Thursday, July 19, 2012

Friday Feedback: Our Inner Crazy Lady (or Dude) & a Pulse-Pounding Excerpt

Sarah and me with one huggable Paul Hankins who snuck in -
okay, maybe not snuck - last spring. :)
Hello, all my Teachers Write! (and other lurky?) lovelies!

It's FRIDAY FEEDBACK, and you know what that means?! (If you don't, go HERE).

Today, I'm lucky to have Sarah Darer Littman*

("Want To Go Private?") with me for two (well really, a dozen) reasons.

First, I love and adore her, and second (omg, omg!) she did ALL the hard blog post work for me today!

Especially, with our Teachers Write! Virtual Progress Pool Party Chat & Read Aloud all day tomorrow (are you signed up?!**), and my Frankie revisions due date looming just around the summery corner, I am so grateful for that.

Speaking of which, you won't likely see me back here in the comments until Saturday or even Sunday. . .

that looks about right. . . grrr.
(having a little birthday party for myself on Saturday . . . ;) but I'm sure Sarah will hold down the fort, though not until midday as she has a political column due! #busybusyJuly!

So, without further ado (though maybe with some minor chiming in by me -- hey, it's my blog, you know the drill), HEEEEERE's Sarah!

(er, that is a Johnny Carson intro, not a Shining One!):

Hello Teachers Write Campers! I hope you are enjoying your summer and writing, writing, writing!

I should probably say something profound and inspirational, but I'm a Jewish mother, so first I'm going to nag you and kvetch about my health a little. Campers, make sure you are writing in an ergonomic position. I have learned about this the hard way. Two years ago I had to have surgery for tennis elbow that was triggered by tennis but aggravated by laptop work in a non-ergonomic position. These days I'm dealing with a really delightful combo of tendonitis and the beginning of carpal tunnel. So take it from Mama Littman (as I'm known amongst my daughter's friends): Look after your health while you write. Otherwise you end up taking pills for inflammation that upset your stomach and then you can't drink ICED COFFEE, the Heaven sent nectar of the writer. This is not good. Take it from me.

My friend Irene posted this cartoon on my Facebook recently and asked me if it was true for me:

I told her I can go through all of those emotions several times in the course of a day. That's why I've become a firm believer in Anne Lamott's concept of a "shitty first draft", as elaborated in BIRD BY BIRD - one of the best books on writing. I try to write my first drafts as fast as possible, to try and trick my inner crazy lady. On the days when I feel like what I've written is total drek, I just repeat: "It's just a first draft. Revision is where the magic happens."

(me: hah! Inner Crazy Lady! I think I house a couple of those! In fact, anyone watching me on my private [stupid, ridiculous, inane] private facebook page this month would have seen these highs & lows of "I'm brilliant!"/"I suck!" played out in my status updates right before their very eyes!)

With that in mind, I give you the opening of a WIP that had a title but now doesn't. The previous title made my agent think of a bodice ripper. She had a point.

(me: it's not a boddice ripper, but it is a pulse pounder! Thanks for sharing, Sarah!)

The Humvee speeds down the road, creating a wake of dust. My mother is inside, grey eyes alert, watching for danger. The knuckles clutching her medic bag are white, but she's ready to jump out the minute the vehicle stops to do her job; to tend to the injured, to try to save lives. It's her mission. It's what she was trained to do. But I know what's hidden up ahead. I try calling out to warn her, to warn the driver to stop, slam on the brakes, to turn back, change course.

My lips move but nothing comes out. I'm shouting but nobody hears me. The Humvee keeps speeding towards the hidden IED. My blood is racing; my heart feels like it's going to break through my rib cage. I try screaming but it's as if someone has reached into my throat and torn out my vocal chords, leaving me helpless to save them. My mouth is still open, rounded in a pained, soundless scream when the weight of the Humvee triggers the IED in a fiery explosion. Metal, glass, and body parts go flying.They're dead, and it's all my fault.

