Thursday, July 2, 2015

Friday Feedback: Will this be Your Summer to Be Brave?

Come on in. The water is fine. 

It took me nearly 35 years to be brave.

To put myself truly out there in the world and try new things, believing I was capable of them.

Not that I was living under a rock or anything.

I mean, I had gone to law school, had a decent part-time career while I was raising my two little boys.

But write?

Be a writer?

That was a pipe dream, something I had tucked away long ago for more practical, attainable things.

So when the writing bug started to gnaw at my toes under the covers at night as I started to finally fall asleep, I made excuses, blamed others, thought, maybe in a few years because who has the time to do that NOW?

Oh, they were real excuses, grounded in fact:

First I was working full-time in big NYC law firms, then part-time (as many hours as I could muster the ability to focus primarily from home) while I  had one still-colicky toddler who refused to sleep, and another baby ready to pop from my belly.

I don't have the hours in a day.

My husband doesn't encourage me enough.

I need to be exercising. 

I should be cleaning the house. . .

Sound familiar?

Besides, WHAT DO *I* HAVE TO SAY?!?

I don't remember exactly what it was that got me from that thinking to sitting at my computer every night from the moment the dishes were done and my toddler had finally fallen asleep until the wee hours of the mornings to write my first manuscript. A manuscript that took me five years to write.

All I do know is that it was a proverbial light bulb going off: I just woke up one morning, looked at the laundry list of excuses and suddenly knew they were just that. Viable ones, maybe. But, excuses nonetheless.

And I knew that the difference between people who do and people who don't was always going to be that those who do don't find the time, they MAKE it.

That first manuscript, THE JETTY, a piece of contemporary women's fiction, garnered some decent praise when I finally put it out there -- e.g. became a Top Semifinalist in the first ever Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest and even ultimately got me agented after two years of that unique hell that is agent-query rejection.

That manuscript, THE JETTY, now sits in a "drawer."

Unable to sell it, but now agented and encouraged, I wrote a second manuscript that my agent loved better, but that one, too, has never (not yet?) sold.

It was my third manuscript, THE PULL OF GRAVITY (a Bank Street Best of 2012, and, of course, a Nerdy Book Club* best, 2011. . . ) that sold to the legendary and extraordinary editor Frances Foster, at fsg.

And, after that, THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO (to the wonderful Elise Howard at Algonquin YR).

And news some of you might not know because we haven't announced the formal details yet. . .

but my third novel just sold and I'm uber excited about that!!!

For me, writing and selling good stories continues to be a, well, let's just call it a "less-than-simple endeavor." There are days (weeks, okay possibly months and years) when I fear that I will never write another sellable story again.

But this I have learned. This I KNOW: I sure never will if I don't keep trying, if I don't put myself out there to be brave.

That is, in fact, the spirit behind Friday Feedback. Why I started the feature a few years ago. Long before you heard of me, before Teacher's Write was a deliriously wonderful part of my summers.

From 59 Reasons to Write by Kate Messner, with contributions from
your friendly Teachers Write authors! 

Because I know that so much of what we do, we do in solitude, and getting feedback -- and encouragement -- is such an important part of the process.

The concept of Friday Feedback is simple: Brave is as brave does.

So we, the published authors, open ourselves up to the same constructive feedback we hope to give you. Because, yep, we still have doubts and fears, not to mention benefit from the eyes of objective readers who can help us to see both the flaws and the gems.

Please be clear that the feedback you receive here can be less than imperfect. Often the excerpts are from rough (ROUGH!) first drafts, and either way, it is nearly impossible to assess a piece of story out of context from just a brief few paragraphs. As such, the feedback offered must be taken as intended, with a grain of salt, as merely suggestive or "food for thought."

Having said that, over the years many have found it not only helpful and encouraging, but even exhilarating, so on we go!



YOU and me, together. Being brave.

Before we start, PLEASE READ ALL THE RULES (apologies, for the sudden highlighting. Blogger does that to me when I cut and paste): 

At the end of each week's Friday Feedback blog post, my guest author or I will post a brief excerpt from a Work in Progress (WIP) and ask you for three specific pieces of feedback in the comments:

1. What works for you and why? 

2. What doesn't work for you if anything, and why not?

3. If it's a beginning, does it hook you? If it's not a beginning, does it compel you to keep reading?

******Now, take a moment to read the order of those three questions again. *****

Notice the order!!!

If you are a teacher I beg of you, never grade or assess a student's writing without FIRST sharing something that works. Something the student has done well, or "right" before you correct them or offer constructive criticism as to what they've done "wrong." 

And, yes, there is always something right. There are always gems to be found.

Hopefully over the course of this summer you'll see how much more open we all are to constructive criticism when we're first offered a bit of honest praise. . .

4. Once you have done that, you're invited to post your own BRIEF excerpt in the comments and we -- my guest authors and I, and even other Friday Feedbackers -- will offer you the same limited information in the comments.

5. By BRIEF, I mean brief. Regardless of how short or long OUR shared excerpts are, YOURS must be limited to between THREE and FIVE PARAGRAPHS and NO MORE. Five if they're short, three if they are long (if your paragraphs contain a lot of single-line dialogue, then do feel free to adjust this rule accordingly). 

Please note that this Rule #5 is for our protection and yours. Ours because there can be 30 or more excerpts shared in a given day, and that's a whole lot of reading and feedbacking for my guest authors and me to give, and yours because I don't want there to be enough up there that, if someone "lifted" your words from my blog, you'd feel a significant piece of your story was plagiarized or stolen. We are on the the Wild West internets here, after all.

Once in while, in addition to the three pieces of feedback given above, I will do one of my patented "SUPER SPEED FLASH EDITS" on your excerpt if it lends itself to one, in which I will quickly eliminate unnecessary words that might bog the piece or pace down, change tenses, or combine sentences, etc., namely small fixes that can have big impact while not messing with your substantive word choices or own unique voice. 

I do these when I hope they might serve to illustrate a concept that may help your -- and other campers'  -- writing to pop and shine even more. If you don't want me to do a SSFE on your writing for any reason, speak up in a note or email to me, or forever hold your peace.

Oh, and last but not least, even though it is called Friday Feedback, I know many of you have summer jobs and commitments, and so you are welcome to post an excerpt through SATURDAY, and at least *I* (I can't guarantee my guest author) will give you feedback through the weekend. Please do NOT post past Saturday night, as by then I will already be preparing the post for the following week. 

So, without further ado, here we go with ME in the hot seat. This excerpt is the opening of a YA ms I'm working on called (so far) THE SMALLEST SLICE.

What works? What doesn't? Does it hook you at all?

1. Late.

Jojo Bhatt is late.
She enters the cool shadows of the steps to the subway, her heavy backpack slung over her shoulder. There’s not much in the backpack to make it so heavy. No textbooks or homework or anything.
Jojo doesn't need those things today. Despite how it looks, she won’t be going to school, or back home later for that matter.
Jojo descends the steps calmly, catching her muted reflection in the plexiglass frame of a poster for some new Broadway show. It is her father’s brown skin and black hair that blur by. No single trace of her mother. She moves faster so as not to catch the blur in the next panel – this for a new luxury condominium uptown somewhere. As she reaches the second flight of stairs, she hears a train roar in, the squeal of slowing brakes, the bing of the bell, the hydraulic hiss of the doors sliding open.
Normally, she would run for it, but today she can be late. Today, she simply doesn’t care.
When Jojo reaches the bottom and the entrance to the platform, the worker in the token booth, an older man with a shock of gray-white hair, turns and looks at her. She holds up her metrocard and scurries past, her heart starting up a little though she knows she has nothing to worry about. At school, she’d have a problem, wouldn’t get past the security guard or the metal detectors. But there are no bag checks or scanners here.


Happy summer 2015 all you shiny TW campers! So glad to have you here. . .

- gae

* if you teach kids reading or share books with kids and are not a member of the Nerdy Book Club, you are plain silly.


  1. 1. What works for you and why?
    The details allow me see the story: I am looking at a girl with a mysterious bag in the subway station.
    2. What doesn't work for you if anything, and why not?
    No problems with anything.
    3. If it's a beginning, does it hook you? If it's not a beginning, does it compel you to keep reading?
    I am hooked. I want to know what's in bag her and where she is going.

    Thanks for sharing Gae.

  2. 1. What works for you and why?
    The details help to create a visual image. I see this troubled teenager. Something is on her mind, something that is consuming her and needs to keep moving to make sure that everything happens the way it should.
    2. What doesn't work for you and why not?
    There is nothing that is causing me a problem.
    3. Does it hook you?
    Yes, I really want to know what is in the backpack, why she isn't going to school and what is her mission.

  3. 1. What works? I can absolutely see the scene. The description of her actions - looking at her reflection, then skipping her reflection and the note of her skin and hair color, make me think she's having an issue with her color.
    2.What doesn't work? N//A
    3. Hook? Absolutely! I am wondering why she's skipping school. What happened to make her to do this? I'm wondering what is in her backpack - it's heavy but not much in there and the fact that she wouldn't make it into her school but can into the train...I'm interested to find out if what I'm thinking is in there, really is!

  4. I love the unusual name and how you introduced so much about Jojo in a few short paragraphs. You brought us into that subway to see her. We are on this ride with her (even though it seems like we might not want to be).

    I wonder about holding up the Metrocard. Would that be enough to get her in? Did she already scan it? I do like that this part leads to the idea that she has something potentially dangerous in the backpack.

    This has me hooked. At the end I just thought, whoa. Her problems run deep an this is more than another runaway story.

  5. Lynn Hamilton WalkerJuly 3, 2015 at 4:18 AM

    1. Works? I love Jojo's inner workings-how she hides from her reflection in the plexiglass panels. It gives the reader enough pause to see that she is unhappy with herself, but also doesn't want to be accountable to her dad.
    2. Doesn't work? I think it is good right now.
    3. I liked the hook-mostly because I am always late and wondered what her reasons were. My guess is many others can relate too.

  6. What works: pacing is swift with some description tossed in giving it meat.
    What doesn't work I like the plexiglass displays, I think mentioning what the second one is for slows it down a bit though.
    Great hook at the end. And I like the character's name.

  7. Here's mine:

    When Martin and Alan get together, they barely talk at all. They’re quiet dudes. Even though they don’t talk much, there is plenty of noise. Martin and Alan are the kinds of guys who like to break things. They’re the kinds of guys who love the thrill of the sound of pieces of everything flying all over.

    You don’t understand? Haven’t you ever broken anything? Oh, sure. We’ve all dropped a plate or a glass on the floor and were startled by the sound. But have you ever broken anything on purpose to see what it sounds like? That’s what Martin and Alan love about breaking things. The sounds.

    So, let’s break something. I get it, you’re nervous, so we’ll do this together. It’s ok to start small. You probably don’t even need to get up. (Although you probably should. I’ve read quite a bit lately about how sitting down is killing us). Have a pencil? Are you eating something breakable? Have an old VHS tape you wouldn’t mind saying goodbye to? Do you have something? Good. Let’s get to it.

  8. I agree about the plexiglass. It seems important that she doesn't look at herself in the second, but we might not need to know about the luxury condos...unless we do need to know about the luxury condos!

  9. What works - the sense of place and time. If you'd never been in a subway you immediately got the feel of what one was like.
    What didn't work - it all worked.
    I was hooked the minute I read the lines stating she wouldn't be going to school or be home for dinner. That sets the tone for the piece. Well done.

  10. Wendy Watts ScalfaroJuly 3, 2015 at 4:54 AM

    1) What works for me is the atmosphere you've created. There's just enough description to put the reader into the scene. I feel like I'm following Jojo down into the subway station. I feel the weight of the backpack, the coolness of the underground air. I hear the subway as it pulls into the station. I can imagine the rush of people, and the odors all around. I'm also beginning to sense Jojo's urgency, but I'm left wondering what her mission is today, and why she's not going to school.

    2) The only thing that doesn't work for me is the MC's name. It reminds me of the Star Wars character, Boba Fett. :) But I love the name Jojo.

    3) I'm definitely hooked. I want to know what's in that backpack that would give her problems with a metal detector!


    So, here's my excerpt. My MC, Lily, has been placed in a Catholic orphanage by a family that had taken her in when her mother had to find employment. Her mother doesn't know she's in the orphanage now. Setting: March 1918

    Lily turns toward the Sister. “Mrs. Schmidt is not my aunt!” She feels a resurgence of the anger that enveloped her in Mother Superior’s office.

