"Margaret Dunlop" (not her real name) offers this for your consideration and she's being very brave in doing so, so please be fair but firm and imagine being in this position: you'd want to know the truth but you'd want it expressed constructively, sensitively and respectfully. Remember that for this I only ask for the letter plus the first 500 words - it's often not enough to judge a writer on, but it's important to showcase your work from the very first sentence, so it's still a valuable chunk to examine.
Dear Publisher [NB name would be here]
According to the Russian legend of the Fire Flower, the fern only blooms once a year, on the feast day of St John, June 24th at midnight. If you throw the flower up into the air it falls like a star on the very spot where a treasure lies hidden.
THE FIRE FLOWER is a book of 18,400 words for eight to twelve year olds. It is a drama/adventure story with important links to the past, both historical and legendary.
Twelve year old Asya is sent from war torn Grozny in Chechnya by her father to stay with her seventy year old great aunt Nadya. On her journey Asya is robbed of her money and passport but manages to reach her great aunt’s cottage on the Artists’ Cottage Estate in Barnet. This estate has been bought by a greedy and ruthless developer who is determined to evict all the old artists from their homes by illegal means if necessary.
Nadya has no children of her own and is at first appalled by idea of Asya interfering with her peaceful retirement, but she very quickly grows fond of her great niece and tries desperately to prevent Asya from being 'dispersed' by an bossy immigration officer to a detainment camp for asylum seekers.
Asya starts at the local school, which is attached to the nearby St John’s monastery, and there meets Sam an anxious, clever boy who is being bullied. They become friends and together find the exciting hidden treasure that reveals itself after a dramatic thunderstorm. This treasure will change all their lives and together with Sam’s bravery will bring about the defeat of the evil developers.
I am a published author/illustrator and this is my first book for eight to twelve year olds. I have previously written many texts for picture books, and have illustrated my own picture books, as well as illustrating books for older children by other authors. I have a blog ******** and I am also on Twitter. I visit schools and libraries all over Britain.
Thank you for considering my story.
Moscow. May 5th 1996
Dear Aunt Nadya
We have never met, but my mother often used to talk of you, when she was with us in Grozny, after my father died. She would reminisce about the beautiful mountain countryside where you both lived as young children, before the deportations.
Things are very bad now in Chechnya. When Grozny was shelled for the second time, our home was destroyed. For two weeks we hid ourselves in the cellar. Once the food and water was gone, we got out of the city, while the bomber planes were still flying over our heads. It was a miracle that we were able to reach Moscow.
At the moment we are safe, but I have decided that I must return to the hospital, in Grozny, as there are so few surgeons left. I cannot take my daughter Asya, back with me, which is why I am writing to you. I am sorry to give you so little warning, but life is too dangerous for her, in Grozny.
I have paid an agent here to arrange her journey. Can you remind Asya to telephone me when she has reached you in England.
Your loving nephew, Ruslan Akhmatov
Asya had walked all night. When the men left her at the service station, she hoped at first that they might come back. She had travelled in one lorry all day, and another one all night. There was a third lorry after the Tunnel. But when she had gone to the Ladies’ cloakroom, she had glanced back, and saw the two lorry men laughing, and looking at her. She didn’t like them. She had been in a hurry, so had left her knapsack, with all her money and her passport in the lorry, something her father had warned not to do. And when she came out of the lavatory, she saw that the lorry had gone.
So she began walking. She walked by the side of the main road. Cars passed by her in a blur of speed. ‘A1 North’, the sign read. ‘Barnet. Hatfield. The North.’ Barnet was where her Great Aunt Nadya lived. Asya remembered the full address - even the postal code. If she just kept walking she would get there eventually. She walked on and on through the night, until suddenly she smelt the fresh, green smell of grass and leaves. Then she knew that she must be leaving London behind her. The sun was rising. She had left the main road, when she saw the sign: The Artists’ Cottage Estate. Asya’s English was good. She had won prizes at her school in Grozny. Attached to the main sign, was: NEW DEVELOPMENT COMING SOON. Immaculate Homes Ltd.
“Rossetti Cottage,” Asya murmured. By her great aunt’s cottage gate grew a large oak tree with branches that zig-zagged and curled.
Great Aunt Nadya saw the child sitting on the wet grass, leaning against her tree.
“She is going to upset my life –Big Time,” thought Nadya.