I'm woken up by the sound of my own sobbing, the pillowcase soaked with tears. It's three twenty-three, according to the alarm clock.  Mid morning in Iraq. Mom could be out on a mission. What if it's not a dream? What if she's really going down the road in a Hummer toward danger, and I could have saved her, somehow?

Stop it, Madison!

I stare up into the darkness, taking deep breaths, willing my heart to slow its frantic cadence.

It’s just a dream. She’s safe.

The words are my mantra, the charm I use to dispel the hazy remnants of the same dream I've been having every few weeks since my mother deployed ten months ago.

- Sarah (& gae)

*p.s. for more about Sarah, find her on facebook and twitter @sarahdarerlitt!

** If you're not signed up, it may not be too late for you to pop in for a session. Follow me on Spreecast and go to the fb events page and I'll let you in!


  1. Wow! Can I just first say how exciting it is for me to see a book like this written about a MOM who is deployed? Thank you for that. Not that I come from a military family - but my feminism seems to have been reactivated lately and I'm always on the lookout for books that buck the "what girls do" trends.

    I am hooked. Not knowing much about the story, I started thinking there was some sort of premonition or special powers involved with the MC - but the transition to her having a dream was smooth. I'm definitely interested in seeing how the story plays out. It's easy to find books for kids about "old" wars... and not so easy to find something about more recent events.

  2. Okay - my story. I debated exposing myself and posting a snippet from the story I wrote 12 years ago (and adored at the time) but now don't know what to do with. It's too short to be a novel but too long for a picture book. Maybe another week.

    So instead I'm putting up another chunk of the lives of Megs and Cassie.

    “Cassandra and Meghan, we need to get going!”

    I stuck my head out the window, hollered, “Almost done, Aunt D!” and scooped up the last of my books and notepads. Jammed them into my bag on top of my neatly folded clothing. Cassie laughed.

    “Relax, Megs. We don’t really need to go yet. My mom is making us leave way too early, and we’ll get stuck sitting around for hours. I’m not even packed yet.”

    “God Cassie, get moving!” I tossed a pillow at her head. “If she decides to leave us home, I’ll kill you!”

    “Must you bring all those books, Meg? Can’t you leave them home?” Cass grunted as she picked up one of my bags.

    “Only if you abandon your sketch pad.”

    We glared at each other for a moment. Burst into laughter. Linked arms and dashed out my door.

    1. In that short paragraph you've done a great job of establishing their sort of Oscar and Felix relationship (Meg is packed and ready to go and Cassie is all chill and hasn't even started packing yet.) The only thing that threw me a bit was the partial sentences. Those can be very effective if used sparingly, but if you overuse them, they jar the reader. I think you could rewrite those in full sentences without compromising Meg's voice and it would read better.

    2. Also I think you should totally go for it and post the 12 year old story! : )

    3. Thanks :) I have a tendency toward long, laborious sentences so I was experimenting with the fragment thing. Guess I went a little overboard. I'll play around it with some more.

    4. Oh, I totally understand that! I tell my creative writing kids that I write like I talk - I LOT! My first drafts are rambling, wordy messes. But they are there to get the story down on paper, because if I don't do that I have nothing to revise, and revising is what I enjoy doing much more that actually writing! When I tell kids in schools this they look at me like I am totally cray cray, but I tell them it's the truth. Revision is where the magic really happens.

    5. Hi Maria,

      I love that one minute they're fighting and the next they're walking arm and arm. Great job!

    6. Maria, LOVE this scene -- can feel it -- and see these girls! Having said that, agree with Sarah, and watch the "leave..." and "leave home" repetition here:

      My mom is making us leave way too early, and we’ll get stuck sitting around for hours. I’m not even packed yet.”

      “God Cassie, get moving!” I tossed a pillow at her head. “If she decides to leave us home, I’ll kill you!”

      “Must you bring all those books, Meg? Can’t you leave them home?”

