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.

Sincerely,
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.

32 comments:

  1. Your first 250 is really strong. Love you used Maman which is very cultural and native to Lousiana and the islands such as Haiti... Good Luck!

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  2. Thanks, storywrtr.com! Which is your entry?

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  3. Good luck in the competition! (Are you on Twitter, btw?)

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  4. Wow...this was like reading a piece of poetry! While Across Five Aprils was probably the last YA/Historical I've read, your novel really seems to capture the flavor of the times. Hope you do well in the contest!

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    1. How lovely. THANK YOU!
      Good luck right back at you!

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  5. OMG! Why can't I buy this book yet?! Sounds like such a unique and untold aspect of the historic south. Seriously, awesome. I'm sure you'll make a team with it.

    @AshleyHearn (#45 - The Sumerlin Curse)

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    1. Thanks, Ashley. I was reading the entries in order and hadn't made it to yours. But I will check it out right now. Good luck!

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  6. Ooh, very intriguing! I love the setting and also really like the MC's name :) Great job and best of luck in the contest!!!

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  7. Thanks, Michelle! And thanks for signing the bookmarks for the girl I know who has made CF very real for us. Nice to know she will be able to see herself in such books.

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  8. This sounds amazing! Beautiful writing.

    ~Mary Schappert
    http://maryschappert.com/

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  9. This is so...lush and intricate. I can already picture it as a period film :) Good luck!

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  10. Hi, I enjoyed reading this in May's Secret Agent contest and it's only stronger having the query behind it.

    I loved this line then and still love it -- 'Maman requires no mask. She has perfected the art of pretending we are better off than we really are.'

    Thanks for sharing again (lol) and good luck!

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  11. Thanks, everyone. Good luck to you, too! And, Don, I've been enjoying reading some of the same first pages, too.

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  12. What an interesting time-period and premise for your story! Best of luck in the contest!
    Rebecca

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  13. This is really lovely and polished. Well done!

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  14. Beautiful writing and wonderful premise! Best of luck!

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  15. great writing. good luck in the coming weeks.

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  16. This is excellent. I love the unique premise and the 250. Best of luck :)

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  17. Thanks, everyone. Making my way through your entries, too. Good luck to you, too!

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  18. This sounds really interesting! Great set up. Good luck!

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  19. Hi, Maria! I remember this one;) If I may ask, how many other contests has REVELATION been in, and about how many of #TheWVoice agents have already seen it, either in other contests or in their query inboxes? Thanks!

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  20. Hi, Krista. An earlier version was in Pitch Madness 2014, though it has been much revised since then. Otherwise, it has only been in the MSFV May Secret Agent this month. Of the agents, I sent it to Caitie Flum about two weeks ago, and I have not received a reply yet to that query. Ammi-Joan Paquette was one of the agents for PItch Madness a year ago, when I participated with the earlier version. Please feel free to ask any additional questions. Maria

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  21. I want you! Actually, Anna-Marie and I both want you--yours was the first entry she mentioned when we sat down to chat:) We love the rich world you’ve introduced us to in just a few words, and Angelique’s love of music immediately endeared her to me. I love how passionate she is and would definitely keep reading to see how that passion plays out through the rest of the book.

    The first paragraph in your query is good, but I think the second could be stronger. I usually encourage writers to include more specifics in their queries, but I can’t help but wonder if you’ve revealed a little too much. I think we can find a better line to end on that will underscore the choices Angelique has to make without giving away what she ultimately decides. And while I like the first line of the first page, I think it would be stronger if you spent less time on the mask and more on Angelique and Maman’s interaction. I’d also like to see if the three of us can come up with a better title, since I think “REVELATION” is too simple to do this story justice:)

    I’m always on the lookout for a sumptuous historical, and yours more than fills the bill, so please, please, please pick me! Once I post these comments, I have to step away from my computer for a few hours to get my kids ready for school, so if the other coaches try to swoop in here and steal you (and I won’t be at all surprised if they do), please give me some time to offer a rebuttal before you make a decision.

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  22. I want you on my team!

    I HATE fighting against Krista, who was my guest coach last year and is my agent-sister, but I have to do it. I love your concept so much - among all the entries this was one of the first ones I knew I wanted. It has so many things I love: diversity, an interesting setting, and a strong female character - plus romance! I love your opening 250 too and can't wait to see where you go with this book. If you join my team I think the "meat" of the story could be more clear, along with the stakes, so I'd love to work on that with you and get this into the best shape possible so a ton of agents will request it!

    Why should you pick me? I write and read YA, along with NA romance, so I definitely know the category - my YA thriller comes out next year from Albert Whitman. Although I haven't written historical yet, I do read a lot of it - actually, Regency-era is my favorite time period to read books from. My guest coach is also working on a MG historical at the moment.

    Last year, I won The Writer’s Voice with the most number of requests, and every single person on my team got at least one request. Many members of my team from last year have agents now, and some also have book deals. I’ve also had great success as a Pitch Wars mentor: all three of my mentees have gotten agents and two of them have book deals. My guest coach also got a 6 figure deal at auction, so she knows her stuff. Oh, and I used to be an intern for agent Jill Corcoran, an intern for Entangled, and an editor for Curiosity Quills Press.

    I really hope you will pick me and join #TeamTRex!

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  23. Why should you pick me? First off, because I read and write historical children's fiction (and so does Anna-Marie--her entry, THE COIN DIVER, was the top vote-getter on my team in 2012!). In the last two months alone, I've read Stacey Lee's UNDER A PAINTED SKY and Sharon Biggs Waller's A MAD, WICKED FOLLY in addition to more than a dozen other children's books, so I know what the current YA historical market looks like. I've also written and published historical fiction, so I know how to blend all the elements you have to blend when you're writing in a time period that's not our own.

    I’ve also been on the winning team, either as the coach or the guest coach, in every previous year, so I have the best track of getting votes for my teammates (and with the exception of the first year, when we had almost 50% more teammates than we did this year or last, all of my teammates have also gotten at least one vote).

    Last but certainly not least, you should pick me because Anna-Marie will go ballistic if you're not on our team. She'll probably move to Bora Bora and become a hermit or something, and her family will miss her horribly. DON'T LET ANNA-MARIE MOVE TO BORA BORA. JOIN #TEAMMARIES. (I mean, you're Maria, so you'll fit right in:) )

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  24. After much thought, I choose #TEAMMARIES. Liz, you made it an extremely difficult decision, but I won a critique from Krista in late 2014, so in a way I’ve already worked with her as a coach. Also, I am named for my grandmother Marie who lived in New Orleans her whole life, so I feel like this was meant to be. Again, I thank you both for your sincere interest in this story. And I look forward to being part of the competition. Krista, your comments resonated with me. When do we get to work?

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  25. I forgive you cause I would have picked Krista too - she's pretty awesome! ;)

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    1. Thanks for that. Hated having to choose.

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