Thursday, February 3, 2011

Just Me and You and Friday Feedback.

this is still me.
just a different-seeming me.
Welcome to Friday Feedback.

Hey peepos.

It’s just me today because, well, because I don’t want you to forget me with all the awesomeness that has abounded here lately with the ol’ guest stars poppin' in (I have another one next Friday, so no worries).

So, here we are. You, and me, and our pieces o’ work. Let’s get to it.

At the request of some of my darling and devoted regulars, I’m going to give you a good chunk of the opening of In Sight of Stars, my Work In Progress (*a roar of cheers erupts in the crowd.*) Er. Okay. Maybe not a roar.

*fyi, this is an explicit language warning. This piece is geared toward upper YA, and especially in my first drafts I tend not to pull the language back. It might happen in a later revision, as I also *try* to be judicious. Please don’t read on if this is not appropriate for you.

Are you still reading? Okay, well then you know the RULES: (If you want more detail, go here, or, just follow along).

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, 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...). Please post no more than 3 -5 paragraphs. If there's more, I will only read the first 3 -5. 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.

Week One.


Dad and I are walking through Soho. The day is bright and brisk. As we talk, our breath puffs out in front of us like steam from the street vents.

We pass the familiar streets of the village – Broome, Spring, Prince – as we head quickly north on West Broadway. The sky turns dusky gray. Now, Sarah is there with me, snow falling; the Empire State building comes into view in all its wintery, pink-red glory. She twirls toward me and smiles. Snowflakes catch in her black hair, white stars that melt away.

Dad laughs at something, and Sarah takes my hand, and everything is perfect.

Except, no. That’s not right. We’re not in Soho or midtown.

There’s no Empire State Building.

And Dad’s not there at all.

No one is there.

I scratch my ear.

“Try not to do that,” she says.


I look up. The familiar woman watches me. Middle aged. Dark, frizzy hair. A little overweight.

Dr. Andersen.

No, that’s not right either.

Alvarez. Dr. Alvarez.

Shit. Why can’t I hold onto anything?

Art, I say, I met Sarah in art class. Is that what you asked me? I seriously can’t get my thoughts to stay put.

Dr. Alvarez nods and I stare at the print on her wall. It’s a Van Gogh. Daubigny’s Garden, 1890. I think that’s why I’m willing to talk. Because of that print on her wall. If it had been anything else – a Monet, a Renoir – forget it. But it’s not. It’s Van Gogh.

“Tell me more about that,” she says.

Van Gogh? I pull at my ear again. I try not to, but it itches. She looks at me strange.

My eyes go back to the print. The frame is wrong, too modern, and matted. You don’t really matte a Van Gogh. His paintings are expansive. The color should go right to the frame. I close my eyes and breathe. My throat feels too choked to swallow.

“No, Klee, tell me about Sarah. How things got started. How you ended up here. You started to tell me yesterday.”

Right. I was here yesterday.


She calls me Klee again, with the long e sound. I’m sure I corrected her already. I grip my fingers together so I leave my ear alone. She reaches across to the table next to her, opens a drawer, and tosses a small purple stress ball at me. It lands in my lap. Normally, I would have caught it. My reflexes feel off.

The ball is one of those freebie sales-giveaways. Or maybe she ordered it. It’s sand on the inside, purple rubber on the outside like a balloon, with white lettering that says, Imovane 5 (Zopiclone 5mg) and below that, Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. – Sigmund Freud.

I must laugh or something because she says, “If you like it, you can keep it. I have plenty more.” I nod. “So, you were telling me about Sarah.” When she says her name it feels like she kicks me inside which makes it hard to breathe.

I met her in art class, I say, but I think I’ve said that already.

Art is the one thing that matters to me. Art is the one thing I still have.

“So, will you? Will you tell me how you met her?” Dr. Alvarez taps her clipboard and watches me. I’m confused because I keep thinking I’ve said things aloud and then it seems like I haven’t. Her fingernails make a clicking sound on the metal clip at the top of the board. I didn’t know people used them anymore. I had one in elementary school that I covered in Wacky Packages stickers. I remember my favorite had a brown candy bar with stink coming out of it and was called Sneakers which I thought was hilarious back then.

Dr. Alvarez is watching me again. My train of thought keeps derailing. I need to straighten things out in my head. I’m supposed to talk in here to solve things and get better. Here is the North Haven Children’s Psychiatric Inpatient Treatment Center. This is my second meeting with Dr. Alvarez. The afternoon before that, mom drove me here.

“Yes, that’s right,” she says. “You got here late Sunday. We met briefly yesterday. It’s Tuesday now. Are you having a hard time remembering?”

Fuck, wait. I didn’t mean to say that part aloud.

My mother drove me because I wasn’t allowed to drive myself. Because I’m a danger to self and others.

I nod my head to answer her question. My head feels blurry, my lips feel parched, my tongue heavy. Words come when I don’t want them to, and don’t come when I think I said them out loud. I’m having a hard time keeping things straight.

“It may be the medication. I’ll talk to Dr. Ram, see if things should be adjusted.” My eyes go to her. “In the meantime, there’s no rush. Just take your time, okay?”

I need to get a drink from the fountain, I say.

“Sure. Go ahead.”

The hallway is white and sterile except for the cartoonishly-bad fish mural that stretches across one wall. It looks like it was done by kindergarteners, except you know it was done by some untalented adult who was aiming to make it look cheerful. Or, maybe not. Maybe it really was done by kindergarteners. Either way, it hurts my eyes to look at it.

