m seeking representation for my literary/historical novel, A PLACE FOR EVERY GIFT.

In 1932 Berlin, Daniela Goldman is her university’s first female anthropology PhD candidate. Her relentless drive put her at the head of her class, but her misogynistic, Aryan professor clearly intends to deny her the degree she believes she must obtain if she’s to redeem her past.

When Daniela was twelve, her part in her mother’s horrific death left her rejected by her only friend, estranged from her father, and aching with guilt. Years later, she learns about the emerging science of anthropology, sees her chance to make good, and pours all she has into it. Her last hurdle, the pursuit of her dissertation, takes her across oceans to a strange place (Cahaba, Alabama) where her study’s subjects thwart her at every turn, driving her to the point of physical and mental collapse. Worse still is her growing fear that even if she manages to complete her study, outmaneuver her professor and win her PhD, no contribution to science—no matter what it costs her—will grant her the redemption she craves.

In April 1968, a manuscript relating the story of Daniela’s life comes to a curmudgeonly senior editor at Scribner & Sons. Surprised by her story’s effect on him, he immediately arranges to meet with Daniela, unaware of what wasn’t revealed in the manuscript.

I believe this 129,000 word novel will appeal to readers who liked THE SECRET LIVES OF BEES, THE HELP, and SARAH’S KEY.


Thanks for taking the time to review my work and provide guidance.

Mark
Stories are equipment for living - critic Kenneth Burke

Offline augusto

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Re: A Place for Every Gift [historical fiction]
« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2013, 02:31:10 PM »
I think it moves quite smoothly this way. I'd bite.  :up: I am concerned that other publishing houses might be miffed that you chose Scribner & Sons to be the discoverers of this great find.  ;D
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ALICE AND HER GRAND BELL.

Offline slightlysmall

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Re: A Place for Every Gift [historical fiction]
« Reply #9 on: August 27, 2013, 04:11:10 PM »
I like your new revision. there's just one thing i would tweak:

Quote
unaware of what wasn’t revealed in the manuscript.

Obviously, since he hasn't met her yet. I think you can spare a few extra words and say "unaware of just how much wasn't revealed in the manuscript" or similar.

Offline Mark_Hughes

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Re: A Place for Every Gift [historical fiction]
« Reply #10 on: August 27, 2013, 04:59:21 PM »
Thanks for the votes of confidence; you've helped counteract the two rejections I received today. And I agree about being uncomfortable with the "unaware of what wasn't revealed in the manuscript". It sounds like 1930's sci-fi radio, and so does about any other rendition of the sentiment. My solution is to change it thus:

Surprised by her story’s effect on him, he immediately arranges to meet with Daniela. There, what he learns about the "real" Daniela and the manuscript leaves him shattered.

Does it raise too many questions? I'm walking a fine line here, toying with the reader a bit. But if it comes across as off-putting, I'll cease and desist (and redraft).
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Offline slightlysmall

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Re: A Place for Every Gift [historical fiction]
« Reply #11 on: August 27, 2013, 05:32:31 PM »
I like the new way you word it. It makes more sense.

And it raises precisely the correct number of questions in my mind - a young woman, now much older, has a compelling story to tell about her childhood. But that isn't even the half of it. I'm ready to know what the other half is. (no, seriously, I am.)

Offline Pandean

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Re: A Place for Every Gift [historical fiction]
« Reply #12 on: August 27, 2013, 07:05:20 PM »
I think it's pretty solid, actually. :) Good luck with querying.
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Offline Mark_Hughes

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Re: A Place for Every Gift [historical fiction]
« Reply #13 on: August 27, 2013, 07:51:06 PM »
Thank you both for the shots in the arm (a good thing, in case that phrase is too old to be recognized :) It's only taken me since February to get this right. Really. But then, I'm old and a slow learner, obviously.
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Offline Pandean

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Re: A Place for Every Gift [historical fiction]
« Reply #14 on: August 27, 2013, 07:52:41 PM »
Thank you both for the shots in the arm (a good thing, in case that phrase is too old to be recognized :) It's only taken me since February to get this right. Really. But then, I'm old and a slow learner, obviously.

Maybe I'm too young to understand that phrase but

how is a shot to the arm a good thing????

And good luck! I hope you go far!
WHITE STAG, an internet phenomenon, has been acquired by St. Martin's Press/Wednesday Books for publication in Winter 2019