Friday, July 5, 2013

Friday Feedback, Drafty First Drafts and Painting a Chair


Me, proudly sporting my Geneseo pride on
behalf of my son. 
Somehow, it's already time for another Friday Feedback. 

Hope you all had a happy fourth! Now, to slow summer down.

You heard me, Summer! I really, really need you to slow down.  

Yeah, yeah, I know. Time waits for no one, whatever.

At any rate, I finally returned from my sundry travels, the last bit to attend college orientation with our son. I was really impressed with the quality of things at the school and am excited for my son's future, which is not to say, come August, I won't be endlessly (endlessly!) weepy.

Meanwhile, I have another wonderful guest host today (the summer is chock-full of them, wait till you see!): my Class of 2K11 now "The Graduates" cohort, the lovely Alissa Grosso. . .

I asked Alissa for a photo. She sent this one and said, 
"this is a picture of me being goofy. If you'd prefer a more serious mugshot, I can comply."
Hmm. Sort of tempted to see the mugshot. Come on, Alissa, fess up!**



Alissa is the author of PopularFerocity Summer and . . .

releasing THIS MONDAY, her third amazing book, Shallow Pond.

"Everyone in Shallow Pond 
knows the Bunting Sisters. 

Nobody knows their Secrets.
From Amazon:


Annie is the oldest. The sickly one who gave up on her own life so she could raise her sisters after their parents died. Gracie is the wild child. She wants a man so bad, she’ll do anything it takes to get one. Barbara, the youngest, hates being constantly mistaken for her sisters. She wants nothing more than to finish senior year and get out of Shallow Pond—before she succumbs to her unwanted attraction to the new boy in town, Zach Faraday.
When Annie’s enigmatic illness takes a turn for the worse, Barbara begins to search for the truth of her family’s past. But Shallow Pond offers only lies and deceit. The one thing Barbara can trust is her halting connection to Zach—an unsettling bond that may be the answer to a mystery that doesn’t want to be solved."

*Gae tosses confetti and waves sparklers to congratulate Alissa on her THIRD book.*

Doesn't that sound SO good?! Alissa writes terrific stories with dark, troubled characters and plot twists galore. Like all my guest authors, she'll be spending lots of time here today and tomorrow, so please check out her books, and add them to your TBR lists, your classrooms, and/or libraries!

Before Alissa gets going, if this is your first time here, or you don't know the Friday Feedback Rules, please go read them HERE now. And, do please remember that your excerpts should be no longer than five (count em, 5!) paragraphs if short, three (3!) if long, and please don't post them after Sunday morning.

So, without further ado, here's Alissa:

I'm excited to be a guest on Friday Feedback this week, because I just finished the first draft of my current work in progress. From experience, I can say that means I am nowhere near done, but still this small milestone is a cause for celebration in my writer world. As I get set to knuckle down and turn this mess of words into something that more or less resembles a novel, I'm going to share some ideas on revision, and how I go about things.

First of all, I should explain what I mean by first draft. To me, a first draft is a mostly complete version of the novel that is very rough in some parts. It's at about 60,000ish words right now, and from experience I can say that number could change by 5,000 in either direction depending on the course of those revisions.

Once I type the last word of my first draft, I email a copy of it to my secondary email address for backup purposes. (note from Gae: I am constantly emailing copies of my manuscripts to my husband's and my own email address, at the end of most every day. He knows to just delete the last one and save the most recent one). Then I walk away from the manuscript. I move onto something else, maybe sketch out some ideas for another book or take a short writing break. 

In my case, I decided to paint a chair.   
Revision = a blue chair.

Why? Because I had an ugly one and I saw this project online. Of course, I decided to do this during the most humid week ever and so the paint won't dry, and I'm stuck with a half painted, wet chair. I should have sketched out some ideas for a new book.

After maybe a week or so, I'll go back through and try to fix up the gaping holes (I think she means in the draft manuscript and not the chair!) and the really glaring grammar problems, which abound. 

I know the difference between there, their and they're, but when I'm typing at a million miles an hour to complete a passage I'm not worried about these differences. I'll even do really goofy things like type won instead of one. There are reasons I don't like to share my first drafts with others. 

There are other things like things that just say Mr. X because in Chapter 25, I couldn't remember the name of the gym teacher I introduced in Chapter 1. (omg, I do this too! I feel so much better. Sometimes, I'll use an actual name not sure if it's the right name and then I'll think, Ooh, I like that name so much better!) 

Then there are the really lazy things that say, "INSERT SOMETHING FUNNY HERE." I'm not making this up, I actually do this to myself. (yep, yep, again, me too! Or, say, "google a cool fact about butterflies and insert here" or, just today,"insert what they eat in Hong Kong.") It's okay, though, it's a first draft. That's allowed.

Alissa's binders of printed manuscripts,
plus "glue from some other
ill-advised
project."
At this point, my manuscript is still just words on a computer screen, but that's about to change. The next step is to print everything out. I love 3-hole punch paper. I love my laser printer. I take my manuscript and put it into a binder.

Now, suddenly, it's a book!

(ooh, nice trick. I have about three unpublished manuscripts. Maybe if I just put them in binders, I could pretend...)

I grab a colored pen. Red's my favorite, but any color will do, and now I read through my book, this time with the aim of polishing things. Passages that are too clunky or don't make sense are refined or crossed out completely. Words are replaced, paragraphs are rewritten and new paragraphs are added. This sort of revision is intensive work, and is best tackled in small chunks. I usually give myself a couple of weeks to get through this stage of the revision.

Once I'm done, I sit back down at the computer and transfer all these on paper to changes to the computer document. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking I could save a tree and the money I spend on toner not to mention the time that all this takes and just do all of this right on the computer screen, but the reading the book on paper is part of the process for me. I see things and catch things that I miss on the screen. I know some writers who swear by the practice of reading their manuscripts out loud. I urge you to try out different methods to find what works for you. (I do both the hard copy thing and, constantly, the reading aloud thing, but with the hard copy thing, what happens for me is that I make it about a third of the way through, begin to feel overwhelmed, start inputting my revisions onto the computer copy, and three weeks later find myself working straight on the screen without ever having finished revising the hard copy. Hey, it still works most the time!)

Once these changes have all been made, I usually do a quick on-screen read through to make sure things are in good shape. Then it's time for the scary part. I get to send this precious book of mine off to my agent, who will likely see some major issue that I missed completely and then it will be time for another set of revisions to fix this issue so that the book will be in good enough shape to be read by an editor.

You would think with all this revising and rewriting, that by now the thing would be flawless, but it's not. Editors will have more changes they want to see, sometimes before they're willing to accept the book for publication, and others that will come a bit later in the process. Then there are copy edits, and then proof pages before a book is actually ready for publication. So, that's why though I'm excited about finishing this first draft, I know it's a long way from being done.

Anyway, appropriately enough, I'm going to share a passage from this current work in progress with you. It's the very beginning of the book, so I'd love to hear your thoughts on whether it draws you in and makes you want to read more. 

(or, you know, as Gae says *ahem* 1. does it hook you? 2. What works for you? 3. what doesn't?)

This is from a YA contemporary with a female protagonist. If you'd like, I'd also love your thoughts on the tense. This particular passage is in present tense which is how I started out writing the book, but somewhere along the way I shifted to past tense and I'm still trying to decide which works better. (Ah, yay, a common issue for us writers):



1: October 30

     I can spot a carefully disguised write-my-term-paper plea from a mile away. The words, "Tutor Needed for Sophomore English" look like dollar signs to me. Nobody needs a tutor for English class. Some are even less subtle. "Need help with The Grapes of Wrath. Will pay." I mine the guidance office job board on a regular basis. It's a bulletin board filled with potential ways for enterprising students to make some extra money. Most of the jobs are astoundingly craptacular. Mr. Wertz, who teaches basic algebra has been trying unsuccessfully to get some poor schmo to remodel his kitchen for the grand total of $50 since at least last March, and if bagging groceries is your thing, you'd be in luck since there's two different grocery stores on the board seeking entry level workers, nights and weekends a must. I only bother with the term papers. It's easy money. I spot one that reads, "Tutor wanted. Must be familiar with aspects of the U.S. involvement in World War I." Bingo. I pull it off the board, and shove it in my pocket.
     Ryan Sutter, who would easily be voted least likely to succeed if the yearbook committee had that as a category steps out of one of the counselor's offices and gives me an idiotic sneer as he walks past. I've never written a paper for Ryan Sutter, but that's only because he's too stupid to realize he could pay someone to write the paper for him, instead of turning in a barely rewritten Wikipedia article that if his teacher is in a generous mood will earn him a D minus.
     "Nice mask," Ryan tells me. It's the day before Halloween, and half the school has decided to celebrate this fact by showing up in costume. I'm not wearing a costume. Neither, as it happens, is Ryan.
     "Right back at you," I say.

     "Huh?" he asks. Apparently, I was supposed to be so insulted that I ran off and cried in the girls' room or something. Ryan wasn't prepared for this eventuality. He doesn't know me that well. I shake my head at him and roll my eyes then head to Mrs. Banks' office.

----

xox Gae (& Alissa!)

** Okay fine, I left out the part where she stated, "I've never been arrested, but you know what I mean."

113 comments:

  1. I love this, because it is so me! I realized in college I could have been making money writing people's papers for them (although I never had the guts to do it). I did write most of my husband's papers for him when we were dating in college. We actually were able to prove that his one prof just plain didn't like him, because my "Always A" papers got Cs with her and her alone. Of course, we never told anybody, because he would have been the one who got in trouble. Boo!

    I thought present tense worked really well in this excerpt. However, I'm having the same problem with my own work right now (so glad to hear this is a common problem for writers). Present seems to work better for some parts and past seems to work better for others, and I am still trying to hash it out.

    Thanks for sharing!!!

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    1. Kerri (and others), I'll tell you something I'm finding kind of interesting: neither my agent or editor seem to focus on the tense the story is told in as it's own entity. I remember at one point my editor saying she didn't notice which offhand, which I guess means that, they don't care which tense one way or another as long as it is working. So, ultimately, we're trying to feel in our guts that the story is in the right tense. Struggling myself with that now too. But, I think we know when we know. If that makes any sense. :)

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    2. I might have (cough, cough) earned some money writing papers myself ;-)

      Thanks for stopping by Kerri, and thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      I'll also add to what Gae said, that I have seen/heard some readers say that they aren't always crazy about present tense. This is just a handful of folks. So, I wouldn't base any decision on that alone, but I've never heard of anyone who complained about past tense.

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  2. Thank you for being here today. I was grabbed at the beginning. Questions popped in such as, why does your MC write term papers? Does she need the money that badly? I'm also curious as to why the comment from Ryan. Is he the bully type? He seemed surprised at her reply. Will there be a love interest. I also like the present tense of this piece. I have been looking at my writing and realize I do a lot in past tense. I think I'll change it up and see if I like it better.

