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Monday, June 4, 2012

Let the Query Critique Month Begin! Second Act Parenting Query

Welcome to the Query Critique Month, and thanks to all who have submitted queries. Here is our first, with my comments in green: 

Dear [personalized editor's name],

At 41, Cindy Coloma thought she'd left her diaper days far behind. Her oldest two children were legal adults. Her youngest, Weston, was nearing high school when her new husband, Nieldon, expressed his hopes of having a baby with her. The family welcomed baby Lily last spring. [I like the lead. It's simple but the idea--starting over with a baby--is expressed well. I did feel like a little was missing--like wasn't this a pretty big decision in the first place? But I'm okay with it overall.] 

Though thrilled to celebrate the miracle of new life, having a baby in Act Two has brought new challenges. Cindy has struggled to meet a novel deadline and complete a rigorous schedule of college courses—both of which she thought she could do pre-baby but both of which required far more independent time than she could find post-baby. “I’d forgotten how much time infants need,” says Cindy, best-selling author of several novels including Sweet Sanctuary, released in 2011. Indeed, having seen her first three children grow, Cindy is aware how precious is each moment and relishes the times when “I just sit and look at her.” [I like the quote from Cindy but feel that the last two sentences clash--i.e., she'd forgotten how much time babies need but that she relished the time to sit and watch her. Also, I think if you're going to use quotes, they could be more compelling or specific--something surprising or unique.] 

Second Act parenting is unique because, though parents know how to parent, they are surprised when Baby's arrival brings flustered midnight fumblings and confusing gizmo-rich baby gear. Support groups are hard to find and often, second time moms stand out when their friends are anticipating grandchildren. At a recent school function, Cindy and Nieldon pushed Lily around a decidedly carriage-unfriendly campus. While her son’s high school algebra teacher reviewed a syllabus, Cindy excused herself to nurse the baby. It felt a little surreal. [I like the "Second Act" parenting concept, though I think it should be put in quotes or explained a little. Who says your 40s are your "Second Act?" Also, there's an issue calling "Second Act" parenting unique. Actually a lot of women have babies in their 40s, and pointing out this trend would make this idea more marketable. Think about it--the more readers affected by something, the more likely an editor is to assign an idea. This idea could be re-slanted with the approach that more and more women are becoming Second Act parents--and the pros, cons, etc of doing so.] 

As Lily grows, Cindy will continue to be the odd-mom out. What’s it like to be the “older” mom at kindergarten round-ups? How does one balance a first day of school while moving an older child to college? Parenting mags are geared toward younger moms. How do Second Act moms stay abreast of recent child development studies or find play groups where they don’t feel like the other moms’ moms? [See my comment for the above paragraph. I think this is the real salable, heart of the story.]

I’d like to write this story, “Second Act Moms” for More’s Second Act department, profiling three women who have had second families. I’ll ask each about the unique perspective they’ve gained this time around. What is more precious? What is more difficult? How has their parenting changed? How have they found ways to celebrate this new, and possibly unexpected, twist in their lives? [I like the idea but I'd suggest that the writer take a "bigger picture" approach and use the three women with second families as anecdotes instead of doing there profiles. However, if the market she's approaching is one that runs lots of profiles, she could stick with her original approach.] 

In my own small community, I know at least five women (including Cindy) who have experienced (or are experiencing) Second Act parenting. I know there is an audience for this among your readers and I think they will be glad to see More give space to their circumstance. [My point exactly--it's not unique--it's a trend and therefore more salable, in my opinion. And I agree there is an audience for this, among women's and possibly parenting mags as well.]

My work has appeared in national magazines such as Brio and Entrepreneur. I was a regular contributor for a regional women & lifestyle magazine for two years, often writing cover profiles and last minute features. My editor knew I could deliver what she needed, when she needed it. If you would like to see samples of my work, please visit my website, listed below and click on See my Work. Here is an example of one profile I wrote for a women’s magazine: [Site deleted. This is an OK ISG, but why not name the magazine you wrote for? I do like her ability to sell herself. Overall, I like this query but I think it could be stronger by including some quotes and spinning the trend aspect of the piece, as well as a look at what women (and men) might want to keep in mind if they're considering it, etc. The writer of this query has solid writing skills, and I encourage her to possibly rework this query and submit it again!]

I look forward to hearing from you.

Readers, what do you think? Do you agree with my critique, specifically the re-slanting to highlight the trend aspect of the story idea, and including stronger quotes? Let me know! And stay tuned for the next query critique. 


  1. I think you nailed the parts that are troubling. :-) And I like the distinction between "profile" and "anecdote." That makes sense. Thanks for a helpful critique!

  2. You're very welcome, Carrie Anne! Readers, what do you think?

  3. I agree -- I think the intro line about When baby Lila was welcomed confused me. I can definitely 'see' some of the images that she writes about: nursing during the conference and dealing with the stroller. Those are good descriptive grafs!

  4. Good topic, needs some reworking, so I think you are right on.