Queries That Hooked An Agent #1 – Michelle Hauck – PYGMY HAZARDS
For our first query of the series I would like to welcome Michelle Hauck, whose query for PYGMY HAZARDS was the first step in obtaining representation from Sarah Negovetich of the Corvisiero Literary Agency. Congratulations Michelle 🙂
Michelle Hauck lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two teenagers. Two papillons help balance out the teenage drama. Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. A book worm, she passes up the darker vices in favor of chocolate and looks for any excuse to reward herself. Bio finished? Time for a sweet snack.
She is a co-host of the yearly contest Query Kombat. Her epic fantasy, Kindar’s Cure, was published by Divertir Publishing. Her short story, Frost and Fog, was published by The Elephant’s Bookshelf Press in their anthology, Summer’s Double Edge. She’s represented by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary.
Thanks so much for volunteering to join my Agent Greeting contest. I’m looking forward to it on August 5th. I saw on Writer’s Digest that you were looking for middle grade and decided to send you my query in hopes you will find it interesting.
Tom, the classroom hamster, wants to escape from the h-e-double-hockey-sticks otherwise known as school. His military training at the pet shop didn’t include playing house or being sentenced to a boot camp of never-ending Show ‘n Tell, math facts rap, and story time. But he’s learned a lot behind the bars of his cage. For example, if you want to keep breathing, never trust a pygmy who has earned the nickname Squeezer. Somehow he has to get away before the pygmies dress him as Strawberry Shortcake again—or worse.
When a “subspatoot” teacher fills in, Tom sees his chance to put Operation Escape the Pygmies into action. He makes a run for the border, hamster style. Bad news. The principal says a rodent on the loose is a distraction to learning and better off flushed. The way out is turned into a battlefield of snapping mousetraps, sticky snares, and poisoned pellets.
Tom seems doomed until the friendless Squeezer lends an over-excited hand. She quickly goes from supervillain to super sidekick. Now, the greatest obstacle to his freedom may be Tom’s soft spot for this lonely pygmy.
A cross between Toy Story, Monsters Inc., and those cute AT&T kid commercials, PYGMY HAZARDS is a MG fantasy complete at 34,000 words. My epic fantasy, Kindar’s Cure, was recently released by Divertir Publishing. My short story, Frost and Fog, was published by The Elephant’s Bookshelf for their summer anthology, Summer’s Double Edge. I’ve worked at an elementary school as a special needs assistant for over ten years, giving me lots of experience with pygmies.
Michelle’s Comments On The Process:
I’ve written query letters for four very different manuscripts, but this query was the easiest I’ve ever done and also the only middle grade query I’ve written. All of my other query letters went through over twenty drafts, usually closer to thirty, and that doesn’t included the many numerous tweaks I was constantly adding.
The query for Pygmy Hazards had only five drafts. Somehow the voice just transferred from the manuscript to the query seamlessly, which made it very easy to write. My first draft didn’t mention the character of Squeezer by name. I got some good advice from a few agents and other writers that a middle grade story really needed a better idea of how the child characters played into the plot.
By the third draft, I had focused the ending to include Squeezer and how she touched Tom’s heart, but it took two more drafts to work her into the first paragraph and make her a stronger part of the query. Another thing that other writers helped me decide to add was the motivation for the principal’s dislike of the hamsters. Without the hamsters being ‘a distraction to learning’, the principal wasn’t really grounded as a character with a strong reason for his actions.
I tried to do more showing than telling with this query, not always an easy process. But I do think I succeeded with showing why Tom believes the kids are a mixture of crazy annoyance and danger to him. I also personalized the first paragraph, hoping my previous contact with Sarah was an advantage.
Though it got its share of rejections, I’m really happy that the query for Pygmy Hazards was strong enough to grab the attention of my agent Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary Agency! I believe she read the full and told me she wanted to chat in less than three days.
Michelle’s query ticked off all the right boxes. She personalized it with more than just “I know you represent X, so here’s my manuscript”. She kept it concise, but got all the important details in there. By the time I finished her query, I knew who the main character was, what his goal was, what stood in the way, and what’s at stake if he failed. And for the win, Michelle worked the voice of her novel into the query. Even though the query was in third person (as it should be) I could imagine her main character writing it. This was a great query, followed by an outstanding manuscript.
Her favorite writing is YA, because at seventeen the world is your oyster. Only oysters are slimy and more than a little salty, it’s accurate if not exactly motivational.
Sarah’s background is in Marketing. FYI, your high school algebra teacher was right when they told you every job uses math. She uses her experience to assist Corvisiero authors with platform building and book promotion.