Thursday, February 10, 2011

Get Your Feedback-Thinking Caps On. It's Friday Feedback.

this is the "usual" me
upside down.
Welcome to
Friday Feedback.

I’ve rounded up another volunteer
this week, so go ahead and get your feedback-thinking caps on.

 You know, the pretty silver ones that look like this:

Good. Excellent. Those look very nice on you.

Okay, speaking of dogs (oh, hush, who cares about the cat?!), aim your antennae, and say hi to today's super guest star (who is donning a different sort of cap).

This is Terry Lynn Johnson, author of Dogsled Dreams, with some of her beautiful dogs (not that the darling creature above isn't *ahem* beautiful):

Terry Lynn with her beautiful
dog and normal dog-lady cap
Dogsled Dreams (now available at a bookstore near you!) is a middle grade novel in the tradition of Gary Paulsen's adventure books, and follows 12-year-old Rebecca, an inventive but self-doubting "musher" who dreams of becoming a famous sled dog racer. She tackles blinding blizzards, wild animal attacks, puppy training, and flying poo missiles, challenges which all seem easier than living up to the dogs' trust in her abilities....

SO, that's Dogsled Dreams, but Terry is here in the hot seat today, with a piece of her new WIP which bears the working title Wolf Ridge.

You guys know the rules:
1. If it is 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 on a piece of your own work, 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 really short. 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. Here we go!

Wolf Ridge
By Terry Lynn Johnson

Chapter One

"Look down there," Bud yells through my headset into my ear. "A moose! See it?"

The pilot pokes a thick finger toward my side of the Turbo Beaver. The hair on his arm is so dense, it looks like I’m sharing the plane with a mammal that needs to hibernate for the winter. His ball cap announces that rehab is for quitters.

He tilts the plane's wings and we begin to circle. The pitch of the engines switch from a drone to a whine. I peer down through the window and see a black animal in the middle of a swamp. It appears to be ignoring the noisy thing circling above it.

I get another wave of nausea as I look at the trees around the swamp. Nothing but trees, and lakes, and more trees since we left Wolf Ridge Park's main office forty minutes ago. And I probably look about the same color as those trees.

I feel beads of sweat burst out of every pore. My shirt clings to me, showing too much and I pull it away from myself.

“I think he’s lying down in the water. Must be trying to git out of the bugs. Look at that rack!” The plane continues to circle as Bud cranes his neck to get a better look. “Man, this is a great place to be for the summer. You’re a lucky girl, you know.”

My hands clench at his words. If you call being abandoned by both your parents lucky. If being forced to stay with your crazy Aunt Chrystal for the summer in a ranger cabin with no electricity or cell phones is lucky, then I guess I’m the luckiest girl alive. I’d tell him this too, but I’m afraid to open my mouth. It suddenly fills with spit.

“Oh, there he goes. Man, he’s big. See him, Sweetheart? Toad is it? What kind of a name is Toad for a pretty little thing like you?” Bud takes his cap off, scratches his balding head with one finger, and then replaces the cap.

I try a small smile to acknowledge the compliment, and then wipe at the damp curls sticking to my forehead. Despite my attempts at straightening this morning with the last bit of electricity available to me, my hair is beginning to show signs of stress.

I pull the mic on my mouthpiece closer to my lips and yell into it, “Long story.”

- Terry Lynn Johnson


  1. 1) Yes it hooks me, the first sentence saying he was talking through a headset had me. (What for? As in, I use a headset backstage at the dance recitals) Clearly the next sentence explains why, but still...
    It also hooked me where she finally says that she has a wave of nausea. (Was totally waiting for her to vom everywhere)

    2) What works for me. "The hair on his arm is so dense, it looks..." I love how this entire sentence is worded, reminds me of my cousin who is super hairy, though not as old.
    I also love how Terry describes the MC hair curling. My sisters hair does that in extreme heat and when she gets stressed.
    (I just realized I tend to relate a lot of characters to people I know)

    3) What doesn't work for me. I found the sentence "Bud yells through my headset into my ear." almost repetitive because of the two my's so close. Not sure how to reword it though...

    I will put on my writer-y type of cap later. (though it is not made of aluminum foil) (actually I need to find time tomorrow to do such a thing. [art class, help friend with divorce, visit sad best friend, retirement party, movies, ect.])

    Anyways, Terry, I loved this and shall be scoping out Dogsled Dreams next time I am at the store. I think it sounds fantastic, and so far, I much love your writing. <(that sentence sounds funny....Meh. I am leaving it, it is 4:05am and I need sleep. ♥

  2. Had me at Turbo Beaver. And the "mammal that needs to hibernate." And... then... the ballcap! OMG, Terry Lynn, you are so WONDERFUL! I am quite jealous how you cue the reader to your narrator's voice right there in the 2nd paragraph. Uh, wow! And who couldn't read the whole book after that?? I'm hooked AND fascinated by the reality of the situation as well. Can I be your agent?

