Friday, June 22, 2012

Friday Feedback: Stupid Love

It's hard not to love Herbach.
Why fight it?
Gae n' Geoff, sitting in a tree,
first comes love
then comes...

Oh, um, hey there.
Don't mind me. I was just, um. . . *coughs*

You're in the right place. It's Friday, and this is Friday Feedback.

<----- And, that is me with Geoff Herbach. If you haven't heard of him, you should.

You can't have him, sorry.

But you can read him.

This is his first book, 2011 ALA, YALSA and CYBIL's Best Fiction winner Stupid Fast:

omg, omg, omg, you must read this!

My name is Felton Reinstein, which is not a fast name. But last November, my voice finally dropped and I grew all this hair and then I got stupid fast. Fast like a donkey. Zing!

Now they want me, the guy they used to call Squirrel Nut, to try out for the football team. With the jocks. But will that fix my mom? Make my brother stop dressing like a pirate? Most important, will it get me girls-especially Aleah?

So I train. And I run. And I sneak off to Aleah's house in the night. But deep down I know I can't run forever. And I wonder what will happen when I finally have to stop."

and, this is his follow up (pretty much a sequel) Nothing Special:

is not allowed to buy this till she finishes other books ahead of it on TBR
because she will bump EVERYTHING to read it
"Hey Aleah,
I miss you. Because there's some serious donkey crap going on right now. I'm supposed to be at football camp, but noooo ... Andrew had to go missing! So because of my stupid little brother, I'll probably lose my chance at a scholarship and end up being nothing special.

I'm pretty sure Andrew ran away to Florida, and now Gus and I have to drive cross-country to get him. Did you know Gus used to think
Miss Piggy was hot? Anyway, Andrew once told me I needed to get my head out of my butt. So that's what I'm trying to do. How about a kiss for luck?


And, in case you haven't figured it out yet, I LOVE him.

Yes, in the biblical sense.

Okay, fine, not exactly in the biblical sense.

More like in the trunk of a Crown Victoria sense:

Sorry ladies, Geoff can only have eyes for me.

And, not just because his books are brilliant and quirky and funny and real. . .

And, not just because he got me to my uber-awesome agent, Jim McCarthy, who just sold my next book to Algonquin for me. . .

But, also, because he can break dance. . .

And because he has made a series of some of the most awesome writing craft vids around (you're welcome for pointing those out to you);

And, okay, because he has written some of the most unique, laugh-out-loud, yet heartbreaking, characters there are.

So, that's the truth. I admit it. I love Herbach. And it's a gushy, mushy love.

I am not ashamed.

And I know you will love him, too.

So, without further (ridiculous) ado, for this Friday Feedback, I give you Geoff, and an excerpt from his still untitled Work In Progress, the third in the "Stupid Fast" franchise (due on shelves May, 2013!).

Remember, if you don't know the rules to Friday Feedback, please READ THEM FIRST HERE!:

Hey, thanks for all that gushing, Gae. I love you too. You are the bomb. You are the Juliet to my Romeo. You are my. . .

um, never mind, that wasn't Geoff. That was Gae writing all of that. Fine. Sue me. Whatever. It's my blog.

Here's Geoff for you:

In the third book in the Stupid Fast series, Felton and those around him are beginning to worry that the brutality he shows on the football field is putting him on the same path of his dad.  Felton is struggling with football culture and jock culture and his place in a world full of bullies (he begins roughing up jocks on behalf of geeks).  This scene takes place early in the book when Felton’s grandfather begins to show worry about how sports culture impacts his family.  I’m trying to write to serious themes, but I never want to lose sight of full, real characters who are quirky and funny.  So, what do you think? Is it working here?

“Why do you play such a brutal game?” Grandpa Stan asked me by the pool.

“It’s fun.”

               “Fun?  Murder is fun?” he asked.

               Grandpa had been at Bluffton’s homecoming game in the fall.  He and Andrew came up.  We played Prairie du Chien and I sort of destroyed them.  Coach Johnson took me out midway through the 3rd quarter, because we were ahead by a lot and the Prairie players were sort of diving on the ground instead of hitting me, because I’d crushed so many of them they’d gotten scared (I love that feeling, knowing they’re scared of me – I start looking to hit them, instead of running towards open field).  Not only am I fast but recruiters say, “He runs angry.”  It’s true.  I do run angry.  Grandpa Stan congratulated me after the game, but his face was red and he couldn’t look me in the eyes.  It hurt my feelings.

               “I don’t murder anybody.  It’s a game.  I score touchdowns.”

               “You could play golf.  Have you ever played golf?” Grandpa asked.  “It’s very relaxing.”

               “I’m one of the best football players in the country.  I don’t want to play golf.”

               “How can that be fun?  Breaking peoples’ backs?”

               “I get out my frustration… It makes me feel normal.”

               “Okay, okay,” Grandpa Stan waved his hand, dismissing the conversation.

               Tovi and Andrew splashed around.  I rolled off the chair, stretched in the sun, then cherry bombed the hell out of them. 

- Geoff (& gae *swoons*)

p.s. Geoff is travelling today (Friday) but will be here Saturday to chime in!

p.p. s. if you missed it yesterday, and you're a #TeachersWrite camper, you're invited! Progress Pool Party, July 20th, via Spreecast! For details, click link.


  1. I liked the grandpa's reaction to Felton's play with his "Murder is Fun?" I also like that while the violence of the game is sinking its hooks into Felton he is still bothered by his grandpa's reaction. I also think the "it makes me feel normal" comment is a powerful insight into Felton.

