Friday, November 14, 2014

Friday Feedback: First delirious sentences before the brick wall...

Hello, brick wall, my old nemesis. . . 

Friends, campers, writermen, lend me your ears,

I come to burrow in words, not to flail in the haze of them. . .

Hmmm. Yeah, no. Sorry about that. Don't mind me.

Hey, so long time no see!

But I know that for many of you, it's Nanowrimo month and you're nearly half way through...

I have been, uh, writing, if not exactly Nano'ing...

I wrote a mess of a 3,500+ word short story (adult, not YA) which was a huge accomplishment for me as I am terrified of them (been reading some Cheever and Carver and trying to unravel the mystery of what a short story is -- and is not). It was a cool exercise. The opening looks like this:

I hope to go back to it one day soon and reorganize, revise and flesh out. There were things I really liked about it.

Then, I started a new YA novel. . . the opening few paragraphs/pages were sheer writerly glory - writing with abandon, lost in the moment of a mood and image I wanted to convey . . and then I hit the brick wall. Way sooner than I had hoped. The brick wall that looks sort of like this:


It's a wall of shrieking loud words and self-doubt and confusion and frustration that I'm all too familiar with, and yet it shakes me to my knees every time.

How about you? You been Nano'ing? How's it going? Are you happy or pulling out your hair?

At any rate, it's a bonus off-the-cuff Friday Feedback (and if you're a teacher with students who are Nano'ing, I invite them -- and you -- to post in the comments both this Friday and NEXT Friday (November 21st). I will be away both Saturdays following this post, but will be back on each Sunday (plus throughout the day Friday) to comment. 

You know THE RULES:

What works for you?

What doesn't? (and why...?)

If it's an opening, does it hook your or compel you to keep reading?

And, remember: Regardless of how much *I* post (it's my blog, you know?)  please do not post more than THREE paragraphs if long, and FIVE if short. If lots of dialogue, use your discretion. And, if you're here from a particular teacher's class, please say so! 

Meep sticker designed by David Lanham.
Oh, and one more thing (as much a reminder to me as to you...): don't waste too much time editing or making beginnings of vomit drafts pretty. More often than not, they're not really you're beginning anyway, which means editing or revising them is only wasting time and stopping you from forward momentum.

So, without further ado, here's the ridiculously rough vomited opening to a thingy I am working on that will most definitely change over time:

The girl
The girl arrived in the middle of the night, and for days no one even knew she existed here.
The house where she was brought was three doors down from ours on the cul de sac, high up on a hill, and belonged to Dr. Betsy Mikkleson. It used to belong to Dr. Mikkleson and her husband, also a doctor, but the male Dr. Mikkelson had left in a great public flourish of animosity the winter before.
The Mickkelson property was pristine, the house itself a brick colonial with white, ionic columns offsetting an ornate, mahogany front door, the upper floor bedroom windows replete with added faux balconies, not that you could tell that much from the street.

The house was set far back on the hillside and a long circular driveway led up to it. Back in the days when old Mr. Andersen lived there with his emphysemic wife, Joan, all us neighborhood kids used to go up there, or at the very least, used to ride our bikes around and around that driveway, huffing and puffing at the top before flying precariously down and around again, using the pendulum momentum to get us back up the first half of the incline. 
The Andersens were a warm and friendly couple who would invite you in for tea with honey and Social Tea Biscuits, which, of course, no kid in their right mind actually enjoyed. The house was cluttered and dark, full of chintz curtains, old shag rugs, and broken and reglued tchotchkes on every counter and shelf. I remember when old Mrs. Andersen died in the middle of the night – and I was only about ten back then – how the sirens woke us and brought us all out to our lawns, but you couldn’t see the ambulance up there at the top of their hill, only watch its glowing red lights bouncing through the tree leaves like spooky red specters in dark.
She had lived there all my life, and then she was gone. Old Mr. Andersen went soon after, and the house stood empty for a year or two (infighting among their grown children, I think) before the property was sold to the Mikkelsons. 
See you all in the comments!
xox gae

p.s. for those of you who are new to this blog, my first novel for young adults, THE PULL OF GRAVITY, was a PSLA Top 40, a Bank Street College Best of 2012 and a Nerdy Book Club Winner for YA, and my second novel THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO has received glowing reviews from VOYA, SLJ and Kirkus as well as The New York Times, and is a Scholastic Book Order selection for teens. It is also available in audiobook. If you like what you see here, please check out my books, and, when possible, notwithstanding the Amazon links, buy from independent booksellers.  If you carry a select number of copies of my book(s) in your classroom or school library, I will Skype visit for free, and if you use my book(s) in your bookclub of five or more members, I will also Skype for free. Please feel free to email me for more information at 


  1. Okay. This is a blog post from the next door neighbor. She's been documenting the things that happened next door (murders, suicides, freak accidents).

