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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Query Critique #1: Feast on Truffles

Hi, gang! Thanks to those readers who submitted queries for the query critique; the first one is an travel-related pitch. It appears below, with my comments in blue: 

Dear Domini,

Thin verging on scrawny, with irregular cow-like black spots adorning his frail frame, the dog didn’t look much like a creature capable of bringing in thousands of dollars of merchandise per day. “I actually left my best dog at home,” our nature guide and truffle hunter explained. “You can’t do a staged hunt with her. She smells that I’ve already touched the truffles before burying them, and she’s not interested.” [Love this lead. Strong description and definitely catches my attention. I would like to know the name of the nature guide, though.]

In the foothills of the Apennine Mountains that connect Tuscany, Umbria, and Le Marche, truffles are big business. At the truffle exchange – like the diamond or stock exchange for these mysterious mycetes – fist-sized white truffles fetch $6,000 before being broken down and sold to restaurants at triple mark-up. [Nice details here; I'd like to know a little more about why the truffles are so in demand and expensive, for someone who's not that familiar with them.]

In a truffle-centric travel piece, I’ll follow these famous fungi from the first fruitful forage of the season to the wholesale marketplace to the aficionado’s plate. The hills of Le Marche are one of the few places in the world besides Alba in Piedmont where the precious white truffle grows. [Great detail to know.] Besides restaurants happy to shave another ounce or two of truffles on your risotto free of charge, [this clause reads a little awkward to me] [Mercatello sul Metauro, the nearest town, mixes the Renaissance and modern hospitality in a way you can no longer find in touristy Tuscany. [Good selling point for a magazine that covers travel--something new and different.] Noble families open up their families’ Renaissance palaces and network of social connections to visitors, the abbey produces an herb-based indigo dye for a local brand of jeans, and artisans hand-throw and -paint pottery using local 16th century techniques to create custom designs for modern homes. [Shows that the writer has done plenty of research but I feel like the story idea is losing a little focus. Is the story more about the truffles or the community?] 

I’m a freelance travel journalist with a degree in Italian culture who has worked for Italy Magazine and covered Italian travel topics for publications on three continents, including USA TODAY, Ambassador, International Living, and Destination I Do. [Nice ISG.] I have photos available to accompany the piece [Great but I'd say, "I can provide photos to accompany the piece," which implies she'll shoot them for the market, not just rely on what she has] and can include an "if you go" sidebar highlighting how to best reach this out-of-the-way destination, accommodations, restaurants, and local attractions. [nice.]

Would you be interested in “Feast on Truffles, Travel Back in Time in Le Marche” for The Globe and Mail? [Suggested word count? Mention of a recent story to show that she's familiar with the market?]

Best regards,

**Readers, I like this query very much. I think I would focus on the truffles aspect a bit more and possibly provide a few more details about the truffle hunting process, etc and how the truffle economy affects the local community, not just talk about the community itself--more of a truffle tie-in if you will. However, overall I think it's a very strong query with a good chance of selling. Readers, what do you think? 

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