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    1. Sandra, am reading your excerpt which I'm about to comment on, but it raised what suddenly felt like an obvious question, yet I never really thought about it before: If a person writes in present tense, does it have to be first person "I" narration? It seems like it would. What I mean is, this from your excerpt below:

      “He doesn’t care about what is best for us. All he cares about is his church.” Jacob knew he was treading on dangerous ground, yet he felt compelled to continue his tirade.

      would feel totally weird as this, right?

      “He doesn’t care about what is best for us. All he cares about is his church.” Jacob knows he's treading on dangerous ground, yet he feels compelled to continue his tirade.

      So, if we write in present tense, we always have to switch to first person narration. Is that right? Someone chime in if we don't. My natural voice is first person, so I always write from it (so far). So, I've never really thought about it before. Is that weird/dumb? :)

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    2. Thanks, Sandra. Oh, good thoughts about the protagonist and her money situation. This is good to hear since I think it will help to set up stuff that comes later. Ryan is kind of a jerk, but he has a very small role. Still I think I might need to flesh him out a bit more here, since he does make another brief appearance much later, and I think he needs to be a bit more memorable for readers. Oh, and there is a love interest, but it's definitely not Ryan.

      Now, to Gae on the third person present tense. I actually, don't think that passage sounds weird at all. I think this is less common in YA, but I've definitely seen that style in adult crime/thriller type books. Of course, like anything it totally depends on the project and the "feel" of things.

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    3. That's so interesting to me, Alissa! Thanks for chiming in. I'm going to look for it as I'm reading (or thumbing through things).

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    4. Coincidentally, I just this morning re-wrote the first chapter of the new story I started this week in third person-past into third person-present. I don't think first person works for this story, but I like the added intimacy of the present tense.

      Here's the first three (short - unedited) paragraphs in third-past:

      Joshua Benning leaned against the passenger door of his mother’s 12-year-old SUV and watched his life disappear in the side view mirror. The rain beating down on the windshield was a perfect match to his mood. His mother pulled the car up onto Interstate 91 saw the reflection of New Haven, Connecticut fade into the distance.

      They drove for almost 30 minutes in silence Then his mother finally said, “C’mon. Josh. Can’t you at least try to look at this as an adventure — as something positive? This could be the best thing that ever happened to us.”

      No, Josh thought. The best thing that could happen would be if that stupid lawyer up in Concord called right now and told you this was all a big, fat joke. There was no house. No inheritance. No town of Milton Mills, New Hampshire. No Milton Mountain. Nothing but their old life back in New Haven. Their apartment. His room. His friends.

      And here they are in third-present:

      Joshua Benning leans against the passenger door of his mother’s 12-year-old SUV and watches his life disappear in the side view mirror. The rain beating down on the windshield is a perfect match to his mood. His mother pulls the car up onto Interstate 91 and he sees the reflected image of New Haven, Connecticut fade into the distance.

      They drive for almost 30 minutes in silence Then his mother finally says, “C’mon. Josh. Can’t you at least try to look at this as an adventure — as something positive? This could be the best thing that ever happened to us.”

      No, Josh thinks. The best thing that could happen would be if that stupid lawyer up in Concord called right now and told you this was all a big, fat joke. There’s no house. No inheritance. No town of Milton Mills, New Hampshire. No Milton Mountain. Nothing but their old life back in New Haven. Their apartment. His room. His friends.

      I have no idea which way I'll go (any opinion/advice?) but the REAL problem begins in the next section, when we get to the brief story of how Joanne came to have Joshua (a post-senior year of college fling while working at a summer camp). I keep getting lost between "She was working at a summer camp . . . She had broken up with her boyfriend . . . She was hurt. She was lonely." and "She had been working at a summer camp . . . She had broken up with her boyfriend . . . She had been hurt. She had been lonely . . . " One way sounds grammatically correct but awkward. The other sounds right, but seems grammatically wrong

      This grammar thing is NOT for sissies!

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    5. David, sorry for not responding to this earlier. Because I'm a dunce I somehow missed it as I was scrolling through the comments. Thank you for sharing this.

      Well, first off I like both versions of this opening, and they work for me as far as setting up some tension to draw me into the story and giving me just enough information that I want to keep reading, but since you point out that first person isn't going to work for the story, then yes, by all means run with this third person present. It sounds good to me.

      Now onto your next issue, the backstory. I know exactly how you feel. I have the same problem with backstory. Past perfect is technically correct - all that had done this and had done that business, but the problem with it is it's too passive voice and too clunky. The nice thing about writing a story in the present tense is that you can get away with using regular past tense for flashbacks. So, maybe the first sentence of this section can have a had verb to take us back there and then shift over to past tense to tell the rest of this part. So something like "She had been working at a summer camp She broke up with her boyfriend . . . " What's nice is once you shift back to present day, it will be really easy to see because that will be in present tense.

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    6. Well, now that I read David's two excerpts, yes, of course you can have third/present. It's something about the self-consciousness (or at least very stylized feeling) of this: "Josh knows he is supposed to do X" vs. just a more direct verb: "Josh leans against the car" that throws me. The leans doesn't, but the knows does a bit?

      As for David's excerpt agree with all Alissa says. Both versions are working for me, and to solve the past perfect issue, I often do the same: use the more formal correct version to lead in to the memory then lapse to the more casual feeling simple past for the remainder. When I write in present, sometimes I keep my memories/flashbacks in present too, with the transition just cluing the reader in that it's a memory.

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    7. Sorry for burying my own example in Sandra's thread,

      Thanks for your help, Alissa and Gae. I'm going to try to continue in Third-Present (although I am finding it difficult and awkward). We'll see how it goes. I'll also take your advice on the past perfect issue. When I read it, that seems to be the most natural sounding.

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  3. Here is an excerpt from my writing. Any advice, etc would be helpful. It is from the first chapter.
    “You can’t be serious dad, we’re moving?”

    “Don’t you take that tone with me son!”

    “Now Jacob, calm down. You know you’re over-reacting. Your father only wants what is best for you.

    “He doesn’t care about what is best for us. All he cares about is his church.” Jacob knew he was treading on dangerous ground, yet he felt compelled to continue his tirade. “You’ve never cared about what we want. You know, I’m the team quarterback. I’ve worked hard to get there. Do you care? Oh no, you’ve never even been to one of my games. Now you’ve decided to move us to Florida without even asking us how we felt about it. You are moving us to some small Podunk town with an even smaller Podunk high school. It will be too late for me to join the team. “

    “Jacob you know I have to go where God sends me. It’s time for me to leave this church and move my family to Florida.”

    “What happened dad, the church here get too big for you so you couldn’t see your own handiwork in everyone and everything.?”

    The slap seemed to come from nowhere. Jacob was thrown to the floor from the force of the slap. He looked up at his father. He narrowed his eyes, grit his teeth and glared at his father. How dare his dad hit him for speaking the truth. Jacob jumped to his feet stomping as he left the house. His mother started after him, but was stopped by the hand gripping her arm. She looked at her husband. She’d never seen that look in her eyes. It bordered on contempt.

    “Betsy don’t you dare go after him. That is the problem with you and him. Jacob expects you to go to his rescue. You seem to have a need to hold his hand. You have got to stop. It ends now, or else…

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    1. Hi Sandra,
      It sounds like you've got a really good sense of your characters. I'd love to know more about the plot surrounding this incident. What leads up to the move? What lead up to this point? This seems like you're well into the story now. It's caught my attention!

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    2. Hi, Sandra, I really like the feel of this piece and it's exploring something I personally haven't read much of/about, so it intrigues me just from that standpoint. I really think you have the mom and (hypocritical, somewhat scary?) dad pegged. One of the things I feel, is that Jacob's dialogue (and actions) could be the tiniest bit more "active" (and teen casual - or at least less in control, especially when they are enraged) for want of a better descriptions, which would set it apart from his dad's voice and make him feel more authentically teen? It's hard to explain what I mean by that, so I'm taking the liberty to do a superspeed flash edit. It's more concept than my exact word choices, I'm hoping to share, so take from it what you will:

      “Don’t you take that tone with me son!”

      “Now Jacob, calm down. You know you’re over-reacting. Your father only wants what is best for you.

      “He doesn’t give a damn what's best for us. All he cares about is his church.”

      "Jacob!"

      Jacob knew he was on dangerous ground, but he couldn't help himself. “You’ve never cared about what we want. Do you know how hard I worked to make quarterback? Do you care? Obviously not, since you've never come to even one of my games. Now YOU decide to move us to Florida without even asking us. And to some stupid Podunk town with an even stupider Podunk high school. Do you even care that it will be too late for me to join the team?“

      “Jacob you know I have to go where God sends me. It’s time for me to leave this church and move my family to Florida.”

      “What happened, Dad? The church here get too big for you so you couldn’t see your own handiwork in everyone and everything?”

      The slap seemed to come from nowhere. Jacob was thrown to the floor from the force. He looked up at his father, and gritted his teeth. Nice. Another hit for just speaking the truth.

      Jacob jumped to his feet and stomped out of the house. His mother started after him, but was stopped by the hand gripping her arm. She looked at her husband. She’d never seen that look in her eyes. It bordered on contempt.

      “Betsy don’t you dare go after him. That is the problem with you and him. Jacob expects you to go to his rescue. You seem to have a need to hold his hand. You have got to stop. It ends now, or else…

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    3. I LOVE the way this starts off with so much tension and angst. I think that definitely pulls readers into the story. Conflict is a great way to get things off to a quick start.

      Here's some things to think about:
      I read somewhere once that we should be careful about including too many addresses in our dialog because it doesn't sound natural. More than once Jacob addresses his father as "Dad" in his speaking and his father refers to him as "son." I think this is okay occasionally, and even to set up who the characters are, but overuse might make the dialog sound too stilted.

      On sort of the same note Jacob's long stretch of dialog that begins "You’ve never cared about what we want." contains a lot of explanation that's clearly for the readers' benefit, but might not make sense as something he would say to his father. Presumably his father knows all about Jacob being quarterback and working hard. One thing to do is shorten this to something like "What about football?" or "What about the team?" or something along these lines, and then a little later allow the narrator to elaborate on this.

      Of course, these are just my 2 cents! I really like this opening, and it sounds like you have the basis for a great story.

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    4. I love how Alissa swoops in and so eloquently says what I was trying to say, and then was trying to show because I couldn't say it too well. THIS is why I have guest authors. Well, also, because they are fun. :D

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    5. Thank you so much for all of your input. I really have to work with the teen voice. The teacher part of me keeps popping in. My students read excerpts and say it sounds just like a teacher. Took me a while to figure that out. Gae I definitely get what you were trying to say and Alissa I loved that you were able to demonstrate it for me. I often understand a concept but want an example. You did just that. Thanks for all the help!

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  4. Good morning Gae & Alissa,

    Your character has already drawn me in. I like that she is resourceful, scrappy and quick-witted. The word "craptacular" made me laugh out loud. The present tense seems to be working for the piece. I would think you would need a reason to put the story in past tense. Is she remembering events that led up to a revelation or life change that we're introduced to briefly and obscurely in a prologue or introduction?

