Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 13, 2016

Successful Query – Karen Fortunati

My friend Karen Fortunati, along with her successful query letter and book were featured on Writer’s Digest. I thought you would be interested in reading her query letter. Congratulations, Karen!


Dear Ms. Megibow,

I am seeking representation for my YA novel, The Weight of Zero, complete at 86,000 words. Seventeen-year-old Catherine Pulaski knows Zero is coming for her. Zero, the devastating depression born of Catherine’s bipolar disease, has almost triumphed once, propelling Catherine to her first suicide attempt. With Zero only temporarily restrained by the latest med du jour, time is running out. In an old ballet shoebox, Catherine stockpiles medications, preparing to take her own life before Zero can inflict its own living death on her again.

But Catherine’s life is changing with unexpected and meaningful relationships that lessen her sense of isolation. These new relationships along with the care of a gifted psychiatrist alter Catherine’s perception of her diagnosis as a death sentence. This is a story of loss and grief and how the many shapes of love – maternal, romantic and platonic – lead to Catherine’s successful struggle to come to terms with her chronic mental illness.

This manuscript was awarded the SCBWI 2014 Work-in-Progress Grant in the Contemporary YA category and the Serendipity Literary Agency 2013 YA First Page/Novel Discovery Contest. My experiences with children as a juvenile prosecutor and court appointed child advocacy attorney definitely influenced the writing of this story. But it was my husband’s job that gave birth to it. He is a child psychiatrist and through him, I understand that treatment can and does work. This is what inspired me to write a story of hope.

Thank you for your time!

Karen Fortunati


sara_sized_160x240Commentary from agent Sara Megibow:

This query caught my attention right away because of the unique way Karen portrays conflict. Unlike other young adult novels where the antagonist might be a teacher, a parent or another kid, in The Weight of Zero the bad guy is Zero – Catherine’s bipolar disorder. Karen has effectively set up a story in which everyone is fighting Zero – the story has both internal and external conflict (as all good stories should) but the unique hook is how she has balanced conflict between the characters and the disorder. I imagine a scale – on one side is Zero and on the other side is Catherine’s support network of family, friends, doctors and therapists. This unique spin really works!

The second thing that impressed me in this query is right there in paragraph two. We know this is a contemporary young adult novel involving issues of mental health and mental health care. What makes this story stick out in a crowded field? The fact that Karen tells us this is a success story – the story of a team of caring people who combine to overcome Zero – is a very powerful and unique hook. As an agent I immediately identified this portrayal of mental health care as something librarians and teachers have been requesting. And I was right!

There’s no doubt Karen’s writing is stellar – her use of voice, imagery and mechanics right here in the query are superb. It’s the portrayal of conflict and the use of successful mental health care as a hook that combine to make this a knock out query.

We submitted THE WEIGHT OF ZERO exclusively to Kate Sullivan at Delacorte/ Penguin Random House. Two weeks later we had an offer and are thrilled to be working with Kate on this debut! This is a very personal book for me – my father-in-law worked in child and adolescent psychiatry for 40+ years and has been a huge advocate for successful and effective mental health for kids. I’ve grown up hearing about the importance of these success stories and now I can’t wait to get this amazing, beautiful, inspiring and intense story into the hands of readers. THE WEIGHT OF ZERO releases in October 2016.


  1. Mega-congrats, Karen!! For The Weight of Zero and for your continued success as an author! Thrilled for you, roomie 🙂


  2. this hit home for me too…my Dad was a teen and adult psychiatrist back when that was rather new, and I often wondered about the struggle he faced to ‘save’ people from themselves…. I must read this one.


  3. Thanks so much, Kathy! Never would have happened if not for you and Avalon retreat! Amazing advice, support and camaraderie – from agents, editors and authors (including roomie Marlo Berliner! 😍)


    • Awww, thank you Karen! Wishing you all the best. Please keep in touch 🙂


  4. Congratulations to you both!


  5. Congrats to Karen for writing an important story and to Sara for recognizing its strengths! Kudos for taking a chance and entering those contests.


  6. I am so thrilled with Karen’s success for the Weight of Zero…having read an early draft, I knew it was a special story. Thanks for sharing your successful query, Karen! xo


  7. Karen – Thank you so much for sharing! Brava & kudos. I cannot wait to read your book.

    Kathy T. – Thank you for posting this and all the other items that keep us informed and connected. Please know you are appreciated every day for your site.


  8. Thanks for sharing this, Kathy. And congratulations, Karen! What a tightly written query. I’m going to save it to reference in the future. Excellently written!


  9. Excellent query. It reads beautifully so no wonder it stood out. Congratulations, Karen and I also loved Sara’s response.


  10. Great query, and please let me know when it’s released. Congratulations, Karen! We too, met at Kathy Temean’s lovely Avalon and and this is how I know what a talented, and nice person you are.


  11. So very happy and proud of you, Karen, and so glad we met at Avalon. I’m proud to have contributed just a tiny share to the making of this wonderful book! CONGRATULATIONS! Can’t wait to see it in print.


  12. Thank you!!! 🙂 And Avalon friends, I am sorry I can’t go this summer and reconnect! Such a treat!


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