I was delighted to see that you are judging this contest. Last year, you requested my women’s fiction manuscript, GENTLY USED, first as a partial and then in full, but ultimately passed. Since then, I have made significant revisions to address your concerns with the plot and pacing, which were echoed by other agents who considered the material. I know you have since changed agencies and are building your client list, so I wondered if you may be interested in taking another look at GENTLY USED.
Behind the doors of Hourglass Vintage, every garment has a story--a textured and sometimes tumultuous past. So, too, do the women who work and shop there. Violet Turner, the boutique's owner, knows the personal history behind each item in her store, from a Chanel suit to a Bakelite cocktail ring. Yet when it comes to her own life, she’s determined never to revisit her troubled past, even if it means forever closing off her heart.
April Morgan, a sales clerk and high school senior, is halfway through an unplanned pregnancy when her boyfriend calls off their hasty engagement. The perfect 1950's wedding dress April had planned to wear now hangs limp in the store's back room, ignored, just like her dreams.
Shop customer Amithi Singh has struggled to share the traditions of her native
Hourglass Vintage, the place where these unlikely women become friends, is a shop riddled with financial woes. If Violet, April and Amithi can’t save it, the shop will be forgotten like the costume jewelry and crinoline gowns on its sales floor.
An excerpt from GENTLY USED won the ninth "Dear Lucky Agent" contest on Chuck Sambuchino's Guide to Literary Agents site and the April "Mystery Agent" contest on the Operation Awesome blog. The manuscript is complete at 80,000 words and ready to send upon request.
Beneath the ash trees on
She sighed as undergraduates with bright scarves and red faces rushed by without glancing at her or the garments on display. Gray spring days like this one were all about hurrying and practicality, and Violet had never liked either concept. People in practical moods didn't wander into the shop to buy turn-of-the-century kid gloves or 1930s Bakelite jewelry.
Violet bent down to put espadrille sandals on the mannequin. When she stood up, a pair of blue eyes stared back at her. A girl, no older than twenty, stood inches from the window, clutching a 1950s wedding dress against her fleece jacket.
Violet remembered that the girl had come in just a few weeks earlier, trying on half a dozen gowns before selecting the full-skirted one she held now, which flapped in the wind like a surrender flag.
The girl entered the store and spread the dress on the register counter. “I need to return this."
“I’m sorry, we don’t allow returns,” Violet said. She took her place behind the counter and felt a blast of heat from the old radiator affixed to the wall. She peeled off her cardigan, a find from her grandmother’s closet, revealing a tattoo of a phoenix on her left shoulder.