    "I kept these notes for myself, just to kind Of prove to myself that I wasn't going crazy and that these things were really happening. But I was afraid--I didn't want to make the house angry. I know how crazy that sounds, believe me. (That may be another reason I didn't want to publish this. People who blame a house for misfortune...those are people who don't stay in the fresh air, you know? Those are people who go away for a little while. And since I have to raise Jason and Rick--my kids--on my own, I can't afford to go away "for a little while." I have to stay here.

    But I'm noticing my kids hanging out around the house next door, no matter how many times I tell them not to. I notice that they're starting to seem a little more serious, that their smiles don't always reach their eyes. I'm wondering if maybe the house's influence is starting to spread.

    I'm wondering if maybe the house is hungry, and since nobody's been staying there for a while, maybe it needs to look elsewhere."

  2. (This is from the prologue, where the not-always-so-sharp Caitlin tries to summon a vengeance demon with a rite she found on the Internet. The demon turns out to be... (it gets better.. I promise!)

    Then Caitlin
    performed the big one—the Goddess of the West. Being an idiot, she carefully turned toward north.
    “Goddess of the West, I beseech thee to send me one with the power to avenge
    me, to protect me, and to cause harm to my enemies.”

    At first,
    nothing happened. Caitlin started back to her clothes. Then the pentagram began
    to glow an eerie red-orange. Caitlin started to freak a little, and her bladder
    felt slightly weak. A jet of fire shot up from the pentagram’s center, and a
    figure appeared in the flames.

    began to wonder if this was such a good idea after all, but the circle of salt
    would contain the demon, according to the website, so she knew she was safe.
    Half-blind from the light, but safe.

    The jet of
    fire stopped suddenly. The figure looked down at Caitlin’s carefully laid
    circle of salt and laughed in a deep, warm voice. The figure stepped over the
    line as if it were nothing. Then the figure’s eyes met Caitlin’s.

    “Lord Jesus
    God,” the figure said in a familiar voice. “Caitlin Elizabeth O’Donnell! What
    the hell are you doing summoning a vengeance demon?” Then more scolding, “And for crissakes, put
    on some bleedin’ clothes!”

    The demon
    was her best-friend’s father. Her neighbor—Cormac McGuinn, in whose house she’d
    spent the night—was a vengeance demon.

    Caitlin Elizabeth O’Donnell reached down for her

  3. Hi, Tom! Oh, but I love this. So much fun! It's got your signature snarky humor and I literally laughed out loud... look forward to reading more when it's a full-blown book. ;) Reminds me of my pal David Macginnis Gill's Soul Enchilada in the humor/horror. Have you read his stuff?

    Something minor to watch for WAY LATER when you're revising, and only pointing out for the lesson of things because I know this is rough, rough... We all, myself included, use "start to" and "began to" as a crutch at times, and when revising, you'll want to pay attention to whether you want to switch to more active version. SO, this:

    At first, nothing happened. Caitlin started back to her clothes. The pentagram glowed an eerie red-orange. Caitlin freaked a little, and her bladder
    felt slightly weak. A jet of fire shot up from the pentagram’s center, and a figure appeared in the flames.

    Caitlin wondered if this was such a good idea after all, but the circle of salt ...

    vs. this:

    At first, nothing happened. Caitlin started back to her clothes.

    Then the pentagram began to glow an eerie red-orange. Caitlin started to freak a little, and her bladder felt slightly weak. A jet of fire shot up from the pentagram’s center, and a figure appeared in the flames.

    Caitlin began to wonder if this was such a good idea after all, but the circle of salt ...

    You may choose to keep the more passive version because you're trying to create hesitance, but do be aware of it!

    xox Keep going!

  4. Thanks for the tip! Any other errors are Kelly's fault.

    I just need to fill about 10,000 more words before it's baked and ready to frost.

  5. Oooh, Kelly, this is good stuff, creepy and I like the technique of this narrator using the blog to share information... Like "their smiles don't always reach their eyes..." made me do it to feel the way a big smile will. :)

    Good stuff! Keep going! Keep NANO'ing!

