So it's been a long time since I blogged, thanks to getting a job, job going KABOOM! in a spectacular way (condensed verion: worked over time every day, place nowhere near as professional and awesome as they'd portrayed themselves, and the kicker, Small Son injured pretty badly and no one knew when or how. Nice.), and working, working, working on getting the book finished.
And, on the upside, THE BOOK IS FINISHED! SWEET!
I'll be blogging a lot more about the momentous occasion in the next few days, but today I wanted to talk about querying. I'm in the middle of querying agents right now, which is a scary and somewhat soul-crushing process. My first query letter sucked hardcore, and I promptly got three rejections. I cannot blame these people, because damn, did that first attempt suck. BUt then I wrote another one that I think is MUCH better. It's out in the world as we speak, winging its way to New York. It's also in a few email inboxes. So far, it too has gotten a rejection, but it was, like, the best rejection ever. Here it is, from Stephen Barbara at the Donald Maass agency:
Dear Rachel, Thanks very much for this nicely-worded query. I’m afraid I have a similar project on my list, but certainly keep querying other agents – I’m sure you’ll generate much interest. Yours truly, Stephen Barbara • Agent and Contracts Director •
So, still a rejection, but a really nice one that made my day almost as much as if it had been an acceptance. FOr one thing, I now know that, yes, my new query letter is better. And, after reading three versions of "Dear Writer, This Work Is Not Right For Us," it felt really good to get something personal and encouraging. So Stephen Barbara, should you ever read my blog, you rock!
In honor of querying, I'm poting the first 5 pages of Too Near the Glass, since those are the pages that agents are hopefully looking at as we speak!
Oh, and PS, PLEASE send happy thoughts, prayers, vibes, whatever you want to call them my way as I attempt to live the dream!
I stepped out of the car, and into the hot, thick air of August in Georgia.
“Awesome,” I murmured, sliding my fogged-up sunglasses on top of my head. Thanks to the humidity, my hair felt like it had tripled in size. I could feel it trying to devour my sunglasses like some sort of carnivorous jungle plant. “I always wondered what it would be like to live in somebody’s mouth.”
In front of me loomed Prentiss Academy, which according to the brochure clutched in my sweaty hand was “the premier facility for the education of Prodigium adolescents.”
Prodigium. Just a fancy Latin word for monsters. And that’s what everyone at Prentiss was.
That’s what I was.
I’d already read the brochure four times on the plane from Vermont to Georgia, twice on the ferry ride to Graymalkin Island, just off the coast of Georgia and where Prentiss had been built in 1854, and once as our rental car had rattled over the shell and gravel driveway that led to the school from the shore. So I should have had it memorized, but I kept holding onto it and compulsively reading it like it was my wubby or something.
The purpose of Prentiss Academy, I read now, is to prepare Shapeshifter, Witch, and Fae children for the roles they will be expected to play in Prodigium society, as well as give them a working knowledge of the history and struggles of Prodigium through the ages. Starting at the age of thirteen-
“If everybody’s supposed to start here when they’re thirteen, why are they letting me in?” I asked, squinting over at my mom as we moved to the trunk to get my bags. It was a question that had been bugging me since the first time I read the brochure, but I hadn’t had a chance to ask before. Mom had spent most of the flight pretending to sleep, probably to avoid looking at my sullen expression.
“Thirteen,” I repeated, lifting out my purple and black striped suitcase. Mom had gotten it for me a few months ago. I was supposed to use it when I went to Florida with my friend Amy and her parents, a trip that was never happening now, thanks to Prentiss.
“The brochure says kids start here at thirteen,” I clarified. “I’m, like, three years too late.”
Mom just sighed and shut the trunk. “Usually that’s the case, but they make exceptions in cases like yours.”
“You mean total screw ups.”
Mom pushed her own sunglasses up and to look me in the eyes. She looked tired and there were heavy lines around her mouth, lines I’d never seen before. My mom was thirty-eight, but she usually could pass for ten years younger.
“You’re not a screw up, Sophie,” she said for what had to be the hundredth time. “You just made a mistake.”
Had I ever. See, I’m a Witch. Not one of the fly around on broomsticks kind. I asked my mom about that when I first came into my powers, and she said no, I had to keep riding the bus like everyone else.
