Good news, Sub It Clubbers. Today I’m featuring Rajani LaRocca’s delicious query for her forthcoming middle grade, Midsummer’s Mayhem (Yellow Jacket, 2019), a yummy blend of A Midsummer’s Night Dream and Master Chef Junior.
Note: Rajani’s manuscript was requested thanks to #PitchWars. That’s why her query doesn’t include the typical personalization paragraph. Rajani noted that when she queried prior to #PitchWars, she included a line about why she had chosen that specific agent, noting the agent’s taste in books or a personal connection she had made.
Without further ado, let’s see how Rajani cooked up a query letter that worked.
Dear [Super-Fantastic Agent],
MIDSUMMER’S MAYHEM is a 60,000-word middle grade mash-up of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Master Chef Junior.
Eleven-year-old Mimi dreams of winning a local baking contest to finally prove she’s not the least talented member of her family. Plus, it’ll start her on the path to becoming a celebrity chef like her culinary idol, Puffy Fay. But when Mimi’s dad returns from a business trip, he’s mysteriously lost his highly honed food writer’s sense of taste. Without his help, Mimi will never be able to bake something impressive enough to propel her to gastronomic fame.
Drawn into the woods behind her house by a strangely familiar song, Mimi meets Vik, a boy who brings her to parts of the forest she’s never seen. Who knew there were banyan trees and wild boars in Massachusetts? Together they discover exotic ingredients and bake them into delectable and enchanting treats.
But as her dad acts stranger every day, and her siblings’ romantic entanglements cause mayhem in their town, Mimi begins to wonder whether the ingredients she and Vik found are somehow the cause of it all. She needs to use her skills, deductive and epicurean, to uncover what’s happened and return everyone to normal. In the process, she learns that in life as in baking, not everything can be sweet.
MIDSUMMER’S MAYHEM was chosen for Pitch Wars 2017. I am a member of SCBWI, The Writer’s Loft in Sherborn, MA, and the 12 x 12 picture book community. I live in Concord, MA with my family – which, like Mimi’s, is half-Indian and all-American.
Rajani follows the classic query formula of “hook, book, cook. She starts with her book, providing the title, word count, and genre, as well as some powerful comps. Since her book is based upon A Midsummer Night’s Dream, that play is a perfect pick for a comp title. Then she’s done something unique, selecting a TV show, Master Chef Junior, for a comp instead of a book. Honestly, I can’t think of a well-known book title that would convey the idea of kids cooking competitively as well as Master Chef Junior. This just goes to show you that sometimes a movie, TV show or another form of storytelling may be a better comp than a book title.
In her hook, we meet Rajani’s main character, Mimi, and what she wants more than anything else in the world (to be a famous chef). Then Rajani describes the inciting incident: Mimi’s dad has lost his sense of taste, meaning he can’t help her reach her dream. So Mimi must succeed on her own, propelling her into the woods (and Act II) as she meets Vik and attempts to solve her problem.
Finally, Rajani has concocted the perfect writer’s bio. Since she didn’t have publishing credits at the time, she stuck to information that showed her commitment to professionalism and honing her craft: membership in the 12×12 picture book community; Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and the Writers’ Loft. Finally, we learn that like her main character, Rajani is half Indian, which speaks to why she is the perfect person to write this book.
A big thank you to Rajani for serving up a query we all can learn from.
Rajani LaRocca was born in India, raised in Kentucky, and now lives in the Boston area with her wonderful family and impossibly cute dog. She spends her time writing middle grade novels and picture books, practicing medicine, and baking way too many sweet treats. Her middle grade debut, MIDSUMMER’S MAYHEM, will be published in June 2019 by Yellow Jacket/Little Bee Books. She is also the author of the forthcoming picture book SEVEN GOLDEN RINGS (Lee & Low Books, 2020), and more. Keep up with Rajani via her website, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.