    I definitely would like to read more.

    I'm actually working on a picture book/poetry first draft, which I will print and mark up, when I'm done. I'm not sure if this is up anyone's exact alley, but I'm looking for places where the rhythm doesn't work

    This is midpoint and William has hatched a plan to catch the Pee Monster who pees in his bed at night.

    He only comes in if I need to go
    and if I go pee he, maybe, won't show."
    "William! Oh William! I think you're crazy,
    But I still love you... Good night, my sweet daisy!"
    So out of his room she went with a kiss
    The new collection of toys in his room, she did miss


    Army guys scattered, a big Ball of string,
    Cans of coloured plasticene, a huge Diamond ring,
    Eleven gold marbles, Five wooden blocks of hay,
    Gigantic dinosaurs, Hungry Hippos at play._
    Insects, small and plastic, a Jar of old beads.
    King Kong, on top of a broken Lego tower,
    his weight the strength it did exceed
    Mechanical robots, three, with laser eyes
    Ninja masks, with shiny black ties
    the Oversized shark attacks remote control Planes

    Quarter of a cell phone...Daddy will be mad,
    Racing car connecting tracks....that's not so bad.
    Shinobi Shouzuku, known as a Ninja get-up
    Ten metallic Bey Blades, a little beat up,
    Ugly stuffed animals, won at a fair,
    a Very small button from a teddy bear,
    a Workman's hard hat, Xylophone stick,
    dried-up Yellow marker and a Zippy car that does tricks.

    “She’s gone now,” noted William. “I know what to do.”
    William’s dad was a scientist & William was too.
    Together, they’d watched documentaries out the whazoo
    Super structures and lots on coprolites…or dinosaur poo.
    The collection in the corner was more than a mess.
    William would build a trap to catch his midnight guest.


    (The collection is actually an alphabetized list & I had the alphabet in red, but formatting changed. If you really wanted to see it in proper format, please go to http://bit.ly/17sjel3)

    Thanks Gae for your hard work & professionalism. Thanks Alissa for sharing your insights and work. Have a great weekend all!

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    1. Stefanie, am neither an expert on pb's OR poetry -- certainly not rhyming poetry -- so I can only comment as a reader but I think it's really clever and love that you make an alphabetic offering on the toys. . . I particularly love these two lines:

      “She’s gone now,” noted William. “I know what to do.”
      William’s dad was a scientist & William was too.

      There are a few places I struggled a tad rhythmically (especially where you seem to change from, say an "AA, BB" rhyme scheme to another one, but if you do this throughout, maybe that's okay... unfortunately, I don't know enough to say), but all in all am impressed and really enjoying it. Keep going!

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    2. Thanks, Stefanie for chiming in and for sharing. You make a good point about the present tense and indicating the perspective from which she tells it. The whole novel takes place over a span of a few weeks, so I'm thinking present tense may just be the way to go. Looks, like I've got lots of rewriting ahead of me!

      Well, I wouldn't say I'm an expert on picture books, but I did put in some time as a children's librarian and have done my fair number of storytimes. If there is a type of book that should be read aloud as part of the revising/rewriting process it is definitely picture books.

      I love the pee monster idea, especially because bed wetting is something that there are not a whole lot of books on. It doesn't get quite the attention that potty training does. I did pick up on the alphabetical list as I was reading (that might have been those librarian skills!) though not until I got to Xylophone. Sometimes I'm a little bit slow. It's a fun idea, but it might be taking the focus away from the bed wetting, which I think is a strong theme. I also worry that the alphabet theme is something I associate with books for younger children and bedwetting is an issue that kids of potty training as well as even elementary school kids deal with. I wouldn't want them to think the book was too babyish, especially if they are already feeling like a baby because they wet the bed.

      I would be careful of using brand names. I'd say Lego is safe, but I noticed Bey Blades, which might have the unfortunate effect of dating the book too much. Kids toys come and go rapidly, and in a few years kids might not know what a Bey Blade is. Honestly, I'm not sure what one is, but I'm a bit out of the loop!

      On the rhyme and rhythm, though I'm hopeless as far as suggestions go, so hopefully some other folks have some tips there.

      Again, thanks for sharing, and this feels like a good "message" book that's actually fun, not an easy feat to pull off. By the way, despite my concerns about the alphabet giving this a younger flavor I do like the detailed list. It adds a lot of color to the book.

      ALL of the above are only my 2 cents!

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    3. Gae & Alissa, Thank you. Never having tried this I appreciate all 2 cents, especially from published authors. I'll be working on editing this list, but I really love it. I love random lists in books and essays. I always feel like I've been given a gift. I'm taking Nick Bruel's Bad Kitty series and I Stink by the McMullans as Mentor Texts and who doesn't love Bad Kitty?

      T My new mantra is "Nobody wants to publish half a book." Thank you again!

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    4. I really love this idea. Maybe it is because I babysit my grand kids and I'm currently trying to potty train my grandson. The rhyme scheme seems a little forced at times but for the most part flows smoothly. The only area I could point out would be the lines
      "Together, they’d watched documentaries out the whazoo
      Super structures and lots on coprolites…or dinosaur poo."
      I hope to be able to read the whole thing as a picture book one day. I have lots of grand kids.

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  5. I'll just chime in to say I love the present tense too. Of course, I'm a sucker for present tense (most the time). It's funny in my current WIP that I'm so torn then. Part of me keeps longing for it to go back to the past tense I wrote it in, because you have that ability to add certain kinds of hooks that come from the narrator already knowing the story and being able to say a, "look out ahead because this happened" type of thing. But the immediacy of present tense always holds me as a reader because we're really along for the ride AS it's unfolding for the narrator. At any rate here, in Alissa's piece (btw, I love how much we get to know about your protag already in these few brief paras and I love the exchange between her and Ryan - hah!) I'm enjoying the present tense. It's working as far as I'm concerned.

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    1. Thanks so much for letting me share here on Friday Feedback, Gae! I think I've become convinced that for this book present tense is the way to go. Off to go delete all those "eds".

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  6. Alissa,
    I can really hear and relate to your character. Excellent voice! I love your word "craptacular." Making up words is a fun part of being creative.
    I like your revision tips, too. My issue is getting to the end. I can't seem to finish. I keep going back. I stop and start another project. Or I just write some poems, anything to avoid the blank page. Some days I think I should just hang it up. But then my writer friends, virtual and in person, keep me plugging along. This week in Teachers Write I added a verse to my verse novel, "Dear God." It is a 13 year old's letters(or poems, rather) to God about her struggle with a best friend who has cancer. Here is that new section. Thanks for being here today for Friday Feedback.
    Dear God,
    With March comes wind
    in the azalea blossoms.
    Mom gets out her camera.
    Another flower picture.
    Like the azaleas won’t bloom again next year.
    They only last a few weeks,
    I gotta capture them while I can.
    Me in my Easter dress, a lavender one this year
    with a lacey overlay, Benjie in a plaid dress shirt, new jeans.
    We pose next to the row of bushes full of pink petals.
    When you pick an azalea flower off the stem,
    it falls apart into five petals and three stamens.
    Mom says leave them be.

    All this picture posing reminded me of a visit to Aunt Mabel’s
    in Texas during the bluebonnet season. Their purple-blue
    blossoms lined the highways and spread out in the fields.
    We had to stop the car on the side of the road.
    Mom had to take our picture:
    Me cross-legged, blond wisps blowing in the wind,
    Brother Benjie, an infant in my silky 5-year-old arms.
    The bluebonnets tickled my knees.

    Each spike of the bluebonnet held a cluster,
    heart-shaped deep blue blossoms
    with ice white center like a dollop of cool whip on the tip of a blueberry.
    I placed a tiny blossom into Benjie’s folded fingers.
    I looked into the cloudless sky as the bright spring sun beamed down.
    I threw back my head to catch the warmth.
    I am beautiful and I will never die.
    Daddy said I announced it to the world.

    Would you take Simmy’s life from the bluebonnet sky?
    Will the sun rise again after she is gone?

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    1. Margaret, I remember how we spoke of this work last summer and the excerpts from it. This one moves me no less. Stunning.

      The one word that threw me for some reason was "silky" in relation to her arms. Maybe just me.

      Struggle onward. This is worthy.

      xox gae

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    2. Thanks for your comments, Margaret! Also, I'm a former non-finisher so I can totally relate. I still haven't come up with a magic formula. I just try to drive myself onward with the idea that nobody these days wants to publish half a book ;-) That, and I'm a former pantser who has come around to the planner way of thinking. For this book I wrote a rough outline before I sat down to write and that helped me get through this in less than a year rather than the multiple years (sometimes more than 10) that it took me to complete my first 2 books.

      Now, onto your passage with was beautiful and haunting. I found myself tearing up a little at the end, which is a good thing. This really has a moving quality to it, and something tells me this would be the sort of book I'd need to reach with a box of tissues by my side. I'm not an expert on verse novels, but I think this idea lends itself to one, and you do a wonderful job of expressing the narrator's emotions and ideas in a poem form.

      Also the idea that someone named Margaret is writing a book called "Dear God" is not lost on me!

      Oh, and I didn't have any problem with the silky arms. Sounds good to me!

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    3. Margaret,
      I also struggle with finishing my writing pieces. It's taken me two years to complete a draft of my short story. I stop and revise along the way, paralyzed by making it to the last line.

      As for your writing piece...Wow... This gave me goose bumps. I want to read the whole thing! I believe I will see this published some day, at which point I will add it to my library's collection. Please keep going!

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  7. I'm definitely hooked--I'm completely intrigued by her energy in this--she seems to be not only incredibly smart but also a bit of a tough girl--sarcastic and not intimidated by much. I think the tense works very well in this passage.

    so, my writing today is from my adult WIP about a woman rediscovering herself after she gets lost in the roles that she plays, basically. This scene is really a kick off point for that---she is on a "Girlfriend weekend"--a rarity for her, and it takes place in her hometown. The friends got to a "kicker" bar and she runs into an old temptation. It is still rough, y'all--but here it is:


    I could feel the slight shiver as it went up my spine and I thought, “This is crazy”, yet…here I was…and here we were. A bit of harmless flirtation, right?
    And yet it felt so good to be appreciated by a man’s eyes again. So damn good. To have a conversation with just an edge of flirtation. To feel special and funny and smart and…oh hell, to feel young and sexy again, to tell the truth.

    Lord, but I’ve missed that. The smell of a man when he’s all dressed up---just a hint of cologne so that you have to get real close to his neck to smell it. That fresh smell of soap and the faint smell of starch in his shirt. He leans in to better hear what I’m saying, and his laugh is rich and deep.
    Yes, I know I’m a married woman, and for all intents and purposes a happily-married-woman, but it sure does feel good to be appreciated by a good-looking man.

