My Path to Publication (February Theme) by Kristin Levine

Just because I always think it's interesting to peek into someone else's files, here's the query letter and summary I used to get my now agent (Kathy Green) to take a look at the manuscript of what became my first book, THE BEST BAD LUCK I EVER HAD.  (It's still called MOUNDVILLE in the letter.  Thank you to my friends at Putnam for coming up with a much better title.)

Dear Ms. Green:

My name is Kristin Levine and I am seeking representation for my children's novel.  Moundville is a middle-grade novel of approximately 40,000 words, loosely based on my grandfather's memoirs.

Now before you delete this message, thinking uggh, not another "memoir-based novel," originally I didn't want to read those memoirs either.  I, a white woman living outside Washington, DC, assumed that because my grandfather spent his childhood in Alabama, he was racist.  Boy was I wrong!

When I finally broke down and read his unpublished writings, I discovered my grandfather had had black friends.  Racial tensions certainly existed, but relationships in his small town weren't as clear-cut as I had assumed.  In addition, he described a freedom to go wherever and do whatever he wanted as a child, a freedom that is lost to children growing up today.  From this setting and atmosphere flowed the invented story of a friendship between a poor, white boy and an educated, black girl in 1918 rural Alabama.

Although Moundville is the first novel I'm attempting to publish (I've got another unpublished manuscript on a back shelf where it belongs), I'm not a beginning writer.  A former elementary school teacher and avid children's book reader, I have taught screenwriting at American University for three years.  I have directed two independent films (a feature and a documentary) and have written a number of screenplays, which have received recognition from organizations including AFI, Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting, Slamdance, and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.  Moundville actually began as a screenplay, until I realized the story was much better suited to the novel format.

I have included my contact information and a brief summary below.  If you would be interested in reading Moundville, I would be happy to send you a hard copy.  Thank you for your consideration.


Kristin Levine

Moundville Summary:

I ain't gonna tell you this story.  No sir.  No way.  I got a million better things to do than think about that dumb old stuck-up girl and all the trouble she caused.  Everything was just fine in Moundville, 'til Emma Walker came to town.  

My real name is Harry Otis Sims, but everybody calls me Dit.  It was the summer of 1918 when she moved to Alabama, daughter of the postmaster, smart and black.  'Course I wanted to nothing to do with her.  And I ain't gonna tell you how she tricked me into becoming friends with her.  No sir.  Not gonna tell you how she caught me breaking the teacher's window, shooting a buzzard, and trying to drown some kittens.

I admit, when our town's barber was accused of murder, she was the one that came up with the plan to get him off.  But I helped.  I did most of the work.  And don't let nobody tell you it was my fault he got in a fight with the sheriff in the first place.  'Cause it wasn't.  No sir.  'Cept if I'm being real honest, maybe it was - just a little.

And don't you believe a word of it if anyone tells you I cried when she left.  'Cause I didn't.  No way.  Not even a little.  'Course, I have been known to lie now and then.  Emma said it was one of my worst traits, but I think she kind of liked how I could spin a good yarn.  Still I ain't gonna tell you this story.  'Less you ask real real nice, and then, well, maybe I will.


  1. Nothing is more helpful than seeing successful queries!

  2. Love the letter and the great opening to the narrator of the wonder you got the agent to sign you up! Thanks for sharing Kristin.


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