Where did we leave off, class? I believe it was here:
"It's hard, looking back, to know what started all the changes," Father said. "I wish I had been more vigilant, more aware. But I wasn't. Your mother was."
"Aware of what?" I asked.
"Policies. Politics. What was happening."
ME: Now, can anyone explain the purpose of this passage from a political standpoint?
SALLY: Is it to suggest that getting news from unreliable fringe sources is not only responsible, but a form of activism?
ME: Very good. Oh...Billy, your hand was up?
BILLY: My dad told me that using the tag "asked" after a question is sloppy and if I do it, I'll never get an agent.
ME: Well, he's right and he's wrong, Billy. Tell me, does your dad work with any self-proclaimed prophets? Because that matters.
I'm going to summarize this next part for you, children. The bad government tore down all the churches because they're bad guys. Then they relocated everyone, but you knew that already. Mommy didn't like that:
"That's when she started scratching at her skin. Like she was trying to shred herself."
SALLY: Is this what they call characterization, teacher?
ME: It's a reasonable facsimile, Sally. Writers don't usually state outright what a character's tics mean. Now please sit down, we're nearly done:
"One more thing before we go in...Some folks say there are people out there. People who slipped away in time. People who are free."
BILLY: Teacher, this whole chapter seems like horseshit.
ME: Mind your language, Billy. You're not wrong, but I'd like to keep a clean classroom.
And that concludes our lesson for the day. Remember: With the sheer volume of queries most agents receive, it really is the little things that will scuttle your chances. The real secret to getting published is to kiss up to someone who's already famous and hope that his/her laziness is an inducement to steal your work.