Query Critique Day: Travel Memoirs
Time for some community feedback!
It’s that time again!!
Time for you all to help me out by critiquing a shiny, revised query that has been wrung through the Query Day wringer.
For August, our lucky “winner” is Wendy, who will be querying her travel memoirs soon! This is our first non-fiction query on here (woo!), so I’m excited to hear what everyone thinks.
And as always, be HELPFUL, be gentle, and leave your comments below.
Dear Ms. Dennard,
I’ve shacked up with a counterfeiter in a forest in Rio. Woken up accidentally engaged in Santo Domingo. Hitched a Secret Service Humvee in Jordan. Filmed Cuban cigar traffickers in Havana. Crashed a Cadillac in Hollywood. Escaped a foot fetishist in Hanoi. Encountered men and other wild animals in Africa. And I’ve written 70,000 words about it that I’ll never show my grandmother.
I note from your blog that you have a great sense of humor. If you’re looking for an entertaining travel memoir filled with danger and romance off the Richter scale I invite you to consider <TITLE>.
As background – I’m the daughter of an Australian volcanologist and a crocodile farm bookkeeper, born in Papua New Guinea with danger at my doorstep since day one. When I approached my 21st, the small town I was raised in was buried by a volcanic eruption, and I found I no longer knew where to call “home”. I’d graduated college, become a professional fairy and found myself a little lost. So I hung up my wings, picked up a camera and some courage, and began flying solo around the world making films -and bad romantic decisions. It’s here my story takes off. I fell in love, more than once, like it was a pothole in the road. And I found my feet in the world. From shamans to storm troopers to sleazy Hollywood producers, I’ve survived–and written about–them all.
My writing has been published in Muse, Viva and Lowdown magazines, online at Arts Hub, and I’m editor of <COMPANY>, so my platform is growing together with my frequent flying carbon footprint. I’ve won three gold awards at the Houston International Film Festival and another for ‘Best Producer’ in Azerbaijan. I’ve guest lectured at universities in Australia and the States, traveled 60 countries, and filmed and screened my documentaries across five continents. But there are no cinemas on the road less traveled and the soul of my manuscript is found in the unguarded moments far from the camera when I forgot about my films and found my heart had skipped a beat.
<TITLE> is an action-packed anthology with something for everyone: Exotic locales, love, sex, humor, tragedy, intrigue, and even a little arsenic poisoning. And I’ve just completed a sequel of more death-defying tales. Don’t try them at home.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Let Wendy know what you think of her query letter in the comments, please! There won’t be a query day for September–I’m going to be out of town…not to mention, I’ll be frantically finishing the first draft of the sequel to Something Strange and Deadly.
Savannah J. Foley
August 31, 2011 @ 2:14 pm
If I were an agent, would I request this book? Yes.
To clarify, my reaction would be something like: HOLY COW OMG SEND THAT MS TO ME NOOOOOOWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!! ASDFKJDS; I CAN’T WAIT!!!!
August 31, 2011 @ 2:16 pm
WIN! Thanks so much for the feedback, Sav!! <3
August 31, 2011 @ 3:04 pm
Yeah, I’m with Savannah. I WANT — no, NEED — TO READ THIS!! This query ROCKS.
September 1, 2011 @ 8:40 pm
Thanks, Holly!! 😀
August 31, 2011 @ 3:10 pm
Yes, I’d read it. Great job.
September 1, 2011 @ 8:41 pm
Thank you for stopping by, Ladonna!
August 31, 2011 @ 5:28 pm
Well, I kind of got a bit info-loaded with all the places at the start. Also, you mention it being a memoir but then you mention being a proffesional fairy. I’m kind of confused about it.
Also, you seem to give an intro on the book at the start and then you give an intro on yourself in the middle. Which was awesome. But you kind of use it as an intro to your story again? Maybe I’m wrong, but I kind of got that vibe. Although your personal credentials are awesome.
One last thing. The mention of sex is kind of out of place, a little bit. In some countries if sex is mentioned kind of like that then it’s seen as though your marketing it on the sex of the book. Do you know what I mean?
September 1, 2011 @ 8:41 pm
Great suggestions, Tim. Thank you so much!! 😀
September 2, 2011 @ 1:18 am
Thanks Tim, I do see where you’re coming from, that is valuable feedback. I’ve had another reader feel that opening para an info-overload as you did, while others have loved it, so I’ve been questioning which way to go on it. I’m wondering whether you- and other readers – feel that switching paras 1 & 2 would be better or not?
Also your point is insightful about the 2nd para reading like a second intro, then returning to the book brings another direction change. Do you think it would work better, with more flow, if I took out “as background” as the start of para 2 – or try to fit in “as background” somewhere later in those few perhaps?
I added “As background” so readers were clear it was bio info and not included in the memoir (it’s not my whole life story since birth!) but do the later words “It’s here my story takes off” explain that well enough?
Does it read better beginning para 2 with:
“The daughter of an Australian volcanologist and a crocodile farm bookkeeper, I was born in Papua New Guinea with danger at my doorstep since day one. As background – when I approached my 21st, the small town I was raised in was buried by a volcanic eruption, and I found I no longer knew where to call “home”.
Any thoughts from readers on this part of possible confusion would be very helpful! Thanks again.
August 31, 2011 @ 11:25 pm
Hi Sooz and Wendy– you ladies have set the nonfiction bar very very high. This looks like an amazing memoir! I read on the blogs that agents are looking for concept, writing, and platform for non-fiction– and this one seems to have it all. I think your voice is INFUSED in this letter Wendy, and it’s very appealing.
I paused at the professional fairy line, but the next line about hanging up the fairy wings clarified it. Good luck, Wendy, and keep us posted!
September 1, 2011 @ 8:42 pm
Thank you so much for pointing that out, Katharine! 🙂
September 1, 2011 @ 2:59 pm
Ditto everyone else…why isn’t this book published NOW?! I have to say, the fairy thing didn’t throw me; I got that it was kinda tongue in cheek. The tiniest of tiny details… I think I would say “frequent flyER carbon footprint” instead of “frequent flyING carbon footprint”! Good luck, I can’t wait to see this one on the shelf.
September 1, 2011 @ 8:43 pm
Great point, Laura. Thanks for the comment!! <3
September 2, 2011 @ 12:50 am
That is a very good point. I’ll change that. Good spot, Laura. Thanks!
September 2, 2011 @ 12:49 am
You made my day – Thank you thank you thank you for your comments! Please keep them coming! Holly & Savannah & any who would like to read the MS are more than welcome to, as I could really use feedback on that too (yep, I need more friends, particularly writing friends…)
Savannah J. Foley
September 6, 2011 @ 1:06 am
Yes! Email me and I’d love to take a look at it!
September 9, 2011 @ 1:33 am
Will do, thanks Savannah!