    I think that’s one of the problems with long term relationships—yes, there is a comfort to them, but YES, there is a comfort to them—and this chemistry; this spark, this Magic of the Moment has already come and gone. Retaining the mystery is not something I’ve done particularly well to tell you the truth. Tom has come home from work to find me with my hair pulled back in a ponytail scrubbing toilets more times than I can count. And I haven’t cared one lick most of the time. Maybe because no matter what I do it seems to go unnoticed---so it’s easier to do nothing and not get my hopes up. Who knows? The point is, it isn’t all Tom’s fault. He’s a good man, and I do love him. But I sure do miss feeling all shivery-thrilled and sexy.

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    1. "shivery-thrilled" is an excellent word.

      I like this piece. You have some great descriptions in here and we feel the narrator's ambivalence. I do feel a bit confused between the past and present tense paragraphs and wonder if you could tweak that a little. . .

      Keep going!

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    2. Thanks, Mrs. S, and hearing that my narrator's personality comes across so well in this opening is music to my ears. She is a bit tough and confident, maybe a little too confident. . .

      Onto your passage . . . this has a nice thoughtful and introspective feel to it. The details make everything jump to life.

      This passage forced me to read it twice "yes, there is a comfort to them, but YES, there is a comfort to them." I definitely get where this is going, but for some reason the repetition confused me on the first read through. That may be the hat affecting my brain, though. So, don't worry too much.

      Now, I've got a clarification to ask. You referred to this as a "kicker" bar and I'm thinking this is a polite way of referring to what we in these parts call by a very similar name except there's a word that starts with 'sh' and ends with 'it' before the word kicker. If so, I'm having a hard time smelling and seeing a guy dressed up at one of these bars. Then again, this could just be a difference of location or even terminology. Also, I know kicker wasn't in your passage, but in your intro. So, I'm just wondering what it means.

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    3. Alissa-um, yep, kicker is indeed a shortened version of that! And here in Texas, no cowboy (or urban cowboy)in his right mind for a night on the town would dream of going out in less than fully starched shirt and jeans, perfectly polished boots, and smelling good----to impress the ladies-- ;)

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    4. Hmm, maybe I'll have to add Texas to the list of the potential places to live list. Oh, but I've already got my guy - even if he isn't a cowboy urban or otherwise!

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  8. p.s. clearly Alissa sleeps later than the rest of us! ;) She will be here! Maybe she's stuck to the blue chair. <3

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    1. For the record, I was up and about VERY early today. Of course Wifi issues meant commenting had to wait until I got back home. Then agains, what is everybody (myself included) doing up SO early on a Friday in the summer? I think we should all take a nice nap this afternoon to make up for this fact!

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    2. Lol, you don't want me spreading rumors of you as a slothenly writer enjoying the benefits of youth?! <3 <3 <3

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  9. Thanks, Gae. It needs a lot of tweaking still (I will def. work on tense, so thank you!) For some reason this chapter has been a difficult one to write. Picturing my "mystery man" at the bar as Gerard Butler seems to help a bit, though. ;) the idea is that in this moment my MC is shaken loose from the image trapped in her own head of "just" wife, mother, worker bee---and sees herself through this man's eyes---as an interesting, vital, beautiful woman. They share a dance and a bit of conversation and that is all----she is truly in love with her husband--she's just lost the love for herself, if that makes sense.

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    1. Not only makes sense, but I've written about that feeling too, in my manuscript now titled The Swimming Season which is, once again, out on submission. ;) You're doing a great job! Keep on! Push yourself and let it be uncomfortable. xox

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    2. I love it! I love it when you read a book and you think, "Yep! She or he nailed it." Tenses or not, you've got it emotionally. Grammar can be edited, but you have to know emotional truth and you've got it. It sounds like a good read to me. Nice tension too with the, "A bit of harmless flirtation, right?" Keep truckin' at the kicker bar!

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    3. We should all use Gerard Butler as the model for our "mystery man!" I loved this passage! I also got confused with the change in tense in that last part, but other than that, I loved the feeling your descriptions invoked. Nice!

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  10. I'm going out on a limb here and posting a little snippet of something. It may become something or it may just stay a snippet...
    Kathy
    *****************************************************
    I don’t know how I heard it. Such small sounds but they woke me. My eyes quickly followed my ears, and a squeal of terror erupted as I frantically kicked to untangle my legs from the sheet. I catapulted myself onto the neighboring bed and landed crosswise on my sister Lili who let out a yelp and then joined my screaming in earnest.
    I rolled off her and found my voice long enough to hiss “Get up, get UP! GET OUT!” I pulled down her covers and grabbed her flailing arm jerking her toward the shadowy outline of the door.
    We were standing in the warm humid South Carolina night before she was even fully awake.
    “What happened? What’s in there?” Lili asked as she patted her hips and thighs looking for nonexistent pockets. “Shit my phone’s on the nightstand. How’re we going to call for help?”
    No longer sensing immediate peril my brain began to process our situation. I looked at my nude sister standing on the second floor landing of the Sea Star Inn patting her ample midsection and slapping at the mosquitos that were quickly honing in on a juicy target and my adrenaline fueled screams morphed into hysteria driven laughter.
    “You’re naked…in public…and you’re worried about your phone?" "I told you sleeping nude was going to bite you one of these days.” I sing-songed at her.
    “Well I was tucked away nice and private a minute ago!” she snapped back as she scratched a fresh bite on the back of her arm. “And I don’t see a lot of “public” to worry about on this dinky island at 4 in the morning. Now why in the hell are we standing out here?”
    My laughter died quickly and I cut my eyes to the door and back at her. I moved my thumb and forefinger apart about 2 inches and held it up for her to see. “They’re here.” I whimpered. “on Jupiter Island!”
    "Oh hell no! This place is supposed to be civilized and private...exclusive even! You have to take a boat to get here. Lili responded with outrage.
    I gave her a look and responded with a hint of derision, "I'm sure they weren't cordially invited and they can fly you know!"
    It's all fun and sun till the Palmetto bugs show up.

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    1. Hi, Kathy! Thanks for the chance to read this snippet. I love the action-packed beginning, and the way we learn what's going on along with Lili. I also can relate to the insect freak out since I have some relatives who have been known to crazy, irrational things in their desire to avoid bugs of all sorts. When my grandmother learned my parents were buying a retirement home in Florida, the first thing she said was "They've got Palmetto bugs!"

      The only thing that stuck out at me as something that might need a change or a clarification, was I didn't have a good idea of how old the sisters were until they were out on the balcony. For some reason I was picturing Lili as a younger kid until she started looking for her phone. So maybe a clue or hint about their ages earlier would help fix this.

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    2. Alissa,
      Thank you for the feedback. Now that you've pointed it out it is obvious that a bit more character clues need to be laid out to avoid confusion or an abrupt interruption in reader/character relationshiop. By the way, this piece is derived from personal experience (blush). Again, thank you so much for commenting on the piece. I need all the help I can get! lol.

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    3. You're most welcome, Kathy, but I beg to differ on you needing all the help you can get. I think you're doing quite fine!

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    4. Kathy,

      I like this. At the very beginning I couldn't tell whether the MC was excited for good or bad reasons - nicely done. I also pictured younger characters and was surprised by their mature speech. Telling this story in first person led me to imagine the MC as a young man since that is my first-person experience. I'm not sure that matters once you give us more clues later. I am in and will keep reading regardless of the gender.

      Some of your dialogue attributions gave me pause, such as, "I told you sleeping nude was going to bite you one of these days.” I sing-songed at her. At this point you have a good back and forth going, so you could just give us the dialogue straight. I am also not sure what sing-songy means in this context.

      Love the idea - it was fun to read!

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    5. So, Kathy, I agree with Alissa and Todd, you have a fun piece going here with great action, trepidation, and even some fun humor, and, as Todd started to point out, you might have an ever stronger piece if you don't over-dialogue tag. Common wisdom these days is to really stick with "says" or "said," as much as possible except when another verb is needed. Rarely is sing-songed for exactly the reason Todd points out: instead of the reader staying in the flow of the dialogue, the reader is now trying to figure out HOW it's being said. The dialogue and surrounding action should do that trick instead. So, if I were to do a superspeed flash edit on your piece, I would do something like this, hoping less is more and removing the overkill tags will let all the great stuff around it shine:

      I don’t know how I heard it. Such small sounds but they woke me. My eyes quickly followed my ears, and a squeal of terror erupted as I frantically kicked to untangle my legs from the sheet. I catapulted myself onto the neighboring bed and landed crosswise on my sister Lili who let out a yelp and then joined my screaming in earnest.
      I rolled off her and pulled down her covers. “Get up, get UP! GET OUT!” I yelled, grabbing her arm arm and jerking her toward the door.
      We were standing in the warm humid South Carolina night before she was fully awake.
      “What happened? What’s in there?” Lili asked. She patted her hips and thighs looking for nonexistent pockets. “Shit my phone’s on the nightstand. How’re we going to call for help?”
      Free from our immediate peril,I began to process our situation: my nude sister standing on the second floor landing of the Sea Star Inn patting her ample midsection and slapping at the mosquitoes that were honing in on a juicy target.

      And, then, I busted out laughing.“You’re naked…in public, Lili, and you’re worried about your phone? I told you sleeping nude was going to bite you one of these days.”

      “Well I was tucked away nice and private a minute ago!” she snapped back,scratching a fresh bite on her arm. “And I don’t see a lot of “public” to worry about on this dinky island at 4 in the morning. Now why in the hell are we standing out here?”
      I quit laughing and shifted my gaze to the door then back at her. With my thumb and forefinger held up to her about 2 inches apart, I said, “They’re here. On Jupiter Island!”
      Lili looked at me, understanding. "Oh hell no! This place is supposed to be civilized and private...exclusive even! You have to take a boat to get here."
      "Well,I'm sure they weren't cordially invited," I say, giving her a look of commiseration. "And they can fly you know!"
      It's all fun and sun till the Palmetto bugs show up.

      Something like that.

      Keep going!
      Gae

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    6. Thank you, thank you everyone for your comments and especially Gae for the flash edit. Teachers Write is such an amazing resource of wonderful people!
      Kathy

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  11. Alissa,

    I like your protagonist already--she has a hard edge, and I like that she seems to be looking for topics that interest her, so it seems more than purely a financial motivation. Is she worried about getting caught, or does she also enjoy the risk? It definitely drew me in.

    Here is the beginning of something, protagonist is a ten year old boy:

    The only times I’ve ever seen vultures were after someone died. Real, live vultures. The first one came right after my grandpa died. A big, dark turkey vulture swooped right down in the middle of my family, out for a post funeral walk. It jabbed at something on the ground for a few minutes, not even afraid of us, and then it took off.

    “Turkey vulture,” my uncle said matter-of-factly like it was a sparrow or something and not the most horrifying bird ever. But that’s my uncle, always out to prove that the things that bother everyone else don’t touch him.