    The woman’s face is an oval of paleness surrounded by her black habit. Wire-rimmed glasses are slightly askew on her delicate, freckled nose. Green eyes look kindly upon Lily, and she feels comforted for a moment, almost loved. Lily’s heart aches because this is the same loving look her Momma used to give her.

    Sister Mary Rose sighs. “That hardly matters anymore. You’re here now. We can’t change that.”

    “But my mother doesn’t know I’m here! How will she find me?” Her eyes are burning.

    “Lily, you can’t be sure your mother is able to come back for you. Most women have a difficult time supporting their children after their husbands die.”

    “She promised me she would be back in one week. One week. But Mrs. Schmidt didn’t even wait that long.”

    “What do you mean, child?” Sister Mary Rose’s voice is very quiet, her eyes concentrating on Lily.

    “When Momma placed me with Mrs. Schmidt, she told her would come back in one week. Mrs. Schmidt told her she wouldn’t keep me any longer than that.”


    “That was six days ago. Mrs. Schmidt didn’t even wait one week. Momma’s coming back for me today, but she won’t know where to find me.” Lily’s energy is gone, her emotions at the very surface. “Why would Mrs. Schmidt do that?”

    Sister Mary Rose stands, her hands clasped in front of her. “I don’t know, Lily.”

    Tears spill on to Lily’s cheeks. “Will you help me Sister?”

    “Of course I’ll help you. That’s my purpose here.”

    “No, I mean…will you help me find my Momma?”

  11. Welcome to FF, VR!!! Thanks for jumping in! Here's to a great TW! summer! :)

  12. Thanks, Cole! You've been here before, yes?

    Either way, happy summer!! Glad to be sharing TW & FF with you! :)

  13. Thanks, Pamela! Glad you are here! Happy summer! Happy writing!

  14. Thanks for jumping in, Janie! Hope you will come back and post your own little excerpt soon! :)

  15. Thanks, Patrice! And welcome to TW/FF!! We're going to have a great summer! Glad you are here! :)

  16. Hey, Todd! I blame YOU for not getting enough sleep! ;) SO, I'm glad to see you here bright and early! :) And even more excited to see that you are our first official BRAVE Friday Feedback sharer of 2015!!!!! *tosses confetti! Hands keys to new (fake) car!*

    Interesting note about the metro card. She hasn't reached the turnstile yet in my head, just waves with it walking past the booth! Will reread for clarity/context!

    Can't wait to read your excerpt!


  17. Lynn, welcome! Isn't that the truth that if we share a trait with a character that instantly can draw us in!

    Glad to have you here. Happy summer! Thanks for playing along. :)

  18. Thanks for jumping in Martha! Happy summer 2015! Hope you'll be sharing your own excerpt soon!

  19. Kristin ColpetzerJuly 3, 2015 at 5:12 AM

    1. What works - the opening has grabbed my attention and has left me wondering what Jojo is doing. Descriptive words help me visualize.
    2. What doesn't work - ?
    3. Whether this is the beginning of the book, beginning of a chapter or beginning of a section within a chapter, it makes me want to continue reading. My mind is wondering...

  20. Woot! Woot!! You did it! You seriously win the distinction of being our first camper putting up an excerpt for feedback! That is the bravest of brave!!!

    What works for me? I love the voice as it draws the reader INTO the action, narrated by some omniscient third person who is suddenly talking to ME. It makes me sit up and take notice, want to know things. E.g. it hooks me. So good work!

    What distracts me? Something small and silly in this sentence: "They’re the kinds of guys who love the thrill of the sound of pieces of everything flying all over." Because I'm thinking does the flying part make a sound (I guess it does - a sort of whizzing) -- or is it not the flying but the LANDING/crashing that they love the thrill of?

    Minor silly thing.

    One more thing I'm curious about, and it shows you right off the bat how limited FF can be with such short excerpts (THANK you for abiding!) is what the actual mood/age of this piece is and I'm not sure yet and might want to be. E.g. is this going to be a light silly MG or is this darker and more sinister? (something about the narrator's voice sounding older - e.g. talking about how sitting is killing us) makes me not know, wonder and maybe want an earlier clue or two. Really small. (e.g. by Jojo walking to the subway alone, carrying a backpack, but not going to school, we already have hints about the age of this piece, and maybe the mood). I'm curious about that and don't know yet for yours. So, I invite you in a reply to this post to share the next three paragraphs or so of your WIP. Then I'll offer further feedback. Can't wait to see it, though it might not be until later this afternoon!

  21. Welcome Sandra!

    Glad it works so far. If only I could say the same about the next 40 pages. ;)

    Happy summer! So excited about TW with you all!

  22. Wendy Watts ScalfaroJuly 3, 2015 at 5:20 AM

    I agree with Gae's comment below about "...the sound of pieces of everything flying all over." Also, I'm totally drawn into this piece and want to know where this is going. I want to know why these guys like to break things. What's going on in their lives that causes them to be drawn to this activity? And I want to know what part the reader plays in the story.

  23. Ah, Wendy,

    I have the luxury and honor of knowing a decent about this story and yet you took me by surprise and because I know Lily find myself crushed that Mrs. Schmidt did that to her! I didn't know. And now I'm so upset.

    What works. What I love. What I continue to love: the authenticity of the voice of this piece. The mix of good people and heartless people. The helplessness of the circumstances that wear on our poor, sweet Lily.

    What I especially adore? this: "Green eyes look kindly upon Lily, and she feels comforted for a moment, almost loved. Lily’s heart aches because this is the same loving look her Momma used to give her."

    So evocative.

    What you want to maybe keep an eye on in general when you go to revise later? The boring verb are which can, IMHO, really weaken otherwise active showing and is rarely irreplaceable:

    Wire-rimmed glasses are slightly askew on her delicate, freckled nose. vs.

    Wire-rimmed glasses sit slightly askew on her delicate, freckled nose.

    “But my mother doesn’t know I’m here! How will she find me?” Her eyes are burning. vs.

    “But my mother doesn’t know I’m here! How will she find me?” Her eyes burn.

    Such moving stuff! Keep going!

  24. Yay! Welcome to FF, Kristin! And happy TW summer! Glad you are here!

  25. Okay, I'm unfortunately off to a funeral (father of a dear friend) and also have to sit shiva later this afternoon -- two unexpected things pulling me away from FF for hours at a time on our first day! Alas, I will be back! Welcome to all who are posting!

    How great is Teachers Write! ??!?!?! :D

  26. 1. What works--I love, love, love the description of the train moving in--I am THERE. I can hear the hiss of the doors opening. I can smell the station as I walk the steps with Jojo.
    2. What doesn't work-- at this point I haven't been able to move past the name having the same rhythm as Boba Fett--but I'm just weird like that. I guess that's how I process names--by familiar rhythms. Anyhow, a few more paragraphs in and I'd be over it, I think.
    3. Oh, I definitely want to keep reading! "But there are no bag checks or security scanners here." WHAT??? I NEED the next part!

    Gae, thank you again for all that you do for us. Your how-I-became-a writer story resonates with me and inspires me. Teacher's Write is what pushed me to finally became brave.

  27. here's mine--

    Sometimes I come to the library when I need a chance to
    think. It is a semi-quiet place (mostly, at least—except when the gamer guys get loud in the mornings. Dude—shut up, for real, though) Anyhow,today started off rough and has turned to complete and utter shit. I need to shut my brain off to my own issues and the best way to do that is to get lost in a book.

    Yeah, yeah, I know. I know what you’re thinking.
    Man, this girl READS? Like READS, reads? Yes, ape-face, I
    do. So what if you wouldn’t necessarily think that by looking at me.
    Haven’t you ever heard not to judge a book by its cover? Like for real,

    I sign in, slide the permission slip in the basket, and
    head to the back of the library. Our school may suck in a million
    different ways, but we have a great freakin’ library. It is huge, for one
    thing; it has tall ceilings and a lot of open space. Ms. Casey, the
    librarian, has a few couches in here so you can actually get comfy and enjoy
    yourself when you read instead of having your back ache in the crappy classroom
    desks that never let you forget for a second exactly where you are. I luck out because the big overstuffed tan couch at the back—my couch-- is completely empty.

    It’s second period, and miraculously there isn’t a class using
    the downstairs computer lab in the library right now. I throw my bag and binder
    down on the middle cushion and head over to the shelves to find a book. I’m
    looking for fantasy, of course, my usual thing. A few badass characters
    and a fire-breathing dragon always make for a good time.

  28. here's mine--just accidently deleted it below--oops! not enough coffee in me yet!

    Sometimes I come to the library when I need a chance to
    think. It is a semi-quiet place (mostly, at least—except when the gamer guys get loud in the mornings. Dude—shut up, for real, though) Anyhow, today started off rough and has turned to complete and utter shit. I need to shut my brain off to my own issues and the best way to do that is to get lost in a book.

    Yeah, yeah, I know. I know what you’re thinking.
    Man, this girl READS? Like READS, reads? Yes, ape-face, I
    do. So what if you wouldn’t necessarily think that by looking at me.
    Haven’t you ever heard not to judge a book by its cover? Like for real,though.

    I sign in, slide the permission slip in the basket, and head to the back of the library. Our school may suck in a million different ways, but we have a great freakin’ library. It is huge, for one thing; it has tall ceilings and a lot of open space. Ms. Casey, the librarian, has a few couches in here so you can actually get comfy and enjoy yourself when you read instead of having your back ache in the crappy classroom desks that never let you forget for a second exactly where you are. I luck out because the big overstuffed tan couch at the back—my couch-- is completely empty.

    It’s second period, and miraculously there isn’t a class using
    the downstairs computer lab in the library right now. I throw my bag and binder down on the middle cushion and head over to the shelves to find a book. I’m looking for fantasy, of course, my usual thing. A few badass characters and a fire-breathing dragon always make for a good time.

  29. Wendy Watts ScalfaroJuly 3, 2015 at 5:47 AM

    Posting for LINDA MITCHELL, who is camping...

    FF sub. My main character is 17 years old and a senior in high school. WIP is un-named. Thanks, Wendy for posting for me.

    Close the Damn Door

    I stand at my locker
    like it’s a fridge
    that will produce
    a snack to satisfy
    what I want.

    I gotta get to calc.
    I’m stuck staring into
    this blue painted assigned space
    that’s mine for until June.
    The darkness behind my jacket
    wants to come out.

    The bell is about to ring.
    Behind me a river of bodies
    flows toward classroom doors
    A few kissing couples are rapids to crush past.
    I decide to keep the darkness
    in and out of sight for the day.

    I hear Dad’s voice yelling
    Close the damn door.
    I slam my locker door
    hard enough to jam the lock.

    by, Linda Mitchell

  30. 1. I love the mood of this excerpt. Jojo is late but doesn't care. Her backpack is heavy but we know it's not school work that is weighing it down. She isn't going back home later. Yet, Jojo calmly descends the stairs. This conflict unsettles me and makes me want to know more.

    2. Nothing jumps out at me

    3. I am definitely hooked. My mind is swimming with questions: What's in her backpack? Why won't she be going home? Why does her reflection and the connection to her father bother her? How does the story relate to the title?

  31. Gayle Kolodny ColeJuly 3, 2015 at 7:10 AM

    I like the pace of this piece; it feels very "real time." The mood is clear, that a big and unusual adventure is about to take place for the character. I am curious. I kind of wonder about her backpack and how it looks; I want more to picture. I can't tell if it's grungy or girly or average or expensive or anything, and I find myself wanting to know that so I can invest and hone in more on the image in my mind. As an educator, I see backpacks a lot, I notice them, and I feel like they tell me a little about their owners, but maybe this is not important in this piece -- just crossed my mind. There is nothing that does not work for me. I would keep reading.

  32. Gayle Kolodny ColeJuly 3, 2015 at 7:11 AM


    I remember hiding in a coat closet with a flashlight, a pen, and a journal with wide lines, writing furiously about how much better parent I would make than my crazy mother and alcoholic father. My parents never even noticed my retreat. They were too busy throwing furniture at each other while I drafted essays about child rearing and a pledge to my future self to be Mother of the Year. I was a miserable kid, but I had plans.

