ahunter3 (ahunter3) wrote,

My Query-letter and Elaboration for the Proposal

I've started sending out my pitch to get my second book published.

Here is my standard query letter, and below that, the parts of the formal proposal that spell out in more detail what the book is about.

Query Letter:

"When you're a fish out of water you look for the nearest ocean" — Anthony T. Hincks

THAT GUY IN OUR WOMEN'S STUDIES CLASS is a nonfiction memoir about a genderqueer sissy male, Derek, who decided that women's studies in college would be a good place to engage people in discussions about gender.

This narrative tale follows Derek down Oklahoma highways and into heroin dens in Harlem and then into the homeless shelters of 1980s New York City, as the determined but not always practical Derek pursues his dream.

Along the way, the story delves into the complexities of privilege and social identity in ways that challenge assumptions about power and marginalization—not in primary-color simplicity but by exploring privilege and deprivation along a number of different dimensions and showing it in all of its native complexity, all while still respecting a concern for empowering the voice of those left out.

"Hunter's prose explores the delicate tapestry of privilege and power... this is a deployment of 'show, not tell' I've rarely seen done... narrative social theory" — An early reader

Length: 95,962 words

From the Formal Proposal:

Elevator Statement —

In 1980, I came out as a sissy. I was reclaiming the term the same way that proud lesbians referred to themselves as "dykes" or the way that gay folks were reclaiming "queer". "Sissy" comes from the word "sister" and so it seemed like the right word: a sisterlike, i.e., feminine or girlish, male person.

We had gay rights activists back then. We even had trans activists. A lot of people didn't understand why I was using a new and different term. But I wasn't gay or trans. It was something else.

Trans women, both back then and today, tend to say "Don't see me as a trans woman. See me as a woman". That wasn't me. I didn't consider myself female. I considered myself femme. I didn't identify with the gay rights movement: my sexuality wasn't same-sex attraction and I saw a need to untangle gender from either physical sex OR sexual orientation.

The activists I identified with the most were feminists. They were the ones who said having a different behavioral standard and polarized social roles for the sexes was sexist.

So I headed off to the university to major in women's studies.

That Guy in our Women's Studies Class is a rare thing in the world of memoirs: a sequel. In March 2020, my book GenderQueer: A Story From a Different Closet, was published by Sunstone Press (Santa Fe NM).

GenderQueer told the coming-of-age and coming-out story of realizing I had a different gender identity and of giving it a name. At the end of it, I vow to confront the world about how sissy males are treated. In That Guy in our Women's Studies Class, I set out to do exactly that, choosing the world of academic women's studies as my platform.

Elaborating on the Concept —

"When you're a fish out of water you look for the nearest ocean" — Anthony T. Hincks

As a male person very focused on the unfairness of gender expectations, I headed for the largest metropolitan center I could easily get to—New York City—figuring that even if my identity made me an exception to the exception to the rule, I'd be able to find people who were like me. And I pinned my hopes and dreams to women's studies, because the material I wanted to discuss with people would overlap with the material we'd be focusing on in the classroom.

That Guy in our Women's Studies Class illustrates the complexities of intersectionality, the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender and so forth. The main character is male, the privileged sex in the patriarchal context. Within the first few pages of the book, he has reason to worry that he's invading women's space by attending women's studies classes. At the same time, he's a minority within that space, and, as a gender-nonconforming sissy in the 1980s, a person with a gender identity that wasn't acknowledged and recognized yet, he's been somewhat marginalized by gender himself.

That's the presenting surface of a larger and even more intricate situation. To get to New York and attempt to get into college, he hitchhikes across the country and becomes a homeless person on the New York streets, eventually trading in on a history of psychiatric incarceration (he'd been placed on a locked ward shortly after coming out) to get into the better-funded assistance programs, which were earmarked for the "homeless mentally ill". A person with a psychiatric diagnosis was thus both privileged among the homeless and at the same time often stripped of basic rights because of that same status. And we follow along as the main character commutes every day from the grounds of Creedmoor Psychiatric Hospital to SUNY college campus, where most of the other students are middle class suburban commuters with the advantages and privileges of that existence.

There is also the dynamic of race: although the SUNY campus is not as disproportionately black as an historically black college such as Grambling, there is a high proportion of inner city black students living in the dorms as residential students, and there's a tension between the mostly-white commuters and the majority-black resident students. The book's main character is commuting from a different majority-minority environment, the world of formerly homeless halfway-house residents. In his second year he moves into the dormitories to live among the resident students and get away from the oppressive environment of the psychiatric facility. Over and over again, he finds his attention diverted from matters of gender identity to questions of race and racial oppression.

Meanwhile, in his academic studies, he gets increasingly immersed in studying the complex tapestry of power itself, and the larger question of its desirability, which feminist theory examines as part of the patriarchal value structure.

That Guy in our Women's Studies Class is a narrative story, with characters and conversations and a compelling storyline. While real life doesn't often resemble the trajectory of a fictional novel's plot, this particular slice of life tells that kind of tale. It's an entertaining book, one that does not read like an educational treatise. It's the story of a young out-of-town person from a small village making a go of it in the big city, of a survivor coping with life on the streets while seeking employment and a place to stay, and of a fervent activist looking for his 'people', finding a place in the world, and finding a political voice.

The people and events described in this memoir were all quite real, but to streamline and optimize the narrative flow, I sometimes combined several characters into one composite character, so as to not have to develop so many characters; and on occasions I also condensed multiple similar events and described them as single events.

The names have all been changed—including my own, for consistency. As I did in GenderQueer, I refer to myself as Derek Turner throughout.


You're secluded in quarantine, and all the performances and events have been cancelled, so it's a good time to read a book!

My book, GenderQueer: A Story From a Different Closet, has been published by Sunstone Press. It is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback and ebook, and as ebook only from Apple, Kobo, and directly from Sunstone Press themselves.

Links to published reviews and comments are listed on my Home Page


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Tags: guy in ws (book 2), pitch, proposal, query
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