    The other vulture was after my cousin died in a car accident involving too fast speed and a tree. Everyone was standing outside the funeral parlor after the visitation that wasn’t really a viewing making small talk with the funeral home people the way people do when they’re clutching at normal things after the world has just smashed into tiny bits. Talking about travel or the weather or what a nice job someone did setting out pictures and newspaper clippings on short notice. Me jamming my hands deep in my pockets and poking at a pebble with my shoe. And while everyone was nodding and listening to something about coldcuts someone is putting out for The Family, right at that part I looked up. There it was, up in a tree, huge and obvious and bobbing its bald head up and down like a cartoon. It looked right at me for a second and just like that it flew away.

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    1. Thanks, Jane, for your comments on my passage!

      I have to say I really loved what you shared. It has a wonderful style to it and I love the way you're able to use these vulture observations to also give a little bit of backstory about the character and his family. Plus it feels reals. We used to have quite a few vultures living in my town earlier this year (I think someone might have hung up a dead one to scare them away because I haven't seen them recently.) and this really seemed to capture the essence of the birds while setting a tone for the book. I guess I don't really haven't any sort of criticism or suggestions for improvement. I'm curious to see where this goes. The beginning is very intriguing.

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    2. That should say feels real above. I have no idea where feels reals came from. It has a fun ring to it, though!

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    3. Agree with Alissa! Fun stuff. Could tighten a sentence or two -- or add a comma or two -- but I love it and how you present so much info through these vulture sightings. Good stuff! Keep going.

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  12. Alissa,
    I loved your main character from the start. Both smart and edgy. Reminded me a bit of the character Phillip on the U.S. version of the show Shameless. I am curious abut Ryan and if/how these characters will be related.

    This summer I am starting on my own blog. This is my first post. I'm not sure if it's much of an attention grabber. Thanks for any feedback!

    I've been teaching for almost two decades and (confession time) I've never done any authentic writing for myself. No journal, no diary, no nothin'. Wait...does Twitter count? Any writing I've done has been solely for the purpose of modeling for my students. Inspired by the Teachers Write project, I decided it was time to "walk the walk" and start my own blog.

    This fall will be my first time teaching middle school. I will be teaching Language Arts and Social Studies to sixth graders. It is my hope that this blog can be a place for me to share my experiences and we can learn from each other as educators.

    My general outlook on life and teaching: have fun!

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    1. Thanks, Ms. Chen! I've never seen Shameless (I'm a bit out of the loop when it comes to TV) but I'll have to look it up.

      Kudos to you on starting a blog. I really admire people that can keep up a steady blog. I used to make an attempt, but then I ran out of steam. I'd rather make up stories, instead!

      Anyway, this first post sounds like a great introductory post, and I don't have any suggestions for changing it. So, I'll give you a little advice that I've learned from my brief forays into blogging. The most successful bloggers seem to be those who really make their blogs an interactive experience like Gae does so nicely with these Friday Feedback posts. Responding to blog comments and interacting with other bloggers on their own blogs seems to be one of the keys to successful blogging.

      Good luck and have fun with your blog!

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    2. Thanks Alissa! Be forewarned about Shameless--it lives up to its name. Viewer discretion is advised. =)

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    3. agree that you have a comfortable, fun, engaging intro here. Keep going!

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  13. I like your MC already! She seems witty and confident. I definitely want to read more. I am a big fan of the first person. It feels like the character is speaking to me - it feels more intimate and I'm more invested in character.


    This is an excerpt from chapter 2 of my work in progress. My MC goes back to explain when she began to realize she was different - that she can hear extraordinarily well and is hearing things that she cannot yet explain but know are real:

    I’m in the garden in my backyard checking on the fairy house I built. My fairy house is a little house-like structure I made from twigs – it’s more like a teeny teepee. There is a little walkway made of small pebbles leading up to the entrance. In front, there is a circle of upside down acorn tops filled with water. Tiny little pools for the fairies to drink and wash from. On the side, I made a sweet little swing out of vines and twigs. There are teeny, tiny, flowers strewn around the fairy house – my meager offerings for the fairies. I make sure that the flowers are fresh every day. I really want the fairies to come and move into my house.
    I move very slowly and quietly when I visit so that I don’t frighten them. I can faintly hear their chatter. I know that they’re watching me. I’m a little afraid of them. I’m not sure that I actually want to see one. I know this is silly because they’re so much smaller than me. But still. They are different and strange. My mom and dad tell me that they’re not real, that fairy houses are just for fun. My mom and dad are wrong. I can hear the fairies. I hear them talking every time I’m in the garden. I hear them giggling like they’re laughing at me. Sometimes I hear one crying. She’s weeping very softly. When I hear one crying, I make sure to leave some extra special things at the fairy house – I’ll find a perfect leaf or a pretty rock – and place it right next to the fairy house door.

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    1. Thanks so much! I'm glad my MC is proving to be pretty likable. I was worried that her sassiness and confidence might turn some people off.

      I love this passage that you shared. The description of the fairy house is full of wonderful details that really helped me to picture it clearly in my head, and of course the idea is very intriguing. It makes me want to know where all this is going. Oh, and I also wanted to say that this is a great use of the present tense. Nice work.

      I can't say I have any suggestions for improvement, but I was reminded of two completely different nonfiction books while I was reading it that, depending on where you're going with this, might give you some ideas or provide some interesting background material. The first is a book called Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks, in particular there was, as I recall, a whole chapter on auditory hallucinations that was really fascinating. The other was an audiobook by John Holland called Awakening Your Psychic Strengths, which had a lot of information on people who are audiovoyant (as opposed to clairvoyant) which was very interesting.

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    2. Thanks for taking the time to read and the feedback, I know where I want to go with this but I'm struggling a bit to get there. And thanks for the suggestions - I just downloaded Hallucinations and it has sparked another idea!

      I've just put your books in my Amazon cart! I'm excited to read Shallow Pond - sounds like something I'll really enjoy! :)

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    3. Thanks so much! I hope you do enjoy it!

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    4. Agree with all Alissa has said here, too! All the lovely details. The only constructive crit I might offer is to shake up the blander "there is" "there are," "I made" sequences with a bit more active choices. It's really just a tiny tweak, so this:

      I’m in the garden in my backyard checking on the fairy house I built. My fairy house is a little house-like structure I made from twigs – it’s more like a teeny teepee. There is a little walkway made of small pebbles leading up to the entrance. In front, there is a circle of upside down acorn tops filled with water. Tiny little pools for the fairies to drink and wash from. On the side, I made a sweet little swing out of vines and twigs. There are teeny, tiny, flowers strewn around the fairy house – my meager offerings for the fairies. I make sure that the flowers are fresh every day. I really want the fairies to come and move into my house.

      Might become this:

      I’m in the garden in my backyard checking on the fairy house I built. My fairy house is a little house-like structure I made from twigs – more like a teeny teepee. A little walkway made of small pebbles leads up to the entrance. In front, a circle of upside down acorn tops swell with water. Tiny little pools for the fairies to drink and wash from. On the side, a sweet little swing crafted from vines and twigs creaks in the breeze. There are teeny, tiny, flowers strewn around the house – my meager offerings for the fairies. I make sure that the flowers are fresh every day. I really want the fairies to come and move into my house.

      ???

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  14. Present tense definately works for me in your writing. Love craptacular - such a great word and definition for the obvious. Made me laugh.

    Perhaps you could work in past tense and backstory by using flashbacks. She remembers something she has done in the past - a paper she wrote for someone. She remembers something Ryan did that gave her the impression that he is a loser. Will Ryan be the person who posted for help with the paper? Will he turn himself around? Will they get caught cheating?

    Is Halloween going to play a role in the novel? A take on teens hiding behind visible and invisible masks>?

    Great voice with the writing - characters seem real, snarky.

    I'm hooked and ready to read more.

    Must order and read Shallow Pond. Thanks for the revision advice - great job.

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    1. Thank you for some GREAT ideas! I'm embarrassed to admit the idea of Halloween and people playing roles and wearing masks and whatnot never occurred to me, but this is a brilliant idea and it actually fits in well with the book. Perhaps that's what my subconscious mind was thinking all along. Anyway, I am definitely going to try and use that in some way.

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    2. Read the amazon post of Shallow Pond last night and am waiting for the book to arrive. I love the way you pulled me into wanting to find out more about the novel by posting chapter segments. Often the first chapter is posted, but yours is the first I;ve read that cut scenes up like that and I think it is a great way to sell a novel. Awesome for booktalks and I'll start looking inside the book covers on amazon to see if more authors are doing this.

      As others have mentioned, I do not know how to change my goodle id so it will have to do. It's the only way I can post comments here.

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  15. Love your character and I really connect to first person as I think most YA readers do. I feel like it really puts the reader on the MC side. While she is sassy, I'm anticipating that she is this way as defensive strategy so it doesn't turn me off, it makes me wonder why. Also, it seems like Ryan is on the attack; he wouldn't be doing that for no reason, so I figure she has her reasons.

    She has a bit of toughness to cover up some vulnerability (?)

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    1. Thanks, Julieanne! Yes, and good guess about the MC's defensive strategy and vulnerability! You obviously read lots of books!

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  16. Alissa,

    Thank you for sharing. I am a little late to the Friday Feedback (battling Poison Oak and losing - Ugh!). I agree with what all of the other posts state, especially about present tense.

    I would like to share that I love the way you bring the characters to life. If I didn't know any better, I would think you were a high school sophomore or junior. You nail the perspective of the main character (and even Ryan). The dialogue between the two of them is real and helps to build the conflict (at least in the scene).

    Secondly, I like the word usage (I know I sound like a sixth grade teacher - but I am). Craptacular, bingo, and eventuality are particular favorites because they move the passage along without too much wordiness.

    Thank you for sharing. It was a pleasure to read your words. Also, thank you for sharing - "I know the difference between there, their and they're, but when I'm typing at a million miles an hour to complete a passage I'm not worried about these differences." When I am reading back through my first draft and I find these errors, I think, "Real writers don't make these mistakes." I feel better, and I am looking forward to reading your books.

    Happy writing and chair painting:)!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Andrew!, and thank you for your kind words on my little passage.

      As for thinking I might be a high school student . . . well that's fine by me!

      Hope that poison oak clears up soon! I'm not sure where you are but if the temperatures are anything like they are here I know the heat just makes a poison ivy/oak rash that much more miserable. I was worried I might be covered with the stuff after an unfortunate disc golf incident last weekend, but looks like (knock on wood, and yes I am so superstitious that I did just knock on my wooden desk) I'm in the clear.

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    2. boo, hiss on the Poison Oak, Andy! >:( And I agree with all you say about Alissa's excerpt. She really has that authentic voice DOWN!

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  17. I must share a little about the mansucript (I was inspired by Alissa's awesome interview - I feel like I know you and that's why I can't wait to read your books). I am writing a story geared towards my son and his friends (they seem like typical boys - running and playing with very little time for reading and always saying that they can't find anything they like to read). It's easy to do the research - I get to run around like a kid, have fun, and supervise (and I used to teach at this level). The story is for 2nd-4th graders. Sorry for rambling, here goes:

    “If you have waited until this week to start the big science project, you are skating on this ice.” Ms. Dean said as we were all settling into our seats on Monday morning.