    7. Thanks, Gae. That's what I get for posting a first draft :) I can't believe I didn't notice that. *chuckles*

  3. Hi Sarah,

    I also found this exciting. I don't tend to be attracted to military-themed books. Despite that, it was the addition of magic and premonition, as Maria noted, that makes me want to know more. I wasn't expecting this to be a dream, too. At first I thought all was safe, until we find out that this is a repetitious dream. Why did she think she could save her mom? Wishful thinking or does she have the powers to do so? Makes me want to read on!

  4. Sunlight was poring into the cave when I awoke. Everything had completely stopped: the rain, the howling cats, the light. It had only been eight hours since we left the mainland, but I felt like we had been gone for a month with no sleep. We were both so exhausted that we feel asleep on the dry, gravelly earth before we knew it.

    I looked at Melvin, curled up in a ball, snoring away. Of all people I had to be stuck with on an island, why did it have to be him? We were in so much serious trouble, and Melvin was just dead weight, completely useless. I sighed thinking of all the people I wished could be here instead: Superman or Batman, for instance. Orville Wright could fly us right out of here. Even Marcus, the class bully, would be a bigger help than Melvin—he could fight his way out of this mess. I was almost starting to like Melvin, what with all his basketball and sailing knowledge. But right now, I hated him. I hated how he cried, how he got excited over stupid things, I hated his ridiculous butterfly collection. I just wanted to get away from him and this horrible, weird island.

    I stared out at the dense brush and swaying trees. Everything looked so innocent and beautiful in the morning sun, all golden and freshly washed. The more I watched the beauty before me, the more hopeful I became. It wasn’t just what I was seeing, but an important thought was forming in my mind, growing larger and more exciting. Melvin’s boat!! Not that blown-to-smithereens sailboat, but the one he built himself! Melvin knew how to build boats! And with all those trees out there, building a boat for Melvin would probably be a synch!

    “Melvin!! Wake up!!”

    1. I love her realization that Melvin isn't quite the useless dead weight she'd pegged him as, and I wonder if you could even play that up even more, either through dialogue with Melvin (like making him part of that reveal) or having her see Melvin do things. (I've only seen this snippet, so forgive me if you've already revealed enough for her to do that.) I just love the fact that she is seeing him in a different light and would love to see it be more gradual rather than a "lightbulb moment".

    2. Thanks, Sarah! I will give this some thought. I did have earlier dialogue where things were better (the basketball part, which isn't here), but maybe I should put a more gradual part here, too, not sure.

    3. Hi Diane,

      I love Melvin! Your MC's dislike for him helps the reader like him. Nice job!

      I love the MC's sudden realization, too! It made me laugh. :)

    4. Diane, totally enjoyed this! The sudden realization is working okay for me too. I dunno, I'm rooting for Melvin! :)

  5. Good morning! I got up early to finish my political column because it's MUCH more fun to talk writing and WIP's and inner crazy ladies and gentlemen with y'all than about crazy politicians : )

    Thank you for the kind words about the opening of my new WIP. Even after having written five books (this is the opening to book six, I'm currently doing a major rip it to shreds revise of book five) it's still nerve-wracking to expose work in its infancy.

    1. So true! I wanted to do some "hand wringing" before posting mine. I try to remember that what I'm posting here is first draft work. My Crazy Inner Lady gives me a really hard time, and I have just close my eyes and give her the finger.

  6. Sarah- I am also hooked. What a great scene! I could really feel the daughter's terror. This is something so many young people can relate to in our world. Can't wait to read it. I just downloaded WANT TO GO PRIVATE on my Kindle and am anxious to start it.

    Here is a bit of my WIP. Thanks for any suggestions you or anyone can give. Georgia

    Questions swam in the darkness in and out of my head. I felt the cold pavers under my cheek, but I couldn’t lift my head. I couldn’t hear anyone, but I sensed someone nearby. My name is Maggie Palmer. I wanted to yell and scream, but no words came out of my mouth. They only dog paddled around in my head in the darkness.

