Thursday, February 17, 2011

By Popular Demand, another Friday Feedback...

Read my sign.
Do not question the sign.

This is me. I am popular.

(If you say it, is it so?)

(If you aren't, does it matter?)

What does it mean to be popular?

Today's super guest star may or may not know. She is Alissa Grosso, author of Popular, Flux, May 8, 2011.

THIS is Alissa. The signs were her idea:

A sign doesn't lie.
See? She is also popular.

And this is her book.

Here's what her website has to say about Popular: Meet the clique that rules Fidelity High: Olivia, Zelda, Nordica, and Shelly, each one handpicked by uber-popular Hamilton Best. You know you’re “in” when you make the guest list for one of Hamilton’s parties. And in the thralls of senior year, everyone wants to get noticed by Hamilton. But Hamilton’s elite entourage is coming apart at the seams. . . . Lies and secrets are ripping away the careful ties that have kept them together for years. And Hamilton has the biggest secret of all, one that only her boyfriend Alex knows. If the truth got out, it would shock everyone and destroy Hamilton’s fragile world— she’ll do anything to protect it and keep her clique together.

But of course, that's not why Alissa is here today.

Today, she is here in the hot seat.

Er. Wait, sorry. Not that hot.

*blows out Alissa's chair.*

Alissa is giving us a sneak peek at the opening to her upper YA WIP bearing the working title Fan Club Presidents. You guys know the rules (if you don't and want more detail, go here):

1. If it's the first few paragraphs of a novel – today it IS – tell me if it "hooks" you enough to make you want to keep reading, or not. If yes, why? If no, why not?

2. What works for you, draws you into the piece, and why?

3. What doesn’t work for you (if something doesn't) and why?

If you’d like the same feedback, please post your brief excerpt at the end of your comment (and tell me what it is -- e.g. opening to a novel, short story, poem, etc...). Please post no more than 3 paragraphs, 5 if they're short. If there's more, I may not read it. If the comment gets too long, feel free to reply in two separate comments. If you are a student from a particular class, please identify yourself as such (and take a bow). If not, take a bow anyway. And be brave. I blew out the chair. :)

Fan Club Presidents

     I wanted to begin this story like a Dicaprio song. The perfect mix of guitar and drum beat would grab hold of you and pull you in. Then the first verse would take your breath away, and like that you would be hooked. I know all the words to every song that Dicaprio ever recorded. Yes, I was one of those obsessed girls that knows things like J.J.'s favorite flavor Pop Tarts (strawberry milkshake) or that The Urge lost the tip of his right ring finger in an eighth grade shop class accident. I used to play my favorite songs again and again, escaping into the music. I wanted my life to be like a Dicaprio song and knew that if it was, I would never be unhappy again. Life is way more complicated than a three and a half minute song, and that's
probably for the best.

     In the autumn that followed my high school graduation, I found myself living in that limbo world between childhood and the rest of my life smack dab in the suburban hell that was Valerie, New Jersey. A series
of events, but mostly my own apathy, had kept me from enrolling in college. So, now as a newly minted nineteen year old living in the house she had always lived in with the family she had always lived
with, I was playing at being a grown up.



  1. Gae: Thanks for this opportunity!

    Everyone else: Let me have it! I'm a big girl, I can take it!

  2. Alissa, I'm OLD, so may be out of touch, but the only Dicaprio I know is Leonardo, a much better actor than singer (I assume) - so if they are a real band, thye might be too obscure to merit a first paragraph shout-out...if you're looking to appeal to more than a very targeted audience.

    But even if they're a fictional band in your novel - unless somehow featured prominently on the cover - it might not be engaging enough as a novel opener. It IS well-written, so it could work, so long as you jump into character quickly, which you sort of do, but all the "she's" sort of bring you back out

  3. oops, thought the novel was called "Popular" - now I see it's a WIP about a fan club, so disregard pretty much everything I had to say above- except for the "she" stuff in second paragraph

  4. Mike, I don't know for sure if I'd disregard it -- i had the same issue with the name DiCaprio and even went and googled it to see if it was a real band or not. I've noticed band names are hard to do in novels -- to me it can sound like the writer is trying to hard to come up with a name, be too kitschy, etc. (not the case here IMHO), or bring up other issues. Because I, too, associated the name with Leo, it confused me and/or made me distractedly curious -- enough to stop reading and go google -- and I'm not sure you want that at the outset of a novel. But there may be a reason Alissa does. Still a point worth making. In a vacuum, I LOVE the name for a band, but love alone isn't always enough. ;)

  5. Mike and Gae, you make some good points about the band's name, and there is sort of a reason the band takes it's name from an actor, but that doesn't get addressed until WAY later so I'm going to have to think on this some. I think I've written the opening at least 5 times because I'm still not sure to begin with this one.

  6. I thought Leonardo the actor as well and that was confusing. When I left that point I became interested in the main character. Yes, I'm hooked so move on.
    Dicaprio may have to be changed if everyone is confused. It takes the reader out of the story while he/she is trying to figure out if Dicarpio is a singer. Sorry! Still I'm hooked.

  7. I admit I was thrown off by DiCaprio because of the actor lol but the way the band is described makes me want to Google it, and add it to my custom station of Pandora Radio. I'm a 90's kid so pretty much everything that was said about being a fan girl reminds me of all the boy bands that were around when I was younger. I'm totally hooked and totally sad that this piece is so short :(

  8. Yep, maybe if possible, while she's saying that she's knows everything about them mentioning why their name is dicaprio.

    Otherwise, for me, I love music themes. I started writing one about a girl obsessed with grunge music. So the music theme pulled me in.

    and I think so many will relate to the living-at-home-nineteen-year-old-not-in-college. I went for a year then came home and worked. Finally did finish but it took awhile.

    The writing of course is very good.

  9. Hmmmm... the fictional band name seems to throw-off the reader.. Hmmm... (Gae doesn't call it the hot seat for nothin'.) Okay, I really like this as an opening line, Alissa: Life is way more complicated than a three and a half minute song, and that's probably for the best.

    And/or this: In the autumn that followed my high school graduation, I found myself living in that limbo world between childhood and the rest of my life smack dab in the suburban hell that was Valerie, New Jersey. A series of events, but mostly my own apathy, had kept me from enrolling in college. So, now as a newly minted nineteen year old living in the house she had always lived in with the family she had always lived
    with, I was playing at being a grown up.


    And I agree with Ellie. I want to see more...

    I get a VERY nice feel for the narration distance moving in with the 2nd paragraph (like the opening of Alan Ball's superbly voiced AMERICAN BEAUTY) and really want to see the 3rd.

  10. oh my gosh, so TOTALLY agree with Randy. This:

    In the autumn that followed my high school graduation, I found myself living in that limbo world between childhood and the rest of my life smack dab in the suburban hell that was Valerie, New Jersey.

    Is my absolute favorite line. So moody and evocative. SO tone setting. Go, Alissa, go! :)

    (let's see if others disagree!) :)

    I love Friday Feedback. :)

  11. Gae: I love Friday Feedback, too!

    Randy & Gae: See, this is why I wanted to post the beginning of this particular novel here because the opening has been such a problem for me, and now I think I know where to begin.

    Barb, Ellie & Megan: I think I will have to do something about the band name, either change it completely or put the explanation of the band's name way earlier. Plus, if everyone is Googling them maybe I need to set up a clever web page for them!

    Thank you, everyone! Keep the feedback coming!

  12. I had the same reax to Dicaprio as others have noted. I initially thought, "I didn't know Leo sang too."

    I also found this very well written, but a concern I have is that it feels like a bit of 'throat-clearing,' the process of getting ready to tell the story, of getting into the character's voice and head before actually starting the story. It also feels very much like the narrator directly addressing the reader. If that's what you intended, it can work.

    But you might find a better place to jump right into the story, whether it's a few paragraphs down from this, or chapter 2 or 3 even. Then the narrator's voice and her situation comes across organically rather than setting it up for the reader with the opening.

    For all that, I still really enjoyed this piece.

  13. Hey Alissa,
    Nice beginning. I think this is an interesting age to write about!!
    I'll chime in and agree with others that I found myself pulled in by the second paragraph. Great characterization! The music is cool stuff, though I'm not a music girl. I just assumed Dicaprio was a band everyone else knew of (even though I thought of Leo.)

    One other thought: I really like this line: So, now as a newly minted nineteen year old living in the house she had always lived in with the family she had always lived with, I was playing at being a grown up.

    But, rather than "Playing at being a grown up", I wonder if there's potential for it to end with something more compelling that hints or refers to a conflict/secret/problem to come. I wish I could give you an example, but I'm drawing a blank. And really, it's great as it is, too!

    BTW, I have a popular picture for you too, but don't think I can attach it here.

  14. I like the band name, and I caught on after a second but the actor was my initial thought. Like when my Army friend says RPG I think role playing game (I'm a nerd like that) when he actually means rocket propelled grenade lol

  15. My initials are RPG too. I had to stop putting them on my luggage as it caused a bit of a problem at airports.

  16. The band name also threw me for a loop, but, as a dancer i love that this is music themed. The second and third sentences are amazeballs. As is the the part that Randy and gae have pointed out. Good job!! I totally want more!

    I do however feel like you are changing POV when going from all the "i's" and turning them to "she's".

    *will post a something of mine after i get home, though it is no where near a happy thing*

    I am going to read this piece again because i love it lol.

  17. Seriously, I dont have a lot of followers, but the ones I have so TOTALLY ROCK.

    I love you guys. :)

    Thanks for all the humor and great insight.

  18. (can't wait to see your excerpts later. :))

  19. (give me time to get through this helvetica video, which is in fact hell to watch, and i will post something)

  20. (Didn't forget to post something, just can't figure out which poem to post yet)

  21. This is hard because I always give a novel more than two paragraphs to form an opinion. Still, I like it. I like the little things like the tip of his finger being cut off and how she knows that. I like how I know a bit about this character from such a short snippit.

    The band names also threw me...are any of them real? It makes me feel so old not knowing!

  22. To everyone who wasn't sure about the band, it is completely made up because I am way too out of things as far as current music goes, and well, I like making things up. So, changing the name of the band shouldn't be such a big deal, though I will still have to think about giving them their own website!

    Ellie and Robb: LOLing at the RPG thing, also glad you explained it since I had no idea what an RPG was.

  23. Oh, and one more thing, Amy, thank you for the Popular pic. I love it! And anyone else who is interested I am collecting "I Am Popular" pictures similar to those of me and Gae above to use in the book trailer for Popular. If you're interested in submitting your own, I could still use some more. You can email them to me at alissagrosso at gmail dot com.

  24. Oh, Alissa, get a photo of Gae swiming in the ocean in winter with a sign I am PopCycular.

  25. Randy: It took me a moment to figure that one out. Reading it out loud helped!

  26. Me and my sister took pictures and I will email them in uno momento.

    *This is my little excerpt. It is the creme to my oreo. Er. The middle of my story. It actually goes right after last weeks post.*

    My dad knocked on the door and announced he needed to go and complained about me taking the longest baths ever. I didn't want to get out of the tub yet. I wanted to savor this feeling, but I knew he would just continue to complain, so I forced myself to get up and dry off. I pulled on my sweatshirt and wrapped my hair in a towel. I started to pull up my jeans, but they stung at my wounds. I grabbed an ace bandage, wrapped up my thigh, and pulled up my jeans for the second time, and walked out the door.

    I made it down the stairs and to my bedroom, but I was feeling a little shaky. There was a little red splotch about the size of a quarter on my thigh. I poked at it wondering if it was from the first time I tried getting dressed or if it was bleeding through the ace bandage. The dot grew a little bigger and I knew. As I switched into sweatpants I peeked at my leg. All three of the freshly carved lines were trickling out the last remnants of my pain. I waited for them to stitch themselves together so I could continue the act of being perfectly fine. I felt like and old rag doll, sewn together where I had grown weak yet permanently smiling despite how worn down I felt.

  27. Caroline, my heart is already so with the protagonist of this story. What's interesting is how her humor comes through her pain although there isn't any blatant humor. Or maybe I just read humor into her intense curiosity at such a brutal subject. Plus I love the opening "longest baths ever" sentence.

  28. p.s. I know it's not the "opening" sentence to the work. I just meant to today's excerpt. :)

  29. I agree with the comments about moving the later lines earlier, but I did very much LOVE the tone, which was wistful and thoughtful and made me want to know this character more and especially know what happened to her. The voice is great.

  30. Glad that this week isn't quite as heartbreaking as last week. lol.

  31. Caroline, thank you for the pictures, and thank you for sharing this excerpt. Wow. Now, I need to go back and read last week's excerpt. I know I'll be reading it out of order, but doing things backwards is the story of my life.

    I too liked the beginning of this excerpt about the longest baths ever. It really rang true for me. It reminded me of my dad complaining about my sister when she was a teenager. She used to take the longest showers ever. We actually had a mushroom growing out of the tiles on our bathroom floor from all the humidity. I am not making this up!

    Also as Gae points out even though this isn't exactly humorous there's something about the narrator's voice that prevents the serious story from becoming too much doom and gloom. If that makes any sense at all.

  32. Thanks, Kathy. It's good to hear that about the narrator. The first few drafts she was a bit on the annoying side, but now I like her a lot more!

  33. Well I'm glad it isn't too doom-y because I find that last weeks is very very doom-y. Though, that could just be me.

    Very glad you liked it, let me know what you think of last weeks. ♥

  34. I love your bit Caroline. I agree it isn't as doom-y this time. She seems less angry and more tired, like it's becoming so routine to just throw on a smile and pretend that it isn't as big of a deal to her anymore. Just an average happening. Which is really sad :( I want to know how this ends and it's kind of exciting to watch it unfold piece by piece on Friday Feedback

    I couldn't decide which poem to post so I just Eenie-Meenie-Miney-Moe'd it lol

    Jump into words
    See them as they move
    A colorful new world
    to escape to if you choose

    Open up the book
    let the image dance inside
    Don't be afraid to look
    Let it unfold within your mind

    All the different stories
    hidden on the page
    Read away your worries
    Watch them as they fade

    Dive into the letters
    They can carry you away
    to a place where things are better
    never dull and never gray

  35. The MC is worn out from previous happenings, and putting on a mask gets easier and easier everyday. (sad story)

    I love your poem. BTW. I love it bunches.

  36. Ellie: I love this poem, but then I'm a bookish sort of person, so how can I not. I like that while it is in general an upbeat poem there is just a slight undercurrent of sadness (? don't think that's quite the right word) with lines like "Read away your worries" and "to a place where things are better". Nice work!

    Caroline: I got interrupted before, but now that I've had a chance to read your submission last week I have to say, woah. That's some heavy stuff. Actually, I'm kind of glad I read this week's first at least I know that she made it through that last scene! Powerful writing.

  37. Thanks! I am glad you liked them both, I'm very picky when I write things and show them off to the world. It scares me really to post things here. *I have horrible self-esteem issues*

  38. Ellie, I'd love to see your book poems up in a library or bookstore. They are lovely. This one was lighter than the last one. I like the juxtaposition.

    Caroline, this story you are showing us glimpses of is very painful. But even the most painful stories are bearable if some humor comes through. I think if you can do that with this one you will have something really good.

  39. Alissa,

    Thanks for participating in Friday Feedback! Hope it was fun for you. There are like 40 comments here. Phew! Talk about a hot seat. You should go sit your butt in some ice.


  40. Hi guys--late in the game here, but--read the WIP first, then comments: Like a few folks, the name DiCaprio immediately made me think of Leo--maybe not a bad thing, but it might be distracting. I totally agree with Randy about rearranging sentences--it makes it so much stronger. LOVE the idea of the fan club--and the fact that the MC is a little older. Teen does not end at graduation (as a matter of fact, doesn't Seventeen Magazine cater to girls into their 20s?). Wanna read more! xxNat

  41. PS--not to back peddle but I SO meant to comment on Randy's excerpt a week or so back--I would definitely keep reading that, I love ghost stories, and the set up was intriguing. If I HAD to say something on the critical side, I've read in a couple of places not to start with a dream sequence (or waking up from a dream, etc. etc.). I don't know if I necessarily agree with that, but it might be something to consider... :)

  42. Hi I'm visiting from Alissa's blog! It's lovely here, thanks for having me.

    These paragraphs pulled me right in. The prose and voice are both excellent. I would definitely keep reading. In fact, I'm sad there isn't more!

  43. Thanks Natalie and Heather! Oh, and if I ever get around to finishing this WIP, perhaps you can read more some day!