  6. Hah! But they're not at all errors... in a rough draft, we're not supposed to worry about such things. That "started to" thing is just a common pitfall that many new writers fall into even down the road in later revisions, so it was a fun easy way to point it out.

    Can't wait to eat the slice of cake! Onward!

  7. Wendy Watts ScalfaroNovember 14, 2014 at 12:54 PM

    Yay! It's Friday Feedback! So, to comment on your excerpt first Gae: I love the opening sentence as a hook. I'm intrigued and want to keep reading. I also like the parallel between The Girl arriving in the middle of the night, and Mrs. Andersen dying in the middle of the night. There's a certain mystery about that. The one thing that caught me up with the first sentence though was "for days no one even knew she existed." How do we (or the MC) know she arrived in the middle of the night then? Regardless, I want to read more.

    Here's my excerpt (setting 1917):

    “Look, the Hun has a girlfriend!”

    “She’s not my girlfriend!” John strides ahead of the Schmidt children and Lily, continuing on toward school.

    Anthony Santora steps in front of Lily. “You his girlfriend?”

    “No,” Lily says and steps around him. He grabs her by the wrist and spins her back around.

    “No? What are you then?”

    “Leave me alone!” She wrenches her wrist out of his grasp and hurries to catch up with the Schmidt children. They walk up the school steps together, but Lily isn’t sure where to go. With other children pouring in around her, she loses Abigail, Barbara and John in the crowd. She walks down a short hallway, looking from
    room to room. The crowd thins.

    “Are you lost young lady?” Lily turns toward the voice. A large man looms over her, staring down his nose at her. “I’m Headmaster Spellmeyer. I don’t recognize you. Are you new?”

    She stares at the man, his face stern an unkind. “Are you deaf as well?”

    “Uh, no sir. I don’t know which room is mine.”

    “Well, who are you? What’s your name?”

    “Lily Allen. I’m new here.”

    “I figured that out young lady. Where’s your mother or father?”
    Lily stops breathing. She’s not sure how to answer that question.

    “Um, my father is dead and my mother…”

    “Oh, an orphan then. Well, come to the office to register.”

    An orphan? Lily wants to shout that she’s not an orphan, but the Headmaster is already walking away from her. Is she an orphan? Well, a half-orphan maybe. She still has her mother, it’s just…

    She follows the Headmaster to the office. Inside it’s warm. Too warm. Lily is still whirling from being called an orphan. Her face is hot and sweaty. The Headmaster’s booming voice reverberates in her head, and she can’t understand what he’s saying. She feels her head spinning like a Ferris wheel, and then she goes down.

    # # #

  8. Yay! Friday Feedback is.....BACK! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    Reading is Catching Fireflies

    Sometimes I run after
    a quick flash of
    to capture in my
    pickle jar.

    Mostly it’s gaps of

    In elementary school
    there were pictures and
    group work and reading aloud
    to get me through.

    I did fine.
    A dollar from Grandpa
    for every A on my report
    earned me a hot pink
    mountain bike.

    It’s is harder now.
    Last year my test scores
    were so low I was
    sent to the Reading Coach.

    I felt so stupid.
    No one smart was in the class.
    These were kids
    I didn’t know or want to.

    When it was my turn to
    read for Mr. Stanislaw
    I closed my eyes to
    imagine the empty pickle jar and
    the hay field

    boxed in by a windbreak
    of sugar maples.
    I thought about where I
    would run before opening my eyes
    and tracking the first words.

    After more eye exams and
    testing …meetings with
    Mom and Mr. Stanislaw
    I added a new firefly to
    my jar


    It means I’m not dumb,
    or lazy or incompetent or
    I string letters into
    words differently.
    I am an uncommon

    Mr. Stanislaw has
    showed me new ways
    to understand already.

    Today I took Looking
    for Alaska outside where no one
    could hear and read the entire
    first chapter out loud.

    Three things happened:

    I immediately liked
    Miles Halter.

    I wanted to read more.

    Fireflies lit up my
    face, flew out of the book
    into the sky
    of my own great perhaps.

  9. Wow, Linda, isn't that just beautiful... so moving without knowing anyone in the story, for just meeting them... but my heart broke, and pounded and sped up and it's just so beautiful.

    This sentence tripped me up: Mostly it’s gaps ofdark.

