I’m thrilled to welcome Beth Miller of Writers House and one of her newest clients, Noelle Henry, to the blog. Or perhaps I should say BACK to the blog, in Ms. Henry’s case. If you were around for “The Writer’s Voice” back in May, you’ll probably recognize Ms. Henry’s query, as she and FACE THE MUSIC were on my team.
Ms. Henry didn’t end up signing with any of the agents from “The Writer’s Voice,” but she did end up catching the attention
of another agent shortly thereafter. When she e-mailed me to let me know she’d
signed with Ms. Miller, I knew I had to interview them both:)
Ms. Henry’s query and responses will appear in orange, Ms.
Miller’s in blue. Happy reading!
Ms. Henry’s Query Tate's
dad used to say, “When words fail, music speaks.” It's the one language she
could always hear. Not with her ears, which haven't worked since birth, but
with her heart. To the faculty at Ravenswood Fine Arts Academy, she's a cello
prodigy. To her peers...let's just say they don't call her Beethoven because
they like her.
Through three years of concerts and solos and duels for chair placements, Tate
has always been defined by what she lacks instead of what she has. But this
year is different. This year she has Silverton. The prospect of a full ride to
the most prestigious music college on the West Coast is enough to make the
daily torture known as high school worth it. If she wins that scholarship,
she'll finally find the one place where music overrides her disability. All she
has to do is practice really hard, be nothing less than perfect and--duet with
pianist Jared Lynch?
In a stunning twist, Silverton decides on a theme competition this year,
partnering Tate with the one boy who both frustrates and fascinates her.
Jared's rich, he's popular, and he's dating the she-devil rival cellist who
crowned Tate Grand Marshal of the freak parade. He also has a passion for music
that she yearns to understand and secrets as complicated as Prokofiev's Sinfonia
Concertante. But as they clash over their duet--she wants to play it safe;
he wants to risk everything--it's clear that he has the power to see through
the deafness Tate brandishes like a shield.
FACE THE MUSIC, a 75,000-word contemporary young adult romance, follows Tate
Donovan and Jared Lynch as they learn about love, loss, and being true to
I have studied the violin for thirty years, and have a passion for classical
music that shines through in this novel. I am also a former Romance Writers of
America Golden Heart finalist in romantic suspense.
I commented on your fabulous guest post at Waterworldmermaids.com, and as per
your guidelines, have pasted the first five pages below. I would be pleased to send
you a partial or the completed manuscript upon request. Thank you so much for
your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
KV: Ms. Henry, how did you first come up with the idea for
FACE THE MUSIC?
NH: When I was in high school (a long, long time ago, LOL),
there was a blind cellist in our orchestra. I was fascinated by the way she
learned music--both by ear and by Braille sheet music. Her disability never
kept her from doing the things she loved. She walked the halls between classes
like everyone else, she tried out (and performed) in the school musicals, and
she even played the piano. So, I’d have to say she was the initial catalyst for
Of course, it wasn’t until many years later that I picked up
my love of writing again. I started with contemporary romance and then romantic
suspense and then one day, Tate started speaking to me. She said, “Everyone
calls me Beethoven.” And I knew I had to find out why, even though I’d never
written young adult before and was absolutely sure I didn’t have the chops to
do it well. But, honestly, I had nothing to lose by giving it a go. So I did.
KV: Tell us a little bit about your query-writing process.
Did you work on it here and there as you were writing the manuscript, or
before, or after? How many times did you revise it? And how did you decide what
order to put things in?
NH: I’ve never written a query before I’ve finished a manuscript.
I always like to have the complete character arcs in place, because I know that
needs to be the focus of my query.
I think I rewrote the query to FACE THE MUSIC three or four
times. I wanted to start with Tate because she is the story, and because of
that, I ended up writing the query in first person, hoping to really inject her
voice into it. And then I entered a little contest called The Writer’s Voice
(you may have heard of it!) and was picked for the amazing Team Krista (you may
have heard of her too. LOL) and she helped me see that Tate’s voice could still
shine through in a third person query. That query was the final version, and
the one I used to attract agents.
