Oh Yeah, We Had a Contest…

I’m back! This vacation was… well, fantastic. I can hardly explain it. I had an amazing time. It’s going to be difficult getting back into work mode. But here I am, nose to the grindstone as usual.

So, I have a couple of things for you today. First, a teeny-tiny contest. It’s so small, it’s probably more of a micro contest. Here it is:

Guess how many unanswered queries I had in my inbox as of 8:00 this morning when I returned to work. Keep in mind I had cleared the query box to zero before I departed, so these are from a week. Leave your answer in the comments. The person who comes the closest gets… hmmm… lots of recognition and kudos from everyone who reads this blog. How’s that?

Now let’s talk about the contest from Friday the 15th. It was… interesting reading all your entries… especially since I spent so much time on the beach last week. Kind of creepy, if you want to know the truth. Let’s just say I’m glad I wasn’t in any on your beachy scenarios.

As usual, I had a hard time choosing a winner. They are all so different, and so creative! I was impressed with all the different ways your minds went with the set-up I gave you. So, I just had to pick one that resonated with me personally, and that I thought was a nice piece of writing.
The winner is… (drumroll, please)…

Serenissima (posting August 17 at 8:17 pm). Her winning entry is below. Be sure to email me, Serenissima. Everyone else… thanks for entering! (If you haven’t had a chance to read all the entries, you really should. Click here.)

Tomorrow I promise I’ll get to some REAL blogging. Glad to be back!

The Winning Entry

I struggle to catch my breath. “Baby? Baby!” I sit up so quickly little fireballs sprinkle my vision. It doesn’t matter. I lunge toward him. His body feels fragile, like those eggshells where they’ve blown the yolk out. Well, he’s been through a lot, I tell myself.

I lean back to take him in. Delicate freckles have sprouted along his cheekbones. “Your tour isn’t up for three months. How’d you get out of there?” Nagging thoughts of news stories announcing ‘stop-losses’ and ‘involuntary extensions’ prickle at my brain.

He smiles, but his eyes are sad, distant. “Don’t worry about it.” He cups my face in his hands. “You’re so beautiful.”

I pat my hair, frizzing out of its clip. My face is shiny with sunscreen and I feel bloated from that omelet. I lean forward to kiss him. He smells of cardamom, and gunpowder. His lips are softer than I remember, but there’s a chill to him.

I pinch his uniform. “Didn’t you have time to change?”

Again that filmy, faraway look. “I didn’t have time to change, no.” Even his voice sounds odd, like he’s talking underwater.

A trickle of fear plants itself in my chest. I take his hands. Icy. “Are you in trouble? How long are you home for?”

He stares at me, his lip trembling. “Not trouble, no. But I doubt I’ll be here long. I don’t think it works like that.”

His body takes on a silvery sheen. Is he a mirage? Am I imagining this? I hear the thwack of paddle balls, the splash of surf, and children giggling over sandcastles. How dare they?

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Stephanie Reed on August 26, 2008 at 9:22 PM

    >Congrats, S! My query guess:

    308. If I’m way high, maybe it will make you feel like it could have been worse.

  2. Africakid on August 26, 2008 at 12:05 AM

    >My guess: 101.
    Loved your entry, Serenissima!

  3. Mari on August 25, 2008 at 9:03 PM

    >Congrats Serenissima!

    My guess on the number of queries is 196

  4. Lea Ann McCombs on August 25, 2008 at 8:54 PM

    >How about 65 queries for the week?

  5. Marla Taviano on August 25, 2008 at 4:56 PM

    >Oooooh, Serenissima! I love it!
    I’m guessing 99.

  6. Jennifer AlLee on August 25, 2008 at 4:02 PM

    >My guess: 162

    Welcome back!

  7. Catherine West on August 25, 2008 at 3:40 PM

    >Great entry!
    Welcome back, Rachelle!
    My guess is 150.

  8. Serenissima on August 25, 2008 at 3:17 PM

    >Wow, what a great way to start the week! Thanks for running another fun contest, Rachelle! And thanks for all the kind words from your readers!

    As for queries, I’ll guess 89.

  9. Hamilton Whitney on August 25, 2008 at 1:44 PM

    >Congrats to Serenissima 🙂

    Everyone’s guesses seem relatively on the low end so I’m going to guess high. 142? Come one, anything with 42 in it has to be the answer 😉

  10. school_of_tyrannus on August 25, 2008 at 1:25 PM


  11. Carrie Turansky on August 25, 2008 at 1:17 PM

    >Welcome back. Glad you had a great vacation. I guess you had 57 queries waiting for you. : )


  12. Julie Gillies on August 25, 2008 at 12:20 PM

    >Nice to hear you had an amazing vacation. Eegads on the influx in your in-box. My guess is 63.

    Congrats on a well done story, Serenissima!

  13. jess on August 25, 2008 at 12:13 PM

    >I’ll guess 201. I know how my email piles up during a week away. I guess queries can too.

  14. Anne L.B. on August 25, 2008 at 11:07 AM

    >Serenissma, your entry deserved to win! I loved the closing line.

    Rachelle, Welcome back! Glad to hear vacation was “fantastic” and “amazing.” Can’t quite bring myself to go triple digits. I’ll guess 99 (but I’m hoping it’s 50).

  15. Ralene on August 25, 2008 at 10:49 AM

    >Wow, Serenissma! That almost brought tears to my eyes (my husband is military, two tours so far).

    Welcome back, Rachelle. I’ll bet you had like 150 queries in your box. Sheesh, woman, how do you do it? lol…

  16. Marcie Gribbin on August 25, 2008 at 10:45 AM

    >Great entry, Serenissima. Kudos!

    Hmm. Query count? I’ll go with… 89.