    I didn't know what the it's was referring to, and couldn't glean the meaning from the sentence for a moment.

    The rest, so beautiful. KEEP going!

  10. Wendy, loving this... you do a great job capturing poor Lily's lack of identity and attendant pain... can picture the whole scene so well!

    one minor thing: i know because i checked that the word "girlfriend" came into use as early as 1922 (at least according to Wikipedia...) for boy/girl relationship, but it just feels so modern to me. What about the word "sweetheart?" Would feel more dated to me, in the right way?

    as for your quibble about mine -- that is so, so rough, so technical problems about, but the narrator is looking back on something that happened a long time ago, so she could know that the girl was there from x date, and that she didn't know it at first... does that make sense? At any rate, it's really puke/vomit, so I'll fix it all if I ever get past page 10. O.O

  11. Gae, I love the mood of this piece, and I feel it painted on the backs of my eyelids - th ered flashing glow through the trees, the mystery of the piece. And not just the mood, but the physical structures, how they are in the landscape. I wish I could do that. Keep your glory in it, because it's good.

    Oh, yay, Friday Feedback! Please forgive any strange typings. I'm a One Armed Wonder currently, typing is tricky, and the excerpt itself was created using Dragon dictation. Hey, can you please re-state LAW for us? Even searching for posts is fatiguing for this girl right now...

    My first middle grade novel. My first mystery. It's historical fiction, 1890s, maritime stuff - shipyard and docks. Our MC is nicknamed Rivet because he's a rivet passer on the riveting gang - passes red-hot rivets to the holders who place rivets for the riveters, who hammer them into place to fasten parts of steel ships together. Rivet also loves to read - dime novels - dashing detectives and grand hero stuff. I'm not feelign the connections of the story yet, but the bare bones are beginning to come.

    Here's the opening:

    "Don't you be messing about with them dime novels, you hear me?" His stepfather's gruff voice came from the other room.
    "Yes sir." Rivet stuffed the little book into the pocket inside his jacket. He knew he'd best be careful. His stepfather was not sympathetic to his passion for reading.
    He slipped on the coat as his stepfather entered the room.
    "No nonsense, you hear? And you head on home as soon as work's out."
    "Yes sir," said Rivet.
    Turning to face his Mam, he took the napkin-wrapped piece of cornbread from her with a grateful nod.
    "Be good now, you hear?" his mother said, then lower so his stepfather couldn't hear, " you be careful now. Be home on time; you know what's best, and you know what he wants from you."
    "I will, Mam, I promise." Rivet stepped out the door. He knew he had to take it, every time. He had to take what was coming to him, for her sake. He knew his stepfather meant well, wanted him to work hard and all that, but what in the world was wrong with a little book reading?

  12. Hi, Valerie. LAW=Love, Alter, Wonder
    Love: I feel like I know these characters already, there is something so evocative about Rivet stuffing the book in his pocket. I want to keep reading (please).
    Alter: I think there are just a few places you could pare repetition.
    Wonder: I wonder how reading is going to be part of Rivet's journey. I wonder how he feels about the dangerous job he goes to and what his world there is like. Keep Going!

  13. Oh, thank you, Jane! The dangerous part is what captured me: a photo of men an d boys posed with their rivet hammers in an empty dry dock, a photo that has stuck with me for years. Defintiely will need to pare. I find that I repeat myself a lot in Dragon, and it's fatiguing to make changes right now - talking a book is difficult, I find - but I'm making steady progress towards the germ of an idea. And I see Rivet using the inspiration of the heroes he finds in his books to help him and his friend Hank solve a mystery on the docks: organized crime, unrest with union busting, and a robbery. That is kind of all I have so far. Thanks for this encouragement, when every piece of writing is a struggle.

  14. Response to Gae: What works: there is a real connection to this house at the
    top of the hill. It’s a part of the narrator’s past that will never not be
    there. Familiarity….and, there is a real sense of belonging to the house and at
    least the Anderson’s. I had a neighbor with a hard-top drive-way when I was
    growing up. And, her letting my sister and I ride our bikes on her driveway
    rather than the highway out front was a treat. GREAT memories for me that this
    story stirs up. Thank you for that.

    What doesn’t: the “male” Dr. Mikkleson. Even though it’s
    also awkward with the sound of Mikkleson….I’d suggest the “Mr. Dr. Mikkelson”.
    Don’t know why….it’s a flow thing I think.

