Friday, July 22, 2016

Friday Feedback: Do You Have What it Takes to be a Writer? Quiz with Amy Fellner Dominy

Hey, shiny campers! Guess what today is? 

It's my birthday!!! 

And in honor of my birthday, thought we'd lighten things up around here just a bit. Because, really, all this feedback is all well and good if you're meant to be a writer. 

But what if you're not? 

Why waste your time with it, then? 

And, anyway, how do you even know?

So, courtesy of my good pal, often critique partner, and amazing writer, Amy Fellner Dominy, we thought we'd give you a little quiz. See if you're really cut out to be sharing your words.

Because, if you're not, well. . . 

Amy has been here on Friday Feedback with me since the beginning of TW, I think, so many of you know her already, and love her like I do. 

But in case you don't, she is the author of several award winning books including A MATTER OF HEART (an ALA Top 10 Sports Book for 2015) and DIE FOR YOU, a dark romance, coming November 8, 2016 from Delacorte Press. 


It sounds amazing, doesn't it? I have read a bunch of it, and cannot wait to read the rest! If you're interested, please pre-order. Nothing helps a book (and author!) more than preorders! 

Okay, so now, let's get to it. Do you have what it takes? Take a deep breath and find out? (Amy will share her excerpt, too, down below):

Do You Have What it Takes to be a Writer?

10 Questions to Consider

by Amy Fellner Dominy

         So, you’re three weeks into Teacher’s Write. You’ve learned so much in such a short time. You’ve begun to experiment with ideas, develop characters, discover voice and setting. Maybe you’ve even felt the tingly rush of inspiration, the goose bumps of an “ah ha” moment. This writing thing is, well, it’s hard work, sure…but it’s also fun.
         But are you really cut out to be a writer? Should you retire to a smoking jacket, an old comfy chair and a keyboard? The answer to that just might lie in the answer to these 10 questions. So take the quiz and find out: Do you have what it takes to be a writer?

1. Can you write absolute crap? 
If so, congratulations! You’re on your way. Most first drafts are truly terrible. The trick is—can you open your heart, pour out what you think is awful and still continue? That’s what a writer must do. It’s only through revision that the work begins to shine. So if you’re a perfectionist or you’re too embarrassed to reveal that very bad beginning, you won’t make it far.

2.  Do you crack yourself up and creep yourself out?
As a writer, you have to write first for yourself. If you’re worried about what everyone else thinks, or what the market is looking for, or what the next big trend is, you’re in trouble. But if you can sit down each day and write what’s in your heart, this could be your dream job.

3. Do you have extremely strong abdominal muscles?
Have you ever seen those guys on TV who tighten up their stomachs and then dare someone to punch them as hard as they can?  Well, that’s what it can feel like to share your excerpt online. (Maybe you’ve already felt this for yourself?) It’s exactly how it feels to send your book out. You’re basically giving a stranger the opportunity to punch holes in your story. Which is like punching a hole in yourself. A writer knows how to tighten those core muscles and absorb the blow. Yeah, it hurts.  Yeah, it leaves you bruised. But then a writer stands back up and readies those abs again.

4. Are you willing to stand naked on a stage and yell, “Look at me!”
In other words, let’s discuss book marketing and promotion.
There’s a joke by Stephen Wright: “It’s a small world. But I’d hate to paint it.” I always think of that when it comes time to promote a book because the world begins to feel like an extremely big place. And it seems to be full  of books. If you want people to know about yours, you can’t be shy. You have to open your arms to the world and cry, “Me Me Me!” (Clothing optional.)

5. Check out this dancing baby on YouTube!
This was actually a test. Did you click over (did you think about clicking over?)  Because what you’ve just experienced is a DISTRACTION. There are a million of them every day and a writer has to fight them off, stay focused and resist temptation. If you want to be a writer, you must turn off social media, tell your children not to bother you unless there’s fire or blood, and you must forego the joy of browsing a well-stocked pantry. Can you do it?  Then you just might have what it takes.

6. Is writing so hard it makes you want to cry?
Yes? Excellent! You’re doing it right. Creating a full-length novel with a unique voice, characters who leap off the page, and a plot that compels the reader to keep turning pages is a monumental task. So if you’re pretty sure you can knock out a novel this weekend, you may have unrealistic expectations. (But if you manage to do it, please let me know HOW!)

7.  Do you love chocolate?
Okay, so this really doesn’t have anything to do with anything. I only mention it here because I’ve noticed a lot of writers seem to have addictions to chocolate—could this be the key to success?  (Could the fact that I prefer an apple fritter to a truffle be holding back my career?)

8. Do you have a muse you can rely on?
If you answered yes, I’m jealous. I’ve spent years hoping mine would show up and I’ve come to the opinion that muses are like Unicorns and a Post Office with no lines. Inspiration is magical but you don’t need it.  Perspiration (which is unpleasant and sticky) is completely necessary.

9. Do you hear a voice in your head, and it’s not kind?
I keep a sign by my desk that reads: “My Inner Voice Hates Me.” Every day, there is my voice, whispering in my head: “You have no talent. Your idea is crap. You should give up and see what’s in the pantry.” My inner voice is mean, and she seems to be part of a worldwide organization of inner voices which plague authors. (Or maybe they plague everyone?) To succeed as a writer, you have to invest in mental duct tape—and use it!

10. Did you write today?
This is the only question that really matters. Did you write today?
Will you write today?
Bad or good, inspired or tired—writer’s write.
Which means that this summer, you’re all writers. J

I hope I’ve given you all something to smile about.

Now back to work.

And to the hard part: Sharing. Since it's Gae's birthday, think we'll keep it fun and light where possible. Share whatever you want, but if you have a humorous section of your manuscript to highlight, all the more power to you! If you don't, post whatever. Really, it's okay. And don't forget to follow the RULES (what works? what doesn't, if anything, and are you compelled to keep reading. And despite my longer excerpt, limit to 3 - 5 paragraphs, please). 

I guess l go first. 

This is from a middle grade novel I've been working on in between other projects, called BAD KAT about a girl named Katie who wants to change her image so she can win the part of the villain in the school play. This is a conversation between Katie and her younger sister, Alison: 

“I need to figure out how to get sent to detention.”
Alison unglues her eyes from the TV to look at me. “What? You?”
“Yes, me.” 
She bursts out laughing, which I find highly offensive. Why does no one believe I can be bad? “Just give me some ideas,” I say.
She glances at Mom, then back at me. I can almost see the wheels of her mind turning.  They’re tiny wheels to fit inside her pea brain. “If I help you, you have to take out the trash for a month.”
“A month!” 
“You want to be bad or not?” 
My eyes narrow and for a moment I bask in a vision of me throttling my little sister. “Fine,” I agree. “A month. Now tell me how you got detention.” 
She glances around me to make sure Mom isn’t listening and then whispers, “I got caught cheating on Michael Alston’s vocab test.” 
“Michael Alston?” I picture the skater boy from down the block.  “He can spell?”
“No.  But he sits next to me.” 
“And that’s your only criteria for cheating?” 
“I was fake cheating.”
I shouldn’t ask.  I know I shouldn’t but… “Okay, I’ll ask.  Why were you fake cheating?” 
“To get sent to detention because Bentley Howard is there.” 
“And Bentley Howard is?”
“Hot.”  Alison manages to turn it into a two-syllable word. 
“I should have known it had to do with a boy.” 
“He’s not a boy.  He’s on the cusp on guyness.  And for all you know, Bentley might be The One.” 
“You’re twelve, Alison.”
“Nearly thirteen.  And I’m not going to end up like you, alone at fifteen.  I mean, you had your shot.” 

