letter

The Query Letter Journey

Katie Writing Leave a Comment

letter

I decided to take a class to teach me how to write an effective query letter. It was a virtual course taught by a published author. Eight people participated. We read supplemental materials written by the teacher. We mined Publishers Weekly to construct a targeted list of agents to query – looking specifically for agents who handle books like the ones we had written. We scoured the Query Shark website to learn from the feedback given to other writers. The central task of the class was to write a query letter – polished over the process of three rounds of commentary.

Here are my several attempts at an effective query . . .

First Attempt

Dear [Insert Agent Name]

Recently minted Ph.D. arrives in the Capitol of the United States and decides to reconnect with God. I had just defended a dissertation on the existential concept of wide-awakeness only to find myself riddled with fear, playing possum, with the covers pulled over my head. I started my job, found a church, and enrolled in writing classes. “Excuse Me, Ms. Steedly, The Stage Is On Fire,” a 65,000-word memoir, dips and swerves through a rollercoaster of prayer, travel, dating, chronic illness, debt, politics, and yoga.

“Excuse Me, Miss Steedly, The Stage Is On Fire” begins in a church and ends in a car. I jump right into confirming my faith in a church, museum, and university classroom. My early spiritual experiences frame my hunger for something more profound in my life. Right now! Colliding with and persevering through physical and professional boundaries occurs; along with moving vans, disgruntled bosses, and side stitches while running.

My “grown-up” DC life was going to be different from the ramen noodle-Match.com-IKEA existence I had known. I was thirty-two and thought it was about time to live the authentic life I had researched. Real food. Real love. Real home. Life had already taught me tiptoeing toward fulfillment was not possible—the things that mattered were the things connected to the marrow of my bones, not the tips of my fingers to be stolen by the wind. Sinking my teeth in was the only way to eat, and my DC years were going to be my buffet: love in New Zealand, a study at the National Institutes of Health, a covenant group at church, and a 90-day yoga challenge were courses in my meal.

Writing has been central to my personal and professional life. “Excuse Me, Miss Steedly, The Stage Is On Fire” is my first step outside the academic/policy realm. My peer-reviewed articles have appeared in such journals as “Teaching Exceptional Children” and the “International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education.” Most recently, I authored a textbook chapter on inclusive arts and recreation for Human Kinetics Publishing. When not tackling personal essays, I write about arts and culture, social issues, and public policy. I received a BA in English from Indiana University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin.

Thank you for your time.

Katie Steedly

Second Attempt

Attn. Ms. Fix:

I felt pain and I needed to change. I did not want to live in the same way I had been living: sick, solitary, overweight, debt-ridden, and politically angry. One thing led to another and my intention to have and/or create my heart’s desire unfolded gradually in a series of decisions, of quiet epiphanies. “Excuse Me, Ms. Steedly, The Stage Is On Fire.” is a 63k word memoir about how one person makes sense of God, health, romantic love, politics and money within the context of life.

I arrived in Washington, DC after completing my PhD. I grew up attending a liberal protestant church every Sunday, but strayed for 15 or so years. I immediately went back to church and continued my writing habit (which had been fed like a crack addiction in graduate school). In the crevasses of my days I explored why I was not happy. Why miserable jobs, failed relationships, and my expanding waistline seemed to be perpetual fodder for conversations. I had my chakras balanced for Valentine’s Day. I cried in church every Sunday. I wrote essay after essay. I went to therapy twice a week for two years. (That was before I officially proclaimed to the world I was working on a book.)

Several things stood in my way. Limited personal awareness: a low pain threshold: ego: economics: control issues. I understand that I am in ultimate control of my actions and reactions, but I still say bad bosses, fickle men, “sales” at my favorite boutiques, crème brulee, and bad genes conspired against me. I made the decision to take classes at my Unitarian church to learn how to pray, participate in a medical study at the National Institutes of Health, travel to New Zealand to see the sheep herder whole stole my heart at LAX, campaign for Barack Obama in Indiana, legally consolidate my substantial credit card debt, complete a ninety-day yoga challenge, and date using every conceivable approach.

I wrote this book to move forward while examining the past: gently making peace with failures and faults. I wanted to write about the inside of change. I sought to challenge ever-narrowing definitions of God, reinforce the idea that there are many paths to travel, and embrace a love that is founded in self-acceptance and grace. My decisions had several consequences. I learned there are no immediate fixes: pain may create peace, and grace can grow from awareness.

