Author Topic: QUERY: Why I Am So Weird - How Self-Harm Nearly Killed Me Before Saving My Life  (Read 289 times)

Offline sine nomine

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I'm of two minds about this query letter. The book tells a very complicated story, and I'm hoping this gives an agent enough info to get their interest.


Date

Dear [agent],

Twenty-five years ago, according to Armando Favazza, I was a pioneer raising public awareness of deliberate self-injury. He's the author of Bodies Under Siege, which the New York Times called a seminal exploration of self-harm. Also 25 years ago, I was homeless and seriously mentally ill, in the middle of what would be nearly two dozen hospitalizations related to my own self-harm.

In between stays on psych wards and suicide attempts, I scoured medical journals, researching self-harm. The result was Secret Shame, the first website to offer coherent, meaningful, and helpful information to people who self-harm and to provide professionals with guidelines for working with them. I then built BUS, a vibrant online community with around 30,000 members and more than three million posts when I stepped away in 2007. Before then, I gave media interviews, consulted with authors, and on 3/1/2003 appeared on Voice of America radio to promote Self-Injury Awareness Day, which I had started four years earlier.

Now I am seeking representation for my memoir, WHY I AM SO WEIRD - HOW SELF-HARM NEARLY KILLED ME WHILE SAVING MY LIFE, complete at 87,000 words. Based on [something about them], I think this work might be a good fit for you because [why].

When I was 7, my mother died of leukemia a few weeks after her diagnosis. Three years later, my father married a rage-filled alcoholic who took control of every aspect of his children's lives and beat us mercilessly on the slightest pretext. I escaped at 17 and almost made a life for myself, until on a hitchhiking trip across Texas I discovered that my stepmother had died months earlier. My first admission to a locked psych ward came a few months later. The book follows me through years of struggle between that milestone and the happily-ever-after I'm living in now.

My friend Caroline says that I build lighthouses, places of respite for the wounded. The Bodies Under Siege community was a lighthouse, and this book is another one.

Thank you for your time. You can read the first chapter of Why I Am So Weird at [url], and I am prepared to send the full manuscript at your request. I look forward to hearing from you.

My name
My email address
My phone
Website URL again

Offline rivergirl

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Dear [agent],

Twenty-five years ago, according to Armando Favazza, I was a pioneer raising public awareness of deliberate self-injury. He's the author of Bodies Under Siege, which the New York Times called a seminal exploration of self-harm. Also 25 years ago, I was homeless and seriously mentally ill, in the middle of what would be nearly two dozen hospitalizations related to my own self-harm. Twenty-five years ago, author Armando Favazza, called me a pioneer  raising public awareness of deliberate self-injury. The New York Times call his book Bodies Under Siegea spinal exploration of self-harm. During that time, I was homeless and seriously mentally ill, in the middle of serial hospitalizations related to my own self-harm. (some minor tweaking). Use what you agree with. Put the word author up front and the reader immediately understands instead of a whole sentence of confusion.

In between stays on psych wards and suicide attempts, I scoured medical journals, researching self-harm. The result was Secret Shame, the first website to offer coherent, meaningful, and helpful information to people who self-harm and to provide professionals with guidelines for working with them. I then built BUS (you might give what this stands for), a vibrant online community with around 30,000 members and more than three million posts when I stepped away in 2007. Before then, I gave media interviews, consulted with authors, and on 3/1/2003 appeared on Voice of America radio to promote Self-Injury Awareness Day, which I had started four years earlier. These are impressive creds but this feels like a closing para on why the agent should take you seriously. What is your personal story about?

Now I am seeking representation for my memoir, WHY I AM SO WEIRD - HOW SELF-HARM NEARLY KILLED ME WHILE SAVING MY LIFE, complete at 87,000 words. Based on [something about them], I think this work might be a good fit for you because [why].

When I was 7, my mother died of leukemia a few weeks after her diagnosis. Three years later, my father married a rage-filled alcoholic who took control of every aspect of his children's lives and beat us mercilessly on the slightest pretext. I escaped at 17 ages must be spelled out and almost made a life for myself, until on a hitchhiking trip across Texas I discovered that my stepmother had died months earlier. My first admission to a locked psych ward came a few months later. The book follows me through years of struggle between that milestone and the happily-ever-after I'm living in now. This should be the bulk of your query, not something that feels randomly tacked on at the end. I'd suggest a hook  and then your story (this para) and then a condensed para of the first two para that feel more like your creds.