  3. P.S. "Long story." LOL!!!

    Oh poop, though, I kind of agree with Caroline on the first sentence. Consider taking out "in my ear" and see how it sits, on, you know, your ear, Terry Lynn?

  4. Confession: that cap part is my favorite! I snorted at it. Also love the hairy arm simile.

    And, yes, the "long story" (although, I confess, there was more wonderfulness that followed the long story that I got to see, but decided for FF to dangle you all there. *shifty eyes*.

    anyway, lovelies, I'm off with my other cap today -- nope not the tinfoil or writer one, but my lawyer one I still wear some days... will be back to check up on you ASAP. Thanks for stopping by. Be brave!

  5. Caroline - thanks so much for diving in here! Sounds like I should meet your relatives - for inspiration. Great catch with the two 'my's in the first sentence. I was trying to show that a bush plane is loud inside, think I should reword that part. Sounds like you have quite a day coming up! Thanks for taking the time to weigh in here!

  6. I love the voice. Love how much information is released about the situation, but all while Toad is barfy and circling in the sky. I'm hooked!

    That dog cap gave me a headache from laughing.

  7. GhostFolk - Ha ha! Thanks for the agent offer! No vacancy there, but always open for a crit partner who is fascinated! I think though, you will be way too busy being famous soon once a certain DEAD RULES gets out.
    Thanks for pointing out the awkward part. And for the hooky parts.

  8. Gae - yes, what a great place to end it - I didn't know how much to send you. It all looks great though - thanks for the moose photo! And the dog cap is a riot!

  9. Herbach - thanks for taking the time to comment! So glad you like it! And, I know - where does Gae find these photos?

  10. Heya, Felecia from Mrs. Andersen's Y.A. class, back yet again. :) (P.s. I have the same last name as Terry Lynn.)

    1) Yes, it hooked me.
    2) It makes me wonder why she got abandoned and how she ended up where she is.
    3) Okay, this is my least favorite part, I hate being mean. :( But, the beginning for me is kind of slow to get into. I'm sorry, it could just be me. But I find it hard to get into, but it gets good as you keep reading. I'm sorry I had to be mean, did I mention that?

  11. What I love most are the details...the arm hair, the cap, the sounds, the she's the same color as them. I can picture it all...I can even smell the onions on the pilot's breath, though I have no idea if he's been eating onions. It's just a great use of details so I can visualize something I've never seen before. (It's one of the things I also loved about DOGSLED DREAMS.) And yep, I'd read more.

  12. Maybe Felecia had trouble getting into it because, for me, it sounded a little adult. As an adult, and if this were published for adults, I thought it was highly competent and just plain excellent. But I'm not sure I quite believe this is the voice of a kid? Even the great, "Long story." Do kids say that nowadays? Maybe they do....?

  13. Felecia - thanks so much for your insight. It's good to know I may need more of a hook closer to the start. Also good to know you started asking questions. That's always a sign of a writer getting the job done!
    And great last name you have there :)

  14. Amy - thanks for coming out! And thanks for your great idea about the onions! That is stellar! So glad you liked Dogsled Dreams!

  15. Jody - excellent point. I may consider changing Toad's age(15)since she has the same voice throughout the ms. My 15-year-old stepdaughter sometimes talks likes she's 24, but other times likes she's 12. It's a curious and fascinating age. Thank you for commenting!

  16. I love the description!! I could totally picture all of this so clearly I almost felt the nausea myself (not that it made me want to puke but because it was so descriptive lol)
    It definitely hooks me. I'm very curious about the name Toad and how that came about too. Great work, Terry :D

    Guess I'll be the first to post their own snippet for feedback. It's very rough and sort of in the middle of the story. Here goes..

    I open my eyes out of shock and lose the image. I close them again quickly and dive back in. Blank. Think hard. Focus. I finally have something and I’m not going to let it get away.
    I know what I saw.
    A memory.
    It’s here, I just have to find it again. Something written. What did it say? Dammit. Think!
    The image flickers and disappears. A piece of paper? It fades in and out, and the brightens back into focus. The backdrop isn’t paper, I notice, but my mind itself. That same white nothingness. The words look dark against it.
    The script is neat and flows nicely. It’s beautiful handwriting. I wonder if it is mine. These words can be anything. Part of a letter to a friend. A sticky note on the mirror one morning.
    The sheer irony of the words, though, gets my head spinning more than the rest.

    Don’t forget about me.