Now it's your turn. Share anything you want, funny and light if you've got it. And happy birthday, Gae!

Thanks for having me!

Amy (and Gae)


  1. Boy! You made me feel good for skipping over the dancing baby video and it's the first time I've appreciated the nasty voice that lives in my brain!.I love quizzes & it looks like I should keep writing!

    In response to your WIP. Of course, she was fake cheating for a boy. The little sister cracks me up. I love that she says boy with two-syllables and she thinks her sister is washed up at fifteen and missed her only chance, I'm presuming, at love. It sounds very fun. Lots of character showing here!

    In honour of Gae's birthday I'll share the alien invasion scene. My novel centers around bravery and Hannah is learning how to overcome inner fears and things she's built up in her mind from media & comic books, like aliens. Although all the UFO sections have a good basis in science, she's got a pretty good imagination. I wonder if my topics don't have more appeal to boys with aliens, dirt bikes and BB guns, but I've got a female protagonist who is dealing with her brother & his friends a lot this summer, while searching for her escapee chicken.

    Thwock! A noise came from behind.

    I peeked around the side of the tree. Not twenty feet away I saw a grey-green body with a big bulbous head. It was crouched down and peering through a bush. Emma said I was paranoid about aliens, but where was she now when I needed her. I was all alone. My pulse started to race. I focused on my breathing. I had to stay calm.

    Thwock! Thwock! The figure grabbed its leg and fell over. “Damn it, Keith! That hurt! I’ve only got one pair of jeans on.”

    “You didn’t even see it coming, did you?” Another bulbous-headed figure came out from the side swinging his BB gun. All of the guys had BB guns. Both Keith and Blake had layered sweatshirts and their bike helmets on. I guess with the temperature drop and Adam’s bike out of commission today’s game was BB Gun Manhunt.

    “That’s going to bruise.” Blake complained. “Let’s go hunt down Adam or Mark.”

    “What are you a wuss? Want a little competition first?”

    “What kind of competition?”

    Thanks for any & all feedback!

    1. Greetings,

      I love the images of the characters with the BB guns. Right away it brings back childhood memories of either shooting targets with my own BB gun or watching Ralphie plot to get his. Sounds like an intriguing idea. Keep writing!

    2. Hi Stefanie. You completely set me up to believe they were aliens! I had to go back and reread. :) I love the image of bundled kids (teens?) with helmets slinking around! I wonder if your MC could have the sun in her eyes, so she's seeing silhouettes of the boys or something, squinting against the bright light. (a bright light would enhance the UFO image!) Otherwise, I'd think she'd know they were her brothers. This probably isn't the first time they've done this. And once she recognizes the boys (use of name, voice, etc.) would she express relief or understanding. Feel sheepish?
      I have no experience with brothers or BB guns. It sounds brutal! What does she think of it? I'd love to read more-

    3. Good morning Stefanie! So glad you passed the Writer's Quiz. ;)
      Your story sounds charming--an escapee chicken? I'm in! I love how you dive us into the action and also clue us in to Hannah's worries. I wondered, when she sees the figure fall over, what's her reaction? I think that would also be a great place to fill us in on who the boys are. Is that her brother on the ground? How does she feel that she's mistaken them for aliens? Annoyed? Embarrassed? Just a few things to think about, but you're off to a fun start. And yay for girls and BB guns and dirt bikes. :)

    4. What a fun little excerpt for my birthday! Thanks Stefanie!

      I agree with some of Amy's thoughts to keep pushing. Also, in action scenes, always opt for making more passive language more active like "started to race" to just "raced"! BAM! see? :D

      Great stuff! Keep going!

    5. I meant, I agree with Amy's thoughts on where to push! Not some of them. Just them. :D

    6. Hi Stefanie,

      I love your theme of bravery - a core desire we all relate to. I adore the idea of searching for an escapee chicken! Did you use a chicken because of its juxtaposition with bravery, and how people use that term to goad someone into taking a risk?

      I used to give out tiny rubber chickens at book signings -- but I digress.

      I think you have a great scene which just needs some fleshing out. Look for places where you can milk the tension -- I always search for ways to wring every drop of emotion out of a scene. No emotion left behind!

      It felt like you could add more angst when she spies the "alien" -- before your reveal that it's a boy playing Manhunt. Try describing him more, in a way that reinforces the misinformation that he's an alien. Also, I would describe the weather more -- maybe make it misty? Or someone else suggested that the sun was harsh and in her eyes - that would work, too. One thing I've learned, you can make a reader believe anything, as long as you work it enough.

      I love your Thwock! Great sound effect! Things like this are great to amp up both tension and setting us in scene. Perhaps you can magnify its effect by having her jump at the sound behind her - or give her some kind of sensory reaction.

      There's a book I want to marry called the "Emotion Thesaurus." I bought it because I was writing a screenplay and you have to put in all emotions through action, and now I use it for all my writing. If you look up the emotion (IE: Fear), it will list all the physical reactions/body language a person exhibits while experiencing that emotion. Plus more!

      My sons both played Manhunt (thank goodness, they're over it now!) They used airsoft guns, so you might want to check into those.

      I also suggest describing how the boys look with layered sweatshirts. What do the guns look like? Perhaps she thinks a gun is an alien death ray at first?

      When the boys started talking, it felt like Hannah left the scene. Perhaps she's right back there in the next sentence, but try and remind us she's there observing as much as possible. Maybe she can still be shaking as she listens? Maybe she clutches a leaf with quivering hands?

      Best of luck with this, Stefanie! Maybe you'll share more of your novel when I do Friday Feedback in a couple of weeks?

      I hope so (I would especially like to read something with the chicken in it.)

  2. What a great post to lure me into Friday Feedback! I love the writer's quiz! By the time I finished the list I thought, "Wow - maybe I really AM a writer!"

    In celebration of Gae's birthday, I thought I would share an excerpt from my blog post today:

    "Mommy, it's perfect! We can have an Angry Birds birthday party! Here's the cake I wanna make!" I peered over his shoulder to see a basic sheet cake covered in green frosting with miniature Angry Birds figures scattered around a fallen wooden structure. The words "Happy Birthday" were piped in colored frosting to the left.

    He was so excited, his small body fell into the computer desk as he leaned closer to the image shown. "I'm ok," he quickly alerted, "Let's make this today!"

    It's July.

    His birthday isn't until September.

    I don't make cakes.

    No, seriously. I don't make cakes.

    My children know I adore themed celebrations. There's something about the planning of decorations and activities that reminds me of the perfect childhood I never had. And while I don't bake cakes, I feel compelled to create these timeless memories for my family.

    "Mommy! Listen to me! We gonna make this today!" He jumped down from the computer chair and stood in front of me, hands on his hips, his sweet smile replaced with a showdown glare. "TO-DAY!"

    I could hear the strains of "The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly" playing in my mind with Clint Eastwood's swagger reflected in my son's stance. He was determined to be the last man standing. There was no way I was coming out of this showdown unscathed.

    I knew this was a losing battle. He may only be six, but he's sixteen with persistence.

    It's July.

    His birthday isn't until September.

    Why can't we bake a cake just for fun?

