Writers Helping Writers: Lisa Collier Cool

Ever since I bought How to Write Irresistible Query Letters, I’ve been a fan of the book’s author, Lisa Collier Cool. That book was a great help to me as a beginning writer and later as a full-time freelancer, giving me needed help in writing query letters. It also presented a collection of successful queries, a welcome addition for those of us interested in how others write query letters.

Last month, I picked up my copy of Parade Magazine and found there “The Dog That Changes Lives,” Lisa’s article about therapy dogs. In case you missed the piece, you can read it here.

I decided to write and ask Lisa about the query letter that sold the article. She was most generous in her response, agreeing to share her query with readers of this blog. I was much impressed with her query. It is a fine example of an effective way to interest an editor of a large national magazine in an article idea.

Below, you’ll find both our emails and her query to Parade:
I loved your article this week in Parade. Congratulations!

As soon as I read the article, I knew I wanted to ask you about the query you used to sell the piece. I’ve been a freelancer for about 30 years and I also have a blog, Words into Print, about writing (it’s at  ldaley.wordpress.com) where I try to help others get published. I’m wondering if you would be willing to share that query letter with readers of my blog.  Yours is a great example, I think, of a short inspirational piece that not only packs a lot of emotion in relatively few words but also gives vital information to the reader.

(My daughter works at a health care facility in Charlotte and she tells me about the great impact that therapy animals have on patients there).

I do hope you will agree to share your query and I’ll be looking forward to hearing from you, Lisa

Laverne Daley
Cordova, Tennessee
Lisa’s answer:
Sorry to be so slow in replying.  Thanks for your interest in the Parade story! Below is a copy of the query letter, which you are welcome to include in your blog, as long as you credit me as the author.


Therapy Dog Proposal to Parade

I’d like to write about a remarkable therapy dog named Boo, who has an uncanny ability to sense what each person needs–and work what some call miracles.  At Maryknoll, a NY retirement home for nuns, some of whom suffer from Alzheimer’s, Sister Jean was lost in her own world of silence and spent her days clutching a stuffed animal for comfort.  No one could get through to her until she met Boo, who sat by her side radiating sympathy and love at each session.  Little by little, the sister responded.  First she stopped bringing the stuffed toy to sessions, then she amazed everyone by uncurling her tightly clenched hands so she could stroke his soft black fur.  She started smiling when he arrived, with his trainer, Lisa Edwards, and recently, spoke for the first time in years, saying, “Hello, Boo.”

Lisa and Boo also volunteer at a library program, in which kids read to therapy dogs.  When a little boy was struggling over the words, so embarrassed by his mistakes that he was close to tears, Boo knew just how to break the tension.  He began clowning around, sniffing the boy’s shoes and tickling his ear with his whiskers and cold nose, which got the kid giggling.  After that, he decided reading was fun.  Another child felt that Boo was so enthralled by the book he was reading aloud that the kid came back week after week to the library so that the dog could hear the rest of the story.

What makes Boo an unlikely hero is that he has disabilities.  He doesn’t see too well, often bumps into things, and moves stiffly.  And as a puppy, he was such a slow learner that it took an entire year to housebreak him.  When Lisa first enrolled in a therapy dog training program, he was the class dunce and was practically laughed out of the program.  Only by chance did she discover his amazing gift of empathy: At a pet store, Boo dragged her over to two sisters, shopping with their mom.  Then he stood there, glowing with joy as the squealing kids tugged on his tail and petted him.  That convinced Lisa he had the right temperament to be a therapy dog and she vowed to do whatever it took to get him certified.

Boo’s work at the nursing home and library has NO publicity of any kind.  He also volunteers at several other programs, including one for developmentally disabled adults.  He was recently a finalist for Therapy Dog of the Year.   I’ll look forward to your reaction to this idea, which I’m sending to you first and exclusively.  I’ve won 18 awards for journalism and my work has appeared in Reader’s Digest, the Wall Street Journal, Ladies Home Journal, Woman’s Day, Glamour, Self, Redbook, O the Oprah magazine, and many other national publications.  You can see some of my clips on my website: http://www.lisacolliercool.com.

Lisa Collier Cool
Award-winning journalist

You will agree, I’m sure, that hers is a fine query letter. We congratulate Lisa on her continuing success, and offer sincere thanks for her generosity. LD

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