    Alas, my 1970s journal full of wisdom was lost just a short time later when the family imploded irreparably. We hastily fled the spacious house with the coat closet haven one Spring Friday during my fifth grade year, but I still remember the key ingredient to my vision of perfect parenting.
    Yes, I remember exactly what I believed my parents lacked. I knew what kids needed. I knew how I could make a better future for the next generation. It was obvious. Are you ready for the tool I considered bulletproof in child-rearing despite my parents’ refusal to implement it?

  33. Wow! It all works - the description, the tension, the connection I already feel to Jojo. There's nothing that doesn't work, and I don't want to keep reading; I NEED to keep reading! I am concerned about what this girl is planning to do.

    Here goes....

    The usual sounds woke her from another fitful sleep; dogs yapping, trucks rumbling by on the busy road outside her window, chirps emanating from the blasted iPhone by the bed. Another day, and another list of todos, regrets and broken dreams faced Amelia as she reluctantly crawled from her bed.

    "How old is that egg substitute in the fridge?" Amelia wondered, as she padded to the dismal kitchen of her half-renovated monstrosity of a house. She couldn't afford to get sick today, not with her parents' 65th wedding anniversary party that evening. She settled for a bagel and a cup of decaf. Using her favorite mug made her smile a little.

    When did life get so complicated? She thought by the age of fifty that she would have accomplished something, felt some financial security, be able to enjoy her "summers off," begrudged by her non-teaching peers. Instead, she faced each day with worry and disappointment. Amelia found herself at a crossroads, both personally and professionally. Something had to change.

  34. What works? Jojo catching her reflection and then moving faster to avoid it gives us a window into her character, and possibly the problem. We get a visual on her appearance, as well as a hint of the relationship with her father- maybe a problem between them, or something she doesn't like in him that she is reminded of when she sees herself. This brief moment opens up avenues for where the story could go. It's a very effective part.
    What doesn't? I don't have a what doesn't, but rather a question that I'm wondering. Is Jojo typically late, or usually on time? Today she doesn't need to care, but usually she would run. Would she be running because she's always running late, or because she would normally be worried about being late? I assume this trait would be revealed beyond this scene, but I found myself trying to put together the picture of Jojo from the pieces revealed here.
    Does it hook you? Yes. I wanted to read on. I want to know what the issue is with her father. I want to know why she won't be back later. I want to know what's in her backpack. I want to know!

    Thank you for sharing this, Gae.

    Okay, so yesterday I tweeted that I would be brave and join in. I don't have a WIP, or ms. I have a writer's notebook and I don't use it nearly enough, which is what I hope to achieve by being in Teachers Write. Last summer I participated in the summer institute for the PA Writing and Literature project, and I discovered the true power of being a teacher who writes. I wrote alongside my students this year, and we learned together and built a true writers' community. But I struggle to write regularly, and I would like to develop the habits of a writer, and not just think about all the things I could be writing. That said, I've done a bunch of reading and a little writing and I will share a found poem that I wrote in the margin of 59 Reasons to Write after I finished reading page 21.

    Writers Need
    a found poem inspired by the words of Kate Messner

    Writers need
    to feel safe,
    free to push themselves,
    write honestly,
    from personal experience.

    a new way of writing,
    or different point of view-

    in a supportive,
    safe environment,
    go deeper,
    beyond comfort zone--
    rather than fear.


  35. What works: the mood/tone works. I love the " It is her father’s brown skin and black hair that blur by. No single trace of her mother"as she sees her reflection in the poster glass.
    What doesn't work: nothing yet!
    Hook: yep, definitely a hook... got to know why the metal detectors and bag checks would be a problem for her today if she were going to school with that big backpack + not going back home + no glimpse of her mother in the reflection of her

  36. No, I am new to TW and FF. So far I don't have any writing to share, except for my master's thesis. Hoping that this not only helps my writing but also helps me inspire my high school students to write more. Thanks

  37. Wendy Watts ScalfaroJuly 3, 2015 at 8:05 AM

    Posting for TERRY TURNER who is on her way to go camping...

    Owen dropped two rabbit droppings. He stared at them lying on the dirt. It would be better if they were smashed into the ground. The first dog to find them would eat them like candy. Dogs were truly disgusting, he mused.

    “You don’t want to be my friend?” Franny’s voice sounded different.

    Owen looked back at her. Her chest heaved. She swallowed. Owen hoped they were done talking.

    “Fine!” Her face was pink and her eyes were glassy. Her shoulders were slumped, her head was low. “It’s not like I need you, Bug Boy.” She stormed toward the barn. Her arm swiped across her face.

    An image popped out of his memory. It was the photo from the humane society website of an abandoned dog waiting in a cage. His tail was tucked, shoulders slumped, head low, and his eyes guarded and afraid, as if he expected to be hit.




    Owen blinked rapidly. Had he hurt Franny?

  38. What works: the way you weave in hints about who JoJo is. I'm eager for more pieces of the puzzle to put together the character JoJo.

    What doesn't work: "There’s not much in the backpack to make it so heavy." It isn't that it doesn't work-it does, but it doesn't flow with subtle 'hints' the way your other descriptions do.

    Hook: Oh yeah- I'm already wondering where she is going, why today she doesn't seem to care, why her heart is starting up a bit if she has nothing to worry about. I also love that your character (I'm assuming main character) is already more diverse than the characters I have read about lately! More, more, more!

  39. Here is the beginning of my WIP, a MG novel called LEG OF THE DOG.

    Vincent’s thoughts were a jumble as he replayed the morning in his mind. What he had seen was impossible, and yet…

    He turned off the path and jumped the bike over the curb. Speeding like a bullet toward his house, Vincent’s heart boomed like the deep bass notes coming from the cars that drove slowly up and down his street at night. He zipped around the corner, almost hitting Mr. Montoya’s old pickup truck parked near the curb. Vincent swerved at the last minute and felt the leg of his faded jeans brush the bumper. Vincent barely noticed the houses on his street as he passed, each of them with faded paint, like pieces of old piñata candy in sun-faded wrappers. His mom said the houses used to be pretty and bright but that was a long time ago. Now most everyone on the street was old and even if they could afford the upkeep on their homes, they just didn’t seem that interested anymore.

    With his stomach churning, Vincent slid his bike into the grassy driveway and along the well-worn tracks created by his mom’s car. He dumped the bike onto the straw-colored grass of the front
    yard and stepped over it. Hands on his knees, Vincent heaved the morning’s breakfast. When his stomach was empty, he sat on
    the front steps. His mom and Tita would think he was crazy if he told them what he had seen and he wouldn’t blame them
    if they did. His head was spinning and he thought he might barf again. The way he saw it, he had two choices. Either he could tell Mom and Tita or keep this to himself and go crazy all by himself. Neither sounded like a good plan to him.

    Vincent dug his fingernails into his palms. He was going to tell Mom and Tita what he had just seen. He had to. He had to even though there was no logical explanation for it. There was no way to
    explain how he had just seen his dad at the 7-11. Because his dad had been dead for six years.

  40. Gae,

    Here is the opening of my first chapter.

    The day the Space Shuttle Challenger was scheduled to blast off was the same day my mom blew the light out of my life.

    A flicker of light.


    Like a starless void in the expanse of the universe, my universe, life became black, still. Empty.



    Florescent tubes flicker on – light – with a humming sound, in the ceiling of my classroom.

    Smoky frost covers the windows. Mr. Trevor, my fifth grade teacher, opens the door, struggling to push the heavy metal TV cart inside.

    “Ugh.” He says. Trying to maneuver the huge metal cart making sure it is in the middle of the room in front, facing us.

    We sit in rows. I look ahead and see Rodney and Lawrence slouching at their desks in front of me. Michelle, who picks her boogers and stashes them inside her desk, sits beside me. It grosses me out when she is in her zone. After she is done, she observes her green reward, close to her thick glasses. It was work, you know.

    It was disgusting to watch.

    Apparently I was the only one to see her do this.

    Always slouching at their desks, with a constant scowl on their face, Rodney and Lawrence hate school. They also stink.

    “Shawn, I need your eyes up here.” Mr. Trevor says, pointing at me.

    He looks at me with a right-this-minute look.

    “Okay, class, now that I have everyone’s attention.”

    I feel my checks burning with embarrassment. I lean in, my elbows on my desk with my hands holding up my head. Basically, I am trying to hide the fact that my face is red.

    “Today is going to be pretty exciting!”

    Mr. Trevor sounds excited. He tries to make this feeling contagious. But some of us weren’t catching it, especially Rodney and Lawrence.

    “We will watch the first teacher ever to travel into space!”

  41. What works: the hints about a conflict with her mother in the description of her reflection.

    What doesn't work for me: The actions are getting bogged down in description. I would try cutting out 80% of the adjectives and adverbs and adjusting the nouns and verbs to carry the bulk of the meaning.

    Do I want to continue? I'd give this a few more pages. The premise is worth trying, but I want the pace to pick up.

  42. Thanks for chiming in bricee and welcome to Friday Feedback!

    Part of what we do here is try to figure out the best most productive way to offer feedback and criticism, especially when taking that back to the classroom to students.

    Things like cut 80% and "I'd give this a few more pages" are less gentle than we hope and certainly a lot of strong criticism for a few short paragraphs.

    As a published author, I can take it, but I urge you if you offer up criticism to others here just starting to be brave, you work to find ways to let their particular voice stand while adjusting your language to feel more gentle!

    Make sense?

  43. Hey John! And you know how excited I am to see and read this piece!! And I also know how rough it must be given you only just started this book. And so I am super excited because you do SO many nice and wonderful things in these opening paragraphs.

    First of all, the opening is a punch in the gut and I love how it is enhanced by the brief short sounds and words: Poof, click, darkness. SO effective.

    I also love the juxtaposition to moving us immediately into his life that continues -- to wit: the classroom and giving us immediate details that clue us in to time period: the heavy metal cart with the tv on it. We are immediately transported back to a different technological era with this one skilled detail!!

    I also love that you move to humor fast letting us know this won't be all unbearably sad given the first sentences, by the things that bring us into his kid world (even if it is boogers - ew, and even if I think you might eventually tone the gross out humor down just a little so that we can sit in both places -- the sorrow and the humor, without the latter outweighing the former).

    GREAT stuff! Yay for this ms. Keep going!

  44. What works? The anticipation of what ifs.. or what thes? the backpack, the father's blurred image, the idea she can be late and does not care
    What does not work for me? Nothing so far. It flowed well and introduced characters and place and tension.
    Do I want to continue? I need to continue. Not knowing will bother me. I am not a patient person or reader.

  45. Leslie,

    Welcome to Friday Feedback and WOW what a hook! And some gorgeous writing throughout. I love the description of his hear being like the bass tones from the slow cars and can feel exactly that.

    I also truly love the piñata candy simile but might urge you to use it elsewhere as you have two similes in a row that both require me, the reader, to have to think about them a little to appreciate them, and so it pops you out of the flow to tackle two in a row.

    There's sort of a rule that floats around in the writing world -- and of course rules are meant to be broken, but I think this is a good one -- that you shouldn't use more than one simile per page of writing or LESS THAN that, unless there is a unique reason to do so. Alas, yours are both lovely, so maybe just relocate the latter. :D

    At any rate, you have absolutely hooked me and I look forward to learning what has happened with Vincent and why he thinks he saw his dead father.

    Keep going!


  46. ah, must have been another Cole... at any rate super to have you here. I hope it inspires them too! :D

  47. My so far short story Flip-Flop opening

    Flip flop. Flip flop. Flip.
    The soles of his size fives are battered and one has bent over itself announcing his too early arrival on the morning readers' early bus. He is not in morning reading. He is not a busser.
    Every Tuesday since January he has arrived, put away his backpack empty of his folders or supplies I’ve supplied and hangs his small jacket on the hook. He smooths his tee,
    straightens his jeans and ties his laces under and over his shoes to keep the soles together. He will stand in the doorway while I unpack the breakfast cooler. He will ask in his voice that
    always sounds as though he is just getting over a cold, “Can I help?” or “Can I come in yet?”
    To which I answer of
    course buddy!

    then the sleeves came down hard. My
    wonder seen.

  48. note taken. thanks!

  49. oh, and interesting to the Bobo Fett reference... will have to think on that. She's American Indian... and of course I'm already attached to her name. But then, they get changed anyway ALL THE TIME. :)

  50. Oh, Sonja, so happy TW has inspired you and continues to, yay!!! And funny on the Bobo Fett thing as Wendy says the same thing below (or above -- whatever order these are showing for you!). So I'll have to think on it more.

