Thursday, July 6, 2017

Friday Feedback: Feedback, the Collaboration of Writing, and a Thick Skin, with my dear friend Nora Raleigh Baskin


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Congratulations! You are here.

Teachers Write!

Friday Feedback.

Take a deep breath, and bask in your bravery for just one moment.

You are here.

Ready and willing to put your words, your creativity, a little bit of your soul on the line.

It is something.

Take it in.


Now, let’s get one thing straight. It isn’t going to get much easier from here. You’ll need a thick skin, but you can’t be a great artist with a thick skin. So you’ll fake it, instead. You’ll weather the blows. You’ll develop mindful mantras like, “Eyes on your own page." "It’s not personal.”

But, of course, it always is.


So, instead, you’ll take solace in learning that we all feel this way. No matter how accomplished. No matter how experienced. We lay ourselves bare for all the world to judge, to hate or love, when we put words on the page for others to read.


But until we get to that point, writing tends to be a mostly solitary process. We write in a vacuum, and limit what we share. The good part of this is that there’s no one to judge us (but ourselves) until we are ready, until we hand the manuscript off to beta readers, or agents, or editors.


We buy ourselves time to be ready. . .


I don’t mean to break in here, Gae, but I think if I just tweak your words a tiny bit, the whole thing would sound so much better.


Delete some things here and there. I don’t really have any idea what you are trying to say...


On second thought maybe just delete this entire section.
Isn’t it more powerful if you end here?



Except, if you collaborate, that is.

That, in the red font? That’s my dear friend Nora Raleigh Baskin.

And here she is in this photo --->

Cute! Isn't she?


[Nora, not to be a pain, but do you have to use red for your part? Red seems so angry. Maybe if you picked pink, or green or lavender. Lavender says, "I respect you." Red says, fuck off. Do it my way. . . does that make sense. . .?]



Nora and I just collaborated on a novel. And it was a pretty good precursor to all of this. Teachers Write stuff. Friday Feedback. And, remembering how fragile the writer's ego is. . .

Start to finish, it was an experience like no other. Exhilarating and painful, a constant ability to brainstorm and bounce ideas off another person, but also a constant feeling of being criticized, judged over the shoulder, having an editor from the get go, if you will. Often before the words were even ready for one.


We laughed.
We fought.
We cried.


But we realized too, that in no other field, no other endeavor…

[Nora, in no other endeavor, what? I’m stuck here. Can you jump in?]


Sure, but first, can you rewrite that last paragraph first, and move up that last sentence, or maybe down?… And, oh my god, did you really just use that cliche?


I know you know that any of my five thousand comments to your work are merely in “suggested mode.”  So, don’t get your feelings hurt. And, you know, of course, you don’t have to accept any of  them. . .


In no other endeavor is there the ability to insert ourselves -- as a third party -- into another person’s work. . . another person’s art.

Beta reader. Agent. Publisher. Editor. Consumer.


“I’m sorry, I can’t represent this.”
“Can’t buy it.”
“Would buy it if you’d just consider. . . Could the MC be an Asian girl instead of an Irish boy? And what do you think of making it set in an alternate universe?”


“I’m sorry, but this isn’t working.” “Who thought teens would even care about this subject?”


“No stars.”


“Sorry, we just don’t have the shelf space at Barnes & Noble.”

Your first Goodreads review full of snarky gifs. . .


Please, don’t try this at home - we’re professionals.


Yeah, right.


* * * * *
Where were we?

Oh, yeah. So we wrote this manuscript --
Between THE MEMORY OF THINGS
and NINE, TEN
and #nErDcamps galore,
the past year has been a bit of
the NorGae Show! 

And we wrote the entire thing in one single Google doc. which allowed the other person to, not only, see our chapters before we had had a chance to edit or revise them ourselves, but sometimes to actually WATCH the other person typing.


In fact, we wrote our ending at the exact same time! Sometimes losing our cursor as the words shifted further down or further up depending on what the other one of us was typing.


We also left each other endless (sometimes 20 -25 a day) vox messages, FB messages, texts, and voicemails. We skyped and we talked on the phone. We were as close to being in each other’s minds as was possible. (spoiler alert: this process mimicked our characters in a way nothing else could have done)


And it nearly killed us.  Okay, that kind of feels melodramatic. . . how about something like, "And it was really hard"? Besides, DO WE HAVE A POINT? WE NEED TO GET THE POINT OF THIS POST HERE, OR NO ONE IS GOING TO KEEP READING!!


