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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Unicorn Bell and the Statue of Liberty

Last week, I entered the August Query Extravaganza over at Unicorn Bell, a fantastic blog run by a bunch of writers who walk the walk when it comes to paying it forward.

I had a great time, and wanted to offer some critique-al love to Alicia, Charity, Elizabeth, Huntress, L. Blankenship, Marcy and Sharon (who just gave birth to her son several days ago :)
(Jeffrey, as only guy in the group, you get a Man-hug, bro.J)

Unicorn Bell asked writers to submit queries for critique and suggestions (this week they have agents reviewing queries for completed manuscripts) and I thought a “Query Makeover” was in order.

With help from several group moderators, and a few Bluddies (blog buddies) like Lara and Tracy, I whittled my query from 411 words to 206, keeping all my highlights.

Here’s the revised version. (Original is below.)
Dear Agent,

In 1995, a handsome, up-and-coming tenor, performing with the Welsh Opera was out cycling when he was struck by a hit-and-run driver. Suffering only cuts and bruises, Donald Braswell, described as “the next Pavarotti,” was relieved until he realized the accident stole the irreplaceable – his voice.
Doctors told the Juilliard graduate he might never sing again, yet Braswell, a life-long Christian, never lost faith. His journey back to a professional stage took thirteen years of menial jobs, one musical miracle and a 2008 audition on America’s Got Talent. That first AGT performance almost ended before it began as a restless, tired crowd heckled the “Texas Tenor” before he sang a note. But, after he finished Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up,” the jeers became cheers and Braswell’s improbable ride to the Final Four was underway.

Today, Braswell, 49, is again a full time entertainer with an annual schedule that includes many charitable concerts to further his goal of “paying it forward.” An inspirational story of perseverance and chance, it is no wonder then-judge Piers Morgan once called Braswell, “The Rocky of our show.”

A former journalist and current blogger, I am co-writing REVIVAL: THE DONALD BRASWELL STORY. The 67,000-word memoir is complete and polished.*
(*by February 2013 :)

Donald Braswell

(Original below :)
Dear Agent,
In 1995, a handsome young tenor, performing with the Welsh Opera was cycling when a hit-and-run driver struck him. Suffering only cuts and bruises, Donald Braswell, described as “the next Pavarotti,” was relieved until he realized the accident stole the irreplaceable – his voice. New York doctors confirmed the million-to-one throat injury. The Juilliard graduate was told he might talk, but would never sing again. An immediate $50,000 payday was lost, as was the long-term career of “the American Corelli.” Braswell refused to quit. He relearned speech, rediscovered song and regained self-respect in the following years. Working as a plasterer’s assistant, he also sold insurance, pools and used cars, anything to provide for his growing family.

In 2004, Braswell met Walter Lucas at the car dealership, and agreed to the homeless-looking man’s request for a test drive. Hearing Braswell’s story, Walter, a former musician, told him to contact a local, Grammy-winning music studio. Executives said producing a CD would cost $50,000. Could Braswell contact a trusted client to bankroll the project? Calling his first sale at the Jaguar dealership, the woman was shocked – but not due to Braswell calling – she’d just bought that music studio. Struggling for nine years to regain a toe hold in the world of opera, Braswell inked his first record deal just two weeks after what he dubbed “The Miracle of Music.”

Overall, Braswell’s journey back to a professional stage took him thirteen years and a first audition on America’s Got Talent (2008.) During his first performance, the restless crowd heckled even before Braswell sang one note. After finishing Josh Groban’s You Raise Me Up, the jeers became cheers. Eliminated in the next round, the “Texas Tenor” was voted back on the show following an emergency Wild Card round. A fan favorite, Braswell sang his way to the AGT Finals, where he placed fourth overall. Today, Braswell, 49, is again a full time entertainer with three CDs and much more to his name. Blessed with this second chance, his annual schedule includes many charitable and Christian concerts to further his goal of “paying it forward” to those less fortunate. (His most recent lead role was Cornelius in a June 2012 charity musical, The Centurion.)

A former journalist, current blogger (and an ex-Irishman living in Hawaii,) I am co-writing REVIVAL: THE DONALDBRASWELL STORY. The book proposal for this memoir is complete and 47k words are “in the bank.” The 67,000-word ms will be ready by Jan. 15, 2013.
This post is my way to say THANK YOU to those in the community who step up to help the rest of us out.

And to anyone struggling with a query, chapter or ms… don’t let your fear overcome your dreams.

Like it (should :) say on the Statue of Liberty:

Courtesy: Earthcam

“Give us your tired draft, your poor query, your huddled ms yearning to breathe free.”

Because, when you do share, you may be pleasantly surprised with the results…

So. What’s holding you back from sharing your work?


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Wow, quite a difference, but still retaining the full impact. Sounds great now, Mark. (And Jeffrey is the Dude!)

Ciara said...

That is a big difference. It's funny, I'm so use to reading queries in present tense it took me a second, but I was intrigued and wanted more quickly. Great job!

Suzanne Furness said...

What a difference, the revised version is great. Just goes to show that although sharing our work can be scary it can be wonderfully rewarding too! Best of luck.

Stina said...

Great job with the rewrite! Good luck with it. The guy's story still amazes me.

~Sia McKye~ said...

There is a nice difference between the two. It made me curious about the story of this man.

Sia McKye's Thoughts...OVER COFFEE

Cassie Mae said...

Ah-Maz-ing! I wonder if I pulled out one of my old queries from like a year ago and rewrote it how much of a difference it would be.

Johanna Garth said...

That sounds amazing. Your new version is incredibly polished and I have to admire your bravery because I don't think I would want to publish any of my old queries on my blog!

Anonymous said...

"...don’t let your fear overcome your dreams."

Such an inspiring post. And your query sounds great. :)

Shiela Calderón Blankemeier said...

I think you've done a great job! Nice rewrite. Keep us posted on its journey. Hope you hear good news soon :)

Lara Schiffbauer said...

I love what should be on the Statue of Liberty! It made me laugh a mighty chuckle! Thanks! And thanks for the shout-out, too!

Charity Bradford said...

Mark, thanks so much for participating. All of us at UB wish you the best of luck!

Carrie Butler said...

Woohoo! It's looking great, Mark! :)

Tracy MacDonald said...

I love that new text for the Statue of Liberty! Is it time for an upgrade yet? Thanks for the shout out and I'm thrilled to see others felt the same way I did after the rewrite. It really is great.

Sheena-kay Graham said...

I'm glad you got the help.

Cherie Reich said...

Love the new query! It's much snappier and still has good impact on the reader.

cleemckenzie said...

So glad to see you working on this, Mark. The story sounds so interesting. Good luck on wrestling that wicked query into shape.

Great job.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I like the new plaque, but not sure the nation will go for it.

Excellent query Mark! Can't wait to read the book. :)

Samantha May said...

The new query is great! It's just long enough to make me curious about the details of this guy's accident and how he overcame it. Sounds like a good read!

Nice job :)

Nicole said...

Love the new query! It makes me want to know more about the story.

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