    I was left wondering how much heat Felton was using to answer his grandpa. He's clearly protesting Grandpa's reactions, but I wasn't sure if it was angrily, sullenly or some other way.

  2. This week I have an excerpt from a novel I'm revising right now. I was wondering if people could give me feedback if these characters sound like they could be high school students (Gae gave me permission to ask). One of my characters has a tendency of speaking very formally and my main characters are all geeky band kids who write. My apologies if this is a little long.

    “Sadie, come join us over here! We have need of your assistance.” Nigel beckoned Sadie toward the midsection of the school bus that was one of three taking the marching band to the competition in Brighton.

    Sighing, Sadie trudged down the aisle. She slid in next to Nigel; Chance had the window seat. Sadie had to almost fold herself in half so Meredith and the others behind her could get past. High school students simply were not meant to fit three to a seat.

    So much for getting history homework done on the bus. There's no room to work on it, even if Nigel gives me an opportunity for three thoughts sideways on the trip.

    “I'm ever so glad you could join us,” Nigel began.

    “Nigel, just tell me what you want.”

    “If you had but waited a little longer, I would have told you.”

    “Nigel,” Sadie said very slowly. “Please try to talk like a human being for half an hour. You might find it terribly liberating.”

    “Some of us care to have well-mannered language.”

    “Okay, okay. Now why do you need my help?”

    “You are impatient today, are you not? That is most unlike you.”

    “How would you know what I'm like or not? It's not like I go around carrying an instruction manual on how I operate.”

    “Now that might be the first useful instructional manual ever,” Chance said. The trombonist wouldn't look directly at Sadie. His red hair was standing up in every direction.

    “Chance, as you have just witnessed, is rather prone to hyperbole today. I would like your opinion on several of our submissions to The Bent Quill to balance out his current mood.”

    1. Hi Sarah!

      I definitely think these characters could be high schoolers.

      I agree with Gae about the nice job you do with your dialogue in explaining why Nigel talks that way.

      I wonder if you mean for Sadie to sound that way too - the line "You might find it terribly liberating.”

      I'm not quite sure what you mean by this line, "...even if Nigel gives me an opportunity for three thoughts sideways on the trip."

      I really like the line about Sadie having to fold herself in half! I could picture that.

      Great job and good luck!

  3. Sarah, haven't read yet but just want to post a note: NEXT WEEK on FF, MARGO and I are going to focus ON THIS ISSUE of AGE-AUTHENTIC VOICE . . . so, if you are ALL (or several are) struggling with this issue we shall try to tackle it specifically next week.

    With that said, go ahead and give Sarah her particular feedback because I said so. The rest of you, follow our traditional FF rules: does it hook or interest you? If yes, what works? If not, what doesn't. xox -gae

  4. now I will go read your excerpt, Sarah... (and the rest of you, please also remember -- 3 paras if long, up to 5 if short). xox

  5. Gae - thanks for sharing the link to Geoff's craft videos. They are funny and helpful!

  6. Okay, Sarah, here's my opinion: especially because you tell us (not in your own preamble to your excerpt, but via your characters themselves IN the excerpt) that Nigel purposefully speaks the way he does (and you do it with good humor!):

    “Nigel,” Sadie said very slowly. “Please try to talk like a human being for half an hour. You might find it terribly liberating.”

    I think it works, at least here in this excerpt. What I will say is that it's probably one of those things that will work best if you find the right balance so that it also doesn't get annoying and pop the reader out of the flow of the story. I think the BEST way to do this is to allow yourself during FIRST DRAFT to overwrite the dialogue to your heart's content -- esp. for Nigel -- and then, on REVISION(s) later, go back with a careful sword and cut enough that you get the continuity and flavor of Nigel's voice (via the best bits of dialogue)but it doesn't become annoying/overdone. This is exactly what I'm doing with my ms that I'm doing yet another revision on now. Good luck!

  7. btw, I really like this excerpt if that wasn't clear! Keep going!

  8. Dana, aren't they GREAT??? Andy Starowicz if you're here, check out his first one, I think that's the show vs. tell. Geoff? Which one?

    1. Gae,

      I totally agree and was thinking the same thing.:) Now if I could just write with such voice and style. I have ordered Stupid Fast and it should be delivered in a few days. Not only do you keep me writing, you also keep me reading.

      I hope that you had a good swim.:)

    2. Andy, my swim was amazing today. If you're ever on Long Island, you'll have to call me and I'll drag you out... :)

      Geoff's voice is such a powerful one. Quirky. Unique. And real. Just love it. Hope you like Stupid Fast. I look forward to reading more of your stuff too! Keep going!

  9. The first one was show vs tell. They are great! I think older students would dig them! (Teachers need to know about these). Also a cool format to consider for Teachers Write for the blogs for quick writes etc.

    1. I'm glad you liked them, Dana! I use the lessons in my college classes, so I think they can work for any (literate) age!

  10. Herbach: THIS? THIS is the part where you start owing me money. ;)

    or, you know, free loving-me-up loving. Now, sit still.

  11. Wants to comment - but my face is blacked out :-)

  12. Sorry, Bett. I love you three girls, but this is about Herbach and me.

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. Kimberly, I know nothing about writing a picture book, but this is beautiful and I love the voice and lyricism of it.

    I try not to be too worried about stuff like people stealing ideas etc. from the internet, but because this is so much of the whole, I am going to pull it down after today, unless you tell me you want me to keep it up. Today it will be mostly #TeachersWrite people who come here . . . but eventually people from all over the world will stop by and I don't know them directly... okay? :)

    1. Wow, thank you so much Gae. You could pull it down for sure. I am not used to the idea that someone would steal my writing. It makes me feel important and I love you for that!