    IF one person says something, you can choose to ignore it after some consideration, but if two people say so, you may need to take action! ;)

    On to read your excerpt!

    Happy Summer 2015! Happy to have you. :)

  51. Ah, here we go, Sonja.What I love about this piece is your MC's voice comes across strong and clear. She has an edge to her too, which has me asking questions like -- is that edge defensive? What's going on for her? aka hooks me in and of itself!

    Having said that, if this is your opening (is it?) I find myself asking where the conflict is for that is what always draws us as a reader to an opening. That we sense or feel the conflict.

    I think -- I think -- that yours lies here: "Anyhow, today started off rough and has turned to complete and utter shit." and so I'm wondering if there is some way to play that up a little more -- even (gasp!) sacrificing some of the library love description for it, which is lovely but which we're all so familiar with we don't need too much descriptive to get how it feels. I wonder if your very first sentence could do more (if that is indeed your very first sentence) so that rather than "Sometimes I come to the library when I need a chance to think," which doesn't have tons of voice and mood, you could up it a notch while staying true to her voice, e.g. she opens the library door and feels saved to be there at least for a moment, even though she knows no one will understand why she needs to be saved this morning, nor why the library does it for her. Something that conjures that right up front - this is a girl who is coming into this library to be saved at least momentarily from what?! Maybe she ducks in hoping no one will see her there because it's soft or weak, etc. Does that make sense?

    Keep going and exploring her voice. Much good stuff in here!


  52. What works: I like the back pack visual and it showing there is a history between the two characters.
    What I think is a bit unclear is if they are at a school, day care.
    Interesting idea on why the person is anxious to see him, could be any number of reasons good or bad, which leads to curiosity on the readers part. Nice work.

  53. Wow, Linda (thanks for posting for her Wendy).
    This is wonderful and intense and I'm really excited about it and reading more!

    It's accessible yet very evocative, and I thought a lot about both those word choices. :)

    Esp. love "assigned space that's mine until June" not sure why but it carries so much feeling for me. Conjures that loneliness of things coming and going - temporariness, and the moving in and out of those awkward years.

    Love the abruptness and closed-ness of the last para.

    Keep going!

  54. Thanks Lesley,

    you actually bring up a lot of insightful things in those lists which makes me hopeful that I've packed a lot of information into the opening!

    Thanks for being here!

    Look forward to reading you!

  55. Thanks, Gayle, Taking note about the backpack...

    Thanks for chiming in and welcome to Friday Feedback! Hope to read you soon!

  56. Oh, hah! Very soon! You're right up there!!! :D

  57. Gayle,

    some very nice work here with a maddening tease (aka HOOK!) at the end. How could you leave us all hanging?!? :D

    Of course, once we learn what the bulletproof tool is -- smart, misguided, easy or hard to implement -- it will tell us so much about your narrator.

    I'm looking forward to reading more. Keep going!


  58. Shryl, this is lovely and adept, and I like a few small surprises, like the chirps emanating from the iPhone when I'm thinking outside noises and birds... like switching from the big: life's ennui of the first para, to the minute: egg substitute.

    All very adept and good and the ending is a definite hook because we know something is going to change and we are along for the ride.

    If I can push you one place it would be to soon find a way to show us how this narrator, who so many of us can relate to her every feeling and sight and sound, is also different -- curious -- so that we want to see how she handles something in a way that draws us specifically into her conflict. Some quirk that makes us go, "Us... oh, wait, not exactly us..." It may be coming right around the corner!

    Keep going!

  59. Thanks, Gae and Wendy. I will work on the "silly little thing" to make it more clear, maybe give an example.

    You hit the nail on the head with the mood and audience. I have gone back and forth on this. Do I go older and darker or younger and more fun. That's one of the reasons I shared this.

    Here are the next four paragraphs:

    There are many ways to break things. When Martin and Alan break something, they often drop one thing on top of another. I’ve watched them do this a number of times, like when they dropped a 27-inch TV on a printer from the top of Martin's garage. When Martin and Alan break something, I can tell they usually have a plan. You don’t crush an old lawnmower with a picnic table on a pulley on a whim. You’re going to need a plan. Take as much time as you need. I’m not going anywhere.

    Oh, I wish I could see what you’re doing. If it’s really cool, put it on YouTube. It’s not the best way to get the experience, but it’s better than nothing.

    Now, before you go all gorilla on this thing, take a breath. Slow down. A lot of people enjoy the rush of breaking something. It is awesome, so enjoy it, but this is about more than that. Remember, Martin and Alan most enjoy the sounds. You have to be ready for the sounds.

    A good break has a beginning and an end. Most people miss the first part. The break usually begins before the actual break - a whoosh of air or a strained groan - you really have to focus in to experience the whole thing. Open your ears and your mind and blah, blah, blah, right. But seriously. Pay attention. Turn off the music. Turn off the TV. Here we go.

  60. This definitely hooked me. You give a good sense from the start that this isn't going to be an ordinary day. You also do a great job of showing a lot about this character with details--egg substitute that may or may not be past its date, the half-renovated house and dismal kitchen. I love those. Two tiny things I'd consider changing: I think you'll probably show us the broken dreams, so "regrets" might be enough; similarly, I think a hint at the crossroads may be all you need, maybe just building on "she thought by the age of fifty...." to show another expectation or hope that fell flat. Looking forward to reading more!

  61. Oh, Dalila,

    What a lovely found poem with the perfect ending which is also a beginning (may I share it with Kate in an email?)

    Clearly you can write. Am super excited to have you here and can tell you must be an extraordinary teacher.

    Keep writing!

  62. Here is the opening page to my YA
    novel, Death’s Shadow

    Top 10 reasons I’m known as Death Girl.

    10. I have black hair.

    9. I collect skeleton keys.

    8. I live next door to a cemetery.

    7. I’m employed by the historical society as a reenactor. Translation; I dress up as dead people.

    6. My uncle, who I live with, owns the only funeral home in Seabern.

    5. I write obituaries.

    4. I was born on Halloween.

    3. My name is Raven Midnight Darkness.

    2. My mother died during my birth.

    And the number one reason I’m known as Death Girl:

    the heart in my chest isn’t mine.

  63. You've got a great YA voice--grumpy, acerbic, but also happy at finding that welcoming space and the comfort of a book. I like that tension and contrast within the character. Right away, you give a good sense of this character and what she likes, and it makes me wonder what in her life she is hiding from.

  64. Hi, Gae--I love what you've shared. The references to her father and mother worked well for me and got my mental wheels turning. Jojo sees her father in her reflected features but hurries past the next reflection to avoid seeing it--sounds like a rejection or perhaps a guilt flinch (maybe she's leaving dad behind or abusing a trust?). I suspect the fact that she sees "No single trace of her mother" is critical. I also wonder if this "missing" mother ties in to her travels and to whatever's in her backpack. I may be miles off, but I'm intrigued!! All these thoughts triggered by 3 sentences! I hope to read more so I can adjust my inferences accordingly.

  65. Sounds like a character with a sense of humor. I wonder why you had to flee the house the way you did. Gives good pacing and the beginning is very visual. Kids often think of how they would be a "better parent" good connection with audience this way as we can identify with that.

  66. Writing in verse. Love it! Like the opening about the snack reference. Wondering what the darkness is. Good hook but I like the most how visual a scene the words present. Nice work.

  67. Gayle Kolodny ColeJuly 3, 2015 at 10:56 AM

    My son is 11 and would love this character. She is distinctive. This reminds me of a movie... Can't recall which one. I'm eager to hear about her heart!

  68. Diane, some absolutely lovely, evocative writing here -- especially poignant, the lacing of the shoes to hold the soles on.

    And conflict and wondering set up nicely too...

    I'm actually thrown by the transition after buddy to the last two sentences -- or lack of transition? -- am a little confused as to what those next two sentences mean. I could be being totally thick! But a clarification is welcome.

    The good news is, I want to know. I already have great affection for this kid and the teacher who is so happy to see him!


  69. Martha, what Pamela said! Unique and interesting and draws you right in... all these interesting dark facts and then, bam! "The heart in my chest isn't mine."

    Good work. Can't wait to learn more about Raven.

  70. Molly, that's all very insightful (letting me know I've done something well, too!). Not much adjusting needed so far!

    Thanks for chiming in. Welcome to Friday Feedback. Hope I find an excerpt of yours somewhere around here as I keep moving through. :D

  71. :) I used pellets there originally, and didn't think it'd make sense out of the larger piece. But I also changed it in the ms so thank you for point out my doh! Error.

  72. Marcie Prentiss MannJuly 3, 2015 at 11:26 AM

    1. What works? The imagery is strong - I have a mental picture of what Jojo looks like, where she is, the "load" she is carrying...
    2. It all works, but I am curious about time of day - is the subway awash with bodies or is it an "after commute", quieter time?
    3.I am intrigued by Jojo and where she is headed and I'm very curious/anxious about what's in her backpack.

  73. Kristen KittscherJuly 3, 2015 at 11:27 AM

    I agree with Gae. Mixing humor with (impending) tragedy is so difficult, yet with this very authentic voice you do it so smoothly. I was pulled in right away - and love how you use unusual verbs and phrases to add to the humor ("stashing" boogers! Green reward!) I'm looking forward to reading more!

  74. Thanks for chiming in, Marcie! Hope to see an excerpt of yours floating around here today or soon. Geesh these comments are in a strange order. Oh the internets... ! :D

  75. Thanks for all the chiming in, Jane! And for often keeping me going. <3

  76. Yep, your uncertainty will always affect the piece, and even now it's feeling lighter, less serious, but I'm still not sure. Is this dark and edgy and biting and things are going to go awry or is this a comical, tongue in cheek how to type story. Am intrigued to see where it goes. Sometimes the best bet is to keep writing through it until the characters make it known! Will be curious to keep seeing more. :D

  77. Okay, it's almost 3 pm and I think I'm caught up. Sadly, I have to leave for a bunch of hours again to sit shiva and then, if I can, to grab a quick swim after, so won't be back until this evening!

    Quite a first day! Great stuff!

    IF you posted earlier than 2:45 and I didn't comment, it means I missed your post somehow. Please ping me on the fb thread or on twitter or in my email to let me know! I'll never intentionally ignore a post, so if I do, I want to know!

  78. Marcie Prentiss MannJuly 3, 2015 at 11:50 AM



    I added the extra “r” to Starr.

    My real name is Ashley.

    At home I’m Starr.

    At school I want to be Ashley Cuzak.

    Back in Dorkville my parents said,

    “You’re the brightest star in the sky.”






    I think

    I may be a

    Black hole.

    *Mrs. Johnson*

    Taped to the wall above her desk

    “I’m dancing through each day!”

    Mrs. Johnson is an emoticon.

    A happy face followed by


    question mark.

    “How’s your day?”

    “Is everything ok?”

    "Isn’t this fun?”

    Mrs. Johnson is at the board assigning a James Joyce essay.

    She says, “It’ll be fun, right?”

    What is her problem?

    Mrs. Johnson is pathetic.


    He looks like a rock star.
    Yesterday he leaned against the locker next to mine.

    "Did you finish the math homework?"

    From me, “Uh.”

    His head tilted.

    Brown eyes looked into mine.

    I looked away.

    My heart pounded in my ears.

    "Yeah. Well. Later."

    He lifted a couple of fingers and waved.

    Kind of.

    And then

    He walked away.


    I stuck my head in my locker

    And howled


    What would happen?

    I see Mrs. Johnson

    Standing in the hall.

    I keep my howl inside.

  79. What works? - The description of the posters gives a good image of the setting and really reflects the location and things that a young girl/woman might notice. The air of mystery is intriguing, and I also feel that the setting works well with that bit of Jojo's personality.

    What doesn't work? - I feel as though the first sentence could be stronger. Also, this is just a personal thing, but her name feels awkward and 'clunky'. I wonder if that's intentional. Lastly, there is a lot of description about the characters' looks, which (I'm trying to remember back when I read in grade school and whether or not I liked that) seems a little bulky. I'm wondering if the information about hair and things of that nature could be spread throughout the book more if it is necessary to have.

    Does it hook you at all? - The end definitely catches my attention. It makes me curious as to what she could be holding onto, and it begins her characterization. I am already getting a sense of who Jojo is, even though it is all still a mystery at the same time.


