Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Writers Voice: REVELATION

Dear Fabulous Agents and Writing Coaches:

A cross between Ally Condie’s Matched and Laurie Halse Anderson’s Fever 1793, REVELATION (73,000 words) is a YA historical novel with crossover potential about breaking through expectations to find one’s own place in the tangled racial web of 1825 New Orleans.

All seventeen-year-old Angelique Saint-Clair wants is the freedom to choose her own fate. But to secure a comfortable life for herself as a free woman of color, she has been taught that she must follow in her mother’s footsteps and sign a contract with a wealthy Creole gentleman . . . not as his wife, but as his mistress. Her mother has trained her well for her first quadroon ball, dances given for the purpose of introducing quadroons to such men. At the ball, Angelique snags the attention of Monsieur LeBlanc. Handsome and kind, he has everything to offer. Unfortunately, Angelique’s heart already belongs to another, her impoverished piano instructor who happens to be LeBlanc’s half-brother.

Determined to secure her daughter’s future, Marguerite Saint-Clair encourages negotiations with LeBlanc, forcing Angelique to choose between comfort and love. Angelique assumes such a choice will be easy until yellow fever strikes the city. When Angelique decides to sacrifice her desires to save her mother’s life, she discovers she is too late because LeBlanc has already left the city. Soon after, her mother dies, but Angelique refuses to give up when she discovers the key to empowering herself: her father’s name on her baptismal record. Armed with this information, she carves a life for herself and the aspirations of her heart.

Originally from Louisiana, I return home through my writing, which includes Becoming Cajun, Becoming American: The Acadian in American Literature from Longfellow to James Lee Burke (LSU Press, 2009) and an article on post-Katrina New Orleans detective fiction published in Clues: A Journal of Detection. In terms of fiction, I am an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. I also attended the 2013 Rutgers Council on Children’s Literature One-on-One Plus Conference, the 2014 Yale Writers’ Conference, and the December 2014 Big Sur Writing Workshop.

The first 250 words of the manuscript are pasted below. Thank you for your time and consideration of this simultaneous submission.

Maria Hebert-Leiter

REVELATION, First 250 Words:

Masks cover only so much. I twirl the silk-wrapped stick and watch the attached mask circle above my hand like a bird. Flawless dove feathers rise from the right corner. I brush my fingertips along the edge. It tickles, and I smile. I used to adore dressing up, pretending I could be whatever my imagination desired. I raise the mask over my face. It has been years since I believed I could have anything if only I imagined it.

Still, I cannot stop the music that rises in my head or the image that forms in harmony with it. Me sitting at a beautiful piano as I press down my left hand and play the chords that open the second movement of Schubert’s Fantasie, the Adagio. Somber notes only I can hear pull me from the tedious present until my fingers clench. The stick propping up the mask cracks in two.

“Angelique,” Maman says, my name sliding like silk in her perfect French marred only by a hint of disappointment. She accepts the broken pieces. Her lips pinch then ease as she turns back to the seamstress and waves her hand up and down the dress. “It looks exquisite.”

Maman requires no mask. She has perfected the art of pretending we are better off than we really are.

Thick raindrops plunk on the banquette. I hear more than see them beyond the front window of our cottage on Dumaine. The wooden walkways have soaked up so much water lately that they have warped in the perpetual heat.