    My mouth was dry and my tongue was heavy and felt like it was stuck to the roof of my mouth. I tried and tried, but I couldn’t open my eyes. I am Maggie Palmer. My body seemed to have a mind of its own and was not listening to the signals I felt sure I was sending to my various appendages. Maybe I just thought I was trying to open my eyes and pry my dry mouth open to call out. I saw myself lying on the ground as if I was having an out-of-body experience.

    Rain drops began to slowly fall. I could feel a gentle pit-pat as they fell on my face. The rain escalated quickly from soft and somewhat refreshing to a harsher more biting p-p-p-p-p like a paintball gun repeatedly firing. Each raindrop slammed against my immobile body with a vengeance. I couldn’t move. My head remained like a much too heavy weight at the gym that, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t lift. My name is Maggie Palmer, and I can’t lift my head.

    As the earth around me became soaked, I smelled the mud and the wet, sweet oleanders nearby. I could smell. That must be a good thing. Right? I heard someone moving near me – squishing in the drenched grass; the footsteps reached the gravel path nearby and made a soft crunch, crunch, crunch as they moved in the opposite direction. I caught the bass tones of the spheres wind chimes that hung in the old oak tree. Its lonely sound echoed my own feelings. It made me feel like I was alone even though I knew someone was nearby, or at least they were until just now. My name is Maggie Palmer, and I am alone - maybe.

    1. Hi Georgia - and thanks for buying WTGP!

      I love the tension you've set up with the repetition of "My name is Maggie Palmer...etc" in each paragraph, culminating with "I am alone...maybe." (and personally I would change it from an em dash to an elipse because dot dot dot seems more ominous)

      My one suggestion would be to read it out loud to help you hear the parts where you can tighten up your descriptions to increase the tension even more. When writing a tension filled scene, you don't want extraneous language. Keep it crisp and clean. But I definitely want to know what has happened to Maggie and who is crunching around on the gravel!

    2. Great job, Georgia!

      I am so curious to know what happened to Maggie to get her to this situation and what will happen next! I'd defintely read more to find out.

      I really like Sarah's suggestion of ... instead of - . I've never thought of that difference before.

      Good luck!

  7. Replies
    1. Thank you, Georgia! I have been partying it up! :)

      I agree with Sarah's comments completely: I find that the sparer tension scenes are, the, well, more tense they are... because otherwise they almost become self conscious and that takes away from the immediacy. The cool thing is, you have the tension really well written here -- if overwritten (IMHO) and it's way easier to pull back than not to have it in the first place. :) so, with that said, taking the liberty to do a superspeed flash edit to show how it can make the action pop more and feel more intense? Maybe? You tell me? (remember, doing this fast... not the end all be all of ways to go):

      Questions swam in the darkness, in and out of my head. I felt the cold pavers under my cheek, but couldn’t lift my head. I couldn’t hear anyone, but sensed someone nearby. My name is Maggie Palmer, I wanted to yell, but no words came out.

      My mouth dry and tongue heavy, I tried again, but couldn’t open my eyes. I am Maggie Palmer. My body seemed to have a mind of its own. Maybe I just thought I was trying to open my eyes, to call out. I saw myself lying on the ground as if I was having an out-of-body experience.

      Rain drops began to fall, a gentle pit-pat as they fell on my face. The rain escalated quickly. P-p-p-p, biting like a paintball gun firing. Each raindrop slammed my body with a vengeance, but I couldn’t move, my head a dead weight. My name is Maggie Palmer, and I can’t lift my head.

      As the earth around me became soaked, I smelled the mud and the wet, sweet oleanders nearby. I could smell. That must be a good thing. Right? I heard someone moving near me – squishing in the drenched grass; the footsteps crunching in the gravel path nearby in the opposite direction. I caught the bass tones of the wind chimes that hung in the old oak tree. Its lonely sound echoed my own, that I was alone even if someone was nearby. My name is Maggie Palmer, and I am alone - maybe.