    (This is a few paragraphs into Chapter 1 of my novel; the entire chapter alternates between present and past, to show what is happening during this part that I am posting here. The first three paragraphs start in present time, but I'm more interested in this selection):


    Fate first put me inside curiosity, even before the episode. After it, curiosity caged me. I was trapped, and the cage I was trapped in didn’t feel like home.

    I was five. I was lying there, curled underneath the wrinkles from my blanket, confined and clutching the furry paw of my teddy bear in the awkward crook of my tiny, bony arms. The room was in shades of darkness with nothing but one crack of light seeping in through the door. It was barely open. I stared at the shadows, awkward shapes, on my walls. They faded into the background of an
    unsupported noise.

    All I wanted was for Mom to hold me and hug me tight like she always did. She did it a lot at night, when I was falling asleep. I wanted to smell her soft hair and her fresh skin and I wanted my head placed tightly underneath her chin. I didn’t like the emptiness that I felt in my own bed. It was hard.

    That night, my stomach was tumbling. I could feel the insides of it sticking together and pulling itself apart, just to fall back together again. My nose flared with uncertainty as I held that teddy bear close, as if it could ever help.

    My tiny fingers swept through my tangled curls with anticipation and worry. I thought that I was about to cry. My little eyelashes shifted, like butterfly wings sweeping my cheeks. My soft lips were closed. I
    didn’t know what was going on, but even at only five, I knew when to expect something bad.

  80. Well, here goes! I don't have a work in progress but would love some feedback on this poem I just wrote. I wasn't sure about length since it's not in paragraph form. Hope it's not too long. Thanks in advance for any thoughts!

    A young girl stands
    ankle-deep in ocean,
    arms and legs akimbo,
    hair tangling in the brisk breeze.
    The surf churns about her thin legs
    spritzing them with saline mist.
    A wave hovers
    then crashes.
    she dashes away,
    the deflated wave
    licking at her heels.
    she jumps and spins,
    retreating no more.
    Facing the ocean anew,
    she crouches low
    knees bent,
    arms spread wide,
    She wiggles her fingers
    and shakes her tuckus
    as if to say
    “Come on! I dare you!”
    Then she waits
    for the next wave.

  81. Marcie Prentiss MannJuly 3, 2015 at 12:20 PM

    I love the Top Ten list, esp. #1. I don't see anything that doesn't work for me. I see lots of things i want to know more about - lots. I hope you post more of this!!

  82. Marcie Prentiss MannJuly 3, 2015 at 12:23 PM

    The onomatopoeia works really well. This tugs at my heart strings. I want to know more about this kid, and the teacher who has befriended him.

  83. Marcie Prentiss MannJuly 3, 2015 at 12:26 PM

    Wow. Hooked from the first sentence, and the bit about the boogers is fabulous. Shawn's an observer. I can't wait to read more.

  84. This is my first time posting to Friday Feedback. In your passage from "Late", your imagery is very vivid. I could feel myself as Jojo, rushing into the subway. I was particularly intrigued by the reference to her parents...obviously???Jojo is of mixed race???? My family is biracial, so I felt a connection. The backpack reference doesn't exactly work for me as I find it is a little unclear "No textbooks or homework or anything." If there isn't anything in it, why is it heavy? I know that we are led to assume something later in passage, but I was a little confused on first reading. I'm definitely hooked and want to read more. There are lots of open-ended questions about what Jojo plans to do and why she plans to do it...has she been bullied? abused? neglected? rejected? Looking forward to more of "The Smallest Slice."

  85. Hi Gae, I am a newbie and not yet sure whether I know what to do, also don't have anything to share yet but hope it's okay I get started by answering the first three questions to give feedback on your excerpt.

    What works?
    The sights and sounds you have described, letting me imagine, see, feel where the story takes place as well as giving me a first glimpse of the main character. I love how many of the questions I usually have at the beginning of a story are answered, while leaving me with many more questions - what is in the backpack, why is she not planning to go to school, later return home...? Most powerful I found the heaviness that has already settled on me, as if I am carrying the backpack with Jojo.

    What doesn't work? Nothing.

    Hooked? Compelled? Absolutely! I am emotionally already invested and want to know - need to know - what's happening to Jojo. Hope to get to read more soon. Thanks!

  86. Marcie Prentiss MannJuly 3, 2015 at 12:31 PM

    Wow. I'm right there with Vincent, freaking out about what's happened, even though I don't know what it is yet - I know it's big, big enough to make him toss his breakfast. Was his father really dead all this time? Is this guy a doppelgänger? Did Vincent see a ghost? I'm hooked.

  87. Marcie Prentiss MannJuly 3, 2015 at 12:34 PM

    I love writing/reading verse. I like the image of wanting something, but getting nothing but "darkness". And, Dad's yelling - I nearly jumped out of my skin. Very powerful. What's next? How old is she? Is is a she? Is Dad still in the picture or is she remembering?

  88. Marcie Prentiss MannJuly 3, 2015 at 12:37 PM

    The school librarian in me loves this! I have kids like this in my library all day - with "their" spots. I love how realistic it is. She's sassy. Where is she going? Is this going to be about time travel or is this an interlude in this girl's life and we'll learn the complications later... Nice start!

  89. Marcie Prentiss MannJuly 3, 2015 at 12:41 PM

    I feel the weight of Amelia's life - it's heavy. What's going on with her that has to change? I want to know more about her. Why is she so worried and disappointed? More!

  90. Marcie Prentiss MannJuly 3, 2015 at 12:44 PM

    Owen is very self-aware and empathetic. Where are they? Is it Owen's farm? or Franny's? Are they at camp? I like the bit about dog's will eat *any*thing!

  91. Marcie Prentiss MannJuly 3, 2015 at 12:46 PM

    This is beautiful! I can see her and the ocean. I LOVE where she jumps and spins - a kid happy hippity hop!

  92. Gae,
    As always, I love the fact that you lead through example. You model bravery, so we can be brave. I'd pay to be in your writing class anyday, even if that meant I'd also have to swim out to open water.

    What works? You create quite a bit of intrigue here. I want to know more about Jojo. Where is she going, and why isn't there a trace of her mother in her reflection? Why is her near-empty backpack, heavy? What has transpired recently that has her moving on?

    Yes, I'm hooked. I want to take the seat across from Jojo and observe. Not in an old-man-creeper sort of way, but as a writer, and observer of life's stories.

    Lastly, congrats on the new novel! I can't wait to get my hands on it!

    Thanks for your generous sharing of encouragement. Your talent is only exceeded by your kindness.

  93. Martha,

    I'm definitely hooked to know more about your character! I love the Top Ten list, especially the intrigue created by number #1. I can't wait to see more! Well done!

  94. I love this, and am so glad to see you jumping in! Found poetry is such a fun, yet challenging, way to craft a message. I have been playing with this with my students and it is one of our favorite writing activities. I am already eager to see your next entry, whatever format you choose!

  95. I'm sitting in Starbucks reading this, and I'm feeling a little devious looking around for something to break. Not my tablet, with my WIP. Not their furniture. But something...

    You hooked me by getting me thinking about breaking something, which is als breaking the mold for me, because I am normally a rule-abiding citizen;)

    I look forward to reading more!

  96. What works: I love the suspense and I'm feeling like there may be a twist- I am expecting that she has something lethal or at least dangerous in her bag, but feel it might be something a innocuous, but something that she would still be embarrassed about exposing at school? Not sure.

    What doesn't work: The name- or at least starting the book with the name. I understand the strategy, but it's overdone and (I think someone else said it on here, but I agree) "clunky". It's not that I MIND the name, but I got stuck on it for a bit. I questioned it, had to read it a few times, wondered if I was pronouncing it right, etc...

    Does it hook me? YES! I want to know what is in that darn bag!!

  97. Chiming in to say this worked for me. I read a lot of mg/ya and this rang as an broodily intriguing opening, mysterious and balanced, so it reads clever, not heavy handed. Hope to read more.

  98. Diane, I like the imagery of this, and the way you slowly unfold a picture of him without us knowing "defined" characteristics, like his grade or his name. We see him without needing to be told these things.
    One observation, without knowing what your plan is for the whole story: as a teacher you may be the window in to this character, but, if the teacher is not a key element of the story, I'd consider editing her out so that the reader is directly experiencing what happens with the boy.
    I'm curious to see where this will go - keep going!

  99. Molly,

    An ardent fan of free-verse poems, I find this to be LOVELY! It starts with intrigue - who is this girl, and why is she tenative et the waater's edge? It gives me just enough detail to start the canvas, allowing my imaginstion to paint the scene.

    If I were to tweak anything, perhaps deleting legs as part of the akimbo description (isn't it just hands at hips, elbows bent outward?), and knees bent (already visualized when crouching), and switching "then" with "as" in the last stanza, to keep the continuity of her actions with her anticipation of the next wave.

    You have a wonderful voice and I am excited to see what you share next! This was delightful!

  100. Natalie KrayenvengerJuly 3, 2015 at 3:37 PM

    Hi Gae,

    Incredibly excited (and a bit nauseous) to be brave! I am a 4th grade teacher who loves to teach writing and write myself. Ever since my mom read Eloise to me when I was 4, and I was able to imagine living in the Plaza Hotel, I have wanted to write a book. Even if no one else ever reads it, I want to be a teller of stories. Thank you (and Kate) for this push and opportunity! Ok here we go...

    What works: The descriptions. I am living the story as I read. You hit on almost every sense, but do not lose the reader in overly descriptive sentences. You give the reader contextual clues as to where the story is taking place, but do not come right out and say it (perfect for making the reader infer). I am curious immediately. Why isn't she going home? Is there a conflict between Jojo and her mother and father. The metal detector/bag check reference at the end?!?!? Come on! I want to know what's going on!!!

    What doesn't: Nothing that I see so far...:)

    Does it hook me? Hook, line, and sinker! I have so many unanswered questions and predictions! I want to read more!!!

    And now for my excerpt:

    The desk had belonged to her grandmother, but in that life
    it had been a kitchen table – the heart and soul of the home. So as she stood there next to it this morning at 6:30 am, with the dark still swallowing the world outside the windows of her brightly lit room, she quickly closed her eyes in disbelief.

    She willed herself to instead see various glasses of fresh
    squeezed orange juice, a daily New York Times crossword, and an assortment of half-full sunscreen bottles collecting on the worn wooden surface. She next listened closely and tried to hear the chatter of dinner conversation, the echoing of laughter. Finally, she remembered how it felt to be utterly wrapped up in her grandmother’s lasting embrace that had always left her feeling warm and loved.

    And then the taste of her tears brought her back to reality:

    She was no longer able to hug her grandmother, she had said
    goodbye to her over 10 years ago.

    She was no longer in her grandmother’s home, she was in her

    She was no longer a young girl dreaming of being a teacher,
    she was one.

    She was, however, looking at the table she had brought into
    school the first year she began teaching, and now on the once beautiful, still loved, wooden surface were written in BIG, BLACK, PERMANENT MARKER the words:

    MS. MCNALL IS A *%$#*

  101. Natalie KrayenvengerJuly 3, 2015 at 3:49 PM

    Love the imagery and word choice!
    That little girl could have been me at that age (or still is me!), so I feel an immediate connection to her actions, wonder and excitement. Love how she turns, dares the ocean and waits! :)

  102. Greg, thanks so much for the feedback! I definitely agree with nixing the knees bent line when she's crouching. You are correct about the strict definition of akimbo--and now I will rethink that. Isn't it interesting how words have nuances in our mind that are not necessarily accurate? My understanding of akimbo was of limbs "flung out widely or haphazardly". As you may guess by the quote marks, I did find this definition, but it was a search. Clearly, I'm off on this one. Back to the drawing board! Thanks again for the valuable comments and the kind ones as well.

  103. Welcome, Natalie, so very
    happy to have you here! And you did great -- the last time you'll have to be
    brave this way for the first time... though not the last time ever, period.

    I love your piece so very
    much and especially adore the unexpected last moment -- you do a great job
    creating such a soft, lovely, melancholy mood and then that last in-your-face
    sentence. Definitely leaves us with a conflict and wanting to know what's
    coming next.

