Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 30, 2020

October Agent of the Month – First Page Results

FIRST PAGE RESULTS THIS WEEK

Jennifer Herrington of Harvey Klinger Agency

Jennifer Herrington started her career on the editorial side of publishing with Kensington Books Publishing’s Lyrical Press imprint and an internship with Entangled Publishing. She’s also worked as a freelance editor for independent authors. After an internship at a New York agency, she joined the Harvey Klinger Agency in 2020. Jennifer graduated with a diploma in Radio & Television Broadcasting and recently completed her Publishing Certificate with a designation in children’s literature at Ryerson University.

Jennifer is currently building her list and is interested in representing middle grade, YA, and adult fiction. She’s especially open to BIPOC and LGBTQ voices in the mentioned categories. Jennifer lives in Ontario, Canada, with her husband, three sons, and two dogs.

Currently Seeking

I am looking for character and voice-driven books that I connect with on an emotional level. I want a book that makes me laugh or cry and extra points for both!

ACTIVELY SEEKING PROJECTS IN THE FOLLOWING CATEGORIES:

FICTION:

  • Commercial
  • Literary
  • Romance (all genres including SFF)
  • Women’s Fiction
  • Mystery
  • Suspense
  • Thriller
  • Middle Grade
  • Young Adult
  • Graphic Novels

In middle grade fiction I’d like to see:

  • Contemporary stories that deal with tough and realistic issues kids are facing today.
  • Stories that feature humor and adventure.
  • Paranormal, fantasy (except high fantasy), mystery, horror, and graphic novels are also of special interest.

In YA fiction I’d like to see:

  • Feel-good contemporary and contemporary romance.
  • Paranormals with strong world building and an interesting twist in vamps, wolves, or witches.
  • Romantic comedy.
  • Mystery series featuring a YA detective.
  • Sci-fi, fantasy (except high fantasy), horror, and graphic novels are also of special interest.

In adult fiction I’d like to see:

  • Romance with a fresh twist on trope-driven plots includes best friend’s little sister/brother, enemies to lovers, friends to lover, etc. I like sweet to spicy.
  • A strong sports romance (would love a heroine athlete!) or a sexy cowboy.
  • Dark paranormal romances with gritty vamps, wolves, or witches. Think outside the box for world building.
  • Romantic comedy with snarky protagonists and hilarious plot lines.
  • Romantic suspense with equal parts steamy as action.
  • Mysteries, thrillers, and suspense that keep me up all night.
  • Sci-fi and fantasy with romance threads are also welcome.

How to Submit

Please submit your query letter, synopsis, and first five pages of your manuscript to my QueryManager account. https://querymanager.com/query/JenniferHerrington.

*******

HERE ARE THE FOUR FIRST PAGES THAT JENNIFER REVIEWED:

Raiders of Ghost Key Island by Holly Vagley – MG

This Diary Belongs To: Salome Oldham, Tuesday, October 27, 1908, The Hotel de Milagros, Ghost Key Island. My first entry… Dearest Diary, Aunt Ava will dump us at noon today. Not that she doesn’t love us. But she hates Papa. And he’s late. Soooo, I’ve decided to be a modern girl. And not chew my lip. Or fingernails. Or the ends of my braids. Aunt Ava says that’s how you get worms, or is it warts? Better close now. Aunt’s yelling so loud, even I can hear her Good tip here for the reader to pick up on. And Rosalie’s being, well, Rosalie. Why do I feel like Hamlet? Oh, Tewkesbury mustard! What a way to start my birthday! The opening line didn’t grab my attention. The paragraph feels like there is a lot going on, but it doesn’t give me the opportunity to connect with the POV character. 

“Strange, I wrote so little in that diary when we first got to the island. All the more reason to close my eyes now and recall what I can, so you’ll understand. I never meant for anyone to die. Maybe in the telling it’ll make sense? If I start at the beginning The transition from diary to real life is a little jarring. It seems like it starts with a journal entry and then the POV talking in their head, and then the shouting from her aunt. This was a little confusing. Is this an entry made after or is she reading it in her head? 

Your father is NOT here to receive you as arranged.” I might consider starting with this line as it is more memorable and engaging. The POV could be writing in her diary and gets interrupted? Aunt Ava stomps past us… me and little Rosalie… as we sweat side-by-side on a slowly unspooling wicker settee. It’s sweltering, but a gentle island breeze ruffles our black taffeta mourning dresses, the same dresses we’ve worn in public for the last six months. Aunt Ava pats my shoulder to get my attention. “We’ve come all this way, girls, but your father…” She pivots away from us, which sends me into a panic. I can’t read her lips, I might consider starting with this line as it is more memorable and engaging. The POV could be writing in her diary and gets interrupted? if I can’t see them! Then Aunt whirls back with a vengeance. “So typical of him. No… Classic.” The ferry horn blasts the five-minute departure warning and we all flinch. Even me. I can hear it, on my right side, sorta. This is a great way to give details for the reader to figure out.