    What I wonder is: why was a girl brought to the narrator’s
    house? A girl the narrator doesn’t know because she’s described simply as “the
    girl”… this a group home---on a cul de sac? Something doesn’t add up here.
    By the time I stopped reading I was hooked by the narrator’s relationship with
    the house at the top of the hill….but not so much to the girl that was “brought
    here”. So, I’d like to know more about
    her…..or have her enter the story a bit later since the home at the top of the
    hill and its inhabitants are so important.
    But, I do want to know more. Pretty good for puke ;)

    Thanks so much for your comments. It's amazing how much a helpful comment can energize me....and others? to keep going and write more. Mmmmmmwwwwwah!


  15. Thank you for doing another Friday Feedback, Gae. I like this beginning--it pulls me in and makes me want to read more. I like all the contrasts here--the changes in the house and occupants, how you use arrivals and departures as counterpoints, and I love the public flourish of animosity.

    This is from an early chapter in my WIP. Thank you!

    I’m like one of those vases you see in a museum, on a pedestal, maybe surrounded by a glass case. It looks fine from outside the velvet ropes the museum guards put up to keep people from touching or sneezing on things. A nice vase, decorated and pretty. Something you look at, read the notes about, and forget when you move to the next gallery.

    But if you get really close, if you lean across the velvet ropes or push your nose up against the glass, you’d see the truth. A giant crack, right by the base, that splinters and spreads, partly covered up with paint but breaking through. A web of cracks that can’t be fixed, held together by luck or pressure or some kind of magic glue. You’d see that the vase was actually broken, had been broken from the start, maybe even from the day it was fired in the kiln.

    Broken. Like me.

    You have to be very careful when you’re broken. You have to make sure you keep your cracks hidden.

  16. Gae -

    I think I thank you every time we do this, but I really can't thank you enough. This is both fun and exciting and hell, yeah, let's do this every Friday night! I've got nothing going on! Or at least nothing I like this much....

    Regarding your share (thank you for sharing it - it is so cool to see you working your way through a manuscript.):

    I *love* this line: "...the male Dr. Mikkelson had left in a great public flourish of animosity..."
    I also love how you are presenting the neighborhood, almost as a character in your story, rich with personality and history.

    At this point, it all works for me, but if this depth of neighborhood personality doesn't actually play into your story in the long run, it might be distracting from your real purpose. BUT! I love it. I hope it stays!

    I totally am hooked. To use the Wonder strategy, I am wondering about your girl, how she ended up in this house, who is with her, why she is there, why this is important.

    Oh I do wish I had more to read.

    My Friday share is about a dog shelter who has had a huge influx of dogs that need adopting, and quickly. The adults (Miss Amelia and the vet, Dr. Rose, plus other volunteers) ask the teenagers and kids who have been helping with the work, for suggestions:

    “So tell us,” Dr. Rose spoke loudly and the room quieted, “we want to throw a party. We want people who love dogs to come, adopt, have fun, and donate money to the shelter. What would make you come? No bad ideas for the moment. Tell us what you love to see dogs doing, and what would make families come.” Dr. Rose uncapped a marker and turned to an easel.

    There was a pause as everyone considered the problem. Then the room erupted with noise. Voices clamored to be heard over others. “One at a time!” called Dr. Rose. Kids began raising their hands and chiming in. “Dog racing!” “Dog dancing!” “A kissing booth where a dog licks you!” “Puppy play pens where you can sit with the puppies!” “Dog agility!” “Home made dog treats!” “Hot dogs!” “Dog Portraits!” “Dog Portraits with Santa!”

    Snuggled in his desk burrow, Owen was shielded from the bulk of the noise. His eyes darted between the speakers, watching their expressions. Raised hands, waved for attention. Bodies bounced. A gear clicked in Owen’s mind and the people suddenly looked like canines: bouncing as they shared their excitement, arms
    waving like friendly tails, happy barking voices, wide smiles like open
    panting. Owen rocked slightly with pleasure as it fell into place.

    “Hey, Owen.”

    He turned. Aiden was offering him something. “You want a piece of gum?”

    Owen felt his eyes squinting slightly as he smiled in response. “Thank you.” He wished dogs purred.

    Thank you!

  17. I agree with Gae - very creepy! and good examples, and I suddenly am thinking the narrator might want to find a nice apartment to rent somewhere else?...