    Speaking of next -- and
    when I do these super speed flash edits, which I’m about to do, yay! -- they are more
    directed at the whole group vs. one writer, when I find a piece that might lend
    itself to one... you are the first today! It actually should be a compliment –
    I only do them when the piece is good enough that I really want to illustrate
    how the words that are already there can pop and shine even more sometimes if you strip
    out a very few extra words that maybe you don't need as much as you think you do:
    here transitions like “next” “and then,” and starting the second sentence with
    the word “now” which will save you from doing some of the technical or
    logistical wrangling of time and relation…
    and let you eliminate some more bland words like “there” that slow

    Because that’s all a little confusing and hard to explain is why I do these superspeed edits. You should barely be able to know what I’ve done - it's minimal! -- but feel the piece is just the tiniest bit smoother and, thus, pops and shines more. Just by taking out a few bland words. Let’s see! And keep what you like
    and toss out what you don’t of these edits! This is your (beautiful) writing,
    not mine. :D

    The desk had belonged to her grandmother, but in that life it had been a kitchen table – the heart and soul of the home.

    Now, as she stood next to it, with the dark still swallowing the world outside the windows of her
    brightly lit room, she quickly closed her eyes in disbelief.

    She willed herself to instead see glasses of fresh
    squeezed orange juice, a New York Times crossword, and an assortment of half-full sunscreen bottles
    collecting on the worn wooden surface.

    She listened closely and tried to hear the chatter of dinner conversation, the echoing of laughter. Finally, she remembered how it felt to be utterly wrapped in her grandmother’s lasting embrace that had always left her feeling warm and loved.

    The taste of her tears brought her back to reality:

    She was no longer able to hug her grandmother, she had said goodbye to her over 10 years ago.

    She was no longer in her grandmother’s home, she was in her classroom.

    She was no longer a young girl dreaming of being a teacher, she was one.

    She was, however, looking at the table she’d brought into school the first year she began teaching, where, on the once beautiful, still loved, wooden surface were written in BIG, BLACK, PERMANENT MARKER. the words:

    MS. MCNALL IS A *%$#*

  104. Welcome, Nancy! Thanks for chiming in! I'm noticing how many comments I've gotten about her name, which is fascinating to me and obviously I have to heed it. Such a personal thing. I love her name (Jojo isn't her real name, btw, just a nickname she gave herself -- her real first name is Janani and her parents nickname for her is Janti, and she renamed herself Jojo to americanize it. :)

    As for it being a strategy to open with her name, I'm not aware of a strategy or it being overdone -- it's just how the line came to me, so I'm super interested in that. I didn't know there was a strategy or a thing! And now need to find out what you mean and whether I need to rethink or avoid it! Interesting! O.o

  105. Hi Greg!! It's so happy to see you and my other "regulars" who have become friends here!!! As well as exciting to see all the newbies who might become "regulars!" :D

    Thanks for all the kind words. It's a mutual admiration society, and I'll never forget that you taught me that "Comparison is the Thief of Joy" a quote I return to on almost a daily basis, and often saves me from myself on a bad day. :D

    Wonder if I'll find an excerpt of yours somewhere in the comments here?! Wondering what you are working on? :D

  106. Wendy Watts ScalfaroJuly 3, 2015 at 4:36 PM

    Thank you for your feedback, and for catching that nasty "are" sentence. :)

  107. Tanja, welcome! You've done just fine!! So, yes, you knew just what to do (and thanks for the kind words). Look forward to you having something to share with us all soon! In the meantime, you get a HUGE gold star, for completing phase one: showed up ready to play along! Love having you here! Happy Summer!

  108. Hooray for being brave! I'm definitely hooked. I love how you weave memory and hopes in here, the desk that used to be the heart of a home. You manage to show all of that and at the same time tell us a lot about your main character. And then oh, the kick in the gut at the end--great. I love Gae's flash edit, which brings out what was already there. Looking forward to reading more!

  109. Natalie KrayenvengerJuly 3, 2015 at 4:40 PM

    Wow! I can already see and hear many of my students scrambling to get this book first after I share these first few lines!

    After reading the last line, I am absolutely hooked! Very creative opening; love the Top 10 feature.

    The only thing I wonder about is the character's name. Any way you could use a middle or last name that is a bit more obscure or references midnight or darkness?

    Can't wait to read more!

  110. Welcome, Debbie! Will read the backpack references again! Thanks for chiming in! Happy to have you here at TW! and already jumping in to Friday Feedback! hope you post a piece of your own soon (presuming it's not floating around in the comments somewhere else!) Happy Summer!

  111. Wendy Watts ScalfaroJuly 3, 2015 at 4:44 PM

    I totally agree with Natalie. I love the Top 10 format, and the intrigue you've created here. I'm pulled in right away, completely believing in this character and her world. When I get to her name, however, I'm pulled back out again. Love it though. My YA students would also clamor for this book!

  112. I'm with Greg on everything (many of my old timers can basically do my job for me by now! ;)) that this poem and your voice are absolutely lovely.

    As I am a huge fan of the water/ocean, I particularly love this piece. So much beautiful imagery and such joy at the end. You can just feel that summer day.

    While I do think (?) legs can be akimbo, the repeat of legs maybe isn't necessary plus as the waves come in, I sort of feel the water coming up higher and higher. Could you just eliminate the second one altogether?

    A young girl stands
    ankle-deep in ocean,
    arms and legs akimbo,
    hair tangling in the brisk breeze.
    The surf churns about her
    spritzing her with saline mist.

    Especially love the deflated wave licking at her heels.

    Welcome to Friday Feedback!

  113. Natalie KrayenvengerJuly 3, 2015 at 4:56 PM

    Wow, Gae! Thank you for your words of encouragement and praise! The edits and the explanation behind them were very helpful and something I will definitely continue to work on. I have envisioned this book as both a novel and a picture book for older children...thoughts?

  114. Though I long to be a picture book writer, how to write them eludes me for now... and this definitely seems like it's lending itself to a longer format. Upper middle grade? Not sure. Keep playing with it. Don't worry what yet, maybe, just keep writing and see where it takes you.

  115. Don't think you have to go back to the drawing board at all! Just a small fix in an otherwise lovely poem! And I thought akimbo could be used for both too! Greg is clearly too smart for us! :D

  116. I'm breathless, and teary-eyed.
    This is beautiful, and heart-wrenching.

    I'm a fan already.

    A few thoughts:
    The detailed memory of her grandma's kitchen table is perfect for me. It brought me back to my own grandmother's kitchen, and the warmth of her love.
    The contrast of grandma's loving kitchen table, and the now-defaced desk is shocking, and powerful. Slugged me in the chest, in the manner that a reader wants to be captured by a story.
    I love the use of anaphora, "she was no longer...".

    I want more. All of it, please.

    As for suggestions, the sentence "...she had said goodbye to her over ten years ago" seems choppy to me. What about changing it to "having said goodbye to her 10 years ago."?

    You have a gift. I look forward to reading more of your writing, and while I totally agree with your attitude about writing your story regardless of whether anyone chooses to read it, I believe you would have many readers passionate to hear your stories.

  117. Shannon, this piece has so much emotion bubbling beneath the surface, obviously a very traumatic time/memory for the five year old her.

    I'm not sure if this is an opening, but I'm confused a little by the first paragraph. I don't know what it means, though the writing is interesting. I'm also having a hard time with the stomach description - Im trying to imagine feeling the insides of ones stomach sticking together and then pulling apart? Likewise, though the butterfly description is lovely, can one's eyelashes sweep one's cheeks?

    Definitely concerned for this little one. She doesn't feel safe. Hope she finds herself feeling better at some point! Keep writing.

  118. My first 'brave' moment, is to say that I am working on the same WIP that I was working on last summer. That was the last time I pulled it out. Now I need to re-acquaint myself with the characters, and their story.

    I still have to cling to the "Thief of Joy" quote as well, reminding my inner critic to stifle some of the negative comparisons.

    I hope your time of sitting shiva was soothing to the person who suffered a loss. That tradition is one of the kindest rituals I have ever heard of.

  119. Shared this with my teen daughter, who wants to read the rest of the book. she is an avid, and critical reader, so this is high praise.


  120. Pfft! I'm not too smart (but maybe a smartazz), nor do I think you need to go to the drawing board. It is perhaps the first time I have been appreciative to be called an "old-timer".

  121. I'm glad I could tempt you. Starbucks is a tough place for breakables...nothing's cheap! Maybe one of those cup insulators. Thanks for reading!

  122. Can't wait for more details. Good hook and information so far to this wise and resilient child.

  123. Love lists myself and strong characters who talk to me. She speaks to me and I'd love to read what is next. This is clever.

  124. Gae, thank you for your vote of confidence! Yes, absolutely, you may share this with Kate. I will definitely keep writing! Although, I'm reminded of the Q&A, in 59 Reasons to Write, where Colby Sharp asked the guest authors if great writing ever intimidates them. After reading all the posts from today's Friday Feedback, I'm a bit intimidated! There's a lot of great writing here. I can see that I will be learning a great deal! Thanks again for your supportive remarks.

  125. Hi, Gae. I am fascinated by this opening. I am completely there with this character, following her down into the subway. Your details have a spare power of conjuring a clear image without lengthy explanation. What is fascinating is that you manage to make this character compelling/empathetic, even though it becomes quickly clear the child is potentially intending some violent (or at least wrong, in her parents' eyes) act. That tension makes for a great opening. Definitely interested to read more. How far along is this draft?


    Okay, my turn. I am going to share part of a new scene from the '3rd act', or transition toward the climax, of the same novel I was working on last summer. The main character Carinne has gone Marseilles to confront a man she thought had information about her brother's death (he didn't; she's shattered). But then there is this end to the scene. In scene: Carinne, the aged man, her toddler (Liam) and servers in the French bar. Hope it's not too long. Here goes:

    It is only her skeleton that lifts Carinne upright again, her hand fitting into that of the little boy, stopping to notice the toys that had appeared in a fan around him, not having noticed when Miriam brought them out from the back. Hollow plastic things melted into shapes of a tractor, an apple, a lion, a dog. None went together. Didn’t matter. Worked it out, he did, the little boy. Made a village, a family, a language, rules. Gave them names and jobs and had them play it out, little hops and conversations and rests, while his mother’s world starbursted on the edge of hysterics above him.

    “Come, Liam,” she said, confused but pulled along in the habit
    of cleaning up. Apologized for the mess – and that broke him a little.

    They had begun toward the door when he called to her. “I
    thought you were looking for our Mick.”

    The words cut slowly through.

    “My nephew. Michael. He’s named after me.”

    “Oui, je le sais…” she nodded indistinctly, eyes on the barkeep who had arrived for his afternoon shift as if this new presence were what disoriented her.

    “The little boy is his son, is he not? Spitting image… Michael
    doesn’t know, does he?”

    “He is dead," she said.

    All sadness broke through that bar as if it could radiate
    out with the aged man’s raspy, low laugh, every gravedigger looking up to cry.

    “No, love. He has been here. He is looking for you.”

  126. Thank you for your encouragement, Greg! What was interesting about this found poem is that it sort of revealed itself as I was underlining and taking notes. One moment I was marking what was important to me, and the next moment a poem lifted up from the page and I hastily captured it in the margin. I later copied it into my writer's notebook and played with phrasing and punctuation to best convey the meaning/message. I have to admit that this is not a type of poetry that I have done very much of with my students, but when I was playing around with the words in my notebook, I was thinking about ways to do this with my students. What grade do you teach? (I teach 3rd grade.) I'd be interested to know how you introduce this type of writing to your students. Thanks for cheering me on!

  127. I was thinking novel too. I loved this Natalie. In your actual draft (rather than here) do you spell out the swear word? I would -- as in, don't hold back... unless you hold back to make a point like, it was so offensive she wouldn't even think the actual word, but tried to blink it away, something like that. Great start -- glad to see you being brave here!

  128. I think it's probably a personal thing- it's not that I don't like the name but I have always had trouble with names that are different which is why I have SUCH A HARD TIME reading many fantasy or science fiction novels... it's not that the name is bad- I like it, but for me, someone who gets particularly STUCK on these things, it stood out to me, and made me stop. I'm not sure that's a bad thing though.

    As for it being a "strategy"- maybe that's the wrong word- but I just read I'll Give You The Sun and it also had some unique names right off the bat and it stood out to me. The more I think about it, I'm not sure it's a bad thing if it's making me think so much about it, but something about it doesn't sit right with me... and now I feel weird even talking about it!! haha Keep up with the story though (and the name!) I'm dying to know more!

  129. Greg, Fri Feedback is perfect time to rediscover that manuscript! For me, it's perfect excuse to read through chapters I've drafted and not revised -- hopefully discovering something I don't remember writing and really love, or else that could use some input. It's great to see you here again, and I hope you get right back on that draft.