    If you'd like to read more, here's the link to my blog post:

    Thanks for taking the time to read my writing and sharing your thoughts!

    1. This is so funny. I love the images you have created. Hope your cake turns out well!

    2. I love this. What a perfect piece to help celebrate Gae's birthday. You make me smile.

    3. Hi Tamara. I love this! A what a perfect excerpt for a birthday. :) There's a sweetness to it (no pun intended) and an authenticity to it that I'm sure many of us can relate to. We can understand the "why" when you say you want to create the perfect childhood you never had. That's compelling! I'm not sure what changes I could suggest. At first, I felt like I wanted to know his age, but I thought you did a good job of introducing it when you did. Keep up the writing--and thanks for sharing.

    4. Tamara,

      Love this and you! Thank you. <3

    5. Great job of setting the determination of a six year old against your(?) non-cake baking. I too don't really bake. I try and have had a number of Pinterest Fails. The point where you juxtaposed wanting to create the perfect celebrations you never drew me in. There was a lot of feeling here!

    6. Ah yes, Tamara -- I've been there! You made me relive the horror of an excited child VS my baking "allergy," as I call it.

      I don't bake, either. I mean, that's what bakeries are for!

      If you were going to expand this into a larger work, perhaps you could describe in what way you plan and execute theme parties. Maybe you could create an obsessive mother who goads the baker with a precise description of every detail she wants on the cake.

      Really, there's a lot you could do with this. You have the base emotions (at odds with each other.)

      Happy baking ;)

  3. Love your list, Amy! Congrats on the new book. I've been very out of touch with the 2k11 crew, but I think of you often and send all my love. xo

    1. Hugs Caroline! I think of you often, too, and I love following all the good things that have been happening with you. You should come back to The Grads and visit with us again. xo

  4. Good morning. Happy Birthday Gae, hope you have a fantastic day.

    Amy, thanks for sharing with us this morning. I love the quiz. What a fun way to encourage us. I really like the idea of your Bad Kat. It sounds like it's going to be book filled with a lot of mischief. I've heard actors say that it's more fun to play the villain, so I am intrigued right away by what she's going to have to go through to do this. I also like how you use dialogue to introduce the other characters. Great work.

    Here's a snippet from the novel that I am querying right now. In honor of Gae's birthday I picked the scene where Raven, the MC, is thinking about what her birthday was like today.

    I lay in bed that night. No cake. No cards. No presents. Belated wishes. The only thing I got today for my birthday was a zit.
    Too bad I popped it.

    Thanks all.

    1. LOL Martha! What a great excerpt. It's so short but each word conveys so much. We know what happened, event-wise, but we also know so much about character from this. She's been forgotten--overlooked on her birthday. (Good thing the same thing won't be happening with Gae!) :) She may be grumpy about that but she isn't crying. She's got attitude that comes through clearly. Very nice!! Thanks for sharing.

    2. Hah, Martha! What a gross present! Hope Raven's birthday is better next year! <3

  5. Nice! I like the dynamics of your sisters! Like Stefanie, I particularly enjoyed the end where Alison shares what she thinks of your narrator's chance at love. It made me laugh. I also liked her observation of "I can almost see the wheels of her mind turning. They’re tiny wheels to fit inside her pea brain." And yet, she's asking her for advice! Maybe she could show more reluctance at needing to ask her sister for help? Bemoan the fact that she has to stoop to her sister's level or check with the degenerate in the family? But of course, that may have happened before this excerpt. I'd definitely read more! I want to know if she has the capacity to be a villain.

    I don't have much humor in my WIP, yet, but I'm trying to build in more light-hearted moments to break up the tension. Some are flashbacks, some are moments when my MC lets herself live a little again-

    “Hey, how do I stop?” I turned to the guy next to me who was intently watching the hockey game on the tv in the corner of the gym. “Excuse me, how do I get off?”
    He looked at me like I was stupid. He hadn’t been here when I got the introduction to the treadmill. A whole group of people had since left and come in. There was a changing of the jocks, so to speak.
    “You press stop.”
    I looked at the mass of buttons before me.
    “Well yeah, but will it just stop? Will I fly off?”
    “No. It stops slowly.”
    I pressed the button, holding onto the side bars and was relieved to find he was right. The belt slowed beneath me. I was covered in a sheen of sweat, but was feeling pretty good. I stepped off the treadmill and almost fell over.
    “Oh my God, Ru!” I cried. I staggered towards him, grabbing any machine I passed. I felt like I was floating on a conveyor belt. My brain was still moving forward, but the ground beneath me had stopped. Is this what being high felt like?
    People openly laughed at me and I grinned. I laughed too.
    “This is awesome!”
    Ru pulled his earbuds out as I approached his elliptical.
    “I’m still moving!” I declared. I spoke louder than I intended. I almost felt giddy, drunk on all the oxygen I had consumed while walking.
    “You are such a dork, Gray.”
    “A lovable dork.”
    “Sure, sure.”

    1. Jen - I know that weird giddy floor moving feeling! And I love the line, "A changing of the jocks".

    2. Hi Jen. Thanks for the thoughts on my excerpt. I'll double-check that Katie's disgust at asking for her sister's help comes through because you're right--that's exactly how she feels!

      It sounds like you're writing a more serious book and it's smart to be thinking of lighter moments--I think readers need that when you can make it work within the world of the story. My current WIP is very dark and I'm struggling to do the same thing.

      This is a great scene for a smile--the line about changing of the jocks made me laugh. Also, I thought you did a good job of conveying that she's new to this environment but also I felt her sense of achievement. Her attitude really makes me like her. My only moment of confusion came at the part where she almost falls over then cries out, "Oh my God, Ru!" I didn't know who or what Ru was--though I'm guessing the reader will already know. It also sounded like something dire at that moment, rather than funny, which is what it turns out to be. I wonder if it would help to add a little more after "almost fell over" so we know it's that her legs are jelly or the ground is still moving? Just a thought to play around with. Nice work--keep writing!

    3. Jen, I love this little scene and agree wholeheartedly that the lightness is needed! I had the same moment of confusion as Amy and even though we probably know who Ru is, that little clue in about her legs would be a perfect thing. Keep going!

    4. Hi Jen,
      I thought you conveyed a whole lot here, and I also felt like I got to know your character in a short space - well done!

      I love the emotion and action you infused once off the treadmill. Perhaps try and add some more while on it? (Perhaps fear and/or a growing panic - as I have felt more than once when trying to get off a treadmill.) Maybe show more physical signs of emotion (annoyance?) from the person next to her? Like when he says, "You press stop" he could roll his eyes.

      I also love the changing of the jocks - so true! We feel so much with this line.

      I do get the sense that something serious is lurking in the background here - and that this respite is well-needed. I'm rooting for your character!

  6. Happy Birthday, Gae, and Thank you Amy!

    Your title made me whimper. I might be listening to my inner voice saying, "Oh, heck no. Not a chance you have what it takes." But your quiz was very gentle. My heart rate is slowing even.

    And I love the 'washed up at 15' bit. All of your piece was funny and made me want to read more. Thank you for sharing!

    This is my first shitty draft of a new idea. My feelings are pretty calloused on first drafts, so all reactions are welcome. ;)

    It was every bit as awful as Darcy had imagined.

    The fairgrounds were dry and dusty. The food was deep fried and dripping with mayonnaise. The Ferris Wheel dropped a screw into their carriage before they’d reached the top.