My peer-reviewed articles have appeared in such journals as “Teaching Exceptional Children” and the “International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education.” Most recently, I authored a textbook chapter on inclusive arts and recreation for Human Kinetics Publishing. When not writing personal essays, I write about arts and culture, social issues, and public policy. I received a BA in English from Indiana University, and a PhD from the University of Texas at Austin.

Thank you for your time.

Katie Steedly

Third Attempt

Attn. Ms. Fix:

Sick, lonely, overweight, debt-ridden, and politically angry, Katie needed a change. One thing led to another and her intention to have and/or create her heart’s desire unfolded gradually in a series of decisions, of quiet epiphanies. Going to Italy, India, and Indonesia had already been done, and Katie had no book advance.

Katie arrived in Washington, DC after completing her PhD. She immediately went back to church and continued her writing habit. Exploring why she was not happy filled her time like learning to tread water—lots of motion with no movement. Why did miserable jobs, failed relationships, and an expanding waistline provide perpetual fodder for conversations? Her therapist had no answers and her barista returned home to France. Having her chakras balanced for Valentine’s Day did not help. Crying in church every Sunday only made the people who sat next to her look at her sideways with a combination of pity and fear.

Several things stood in her way. Limited personal awareness: a low pain threshold: ego: economics: control issues. Bad bosses, fickle men, “sales” at her favorite boutiques, crème brulee, and bad genes conspired against her. Action had to happen. With the power and finesse of a Spanish bull, she took her deliberate quest to the next level. She enrolled in a Unitarian prayer class. (Yes, Unitarians pray.) She became a subject in a study at the National Institutes of Health focused on a health condition she had dangerously ignored since being diagnosed as a teen. She traveled to New Zealand to see the sheepherder who stole her heart in a LAX bar. She campaigned for Barack Obama in Indiana. She legally consolidated her substantial credit card debt, completed a ninety-day yoga challenge, and spoke NCAA (which she perfected as a child growing up in the Midwest) while ceaselessly dating.

“Excuse Me, Ms. Steedly, The Stage Is On Fire.” is a 63,000-word memoir about how one woman makes sense of God, health, romantic love, politics and money within the context of her life.

The author’s peer-reviewed articles have appeared in such journals as “Teaching Exceptional Children” and the “International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education.” Most recently, she authored a textbook chapter on inclusive arts and recreation for Human Kinetics Publishing. When not writing personal essays, she writes about arts and culture, social issues, and public policy. She received a BA in English from Indiana University, and a PhD from the University of Texas at Austin.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Katie Steedly

A Letter I Submitted

Dear Mr. Pine:

Sick, lonely, overweight, debt-ridden, and politically angry, Katie needed a change. Her intention to create her heart’s desire unfolded in a series of decisions and epiphanies. Going to Italy, India, and Indonesia had already been done. She had to keep her health insurance and use her 4 weeks paid vacation sparingly. Change had to begin right outside her doorstep.

After completing her PhD, Katie arrived in Washington, DC and immediately dove into finding a church and feeding her writing habit. Exploring why she wasn’t happy filled her time like learning to tread water—lots of motion with no movement. Why did miserable jobs, failed relationships, and an expanding waistline provide perpetual fodder for conversations? Her therapist had no answers and her favorite barista returned home to France, leaving her without sage counsel. Having her chakras balanced for Valentine’s Day didn’t help. Crying in church only made the people who sat next to her move to a different pew.

Results had to happen, but bad bosses, fickle men, sales at her favorite boutiques, crème brulee, and bad genes conspired against her. With the power and finesse of a Spanish bull, she took her deliberate quest to the next level. Katie joined a Unitarian prayer class, (Yes, Unitarians pray.) and enrolled in a Turners Syndrome study at the National Institutes of Health. She traveled to New Zealand to see the sheepherder who stole her heart in a LAX bar and campaigned for Barack Obama in Indiana. She consolidated her substantial credit card debt, completed a ninety-day yoga challenge, and spoke fluent NCAA while ceaselessly dating.

Katie sought to challenge ever-narrowing definitions of God and embrace a life grounded in self-acceptance and love. Her decisions had several consequences. She learned there are no immediate fixes: success cannot be measured in pounds, pain may create peace, and grace can grow from awareness.

“Excuse Me, Ms. Steedly, The Stage Is On Fire.” is a 63,000-word memoir about how one woman made sense of God, health, romantic love, politics, and money within the context of her day-to-day life. Though I have not stolen hearts in an international talent contest, won The Tour De France, or chucked it all to grow lavender in Texas, I believe my story may interest you.

I have published peer-reviewed articles, policy briefs, and textbook chapters. I received a BA in English from Indiana University, an MA from Western Washington University, and a PhD from the University of Texas at Austin.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Katie Steedly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *