Thursday, February 24, 2011

Friday Feedback is Such a Soap Opera. . .

or, you know, if you're author Bettina Restrepo, a telenovela.

(which just means soap opera in Spanish).

And she's here today with just that: a sneak peek of her work in progress, Telenovela.

But first, a brief word from our sponsor:

Here I am, upside down,
after an up and down week.


That would be me.


Ok, fine, more words: in honor of the countdown to the release of her debut YA Illegal (Katherine Tegen Books March 8, 2011), Bettina is hosting a giveaway on her website. Further instructions to enter and win a signed copy of Illegal at the bottom of this post!

Oh, and fyi, this is Bettina 

ask her if she really types
her books on this thing.

and this is Nora's story, Illegal:

About Illegal (from Amazon):

A promise.
A promise that we would be together on my fifteenth birthday . . .

Instead, Nora is on a desperate journey far away from home. When her father leaves their beloved Mexico in search of work, Nora stays behind. She fights to make sense of her loss while living in poverty—waiting for her father's return and a better day. When the letters and money stop coming, Nora decides that she and her mother must look for him in Texas. After a frightening experience crossing the border, the two are all alone in a strange place. Now, Nora must find the strength to survive while aching for small comforts: friends, a new school, and her precious quinceaÑera.

Bettina Restrepo's gripping, deeply hopeful debut novel captures the challenges of one girl's unique yet universal immigrant experience.

Doesnt that sound beautiful and intense? But of course Bettina's not here for that today. She's here to put her new work up for some feedback, and to offer some in return if you'd like. You know the rules:

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 want the same feedback, please post your brief excerpt at the end of your comment (and tell us what it is -- e.g. opening to a novel, short story, poem, etc...). Please post no more than 3 paragraphs. If there's more, we may not read it. If you are a student from a particular class, please identify yourself as such because we like to know.

Bogota, Colombia

“I wish this was all different,” I said to myself.

I stuck my face against the pane of glass and stared down 7th street toward the tall building with shiny glass. Buses screeched to a stop as bicyclists darted in and out of traffic, risking life and limb.

At 5 o’clock, the phone rang, as usual. “Mercedes how are you?” asked my mother in her automatic, check on your daughter to see if she if she’s doing her homework, kind of way.

I watched the taxis stampede like buffalos around the corner, jockeying for position at the next light. “I’m fine,” I said, pushing my math book aside and not really feeling fine at all.

Trucks pushed themselves into the small parking lot at Olympicia, trying to get their grocery store deliveries off quickly before Bogota rush hour brought everything to a complete halt.

Mother sounded like she was typing at the computer. “I’m working late this evening.”

“Again? Is it work or him?” I said, trying not to roll my eyes.

I heard her huff into the phone. “Valentino called me. He’s showing the big apartment overlooking the park. If he sells that apartment it would mean a huge commission for all of us. I need to put down the deposit for you at school next year.”

I looked around our fancy apartment. Beautiful antiques, a stunning view of Carrera 7 and the lovely view of the distant mountains. None of it reflected the zero balance at the bank. As far as I knew, we were mostly broke.

“Maybe you could ask Andreś to pay my tuition? That’s his job,” I said sullenly.

She paused. I could tell my comments made her angry. “You are my job. If he wants to give a little gift, fine, but I’m not asking him for anything.”

Andreś was the constant ‘he’ in our apartment. He was my father. He was married to someone else. He was who my mother loved. As far as I was concerned, he was just a sperm donor.

Then, I heard a stapler. “How was school today?” she asked. Again, I could hear things shifting on her desk. The subject of ‘he’ closed.

“Good,” I said, trying to change up my adjectives. My life existed around poised white lies. It’s not like I could explain how my loneliness grew when she was busy trying to get the attention of a man who didn’t love either one of us.

I didn’t have friends either, unless you consider Maruja, our maid. I longed for someone my own age who wouldn’t consider me poisonous. “I’ll tell Maruja to save dinner tonight for you.”

I exhaled and said the words she wanted to hear. “Really, it’s okay. Everything is fine.”

My mother chirped, “I promise not to be so late. Ciou!”

What if one day I wouldn’t say it? How long would she wait?

Maruja, stuck her head into the room. “Let me guess, your mother and uncle are running late.”

I nodded. I bet mother would sit in her office all night waiting for my father to call.

(How to enter to win a signed copy of Illegal: Because Illegal deals with the issue of illegal immigrants, Bettina is interested in knowing whether this is an issue where you live: Does your area of the country have issues with illegal immigrants? Answer in your comment, along with your name and city and state to be elligible to win one of five signed copies of Illegal, winner to be announced on Bettina's website on or about April 1, 2011. Please visit her website for more details. And good luck!).


  1. First of all, thanks to Gae for hosting me, Nora and Mercedes (we are all characters).

    Second - I used to type on my Underwood typewriter. I still have pages from 4th grade that I typed my stories on.

    Third - Do we have illegal immigrants in my area.

    Uh, yeah. You would think Texas ius chock full of illegals, but statistics say otherwise. It's a small percentage, very small. Some are good, hard working folks, others are dangerous criminals. In other words, they are just regular people - like the rest of us.

