The Submission Letter that Could

This is the submission letter that landed me a book deal. Every publication story is unique. Mine is about an agent who went above and beyond, subbing the manuscript on five different rounds, to resounding rejection. I asked her to send it out to one more indie press, but she (understandably) declined, so I sent the manuscript out on my own.

Dear Editors,

Korean-born adoptee Lisa Pearl arrives in Seoul to support her best friend, Mindy, as she meets her Korean birth mother, but after they argue, Lisa takes an impulsive trip with a handsome stranger, and wakes to find herself in North Korea, the strangest and cruelest place on Earth.

For the international adoptee, the story does not end with her adoption into her new family, but only begins there, when the real struggle begins. FAMOUS ADOPTED PEOPLE tells that story, from Lisa’s first meeting with Mindy at Korean Kamp, through her rebellious teenage years, to the extended adolescence that Lisa hangs onto well into her adult life.

Hungry for role models, Lisa and Mindy compile a list of famous adopted people throughout the years, from Moses to Deborah Harry to Vincent Chin. Both vow to become famous themselves, Lisa as a writer and Mindy as an actress. But as the years pass, Mindy acquiesces to her parents’ wishes to become a doctor, and Lisa drifts aimlessly.

When Lisa is kidnapped and taken to North Korea, she finds herself in a strange world constructed on lies, self-deception, shameless luxury and brutal tyranny. Discovering that her birth mother is not at all as she had imagined, Lisa must confront her own past to find the strength to survive.

The transracial experience of Asian adoptees into white families is a timely subject of the Asian diaspora that has not been well examined. Though there are many books on transracial adoption, they are generally written by the White adoptive parents or by Asians who are not adopted but find the subject rich for exploring themes of otherness and alienation. “Famous Adopted People” explores the effects of the transracial experience through a heroine's journey to accepting and understanding her powers and limitations. The country of Korea is the perfect metaphor for the divided identity of an adoptee: one half a well-adjusted, modern, westernized success story, the other a dark and unknown territory ruled by fantasies both light and dark. With 200,000 American adoptees from South Korea alone, there is a wide audience of Asian adoptees who yearn to see their story in print.

I review books and write a popular monthly blog, Alice in Wordland, for the Washington Independent Review of Books.

Thank you for reading my submission.


Alice Stephens