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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Query Workshop 21-Revival: The Donald Braswell Story

Title: Revival: The Donald Braswell Story
Genre: Memoir


Revision 1--down from 411 words to 206! Great job!
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.*###
(*Imagine it’s Feb. 2013 :)
 
Best regards, and aloha!
Original
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.

17 comments:

Lara Schiffbauer said...

Hi, Mark! I don't know if a query for a memoir is any different than for fiction, so I don't know if anything I'll say will be helpful. First, I love the story. I didn't really know that much about it before today, and the "coincidence" of the past client buying the record company gave me chills. The one thing I was wondering about most is if maybe you tell too much for a query? This almost feels like a synopsis. However, please ignore my comments if I'm way off base! :)

Tracy Bermeo (A2Z Mommy) said...

Disclaimer: still working vigorously through my own querying experiences, so I am no expert. That said, I ask: are the "blessing of the second chance" and "paying it forward" what make this story unique or is it the series of chances (the chance accident, the chance meeting at the jaguar dealership or the wild card on AGT) that make this story unique? Persevering after an injury is often inspiring and inspirational but what will make this a page-turner so that the memoir becomes "not just another memoir" and therefore grabs an agents attention?

Mark Koopmans said...

Hey Lara,


You are spot on... I've been struggling to keep this to one page (there are so many, amazing parts to Donald's story!)

Thanks for the gentle nudge in the direction I know I need to go :)

Mark Koopmans said...

Hey,

When seen as a whole, it is amazing/inspirational to read how Donald lost his voice, but never gave up hope of a second chance.

Former judge Piers Morgan once called Donald "The Rocky of [America's Got Talent]." For me, it's a mixture of the two (perserverence and chance) that makes this a unique story.

Thanks for taking the time to comment - appreciate it :)

Huntress said...

I’ve edited what seems most important. And left it to you to decipher the words I kept :)

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 he might talk, but would never sing again. 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. *edit this last sentence. Kinda clunky-Huntress*

In 2004, Braswell met Walter Lucas at the car dealership, 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.”
*I would edit this down to 30 to 50 words. Suggestion: ‘Walter, a former musician, suggested the local music studio. But they wanted $50,000 to produce a CD. By a miraculous turn, a client of his Jaguar dealership, had just bought the music studio and bankrolled his project, what he dubbed The Miracle of Music.’-Huntress*


Braswell’s journey back to a professional stage took him thirteen years and a first audition on America’s Got Talent (2008.) Eliminated in the *second* round, the “Texas Tenor” was voted back on the show following an emergency Wild Card round. Braswell sang his way to the AGT Finals, where he placed fourth overall.

Today, Braswell, 49, is a full time entertainer with three CDs and 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.)

Not sure is the last sentence is needed. You already know you've got way too many words. Try going backwards. Try sorting out the absolutely vital words. Then see what is left. maybe you can cut a bit more than I did.

Love this, btw. Inspirational, spelled with a Capital I!!

Mark Koopmans said...

Hi Huntress,

Thank you *so* much for taking the time to go through this for me.

Your "fresh-eye" approach is much appreciated - as are all your suggestions and edits :)

(Off I go..... :)

mshatch said...

without looking at what anyone else had to say my first two thoughts are this: 1. make it shorter, because at 409 words this is about 100 words too long. Plus, making this shorter will make it a lot more interesting. And this is an interesting story, imo. 2. If it isn't 100% ready/polished, do not query it. Trust me on this one. I've been there, done this.

Mark Koopmans said...

Hi,

Thanks for the feedback - and you are right - the query *is* too long.

Working hard to get it 100% ready/polished, so hopefully that issue will take care of itself.

Charity Bradford said...

I saved the best for last. :) Actually I wanted to double check, and yes, according to Miss Shark (aka Janet Reid) you query a memoir just like fiction.

So that means we have a lot of cutting to get this closer to 200 words. You will want to drop all the detailed listing of events in favor of catching the attention of the agent/editor and enticing them to read the actual book.

Here's my go at it:

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.

Even though the Juilliard graduate was told he might never sing again, he never gave up hope of a second chance. Braswell’s journey back to a professional stage took him thirteen years and a first audition on America’s Got Talent in 2008. During his first performance, the restless crowd heckled even before he sang one note. After finishing Josh Groban’s "You Raise Me Up", the jeers became cheers. His is an inspirational story of perseverance and chance.

A former journalist, current blogger (and an ex-Irishman living in Hawaii,) I am co-writing REVIVAL: THE DONALD BRASWELL 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.

*Note: Miss Shark says not to query a memoir until it is finished and polished just like fiction. I think this means you don't need a proposal for it?*

Mark Koopmans said...

Hi Charity,

Wow, that revision looks so good, I want to read more :)

Seriously, thank you so much (for the compliment) and for spending your valuable time on my query.

Having read the comments from Mshatch (above) and from Janet (cheers for checking) I will remove myself from the gene, er, query pool until I am absolutely ready.

Again, thanks for your time:)

Melanie Cossey said...

I'm such a beginner when it comes to query letter writing so I won't comment on that except to say that I really enjoyed this. One thing I did notice though that bothered me was that you slip into passive voice by saying a hit and run driver struck him. Seems like it would be more powerful if you switch it around to say "when he was struck by a hit and run driver." Just a small thing but... :D

Mark Koopmans said...

Hey Melanie,

Thanks for your comments, and you are spot on!

That is an easy fix... thanks so much for pointing that out to me... I've already updated that sentence and it's included in my revised query :)

Huntress said...

Wow. Okay, like...wow.

Fantastic job cutting this down to the meat of the story. I'd read it. I'd recommend it!

My only edit:
"...a handsome, up-and-coming tenor, performing with the Welsh Opera was out cycling when *a hit-and-run driver struck him*"

This cures the passive phrase in the first sentence.

Kudos!!!

Mark Koopmans said...

Thanks to Huntress, Charity, Tracy and everyone else for your time and suggestions so far this week.

Special thanks to Melissa for her help via email :)

I *love* the revision and it *is* much better than before... must work on toning down that gift of the gab :)

Huntress said...

I'd heard the Irish are blessed with the gift of gab. Possibly you can't help it. :P

mshatch said...

excellent revision, imo.

Lara Schiffbauer said...

So much better, Mark! It is concise and interesting at the same time. Great job! (Do you want to write my query? - haha!)