  17. Deborah Vogts on August 25, 2008 at 10:25 AM

    >Hi Rachelle,

    Glad you had a great time at the beach. I loved the winning entry. Congratulations, Serenissima!!!

    Okay my guess . . . 125.

  18. Gloria McQueen Stockstill on August 25, 2008 at 10:23 AM

    >I’ll guess 94. I wouldn’t want your job this week!

    Gloria McQueen Stockstill

  19. adrienne on August 25, 2008 at 10:13 AM

    >Congratulations, Serenissima. Beautiful writing.

    As for the queries – I’ll guess 78.

  20. Anita Mae on August 25, 2008 at 10:06 AM

    >So, did you receive less queries since you were gone and they thought no use sending until you were back?


    Did you receive more queries b/c some people subcon think it’s better to slip it in and let it veg a bit before you notice it?

    Hmmm – I’m guessing 57 queries.

  21. Mark H. on August 25, 2008 at 9:59 AM

    >Congratulations, Serenissima, and thanks, Rachelle, for the fun contests (even if they made your vacation weird…sorry about that).

    As far as your queries, the Price-Is-Right-bid $1 technigue probably won’t work here, so I’ll guess 134.

  22. Courtney Walsh on August 25, 2008 at 9:49 AM

    >Oh gosh… not a good time to query, probably huh?? lol – ah, well!! I’m guessing 111.

    Welcome back from vacation!! 🙂 Good luck getting back in the groove! Oh and I love the one you chose – very descriptive entry! Congrats!

  23. Cheryl Barker on August 25, 2008 at 9:31 AM

    >Okay, I’ll bite. Was it 81?

  24. Renee on August 25, 2008 at 9:26 AM

    >Congratulations Serenissima! Loved the entry.

    My guess-168

  25. Misty on August 25, 2008 at 9:15 AM

    >Congrats, Serenissima!

    I’m going to guess 142 entries.

  26. Sheri Boeyink on August 25, 2008 at 9:07 AM

    >Congrats Serenissima, great entry. There were tons of great entries, it was fun to be a part of it.

    I think I’ll guess 77 queries.

    Welcome back, Rachelle.

  27. Camille Cannon (Eide) on August 25, 2008 at 8:59 AM

    >Good job & congrats, Serenissima!

    Welcome back to the grindstone Rachelle – I hope you got plenty of fun, sun & rest.

    Queries received the week you were gone: 66.

    Queries with "hooker" or "stripper" in the title: at least 1.

    Queries claiming "devine" authorship: 4. (c'mon folks, read her blog).

    Queries that made you cringe: 12.

    Queries that made you snort: 8.

    Queries that made you laugh out loud even though they weren't aiming for humor: 3.

    Queries that made it into the "maybe" folder: 6.

    Am I even close?

  28. Mark Crumpler on August 25, 2008 at 8:16 AM

    >Micro-contest entry: 117

  29. Vicki Bell on August 25, 2008 at 8:10 AM

    >Whoa Serenissima! Congratulations on a great entry! I’m wondering if this stemmed from any autobiographical experience?

    I’m guessing 84 queries….

    Thanks for leaving us with such varied guest bloggers Rachelle. We’re glad you’re back!

  30. Kat Harris on August 25, 2008 at 8:00 AM

    >Oooh yeah, I really liked this one. Congrats Serenissima!

    Welcome back Rachelle! I hope the ???184 queries??? in your inbox are good ones.

  31. Rosslyn Elliott on August 25, 2008 at 7:47 AM

    >Welcome back! Vacation sounds very intriguing. When someone in the words business says she can hardly describe something, you know it must be good.

    My guess for the query count: 141

    That’s twenty a day plus one for good measure.

  32. Timothy Fish on August 25, 2008 at 7:11 AM

    >I’ll go with 76 entries. Of those, I expect you will send 69 pass letters. You will be intrigued by 7, but you probably won’t sign any new clients.

    Congratuations to Serenissima on her winning ghost story. I haven’t read many of the other entries (not even my own). I am happy to say that I have been writing this weekend and that even with the Olympics going on and preparing for Bible study class on Sunday.

  33. Chatty Kelly on August 25, 2008 at 7:03 AM

    >I’ll guess 47.

    Congrats to the winner. Thanks for the contest opportunity. It was really fun. I won’t mention that I printed out your email to me and framed it. Okay, not really, but it did make my day. Thanks for taking the time!

  34. Katy McKenna on August 25, 2008 at 6:49 AM

    >Serenissima, your entry is fantastic!

    Rachelle, you who have received I’m guessing 127 queries in your absence, I am SO glad you had a wonderful trip.

  35. Jennifer F. on August 25, 2008 at 6:26 AM

    >Congratulations, Serenissima!

    I’ll guess 34.

  36. Katie Hart - Freelance Writer on August 25, 2008 at 6:02 AM

    >Great story!

    My entry: 83 queries.

  37. Gwen Stewart on August 25, 2008 at 5:34 AM

    >Note to self: have at least three cups of coffee before I post in the morning.

    Congrats on a great entry, Serenissima. Love the sensory details, especially the omelet. Too true, too true.

    I’m aiming high, Rachelle. 127 queries. 🙂

  38. Anita Mae on August 25, 2008 at 3:09 AM

    >Way to go, Serenissima. Keep up the good writing.

  39. Christina Berry on August 25, 2008 at 2:02 AM

    >Let’s see … I sent about fifteen …

    No, really, I’m happily agented. 🙂 I’ll refrain from pulling a Price is Right trick and guessing 88; instead, I’ll say 59.

  40. Kim Kasch on August 25, 2008 at 1:07 AM

    >Serenissima: A Hearty Congrats! Great ghostly entry!

    Rachelle: Welcome back!

    My entry for the micro contest: 87