      I loved you already for loving Geoff so much. Certain men make me weak as well. I feel a little like that about Colby Sharp ( and I don't know him at all. If I were in a car with him, next to him, dear God. Shh, don't tell his wife.

    2. Colby, yes! Colby is an excellent choice.

      With more apologies to more wives...

    3. PS I took it down myself so we wouldn't have to remember. I feel so damn good about your response, I want to start 10:18 in the morning. I won't because I think that's a bad path many writers take :) but wow do I feel good. Thanks again.

    4. Glad you feel good. 10:18 may be early for drinking. Never too early for whipped cream. Try that.


    5. I think you may have the wrong dude. I'm just a nerdy teacher:)

    6. Colby! That's your charm, my dear.

  15. First of all, I'm a superfan of you, Geoff. I absolutely adored Stupid Fast, and I couldn't get in students' hands fast enough after I read it. By the time I'd finished reading the first four chapters I already had a list of students who I knew would love it, and I haven't seen it since I first handed to the beginning of the list in January. It hasn't touched my classroom library shelves in all that time. It moves from hand to hand, kid to kid, just that fast. Stupid fast, you might say. (I'm done gushing now...or am I?)

    Your excerpt: My instinct is to ask, "When can I have more Grandpa Stan?" He is so clearly drawn with so few words in this excerpt. His dialogue paints him for me.

    By contrast, I love being in Felton's mind and I both identify with his competitive desires and recoil from his desire for brutality. You've set up a wonderful conflict for this character by giving us that contrast. We love him, we want him to be nice, but we, deep in our hearts, understand his "ugly" feelings too. Now my curiosity is about how far he'll take those feelings before it reaches completely unacceptable levels to everyone around him, not just Grandpa Stan.


    My excerpt is from my newly written Chapter 15 of my YA WIP "The Rude Awakening of Marlon Grunt"

    He was getting away from the crying.
    Or, more accurately, Marlon was getting away from not crying.
    Everyone was so weepy – people he didn’t even know. People it seemed like couldn’t have ever known his dad because Marlon had never seen them before in his life, but they all acted as though it was a great big painful tragedy for them with all their tears and hushed, wounded voices. How well could they have really known his dad if his dad had never even talked about them?
    And tears? Tears didn’t mean anything. Marlon knew that because his own pain was so deep he didn’t even have access to his tears anymore. They had all hidden away, burned up in his rage at the injustice of it all. Those cardboard people with their drippy eyes were here and Charlie Grunt was not. Charlie Grunt, who never did anything just because someone expected it. Charlie Grunt, who looked stupid when he danced by himself in the living room to the oldies radio station, but looked like a graceful giant when he held Marlon’s mother and slow-danced with her to the radio. Charlie Grunt who could skateboard and play the bongos. Charlie Grunt who, when he got mad, went for long walks on bad roads and smoked cigarettes then lied about it to his family because they cared enough not to want him to. Charlie Grunt who read The Hobbit to Marlon cover to cover, then made him read it on his own. Charlie Grunt, who always drove too fast, like he was in his beloved Chicago, instead of the ultra Midwestern suburb in the middle of a cornfield city of Bloomington, Illinois. Charlie Grunt, who had always been so big and solid but shrank into a marionette version of himself, bony and shriveled and hooked to a set of wires, by the time the cancer had taken its toll on him. Charlie Grunt who wouldn’t be around any longer as Marlon’s teacher, confidant and hero.

    1. Okay, Jess, I'm back and really enjoyed this excerpt of yours. The comparison to the marionette at the end is beautiful and unique and I'm curious about Marlon and what will happen to him now.

      The one line that threw me was this:

      Charlie Grunt, who always drove too fast, like he was in his beloved Chicago, instead of the ultra Midwestern suburb in the middle of a cornfield city of Bloomington, Illinois.

      Because I felt it would be hte opposite -- that you could drive too fast in a cornfield rather than in a busy city like Chicago... but I haven't been to Chicago in more than 20 years? :)

      Keep going! Great stuff.

    2. Gae- thanks for this. Boy that "cornfield" sentence is mess. I'm trying to feed too much info to the reader there. I'm going to try and hack off the extraneous stuff.

      You're right about the city vs. cornfield driving. I think I was imagining the zippy pace of the tollways of Chicagoland vs. the more ponderous pace of downstate drivers. I definitely need to work on it.

      Thanks so much!

    3. Glad you liked Stupid Fast, Jess. Love your stylizing in the piece you posted. I know, because I do it... that rambling, unfolding style can be a little hard to control, like your prose feels like it might come off the tracks at any moment! The energy is awesome, but it takes a lot of editing to make it work completely. The part about Chicago/Bloomington is exactly that situation. I have to read everything out loud over and over so I can catch those moments when the rhythm is right, but the message isn't quite coming out. Very cool!

  16. Jess, back off of Herbach! He's mine!


    fine, whatevs. :)

    I'm running to swim ... or swimming to swim! Will be back with more feedback later.

    xo to all!

    1. Gae-

      It's all good. My love is of the TigerBeat Tongue-tied Poster on the Back of My Door kind. I could never meet him in person. I'd swoon.


  17. Geoff,
    The interchange between Grandpa and Felton was real. I can hear Grandpa's reluctance to criticize even though he is having a problem with the violence of the game. I had to read the description of the game a few times. Perhaps because I don't know much about the game, but it was bumpy and unclear. You may be intentionally making Felton's speech like this, but I'm not sure what he means by "sort of destroyed them." You do capture the conflict that he is going through, how he wants his grandfather to be proud of him while he loves the game.