KV: What was the hardest thing about writing your query?
What was the easiest?
The hardest part was probably the first line. I kept rewriting it and nothing
clicked. I wanted a way for the query reader to intuitively know that Tate was
deaf without me having to spell it out because I felt that Tate doesn’t really
go around thinking, ‘Hey, look at me, I’m deaf.’ She was born deaf. That’s her
world-view. And I really wanted that to come through in the query.
easiest part, I think, was tackling the way Jared forced her to change the way
she viewed herself. And I think that’s because it was fresh in my mind at the
Ms. Miller, when you first read Ms. Henry’s query, what caught your
There were several things that caught my attention--the first is that I had
just done a guest blog at Waterworld Mermaids, and she referenced that blog in
her query. I had invited those who commented on the blog to query me, so that
was one thing that had me reading closely.
more importantly, I just love YA romance, and Noelle’s story touched all the
right notes with me. The heroine is a cellist at a performing arts high school,
and Noelle also mentioned that she herself is a violinist with a passion for
classical music. And she’d included the first few pages, which were
well-written and compelling. So all in all, she had a fantastic query!
KV: How quickly did you read FACE THE MUSIC? Is that pretty typical of your
response times on requested material, or do those vary?
I just looked back through my e-mails. It looks like it took me about a month
to reply to the query, which is about right these days, unfortunately. I asked
for the full manuscript, and about two weeks later I touched base to say I was
reading, and then a week after that I got in touch again to say I’d loved it. In
the interim, I was getting some reads from a few colleagues.
hard to say what my response time is for requested material. It really depends
on what’s going on at the office. Unfortunately, submissions are lower
priority, coming after managing the current clients. I try to read material I’m
excited about quickly, but sometimes it does take a few weeks.
ended up asking Ms. Henry for a revision before you officially signed her. How
do you decide whether to request revisions or offer representation?
With FACE THE MUSIC, I really loved the story and the writing, but there were a
few major plot points that needed some attention. I wanted to make sure Noelle
was open to doing them, first of all--which she was!--and that she was able to
KV: Obviously, the revision met--or exceeded--your expectations. What did
you love about FACE THE MUSIC?
It exceeded my expectations! Noelle is an author who can take revision
suggestions and then put her own spin on them. She didn’t just make the changes
I suggested; she also tweaked other things here and there, making an already
great story even better. I loved the love story, the music, the heartbreak--and
of course, the boy. :) There were moments that made me get teary-eyed. I just
Henry, what tips do you have for fellow writers as they work on their queries?
NH: A query is not about plot points. Get to the heart of
your story as quickly as you can. That’s what agents want to see. Show why
readers should care about your characters: what they want, why they want it and
why they can’t have it. Make sure those stakes are high enough! Try to find
that unique element that makes your story different from everything else that’s
out there and really make that element shine through in your blurb.
question to you, Ms. Miller. What query-writing suggestions do you have?
Do your research and target agents you think will make the best fit--don’t just
blast your query out into the world. Be professional and courteous. Proofread
your query letter. Remember that the query is the first impression of you that
an agent has--if your query is poorly written or unprofessional, they aren’t
likely to want to see your work.
KV: Any last words of advice or encouragement you’d like to share with us?
BM: Write a great story. Keep trying, even if you don’t
succeed with your first manuscript, or even your second. Writing is a skill,
and like other skills, it can be improved with practice. Read a lot, so you
know what else is out there in your genre. And don’t give up!
NH: Well, I’d definitely echo Beth’s statement about not
giving up. Sometimes it’s hard not to feel like you’re working so hard for
nothing, but the one thing I’ve learned is that writers need to write for
themselves, first and foremost. Only seeing the end goal can lead to burn out
Ask yourself why you’re writing your book. Find a story that
you’re passionate to tell. That passion will shine through in your writing, and
when you believe so strongly in a book, chances are you’ll eventually find a
home for it.
Thanks again, ladies, for sharing your story with us. And
may I just say WOOHOO? :) Here’s hoping for a quick sale!