The exploitation of Black Americans in my lifetime shows itself as mass incarceration. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not calling those working in the judicial system racist.
I don’t blame the white woman who confused my Black friend for a purse snatcher months after the actual mugging took place. I don’t blame the police officer who arrested my friend with no evidence other than the woman’s shaky testimony. I don’t blame the judge who let every person in the courtroom leave except me and the white social worker before he asked if the witness could identify the one Black man left in the room as the perpetrator. I don’t blame the underpaid Public Defender who never bothered to read my friend’s file. I don’t blame him for looking at my very distinctive friend and saying, “They have an eyewitness. Look at him—who’s going to mistake him for someone else?”
Anyway, I’ve finished reading The Bone Trench out loud. That took nine days. This weekend, I reworked a query letter and wrote a new synopsis, one page. These two documents have now been sent to my paid editor Gretchen so she can work her magic.
I don’t want to burden you with the entire documents. But here’s the opening to the synopsis:
It’s been said the role of the modern book is to start a conversation. In America, a major conversation is coalescing around mass incarceration and the criminal justice system. The Bone Trench asks—with scandalous irreverence—what would Jesus say in such a conversation?
This is from the query letter:
The Bone Trench features Jesus but is hardly religious. Mother Mary is a fantastical Mother of God, but her desire to be a better mother is universal. The historical truths at the heart of the novel are all too real—my desire to explore America’s repeated willingness to use prisoners for profit was triggered by my own family’s checkered history with prison management and convict leasing.
My experience has been that Gretchen can take a query letter up a notch or two, so I’m excited to see what she does with what I’ve sent her. Until then, I could be researching appropriate agents, but one of the main questions I’ve asked Gretchen is, what genre book is this?
I’m open to suggestions, and to help you along, here’s the opening:
The trench in Union Avenue wept.
At the bottom of the dirt trench, hemmed in by its steep, slick walls, Cat Thomas dug a path for a new distribution line, finishing what the backhoe had started. Cat’s nose twitched with the smell of Mississippi River muck. Sweat stung his eyes, and a blister between his thumb and forefinger tugged and burned. The Memphis Power Company worker hated this part of his job: the damp trench, the earthen walls clawed by the teeth of the backhoe, the wiggling earthworms sliced in two. Ignoring the traffic noises drifting from above, Cat slowly found the rhythm of his shovel and worked in the June heat the way he’d always worked, with muscled shoulders and a head full of replacement thoughts: his wife’s wobbly smile when she announced the coming of a child, the cold one waiting for him in the refrigerator at home, whether the grit-and-grind Grizzlies would ever win it all. Caught up in his own world, Cat rent the ground. Until his shovel scraped a human skull.
Thanks for following along my journey.