  18. Just a note in case any of you missed it in the p.s. GEOFF is not ignoring your lovely feedback. He's TRAVELING TODAY, but will be here TOMORROW to join in on the fun.

    And I am off to swim!

    Keep going! More soon. :)

  19. This is the beginning of a chapter in a middle grade novel I am working on in which two girls meet. The main character will discover later as the story progresses that her new friend is homeless. Like Geoff, I am working with pretty heavy themes but want to present it with a bit of humor and strong character development.

    Harmony and I plan to meet at the boob tree. The boob tree is an old oak tree near the convent on the other side of the bayou. We call it the boob tree because of its shape.

    The tree is a tall lady with her arms spread wide and her back arched. Two round spheres protrude from her trunk side by side just like a buxom woman. I wrap my arms around her boobs and hike my legs up. I climb and perch myself atop her breasts, looking out for Harmony.

    Here she comes trotting across the bridge, her too big t-shirt flying in the breeze behind her. She sees me and waves. Her tennis shoes are lace-less and brown with bayou mud. Her long skinny legs stick out from her shorts like black toothpicks.

    “Hey, you!” Harmony calls trying to reach up to my perch. I scoot down to meet her.

    “Been waiting long?” she asks me breathless, her feet still in constant motion. My feet start to dance along with hers and we circle around the tree running our hands along the trunk bark.

    Harmony starts singing:
    Here we go round the boob tree, the boob tree
    Our mommas don’t know where we be.
    Ring around the old oak tree
    Happy as can be!

    Our hands overlap, hers dark as night, mine tan like the fallen leaves.

    We laugh, and I join her song. Singing and dancing, I forget about our mission. A truck lumbers by with its loud rap blaring, and we hide behind the tree.

    “Let’s go on an angel hunt,” I suggest to Harmony. She grabs my hand, and we run toward the abandoned convent. The only sound we hear is the cawing crows on the electric wires high above our heads.

    1. Hi Margaret,

      I like your excerpt and I'm really wondering how you will reveal the fact that the friend is homeless. I like that theme and think it's really relevant in this time.

      Nice job on describing the boob tree. I wonder if your MC should use the word "breasts?" I know you are probably tyring to not overuse the word "boobs" but breasts seems a little old. Maybe she can just climb the tree, but not actually sit on the boobs, so you can avoid the using the word again? Just a thought.

      Great job and good luck with your writing!

    2. Margaret,

      Just LOVE this! Love! The boob tree is hilarious and -- guess what? There's a boob tree on the street where I live and I've commented on it!

      I love where their hands overlap!

      I agree with Dana E on the use of the word breasts and even the word buxom. Don't read MG to me. I think you could skirt around it and even call it "where the two lumps are" or whatever because you've described it when you describe the tree. We already see those knobs clearly in our minds!

      Great stuff! Keep going!

  20. I really like the excerpt, Geoff! I know even reluctant readers would get into your books.

    I like that the anger/violence in his play is getting checked by his grandpa. The golf reference is very funny. (And I really love the Miss Piggy line in the work above your wip!)

    Okay, here's mine. It's right after a major conflict/fight where Jake's "special" friend has embarrassed him by telling a story to the boys Jake's trying to impress. I also want to build a little suspence about what Mr. Williams is hinting at. I'd like to know if it's strong enough. Thanks!

    I was still fuming when I got home. I grabbed my bag and rode my bike to the field. Mr. Williams would be there early to get it ready and I wanted to hit some balls like I wanted to hit Harold.

    When I got to the parking lot I threw my bike down instead of leaning it on the tree like a usually did. My shirt got caught on the handle bar and I had to wrestle with it to get free. That’s when Mr. Williams saw me.

    “Whoa! Come here and settle down—I don’t want you taking my head off when I throw to you.”

    I walked over to his car and we sat on his hood. “It’s Harold! He can’t get it through his stupid head—I’m not his best friend! I don’t even want to be his worst friend!”

    “Bad day, huh?” asked Mr. Williams.

    “Yeah, the worst! He’s ruined it for me. I might as well forget playing for the Comets. They think I’m a loser thanks to Harold.”

    “Harold? He’s a character, alright.”

    “He tells stupid baseball stories like anyone really cares! He humiliates me every chance he gets! Which is all the time!”

    “Hum. That can get old.”

    “It does! And it will never change! I live on the same street as Harold! I ride the same bus as Harold! I go to the same school as Harold! For eight solid years and for the rest of my life!”

    “That’s too bad.”

    “And when he completely ruins my life, I can’t even get even. Nooo, everyone expects me to protect him—save him from the other kids who make fun of him.”

    “It must stink to be you.”

    “Yeah! It’s totally unfair!” And then I realized that Mr. Williams wasn’t agreeing with me, he wasn’t sympathizing with me—he was mocking me!

    “You want to know what unfair is, Jake? Unfair is when you have the best team in town and no one will let that team play. That’s unfair.”


    “Nothing. Look, son, having a friend who wants more than anything to be your friend, one who wants nothing more than to impress you, who wants you to want to be his friend back, isn’t unfair. It’s lucky. I can’t think of a more loyal friend than Harold.”

    Mr. Williams got up and said, “Think about it. I’ve got to get to batting practice. The team’s counting on me.” And he walked off.

    I had no idea what he was talking about—not let the winning team play? But, I knew what he meant about Harold. He was loyal. When we were little, and I called him names or tried to cheat, he never told on me—he never got mad. He was always back again the next day asking, “Wanna play?”

