• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself


First, I would go with “Dear Betsy Lerner” for the salutation. It’s professional, pure and simple.

Next: Your opening gambit. This is your first line. It’s crucial that it makes the agent want to read more. Here are some approaches I’ve seen.

Dear Betsy Lerner:

I am a big fan of your book The Forest for the Trees and a regular reader of your blog.


I met you at the Miami Book Fair where you gave a talk on memoir.


Do you like cheese? I’ve worked at gourmet cheese shop in Wisconsin for the last ten years and have written a memoir called “Put Your Faith in Cheeses.”


Amanda doesn’t know what’s good for her.


I’ve written a 130,264 word fictional novel.


I am a fan of the late Elizabeth Wurtzel who I know you worked with. I’ve written a memoir about depression that I think you might like.

Let me know what you think of these approaches, or better yet leave a first line and I’ll critique it. Be brave!

16 Responses

  1. Since I don’t have any specific connection with you that I could cite, I would jump right in with the key premise of my novel:

    Ms. Lerner,

    What happens when a character in a novel learns he is a character in a novel?

    • I don’t usually like questions as an opening gambit. They often sound gimmicky, but I would definitely keep going here. It’s clever and a bit intriguing.

  2. Hey Betsy I’m pretending I’ve never read your books, or met you at a reading, or have read your blog for years, and am not a fellow citizen of Connecticut.

    Dear Betsy Lerner,

    On the day of her father’s death in 1993 Carole discovers a letter written to her by him ten years before, “…immediately after my death you must move here because my brother Ennis has been living in the woods beyond the field since the day he died in 1945.”

    • I don’t think it’s a great idea to jump into the novel as an opener. There’s a stagey quality to it. I always think it’s more effective to talk about themes, setting, character. I do as little plot as possible. I would start with something like:

      Dear Betsy Lerner:
      I’ve written a novel that explores the life of a man who has been in exile in the woods for XX years. His existence come to light after his father dies and a letter surfaces.

      TITLE of novel spans forty years and explores the themes of exile, legacy, inheritance and love. To research the book, I’ve used the extensive collection of letters at the XX Library. I’ve also been influenced by so and so book on hobos.

      One chapter has been excerpted in SUCH AND SUCH magazine. I’ve studied with FAMOUS PERSON who has offered a blurb.I have a degree in XXX. I’ve published in XXX.

      Many thanks for your consideration.

  3. My original query began: “Shouting ‘Cake!’ in a crowded theater is likely to elicit the same response as yelling ‘Fire!’ Even uttering the word on the street will turn heads and interrupt all other thoughts in the vicinity. ‘Cake? Did you say cake?’”

    But—I made mine a little more personal, despite not knowing you personally.

    “Because of ‘The Forest for the Trees’ and your poetry background, I thought you might be the right person to approach regarding representation. I am a recent graduate of the Creative Nonfiction MFA program at Goucher College, and I spent the last two years writing a book about cake.

    “I realize ‘Food and Loathing’ deals with a more painful side of an addiction to cake (I remember too well being weighed in Mrs. Brown’s gym class, even dumpier in my yellow bloomers); my book is much lighter.”

    And it worked, so I thank you for taking a chance on me.

  4. Thank you for the invitation, Betsy. Here’s my query letter first line: “Jeff Chorus and Kitty Davidson are high school students in El Paso, Texas, in the early 1970s, caught up in a vortex of sexual freedom and drug experimentation.”

  5. I don’t know how or when, but I’m going with “Put your faith in cheeses.”

  6. This is generous of you.

    Dear Betsy Lerner,
    I don’t write great porn, and neither does our heroine, Natalie Levy, but her best efforts might just be the thing that saves her sexless marriage.

  7. Spy, Pirate, and Guerrilla is the biography of a dead Confederate, whose execution in a New York harbor fort set off fire alarms of protest in Congress and at the White House in 1865 that echo today in the government’s handling of terrorism cases since 9/11.

  8. My father died when I was 24, and I associate two things with him: science and loss.

  9. Dear Betsy Lerner,

    In THE WOMAN WITH THE WRONG FACE, Brett travels to San Sebastian on a dirty weekend and is forced to confront her damage from the war and what lies beneath.

  10. Dear Ms. Lerner,

    In the closing years of the Cold War, I left home to become James Bond.

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