Business: Or, How A Query Letter Almost Killed Me

I have a long, mixed relationship with query letters. My first was when I was ten, and my teacher helped me write it. When she sent it out, I prayed every day that it would be rejected. I hated that story. But it’s taken me a long time to work through that karma.

I sent more out when I was 17, and although at the time I thought I wanted positive responses, hindsight teaches me that those rejections were the best. Really.

Then two years ago, I sent out a single hopeful query to an agent I really wanted. A few weeks later, I received a coveted request for the first 50 pages.

I flipped out. I ran around my office bouncing on everyone, and then ran across campus to where cedarsong worked so I could bounce all over her. With the email printed out, flapping in the wind, I was skipping and hopping like Tigger. I fantasized about being famous and being able to tell people it only took one query letter! That’s how awesome I was!

So, I found Natalie and we bounced together. Then I spun around and headed for another campus building, where chernobylred worked, to bounce some more.

This building looks like a giant covered parking lot, with tiny square windows. I headed inside, a jaunty hop to my step, and slowly began to realize that the building was empty. There should have been students everywhere. Weird. I wandered through the maze of dark halls toward Lydia’s office… which was empty. But wait! Why were all the secretaries gone? I saw computers online, lights glaring… but no people. There was no fire alarm.

Now, during Winter Break, this is common. The campus resembles a post-apocalyptic nightmare when its covered with fog and the flower beds are dry and empty. But in the middle of the semester? When classes are in session?

Well, I was too ecstatic to care, so I calmly walked back out and down to my own building. As I got to my desk, the phone rang. My coworker mentioned it had been ringing off the hook for five minutes.

I answered, and Natalie screamed, “oh my god, you’re alive!”

She proceeded to explain that the building had been evacuated because of a report that there was a man was seen entering with a rifle. Natalie had received a call from Lydia moments after I walked out, in which Lydia told her about the rifle and hung up right after saying, “Shit, was that a shot?!?”

Natalie had then taken off at a sprint to catch up with me – she ran straight into the face of danger to come to my rescue. My hero.

They never found anybody or any rifles, and nobody was injured. So I can laugh about it. Though I never did sell that novel.

To round out my embarrassment, here’s the original query letter. Before it was put to bed, it had a 75% positive response rate. In other words, the query was better than the novel. 😀

I am seeking representation for my contemporary fantasy novel, Morgen’s Wand, complete at 101,000 words. The first draft of the sequel, Morgen’s Cup, is recently complete at 115,000 words, and the third, Morgen’s Crown, exists in outline form.

Morgen Muse is a modern Witch who works in a coffee shop, drives a beat-up Jeep instead of a broom, and does not believe in magic. In her world, faerie queens have become diminutive Tinkerbelles, vampires are so popular they’ve ceased to be frightening, and King Arthur has been relegated to Renaissance Festivals and bad Hollywood remakes. But on the summer solstice when a Faerie drops a magical wand into Morgen’s lap and her close friend is murdered by the Master of the Wild Hunt, Morgen is shoved into the darker side of the legends she’s grown up with. She must discover the secrets of the faerie warrior who calls her the Light Bearer, and escape the followers of Sir Gawain the Green Knight, who want her dead. Most of all, she must navigate through her disbelief in fate and magic, and to find the faith in herself that is necessary to come to terms with the Faerie rhyme that claims she will murder the risen King Arthur.

In Morgen’s Wand I have brought my favorite legends – vampires, faeries, and King Arthur – into a realm I know very well: contemporary Kansas City, where I’ve lived between jaunts around the world. I have always been fascinated by the juxtaposition of the magical and the mundane that is the mainstay of urban fantasy. Vampire encounters at the grocery store and goblins lurking in amusement parks are the kind of situations that lure and titillate me. At the same time, I believe that in order to have any effect, such supernatural elements must be grounded in strong characterization and recognizable humanity.

I’ve had one short story published in the national magazine, NewWitch, one short story in a local university magazine, and three book reviews published in the Ohioana Literary Journal. Though my undergraduate degree and nearly completed master’s degree are in Women’s Studies, my concentration throughout my education has been in English and Creative Writing.

Thank you for your consideration of this proposal. I have included below a synopsis and the first 400 words of Morgen’s Wand. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Tessa Gratton

Oh, GOD, there are so many things I’d do differently now. *blush*

5 thoughts on “Business: Or, How A Query Letter Almost Killed Me

  1. Yeah, I’m pretty sure “recent events” is the only reason I could even imagine putting up that letter. Srsly. Gawd.

  2. if I put “recent events” and Maggie’s lj post together, am I jumping to too many conclusions?

    No, I’m not gripping my (wooden) pencil. Why would I do that?

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