My friend Caroline says that I build lighthouses, places of respite for the wounded. The Bodies Under Siege community was a lighthouse, and this book is another one. While this is good you really need to edit your very lengthy credentials so I'd go for the more impressive stuff with the author and the website you set up

Thank you for your time. You can read the first chapter of Why I Am So Weird at [url] never give agents links. This scares them to death and invites viruses. Just say that you've pasted whatever the agent asked for. If they didn't ask for anything then just leave then query letter as is, and I am prepared to send the full manuscript at your request. I look forward to hearing from you.this is a dated line. Many agents now have the policy of no response equals rejection. A simple thank you for your time and consideration is sufficient

My name
My email address
My phone
Website URL ag

Offline sine nomine

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thank you. i have not written one of these before, and this was helpful as i revised the letter. here's what Ii have now. it's about 356 words, one page in 12-point times new roman with 1-inch margins.

----

In a 2011 interview, author Armando Favazza said, “[My Name] deserves a tremendous amount of credit for bringing the problem of deliberate self-harming into public consciousness.” He wrote Bodies Under Siege, which the New York Times called a seminal exploration of the topic. I created an internationally known resource while in the middle of what would be nearly two dozen hospitalizations related to my own self-harm. My desire to understand what I was doing fueled my activism, even after I became homeless.

Now I am seeking representation for my memoir, WHY I AM SO WEIRD - HOW SELF-HARM NEARLY KILLED ME WHILE SAVING MY LIFE, complete at 87,000 words. Based on [something about them], I think this work might be a good fit for you because [why].

When I was 7, my mother died in the hospital three weeks after being diagnosed with leukemia. Three years later, my father married a rage-filled alcoholic who took control of every aspect of his children's lives and beat them mercilessly on the slightest pretext. I escaped at seventeen and spent several years trying to build a life for myself until, on a hitchhiking trip across Texas, I discovered that my stepmother had died three months earlier. My first admission to a locked psych ward came shortly after that, and within the year I was regularly cutting and burning my skin.

In between stays on psych wards and suicide attempts, I scoured medical journals, researching self-harm. The result was Secret Shame, the first website to offer meaningful and helpful information to people who self-harm and the professionals who work with them. I created a vibrant online community centered around a web board with around 30,000 members and more than three million posts. Before stepping back in 2007, I gave media interviews, consulted with authors, and wrote brochures and fact sheets. The Bill of Rights for People Who Self-Injure is still in use. On 3/1/2003 I was interviewed on Voice of America radio for Self-Injury Awareness Day, which I had started four years earlier.

I've included [stuff] as requested. Thank you for your time.

My name
My email address
My phone

Offline susan-louise

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I saw your query and then read your first five pages which I found profoundly moving.  I also applaud the immense courage  required to write such a memoir.     I wish you every possible publishing success.

 So, back to the query letter: I agree with Rivergirl's excellent suggerstions.   But for me, something is missing in paragraph 3, as you will see in my comments below.

In a 2011 interview, author Armando Favazza said, “[My Name] deserves a tremendous amount of credit for bringing the problem of deliberate self-harming into public consciousness.” He wrote Bodies Under Siege, which the New York Times called a seminal exploration of the topic. I created an internationally known resource while in the middle of what would be nearly two dozen hospitalizations related to my own self-harm. My desire to understand what I was doing fueled my activism, even after I became homeless. (this is such a powerful opening)

Now I am seeking representation for my memoir, WHY I AM SO WEIRD - HOW SELF-HARM NEARLY KILLED ME WHILE SAVING MY LIFE, complete at 87,000 words. Based on [something about them], I think this work might be a good fit for you because [why].

I would add something to paragraph 3

This memoir explores my journey from A to Z ( or  words to that effect.)

Why? Because then it is clear that what follows is the essence of this memoir, taking  us through the landscapes of your experiences. 

Another point, your memoir will be invaluable to others who have similarly suffered, so definitely worthwhile emphasising.


When I was seven, my mother died in the hospital three weeks after being diagnosed with leukemia. Three years later, my father married a rage-filled alcoholic who took control of every aspect of his children's lives and beat them mercilessly on the slightest pretext. I escaped at seventeen and spent several years trying to build a life for myself until, on a hitchhiking trip across Texas, I discovered that my stepmother had died three months earlier. My first admission to a locked psych ward came shortly after that, and within the year I was regularly cutting and burning my skin.

In between stays on psych wards and suicide attempts, I scoured medical journals, researching self-harm. The result was Secret Shame, the first website to offer meaningful and helpful information to people who self-harm and the professionals who work with them. I created a vibrant online community centered around a web board with around 30,000 members and more than three million posts. Before stepping back in 2007, I gave media interviews, consulted with authors, and wrote brochures and fact sheets. The Bill of Rights for People Who Self-Injure is still in use. On 3/1/2003 I was interviewed on Voice of America radio for Self-Injury Awareness Day, which I had started four years earlier.

I've included [stuff] as requested. Thank you for your time.[/color][/color]

Offline sine nomine

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Thank you. I really appreciate the feedback. I significantly reworked this, and included something about why the book matters (as suggested).

____________

In a 2011 interview, Armando Favazza said, “Deb Martinson deserves a tremendous amount of credit for bringing the problem of deliberate self-harming into public consciousness.” The author of Bodies Under Siege, a book the New York Times called seminal in the study of self-injury, was referring to the internationally-known resource I created while in the middle of nearly two dozen hospitalizations related to my own self-harm. My need to understand what I was doing to myself fueled my activism, work that I carried on even while homeless.


I am seeking representation for my memoir, WHY I AM SO WEIRD - HOW SELF-HARM NEARLY KILLED ME WHILE SAVING MY LIFE, complete at 87,000 words. It's the story of how my personal tragedy eventually helped make change in the psychiatric treatment of people who cope with psychological pain by hurting their bodies. My book highlights both the repeated failures of the system to protect me as an abused child and the trauma I endured in psychiatric hospitals as an adult, raising uncomfortable questions about how we as a society treat our most vulnerable. Its message is one of hope, resilience, and love.


When I was seven, my mother died in the hospital three weeks after being diagnosed with leukemia. Three years later, my father married a rage-filled alcoholic who took control of every aspect of his children's lives and beat them mercilessly on the slightest pretext. I escaped at seventeen and spent several years trying to figure out how to live until, on a hitchhiking trip across Texas, I discovered that my stepmother had died three months earlier. My first admission to a locked psych ward came shortly after that, and within the year I was regularly cutting and burning my skin.


In between hospital stays and suicide attempts, I scoured medical journals, researching self-harm. The result was Secret Shame, the first website to offer meaningful and helpful information to people who self-harm and the professionals who work with them. I went on to create BUS, a vibrant online community named for Favazza's book and centered around a web board that grew to 30,000 members and more than three million posts.


I've been told that I build lighthouses, places of respite for the wounded. BUS was one, and this book will be another. Thank you for your time.

Offline susan-louise

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Sorry, I posted last night on your query and subsequently discovered the humanitarian context for "lighthouse".  So I have removed my last suggestion.   I think your  focus on hope makes this query  more powerful.   Here are my comments again.

In a 2011 interview, Armando Favazza said, “Deb Martinson deserves a tremendous amount of credit for bringing the problem of deliberate self-harming into public consciousness.” The author of Bodies Under Siege, a book the New York Times called seminal in the study of self-injury, was referring to the internationally-known resource I created while in the middle of nearly two dozen hospitalizations related to my own self-harm. My need to understand what I was doing to myself fueled my activism, work that I carried on even while homeless.

I think that that the previous intro paragraph was stronger and more impactful


I am seeking representation for my memoir, WHY I AM SO WEIRD - HOW SELF-HARM NEARLY KILLED ME WHILE SAVING MY LIFE, complete at 87,000 words. It's the story of how my personal tragedy eventually helped make change in the psychiatric treatment of people who cope with psychological pain by hurting their bodies. My book highlights both the repeated failures of the system to protect me as an abused child and the trauma I endured in psychiatric hospitals as an adult. It raises uncomfortable questions about how we as a society treat our most vulnerable. Yet the (predominant?) message is one of hope, resilience, and love.


When I was seven, my mother died in the hospital three weeks after being diagnosed with leukemia. Three years later, my father married a rage-filled alcoholic who took control of every aspect of his children's lives and beat them mercilessly on the slightest pretext. I escaped at seventeen and spent several years trying to figure out how to live until, on a hitchhiking trip across Texas, I discovered that my stepmother had died three months earlier. My first admission to a locked psych ward came shortly after that, and within the year I was regularly cutting and burning my skin.


In between hospital stays and suicide attempts, I scoured medical journals, researching self-harm. The result was Secret Shame, the first website to offer meaningful and helpful information to people who self-harm and the professionals who work with them. I went on to create BUS, a vibrant online community named for Favazza's book and centered around a web board that grew to 30,000 members and more than three million posts.


I've been told that I build lighthouses, places of respite for the wounded. BUS was one, and this book will be another. Thank you for your time.  (The sense of agency here is strong)



Offline sine nomine

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Thank you so much. Your comments are very helpful, and I think the letter is a lot better now. The lighthouses thing is something a friend said to me once. She camps with the theme camp I founded for the local burning man regional event. People have said it radiates love, and talking about it and the self-harm stuff once, she said, "you build lighthouses." I was taken by it, but I'm thinking of ditching it from the query. I used to write editorials so I can't resist that ending, but if it makes things worse I can get rid of it. I also added a sentence more about my work to the end of the next-to-last paragraph, but I'm afraid that makes it too long.