I don’t have spell books or a talking cat, either (I’m allergic), and I wouldn’t even know where to get something like eye of newt, but yeah, I can do magic. I’ve been able to ever since I was twelve, which, according to Sweaty Brochure, was the average age all Prodigium came into their powers. Something to do with puberty, I guess, but twelve sounded like a good age to me. I mean, who wants to deal with babies with superpowers?
My magic doesn’t involve wands or potions, either. It’s more like I concentrate really hard on something and there’s this feeling like water rushing up from the soles of my feet and into my fingertips. And then- bam! Whatever I was thinking about happens. The first time I did magic was in sixth grade, and I ended up accidently turning my hair purple for five weeks. After that, Mom sat me down and explained that it was very important that I keep my powers a secret, that other people wouldn’t understand, and that it was safer to limit my magic until I knew the extent of my powers. That was the last time I remembered my mom looking as worried as she did now carrying my suitcase up to Prentiss Academy.
“At least it’s a good school,” she said weakly as we approached.
But it didn’t look like a school. It looked like a cross between something out of an Anne Rice novel and Disneyworld’s Haunted Mansion. For starters, it was obviously over two hundred years old. It was two stories tall, with what looked like a smaller third story perched on top, like the top tier of a wedding cake. The house had maybe been white once, but now it was just sort of a faded gray, almost the same color as the shell and gravel drive making it look like the house wasn’t a house at all, but some sort of natural outcropping of the island. The only thing that ruined that illusion was the plantation shutters. They were bright green, like they’d just been painted. Six huge columns held up the porch roof, and there was a small balcony with French doors on the second story. On both the porch and the balcony, there were wooden rocking chairs that looked like no one had sat in them since before the Civil War. There were huge oak trees in the front yard that dripped with Spanish moss, making the house look gloomy and shaded.
It was, in short, the creepiest place I’d ever seen in my entire life. There seemed to be plants everywhere. Two ferns in dusty pots bracketed the front door, looking like big green spiders, and some sort of vine with purple flowers had totally taken over one wall. It was almost like the forest just beyond the house was slowly absorbing it.
I tugged at the hem of my brand new, Prentiss Academy-issued blue plaid skirt (kilt? Some sort of bizarre skirt/kilt hybrid? A skilt?), and wondered why the hell a school in the middle of the Deep South would have their uniforms made out of wool. Still, as I stared at the school, I fought off a shiver. There was something vaguely… unsettling about the place. I wondered how anyone could ever look at it and think it was just a normal boarding school.
Prentiss Academy, Monster High, I thought to myself, trying to be funny, but the thought was more depressing than anything.
“It’s pretty,” Mom said in her best “let’s all be perky and look on the bright side” voice.
I, however, was not feeling so perky.
“Yeah, it’s beautiful. For a prison.”
My mom shook her head and leaned forward, her arms folded on the car’s roof. “Drop the insolent teenager thing, Soph. It’s hardly a prison.”
But that’s what it felt like. Prentiss Academy was my punishment for a stupid spell gone wrong. Like, bad wrong.
After the purple hair incident, I’d been really good at keeping my powers on the DL. I hardly even used magic outside my own house.
At least, until prom.
Back in May, I’d been invited to the Senior prom by my friend, Rob Horowitz. Mom had been super-stoked since I was only a sophomore, and she saw this as me finally making an attempt to Fit In. Fitting In was really important to Mom. I hadn’t had the heart to tell her that Rob was possibly the only person at Green Mountain High less popular than I was. We’d gone to dinner at the ridiculously named Reluctant Panther Inn, and everything had been going great until I’d gotten up to use the restroom and found Felicia Miller sobbing in the bathroom.
I sighed at the memory. I may have been the class weirdo, but people weren’t really ever mean to me; they just tended to ignore me. Felicia on the other hand was the class punching bag. For her, school had been nothing but a constant parade of stolen lunch money, tripping feet, and nasty remarks. So seeing her crouched in the bathroom of The Reluctant Panther, wearing a pretty, if extremely bright, yellow prom dress really got to me.
And when she told me that she’d invited an out of town friend to prom and he hadn’t showed, I’d felt really bad for her, and that had led to me doing something really stupid.
I’d asked her who she wanted to go to the prom with.
Her first choice was Zac Efron, but I’d asked her to pick someone who actually went to our school, so she settled on Kevin Harbinson, SGA president, hottie, and all around good guy.
So I’d done my first- and last- love spell.