    I’m not sure what she means, but I am almost done. Kim proofread the first two paragraphs of my essay and her mouth was wide open the whole time and her eyes were all buggy with surprise. I must be skating on thick ice, which is good for me because hockey is the only sport that I’m not that good at.

    “Please don’t tell me that you are daydreaming about sports again.” Christy whispers from two rows over. How did she know?

    There is no doubt that she is steaming mad because she never talks during class. She’s not necessarily the teacher’s pet, but she is a rule follower.

    “I can come over to your house and show it to you. Prove it to you.” I whisper back.

    “No thanks. I don’t care.”

    I feel tears coming to my eyes. Why is she being so mean to me? Think about soccer. Think about basketball. Think about lacrosse. Don’t cry in class! Think soccer.

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  18. This is good, and it's great to see a guy (especially one who's done lots of research ;-) writing a "boy" book. I love the voice of this passage. I definitely feel like it's a boy talking. The images of Kim being impressed by the essay is great, and I really loved this line: I must be skating on thick ice, which is good for me because hockey is the only sport that I’m not that good at.

    One thing I noticed is that there were a few spots where contractions could be used to make it sound more natural. I know this is probably an early draft, so I wouldn't worry too much about them not being there. Sometimes I don't get around to this until the copyedits stage. Anyway, in "Please don’t tell me that you are daydreaming" you could change the you are to "you're" and then in the paragraph after that "There is" could be changed to "There's". Of course, this doesn't need to be done at all, but since it's rare for us to speak without contractions this can make things sound more natural.

    I'm also thinking if the narrator hadn't told us that Christy was mad, I might not have picked up on this. Maybe a hint after Christy's dialog tag that indicates that she's saying this more in an angry way then in a sigh-you're-hopeless kind of way, which was how I read it at first.

    But, nice passage and a very promising beginning. Also I love the tension between the MC and Christy!

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    1. Alissa, making my job easy! I agree with everything she writes here, and she is so much more eloquent at explaining things than I am! Love your voice in this piece, Andy. It feels so natural and right.

      Keep going!

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  19. Aissa,
    First let me say that I love this intro! I always enjoy when characters use made up language ("craptacular"). It lends a note of authenticity to the dialogue (internal and external). I can't wait to read this book, and your earlier ones as well (*sneaks over to Goodreads and adds author's books to TBR list*).

    Thank you for sharing, and for offering feedback on our writing. Here's my excerpt from my WIP. My MC has just read a "Dear Jane" letter from her husband:

    **************

    I wash and dry my hands, and turn once more to the letter. The dreaded letter. The wretched, hateful, hated letter. The letter that sits there, half read. The letter that litters my table and makes an inconvenient wreck of my life.

    I reach for the papers again, but I can’t read them. My stomach aches from the shock of the news, and I just can’t read any further. I feel as if a huge cancerous tumor is metastasizing throughout my entire body, starting in my abdomen. I am sure the wracking pain will kill me. I have never felt so cold and alone in all of my life.

    I let go of the pages that depict the unraveling of my twenty-year marriage and watch with detachment as they fall to the ceramic-tiled floor. I shiver, hug myself tightly, and sink into the chair.

    Where’s my wine? Here.

    Another sip and I will feel warm again. The glass is empty, so I reach for the bottle. My hand shakes as I pour the merlot into the delicate glass. Some spills. I jump up, bumping into the table. I watch in slow-motion disbelief as the fine crystal glass tips over and dumps its dark red contents onto the table and floor. I try to stop it, to prevent the mess that will result, but I only manage to make matters worse when I drop the wine bottle as well. The wine glass rolls off the table and shatters on the tiles. The bottle spews the remainder of its contents as it hits the floor.

    This isn’t happening. Oh, my God. Oh, my God. No, God. No….no….no.

    Red wine is everywhere now. On the table, on the floor, on the rest of the groceries that I left out. On the damnable papers. On my clothes.

    My clothes.

    Oh… God... No...

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    1. Thanks, Wendy!

      And thanks for sharing this passage from your WIP. I really like the way the emotion is mixed in with physical action here (pouring the wine, spilling it, the glass breaking, etc.) That works really well, for me. It helps to break up a heavy passage. I also like the way the action seems to mimic life. The way her nice neat life has become shattered and messy

      I'm very intrigued by the end of the passage because it seems to indicate there is something special about her clothes, some reason they can't be stained. Perhaps this is set up earlier, or perhaps this is more symbolism, that she's become tainted in some way.

      I don't think there's anything I would change in this passage. I think it works really well. Nice work!

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    2. Wendy

      You have me...I feel empathy towards your character and quickly visualized the red wine on her clothes and the papers. I saw her jumping up in reaction to the spill. I also felt the intensity of her pain. !!! Keep going!!
      Donna

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    3. agree again with Alissa and Donna. You do such a great job evoking emotion. I love your skilled juxtaposition of long and short. And the line "... inconvenient wreck..."

      If there is one place I'm thinking pulling back may result in less = more, it is here:

      I reach for the papers again, but I can’t read them. My stomach aches from the shock of the news, and I just can’t read any further. I feel as if a huge cancerous tumor is metastasizing throughout my entire body, starting in my abdomen. I am sure the wracking pain will kill me. I have never felt so cold and alone in all of my life.

      I let go of the pages that depict the unraveling of my twenty-year marriage and watch with detachment as they fall to the ceramic-tiled floor. I shiver, hug myself tightly, and sink into the chair.

      If you pull back on a few words, do you wring out even more emotion and impact?:

      I reach for the papers again, but can’t read them. My stomach aches from the shock of the news, as if a cancerous tumor is metastasizing throughout my body, starting in my abdomen. I am sure the wracking pain will kill me. I have never felt so cold and alone in all of my life.

      I let go of the pages that depict the unraveling of my twenty-year marriage and watch with detachment as they fall to the tiled floor, then hug myself tightly and sink into the chair.

      Either way you slice it, great writing. keep going!

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  20. Glad Alissa is doing such a great job, because I wont be back for a while -- late tonight or maybe tomorrow. I went to take a "quick swim" which ended up being brutal -- against a wicked current with high, in-your-face waves... took 40 minutes longer than I expected, every stroke HARD. Running to dinner at a friend's and have a feeling I'll crash when I get home, so if not back today, I'll see you all tomorrow! xox gae

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  21. Alissa,

    I enjoyed your beginning. I like a confident, albeit at least somewhat nerdy character. The fact that she put Ryan on his heels says a lot about this character.

    I shared the beginning of this piece, What a Nerd, two weeks ago. Sheila's share did not go as planned with a classmate, Chloe, belting out, "What a nerd!" This is a segment from the middle of the story:
    Walking back to the house, Sheila saw her mother in the kitchen. She wasn’t a nerd. She’d make Sheila feel better.
    “Wacha doin’, Mom?”
    “Just baking, hon. Want to help?
    Even though she didn’t love baking like her mom, Sheila…
    Baking…cook books…muffin tins…electric kitchen doohickeys. A culinary tornado swirled around Sheila. The thought swept into her mind like a 120 mile-per-hour gust; Mom’s a baking nerd!
    Without a word Sheila bolted from the kitchen and into the study. She just picked up the tablet and started browsing for anything but bugs.
    Her brother, Aaron, was on the phone with a friend. For once she actually listened to him. He talked “sick” tricks with goofy names like “olley” and “McTwist”. He went on and on and on. This teenager, who couldn’t seem to remember how to tie his shoes, had crammed his brain full of skateboarding stuff. She knew right away. Aaron, one of the coolest kids in eighth grade, was a nerd too!
    Sheila climbed over her brother on the chair to reach the photo albums at the top of the bookcase. He probably said something, but she hadn’t noticed as she flipped through each one looking for proof. And she found it.
    The rest of the night she poured over every picture of everyone she knew, family, friends, and neighbors. She slept well, and it wasn’t just because she was tired.
    In the morning, Sheila started to put together a computer slideshow. Her friend, Sal, the computer nerd, had shown her how. She compiled the evidence to prove her theory. Everyone is a nerd.

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    1. Hi, Todd! Thanks for your kind words. I definitely have a soft spot in my heart for nerds of all stripes, and so I really love the idea expressed in your passage here. Best of all, it's true, and I like the way that nerd here is equated with being passionate about something. Nice work.

      I had a little trouble with this section "Even though she didn’t love baking like her mom, Sheila…
      Baking…cook books…muffin tins…electric kitchen doohickeys." with all the ellipses I wasn't sure what was going on. I had to read it through a couple of times to make sense of it, but maybe the idea is to flesh out this part later.

      My only other suggestion is a very minor one. In the "She just picked up the tablet . . . " sentence I would delete the word just. We all do this add extra justs all over the place, but most of the time they can be taken out and it tends to tighten things up, and make for a stronger sentence.

      Great idea! Thanks for sharing it!

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    2. I was confused where Alissa was... and a little with the three "she's" here:

      She wasn’t a nerd. She’d make Sheila feel better. The second She of She'd is the mom, yes? And the first is Sheila's own thought about herself? Not sure. Maybe you could find a way to clarify?

      Otherwise, good stuff! Keep going.

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  22. Hi Gae and Alissa! So excited for another Friday Feedback! I wish I had done more work on my WIP this week but I at least have something to post for Friday Feedback! Alissa, I loved reading about your writing process. I agree that a first draft seems like a great accomplishment in itself...but there is still lots of work to do! Your MC seems like a force to reckon with, I'm so curious if she'll encounter Ryan again. :)

    Here's my WIP, continuing from where I left off last week:

    Ev waves me over to the computer. She pulls up a Pinterest page with picture after picture of people kissing. I glance up in the corner and see that she’s logged into my account. I lunge for the mouse, “Ev! Is this what you were doing while I was taking a shower? You can’t pin those pictures, everyone is going to see them.” Before I can reach her, she clamps her other hand on my wrist. The plum in my other hand makes it useless and Ev wedges her should between me and the computer. Ev is the most stubborn person I know. There is just no winning with her. Defeated, I say, “Seriously? My mom follows me on Pinterest.” It comes out more whiny than I intend it to but I can’t help it. When I get frustrated, I get all teary. Ev is not going to make me cry this time, though.
    “Relax,” she sighs and releases her grip. “It’s a private board so one can see what I pinned. Besides it’s only kissing. Honestly, Nina, stop being such a baby about this. Here, look at this one.”
    Disregarding my protests, she clicks on a picture of cartoon faces that takes us to a guide for practicing how to kiss. It explains that you can use your hand, you can use a piece of fruit, or you can practice on someone else. And there are step-by-step pictures. I’m simultaneously wondering what creep makes detailed how-to-kiss webpages and hating myself for not finding how-to-kiss webpages myself. Why does Ev always have to know everything? If only I had known about this last summer before Hayden tried to kiss me.
    Ev whips around and sees me eyeing the plum in my hand. The sneaky smirk on her face freaks me out but I say, "Fine. What do I have to do?"

