query letters, Writing

The Writer’s Voice

I’m excited to participate in The Writer’s Voice round one. I’m required to post my query and the first 250 words of the manuscript. The kind and generous hosts, Brenda Drake, Krista Van Dolzer, and friends sponsored this contest.

(Readers, you can leave me a comment. I’m always trying to improve my writing).

Query for Strong Women Grow Here:

Dear Ms. Agent,

The journey to the American dream becomes a nightmare when naive 17-year-old Juana Maria Ivanov runs from her abusive husband who falls on a staircase while chasing her one night. When she returns home, he’s dead, and she is sent to prison.

With no family in the U.S and limited English skills, Juana struggles to retain custody of her baby while trying to convince staff she is innocent of her husband’s death. Correctional staff want Juana to take responsibility for her crime or she will receive a lengthier sentence.

The staff and gang rules confuse her as do the young women in the prison, who grew up different from her own experiences. The adjustment to gangs, drugs, and violence, and the memories of her baby and husband cause frustration and depression.

When Juana begins to hear her dead mother’s voice, this not only haunts her but gives her hope and she finds help for her plight in an unlikely place with unlikely people. In the process, she learns empathy, friendship, and self-responsibility. Themes of family, coming of age, and race are explored.

STRONG WOMEN GROW HERE is a YA novel of 69,000 words. I bring professional knowledge to this debut novel with my 28-year career working with the California Department of Corrections where I began as a correctional counselor. A Room of Her Own Foundation (AROHO) has twice accepted me into their writing retreat and I participated in the Association of Writers Program (AWP) mentor-mentee program. I also am a member of SCBWI. Thank you for your consideration.

First 250 words:

     I didn’t run because I killed him. I ran because I didn’t. The police found Alek dead and said I was to blame, but I’m innocent. I would have done anything to change the events which led me to prison.

     We left Centre Juvenile Hall for the San Bueno Correctional Facility before sunrise. The van chugged down the side streets, through the mist, and sped up the freeway ramp. The cold handcuff on my left wrist rattled against the bottom of the passenger window. Two other girls sat in handcuffs, one behind me, and the other across from me. We looked like goats going to market, tied to the corners of a truck bed.

     Blurred white lights and shadows darted by my window. I couldn’t remember the route if I tried. The van swerved and pitched me forward until the metal handcuff yanked me back into my seat. My free hand flew to the neck of my jumpsuit, where my crucifix used to be. I pressed damp fingers against my mouth. Sour saliva flooded my tongue.

    The tattooed girl, next to me, scrunched up her nose while her lips curled against crooked teeth. She shifted her husky body, leaned her shoulder against the window. Blue-black letters at the bottom of her fleshy neck came into view, spelling WF 13. I’d seen those marks before on the buildings from my seat on the L.A. city buses. They were symbols of gangs and their territories, a reminder to be careful. 

Thanks for reading. If you’d like to see the full list of Round 1 winners, click here. 

28 thoughts on “The Writer’s Voice”

  1. Oooh, I so want to read more! I’m cheering you on. I LOVE your first two lines: “I didn’t run because I killed him. I ran because I didn’t.”


  2. Thanks to all of you for your supportive words. Writers (as you know) relish the encouragement, especially when we work ‘in the dark’ for so long. I’ll hit you up on Twitter. Gracias!


  3. Hi, Mona. Just wanted to let you know that STRONG WOMEN GROW HERE was one of the entries I seriously considered adding to my team (and that it was also one of Anna-Marie’s favorites). We loved the concept–the criminal justice system is an untapped well of conflict in YA fiction–and the voice in the first page rang with an air of authority that really caught our attention.

    If you’d like some additional feedback on your query and first page, feel free to e-mail them to kvandolzer(at)gmail(dot)com. I won’t be able to take a look until I get my teammates’ entries squared away (which will probably take a few weeks), but I’d be happy to share a few more thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

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