  130. What works: Great hook and really interesting concept- something about it stands out like I have never read before. I want to know what it is. In fact, I'm curious as to if this is realistic fiction or fantasy or WHAT! which has me going...

    What doesn't work: I feel like it could be pared down, as the writing is a little clunky. I'm not sure how far you've gotten, and if you're like me, I always feel like I start off on the heavy side (lots of detail, lots of different words ... [I get a little carried away with the internet thesaurus]) and then end of going back and cutting it down, once I've decided how much I want to give away right off the bat and how many adjectives I really need to get the point across.

    Definitely hooks me! In fact, you've inspired me to start writing. I literally used to sit in my closet as a kid and write in my journal, much like your character! Sometimes I wrote fiction, other times I wanted to be Harriet the Spy and I had this black and white composition notebook I would write [fake] things about my neighbors! haha ... anyways, please keep posting!

  131. Thanks, Elissa! I spent a few hours tonight re-familiarizing myself with the outline I devloped, and will review my notes over the next few days. It is invigorating to re-connect with the story, and look at it with fresh eyes. Thanks for the encouragement!

  132. Hi Dalila,
    I teach a 3rd/4th grade group and I'd be happy to send you some notes of ho we play with found poetry. We actually do it a few different ways! I love how yours developed organically. To me, that is the best experience, when the story emerges, revealing itself to you.

  133. Great to know, thanks Gae! I hope to have something to share soon - and will join us much as I can but might not have much Internet access during the next week. Have a nice weekend! Tanja

  134. Natalie KrayenvengerJuly 4, 2015 at 2:31 AM

    I was truly speechless after reading your thoughtful and extremely kind words. I am honored by your encouragement and belief in my writing. Thank you.
    So many stories students read today are from the perspective of students. I want to write a story from the perspective of a teacher (and several students). Give them (students) a look at what we teachers dream about, truly feel, and live for: them.
    The story is ultimately going to be about forgiveness, that we are better than our worst day. I want to shine some light on some other issues as well, but that is the overarching theme.
    I like the sound of "having said goodbye over ten years ago." but will that break up the repetition and flow I have created with all the other lines? Or does that not matter?
    Again thank you for all you have already said, I hope we will continue to share and encourage one another! :)
    P.S. Thanks for the follow on Twitter!

  135. Natalie KrayenvengerJuly 4, 2015 at 2:34 AM

    Thank you, Jane! This being brave thing is pretty exciting :) You totally get what I was trying to do and are feeling what I want the reader to feel. I agree, Gae is awesome!

  136. Natalie KrayenvengerJuly 4, 2015 at 2:39 AM

    I was initially thinking 4th and up, so I guess I will stick with my gut of writing a middle grade novel! One thing decided - check! (I guess when you are at this point it is hard to imagine it being more than 20 pages :) )
    Thank you again for your feedback!

  137. Natalie KrayenvengerJuly 4, 2015 at 2:44 AM

    Hi Elissa,
    Thank you, so thrilled you enjoyed it!
    I didn't spell out the swear word because of the age range I want to be writing for (4th and up). Thoughts on writing "B*TCH" (can I write that here?) in an upper middle grade novel? I know that writing the actual word drives the point home and evokes a more emotional response, but I also don't want it to be a reason children are not allowed to read it...that also sounds like a cop out... I guess it's TBD...
    Thank you again for your encouragement; it is a lot easier to be brave when you have such positive and supportive people like this in your corner! :)

  138. Lovely opening that shows quite a bit without giving it all away. I have a good image of what Jojo looks like, where she lives, and a sense of her internal conflict all in the first few paragraphs. This works extremely well. I'm intensely curious about why she won't be returning home later, what is in her backpack (the last two sentences are "on fleek", as the kids are saying these days), and why she does not want to see her reflection, which feels unique for a teenage girl. For me, you've set up a feeling that something terrible is just around the corner. I want to know what it is, so I definitely want to continue reading. I'm already concerned about Jojo.

    Upon my first read and gut reaction, there were a few words that felt off, though I'm afraid that's just the teacher in me beating the editing horse too harshly -- the two paragraphs beginning with the same word -- "Jojo," and the ending of this sentence: "No textbooks or homework or anything." I think replacing "anything" with something more specific or dropping it completely creates a stronger sentence.

    But then I read it out loud, and those minute concerns fell away. I found a sort of lovely juxtaposition between the tension in the scene and the almost conversational narrative. It reads easily, and is slowed down just enough through sensory details to give me a feeling that I am right there with Jojo.

    I'm loving the alliteration in the description of the train rolling in, and her name makes me happy. It's a good name. Wondering about the pronunciation of her last name; I read it as rhyming with "hot" ... is that right?

    Thank you for sharing and I hope we get to learn more about Jojo throughout the month!

  139. I'm taking a memoir class right now, and your excerpt reminded me of some of things that work so well in a memoir -- musing, or reflecting, with a spotlight on internal dialogue. It works because the reader can connect with the feelings even if they haven't been in a similar situation.

    I wonder what this would look like if you took that first paragraph and showed your reader the detail of being right there as it happened -- what were the parents saying, what sounds could you hear from the closet that let you know furniture was being thrown or dad had been drinking? As a reader, I'm craving that action to be paired with the reflection.

    I'm hooked because I want to know more about that "Spring Friday" where the narrator "hastily fled the spacious house with the coat closet haven." By the way, I love the term "coat closet haven" -- that says so much in just three little words. I'm eager to read more.

    Thank you for being brave and sharing!

  140. Those are great suggestions, Kelly, and I thought them too, truly, but without being able to be concise and eloquent about them had left them for another day! So thanks for chiming in! Yes, "craving that action" too! :D

  141. Hi, Kelly!

    Thanks for the thoughtful feedback. <3 seeing you here. And, yes, Bhatt rhymes with hot, or so I assume.

  142. Elissa,

    I hate when you post because I have nothing but wide-eyed gushing to offer most times. Today, no exception. I'm sorry.

    Your writing is so skilled and stunning. You don't need me. Finish this ms and get it out there. <3

  143. You know, I'm a huge fan of bad language and am always feeling reigned in from it in my tween/YA manuscripts, but I think here, even the word WITCH would work because it's not the word, but the act of writing something mean across the desk and destroying it that is what's so powerful... Don't worry about that now. Keep writing. :D

  144. I came across this last night, in a piece I had forgotten writing a couple months back, and it caught me off guard, so I know it has a bit of emotional kick. But I swear, I'm like my MG students turning to the thesaurus: some of the revisions I'm working through are as simple as being stumped over repetition of words ("noticed" and "confused" in this). Otherwise, the darn manuscript is like a million granny squares I need to knit together into the whole, and Scrivener still slows me down... But THANK YOU - it's been a rough month, and that little encouragement will keep me going!

  145. You had me right at the first sentence -- your word choice is spot on. And then, "Hollow plastic things melted into shapes of a tractor, an apple, a lion, a dog. None went together. Didn’t matter. Worked it out, he did, the little boy. Made a village, a family, a language, rules. Gave them names and jobs and had them play it out, little hops and conversations and rests, while his mother’s world starbursted on the edge of hysterics above him."

    This works so well, and I'm just not smart enough to use my words well enough to explain why. It's simply lovely. The sparseness of the narrative reflects Carinne's emotional state, it seems. Somehow you have filled this small excerpt with important detail while still showing a breakdown in Carinne's mental clarity.

    I do have some questions, possibly because this is not the opening of your ms, so I haven't grown along with the characters and just need more background for reading at this point in the story. Or because I need more sleep or coffee, or both. ;) Who is Miriam? The relationship between Liam, the MC, and Michael isn't clear to me. Is Michael the MC's brother? And if so, does Liam just look like him bc that's his uncle? I'm not sure I'm making any sense...

    Your dialogue rings true. Not always easy to do, and you've done it quite well.

    Oh, the closing line here. My heart stopped. I must know what happens next! And before! Thanks for sharing. :)

  146. I am interested in this character and who she is from the first sentence. Love the fact that you say so much about her and her possible plans by not saying much at all. I definitely want to read more!

  147. I like the tone of this. Not preachy, but a bit more fun, despite a rather serious topic. Yes, I want to know what this bulletproof tool is!

    I too would like to actually see and hear what's going on from the safety of that closet haven, to have more of a balance between reflection and action.

    Thanks for sharing!

  148. What works: I actually love the first line. I think it is brief enough that it pulls you in and makes you wonder "late for what? and why?" I also like the mysteries presented in such a short excerpt. There are plenty of things to wonder about.

    What doesn't: I will admit, the last name throws me off for some reason. However, I don't think it necessarily doesn't work -- just that, as someone else said, it seems "clunky" at first.

    Compelling?: Yes. See above "what works" answer. I need to know the answers to many questions, all of which are good mysteries to draw me into a book.

  149. Excerpt (NF essay):

    When I think of Africa, I think of dirt. Not a rich, black soil for planting, nor the muddy brown muck that lines our Tennessee creeks and rivers. The dirt of Africa is a swirling red dust that seeps into your being in ways you both can and cannot see with the naked eye, a symbol of the ways visiting such a place can change you.

    A pair of black, Old Navy flip-flops sits in my closet at home. If inspected closely, traces of red dust can still be seen in the cracks and crevices of those shoes. Africa is not a place you can easily rid yourself of once your feet are back on American soil. It remains in your soul in places small and large.

    At the KIA Lodge in Arusha, we ate breakfast beside large groups of rowdy travelers preparing for adventure. Mount Kilimanjaro loomed in the distance, its majestic, white-capped peak presiding like a king over the dusty African plains.

    In Tanzania, we traveled on dirt roads to attend church in a small village several hours away. We ate Tanzanian chapati, a flat fry bread, as we were thrown from one side of the vehicle to another, our driver navigating the deep ruts and ridges of mud as best he could. My brother and I struggled to keep down our breakfasts as our companion’s body odor permeated the air. This medical doctor from town traveled with us to the village, and despite his neat suit and crisp white shirt and tie, the smell of unwashed skin swirled through the air like the dirt outside the car.

  150. Thanks for the kind words, Natalie!

  151. I love the idea of students getting to read from a teacher's perspective. Our kids desperately want to connect with us, and as teachers, I think we generally do a great job of getting a glimpse into their world, but sometimes we don't let them have a genuine look into our own. It is easier to show them the professional, than it is to reveal the person. They hear our policies, expectations and goals, but do they hear our dreams, and fears, that also shape us? I think the greatest way for me to connect with students is for me to be authentic, but sometimes authenticity is counter-intuitive to our instinctual view of leadership.

    I can't wait to see where your story goes!

    Best wishes and enjoy the holiday!

  152. Thank you, Gae! I'm a little hesitant to post my own WIP. I have many pieces but most are memoir/blog style, but will eventually be part of the story I need to tell. I'm hoping to be inspired and spurred into action by this group. Happy July 4th from a Canadian neighbour!

  153. Joanna,

    This just works.

    Most of my students shy away from NF literature, because there is seemingly no story to draw them in. Unfortunately, many writers provide facts, but don't weave the context to tell the story, failing to engage many readers. You grabbed me from the start, telling me about soil, and how the African soil can remain hidden in my soul.

    My class (following the lead of David Etkin and Holly Mueller from Twitter) studies A LONG WALK TO WATER, and this work migh provide a great backdrop for the African continent.

    Can't wait to see more! No suggestions for improvement from me. =)

  154. Love the image of the dirt that threads its way throughout this excerpt (and I'm guessing the piece as a whole). I can see and smell what all is going on around you.

    I am sure that you probably discuss more later how it gets into your soul and changes you, but maybe you could give a few glimpses of that in these early descriptions? Just in slight word choice or further description of things like the church or the lodge.

    I definitely want to know more. I want to understand how you were changed by this experience. How Africa "remains in your soul."

    Thanks for sharing!

  155. Love the first paragraph here and the description of the little boy playing. I stumbled over the word "starbursted," although I also love it.

    I want to know why the woman thinks Mick is dead and why he's been looking for her (according to the uncle).

    Thanks for sharing!

  156. LOVE the contrast between the kitchen table in the memory and the reality of it being defaced in her classroom. Maybe it's because I am a teacher myself, but I understand the emotion here.

