Poem-a-Day Writer’s Digest Challenge #11. Theme: Description + Sample Query Letter

For this challenge, I decided to write a poem based on the protagonist in my book.  This story has, in part, been told through the lenses of poetry and short story.  Perhaps, one day, it may even be the inspiration for a song (as long as I get a royalty deal, a la “Mr. Wonderful”).  Since Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for literature, music lyrics are considered as such now (according to my English Composition II professor).  Though this poem is a stand-alone work, the query letter below it will add context.

Katryn

Her face and figure were such
that they blended into the backdrop
of the Deep South like white-lily camouflage,
but when she spoke her mind,
she found her way into the crawl space
of their hearts.
Like a thorn,
she would prick those hearts,
this Queen of the least of these,
placing them in a waking sleep—
unlike that of Princess Aurora’s—
her words echoing
in their chambers.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2016-november-pad-chapbook-challenge-day-11

~

My debut novel, “Because of Mindy Wiley”, begins at what Katryn Nolan refers to as the summer of her Mormon soldier. 

Katryn is a teen when she falls in love with a Mormon missionary, which leads to her joining the LDS Church—and enters an insular world of peculiar people.  It is within the Church that Katryn finally experiences belonging outside her close-knit family, and yet it will be her mother’s involvement in it that will lead to its destruction.

Born into a well-bred, artistic family, the Nolans (and the man David, with whom Katryn’s mother is attached) are considered outsiders in their small Southern town, where few move out, but fewer move in; where the heat and humidity is like another force of gravity, where the air is as thick as the azaleas that burst into bloom every spring, and where time seems to pass just a little bit slower.

Yet never does Katryn question why her mother and stepfather chose this enclave that is as foreign to them all as the Mormon Church.

Overloved by her stepfather, but underloved by her mother, Katryn never grasps why her mother won’t marry the man she has idolized ever since he came into their lives.

Neither does she question why her father was barred from being buried in the Catholic cemetery, though it seems no one in the town remembers him.  Who is the mysterious couple that Katryn and her stepfather see, that Katryn’s mother must never know of?  And why does her mother, who was a concert pianist, never touch it anymore? 

Never, does Katryn question anything, for life is idyllic in Green Haven, despite their outsider status.  It is only after her mother joins the Church that she begins to change, and long buried family secrets begin to come to light, ripping off the shimmering facade that was the Nolan family.  Blinded by years of fanciful storytelling, Katryn must sort through the mystery that surrounds her life, to know who she can trust…and who would do her harm.

My love for crafting stories on paper rather than with paper dolls began as soon as I learned to write.  Cutting up every paper in the house had served as my creative outlet before then.  I have lived in Pensacola, Florida, almost all my life, where churches outnumber bars, where the air is as thick as molasses in January, and where the summer weather is as volatile as the preachers of the Pentecostal meetinghouses–much like the town of Green Haven in my book.

Having grown up in a Southern town situated in the buckle of the Bible belt, and having been a practicing member of the Mormon Church for several years, has given me great insight, knowledge and experience of what it’s like being a convert to a religion in a region that is somewhat intolerant to that religion.  Having grown up Protestant, but with no inclination to go around declaring myself saved, one could say I was an outsider even on the inside looking out, much like Katryn Nolan.

The completed manuscript is available upon request.  Thank you for your generous time. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Cordially,
Sarah Lea Richards

Query letter to Harlequin Romance

I’ve poked a little fun at Harlequin romances, but they SELL!  I wrote “Regina Fair” specifically for the market after my mom told me they read every manuscript they receive.  Janet Dailey, the most successful female author ever, started her career by writing for Harlequin.

~

My completed novel, “Regina Fair”, intended for the Harlequin Romance (Cherish and Riva) Line, is a light romance that deals with a serious subject: the decision to not have children.

~

Regina Morrow is a twenty-eight-year-old woman whose boyfriend dumped her several years ago because of her desire to be childfree.

Forty-one-year-old widower Rick George (whom Regina has loved from a distance for five years), is her boss, and fraternization is forbidden. It isn’t until Rick’s grown daughter, Cassie, and Regina’s kid sister, Juliet, plot to play matchmaker, that Rick and Regina are forced to acknowledge their mutual attraction.

As Regina becomes acquainted with some of Rick’s old girlfriends along the way, finding out why it didn’t work out between them, she begins to suspect that she will be just another ex-girlfriend.

The thing is, Rick has always wanted more children, so, fearing he would choose to marry her, hoping she will change (and resenting her if she doesn’t), Regina decides to break it off with him.

Months pass, and Rick realizes he must convince Regina that she is all he wants. Though he’d wanted more children with his wife, that was a long time ago, and what he’s wanted in life has changed.

It’s up to him to convince Regina that she is enough for him, and he does, in a way that surprises even himself.

~

I am thirty-two years old, but have been writing since I was old enough to write. Cutting up every paper in the house was my creative outlet before then.

I enjoy writing in many different styles and genres, from light romance to Southern Gothic horror to nursery rhymes. I am currently working on the second book to “Regina Fair”, which will be part of a series set in the small town of Princeton, Florida.

Though I’m from Poplar Bluff, Missouri, I’ve lived in Pensacola, Florida, almost all my life, which has served as the inspiration for Princeton.

Thank you for your generous time. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Warm regards,

Sarah Lea Richards

Query letter to “Missouri Life” magazine

Paul and Eleanor

(Above:  My grandparents, Paul and Eleanor Booker.)
(Below:  The query letter for the 5000+ word personal essay on the town of my birth.)

Dear Editors,

“Poplar Bluff” is a memoir of the fondest kinds of memories–those from childhood.  It is a juicy slice of small town American life, which includes a history of P.B., peppered with anecdotes and salted with sweet remembrances.

For several years, I spent all my summers with my grandparents in P.B., my aunt, uncle and cousins right next door.  I didn’t have that kind of luxury or history in Pensacola, Florida—the luxury of having family close by, and of a shared history in the place where I lived.

“Poplar Bluff” is also coming-of-age essay, where the memories are as golden as the tones in a vintage photograph, and the present is as stark as Technicolor.  It is also a love story of loss and moving on from loss.  Poplar Bluff, as I remember it, is representative of a simpler time, before Facebook and cell phones and other devices monopolized our hours, when kids played outside and entertained themselves.

It is a story of the wonders of summer through the eyes of a child.

 

My parents were into genealogy during those seasons of my life, and so I have them to thank for some of the more factual content, but the parts I believe that will resonate most is the story only I can tell.

I believe anyone who has ever called Missouri home, and those who have chosen it as their home, will find something worth remembering in what is simply titled, “Poplar Bluff:  A Memoir”.

 

A little about me:  I am married and the mother of a five-month old baby girl.  In addition to being a full-time, stay-at-home mom, I am the unofficial family storyteller.  I regularly blog on issues of freelance writing, marriage and motherhood.  My current project is a collection of children’s nursery rhymes, unofficially titled, “The Treasury of the Sara Madre.”  I am also a member of the local writer’s group, WriteOn! Pensacola.

 

Thank you for your generous time. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Warmest regards,
Sarah Lea Richards

Grandma and Jacques

(Above:  My grandmother, as I remember her, and their dog, Jacques.)