    Thank you in advance for your feedback!!! Mwah!

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    1. Hi, Jen. Thanks for your feedback on my WIP.

      I liked what you shared here. It's a lot of fun, and something tells me there's going to be some plum kissing going on!

      The only suggestion I have, is not really a suggestion, but a concern about mentioning something as specific as Pinterest. Yes, it's big now, but things do come and go so quick it could unnecessarily date your manuscript. It might even make sense to change this from Pinterest specifically to something vague like an online bulletin board. Not necessary, of course, but something worth considering.

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    2. As always, love, love, love. And, yes, Jen's writing is always a lot of fun! I think she's cornering the niche on adorable, sweet, authentic girly fun. ;)

      As for the Pinterest thing... always grappling with this stuff. When you write contemporary fiction, it feels odd to leave things like facebook and pinterest out -- but then again, you saw what happened with My Space, right? No answers, just food for thought, and a reminder that while it's worth thinking about, not worth struggling over too much yet. An editor will help you make those decisions down the road! (if, if, if! *crosses everything*)

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  23. Hi Alissa- Thanks for sharing your time and expertise with us today! I agree with others that the present tense works really well in your piece. There is an immediacy that allows me to see what your character sees as she sees it- there is no time for her interpretation of the events yet, just gut reaction. While I'm definitely liking the beginning of your piece, I'm not sure about your MC yet. (Of course, it's only been a few paragraphs!) She appears to have a chip on her shoulder, and is initially negative and judgmental. Of course what that does is make me want to read on to see why she feels superior to others and who may come into her life to cause her to think differently, if she does. I want to know more which is great!--Jen

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    1. Jen, that was exactly the fear about the MC that I had when I was writing this! In fact, the next scene (which was too lengthy to include here) has her coming to the defense of a fellow classmate who is being bullied - she's still tough and over-confident, but she gets to use these personality traits for good, which is all stuff I added with the title piece of advice from Blake Snyder's book Save the Cat in mind.

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  25. Here is a brief bit from a WIP where one main character is meeting other characters for the first time and noticing how they interact. I want the reader to learn as much about him through his observations as the other characters. (The reader has already met all these characters in other sections told by Isabel and Maya.) Does it work?


    “Whoa! Watch out!” a young blond girl called out as they entered the kitchen through the swinging doors. “There’s an egg on the floor!”

    Jackson stopped mid-step and looked down. There was, in fact, a dropped egg on the floor, brown shell still floating on the spilled white.

    “What? Jillie! I thought you cleaned that up! Parker! You were supposed to clean that up!” A tall, slender girl with brown hair and brown eyes stood up and turned around from a large industrial oven. She noticed Jackson with Maya. Her face was flushed from the heat of the oven she had just been peering in. “Oh. Hi.”

    “Hi. I’m with Maya,” Jackson offered, pointing towards Maya, who had stopped to stoop down and take a picture of the broken egg on the tile.

    “Okay,” the girl said. “Jillie, the egg. Now.” The blond girl rolled her eyes and mock stomped over to a roll of paper towels. She began unrolling them until she had a huge wad of towels in her arms. “Jillie! Not so many! Geez!” and the girl began rolling the now-crumpled towels back onto the roll.

    “Picky picky,” she said cheerfully. “Hi Maya! Hi Person with Maya!” She walked back to the spill and respectfully waited to the side while Maya clicked a few more pictures of the egg.

    Jackson noticed that now it was the older girl’s turn to roll her eyes. “Very artsy, Maya,” she said without any enthusiasm. Meanwhile, Jillie was inching her green converse sneaker closer to the egg. There were ornate scribbles and pen doodles on her shoe.

    “There. Stop,” Maya said and resumed clicking. Jillie’s foot hovered over the egg yolk and Maya was practically lying on the floor to capture the shot level with her foot. Then she was lying on the floor looking up at the underside of Jillie’s shoe. Egg’s-eye view? Jackson wondered. Maya suddenly seemed so uninhibited and comfortable despite her initial cautious entry.
    --Jen (Sorry- I don't know how to change my google id!)

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    1. Jen, I love this entry and all the unique egg business going on and think it does work to introduce the characters and their personalities to different degrees. I really love how you've gone about it.

      I am a bit confused by the "the girl" or "she's" and who they relate to at times, and wonder if you could clarify those without being too clunky?

      This excerpt is also a perfect candidate (I think) for a superspeed flash edit so indulge me below, as I think it would sparkle and shine that much more if you just pulled out some unneeded word or extra business or stage direction (reminder about the "began doing something" choice vs. the "did something" choice, and whether the latter feels more active and engaging. Also, here a perfect example because I think in one spot (the second) the began is needed for a reason vs. the first spot, not. Read to see what I mean. But of course it's just for illustration purposes. In any event, LOVE it, know it is probably still on the rougher side, and it's already grand. Keep going!

      “Whoa! Watch out!” a young blond girl called out as they entered the kitchen through the swinging doors. “There’s an egg on the floor!”

      Jackson stopped mid-step and looked down. There was, in fact, a dropped egg on the floor, brown shell still floating on the spilled white.

      “What? Jillie! I thought you cleaned that up! Parker! You were supposed to clean that up!” A tall, slender girl with brown hair and brown eyes stood up and turned around from a large industrial oven, her face flushed from the heat. She noticed Jackson with Maya. “Oh. Hi.”

      “Hi. I’m with Maya,” Jackson offered, pointing towards Maya, who had stooped to take a picture of the broken egg on the tile.

      “Okay,” the girl said. “Jillie, the egg. Now.” The blond girl rolled her eyes and mock stomped over to a roll of paper towels. She unrolled them until she had a huge wad of towels in her arms. “Jillie! Not so many! Geez!” and the girl began rolling the now-crumpled towels back onto the roll.

      “Picky picky,” she said cheerfully. “Hi Maya! Hi Person with Maya!” She walked back to the spill and waited to the side while Maya clicked a few more pictures.

      Jackson watched as the older girl now rolled her eyes. “Very artsy, Maya,” she said without any enthusiasm, as Jillie inched her green converse sneaker closer to the egg. There were ornate scribbles and pen doodles on her shoe.

      “There. Stop,” Maya said and resumed clicking. Jillie’s foot hovered over the egg yolk and Maya practically lay on the floor to capture the shot level with her foot.

      Egg’s-eye view? Jackson wondered. Maya suddenly seemed so uninhibited and comfortable despite her initial cautious entry.

      Anyway, great stuff, keep going!

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    2. Great! Yes, I see. Thank you! I am wordy in everything I write- something to work on.
      --Jen

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  26. Jen, first off let me say that I share your mystification about the Google ID. Even though this logs me in with my Google account it doesn't match the picture that's on any of the other Google products I use: Google+, Gmail, YouTube. It's all very confusing.

    Thanks so much for sharing this passage from your WIP. It's a lot of fun. I especially like all the scenes of the pictures that Maya is taking. I'm a big fan of the TV show community and it reminds me a bit of the episode where the Britta character is rolling around on the floor taking pictures of crushed soda cans.

    Nice work with the description. I can definitely see everything that's going on. I don't feel like I know Jackson that well, yet after reading this, but I think that's because he is just an observer in this scene. I know this is just a passage, and there's probably more that happens later that gives us a clearer image of him. If your aim is to bring out more of his character in this section perhaps he could take some sort of action like help with the cleanup or even interact a little more with the other characters. Again, I know this is just a short passage, so that might not be necessary here.

    Right now, Jackson reminds me a bit of Nick Carraway from The Great Gatsby. He's the narrator and a character in the drama, and though he is an occasional participant he spends much of the novel being an observer and watching the somewhat larger than life characters around him.

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  27. Welp, I made it through most but not all of the excerpts. But I'm tanking and want to read at my best (better?!) so will continue tomorrow. See you all then. xox gae

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  28. I pinky-swore I would post something this week - and then I realized I hadn't last night at whatever-o'clock. (It was far too late to find anything I wanted to share.) But it happened for a reason. I woke up MOTIVATED. So I'm sharing what I just wrote.

    This would be the beginning of a completely different approach to an idea that has been bugging me for years. (I generally go for more white space and one sentence paragraphs - but to fit with the rules of 5 paragraphs, I have condensed a bit...)



    I know what you're thinking of me. It's what everyone thinks of me when they see me: I'm the biggest nerd to ever walk this earth.

    But what they don't know is that one day I'll work on taking off these red plastic Sally Jessie Rafael goggles that my mother insisted would brighten my face (and divert everyone's attention away from my orthodontics - which will hopefully be gone soon), shaking my hair loose from my ponytail, and looking like The Girl Everyone Wants. Then there will be beauty and brains to spare.

    But in the meantime, I have to satisfy my ugly little duckling self with watching movies about how awesome the rest of my teenage years will be when this finally comes to pass. And dreaming about Kelly.

    I have always dreamed about him. Even when we were in elementary school and our classmates would pick on him for having a girl's name. I would imagine me telling them all that they didn't know what they were talking about - that it was a boy's name before anyone had ever named their daughters Kelly. I'd tell them to back off and then he and I would ride off into the sunset together.

    I keep waiting for the day when I can break free from what everyone sees and finally be me.

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    1. Isn't it great to wake up motivated? I love that feeling, and I love that piece. I never wore braces, but big ugly glasses? Oh, yes. Crushes on boys I hardly knew? Yup. so, I think that's why I really get what your narrator is saying, and am drawn into this. Her description of herself is a nice juxtaposition of her outside appearance and who she believes herself to be deep down, and you do a great job of communicating this in a way that doesn't feel forced.

      I'm wondering if the reference to Sally Jesse Raphael might go over the heads of younger readers, though? Do kids know who she is? I feel like she's been off the radar for a little while, but then I'm not always up on things. So, don't take it from me.

      This line also gave me pause: how awesome the rest of my teenage years will be. So often teenagers don't think of themselves of teenagers. So, to have her refer to himself as a teenager was a little jarring. Readers will already know by your perfect description that she's a teen, but also I get where you're going with this, how she's talking about the movies that glorify the teen years and perhaps give us some unreal expectations ;-) So, there may not be a better way to phrase this. I tried replacing teenage years with both "youth" and then "life" and neither seemed to work for me either. What does everyone else think?

      Other that those nitpicky comments, I really think you've got something here. Go with it!

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    2. First of all, Miss Cindy: YAY!!!! Finally, here you are! ;) And with great stuff. I can feel the energy, the taking-off, coming right through the piece, like it and you have a LOT to say. Keep going!

      I had the same thought as Alissa on the Sally Jessy thing and wondered if you might find a more recent reference ... on the teenage thing, while I totally see what she is saying, because in this instance your protag is referring to what movies (a third party source) is telling her about those "teenage years" it works for me here. Didn't have an issue with it. Either way: Onward!