  8. Hi Sarah,

    WOW! That is an awesome, action-packed excerpt. Your writing as such vivid details - I can visualize the action so easily and the conclusion is so interesting and makes the reader want to read more. Also, I loved the advice and the cartoon.:)

  9. Gae - HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU! I hope that you celebrate with a swim!:) I never realized what a cake with 30 candles looked like.;) Enjoy your day!

    1. I'll let you know when I take 18 candles off, Andy. ;) Although that seems scarily like a math problem. *shudders* (So much fun to see you at the spreecast Friday!!)

  10. Here is my excerpt:
    “Excuse me, young lady. All of the late busses have already left. Why are you still in the building?” The librarian says while she glares at me from behind the circulation desk.

    “Ms. Dudley, it’s me Emma Cummings. I’m the eighth grader in House 2 that always comes in looking for the newest mystery novels.” I reply, knowing that she is awful at placing names with faces. How can a school librarian not remember the students by their faces? How does she recommend good books to kids if she can’t remember them?

    “You didn’t answer my question. Why are you still in the building?”

    “I was supposed to have swim practice with the boys, but Coach Becker won’t let the girls swim until 5:00, so I have to wait here at school until practice. Can I sit in here and do my homework? I could sit in the pool hallway, but it’s damp and cold. It’s so warm and quiet in here.” I sound like I’m begging. Really, I’m kissing up with hopes that she will let me stay in the library.

    “I guess you can stay,” she sighs and continues, “but the only reason I am letting you stay is because I have to teach a university class in the back of the library. I should phone the principal, but I know that he has left for the day. This is a one time deal, so don’t get stuck here at school again.”

    “Thank you. I will be as quiet as a library mouse,” I say jokingly.

    “We don’t have any mice in the library,” she answers sternly. She begins to head towards the back of the library, but turns around, her demeanor has completely changed and says, “How is your sister doing?”

    Thank you very much for taking the time to read! Have a great weekend!

  11. Hi Andy - at an event when my first book, CONFESSIONS OF A CLOSET CATHOLIC came out, a girl who must have been about 10 asked me a fantastic question. "If you could go back and change anything about your book, since it's been published, what would it be?" This is one of the reasons I love writing for young people - they ask the best questions! My answer was that I would go back and edit out the adverbs, and that's my advice to you. After Confessions was published, I read Stephen King's ON WRITING, which I highly recommend. I can't read his horror novels, because after I read IT I was afraid to go to the bathroom for weeks. (Pennywise the Clown...AAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!!) But King says, "The adverb is not your friend," and he's right. Well written dialogue can convey tone without having to resort to adverbs, which slow down the pace. For example, I think we've already got enough of an idea of both Emma's and Ms. Dudley's personalities that we know Emma is joking when she says she'll be as quiet as a mouse and Ms. Dudley IS NOT AMUSED when she says there aren't any mice in HER library! : ) Trust yourself and the reader and take out those adverbs!

    1. Thank you VERY much!

    2. Hi Andy!

      I like this! I especially like the librarian's attitude! I love that whole exchange about how can she suggest books if she can't remember the kids.

      I read King's On Writing too. I'd forgotten that part about the adverbs. That's good advice! The part that stuck with me was "kill your darlings." I don't know who coined that phrase, but they are a genius.

      Keep writing, Andy! I'd like to see more of this.

    3. Elmore Leonard agrees with King on that one (as do most of those bigwigs who chime in on writing do's and don'ts). Seriously, his ten rules are a quick and easy writing "cheat" bible. ****

      Also, and I keep pushing you here and feel your "teacher's resisitance" ;) -- you don't have to write stuff full out ESPECIALLY in dialogue. Read aloud to yourself and tell me these two things about this paragraph: would the librarian say "I am letting you stay" or "I'm letting you stay?" Since she's a librarian, the answer may be "I am," but once you switch to your teen, maybe not so much. Also, would she be so specific to say she has to teach the class "in the back of the library" or just "have to teach a class now." ?? Read your dialogue aloud and make sure it's the informality with which we speak and provide information vs. the detail you *think* has to be in the story?!