    Darcy clutched the side of the seat and tried not to hate Elliot for dragging her along.

    “Are you afraid of heights, Darcy?” Elliot leaned in. “I could kiss you to distract you, if you’d like.”

    “I would not like, thank you very much.” Darcy pushed his perfectly chiseled face away from her own. “Use your charms on someone who will appreciate them.”

    “Suit yourself!” Elliot grinned. “There was a really hot babe selling painted rocks. Mind if we walk by again after this?”

    Darcy focused on the horizon, hoping it would make the swelling in her stomach retreat. “If there is an after, we can do anything you like, Elliot.”

    thank you!

    1. Poor Darcy! The opening lines were great- building the list of everything wrong with the experience (in threes, I noticed!), ending with the startling screw! Ahhh! Elliot is infuriating in his cocky teasing in contrast to Darcy's fear and nausea. I wonder about their relationship and why they're here together! I'd keep reading- Fun draft!

    2. Yay for shitty first drafts! But where is yours--this scene is great. :)

      Like Jen, I loved the setup of the fair. The details that Darcy focuses on not only give a great picture of the setting but tell us how Darcy feels about it in a humorous way. I like the banter and relationship between the two characters--is there something romantic going on? I'll want to read more to find out. The writing flows well though I wonder if you can delete a name or two? People don't often repeat the person's name when they're talking to them and you have enough dialogue/action tags that I don't think there's confusion over who is speaking. I'd consider cutting "Darcy" from Elliot's dialogue and then "Elliot" from Darcy's last line. Nice draft--keep going!

    3. OMG, Terry, I love this excerpt!! I'm feeling it. Such great tension, snark, friendship... I can feel it all. Keep going! :D

  7. Dear Amy and Gae,

    Thank you for the cheerleading post. Oh, my goodness….talk about fun and funny. LOVE it. It’s very fun to see how close the two of you are as friends and writers. You can just feel it in this post.

    I’ve already pre-ordered Die for You. Sounds good and dark and relevant….kinda like my daily chocolate fix!

    I don’t have anything funny I’ve been working on to share. I’m currently working on building lists of books for read alouds in middle school: Short Stories (thanks Mike Winchell – BTDT is on my list), Picture Books (Thanks Caroline Star Rose – Over in the Wetlands is on my list).

    I’m also prepping for my time at Library of Congress next week. I’ll try not to be TOO fan-girly while I’m there but respectfully studious…..but you know, it’s LOC!

    I do want to send out a sincere HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Gae. I so look forward to reading THE MEMORY OF THINGS and appreciate how much you give to the community of writing. You are such an inspiration. Wishing you lots of cake and swim time to keep the calorie/fit-bod balance juuuuuuuuuust right.

    I look forward to reading over TW subs here and enjoying the wonderful summer creativity.

    1. Hi Linda. Thanks for every lovely word of this reply! I'll add my birthday wishes and appreciation for Gae with yours. I always say writing is something you do on your own, but you can't do it alone. Gae's been such a huge support for me in so many ways. As writers, we all need that!

      Sounds like you're very busy in the best kind of way--centered on books and kids. :) Enjoy LOC and huge hugs for supporting all of our books.

    2. You kids are making me cry. Well that, and the fact that the word panty was in our post by accident. *now fixed*


      Thanks for the kind words. <3

  8. Happy birthday, Gae, and thank you, Amy for the fun quiz. My writing has been a little dark this week, so I will try to find some humor to post later today. Love your characters, Amy. Can't wait to read the book.

    1. Sounds good Susan! And I can completely relate. The other book I'm working on now is pretty darn dark. I couldn't find anything to post. If you don't have a lighter moment, then share whatever you like. I'd love to read!

  9. Happy Birthday, Gae!
    Amy, my copy of Die for You is on pre-order and hope your muse and supply of chocolate keep you on track for your WIP - loved those sisters and can't wait for more!

    1. Thank you Carole! Such nice comments from one of my very favorite authors. :)

  10. Happy birthday, Gae!

    Loved the quiz, Amy, but I'll admit that I need to work on my abs! The excerpt you shared definitely got me hooked. The dialogue was humorous and natural and I loved the way you surprised us with the "fake cheating." I definitely want to find out what Katie tries to do to get sent to detention.

    So, I guess I'll practice tightening my abs and share part of the story I've been working on. :)

    "Nina, come downstairs! It's time for dinner!"

    Nina had heard her mother the last three times she had called, but hadn’t felt like spending the energy necessary to get up off the couch. Besides, she knew what was for dinner. Meatloaf. Her mother’s meatloaf really wasn’t worth the effort.

    “Nina! Now!”

    Slowly Nina peeled herself from the couch and clomped heavily downstairs, dragging her hand along the banister the entire way.

    “Did you wash your hands?” her mother asked, as she scooped a large helping of lumpy mashed potatoes onto Nina’s plate.

    “Where’s Dad?” Nina responded, ignoring her mother’s question. She had been home all afternoon. What did she need to wash her hands for? It’s not like she had been performing chemistry experiments with toxic chemicals.

    “He had to work late. Again.” Nina could hear the irritation in her mother’s voice. Not that there was anything unusual about that. Lately it seemed like her mother was always irritated. With her dad. With her. With jars that wouldn’t open easily. Basically everything.

    Nina’s mother set the plate down on the table in front of her with enough force to slosh the milk in her glass. Nina stole a glance at her mother’s face. She looked tired and like she wasn’t really there somehow. Like her body was in the room, but her mind had drifted free. From the look on her face and the sound of her voice, it hadn’t gone anywhere very pleasant.

    1. Hi Amanda. I really like your excerpt! I think humor is such a hard thing to do, but I've been so impressed with all the wonderful examples of it I've read today.

      The voice of Nina is so engaging--funny, snarky, full of attitude. It also feels very authentic to a teenager along with the mom who is irritated and tired. This scene has me wondering why is Nina so lethargic? Has something happened? Why has she been home all day? It may be that we already know that, but if not you might want to hint at the underlying issue. Also, I'm wondering about the mom. Something seems to be wrong. The important thing here is how does Nina feel about that--how will she respond?

      You've definitely intrigued me. I want to understand Nina better and the challenges she's facing. I think it'll be fun to watch her solve them! Thanks for sharing...and getting a good ab workout. ;)

    2. Thank you so much for the feedback, Amy!

    3. I want to know more too! And you do this by drawing such a good picture, with a great choice of words (like clomped) and, like Amy says, snark: the toxic chemicals line. Great stuff! Keep going.

  11. Here is a few paragraphs that include background on my MC. This is a first draft!

    Three years ago I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or CFS. You are probably thinking, “What the heck is that?” I know because that’s exactly what I said to the doctor when he gave me my diagnosis.

    “What the heck is that Dr. Sail?”

    Dr. Sail answered, “Well, we are not sure what causes CFS and there is no medical test to diagnose it. Blah, blah blah (insert medical term here). Blah, blah, blah.” Maybe that is not exactly what he said but it’s all I remember. I was only eight-years-old for Pete's sake! How did he expect me to understand a word he was saying.

    Now that I am the mature age of eleven, I can explain CFS in terms any kid could understand. Basically, my body hurts when I am active like a “normal” kid. For example, if I jump rope on the playground at recess, I can do it no problem. You wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a kid with CFS and a normal kid jump roping. My body doesn’t hurt yet. The key word here is YET. But, a few hours later, or even as much as a few days later I crash.

