Dear Prospective Literary Agent
Since you are interested in memoirs, I hope you will be intrigued by my book, Lost in the Spanish Quarter, a memoir set in one of Italy’s most enigmatic cities, Naples.
As an American who discovered a loophole to gain access to a free college education in Naples, for years I roomed in the city’s most dangerous central-city ghetto, the Spanish Quarter, along with a tight-knit circle of Italian university friends. There I developed a fascination with the port city locally known as Napoli – with its volatile volcano, Saharan scirocco, underground passageways and New Years’ skies that rained festively with old crockery and washing machines. It was in this setting that I also developed an all-consuming love affair with Elio, a geology student from a local farm. Our seemingly flawless relationship, however, began to buckle under the lack of future prospects the city offered as well as its shootings, earthquakes and crashing ceilings. At the same time, Elio himself began to cave under the pressure of his domineering peasant mother and a spontaneously collapsed lung. The heartbreak drove me into self-imposed exile on the other side of the globe, New Zealand. A few years later, however, a series of heartfelt emails between me and Elio start to explore the true reasons behind our break-up and the possibility of forgiveness. The love letters – translated from the Italian and interspersed throughout the narrative – eventually offer us a second chance of a return not only to each other, but also to Naples.
Italy is the fifth most visited country in the world, with 4 million annual tourists from the U.S. alone and nearly another 4 million from the Commonwealth (according to Italy’s tourism agency, ENIT). While the Naples region ranks high among international visitors, most skirt the city itself due to its reputation for organized crime and mountains of trash. Many, therefore, miss out on not only Europe’s largest historic center, but also its vibrant people with their ancient culture, cryptic customs and impenetrable dialect.
My memoir is an insider’s look into life and cross-cultural love in a much-feared and little-understood Italian city. It’s a darker version of memoirs like A Thousand Days in Venice for travellers who want to venture beyond the conventional sun-drenched concepts of Italy. Akin to a younger woman’s Eat Pray Love, I believe my memoir will appeal predominantly to single women searching for true love, fulfillment and a place to call home.
Originally from Washington D.C., I spent over a decade growing up in Naples, where I earned a Masters degree with honors in foreign languages and literature. I now live in Auckland, where I teach English, Italian, interpreting and academic writing at a polytechnic and play an active part in the local Italian community. I am also a translator, proofreader and editor for two Italian academic journals.
I am seeking an agent with literary tastes who is ready to push the boundaries of what Italian memoirs are supposed to be. I hope the attached synopsis will whet your appetite. I appreciate your time in considering my query.
(Dear reader, what do you think of my latest attempt at snagging an agent? Any feedback before I send it out would be most welcome!)