      Keep going, Andy! I love getting to read your work and seeing you grow. And the excerpt you read was TERRIFIC!!!

      “I guess you can stay,” she sighs and continues, “but the only reason I am letting you stay is because I have to teach a university class in the back of the library. I should phone the principal, but I know that he has left for the day. This is a one time deal, so don’t get stuck here at school again.”

  12. Hi Sarah,

    I was just thinking the other day that there needed to be more books written for kids and teens whose parents are deployed. Very timely!

    I love how you describe her fear - wanting to warn her mother but not being able to- as if someone had torn out her vocal cords. I agree with Andy, lots of action here!

    Okay, here's something I finished last night, so it's a little rough. Still working on Harold (MG). Jake thinks he's gotten rid of Harold, but when second semester rolls around they both get Orchestra as a Connections class. Harold choice it and Jake got out in it randomly. (I know that typically doesn't happen. I'm trying to figure out a way to sell that idea).Thanks!

    “I hope I get to play the violin. I want to play the violin,” Harold repeated.

    Mr. Phillips hit his little stick on the black stand and said, “Alright, future musicians, let’s get started.” He went on to explain that while not everyone might have chosen to be in orchestra, he hoped we would all “possess the proper positive attitude necessary to become a skilled member of the orchestra.” See, there’s the perfect reason why I don’t belong here—I don’t possess even an improper positive attitude.

    He explained that all the students new to orchestra could pick their own instruments from a selection he had available and he began to call us alphabetically up to his podium to make our selections.

    Because there was a chance I might be in here for a few days until everything could get straightened out, I decided it was best to stay clear of the violin. I didn’t want to sit next to Harold even for a few days.

    When Harold came back with a violin he was almost as excited as when he watched the Yankees play. He went on and on about bow placement and the strings and how the violin was made.

    “Calm down, Harold. It’s middle school orchestra, not Carnegie Hall.”

    “Jacob Thomas,” Mr. Phillips called.

    I walked up to the podium and said, “I’ll take anything except a violin.”

    “Well, Mr. Thomas, it’s taken a while to get the Ts and I only have a few violas and a triangle left. Which shall it be?”

    Okay, I’m no expert, but the triangle? That’s just lame.

    “Is the square available?” I asked. Mr. Phillips just looked at me. Man, the teachers here are a tough crowd.

    What the heck, I won’t be here past Wednesday. “I’ll take the viola.”

    Mr. Phillips handed me something that looked JUST LIKE A VIOLIN.

    I handed it back to Mr. Phillips and said, “I’ll take the viola, Mr. Phillips.”

    “This is a viola, Mr. Thomas. It’s similar to the violin, but as you can see it’s larger than the violin. Also, music for the viola is written in C clef and it’s written in treble clef for the violin.”


    Mr. Phillips handed it back to me. “I think I’ll take the triangle,” I said as I handed the viola back to him.

    “Mr. Thomas, I’ve already written your name by the viola and I don’t like to erase. You’ll take the viola.”

    Okay, I’ll take the viola. And then on Thursday, I’ll give it back.

    When I sat back down Lucy said, “You got a viola! Violas sit right next to the violins, you know.” Harold heard her and he said, “Jake, violas sit next to the violins.”

    “So I’ve heard.”