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    3. I love this character! She's so authentically 80s teen "ugly duckling" girl. I can relate. Please keep going...

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    4. Thank you both! I feel better knowing I have something that I can feel where it's going. When I get farther on this, I have a couple of students who will read this and make some decision about the SJR reference. I'm setting it when I was a teenager (early 90's) so it makes sense. I know some of them would look her up just to see what those glasses actually looked like. Others would just skip over it without any care one way or another. It'll get road-tested - one of the perks of being a teacher. :)

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  29. Alissa,

    First off, I'm kicking myself that I never thought to troll through those boards to look for easy writing gigs like that. (Though I was a rule-follower so I don't know that I would have done it...) Your character feels familiar to me - which is good because I teach kids that age.
    When I read it, I had all kinds of question marks going off in my head about Ryan. I suspect (though I've been wrong before - and I haven't read all the comments that preceded mine) that he's going to be more important than just a guy with a passing comment. I'm wondering what he was thinking after he said it. (I'm thinking it isn't what she's thinking...)

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  30. Thanks! You know all the comments and intrigue about Ryan make me think I really need to flesh out his character more, since he doesn't have a big role in the story.

    Fun fact, I just realized that I need to change his first name since an incident that occurs later with him is lifted from something that happened in my own high school, and the name of the boy involved? Ryan. The subconscious mind works in mysterious ways.

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  31. Okay, think Alissa and I have gotten to everyone who has posted so far. PLEASE flag us down if we have missed you! Great stuff here. Hooray! Keep going!

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  32. Alissa - I like the character you've created. Your passage made me wonder why involvement in WWI versus the other ones. What makes that one the one to grab? I also loved how Ryan get's his comment thrown right back at him. I wish I was that quick when I was in school, which is another cool thing that I could instantly connect your story with my own experiences (and jerk boys) in school. :)

    Below is my excerpt from what I'm working on. It is continuing from my post earlier in the week on Kate's page about the garden thing. You can read the whole thing on my blog, but I'm feeling pretty good that I finally thought of a name for my main character! Any feedback would be great. Thanks!

    I wake up panicked. That dream I've had it before. Me sitting in the tree, watching Mrs. Bishop being prepared to be hanged for the crime of witchcraft. I hate that dream. Willing my heart rate to slow down, I crawl out of bed and make my way to the shower. Crap, I'm gonna be late if I don't get moving.

    Mrs. Bishop's class is always interesting. I've never really liked history before but this year I think it's going to be different. She seems to make it come alive.

    "The past is much different than you might think. It's about people and what they felt was real at the time," says Mrs. Bishop.

    I never thought of it that way.

    "Isn't it just about people who are dead and didn't know anything?" someone shouts from the back of the room.

    "Ha! You may think that at first, at least that's how the textbooks seem to present it, isn't it? But history, our history, is built on real people, who felt real things. Passion, desire, fear, love, anger. All of these things are part of society. It's our job to look back and piece together what they may have gone through and felt, in order to truly understand why things happened the way that they did."

    Mrs. Bishop is building up her momentum. The excitement in her looks like it's going to explode. My other teacher's should take notes, this lady is different. She really seems to get into what she wants to teach.

    "Okay, so this year we are going to be learning a lot about not just historical events, but the people themselves and how their lives led to the major events within them. So, since it's the fall and Halloween will be coming up in another month, we are going to study one of the most controversial time periods in American History, the Salem Witch Trials."

    "The what? I've never even heard of those." That same idiot from the back needs to get a clue. We learned that back in 8th grade.

    "You've been taught that the trials happened, but you never had to really dig into why they happened. That's going to be your job for the next month. In October you will have to make a presentation about what you learned about the people who lived through it all."

    Groans throughout the room. I hate presentations. Super embarrassing. My stomach is already getting knotted up.

    "Oh come on. Give it a chance. We will be learning the history behind it all here in class, you just need to do some research on the people that it happened to. Maybe you will even find something that surprises you."

    Mrs. Bishop starts assigning all of us the people we are going to be researching.

    "Temperance, you have Bridget Bishop. I think you will find some interesting things about her, she was one of the first women to be executed." Gee thanks Mrs. Bishop. The dread starts building up. Here we go.

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    1. Renee, as last Friday, am really enjoying your work... and subject matter and you have a great authentic teen voice down. I *thought* it was kind of a big deal when, after your protag has that dream, the teacher announces they will be doing projects on the witch trials, but your protag doesn't seem to react. Have I read that wrong. Are they already studying it and that's why she has the dream? If not, wouldn't it be kind of eerie -- and elicit a reaction to dream that and then have the teacher announce it?

      either way, great stuff! Keep going!

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    2. This drew me right in. The voice is authentic and it raised my interest in what would happen next. I agree, though, that since she was assigned a witch trial project about a Ms. Bishop I wouldn't have expected her to take it so quietly. Eager to see the next piece.

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    3. Looking back at.it, I agree. She needs a bigger reaction. I will have to work on that. Not sure why I didn't pick up on that before but I'm glad you both caught it! Thanks!

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  33. When I attended the Middle TN Writing Project in June we had quite a few poets in the group. Though it's not typically something I would gravitate for in my writing I started writing one but haven't finished and don't know where to go to wrap up an ending.

    This is a poem aboutmy Yellow Box flip flops which I LIVE in during the summer months.

    1 Oh flip flops in a yellow box
    2 How I long to wear you
    3 I can't wait til our warm summer date
    4 to slip you on my feet and adore you
    5 You sparkle and shine
    6 and make my feet look divine
    7 My feet feel free
    8 and my toe hair blows in the breeze

    I feel like there should be another line after line 6 that kinda ends that sentence. And though I'm trying to be homorous I'm not sure line 8 isn't really just disgusting :)

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    1. Hah, Shannon... love this at least until the toe hair. If your goal is to make me feel your love for these yellow box flips, maybe replace line 8. Hmmm, how about, "My feet feel free, can wiggle each little piggy." ;) ?

      Meh, I'm not the best poet.
      Keep going!

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  34. Thanks, Renee, and like you I wish I was that quick and forthright when I was in school. Perhaps this is a little wish fulfillment on my part. I hadn't really put a lot of thought into the WWI assignment, I think I was just looking for something that was clearly a paper writing gig and not a tutoring assignment. This may need a little more thought on my part.

    And on that note, I love the way you blend history and contemporary life in your passage, with the promise that Temperance (great name!) is going to become immersed in her Salem Witch Trials research. I also love the way that Bridget Bishop and Temperance's teacher share a last name. Sounds like this is going to be important.

    I had no trouble picturing this classroom. Mrs. Bishop's explanation, the groans from the other students. It all seemed to flow nicely. I did notice that Temperance doesn't have much to do in this scene. Her internal thoughts kept her present in the story, but you might want to consider allowing her to interact a little with her fellow students or Mrs. Bishop to keep her from being a passive bystander. Of course, this is just a short selection. So, if Temperance gets plenty of opportunities for action or interaction before and after this scene, I wouldn't worry much about this.

    Nice passage, and good work!

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    1. Alissa- thanks for your input. I went back to that section and tried to rework it a bit. I knew it was missing something else, but I couldn't put my finger on it when I was writing it the first time. I actually ended up writing the rest of the chapter with more dialogue and created another character for Temperance to interact with (something I was nervous about doing). It seems to flow better and have more "meat" to it. Thanks again!

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  35. Jealous that everyone found time to post - I was feeding folks at the big family gathering for a few days - but it's fun to read the 101 entries and comments!
    Alissa, I so want to know more about your character, cocky and savvy - and something else. I really enjoy this opening. It hooks me.

    I almost decided not to post one, but... I must!
    This piece gives a little picture of my MC's problems with a guy who used to be a very minor, very polite character. In this draft, he's changed into something entirely different.

    ***

    Dear Mother,
    I have arrived in Almira safely. At least, I have arrived at the train station safely. The station master has been horrid, and as far as I can tell, he’s fetched a horrid young man to take me to Mrs.Wyatt’s house. I just hope I get there intact, with my trunk and my self all in one piece.
    Don’t worry, though. Soon enough, I’ll be there! I’m very glad you knew someone with connections. Did I tell you I’m to have a room of my own? Such luxury for a girl who’s shared for so long! I don’t even know what to feel like. There will be two other girls sharing the house with me. We’ve a full kitchen, and Mrs. Wyatt even said there’s a garden we’ll all be able to eat from. That is a blessing in these times.

    She looked up, hoping that Joe would appear soon. The sun had shifted and the heat was creeping toward her toes. She was ready to be done with this infernally endless day.

    The train journey was long and hot and dusty but in reality, it was all right. It was easier than some other modes of transportation! I did get a chance to work on some crochet, and I read a book or two.
    I miss you, and I know you wish I had found work closer to home. Really, this was best for me, a clean break to get away from the family, at least for a time, while I prove I’m good for something besides taking care of the store.
    Goodness, I am getting morose! I’ll set this aside until I get settled and can be a little more cheerful.

    Tucking the note away, Kate stood, determined to get herself to her destination once and for all. She snatched up her satchel, ready to do battle if necessary. Stepping around the corner and pushing open the door to the station, she was just in time to hear the tail end of a comment.
    “…plucky little gal. She had gumption enough to haul that cart right out the door. “
    “She did? Why’d she go and do that?”
    “Funniest thing I seen in a long time, her strugglin’ with that blasted cart. I laughed fit to bust my sides when she got herself outside. I don’t know why these blame fool women think they got any reason to go around doin’ what’s meant for a man to do. Women should just let us do what we’re good at, and stay outta the way.”
    Kate stepped forward then.

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  36. Valerie, so glad you posted! I love Kate and I love thi WIP. Today, especially this:

    The station master has been horrid, and as far as I can tell, he’s fetched a horrid young man to take me to Mrs.Wyatt’s house. I just hope I get there intact, with my trunk and my self all in one piece.

    Good stuff! Keep going!

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  37. I'm definitely hooked by the beginning posted here - this is a character I'd want to hang out with. I don't have an excerpt to post. I don't write much fiction, but I am toying with an idea....

    Thanks again for sharing your process and a bit of your story!

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  38. Thank you, Valerie for your kind words and for finding some time to post your own excerpt. Don't you love when minor characters turn into something you never expected? As you can probably tell, I enjoy sassy female characters, so I really enjoyed reading your passage. It manages to convey both the setting and the characters nicely. I'm always a bit envious of anyone who manages to do a good job of telling stories in letters or journal entries. It's a style I struggle with, but clearly you don't have this problem. I was tripped up a little when Kate stops mid-letter to look around then goes back to the letter, but I think this was more the limits of posting via a blog comment since it doesn't allow for italics to set of the letter from the other stuff.

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  39. Thanks so much for all the feedback - I'm glad I posted! Most encouraging is that my writing is hooking you, and that my characters are starting to feel real. Makes my day - I think I'm really finding my place in this story- and Kate's place, too.

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