I was debating whether or not I wanted to share my query letter on the blog. I’ve been ever shy about my writing projects, but I think it’s time I come out and share a little, if only so my readers know the kind of stuff I actually write.

I affectionately dubbed my manuscript “Herbert” here on the blog. But Herbert really has a very different name, and in fact his name is extremely important to his story.

Below is my original query to my agent, Michelle Andelman. I queried via snail-mail and she emailed me just a few days later with an enthusiastic request for the full. It was hard not to get my hopes up, but three weeks later she offered representation. It was a good day, to say the least.

Dear Ms. Andelman,

Rump is a lousy name, but it’s even worse when your name is your destiny. Rump’s destiny really stinks. Because his mother only spoke aloud part of his name before she died, Rump is only part of a person. He is short, skinny, and apparently an idiot, because he thinks the world is round when everyone in the village says it’s flat.

When Rump discovers his mother’s old magic of spinning gold, he thinks his destiny is golden, until the greedy miller manipulates Rump into bringing the gold to him. Only then does Rump realize that the same magic that allows him to spin the gold also binds him to take whatever others will offer him in exchange for the gold. He fears his half-spoken name has something to do with the mess.

Then the miller boasts to the king that his only daughter, Opal, is the one who spins the gold. Rump thinks he’ll be a hero if he helps Opal, but he gets in over his head when Opal makes a foolish bargain: she promises Rump her first-born child. On a quest to be free of the miller’s greed and the binding bargains, Rump learns of rumpel, magic that traps you, and of stiltskins, magic that frees you. He’s got the trapped part down. If only he could find a stiltskin. If only he knew his whole name.

RUMP, a middle-grade retelling of Rumpelstiltskin from his own quirky point-of-view, is complete at 58,000 words. I read that you prefer quirky and charming middle-grade, so I hope this will interest you. I have published stories and articles in Guideposts Sweet 16, Hopscotch for Girls, and The Friend. I review books for Deseret News and I’m an active member of SCBWI since 2008.

Thank you for your time.


Liesl Shurtliff

And the first page:

CHAPTER ONE: Your Name Is Your Destiny

My mother named me after a cow’s rear-end. It’s the favorite village joke, and probably the only one, but it’s not really true. At least I don’t think it’s true, and neither does Gran. Really my mother had another name for me, a beautiful name, but no one ever did hear it. They only heard the first part. The worst part.

Mother had been very ill when I was born. Gran said she was fevered and coughing and I came before I was supposed to. Still, my mother held me close and whispered my name in my ear. No one heard it but me.

“His name?” Gran asked. “Tell me his name.”

“His name is Rump…haaa-cough-cough-cough…” Gran gave Mother something warm to drink and pried me from her arms.

“Tell me his name Anna. All of it.”

But Mother never did. She took a breath and then let out all the air and didn’t take any more in. Ever.

Gran said that I cried then, but I never hear that in my imagination. All I hear is silence. Not a move or a breath. The fire doesn’t crack and even the pixies are still.

Finally, Gran holds me up and says, “Rump. His name is Rump.”

The next morning the village bells chimed and the gnomes ran all through the village crying, “Rump! Rump! The new boy’s name is Rump!”

My name couldn’t be changed or taken back, because in The Kingdom your name isn’t just what people call you. Your name is full of meaning and power. Your name is your destiny.

My destiny really stinks.


  1. This is fabulous! Your voice is really fun. So thrilled for the methodical way you’ve approached your writing, your submissions, your future career.

    Here’s to a wonderful sale. 😉

  2. It’s perfection! Congrats!!

  3. Great job! Great opening line in your letter, and I felt like I understood exactly what type of genre and age range this is written for, before even reading the last paragraph. I haven’t started querying yet, but I am glad to see GOOD examples, since so many I’ve seen online tend to be picked apart.

    As for your writing credits, how did you end up writing for those publications? I am familiar with Guideposts from my long ago high school days! I’m always interested to hear how people get involved in reviewing books & publishing articles. Thanks!

    • Liesl

    • May 24, 2011

    • 8:02 pm

    Thanks y’all.

    Stephsco, when I first started writing I took a course from the Institute of Children’s Literature. Their first course is very geared towards magazine writing, and I thought it was a good place to start, so I just researched a bunch of magazines to figure out what they were looking for, wrote stories and articles and submitted to them. I had a pretty high success rate, I think mostly because I did my research. The Guideposts article was my first publication and they paid really well. Institute of Children’s Lit also has a Magazine market book published every year that lists all the magazines, what they’re looking for, the pay, how to submit, etc. They make one for both the children’s and adult market. It’s highly useful if you’re interested in writing for magazines at all. Here’s the link to the book:


    As for Deseret News, I had a friend who worked for the company and asked me if I was interested in writing for them, so I just sent in some writing samples and they picked me up. One of those not what you know but who you know type of things. I’m not certain I’ll review books a ton once I have a book out. I already feel touchy about it, being an aspiring author and knowing one day my own books may be reviewed, but it’s been good experience.

    • ali

    • May 24, 2011

    • 8:30 pm

    I love this story and am so glad it found a home! Great query letter Liesl! Congratulations again!

  4. I am a fan. A big one.

  5. love the query and the story. thanks for sharing them!

  6. How wonderful! I love it – Rump! It made me laugh! And so you know, I think it is normal to feel shy about your writing. I am about mine. I always refer to my manuscript as my “baby”. Congrats on your steps and progress in the writing world!

  7. Liesl, I’m just catching up on your blog. Congratulations on getting an agent. That is so, so exciting. Your book looks fabulous. I can’t wait to read the published version!

  8. Congrats on getting an agent!!! 🙂 I love your story and your style–and soon lots of other people will, too! So excited for you! Hoorah!

  9. Super, super fun.
    I already congratulated you on the agent part, but this is FAB 😀

    • Anonymous

    • October 24, 2011

    • 12:10 am

    O.M.G!!! Totally love this! LOVE! Great job, and now I can’t wait for this to come out!

    Interesting that you started writing for magazines. I also started writing by taking a course – the Canadian version of yours, for magazine writing. I still write for outdoor magazines.

    sorry for anon. blogger won’t let me comment lately.
    Terry Lynn Johnson

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