    You might ask, “What is a crash?” Let’s just say it’s like the worst flu you could ever have. Then times that by ten. My whole body aches, my muscles feel on fire like they are being ripped away from my bones. Sometimes I cannot even walk I am so weak. All I can do is lay down and try to sleep the pain away. All this can be caused by something as simple as jump roping. Crazy, huh!

    Jennifer D.

    1. Hi Jennifer. Thanks for sharing your excerpt. I've read about CFS before and the stories make my heart hurt. I think it's wonderful that you're tackling it in a book for kids.

      I like the voice of your main character. She seems very mature, but I think it works in this situation because her experiences growing up will have been so unique. I like having her explain CFS, but I wonder if you can take it even further by having her use a specific example of a time when she did an activity and then paid for it? Bring us in to a moment when she was jump roping with her best friend and they were playing a game, and it was so much fun, etc. Bring the moment to life with details and we'll all be with her having fun...and then we'll all be with her when she's paying the price later.

      Great work--keep writing!

    2. Amy gives you perfect praise and perfect advice. I like the mature voice too, and it's an intriguing subject. Pushing this so we "see" the scene happen vs her explaining it, will make us FEEL with her. That's that whole show vs. tell thing. I'd love to see you play with that and share again!! Keep going!

    3. Hello Jennifer,
      As I am sticking my nose into everyone's writing today, I will "third" what Amy and Gae said. Maybe you could relate a specific thing she does when she's in pain to try and feel better? Maybe she has a stuffed animal that doubles as an aromatherapy dispenser (these exist) and she cuddles it? Something that makes us really see her curled up with her pain.

      I really feel for this girl, and I know kids will be drawn it to her plight - which they probably don't know a thing about - yet.

      I do think that you might want to take a pause before the "Crazy, huh?" Or rephrase it so it's a little less light. I know she puts on a brave face, but after revealing all of that pain, I think she needs a moment before brushing it off.

      I feel so sad for her!

  12. Oh, and my feedback for you!! Almost forgot.
    I love the conversation between the siblings. It felt real. Your MC must really want this part bad to be willing to go to detention for it. Fun to read!

    1. Yay--thank! So glad the excerpt works. And yes, she is hell-bent on getting that part. (Ooh, I think I discovered a new pun.) :)

  13. Hi, Amy (and HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GAE!!!)

    I'm happy to say that I passed the test, but really...I'm guilty of #5 so much it's scary. I count on my critique partners to keep me in line. #1 has me hung up today. I wasn't going to share an excerpt because I'm struggling with the one that I want to be light/funny. It's only a paragraph, but it has to segue pretty quickly into a letdown for my MC. I'll post below for feedback.

    As for your excerpt, Amy. I love it. I'm drawn in immediately because I want to know more about this kid that's trying to get into trouble. The only part I got thrown by was when the little sister looks at the mom the first time..for some reason I thought Mom was right there with them, listening to their conversation. I imagine that you have the setup before this section that clarifies that.

    Ok, here's mine...


    A loud noise erupts from across the yard. Men yell. Women scream. Children laugh. I turn my attention to the direction of the noise and see...sheep! The sheep are running around the festival yard! Why aren’t they in their pen? And now the overjoyed children are chasing the sheep who are baaaaaaaaing as they race around people and tables and stacks of hay used for seating. A man tries to grab a sheep and misses, sending him crashing into a display table of tomatoes, potatoes, jars of relish, and bouquets of flowers. Another sheep barrels into Sister Norbert’s table. Her prized tarts and pies and jars of preserves careen to the ground like an out of control sled down an icy hill. She gasps in horror, her hands flying in the air. She twirls around, crying out, “No! No! No!” During her twirling, her habit becomes tangled in the debris and she struggles to free herself. At that moment, the offending sheep circles back around and knocks Sister Norbert face down, into the mess of fruit pastries. I feel a tickle of amusement deep down in my belly as she lifts herself to a sitting position, and her face is covered in strawberry preserves.


    So, I'm not sure what else this needs. I appreciate any feedback you can give. Thank you!

    1. Hi Wendy. Thanks for the feedback and I'm glad you passed the quiz. I know what you mean about #5. In fact, while I was trying to find a link for this post I spent a RIDICULOUS amount of time online playing dancing baby videos. Very productive use of my time--ha!

      I love the picture you've painted in your excerpt. Sheep running through a fair is wonderful. I especially love the image of the preserves like an out of control sled, and Sister's tangled habit. My main question is one that I imagine readers will know, but I have no sense of who the main character is here. Who is witnessing this? Based on your answer, have you captured the voice of that person? That would be something I'd suggest you go over to make this scene even better. For instance, you use the words "overjoyed children." That gives me the impression of an older person. Does that fit? You just want to be sure that the scene reflects the narrator's perspective as much as it reflects the actual events. Hopefully that makes sense.

      Thanks for sharing and keep going. Oftentimes, it's the part I struggle with the most that turn out the best in the end!

    2. Wendy, it's a great scene with those highlights Amy loved -- me too! I am curious too about the people in this scene and whether have you captured, as Amy says, their "voice." I also wonder if you pulled out some "stage direction" whether the scene would just flow better -- the sort of farce of it would shine more? I'm going to try it. We shall see. . . experiment:

      A loud noise erupts from across the yard. Men yell. Women scream. Children laugh. I turn my attention to the direction of the noise and see...sheep! Sheep are running around the festival yard! Why aren’t they in their pen? The overjoyed children chase the creatures who are baaaaaaaaing as they race around people and tables and stacks of hay used for seating. A man tries to grab one and misses, sending himself crashing into a display table of tomatoes, potatoes, jars of relish, and bouquets of flowers. Another sheep barrels into Sister Norbert’s table. Her prized tarts and pies and jars of preserves careen to the ground like an out of control sled down an icy hill. She gasps, twirling haphazardly, hands flying in the air. Her habit becomes tangled in the debris and she struggles to free herself. The offending sheep circles back and knocks Sister Norbert face down, into the mess of fruit pastries. A tickle of amusement rises from deep down in my belly as she lifts herself to a sitting position, her face covered in strawberry preserves.

      Taking some of the excess verbiage out (I feel, e.g. is almost always sort of self conscious and unnecessary) may help some, though I don't know if there aren't places it was strong before. Just me playing. See what you think. :D

    3. Thank you, Amy and Gae. This feedback is helpful to making me think about what I want to accomplish with this scene. Gae, as always your flash edits are superb!

    4. Hi Wendy,
      I love the image of free-running sheep! (Who doesn't love sheep?) You use great language as well - like "barrels." I especially love the habit getting tangled. Most of what I was going to say was covered, but I will add that you might try to wring out extra laughs whenever possible. What does Sister Norbert resemble with her face covered in preserves? Does the offending sheep knock her in the rear? Could you describe the actions of one or two of the chasing children - or what sounds they make? Could you describe something in particular about the sheep who runs into Sister's table? How exactly does the man crash into the display table? Maybe he slips on some hay? Does a tomato smash on his head? I would also like to hear the crashing, smashing sounds. Maybe the sheep have flower stems stuck in their teeth. Maybe they ran through a finger-painting area for kids, and now they're multi-colored. (Maybe the kids were painting flags, and now the sheep are a patriotic red, white and blue.) There are so many possibilities! The more details, the more we are drawn in. Don't be sheepish ;)

  14. Great Friday inspiration. Thank you. I loved the flow of conversation between your characters. The older/younger sister tone and attitude spoke loudly. It brought me back to conversations with my sister, and those I overheard between my girls.