    I open my eyes again just in time to feel the sting of tears running down my cheeks in warm, salty streaks. I let out a frustrated scream, as loud and long as my lungs would allow, before falling backward into my pillow. I’m exhausted. Mentally and emotionally. I don’t know if I can take this every day. Forcing back the vicious white to find something I can work with. Trying for hours to get results and then coming up with something like this.
    It’s not just useless, it’s insulting.
    Did I write it? To who? Or was it from someone else?
    I guess it doesn’t matter, I evidently forgot. I can only hope that this message is old news, and I didn’t miss an important meeting or something. Not that it makes a difference now, because if there was a meeting I can’t recall it anyway. Goddammit.
    I take a deep breath, filling my lungs slowly to capacity, and I scream again until there’s nothing left.

  17. Ellie! Wow, this is a powerful opening! I'm filled with questions, which is good. What is she trying to remember? Why can't she remember? Does she have amnesia?
    The last sentence has me wondering if she's locked up somewhere?
    A couple things I'm thinking may be good to include.
    1. I'm saying she, but I don't yet know.
    2. I would like to know a little before this where she is so I can ground somewhere. But, if your next paragraph addresses that, I think you have an amazing opening scene here!

    Great job! I would certainly read more!

  18. Thank you! It's funny you should say that because the paragraph after states that she is in her room...I should have extended it through that to avoid confusion lol whoops

  19. Ellie - Good job my love! Very awesomesauce!

    *I'm just popping in and don't have time to put in my snippet yet (shakes fist at the overly busy week)*

  20. Ok, guys, will take me a while to get thru these -- i see you've all done a great job here. Must be all those tinfoil caps.

    I gotta disagree with Jody a bit -- and I love and adore Jody -- but this doesn't sound too adult to me at all. And I read endless YA. (It sounds potentially tween to YA even). Still, always great to have the differing feedback which gives us the motivation to look over again and see what and if we want to change anything. :)But for me, the tween/ya voice is there.

  21. Ok, Ellie,

    your piece is very intriguing and totally sets a mood. I love this:

    I know what I saw.
    A memory.

    as well as the "don't forget about me," where it is at the end of the first section, so raw and honest and abrupt there.

    You have a tense problem here: I let out a frustrated scream, as loud and long as my lungs would allow, before falling backward into my pillow. Because you're suddenly in past tense when everything else was present and it confused me.

    Love your voice in this. Keep going.

  22. O.o Good catch lol I'll be sure to fix that, and Thank you very much :D

  23. This is a fantastic and fun Friday Feedback! (I love alliteration lol).

    Terry Lynn, I am most definitely going out and buying Dogsled Dreams. I usually try to stick with YA, but I've had quite a few requests from the boys in my classes for more action/adventure, outdoorsy types of novels. When I went searching this week, I discovered that most of these books are in the MG section. Besides the fact that your book sounds wonderful and that I love this snippet of your WIP, I think it will fit with what the boys in class are asking for which means it's a must-buy :D I'm very much looking forward to reading it!

    I like what you shared because the details grabbed me right away. Without even realizing it, I was visualizing this scene (does that make sense?).

    One pretty minor thing I noticed is when you said "Despite my attempts at straightening this morning" I think you need to add "it" or "my hair" after straightening.

    Otherwise this is great and I'd like to read more! :)

  24. Sarah - hey! thanks so much! that's wonderful news you'll be getting Dogsled Dreams. I'm so happy to hear there are students looking for outdoorsy adventure. I love reading those types of stories too!
    And thank you for catching that awkward sentence!
    This has been a great day of comments! Thank you everyone. And thanks, Gae for having me.

  25. *finally has a moment to post her little snippet*

    Ok, this is somewhere in the middle as it usually is for me.

    I knew I was wrong, but I couldn't stop. Everyday the same old problems, everyday they never get resolved. I wasn't doing this to kill myself, I was doing it as a release. Some proof that I wasn't dead, proof I still had feelings. I felt like this little razor blade might be able to cut through the web of lies and anger that contorted every thought that crossed my twisted mind. Placing it to my mouth wasn't working anymore. I was having trouble eating and people would notice I had stopped altogether. As I pressed the icy blade to my inner thigh, I clenched my teeth together and began to drag it across my skin.

    It stung at first, and my eyes filled with hot tears. When the three parallel lines had been carved, I leaned back in the tub and almost felt relaxed. Both my pain and thoughts subsided into a black hole that filled my mind. I no longer felt the need to finish the bath, I just wanted to stay here forever, not caring, not feeling, not needing anyone or anything.

    *It is brutal, it is rough, I am gone to finish out the day now*

  26. even rough, Caroline, it is evident what a very skilled writer you are.

  27. O.O very evident. My thigh kinda stings now lol Good description :D

  28. hi! im a new follower! follow my blog?? i have a contest! =]

  29. Hi, Lindsay! Will check your blog out. And welcome. :)