Sunday, April 19, 2009


Congrats Shelia (friend and blog member) on finishing your first book! Good on you for getting it done. I know how much work it is.

So now that your getting ready to query here’s a copy of the letter I sent to Orca for ‘Just J’:

06 June 2005

Orca Book Publishers
Attn: Andrew Wooldridge
PO Box 5626, Station B
Victoria, BC
V8R 6S4

Dear Mr. Wooldridge

Please consider my finished Young Adult book, Jenevieve, for publication. I’ve always enjoyed first person accounts, both reading and writing, and the books that I read in my youth are the ones that were the most influential in my life, which is why I am drawn to writing teen fiction. This particular manuscript was completed with the assistance of a Toronto Arts Council grant.

From authors such as Beth Goobie and her contribution to your Orca Sounding Series, ‘Sticks and Stones’, also written in first person, I see and admire your willingness to address teen topics with stronger subject matter. Jenevieve deals with a young woman struggling to come to grips with the death of her mother. Jenevieve’s father—unable to cope with the loss of his wife—sends her away for the summer with an aunt that Jenevieve has never met, or heard about, before her mother’s funeral. Abandoned by both parents, Jenevieve finds herself in the company of an eccentric aunt and her albino friend, who take Jenevieve from urban comfort to country basics; bringing her to a decrepit house which she is expected to help renovate. Jenevieve finds escape in her sarcasm and in the sand dunes which are walking distance from the house. In the dunes, she meets Sean, a local boy who she quickly befriends as they go in the search of, Moonlight Palace, a mythical dance hall, buried in the dunes, where the sands of time have ceased to run. If you find this storyline permissible, would you review the enclosed first 29 pages (six chapters) of the 30,000 word Young Adult book?

Thanks for considering this query. My SASE is for your response only, not for the return of any materials.


Colin Frizzell
62 Glenlake Ave.
Toronto, Ontario
M6P 1C9
[This is, of course, no longer my address.]

I sent out six in total. After I was finished, ‘Just J’, I looked for and read other books written in a similar vein. I then chose the publishers that I thought would be most receptive and got the names (making sure on spelling) of which editors I should be approaching. God is in the details. They get a lot of manuscripts and are looking to weed out as much as bring in.

On that note, once you’ve done the research and had a couple weeks away from your own manuscript go back and look at it with fresh eyes. Make sure it is the best it can be. And also be sure that the formatting is correct, good quality paper, even using a laser printer if possible. Anything you can do to make it look more professional will help it stand out. It’s a tough business, but have faith. I posted some rejections letters on the blog earlier, they should help keep you going and remind you not to take any of it personally, which is easier said than done.


  1. I am really starting to get cold feet. My heart and soul is in this book and I don't know if I'm comfortable letting strangers read it. That's really weird because I was all excited about it. I have written the query letter, though, and I am going to add a couple of things that you have in your original (more research on existing books from the publisher and the SASE statement, etc). It can't hurt to send it. I'm not worried about rejection. I think I might even be relieved. I dunno.... I'm fighting myself and I'm not sure who's winning. lol.

  2. I do that with almost every post. I just re-edited a few. It's difficult opening yourself up like that. We're generally conditioned to hide our feelings instead of express them. Last week I said to one my students, something like, if you live your whole life without ever expressing who you truly are, what was the point in being here? After I said it I was like, wow, where'd that come from? Did I just say that? Then came the tougher question: do I do that myself? Quite often the answer is no, especially recently when I've started to be concerned with what other people think. It's a terrible affliction; especially considering how many people don't (think that is). Though I try to be as honest as I can in my writing—about the really important stuff anyway. The interior world; the exterior is mostly smoke and mirrors anyway so turn it into what you like—in the story and within reason. ;)
    The more personal you can make it the better. And remember that you are writing for the people who do think and want to hear other people’s stories and you might give them the courage to tell theirs.
    One of the greatest compliments I got with 'Just J' was when CM Magazine said it had an "unabashed emotional truth". That was important to me; I wrote it shortly after Dad died. At one point I was considering a male character but that would have been too close to home. A thirteen year-old girl gave me enough of a distance (a literary mask) to express some of the emotions surrounding the loss of a parent more freely. Also, it made me feel better because she was so much more intense than I was, I could go totally over the top with it.
    Anyway, the moral of the story is that it’s good that it’s personal and that you’re scared about sending it out. A hero isn’t someone who is absent of fear (that’s a sociopath) a hero is someone that doesn’t let fear rule them. And you never have, so why start now? And if you’re really nervous always, always remember: we live in a wine region now; make good use of it. ;)