    I needed to get myself together. It was too late now to hit with Mr. Williams. I had to get to the Comets’ field if wanted to make it to the last night of tryouts.

    1. oops! This is middle grade and "hello" to the other Dana! I'll post as Dana E from now on! :)

    2. Hey, Dana E,

      Really like this excerpt and the exchange between Jake and Mr. Williams and the realization that Jake has near the end of this bit is really nice. There were a few minor moments where I felt like Jake's thoughts sound older than MG -- humiliates rather than embarrass and the eight solid years. Maybe just the word/concept solid? But maybe not. :) I also wonder why Mr. Williams wouldn't try harder to first be sympathetic and then offer the lesson to Jake rather than purely mocking him. If this has to do with who Mr. Williams is then that's a conscious choice you've made. If he's supposed to be a good "teacher" coach, I'd want him to want to point out to Jake that his thinking is skewed, but to do it in a more understanding way? It depends on who he is... ? But I like this a lot! Keep going! :) gae

    3. Yeah, I', with Gae. I like this a lot. Really vivid. Like the word play, too. Think you have a really solid MG voice going!

  21. What I like/works for me:

    I "get" how this kid feels about playing aggressively. I was the same way, although I'd internalized what his grandpa is saying. Acting out that aggression made me uncomfortable - and so I didn't enjoy sports. I also can hear the grandpa. I like the way he "waves off" the conversation and how he congratulates Felton but can't look him in the eye.

    What confused me:
    Perhaps this is in the bit before the excerpt - but it seemed like bit of a jump to use the word "murder". I get that grandpa is trying to show him that he's overdoing it - and again, maybe they describe the scene with some terms like that before the excerpt.

    I also agree with Sarah above, that I'd like to see or hear a bit about the tone of Felton's responses to his grandpa.

    1. Just an FYI to you all -- and apologies to Geoff -- there was actually a prior part to the excerpt that dealt with the murder comment, but I suggested we cut it shorter for FF purposes. So, YES! Geoff does make that whole thing clearer in the ms! :)

  22. Okay, here is a segment from my story. Looking it over myself I know that it needs some work.

    Her eyes were red and swollen, and her once shiny auburn hair had thinned. She tugged on the sleeves of her turtleneck, pulling them down all the way to her wrists. It was too late. I had already caught a glimpse of a jagged line of red along her forearm.

    “Cassandra. What the hell?” I shouted.

    The train wasn’t very crowded, but the few adults sprinkled throughout the train car glared at me, then studiously stared out the windows to avoid getting involved. I grabbed her arm and yanked it toward me. I turned so that my back concealed her from the other occupants on the train; protecting her had become second nature.

    Shoving the sleeve up to her elbow, I swore again. Her entire forearm was covered with tiny gashes.

    “Megs, I swear, I don’t know what they want from me,” she whispered in anguish.

    I knew.

    1. Wow, Maria... a painful, but well written excerpt. Yes, tiny edits in order... but those are easy peasy. :) And that last line is VERY much intriguing me in a worrisome way ... who wants what from her??? Why are they making her so unhappy? :( Good work! Keep going!

    2. Am I a horrible story mama if I admit that I'm not sure yet either? I know the "who", but not the full "what" yet *chuckles*

    3. Well, I look forward to discovering along with you, then! :)

  23. Hi Geoff,
    I can't gush like Gae but will say I watched that break dancing video and saw better moves than Jagger! I love mixing the humorous w/ the serious. I'm trying to do that, too, in my foray into creative writing. Thanks for validating that juxtaposition.

    Re. the excerpt: I, too, love the grandfather. He sounds like my grandfather.I really like that you use lots of dialogue. It's almost as though the MC is rationalizing his playing football to himself.

    That said, the MC sounds very young, much younger than "one of the best players in the country" would sound. That kid would be a junior or senior in high school (I teach seniors primarily). Also, rather than saying "we were ahead by a lot," the fb players I know would say "We were up by 30" or however many points.

    Does the MC play both offense and defense? The excerpt reads as though he does. That's rare in h.s. prep football. On the one hand, the MC "crushes" the other team's players; on the other, he scores TDs. There's a term for when a player drops to the field to avoid being tackled. Wish I could think of it.

    BTW, the school where I teach has a cross-town rivalry that has been listed in various places as one of the top 10 prep football rivalries in the country. It's called the Black and Blue Bowl.

    1. Glenda, I'm laughing because Herbach himself played football. I'll let you guys duke it out. Did you assume just because he's a breakdancer... ? ;)

      Off to read your excerpt... :)

    2. I made no assumptions, Gae. I have taught so many jocks in 31 years. Two of my seniors last year have full-ride football scholarships. I'm not an athlete myself (too clumsy and blind), but I did play a mean game of flag football w/ the debate team in college. It's how we passed the time when the van broke down. Did I share "Testosterone Pit" w/ you? Anyhoot, I'm always looking for sports-themed books for my student athletes.

    3. Flag football with the debate team?!? Now THAT's the stuff a great YA novel is made of! ;)

      Actually, on a serious note, whether Geoff played or not, knows or not, it's always good to know if something -- a description or whatever -- is not sitting right with someone. Especially if it's not sitting right with more than one person. Even if it's technically right, doesnt mean it reads right. :)

    4. Hey Glenda, he only plays office, but he runs angry as all get out (the slaughtering occurs sort Earl Campbell style -- Felton's a running back). Yup, I played lots of football, for sure! It's not too weird in the small towns for kids to play both ways, though.

      Thanks for the feedback!