    I think I'd like to be able to feel that contrast even more. Perhaps start with the memory description (without the "next" and "finally" - takes away from being in the moment I think) and then go right from 6:30am breakfast at grandmother's kitchen table to 6:30am in your classroom when you first see the black marker. I don't know that you need to explicitly say that she was no longer able to hug her grandmother or that she WAS a teacher vs dreaming of being one.

    Again, LOVE the emotion of the incident, and want to see what she's going to do about this. Is this a normal thing? Has she had to put up with a lot of "challenges" this year? Is it her first year teaching? So many questions!

    Thanks for sharing!

  157. I was actually thinking the same thing with the swear word. Definitely has more power and punch if you write it out.

  158. I feel for the little girl and want to protect her. I want to know what happened to Mom since she's obviously not here to hold her.

    I'm not quite as sucked in as I want to be though because you're writing it as the 5 year old, but it's not quite a believable 5 year old voice (not completely anyway). The stomach description attempts to use words the 5 year old would use, but I can't quite feel what she/he feels.

    I want to know more because I want to understand the first paragraph about curiosity caging the MC…

    Thanks for sharing!

  159. As a fellow writer of a WIP partly told in verse, I love this. Love the voice :-) It rings so true.

    Some of the lines I think could be broken up a bit differently is all. Think of where you want the reader to pause and have an image in his/her head and break accordingly. LOVE to read Ellen Hopkins as a great example of novels in verse. Meg Kearney has also written a couple that I've enjoyed. (The Secret of Me and its sequel) I also wonder why she wants to be known as Ashley Cuzack at school and yet she added the extra r to Starr which is what she's called at home.

    I want to read more!! Thanks for sharing!

  160. Love this! Just ran across a book at Barnes and Noble that was written entirely in lists. Almost picked it up, but I was spending too much as it was! LOL. It was YA, written by a guy…I know that narrows it down. Sorry! If I think of what it was called, I'll let you know. (Or maybe you have already read it!)

    I don't think you need to say "And the number one reason…" Just maybe skip a couple of lines before you put number 1?

  161. I too agree with this, especially if it is written for kids. But it definitely makes me want to know more about this little boy.

    Thanks for sharing!

  162. LOVE the opening of this and the short sentences, fragments, that completely pull me in.

    I want to know what exactly his mom did to extinguish that light.

    Thanks for sharing!

  163. LOVE this! Love everything about it and want to read more! Now. :-)

    Thanks for sharing!

  164. Love these characters already. I like the use of the comparison between the dog and Franny and the way this ends.

    I want to keep reading. :-)

    Thanks for sharing and have fun camping!

  165. Thanks for sharing! I love the freedom I find in verse. Keep writing!

  166. I definitely feel the heaviness weighing on her. I want to read more to see what she decides to do.

    Thanks for sharing!

  167. I agree. Don't "tell" too much at the start. Otherwise, you run the risk of sounding a little too preachy. You want the reader to come to these conclusions by herself. :-)

  168. I like the image of the darkness there, but just out of sight, keeping it at bay for one more day.

    I might pare down some of these lines even more, make them a bit shorter in places and longer in others, depending on what images you want the reader to focus on…

    Behind my jacket,
    the Darkness
    wants to come out.

    Keep going! Thanks for sharing! I want to read more.

  169. Yes, I agree! She has tons of attitude and sassiness and VOICE. The first 2 paragraphs don't seem to flow quite as well as the others though. I don't know if the voice sounds a bit more "forced" there with some of the word choices? But I definitely want to read more and see what's up with this girl and why her day is "utter shit."

    Thanks for sharing!

  170. Love this. :-) I feel for Lily, and really hope things work out for her!

    Thanks for sharing!

  171. The point of view of this is interesting. I both like it and am confused by it a bit. Maybe that's what you want. :-) I am curious to see where this goes though.

    Thanks for sharing!

  172. I like this, although I am curious why she runs away at first because she doesn't seem scared of the water or waves, etc.

    Thanks for sharing!

  173. Ch. 1 - Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

    I stand beside your coffin, just like I’m supposed to do. But I can’t bring myself to look at you. Instead, I stare at the old black and white picture in my hands.

    No more than four years old, I’m sitting on your desk at the bookstore you used to own, turning the pages of a thin black book as if I’m reading it. The World of Magick. And sure enough, right there beside me are the dark wooden wand, small pentacle, and candle that come with the “beginner’s kit.”

    I wish I still had them or could remember some of the spells in the book. I could use a few good ones right about now. Just something to make me invisible for a few minutes, a few hours.

    “Oh, Izzy, I’m so sorry about your dad.”

    “Let me know if you and your mom need anything.”

    And my absolute favorite . “At least it was quick.”

    What does that mean? Is it really supposed to make me feel better? Because it doesn’t.

    You weren’t supposed to die at all.

  174. Krystal, thanks for the feedback. I didn't mean to imply that she was scared of the waves or water-- She's just plain playing, running to, from and with the waves and daring them to do their best!

  175. Thanks so much for your feedback, Kelly. It helps to know how much that one part resonated with you (the part you quoted). It's not obvious here, but it's important that this part of the book start to indicate the boy's symbolism - sort of as a, "the next generation works out peace" sort of thing - and I'm hoping this spontaneous riff might end up being enough to start tipping in that direction.

    Where you were confused, it's not you - the confusing identities are clear in context, but not so much here, in an excerpt.

    It's great to get your feedback - any encouragement helps me know to keep going through the hard work ahead. Look forward to connecting with you throughout our TW "camp". :)

  176. Thanks so much for your feedback, Krystal. Great to know the parts you reacted to, whether stumbling or hooked! I look forward to connecting throughout TeachersWrite. :)

  177. Joanna, this works beautifully! The texture of the details you mention creates a vivid sense of the place, that is richer for the fact that awe is blended with the grittiness of 'companion's body odor.' Just gushing about the majesty would not depict the experience as vividly as this. Great start!

  178. Krystal,

    this is very poignant and lovely, and I love the authenticity of the anger Izzy feels at the kinds of things people say to us when those we love pass...

    I wonder if in para one you might give us a hint as to whether Izzy is a girl (my guess) or a boy by telling us what she/he is wearing ("I stand beside your coffin in a black lace dress...") or that a strand of hair is in her face or if it's a boy that his pockets are jammed with something -- something so minor that would clue us in as to gender!

    Also, wonder if at the end of paragraph 3, you might give another tidbit about Izzy, esp. e.g. tell us what her/his favorite spell was, which one it is she/he (?!) would like to have now (is it a spell simply to bring the dad back or is it a spell to fix something else that's going on in this story you're about to tell which would then to the magic thing: hint at conflict?!!!!

    That way, at the end of this little section we'd not only care about Izzy and know her/him a bit, and know that something terrible has happened in the past but we'd have something to be drawn forward with by knowing conflict is coming. Does that make sense?

  179. Agree with the mix of awe blended with grittiness! Lovely work!

  180. agree with this too, and in fact it's interesting that Krystal quotes "remains in your soul" that way, because I'd love to have you end that sentence on the word soul -- don't think it needs in places large and small. Soul is soul, right? :) So strong and gorgeous!

  181. Everything that Greg writes here -- except I don't have students!

    Lovely work! Keep going!

  182. thanks for chiming in Joanna! Welcome to Friday Feedback!

  183. Thanks for chiming in, Krystal and for sharing comments all around. :)

  184. Krystal,

    Thank you for the response! Like I had briefly mentioned, this is a flash back that is set three paragraphs in. The entire jumps back and forth between present time and the past. The narrator is twenty three, so when she talks about her past, it's partly through a child's eyes (because that's how she experienced it) but it's through a twenty three year old's voice/language/vocabulary.

    I'm wondering if you have recommendations for me. Gae was also stuck on my description (ie: the stomach) - I am willing to adjust some words a bit if it will make it clearer, but my writing follows a very strong "poetic prose" which I know is for a niche reader, and I'm okay with that.

    Again, thanks for the feedback,

  185. Yes, it does! And is something I hadn't thought of, no matter how many times I have read this… :-) Thanks so much! I'm excited to get back to writing, considering this is from my WIP (and my creative thesis) from 5 years ago! I NEED to finish it and get it out there!

  186. I like that…"daring them to do their best" :-)

  187. that's why I think it's particularly tricky because of the flashback/reflection of the incident…and that balance. I love "poetic prose," but I can't quite feel it myself. Do we need that description or can you show how she's feeling some other way? The way she grips or twists the blanket or her breathing, etc. Just thinking aloud… :-)

  188. I hope you are too! Happy to have you here in whatever way feels comfortable and good. :D

  189. Shannon,

    tumbling is a good 5-year old word and I'm not sure you need more... I could feel my stomach tumbling might be plenty. Or it could tumble like those beds made of water when you lie on them and the water bounces up and down, or like her blanket in a dryer... or some other image a 5 year old might think of... like I said, I think you don't need a further description because tumble would do it... also, nose flaring with uncertainty would also be too sophisticated a thought for a 5 year old's thoughts - even the word anticipation, etc. BUT if you are writing in the voice of a twenty something thinking back, you could stick with more sophisticated descriptions -- that's up to you. Do you want to take the reader back intimately to her five year old self/feelings/experience or for it to be thru the lens of her older eyes?

    Either way, the stomach description just pops you out out of the flow because you find yourself trying to imagine what that feels like and it's not a feeling I can relate to...

    I say keep going and keep honing as you decide how you want the voice of the piece to be: split between older and younger voice or all older voice. Because she can have a flashback but not "be back there" exactly, if that makes sense. It's the being back there (and taking the reader with her) that would require you to adjust some of the too sophisticated descriptions. Hope all of that is clear.


  190. WOW! this is awesome!

  191. Thank you all for the wonderful comments. Just getting back into town after the holiday, and I will see what I can shape & shift from your feedback to make it better! I love this community of writers! :)

  192. Marcie Prentiss MannJuly 6, 2015 at 4:18 AM

    Thank you for the input. I'm thinking about the phrasing as I work today. : )

  193. Gregg, I'd love to learn more about how you and your students use found poetry! Thank you!

  194. Thank you for the positive feedback, Krystal!

  195. Sammy Sue MattsonJuly 7, 2015 at 3:54 PM

    In response to Gae's passage:

    What works: The suspense works very well in this passage! My
    heart was almost racing with JoJo’s at the thought of her running away!

    What doesn’t: I truly mulled this one over, but could not
    come up with anything that wasn’t working.

    Does it hook me?: Yes! I want to know why JoJo doesn’t want
    to see her reflection in the Plexiglas again! Is it because she is in a hurry, or because she does not want to be reminded of her parents? Since she is running away, I imagine it must be a little of both!

  196. Sammy Sue MattsonJuly 7, 2015 at 3:55 PM

    Here is a passage from something I have been working on for over twenty years :-)

    Grace stood at the end of the wooden pier, throwing carnations over the side. Caught in the ocean’s swirling current, she watched them float freely, almost gracefully. It would be so easy to jump in after them, but her overwhelming fear of heights kept her anchored to railing.

    Grace was beautiful, in a plain, simple way. She was of average height, not too tall, and not too short. Her facial features, matched her frame, both petite. She had eyes that changed with her mood: green when she was happy, blue when she felt free, gray when she was shrouded in sadness.

    Today her eyes were gray.

  197. Such a lovely passage, Sammy! And I do want to keep reading both because the writing is lyrical and because now i want to know why Grace is shrouded in sadness.

    So glad you are here on Friday Feedback. Please note that I generally will only read passages posted through the following day, as I am already working on this coming Friday's post! If lots of people start posting beyond Saturday, I'll never get anything but this here done! :)

  198. Do you have an email address for me to send the notes to? Are you on Twitter?

  199. Sammy Sue MattsonJuly 8, 2015 at 3:25 PM

    Hi Gae, I completely understand! I just discovered your site and the Teachers Write class, so I appreciate the clarification. I'm excited to join everyone :-)

  200. Gae,
    What works? The setting and the character both truly set the mood for me. The empty backpack, the shadows and reflections, and then the interruption of the silence with the loud sounds. So much going on in those sensory images. You leave me wanting more, where do all these images lead to? Who is she, where is she going and why?

    What doesn't work? Pulling a little text out makes it hard to know for sure. You created such curiosity and the images with just enough. The last sentence it was like you almost revealed too much for me. However, without the context I am unsure if it is too much.

    It has hooked me. I want to know JoJo and what she is currently dealing with, and I want to know about her past as well. What brought her here?
    Love peeking into your work, thanks.
    Terry (now off to decide if I can find something to share)