    There isn't much humor in the story I am working on, but this piece seems to fit because it is one of the moments when the character (me) realizes that what was funny at one time is no longer. Humor meets reality as mom's condition becomes more real.

    “She said what?” my sister asked shaking her head. “I know, can you believe it?” I answered still not sure whether to laugh or cry.” “Start at the beginning,” she demanded wanting to make sense out of what I certainly had wrong.
    Mom and I were getting ready to go to the store when she leaned over and half whispered, “I’m afraid we’re going crazy, you and me,” gesturing back and forth between us.
    “Both of us, or just you?” I replied in my usual joking manner. I wasn’t shy about the elephant in the room. “What happened?” I asked as she balanced to put her shoe on.
    “Well…” she began, looking around as if others were there, “I was walking home from Walmart and…” she paused knowing the next bit would surely confirm her diagnosis of crazy, “…and I saw Dad.”
    I lifted my eyebrows and nodded, willing her to go on. I needed to know if she knew, or remembered, but I didn’t want to lead her. “And we’re going crazy because?” I added, reminding her of her beginning.
    “You know…he’s,” again, looking around while fighting to get her heel in her shoe. “Dead.”
    “And this is why WE are going crazy?” I asked gently. She nodded, eyes down, focusing on her shoe. “Umm, did you talk to him, or just see him?” I was hopeful I could explain away the crazy with a case of mistaken identity.
    “Of course I talked to him,” she snapped, this time looking directly at me.
    “How was he?” I asked as this were the most common thing in the world. She shrugged, “Umm, you know.”
    The man’s been dead for ten years and I get a shrug with a “you know.”
    “Did you ask what they talked about?” my sister interrupted impatiently.
    “No, but there’s more,” I explained. We were just about ready to walk out the door when she stopped, uncertain of what to do next.
    “Mom, you ready? What’s wrong?” I asked with my keys in my hand.
    “Well, I can’t lock the door if he’s coming here tonight. He doesn’t have his key,” she replied evidently still moving in between two worlds.
    Still new to the game, I rushed in with the thought that if he showed up, the last thing he would need is a key. “Mom, if he shows he can just slip in.” I gestured to the window with a smirk. “He won’t need a key.”
    I expected a laugh, but instead I got a curious stare. She was circling through time, bouncing between real and seemingly real time. Recovering quickly, I added reassuringly, “Mom, he knows the garage door code. He can use that.” She spun her head towards me and angrily replied, “He doesn’t have a car!” And then my mother, who stoically survived several sorts of hell in her lifetime of 80 years, burst into tears paralyzed by the insanity of it all.
    She was right about one thing. Crazy had arrived.

    1. Hi Patti.
      Thanks for the feedback! I always like creating sibling relationships and glad to know it felt "real."

      I thought your excerpt was so touching! It really captures that awful uncertainty of how to deal with memory loss. Of trying to make light of things and then being reminded of just how dark they are. The mom's reaction at the end was a very strong moment.

      You've got the heart of this scene there, and that's the difficult part. Now it needs some work to streamline the memory and make it a little easier for the reader. In some ways, this feels like a flashback because you have the scene with the sister and her mom. But, you also present it as a present-day conversation with one sister telling another. I think it would be better if you committed to one way or the other. In case I'm confusing you (which is likely) here's an example of what I mean:

      WRITTEN LIKE A FLASHBACK: “And this is why WE are going crazy?” I asked gently. She nodded, eyes down, focusing on her shoe. “Umm, did you talk to him, or just see him?” I was hopeful I could explain away the crazy with a case of mistaken identity.

      So I said to Mom, and this is why WE are going crazy? But she wouldn't even look at me. I thought maybe it was a case of mistaken identity so I asked if she'd talked to him, too.

      I hope that helps! Keep going...and thanks for sharing.

    2. Thanks for taking time to read it and comment. I will play around with it. I am writing this whole thing in bits and pieces as they happen and as they strike me. Putting it all together is going to be the really tough part starting with exactly what you pointed out. I'm not really sure how it will play out, but I definitely can see how valuable your suggestions are! Thanks for the feedback!

    3. Patti, this is so beautiful and poignant and, I imagine, hard to write emotionally, and I’m feeling so honored to get snippets.

      I agree with Amy’s feedback’s and would also suggest on revision LATER you simplify in places, and cut back, e.g. on dialogue tags letting the dialogue and emotion of the scene do more of the work and trust the reader will get it. I think by cutting back when you revise, your writing and the emotions will shine more. Here’s a quick superspeed flash edit to illustrate possible places. See if you can even tell where I cut back and if you think what’s there shines a little more.

      “She said what?” My sister shook her head.
      “I know, can you believe it?” I still wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry.
      “Start at the beginning,” my sister demanded, wanting to make sense out of what I certainly had wrong.

      Mom and I were getting ready to go to the store when she leaned in and half whispered, “I’m afraid we’re going crazy, you and me.” She gestured between us.

      “Both of us, or just you?’” I wasn’t shy about the elephant in the room. “What happened?”

      She balanced to put her shoe on. “Well…” she began, looking around as if others were there, “I was walking home from Walmart and…” She paused knowing the next bit would surely confirm her diagnosis of crazy, “…and I saw Dad.”

      I raised my brow and nodded, willing her to go on. I needed to know if she knew, or remembered, but I didn’t want to lead her. “And we’re going crazy because?”

      “You know…he’s. . .” She fought some more to get her heel in. "Dead.”

      “And this is why WE are going crazy?” She nodded, eyes down, focusing on her shoe. “Umm, did you talk to him, or just see him?”

      “Of course I talked to him,” she snapped, this time looking directly at me.

      “How was he?”

      She shrugged, “Umm, you know.”

      The man’s been dead for ten years and I get a shrug with a “you know.”

      “Did you ask what they talked about?” my sister interrupted impatiently.

      “No, but there’s more.”

      We were just about ready to walk out the door when she stopped, uncertain of what to do next.

      “Mom, you ready? What’s wrong?” I fidgeted with the keys in my hand.

      “Well, I can’t lock the door if he’s coming here tonight. He doesn’t have his key.”

      Still new to the memory loss game, I gestured at the window and offered rational thought. “Mom, if he shows he can just slip in. He won’t need a key.”

      I expected a laugh, but instead I got a curious stare. She was circling through time, bouncing between real and seemingly real time. Recovering quickly, I added, “Mom, he knows the garage door code. He can use that.”

      She spun toward me angrily. “He doesn’t have a car!” And then my mother, who stoically survived several sorts of hell in her lifetime of 80 years, burst into tears paralyzed by the insanity of it all.

      She was right about one thing. Crazy had arrived.

    4. Hi Patti,

      This is so emotional. I can identify with it, as I watched my beloved aunt slip into Alzheimer's. She said really outrageous things like your mom did, and argued even when I tried to "reason" on her level - as you did with the garage door code.

      The hardest part about writing memoir is separating your heart from your writing - especially when your writing needs heart, too. But it's a different kind of heart. It's a writer's heart, not a protagonist's heart. And so you may feel like you need to put down every twist and turn, but in reality (literally) you do not.