____________________

In a 2011 interview, author Armando Favazza said, “[My Name] deserves a tremendous amount of credit for bringing the problem of deliberate self-harming into public consciousness.” He wrote Bodies Under Siege, which the New York Times called a seminal exploration of the topic. While in the middle of what would be nearly two dozen hospitalizations related to my own self-harm, I created an internationally known website that was cited in several publications. My desire to understand what I was doing fueled my activism, even after I became homeless.


I am seeking representation for my memoir, WHY I AM SO WEIRD - HOW SELF-HARM NEARLY KILLED ME WHILE SAVING MY LIFE, complete at 87,000 words. It's the story of how my personal tragedy eventually helped make change in the psychiatric treatment of people who cope with psychological pain by hurting their bodies. My book highlights both the repeated failures of the system to protect me as an abused child and the trauma I endured in psychiatric hospitals as an adult. It raises uncomfortable questions about how we as a society treat our most vulnerable, yet the predominant message is one of hope, resilience, and love.


When I was seven, my mother died in the hospital three weeks after being diagnosed with leukemia. Three years later, my father married a rage-filled alcoholic who took control of every aspect of his children's lives and beat them mercilessly on the slightest pretext. I escaped at seventeen and spent several years trying to figure out how to live until, on a hitchhiking trip across Texas, I discovered that my stepmother had died three months earlier. My first admission to a locked psych ward came shortly after that, and within the year I was regularly cutting and burning my skin.


In between hospital stays and suicide attempts, I scoured medical journals, researching self-injury. The result was Secret Shame, the first website to offer meaningful and helpful information to people who self-harm and the professionals who work with them. I went on to create BUS, a vibrant online community named for Favazza's book and centered around a web board that grew to 30,000 members and more than three million posts. I consulted with authors, gave media interviews, and was invited to attend a government working group on self-injury. Self-Injury Awareness Day, which I founded in 1999, it still observed on March 1.


I've been told that I build lighthouses, spaces that call out to the wounded and offer them respite. BUS was one, and this book will be another. Thank you for your time.

Offline susan-louise

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Pleasure to help.  It seems such an important book - an impression that the query itself projects.  Refining query letters is a like a never-ending WIP but we can risk over-working them, and lose the "best version" in that quest for perfection.



In a 2011 interview, author Armando Favazza said, “[My Name] deserves a tremendous amount of credit for bringing the problem of deliberate self-harming into public consciousness.” He wrote Bodies Under Siege (italics for a book)which the New York Times called a seminal exploration of the topic. While in the middle of what would be nearly two dozen hospitalizations related to my own self-harm, I created an internationally known website that was cited in several publications. My desire to understand what I was doing fueled my activism, even after I became homeless.   

I am (add "now" because this adds a transition from the previous para to this one) seeking representation for my memoir, WHY I AM SO WEIRD - HOW SELF-HARM NEARLY KILLED ME WHILE SAVING MY LIFE, complete at 87,000 words. It's the story of how my personal tragedy eventually helped make change in the psychiatric treatment of people who cope with psychological pain by hurting their bodies. My book highlights both the repeated failures of the system to protect me as an abused child and the trauma I endured in psychiatric hospitals as an adult. It raises uncomfortable questions about how we as a society treat our most vulnerable, yet the predominant message is one of hope, resilience, and love.


When I was seven, my mother died in the hospital three weeks after being diagnosed with leukemia. Three years later, my father married a rage-filled alcoholic who took control of every aspect of his children's lives and beat them mercilessly on the slightest pretext. I escaped at seventeen and spent several years trying to figure out how to live until, on a hitchhiking trip across Texas, I discovered that my stepmother had died three months earlier. My first admission to a locked psych ward came shortly after that, and within the year I was regularly cutting and burning my skin.


In between hospital stays and suicide attempts, I scoured medical journals, researching self-injury. The result was Secret Shame, the first website to offer meaningful and helpful information to people who self-harm and the professionals who work with them. I went on to create BUS, a vibrant online community named for Favazza's book and centered around a web board that grew to 30,000 members and more than three million posts. I consulted with authors, gave media interviews, and was invited to attend a government working group on self-injury. Self-Injury Awareness Day, which I founded in 1999, it still observed on March 1.

(My feeling?  Keep the information focused on you and the book, ie delete the extra bits you added since the last version.  There will be time enough for you to share such details in the happy event that an agent wish to represent you.  I know there are different protocols for fiction and non-fiction submissions, but  keep this as relevant as possible to your memoir.   



I've been told that I build lighthouses, spaces that call out to the wounded and offer them respite. BUS was one, and I hope this book will be another. Thank you for your time. (I still think this is a powerful, and reflects your agency, which is what the memoir is all about.)

Offline susan-louise

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Spotted a typo in para 2:

It's the story of how my personal tragedy eventually helped make changes (add "s") in the psychiatric treatment