  24. My excerpt this week is, once again, from "Super Senior." I wish it were funny, but I need comments about a very serious section. This is Tai's father's reaction about Patina's pregnancy. Mom tells dad and he responds. This is from the middle of the scene, which is 724 words.Am I mixing my metaphors? Is it realistic?

    "Super Senior" excerpt:

    I’d begged my mother not to tell dad. “He’ll go rabid dog if he knows,” I pleaded. From the cannon blast of his voice, I knew she’d betrayed me.

    “MORON.” I could hear my crazy old man beating his fists on the bathroom door. “I’m gonna beat the holy hell out of you. You stupid ingrate.”

    I scrambled and tried to haul my ass out of the tub. But in the rush, I slipped. Water sloshed in a soapy tsunami as it breached the tub’s lip. An invisible glassy puddle landed on the white tile and began to grow like a gamma-infused amoeba spreading from tile to tile without regard for the grout damming each tile’s boarder.

    My head smacked against the wall tile. My feet shot in the air like a toed geyser, and I flopped back into the water just as the door jam splintered and my father burst into the room.

    His bloodshot eyes glared at me. In one simultaneous motion he grabbed my left arm as he ripped his belt from its cloth-looped holster and commenced the flogging.

    1. Okay, Glenda, I do feel like -- for me -- you have mixed voice/feeling here. The opening reads really seriously and upsetting (which it sounds like the scene is) and then the descriptions get almost comical, especially here:

      My head smacked against the wall tile. My feet shot in the air like a toed geyser, and I flopped back into the water . . .

      I also think one of the hardest things to do as a good writer (yes, I'm calling you a good writer :)) is to figure out when to pull back and hold onto good metaphors/similes/clever writing moments rather than release them into our manuscripts just because they are in a vacuum good or clever. Your amoeba description for me is just such a place. It's too much and the reader is left caught in the overwrought description instead of caught UP in the story. I'd pull it back at least to here:

      I scrambled and tried to haul my ass out of the tub. But in the rush, I slipped. Water sloshed in a soapy tsunami and breached the tub’s lip. A glassy puddle landed on the white tile and spread from tile to tile without regard for the grout damming each tile's boarder.

      Really intriguing excerpt ... i feel worried for her slipping in that tub trying to scramble from her father's rage...

    2. Yep. You said exactly what I was thinking, which is why I chose this excerpt. I'll snip and clip and file those images away. I wrote this section yesterday, and I, of course, just typed away!!! This time I wanted to be wrong.Dang. :-) I'm trying to follow the rules about length when I visit Friday feedback, but I think the rest of the scene is much better, which is why I chose to post the part I, too, thought was weakest.

      Hey, thanks for calling me a "good writer." I'm trying. I'm confident in my academic writing, the stuff nobody wants to read! ;-)

    3. Glenda, that's why I started this... to put the troublesome (or at least scary) parts up for help from "objective" eyes. It's a no-brainer to put the best stuff up. Putting our weaknesses up is way more brave. :) I actually think you've got some great, powerful stuff in here. I just answered the question you asked. :)

  25. Gae,
    In the words of the Bare Naked Ladies - "It's Happy Hour again." (Hello City) And there is no other place that I would like to be. Another week of Teachers Write! completed and it was the last day of school - I am dizzy with happiness. Also, I finished your book and loved it. Thank you for a great story!

    I love the excerpt (maybe not as much as Gae loves you:), but I ordered Stupid Fast). With my own writing I struggle with the "show" me part, but I am working on it. You nail it! Your "show" me details are vivid and the characters are awesome (so real). Can't wait to read more.

    1. Oh, and I'm so glad you liked The Pull of Gravity. It's actually nerve wracking to know some of you are reading it. Of course, I'd be lying if I said I didn't want you all to love it, but I know, just as always, it won't be everyone's cup of tea. I'm glad it was yours. :)

    2. Thanks, Andy. Hope you like Stupid Fast!

  26. Here is my excerpt from my MG manuscript. Any feedback would be great.

    “I need your help bringing these down to the neighbor’s house.” Grandma says.

    It sounds like we are on another adventure, but I know that it is not worth telling her that I don’t want to go. I know that I have no choice, so I grab the bags and follow her down the back stairs.

    We take a right, thank goodness, because for a minute I was thinking that we were heading back to the sand dunes to give the teenage partygoers some popsicles. We past three houses and start making our way down another beach path. This one leads us to a backyard filled with small children watching a movie on a huge bed sheet. They are so intently glued to the action of the movie that they don’t see us walk up. As soon as a little boy in the front, maybe six years old, sees Grandma, the kids go wild.

    “Grandma Birdie,” they scream, “Are you here to watch the end of the movie with us?”

    They gather around Grandma and all of them have huge smiles on their faces. There has to be about fifteen kids.

    Grandma quiets them down with a big group hug and then says, “I am here to watch the end of the movie, and I brought a special treat.”

    Thank you for taking the time to read.

    1. Andy, like this sweet section a lot and it's making me wonder about the Grandma and why she is so adored by this group of children (juxtaposed to her own grandchild who is clearly "over" her a bit ;)). I think that's a nice touch and am interested to read/learn more. A concern: my immediate assumption is that your MC is a boy because you are, but I'm not getting as clear MG boy as I want to -- it may be as simple as the word "goodness" in "thank goodness" that sounds either older and/or more female. I find in writing "boy" that eliminating even a few unnecessary words makes stuff read more boy so you are now the proud winner of a winner-winner-chicken-dinner-Polisner-superspeed-flash edit:

      “I need your help bringing these down to the neighbor’s house,” Grandma says.