The fountain is at the end of the hall. My legs give me a hard time like someone has tethered them. When I reach it, I stand and drink for a long time. It seems like I will never stop drinking.

- gae


  1. The first emotion I have is feeling off kilter. I'm confused as Klee pulls me from walking to Sarah to Van Gogh and then into the office.... and I love it.

    I LOVE an unreliable narrator, and he is established perfectly in this first scene.

    And I haunted by Sarah. Who is she? I like the details of snowflakes in the hair - lyrical and paints a picture.

    Things to consider - this is an upper YA but I wonder about the sophiscation of the piece. To an experienced reader, being thrown off kilter is a thrill. But - to a young reader, do they get thrown off kilter and put the book down?

    I don't know.

    The only thing I'm thinking about is Klee pulling on his ear (did he cut it off? Ewwww) and that I want to read more.

    No shit.

  2. Gae, there was most definitely a roar of applause :D
    The confusion is, well confusing but not so much that I'd want to stop, in fact it just makes me more curious. I want to know what happened to him and why he is a danger to himself and others. and why DOES his ear itch all the time? Hmm
    I also like that you added the fish picture to go along with the piece, it helped me visualize :D

  3. Heya, Its Felecia from Mrs. Andresens claas.

    1] Yes it captured my attention. :)
    2] I love how off subject Klee is. I also love how he can't tell if he's thinking it or saying it out loud.
    3] Everything was great. :)

    Okay,the bells is going to ring. This totally sucks....I'll be on later. :) After I get home and sit in my kitchen window, so I can use my neighbors wifi. :O I'm horrible but I love this blog!

  4. I love this. I love how scattered it is, inside Klee's mind (how do you pronounce Klee?). There is nothing to dislike about this excerpt. I love the art references and how because of the art Klee is willing to open up to the doctor. Everything you've posted from this novel so far has been beautiful. Good work.

  5. Bett! Nice to see you here! Maybe you'll be brave and come do a Friday Feedback one day? My followers are awesomeness and polite and even helpful. Nope. Not scary at all. Even though they also offer some helpful crits sometimes. We want those. YES, we do. >:( ;)

    Ellie, thanks, I'm so glad you're loving what you've seen of this so far. *drums fingers waiting for an Ellie piece.*

    Felecia, you crack me up with your bells ringing and your rushing out. Hurry back with some writing!

    Megan, thanks. Klee is pronounced Clay which he tells us soon.

  6. (btw, Megan, you're totally invited to take a FF week too.

    and LOL, BETT IS ALREADY SIGNED UP. *brain freeze* TUNE IN FOR HER March 4th! :))

  7. Hi Gae! when is your book signing? My friend and i are really excited to go! I'll bring some of the stuff that i have written and maybe you could read it and tell me if it's good?????? O and btw my dad wants me to ask you if you will have cupcakes and candy at your party???
    Write back,

  8. I've been....slackin'. I'm a slacker. And lazy :( *goes to pick another poem* I'll try harder to focus on my story this week, it needs to feel loved after so much neglect :(

  9. Found one! It's one of my older ones actually but I'm really curious to hear what you have to say about it :)

    Life is a book I'll keep on reading
    Turning the page as I go
    Pouring over words to find any meaning
    If the meaning is meant to be known

    Life is a wound that keeps on bleeding
    And although the pain will never cease
    I know that innocence prevents us from seeing
    That sheep Mary keeps is a beast

    Life is a beast that will forever roar
    Barring its fangs when it needs
    Though, Edgar, my friend, would say "Nevermore"
    This monster, on knowledge, must feed

    Life is a clock, that face keeps on ticking
    Slowing down time with each look
    Do not be fooled by the speed of the clicking
    For life is as short as a book

  10. Gae, you posted part of this piece on FB a while back and it completely drew me in. Getting to read even more of this part rocks! I wasn't really thrown (I hope that's a good thing). I was able to keep up with Klee's thoughts and confusions (am I spending too much time around teenagers?!) But Bettina made a good point- Did he cut off his ear?! Whoa that would be creepy/edgy.

    I really like the imagery of the snowflakes in Sarah's hair- I could picture it perfectly. And I LOVE that Sarah is spelled with an "h" and Andersen is spelled "sen" hehe ;)

    xo Sarah

  11. Jackie, hi! Don't have a date for the book signing yet. Probably late May. And yes there will be cupcakes, are you CRAZY?!?! :)

    As for showing me your writing there, I'm guessing I'm going to be like a chicken with my head cut off that day, with lots of people to make sure are happy and enjoying themselves. Are you not yet ready to share it here? Maybe your dad and you and I will grab coffee here one day.

    Ellie, as for your poem, what I wrote to you elsewhere. It's really tremendous. The literary references, some of the lines (the sheep Mary keeps is a beast?!?!) and the last stanza. It has kinda blown me away.

  12. Sarah with an H, Andersen with an e, you and I simulposted. ;)

    Yes, those little coincidences occur day after day with this ms, tiny signs that make me think I am on a right path. :)

    As for poor Klee and his itchy ear, one day we shall all find out.

  13. Thanks!! I'm glad you liked it :D
    I'm brave enough to post something but not cool enough not to stress about the feedback lol I was worried, even though I haven't gotten anything BUT great feedback here

  14. I LOVE the opening paragraph. And my favorite streets on this earth are Broome, Spring (Lombardi's is there. Bestill my heart.)

    :) LOVE this, Gae. Truly. <3