    1. Happy Birthday, Gae! And thanks for putting together the spreecast today!

  13. I love Jake's snarky voice! "Is the square available?" (LOLOLOLOL!) My only suggestion would be to maybe show us, with a brief snippet of dialogue, a little bit of Harold "going on and on" about the violin. Right now we just have Jake telling us about how annoying he is about it, but I think if you started Harold waxing lyrical about violins so we get a flavor of Harold's voice and enthusiasm (perhaps OVER enthusiasm) for his subject and then break away to Jake telling us that he is going on and on and the great line about it not being Carnegie Hall, it will flesh out the scene a bit more. Keep writing - I want to hear more of Jake's snark. (I love snark - it's what I live with EVERY DAY with my own teenagers : )

    1. Great suggestion, Sarah! I can do that. I tend to be too brief and resort to telling instead of showing.


  14. Hey, you just finished it last night, right? I tend to be too WORDY in my first drafts, and in my wordiness I also tell rather than show. But again, that's when I tell the Inner Crazy Lady to shut up and let me finish the first draft because I'll fix it in revision. Right now I'm doing a major revision and I'm cutting mercilessly and thinking about deeper issues like theme and pacing. The important thing is to know your process and get the first draft on paper!

  15. Yep, last night. I think it's funny that most folks write too much at first and then have to cut. I always write too little and then have to go back and put more description, dialogue, setting, etc. It drives me nuts!

    1. Thanks for the birthday wishes, and yay to managing to get you on Spreecast (finally!). I, too, LOVE the snark and funny in here, and have, in a few short snippets grown to love Jake and Harold. Since it's rough and newly written, all I'll say is an enthusiastic "Keep going!"

  16. Replies
    1. thank you, Mary! It has been. :) #lucky

    2. Okay, here's the point in my birthday weekend where I suddenly BADLY need a nap. Off to catch some zzzz's in the sun. Will return later to finish up!

      xox to all

  17. It was such a fun day hanging out on Spreecast and so many people from Gae's Friday Feedback and Teachers Write! Thanks again to Gae and everyone who joined in! I needed a break after all the fun but didn't want to miss sharing more of my WIP.

    Sarah - I am totally gripped by the excerpt your shared! I find that reading helps me identify with situations I have never experienced for myself and like Maria said, we need more books about kids with experience in a current/recent war. I can't wait to read more!

    Here's a bit of my current WIP - I'm the girliest girly girl in my writing - just to warn you. ;)


    "Do you have any plans for Friday night?" he asks as he bends over to retie his shoe.

    My forehead crinkles like a failed paper airplane, thinking of my Friday plans. Then my eyes go wide as I realize this is him asking me out for real this time and I stammer, “I, uh, I have to help my mom get ready for her anniversary party on Saturday night. I could probably be free around eight though. What do you have in mind?”

    “Do you want to come over and watch a movie?”

    After-work. Actually, at night. Me. Theo. A movie…that has to be considered a date, right? A date! He straightens up and looks at me, waiting. A small smile forms on my lips and I bite my lip and respond, “Sure. Want me to stop at Red Box on my way over?”


    Thanks for reading!!!

  18. Hi Jen - No need to apologize for being a girly girl! : ) I love the last paragraph where it's a gradual processing of after work. At a movie = a date, and I wonder if you take out the part in the 2nd paragraph about her realizing that he's asking her out for real this time it makes this gradual recognition in the 4th paragraph all the more meaningful. (And if she's kind of awkward and dopey about this stuff like me, it's more how her mind would work ie/ takes a while for the "he's asking me out on a date" penny to drop).

    Two other things - "the forehead crinkling like a failed paper airplane" distracted my squirrel brain, because I started thinking about how the airplane would be folded and ...yeah. I think maybe a different metaphor? You don't want to get squirrel brain readers like me going off on crazy tangents instead of paying attention to your story.

    Last thing - In the last sentence: my crazy squirrel brain had me opening up Photo Booth to try and smile while biting my lip because I got distracted by wondering if she could do that. Based on my purely unscientific but not very pretty results, I think she'd scare Theo off! So I would advise she either smiles (my recommendation) or bites her lip (tends to be overdone in YA lit and x100 for 50 Shades of Grey).

  19. oh, wait! Jen was the last one... never mind. Going back to read! :)

    1. Okay, agree with Sarah on ALL her points! Especially, STOP apologizing for your (FABULOUS!!!) girly voice. Btw, girly voice?: SELLS!!! :)