  18. Tom -
    I love the combination of creepy and humorous! Really fun to read. I'd love to read more!

  19. Reminds me of Christopher Moore - which is awesome!

  20. this is just lovely, Jane. Nothing more to say than that. Poignant and lovely. Keep going. <3

  21. this is just adorable and lovely, Terry. Gosh, how I love Owen and all the pup stuff. So sweet and gentle, and yet important intense stuff going on, being told about. Just terrific. I do want to know if you are purposefully using that removed passive voice in places to express how Owen feels removed, or if you're unaware of it, for example, ... most especially that last line, "Owen felt his eyes squinting..." vs. "Owen squinted slightly, and smiled..." maybe once in a while to go to the more immediate active place would bring the reader right there with him and have his emotion pack more of a punch? Minor food for thought.

    Love it so much. Keep on going!

  22. and funny, btw. I love the humor of the kids and their ideas...

  23. funny, Linda, I had the Mister doctor Mikkelson first, and changed it to male in this spot... great minds. Maybe it needs to go back... :)

  24. Owen is kind of distant - he's observing the others and himself, but I don't know if it's the right strategy yet. I've been trying to take out a lot of places where it's too passive.

    I'm glad the humor is coming through!

  25. Wendy Watts ScalfaroNovember 14, 2014 at 7:36 PM

    Oh, my gosh this is good! I love the image of the hungry house. It has a character all its own. I can't wait to read more!

  26. that will be the ultimate balance... to let him have his distance, but also have him draw the reader in. I think you are doing a stellar job... it was just a thought I had as I read that last bit. I <3 him. Go, Owen, go!

  27. Wendy Watts ScalfaroNovember 14, 2014 at 7:45 PM

    I LOVE historical fiction (my MG is one also). I also love the whole idea of the danger that Rivet seems to be aware of (from his job and his stepfather). I'm nor worrying about altering anything just yet. I think that will come when you get to revision stage (just keep writing for now). I wonder what the mystery will be that he finds himself involved in and what part reading will play in his life. Love it!

  28. Christopher Moore is a genius, sort of like Tom Robbins used to be. Thanks for the comparison, Terry. I'm at 34,000+. We'll see if I can get around to finishing it by 11/30. Believe me, it's not all as funny or creepy as the bit I posted. I'll see what my lone beta-reader says when she's done eviscerating it. lol

    Thanks again.


  29. Wendy Watts ScalfaroNovember 14, 2014 at 7:50 PM

    Awesome! Thank you so much. I'm glad you caught the "girlfriend" mistake. I'm just working to "get it down" and plan to go back and tidy up the historical stuff. However, this I will fix immediately.

    I understand about the puke/vomit stuff. :)

  30. Nanowrimo isn't about quality. Write now, eviscerate later!
    Good luck-

  31. Oh, Valerie, the hell you are working through to bring Rivet to life. What a captivating unique subject. Hope he gets to read! Great start, what Jane said, yes, but right now just keep GOING! :)

  32. Like I said, I'm not sure it's really a mistake.. seems the term has been in usage and long, long time. But here the more old fashioned term might work well!

  33. You're right, but I'm a chronic self-eviscerator, which sounds like some sort of thing to mention in the confessional, were I Catholic. I can't stop myself from editing as I go along. (While I edit and fluff--it's by no means hardcore revision (which also sounds vaguely nasty)). I'm going to stop, before I end up in purgatory or something. ;-)

  34. Wendy Watts ScalfaroNovember 15, 2014 at 4:49 AM

    You're absolutely correct!

  35. My decision to contact Dr. Zexta Gio practically saved my life. My husband was being so physically abusive to me and I thought there was no way out. I secretly ordered a protection spell from Dr. Zexta Gio one day while he was at work. He was so concerned about me and assured me I was doing the right thing. Right after I got the talisman, my husband suddenly agreed to go to couple’s counseling and anger management classes. I’m seeing a therapist on my own, too, and it all feels like it’s going to turn out alright. Thank you Dr. Zexta Gio, for your kind and benevolent aid. Much appreciation. You can contact Dr. Zexta Gio through his email:

  36. Ah, Jane. What Gae said. Wow. PLEASE keep going. :-)

  37. I am just going to keep pluggin away and finding the bones. No revisions for a long time, but I'll have the essence of it down for when my other WIP is moving on to the next stage. Thanks for your words!

  38. Thanks, Gae! <3 He has to read - it's his key to helping solve the mystery! I will indeed keep on - in this strange format - and getting the essence captured for now.