      It sounds like we're off on another Grandma adventure. It's not worth telling her I don’t want to go, so I grab the bags and follow her down the back stairs.

      We take a right, which is good (?), because for a minute I think we're heading back to the sand dunes to give the teenage partygoers some popsicles, which I really don't want to do (?). We pass three houses and make our way down another beach path. This one leads to a backyard filled with small kids all watching a movie on a huge bed sheet. They're so glued to the action, they don’t see us walk up. As soon as a little boy in the front, maybe six years old, sees Grandma, the kids go wild.

      “Grandma Birdie,” they scream, “Are you here to watch the end of the movie with us?”

      They gather around Grandma, all with huge smiles on their faces. There have to be about fifteen of them.

      Grandma quiets them down with a big group hug and says, “I am here to watch the end of the movie, and I brought a special treat.”

      What do you say, Andy?

      Keep going!

    2. Gae,

      Your feedback is always greatly appreciated. I find that my own voice sometimes finds its way into the main character's voice. The main character, who is in eighth grade, probably would not say, "Thank goodness." But a thirty-nine year old, who lives with four women/girls (my poor son, although he will probably be loving his teenage years when all of their friends are around), would definitely say, "Thank goodness."

      Back to revising and writing - thanks again!

    3. Andy, all of this is ON-REVISION and NOT first-draft stuff! I only do it to make myself feel useful. :) Speaking of which, the word partygoers now pops out at me. What would an 8th grade boy call them?

      All food for thought but NOT STUFF to stop an excellent first draft that's on a roll. And, btw, lots of good show NOT tell going on here. Onward, my friend. :)

    4. Andy, I find myself wanting to know more about this Grandma. Who is she and why is she so great? Plus why are there children at every turn? I also think the child should be more realistic so that the Grandma can stand out. Does that make sense? I really like this and want to know more.

  27. Since I can't comment directly under Maria's excerpt, I hope she can hear (see?) me down here: THAT'S IT?? THAT'S ALL I (I mean we) GET??? After reading your library scene (which I really liked) and now this excerpt, I'm totally hooked. So ya better get on the stick and get it finished. I say that with love. :)

    1. *laughs* Thanks! I'm glad I scrolled down to see your comment here. I do have other chunks up on my blog. If you tweet me (@mselke01) if you're on twitter or hit up my blog you can find the longer piece.

      I'm struggling with a few key ideas in the story, and I sat down to try to outline out my thoughts today. I have some ideas for more scenes, but I'm still working my way toward the big picture ending..

  28. Geoff~I like the clash between these characters--it seems real and spot on. I, too, like the fact that Felton is bothered by his grandpa's disapproval. I also like the name "Felton." I suspect there is a lot more to this young man.

    1. Isn't Felton the best name ever?!?! It's so Felton. :)

  29. Here's my excerpt for the week from the same WIP, and this is the result of our library prompt:

    Lexie and I arrive at the library just as Angie, the youth librarian, is beginning the craft and gaming session. As soon as Lexie steps into the room, we’re greeted with a sing-songy chorus of, “Lexie! You’re here! Woo hoo!”

    Lexie squeals as she runs over to her little group of friends. I feel a smile tiptoe across my face as I watch them gleefully hug her. It looks like a vertical game of dog pile as they layer their hugs around her. The giggles and chatter of girls swells and fills the room; it’s sweet, really, and I get lost in the sheer beauty of the moment. I’ve pretty much forgotten what it was like to be their age and feel so carefree. I have to pull myself away because I have my own business to attend to while we’re here.

    I make a beeline to the computer so I can begin my research. My head is swimming with thoughts and worry and fear about what I might find. I keep seeing that girl Amanda from that talk show I saw at the mall. The girl with repressed childhood memories. I didn’t watch long enough to find out what her secrets were. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about her or what we might have in common.

    I’m still not sure how I feel about this whole repressed memory thing. I mean, they had a panel of experts on the subject who seemed to know what they were talking about. But still…I feel like I need to dig a little deeper than those sources I found the other day, which may or may not be legit. I guess I just want to know that I’m not crazy.

    Which is worse finding out you’re crazy or finding out a terrible truth?

    1. I love the descriptive phrases like "I feel a smile tiptoe across my face" and the "vertical dogpile". I'm curious about this MC and her possibly repressed memories. It seems like we are attacking similar themes in our stories - being crazy or having disturbing truths. Intriguing to see how that plays out!

    2. Me, too, Micki. Have nothing to say except: Yep, hooked. Yep, intrigued. And, I think you've written this little section really well!

      Keep going!

  30. Hooray! I loved this little bit, Geoff, and I definitely want more. In terms of maintaining the quirky voice but still writing about the serious issues, I think that's coming through. Quirky people aren't quirky all of the time, and I think those moments of seriousness come through here when he admits that he "runs angry" and that he was hurt that his Grandpa didn't look at him after the game. At the same time, though, the way he brushes off the questions about golf and runs off to "cherry bomb" the other two show more personality--the fact that he does it and the way that he tells it.

    Things I'm wondering after reading: Does he know why he "runs angry"? Does Grandpa Stan? Does Grandpa Stan have a past experience with football and/or sports impacting a person?

    1. Thanks! He's figuring out why he runs angry in the book. He has to deal with his penchant for crushing things to do that coming of age thing!

  31. Okay, I know it's late and I apologize for not posting earlier, but here's a bit from my WIP! Jonah is the older brother, Oakley the younger sister. I'm wondering if their voices are authentic, how old you think they might be, and just general feedback. They're coming off of a fight the night before, and they have some pretty big family issues that they are dealing with. This is the beginning of the scene...

