Query Makeover

Before—old snail mail query

Anna-Maria L. Crum


September 19, 1999 

Editor’s name
Publisher address 

Dear (Agent’s name):

I met you at the Pike’s Peak Writers conference in Colorado Springs last April. At that time you expressed interest in my picture book, The Pooka, and in some of my illustrations. I have completed the rewrite of The Pooka following your suggestions and am now submitting it for your review along with some sample illustrations you requested.

The Pooka is based on Irish folklore and is a fairy given to mischief. The fairy often disguises itself as an animal, usually a horse. Harvey, the Rabbit was a Pooka. One of the legends associated with the Pooka is that on September night, it races across the countryside touching anything still growing so that it withers and winter can come. My father raised us on stories of the Pooka and it has always been very real to me. I even saw the Pooka once during college. Late one night as I was driving across campus, a big black horse suddenly reared in front of my car. In a heartbeat, it was gone. I stopped and looked, but there was no sign of the horse and I knew I had seen the Pooka.

The illustrations I have enclosed are copies from The Bad Luck of King Fred, a book I wrote and illustrated for Shortland Publications and some pen and ink work you liked. The portrait of the old man was recently finished as part of a series of signs for the Forest Department. The signs are for Teller City, an abandoned mining town, which the forest service is restoring with hiking trails. It would be a simple matter to add watercolor washes to the pen and ink work if that is a combination you prefer.

Thank you for taking time to review my work. I look forward to hearing from you. Please keep the copies of the illustrations for your files.

Anna-Maria L. Crum

After—new email query

(Subject line reads: Query: The Pooka, picture book)

Dear Ms. Agent:

My father raised us on Irish fairy tales, in particular, The King of Ireland’s Son with characters like the Enchanter of the Black Back Lands…and of course the Pooka, the trickster fairy who takes the form of a giant black horse that gallops through the autumn nights, withering growing things so winter can come. Almost fifteen years later, as I drove across my college campus on a windy fall night, a black horse suddenly reared up in my headlights, then leapt away. My heart hammering, I skidded to a stop and got out to look…but there was no sign of the horse. Anywhere. I’m sure it was just a normal horse, that had somehow escaped from a barn or stable—but standing there in the rustling night, I knew that someday I had to bring the Pooka to life for other kids, as my father had given him life for me.

(I also looked through all the local papers for articles about a lost horse, and there was no mention of one. Just saying…) 

Jody’s grandmother warns him about the danger of meddling with fairies, but he can hear the Pooka calling in the night, smell his scent on the damp fall air, and when he sees the Pooka silhouetted against the starry sky, Jody decides to capture him. No rope or saddle ever made can hold the Pooka, but Granny told Jody that something that belongs to him might do the trick. If he’s fast enough. Armed with an old coat and a well-timed trap, Jody captures the Pooka…but he discovers you should be careful what you wish for. As summer stretches on and on, with no rain coming, the fruit grows so big it smashes trees while the fall vegetables never grow. And Jody learns that there are some things you have to let go, no matter how much you might want to keep them.

I have had 19 grade school readers published in the educational market by numerous publishers including Benchmark Education, Pacific Learning and McGraw Hill, and I now feel ready to break into “white collar” writing. I’m also a long time member of SCBWI, and a past board member for the Rocky Mountain Chapter. Currently, I’m on the board for the Picture Book Artists Association and I co-host the Denver RMC-SCBWI schmooze.

I look forward to hearing of your interest in The Pooka, a picture book complete at 989 words, appropriate for ages 5–8. 


Anna-Maria Crum