Clash of the Query Letters 2023—1st Place

Congrats to Michelle Westlake for winning first place in the Clash of the Query Letters 2023! Here's what our judge (Michelle Barker) had to say:

A Field Guide to Dragons and Other Exotic Animals has a great premise and an even greater twist that I didn't expect. This looks like an exciting project with a solid storyline; definitely one I'd want to read.

Example query letter to literary agent



Dear Agent,

I noticed on the Darling Axe contest website that you are looking for query letters to judge, so I am eager to submit A FIELD GUIDE TO DRAGONS AND OTHER EXOTIC ANIMALS for your consideration. This middle-grade contemporary fantasy is a 56,000-word standalone with series potential. It will appeal to fans of A DISCOVERY OF DRAGONS by Lindsay Galvin and WILDERLORE: THE ACCIDENTAL APPRENTICE by Amanda Foody. 

Twelve-year-old Alex Parker is less than thrilled when she is shipped off to stay on her Uncle Sal’s goat farm in the middle of nowhere. Sure, it's on a tropical island, but goats are boring compared to the salamanders and skunks she usually takes care of. 

However, she discovers the farm is a secret sanctuary, keeping dragons, unicorns, and other fabled beasts safe from exploitation. While getting used to feeding dragons and cleaning up after the bonnacon, she meets Ignus—an uncle she’s never heard of. He insists his brother is hiding the animals for personal gain when he could use their medicinal properties to cure sickness and disease. Alex starts to think he may be right. 

Then Alex learns that Ignus will do anything to share their healing powers with the world. Now she must stop the plan she accidentally helped him set in motion—to reveal the island’s location and auction off the animals, whole or in pieces—or the last of the legendary creatures will be gone forever. 

I have been involved, both as a writer and organizer, with the Muskoka Novel Marathon, an annual fundraiser for adult literacy initiatives, for over ten years. I live in a village in Southwestern Ontario with my husband, two daughters, and a small menagerie of animals.

Thank you for your consideration. 


Michelle Westlake

Sample query letter for manuscript submission

Michelle Westlake is a ghostwriter and aspiring children's novelist from a small village outside Cambridge, Ontario. She writes books about dragons and magic and hopes to be able to make kids excited about reading one day. Michelle also enjoys writing poetry and has an extensive collection of unused notebooks. When not writing, reading, or binge-watching The Office, you can usually find her wandering around her herb garden looking for fairies.


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  • That’s just how it’s turned out this time. The winners from our last Synopsis Skirmish: mystery, thriller, and contemporary YA. The winners from the last First Page Challenge: literary drama, literary drama, and adult fantasy.

  • Seems like the typical winners of these types of contests are fantasy or science fiction, which is by its nature sensational. Queries for ordinary fiction, mystery or less imaginative works don’t have a chance against the fantastical.

    Patsy Stagner

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