  39. Wish I could pop in and comment on every post here - such great stuff, you guys!!! But this typing is still very challenging so I'll read and love them all.

  40. Gae-

    I hope your drive home is swift and safe!

    I've started playing around with a new mc, and was surprised to realize she's a YA. So I'm eager to throw this piece out into the fray, all rough and tumble. (gulps!)

    I wasn’t sure I wanted to share the new kids. My new relatives. This was my one shot to talk to other people who didn’t know that in
    first grade, Spenser Ross threw up on me and I pulled off all those nasty clothes even though in first grade we’re too old for getting naked just anywhere. Frankly, I might do the same thing right now, even in sixth grade. Vomit is nasty.

    But that’s the thing. I kind of wanted to keep them to myself for a while. To enjoy being a mystery, not the uncooperative kid.

    That was on every one of my report cards. Uncooperative. Doesn’t follow classroom rules. Seems like a nice girl, but refuses to participate above a minimum. I feel Piper is very bright, but she is unwilling to fulfill her potential.

    Why am I uncooperative? Well, other than preferring to keep some of myself sacred, teachers never listen. For example: every year on the first day of school, they go down the attendance and call our names, as if they’ve never met us before. “Piper Lawrence,” the teacher will call.

    And I’ll answer. I’ll politely say, “Here. Please call me Pippa.”

    Not since preschool have any of the teachers called me Pippa.

    So screw them.

  41. Taking you up on the offer of sharing last week AND this week....because it's such a golden opportunity. THANKS SO MUCH! I realize you are traveling home after a wonderful day at NTCE. I hope you got to meet other great writers. It makes me SO happy when writers I meet and also have fun together. All the pics on fb are super!

    Here is a snip from a poem. My challenge is beyond just revision. I'm not sure how to format this poem so that all three characters (Josue, Tito Miguel and Mom) voices are clear and distinct. I think you will soon what I mean as confusion is a problem.

    ...He tells me again
    about the sand and
    boring watch duty and
    getting care packages from
    my mom, pictures of me
    in preschool.

    I don’t mind.
    I like his stories.
    I ask him about the
    word honor….Tito Miguel I get
    extra credit if I write a few
    sentences about honor.
    What do you think I could write

    Hmmmmmmmmmm. Let me think
    about that he says. You gonna
    be around later today?
    Yah, it’s a day off and Luis
    and I are hanging out at my house.
    OK I’ll be by.

    After dinner I give up
    on Miguel.
    It’s not the first time he’s ditched me
    I’ve gotten my assignment done with
    bits of stories he’s already
    shared with me about being an
    MP in the Army.

    I’m in bed asleep past
    when I hear my mom shushing
    outside my door.
    He’s asleep, she says.
    I’ll just put this on his night stand.
    He doesn’t need it, Miguel. Go
    home, go to bed.
    I want him to have it.

    I call out sleepily….Mom? Tito?
    Miguel steps in on the
    balls of his feet.
    He smells like he’s had
    a few beers as he sits down on
    the side of my bed and
    tries to push my hair out of my eyes
    like I’m a baby.

    Cut it out I murmur.
    Josue….honor isn’t something
    I can tell you about.
    I’ve been thinking about it and
    everyone I know from before
    the army and since…they
    don’t really hit the mark…including me.
    But there is one…his voice breaks.
    There is one who saved me
    and showed me.

    Miguel fumbles with my covers
    to find my hand and presses
    a metal dog tag into it
    The light from the hallway
    is enough for me to see that it’s
    an actual dog tag…from Ranger
    the bomb sniffing dog that
    was Miguel’s partner his
    entire time in Iraq searching
    the base perimeter for IEDs
    and other explosives.

    Miguel came back to
    the US stressed out after a couple tours.
    Ranger stayed with a new handler
    until he died after a seizure—maybe heat stroke.
    Ronnie, Ranger’s last handler
    sent his tags and medals
    back to Miguel who keeps them
    in a box next to his bed.

    He whispers to me now…but
    I know he’s picturing Ranger…
    respect, duty, loyalty, selfless service,
    integrity and personal courage in
    everything you do…that is honor.

    Thank you Miguel

    Goodnight kid. Good luck
    on your assignment.
    I got this, Tito
    You’re the best.