      I would suggest writing the scene between you and your mother in real time, instead of relating it to your sister. This will simplify your logistics and keep us focused on the emotions. I am fascinated by the way you handled your mother, and I know it had to be so hard. And now you have this to face. I will tell you something: writing down the pain of my life did not make me feel better. It made me feel worse, because I was faced with it. But when people responded, when they told me how much my words resounded with them, and they shared their stories -- that's when I felt better. It's all about humanity and connection.

      Your words connect with me.

      As for putting it all together: I suggest writing it as you remember it, one incident at a time. You can sew it all up like a quilt later.

      Best of luck with this!

  15. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GAE! I hope that you enjoyed yourself on YOUR day.

    Thank you, Amy, for coming on as a guest on this hot and steamy Friday afternoon (it may not be hot and steamy where you are but it is in Syracuse).

    I LOVED the ten questions. I love chocolate, am working on my abs, sit down every day and/or night to write (even after 7 sweltering hot hours on a track, which helped the abs) absolute crap, and would stand on a stage (with clothes or not because what you see is what you get) and say, “Look at me.” I must be a writer.:) Thank you for the boost of confidence (after the next hour of writing, I will have none again).

    Okay, now for your excerpt. One thing I’m not sure about: Is it cheating “off of” Michael’s test? “On” just sounded funny to me, but remember, I have been in the hot sun for seven straight hours. Now, for the stuff I love. I love the title. Katie reminds me of my oldest daughter, so I was drawn in right away. Katie, if she it truly like my daughter, is an awesome kid who rolls with the punches, doesn’t get caught up in drama, and is friends with almost everyone (some of her friends don’t like her other friends – this bothers my actual daughter). This past school year, she got caught talking when the teacher was talking (ONCE) and she was devastated. This summer, she is testing the waters and was late five minutes for curfew the other night (she wanted us to be mad, so I pretended I was furious – she cried). Allison totally reminds me of my other daughter, who drives me absolutely crazy (and is becoming boy crazy). These characters seem so real. You have brought your characters to life (even in this short excerpt). I want to read more. I will be looking for Bad Kat (or another title – I hope not) in the future.

    Here is my excerpt:
    Beep! Beep! Beep! The alarm clock shook me out of the worst dream I’ve ever had. I had sweat all over my shirt. Christy tied me to a goal post and was kicking soccer balls at my head while calling me a cheat over and over again. Thank goodness it was just a dream. I think. I’ll be sure to stay away from the soccer field today, especially the goal post.
    I couldn’t even watch ESN’s Sporting Recap this morning. I was too excited about school. Wait! Too excited about school? I felt my forehead with the back of my hand. No fever. I checked the bathroom mirrors and nothing was wrong with my eyes. I double checked my pulse in my wrist, but couldn’t find it. What is happening to me?
    “Are you excited about handing in your project today?” Kim asks and brings me back to reality.
    That’s it. I’m excited about turning in my project, even though Christy thinks that Jared did the whole thing. I’ll show her. Maybe, Ms. Dean will showcase it in the front of her classroom and use it as the class example. I doubt it, but you never know.
    “Earth to Sammy, come in Sammy.” Kim is now right in my face. “Are you okay?”
    “Yeah. Sorry. Today’s the big day. I’ve never had a big day at school. If you don’t count personal pizza day in the cafeteria, Dodge Ball Day in gym class, or the snow day that we had last year.”

    Thank you, Amy and Gae (Happy Birthday again)! You both rock! Have a great weekend and happy writing!

  16. Hi Andrew. First of all, have to tell you that I laughed reading all about your daughters. I'll do what every good writer does (or at least what I do) and shamelessly steal from the inspiration you've provided.

    Your excerpt is so full of humor--lots of fun to read. I love how he included pizza day in the cafeteria as a big day at school. I already like Sammy and get a good feeling for the things he loves (sports) and the things he usually doesn't (school.) I'm intrigued by Christy and that relationship and how it will develop. And of course I want to find out how his project goes.

    I got a little confused when Kim appeared. I'm guessing she's his sister? When you work on revisions, I'd suggest clarifying that and adding a line or two of setting to the scene, just so I can picture it in my head. He wakes up and then where is he when Kim appears? But for now, I'd say keep writing! I'd want to keep reading. :)

    1. Andrew, THANK YOU! I can feel the love right through the screen!

      I laughed out loud at a bunch of this, the dream included, poor kid! But still humorous ;) I'm still struggling a bit with your tenses (all in past, right, until the "That's it" when it all switches to present. On revision, you'll have to work this out! :D Keep going!

  17. Happy birthday! Here's a rough excerpt typed from my phone...apologies for the auto corrects/typos in advance:
    Blake stared dismally out at the ocean. He watched as his best friend and older brother passed a football back and forth. He wanted to join them instead of sifting the smooth granulars of sand through his fingers, but his heart felt too heavy from being dumped the night before. He thought he had found the perfect girl, but alas, she found a perfect guy - and it wasn't him.
    His friend, Collin greeted a trio of bubbly girls with confident ease. They giggled as they passed by and Blake's brother Trevor gave him a thumbs up.
    He stared down the beach and noticed a girl about his age looking towards the ground as if she lost something. He suddenly felt compelled to help out - he didn't understand why. He stood up, brushed the sand from his dry swimsuit and began to approach. Just then, he saw a flash of brown, heard a thwump, and saw her fall to the ground. Collin jogged toward her, looked back to Trevor and gave him the thumbs up sign before turning towards her with a put-on look of concern. Blake watched feeling dejected as he knew now that she would never be his.

    1. Hi Eni. Thanks for sharing your excerpt!

      Without knowing anything about your story or these characters, you've got me feeling for Blake. I want to see him happy--I want to see him find his self-worth even though it seems easier for his friend and his brother. So thats really great! Making readers care about the characters is so so important.

      When you go back to it in revision, I'd suggest fleshing out the last part where the girl falls to the ground. I'm confused about what's happening there. Is she hurt? If so, why does Collin have "put-on" look of concern? Also, the last line gave me pause. I like that he can't even help a girl on the beach because he's not quick enough, adept enough...but why does he say that she would never be his?

      A couple of things to think about for revision, but for now, KEEP WRITING! :)

  18. Love sister bantering between sisters seemed fast, natural and engaging. The words unglued her eyes was jarring though...I envisioned her ungluing eyes. Bah

    I loved the quiz. Must keep writing.

    1. Ok really sister bantering between sisters? Maybe I shouldn't be writing :-)

    2. LOL! I knew what you meant. I'll have to go back and look over my eyeball glue...that would be quite the trick wouldn't it! :)

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  20. Happy birthday, Gae, and hi Amy!

    I loved your excerpt. The dialogue is very real and fun. In that short span, you get me curious about so many different things. Why does she (anyone) want to get detention? I want to know more about this character, because it's such a contrast -- someone good wanting lessons to be bad. I'm drawn into the dynamic between the sisters -- bickering, maybe, but there's trust there too. And I'm left thinking they know each other's secrets, to an extent, from that last line. So curious. Craftwise, for dialogue I like how few interruptions there are for tags or gesture -- I felt right in the scene. Even the one time it says "I say" could have been left off (although maybe it adds an extra beat). My only question was about the 2 places of internal dialogue: the first is not italicized and the second is, so it seemed they should be consistent.