    The house looks pretty dark as I pull into the driveway, but I can imagine what is happening inside: dad sits, half asleep in the arm chair, “watching” the news. Mom talks incessantly on the phone with one of her many girlfriends. Oakley is in her room. Actually, I don’t really know what it is that Oakley does these days. I sit quietly in the car for a moment, collecting both my thoughts and my belongings, and then head inside.
    Passing Dad in his armchair, I notice Oakley’s feet sticking into the hallway, and they seem to be coming out of the dining room. “Oates? What are you doing?”
    “Come look!” When I turn the corner, I no longer know where it is safe to step. She has covered the floor of our small dining room with old pictures and the boxes from which they came. “You were such a silly-looking baby,” she says, holding up a photo.
    “You’re such a slob!” I choose to ignore the picture, but part of me can’t help but smile. “Oakley,” I say quietly, “we need to talk about things.”
    She looks up, almost surprised. “Yea? Yeah, I know. Help me clean up?” I nod, and we begin to put back together the catalogue of our lives together, placing each photo in its place.

  32. Megan, I actually love this lovely little scene. I think it's well written, and the relationship between brother and sister is appealing - you capture the affection beautifully, and that alone makes me want to read more about them. The only thing I wonder is whether Jonah's boyness comes through -- and there's not really enough to go on here to tell. But my urge with boys is always to pull back, get rid of, any excess descriptions or words. There aren't many here, really, but I'll do it anyway. Someone other than me should chime in when I do this and yay or nay it. I'm not always right. I swear I don't know everything. Or much. Or anything. :)


    The house looks pretty dark as I pull into the driveway, but I can imagine what's happening inside: dad sits half asleep in his arm chair “watching” the news. Mom talks incessantly on the phone with one of her friends. Oakley is in her room. Actually, I don’t really know what it is Oakley does these days. I sit quietly in the car for a minute (*I always think moment isn't a "boy" word -- i have two boys and all their boy friends and have never heard them use the word*), collecting my thoughts and my things, then head inside.
    Passing Dad in his chair, I notice Oakley’s feet sticking into the hallway from the dining room. “Oates? What are you doing?”
    “Come look!” When I turn the corner, I don't know where it's safe to step. She's covered the floor of our small dining room with old pictures and the boxes they came from. “You were such a silly-looking baby,” she says, holding up a photo.
    “And, you’re a slob!” I choose to ignore the picture, but part of me can’t help but smile. “Oakley,” I say quietly, “we need to talk about things.”
    She looks up, almost surprised. “Yea? Yeah, I know. Help me clean up?” I nod, and we begin to put back together the catalogue of our lives together, placing each photo in its place.

    Small things... food for thought. Maybe non-essential. :) Keep going! Love it.

    1. Oh, and btw, as for their ages feeling authentic, I don't know their exact ages but I do feel an older and younger sib thing going on, so good job. Also, next week's Friday Feedback will be all about "guessing the age." Terrified to put my crap on the line. You can all have at me, but not at my lovely guest, Margo. :)

  33. Thanks! That bit about pulling back on the boy voice helps a lot, actually. The first part is told in Oakley's point of view, and I've just recently switched to Jonah's, but I've been having trouble distinguishing the two voices on the page. Thinking about diction will help, I think!

    1. I like the section, too. I'll disagree a tiny touch with Gae, though. I think narrator voice (descriptions, too) depend on your character attributes and the biography of that character. Boys maybe tend to talk less than girls, but if there is a reason (like a boy who grows up with a single mom) that he expresses differently, it's good to stick with it, because there are definitely readers who will identify with a voice that grows from a real feeling constellation of life experiences (that's why I write the heck out of character biographies, even though most of it never gets into a book).

    2. Actually, I want to TOTALLY agree with Geoff here... and to some extent, I think i just wasn't eloquent...

      Felton is ridiculously chatty/wordy at times, on word-fire at times, and it always works...

      I still think there are word choices that rarely feel boy (even if a real boy somewhere might use them) - or a level of description that can tend to read female vs. male if too descriptive in a particular way...

      but Geoff is right, of course, that if there is a reason that YOUR character expresses the way he does, then you should absolutely stick with it and that would be gleaned from a whole rather than an excerpt.

      Thanks, Geoff. By the way, maybe if we all beg, Geoff will come back and talk about writing character biographies... ;)

    3. (and glad to see your Wifi is fixed and you are home safe... )

    4. Thanks! I like the idea of writing character biographies. I've been writing a lot of things on the side, things to help me figure out what my characters are up to and why, but I hadn't thought of writing out a more uniform biography like that. I'll have to give it a try!

  34. Two things:

    Here's a link to an interview I did on writing authentic teen voice esp. for boys in 2010 on my pal Randy Rusell's blog -- hard to believe I can claim to be an authority on this (or anything ;)) but one of the consistent pieces of praise I've received on TPoG even from the big reviewers is on my authentic teen boy voice so I'm grabbing the accolade where I can: (there's a second part he links to, too); and

    Just got a love note from Geoff in my email (man was it hot and sultry -- yes it was, shut up) but it also informed me his Wifi is down (and he's traveling right now)so HE MAY NOT BE HERE UNTIL TOMORROW when he gets home. So stay tuned for his feedback tomorrow if not today.

    xox gae

  35. *waves at Gae* I'm looking forward to next Friday's fun and age-authentic voice feedback session with everyone from Teachers Write! Ummm, not sure about the "age" part -- it sounds scary. :)