    But, in the paper this morning, a fellow was arrested in Lubbock was designing a bomb plot. He was here illegally. He came on a student visa - and like some others, when the visa ran out, he didn't go home.

    That's how most people come - not hidden inside a mango truck. They come legally but don't honor their visas... and then no one enforces the rules. A broken system.

    So, on to my next comment - thanks for reading and I'm really excited to see what you have to say.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Bettina, I love that you're opening your new novel TELENOVELA in Bogota! This is too much fun!!

  4. I really like this. It seems to have a bit of a slow start but it still leaves me with questions and a need to solve them.
    The way that Gae has the summary of Illegal at the top make this snippet seem really really similar, and it confused me for a minute lol But I enjoyed it and wish there was more to read :)

  5. I love it too, Bettina. So much is revealed about Mercedes life in these few paragraphs. It works for me. I'd definitely read more.

  6. Thanks everybody!

    I wonder too about the description of her surroundings, but I found that it plays into what is going on in her life just as much on the surface and internally.

  7. Ok I've decided to put up my newest poem. If you like The Phantom of the Opera you might like this. It's longer than my usual ones but here you go:

    I close my eyes and see me dancing
    Twirling in an elegant dress
    Wearing a masque of feathers
    That isn't lacking in finesse

    The outfit is so intricate
    The colors so divine
    All I do is stare in awe
    At every stitch in the design

    Hands catch me from behind
    And spin me into form
    The dance resumes with vigor
    And we take the floor by storm

    I smile at my partner
    A fellow named Raoul
    But I know this story
    What comes next is kind of cruel

    The Phantom stops the party
    And ruins all the fun
    His threats sink into them
    Frightening every one

    I know he's not a monster
    like anyone would say
    He just needs someone to hold
    And chase the pain away

    Every time I see this dance
    I wish for a different end
    So I close my eyes and twirl around
    While I sing it and pretend

    He is just misunderstood
    And I am not afraid
    I would rather dance with him
    The Phantom's Masquerade

  8. I really liked Bettina's excerpt. As a writer, I was most awed by the sense of place -- I really felt I was there, experiencing this along with Mercedes. I saw the surroundings so clearly. This always sucks me into a story -- I'm there, swept away, ready to learn and read more...

  9. No one would guess that a tiny town in western Wisconsin has a large Latino population, but we do. Illegal? Well, um, I work for a don't-ask-don't-tell agency, so let's say "I think so." But yes, some get deported. Some come with their families and leave without them. A lot are very hardworking and send all of their money home for their families. Mind you, all in conditions that are deplorable to most of us.

    Companies that employ quite a few of the Latino population here? A company that puts together mattresses. One that butchers chickens. And one that pulls the hair out of animal hides to make fishing lures. Plus a lot of dairy farms, of course.

    Bettina - I'm looking forward to your book. And I enjoyed your excerpt. Good luck to you!

    Erica Olson (my area of WI includes Strum, Eleva, Independence, and Arcadia)

  10. Thanks, all, for stopping by and your comments. I agree that Bett does a great job of setting place -- one that feels similar to any US city, and yet, in some not quite clear way, also a little different or distinct. I think that's way cool. I love the end with her mother waiting on the phone call from the father who is obviously so withholding of what they need.

    As for your poem Ellie, love the drama in this one! And love the imagery.

    And, Erica, I hope you win! :D

  11. Erica - I'm always intrigued by poetry, but to me, sometimes the rhyme detracts from the overall glimpse of the images (the dance, the feathers) and the feeling that you give us in the first four stanzas. Excellent start!

  12. Kathy, thank you so much for the detail compliments. Gae, you have articulated what I have been trying to find the words for.

    Bogota is almost like New York City - so if you were glancing from a window 10 stories up, you almost couldn't tell it was a differnt country. But then, subtle details to tell the reader, you are not where you think you are.

    Withholding of what they need - oh yes he does! Andres', Mercedes father, is married to someone else, her mother is the mistress, and she is the bastard love child.

    Good news - I know these characters very well.
    Bad news - I have so many distracting plot lines that I must carefully go through to refocus on Mercedes.

    I wish I didn't have to revise so much, but I guess this is part of learning to write well, that I must practise ALOT

  13. Erica - very intersting thoughts on the agency you work for. So much, don't ask, don't tell.

    We have the same down here in Texas - the poutry farms, the slaughter houses, etc.

    And the deal is - if "americans" wanted the jobs, they could have them, but they don't.

    I view immigration like this. The system is so laborious that people tend to avoid it all together.

    If you are here - you should pay into the tax system.

    The visa system should be enforced.

    And, we shouldn't "invite" (provide work) with one hand, and then cry plz stop when they are here.

    Thanks for providing a unique view erica!

  14. Ellie, I'm sorry I called you by the wrong name! *smacks self on the forehead for typing before coffee*

  15. It's ok lol I'm glad you liked my poem, anyways :) Thank you

  16. I do not have a problem with illegal immigrants where I am. But I do know that they exist. I live in wichita ks so it's in the middle of everything.

    deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

  17. Thanks Vivien.

    This entry closes the book entry give aways. Of course, you are welcome to tease Gae endlessly... because secretly, she loves it.

    I'll announce the winners of the book drawing on April 1 via FB.

    Big kisses to all!