    Mine isn’t light or funny! I looked for something else, but really, I’ve been working on the final third of my adult novel, and it’s involved some intense scenes. In a building reveal it comes out that my MC’s motivation was triggered by her brother’s disappearance while reporting in war zones. (“You” in the passage is her brother.) Sensitive to ick? Skip the 1st & 3rd paragraph. < It's new for me to write such raw detail - it has to be harsh, but I appreciate any feedback on how I handled it, trying to find some 'art' to it and not dwell too deeply(???).

    In Ankara, a widow belted with a bomb went all at once, and took out each market man as he gestured produce and fish and oiled figs and shoes that bore the careful handwork of tanning and stitching. Eighty-five dead, once they counted the gore not recognizable as gore in your pictures.

    You called me, retching: “Sorry… Sorry. Sorry. I don’t mean to…” You wanted to hang up – shouldn’t have called; god, why call and spread the fear? – but you couldn’t hang up now until you got yourself together enough to lie: “It’s nothing.”

    The viscera, the bodies coming clear. Ghosts of dust you’d been filming as they eddied and rose, almost beautiful. Then saw. A face. A hand. A knee. A boy standing, unscathed but spattered, still holding what had mattered before the blast.

    “It’s nothing… I’m safe. I just...” You tried to make ordinary the lie: someone’s birthday you forgot, a message you needed to give. But there was nothing. “…didn’t want to call mom and dad. They worry… Just…I love you guys. You know that, Carinne?”

    So beautiful, all he shot of the world. So horrible. He could hardly breathe. “I’m sorry.”

    In one picture of him – one of four most circulated by the news, later, when he was lost – his beard had grown shaggy with weeks imbedded, his hair rough and changing color from the sun, from depleted diet. But his eyes were warmer, his smile utterly at peace, more aligned with the universe than any other minute I’d known him. So beautiful, so alive.


    I meant, Why do you have to be there? But already knew, and wasn’t surprised when he answered, instead, Why are you sorry?

    “I shouldn’t make you worry. I shouldn’t have called.”

    I wasn’t sorry for that. Because he called, I knew. Knew the thread of soul lost, weeded through the photos sold and published, alien and cold, by the Post, the Times. Knew what to feel. Knew not to feel abandoned, that we were not left behind. Knew to brace for impact. Knew, sooner or later, what would come.

    1. Hi Elissa.

      Thanks for all the great comments about my excerpt. I had to put this book away for a while because of plot problems, but this has got me enthused to go back to these characters, and these sisters! :)

      So, your! It's very hard-hitting and emotional. There are a lot of things I love about it. You make me feel the situation he's facing and the things he's seeing and the way he's trying to handle it. I especially love the line about the boy still standing there holding on to what mattered before. Again --WOW!

      I would say not to worry about writing dark and visceral--stories need that sometimes. It sounds like yours does. I understand the urge to make it more artistic and literary--pretty up the truth. But just be careful you don't play around with words so much that we, the reader, lose the thread of what you're saying. There were a couple of places where I had to reread to be sure I understood. (Some of it might be the way it's punctuated too--there are a lot of compound / disjointed sentences.) For instance, why is it so beautiful? What exactly is beautiful about all that death? I really liked how you described him in the picture after he was lost--but I wondered why he was beautiful--why so much at peace? It's really compelling--but not quite clear. Also, and this is a little thing that may have to do with paragraph breaks, but near the end he says "I'm sorry." Then she says "Why." Then he answers "Why are you sorry?" Or maybe I've got that all wrong. It wasn't clear to me after a couple reads. I think that'll be an easy fix in revision.

      It's wonderful to hear that you're nearly to the end. Congrats! Keep writing and finish what sounds like a touching story!

    2. Amy, it was so nice of you to come back to give feedback today after responding to all the posts yesterday. It really does help.

      There are 2 things I noticed right after posting that make this a little more confusing: there are a couple places where italics did not show up (like the question why are you sorry), and there's also a pov shift where I call the brother he in 2 paragraphs (I always find pov errors interesting, as they kind of hint at how close a writer may be feeling, so hmm... but I corrected that). Partly, this excerpt is repeating details seeded earlier, so it's revealing an answer - but still, I'm aware that I've sometimes drafted things confusingly. This was a newish draft, so it helps to hear if it worked at all, but then also to know where I need to clear things up. So thanks for that feedback.

      One thing that got lost when I posted this, there are specific lines of your excerpt that I just loved. fake cheating is such a great expression -- especially the way she uses it as if everyone would get that, and I LOVED the line "I mean, you had your shot" -- the wit kept this so surprising. :)

    3. Elissa,

      Glad Amy's feedback helped! I see she has my usual WOW's already in place and the line she sites as the big WOW was mine too. Just love. And as is sometimes the case, yes, your beautiful writing can make the reader work too hard, and Amy points out those places. So clarification will do the trick as will having context and italics, I'm sure. Glad you are getting close to done! Exciting!!! Keep going. <3

  21. An excerpt from a short story about when my baby turned 5.
    "Mommy look my legs are longer,” a gruff voice awakens me. I grab at tiny toes dangerously close to my eyes. Jeremy is awake before his brother, as usual, and this is his fifth birthday. He is always making observations, so naïve and adorable, his voice always excited as if his discoveries are our own.
    He wobbles trying to stand up on one leg to show me how much he’s grown, now being five. A whole hand. My heart falls remembering his infancy and knowing this year he will be in kindergarten. This year he will begin to grow away from us.
    “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy turn your face” he insists pushing my chin his direction. “Look!” he shouts stretching all three feet ten inches of his five year old skin. “Today I’m gonna watch a scary movie.”

    1. Oh, Diane, this excerpt just makes me sigh. I can see it all...feel it all. That excitement for Jeremy to be "growing up" and the sadness of Mom that he's growing away--such a nice way to put it. I also loved the image of Jeremy putting his foot in Mom's face--so perfect for that age.

      I wonder if you can follow up that last line of Jeremy's with one from Mom's (your) perspective. He wants to watch a scary movie--what is Mom thinking? Is there something that might capture her feelings/thoughts for how to spend the day? Something to put a exclamation point on it, as they say? Just a thought.

      So sweet--thanks for sharing!

    2. Diane, such a sweet and poignant excerpt. Glad you shared here. Keep writing. :D

  22. Hi Amy (and Gae),

    So there I was in the emergency room with my son early this morning, because he woke me up complaining of a stabbing ear pain - and when a 17 year old wants to go to the doctor NOW, at 5:40 AM, you take him.

    But what to do, with only my phone. (Not even any coffee!) I decided to read Friday Feedback! Amy, I enjoyed your quiz - and I did not look at the dancing baby. I guess I am a writer.

    Seriously, my problem is myself - my own nagging demons. Those voices you described, humorously - they are not humorous to me, at all.

    As Meryl Streep cried, "I have doubt!!!"

    Thanks for this light-hearted quiz with so much behind it. It serves not only the beginner, but the seasoned writer. We all begin again each day.

    And Gae, hope you had a fantastic, water-filled birthday!


    1. Hi Selene.

      I'm so sorry you were at the ER with your son today, but glad that it meant you had time to visit FF. (You and Gae, both with sick boys! I hope your guy is doing better now. I have a son with chronic ear infections so I know what you mean. When they want to go, you go!)

      It's so amazing to hear that a writer with your talent and success has the same demons I do. It's a daily struggle, for sure, but I'm always comforted to know that I'm not alone.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts here. Talk about a wonderful bonus for everyone.

    2. And I am wondering is he ok? Sometimes the er people watching is a collection of characters all its own.

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