Aunt Ava sucks on her teeth, scowling as she snaps her locket watch shut. “No need to panic, girls.” But my Aunt Ava Althrop looks pretty panicked.  She’s not happy to leave us. Her only nieces. Unaccompanied on the sagging porch of a creepy hotel. In an abandoned fishing village. On a weird island. Off the southwest coast of Florida. With a black snake slithering by our two pairs of mucky, brown boots… “Snake!” I shriek – hopefully, not too loud, since I don’t know what loud is anymore. Rosalie shoots me a sisterly smirk. “Ha! Fraidy-Snake, Salome!”

HERE IS JENNIFER:

I think this has the elements for a great first page, but the structure is confusing. We start with a journal entry, and then with the italics, it seems like the POV character is thinking something, and then we shift to her aunt shouting. The transition between diary entry, introspect, and then present is a little jarring. Perhaps, reworking the opening paragraphs.

The opening line isn’t as engaging as it could be. It’s hard to have an engaging line when it starts with a diary entry. I’m not sure how important the diary entry is, but perhaps it could be incorporated later. The information in this journal entry doesn’t feel like the reader needs to know it immediately.

You did a great job giving the reader little details to figure out the POV character could be hearing impaired or have a hearing impairment. This was well laid out without it just being dumped out.  

I think with some revisions, this could be a great first page.

*******

133.1 GHOSTS by Lou Ann Gurney – MG

Chapter 1 – A Ghost Invades

I yanked the door open like I visited haunted school libraries every Monday morning. “Ghost beware!” I called into the emptiness. I think I’d open with “Ghost beware!” and then give the details. It’s more memorable first line and immediately pulls the reader in. Then I stepped inside.

The library with nobody in it felt stuffy. The stale smell of musty books hung in the air. Sunbeams shined in through the high louvered windows, and bits of dust glistened in the light. Good Description.

Not everyone’s as lucky as I am. I have the best school job ever: Chief of Media Production. I’d come to the library to interview the librarian (at her request) for our news broadcast—King School Dateline News. Ghost rumors were flying around campus, I wasn’t sure of the use of campus for a MG reader. Do they call school campus? and Mrs. Taylor wanted to set the record straight.

My cameraman (and best bud) Breezebrain Snort. Great name. barged into the library, stuck his phone out, and started snapping photos rapid fire in every direction.

“Wait,” I said. “You should take pictures where Mrs. Taylor says there might be a ghost.”

“Yeah, like there really is a ghost in here,” Breezebrain said. Consider a descriptor here to show the reader his sarcasm like a snort or an eye roll or something less cliched. “Hey, ghostie, smile for the camera.This is cute. I would like to see the POV character react to it.

Mrs. Taylor’s running shoes didn’t make a sound when she walked across the library carpet. I was pretty sure she wouldn’t be running a mile anytime soon. She was more likely to give a hug than run a mile. No offence, but Mrs. Taylor was on the pudgy side, not an athlete. Reading was her sport, and the library was her arena. This is a cute line.

Breezebrain snapped a photo of her.

Mrs. Taylor dropped an armload of books and bags on her table and sank onto her rolling desk chair. Breezebrain hooked one mic on her and one on me. He lifted the heavy video camera

HERE IS JENNIFER:

This was an intriguing first page. The MG voice was there, and we can see what the story is going to be about. It sets the tone and reader expectations.

I would’ve liked to learn a little more about the POV character through short descriptions like her reaction to Breezebrain. I think you could slip in the character’s name, For example, Name – Chief of Media Production, as if they’re so proud of their title. It would fit well with the age group. There was good description of the musty library. I felt as though I could visualize it. Perhaps the POV character could give a brief description like looking around, trying to guess where the ghost had been seen. This would allow you to slip in more description without it being boring.

I found this first page engaging, and I would want to read more.

*******

Corn on a Stick by April Cervetti  MG Dark Humor

Chapter One – For Sale

The quiet got loud between my parents. Dad’s bloodshot eyes drooped. Mom’s jaw tightened and untightened. I wasn’t pulled in with this opening line. I didn’t feel the immediately connection with the character. Tightened and untightened. Uh, oh.

“Soooo!” I hovered at the doorway to the kitchen. “I think I’m, uh, going to go—to, not here.”

My big brother Michael was already at the front door. We jammed our feet into the shoes that we kept there for just those times. I would also like to know the POV character’s name. Perhaps the brother mutters the name to signal to get out of there.

“Look, I’m the man here, I can take care of this!” Dad yelled, thus killing the quiet lull in their argument, and giving me and Michael a moment to make our getaway. We clicked the door shut behind us, then wandered the neighborhood for an hour. This might be hard for the reader because there is an entire missing that the reader doesn’t know what the lead character is doing. When we trudged back, the car was gone from our driveway, which meant that one of them had left, and the other was in their bedroom fuming. Michael and I called that a canned spaghetti night. This line, “I called that a canned spaghetti night” might be a really cool way to open. It grabs your attention and it’s an opening line the agents and editors would remember. You could start with the line and then filter into the fight.