  42. Gae,
    Another Friday Feedback? I hope you have a safe trip home and aren't bombarded by our submissions when you arrive. I'm missing having something of yours to comment on, so I'm hoping you'll post when you get home. This is from early in my WIP. Thanks! -Jane

    I lie smack in the middle of my bed in the dark, stiff as a
    board, listening. The phone is going to ring. I can feel it. A raw feeling lodges in my throat. I try counting the circles in the ceiling medallions to make the feeling go away.

    You know how, if someone hits a ball your way and, right in the
    second before it smashes into your face, you see it, and you know it’s going to hurt? How sometimes you can feel it hit you before it actually does?

    It's like that. My sixth sense. I can feel bad things
    coming. Except my sixth sense is a liar, full of false alarms.

    The phone isn’t ringing, and I know my brain is lying, but
    the feeling is so strong, I can’t think of anything else. My whole body tingles.The only reason a phone rings at night is bad news. Grandpa. What if something has happened to Grandpa?

    My ears make ocean sounds in the silence.

  43. Jane, nothing new from me today... was singularly uncreative last week... excited to read new stuff from all of you though... yay!!

    I think I'll also use some of Will Ritter's LAW format today . . . it's a good one, so here we go:

    I LOVE: "Except my sixth sense is a liar, full of false alarms" and "My ears make ocean sounds in the silence." I am intrigued by what is going on with this character

    I might think about ALTERING the baseball section because it pops me out of the flow of angsty emotion the MC is feeling. Funnily enough, it is something I do in my manuscripts constantly, and then often -- but not always -- change: talk to the reader when I really shouldn't be. I don't know if you shouldn't be or actually should be... maybe the latter because it's something this character is doing all along, and simply out of context it pops me out. If not, maybe:

    It's like when someone hits a ball your way and, in the second before it smashes into your face, somehow you see it, you sense it, and you know it’s going to hurt, so you turn away right before it actually does.

    WONDER: I wonder what it is that is making this character feel this way in the middle of the night... so many of us know this feeling and I'm sort of dying to know what it is. So, kudos!

    Keep going!

  44. Wow, Linda, what an interesting important story you seem to be telling here... and an interesting challenge to separate out the voices. Because, yes, if there are three distinct voices here, I crave to hear them and really see them too.

    I'm not a verse writer, really, though my current manuscript sort of has one of the two MC's perspective in a sort of stream of consciousness free verse type of thing. In that manuscript, the girl's sections are in italics and preceded by a symbol that represents her sections. Have NO idea, if bought, how the editor/publisher would end up wanting to represent her sections.

    Still, one thing you could do in the early versions of the MS, is literally put their names in front of their sections or put each of their sections in a unique font, and then work to give them less superficial things that stand out in their voices so that, in the end, if you took away the unique font or names, you'd still know who was who. Maybe one of them says, Yo before everything he says, the way Obama says, "Look," before almost everything he says. Maybe one of them has a tic or a stutter. The trick is always to limit the usage so it's not distracting or annoying and to make sure it feels authentic to the character.

    Does this help at all? I'd love love love to see what you come up with, and would LOVE other reader/writers to chime in! <3

  45. Hah! What a great ending to that moment, Terry!

    Isn't it grand when you're all excited about a new character? You've got some gems going here. What more is there to say this early on but keep going!

    Sorry if you waited hours for that, but really, it's just fun early stuff with your trademark mix of poignant (bordering on knowing it's going to be heartbreaking) and funny. And I love it. So go on.

  46. Just happy to see your name pop up here, Valerie. Sorry the typing is still challenging! Wish you speedy healing... wondering if six days later, you're doing better? Hope there's been leaps and bounds of improvement! <3

  47. Thank you for holding Friday Feedback again! I don't mind waiting, despite my attentiveness. I just appreciate getting an outside pair of eyes on it.

  48. Thanks so much. I love your edit. I'm trying to convey what it is like to feel with certainty something is imminent, even though she logically knows it isn't, as opposed to thinking about what would happen if the phone rang. I think this helps not break the flow of the anxiety. Thank you!

  49. Thanks for asking, Gae!
    Will be tough for at least another month - no lifting the arm unassisted while the repair knits. Better every day, just slow as molasses and computing isn't ideal.
    When I wasn't sleeping at 5:30 this morning though, I realized that this mystery needs to begin with the crime, robbery of the dockworkers' payroll (with roots in historical fact) to move it along better. THanks to Kate Messner's REAL REVISION, I'm learning a ton about this books and about my own Kate's story... :-)