I should have known then. I should have put it together. But we’d lived in Indiana for two whole years—a record for my family—so I’d grown soft.

“How do I look in this?” a strange lady asked, twirling in front of my bedroom mirror wearing my favorite peasant shirt. I sat up groggily in bed, smacking my mouth a few sleepy times, and squinted at her curiously. What was she doing in my room? And why did she look better in my shirt than I did? I’m sure of the reaction to a strange lady being in someone’s room when they wake up. I’m not sure why such a tame reaction. I think most kids (even adults) would scream and freak out. I was confused by this. 

“Library book, huh?” she asked, grabbing a book off my dresser. “By the time they track you down, this’ll be long gone.” She tucked my book into her armpit, and strode out the door with it, my meadow green medieval sleeves billowing behind her.

I lurched out of bed. Seeing how I’d slept in 14 different states, 43 different beds, and 23 different houses, for me, getting my bearings in the morning had never been a high priority. But even so, having a random woman ransack my room was definitely not my usual wake-up call. And just why would the library be tracking me down?

I plodded into the bathroom and sat down on the toilet, scratching my head and yawning. That’s when I became aware of a hammering sound outside. I wrangled with my pajama pants as I jumped to look out the tiny bathroom window.

HERE IS JENNIFER:

This was an interesting beginning. I think all the elements were there, but I wasn’t as engaged as I had hoped. I didn’t feel that instant connection with the POV character and their situation. The opening line wasn’t something memorable, but I think with some restructuring, it could be a great beginning.
I would like to see a little more voice and a little more characterization from the POV. I didn’t get a sense of who or really anything about the character. I think if you weave in more characterization (some quirks), you will have the reader bonding faster. A lot of kids are facing the issue of fighting parents and going through a family divorce. The topic is a good fit, and I think it would resonate with the target audience.

I would recommend starting with a memorable opening line (like it was a canned spaghetti night). What did the POV character and brother do for an hour walking around the neighborhood. It could be something interesting that the reader likes to know. I wasn’t sure of her reaction to a strange lady being in her house. I think most people/kids would freak out. I know I would, even groggy people would morph into fight or flight mode. There is no calling for a parent or even the big brother. I think it just needs to be more motivated.

*******

The Wonder-filled Norah Minh Lê by Neena Phan – Middle Grade

Running away from home is only a means of running towards it.”

Chapter ONE – Run

While it may seem strange for a 12-year-old (who goes by the name of Norah Minh Lê) to be in conversation with a talking briefcase. It can mean only one of two things. Either she really is talking to a talking briefcase. (Very likely.) Or—her imaginative head is making it rather difficult for her mind to make up what to do next. (Even likelier.) Especially when time was running out. And even stranger yet is when that talking briefcase tells you to ‘not add salt to a Jerry’. This was a quirky and fun way to open the book. I also think it works for the target audience. It made me want to read more. It feels like an outside narrative, but I’m intrigued enough to keep reading. 

Whatever that means.

“Don’t add any more salt to a Jerry. Please, Norah,” urged the briefcase. “There are better ways of dealing with things than running.”

Norah shook her head.

She was on the corner of 8th Avenue and 16th Street, watching her mother take a call on the side of the road. A call that made her stomach queasy. They were just about to cross 8th Avenue when her mother had received a very mysterious phone call from an even more mysterious caller and told her to stay put. Norah could tell from the look on her mother’s face that it was not a good call, not a good call at all. She didn’t know who exactly was on the other side of that receiver. But she had a pretty good idea. A good idea which only brought bad news.

What?” Norah said and turned to the talking briefcase.

“I said don’t add any more salt—”

“No, I meant. What does that even mean?”

“It means don’t make matters worse.”

“You mean to say, ‘don’t add insult to injury’. And why wouldn’t you just say that in the first place?”

“I knew that came out wrong…Well ‘adding insult to a jury’ makes absolutely even more-er no sense!”

You’re the one not making any sense,” Norah shouted, “you’re a talking briefcase for crying out loud.”

Her mother gave her a lethal look I could absolutely imagine a mother giving her kid the “lethal look” with wide eyes. Kids can related to this. from the side, with wide eyes and a silent shhh and everything. Norah let out a frustrated sigh.

HERE IS JENNIFER:

I loved this opening. It gave me enough information to hook me. I wanted to read more. I could get a sense of the writing voice, which feels like it’s a good fit for the MG audience. The language level is right where it should be, and it felt like we walked into a MG world.

The lead character (Norah) was likable and realistic. I wanted to know why she was talking to a briefcase, was this normal for Norah? I was also intrigued by her mother on the phone. I really enjoyed this opening page, and I would want to read more. It had all the elements I would be looking for.

*******

Jennifer, thank you for sharing you time and expertise with all of us. You did a really good job. I enjoyed reading all your thoughts and appreciate how much it will help them and everyone else who reads your reviews. I look forward to seeing you in March at the Virtual Writer’s Retreat I am running.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


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