But here’s the thing: We tested the boundaries in many ways, and dove into each other’s words and ego and heart and brain way before any of it was fully formed -- And, isn’t that what teachers do to students all the time, and then wonder why they so hate writing?



[Ah, there it was. I guess I just needed to be a bit more patient. . . ]


At the same time- We loved it. We ate it up.


We never wrote alone. We never had a thought or idea that we couldn’t share and expand on, brain storm, get excited about, or wonder if anyone else would like it or not.
We had immediate feedback.
Immediate gratification, even if that came at the risk of heartbreak.


It was exhilarating. And, terrifying!


I began my writing day at the crack of dawn. Gae would start later and write into the wee hours of the night. I’d go to bed knowing I’d wake up to the horror of slashed lines and comments and/or comments like: Brilliant. Love. Great!!



And that I would have the honor (and I mean that) to read the story that Gae left for me while I was sleeping.


* * * *


The truth is this was the risk/reward system we, as writers, all choose when we decide to put words on the page.


Because… now, wait for it. . . wait for it… that is what writing is -- It’s all about the Feedback.


The process of writing is not complete until someone reads it.


The process of writing is not complete until someone reads it. Unlike any other art form that can stand on its own -- A painting on a wall gets looked at. A dance performance gets watched. A piece of music is listened to.


But writing. . .  writing needs an active participant. It needs the agreement of the reader to invest the time and WORK, often hours, sometimes days and weeks, of commitment. The words come out of your head, onto the paper, into someone else’s head, translated thusly, and out comes something else entirely. It is a shared experience.


Some might argue -- claim they only write for themselves. They journal (which is a whole different animal) or they don’t care what anyone else thinks of their work.


“I just write for myself.”


But I’m going to go out on a limb and say they are lying (even our reclusive Emily Dickinson shared her work and depended heavily on the praise of her beloved sister-in-law).


And this act of sharing? Well, ultimately. . .


It’s exhilarating.


Yes. That! And you are all here for Friday Feedback, for this reason. To share your words and feel the exhilaration.


You are scared, and you are brave; you are taking the risk because you crave that very intimate human connection.


It is both a higher and primal calling.


Nora and I both understand (now more than ever) the trust you put in the universe and us when you share your work here, when you truly allow yourself to be exposed and open to the judgement of another.

It’s scary as hell.


And it about the most exciting thing you can do while sitting in a chair.


So, woo wee..here we go!


FRIDAY FEEDBACK SUMMER 2017.
IF YOU DON’T KNOW HOW IT WORKS & THE RULES WELL,
PLEASE STOP FIRST AND READ THEM HERE:

How does it work? Easy peasy:

Every week, I -- or one of my awesome guest authors -- will share a tiny bit of writing wisdom followed by an excerpt of our own ROUGH, UNPUBLISHED writing for your feedback. In return, we offer you the same opportunity: to share a brief excerpt in the comments for feedback from us -- AND from other campers!). 

See? Simple and exciting. There are just a few RULES: 

1. The Feedback should be specific and always be given in this order:

  • WHAT WORKS (and why)?;
  • WHAT MIGHT NOT BE WORKING if anything (and why)?; and
  • ARE YOU COMPELLED TO KEEP READING?

Please note the order of those. Here at Friday Feedback, our first goal is to be encouraging. We appreciate the gems in one another's writing before we offer up constructive criticism.

2. The excerpts should not exceed three (3) paragraphs, if long, five (5) paragraphs if mostly dialogue or otherwise short.

There may be 30 - 50 excerpts up here on a busy week for me and/or my guest authors to read. If you put up more than the requested length, we do not promise to read beyond the stated limits. You may post excerpts through Saturday and I will check in, but I do not require my guest authors to read past close of business Friday. 

3. We ask you to remember this: there is only so much we can realistically glean from a brief excerpt out of context. 

Friday Feedback is intended to be instructional and inspiring, but our feedback out of context of a full work, must always be taken as merely that. Your job here is to take in the information as you will. Keep what you like. Toss what you don't. In the end, you are the boss of your own writing.

4. You may be the recipient of one of my patented "Superspeed Flash Edits."

Okay, fine, they're not patented, whatever. Sometimes, if your excerpt lends itself to me doing one of these, I will do so: namely, zip through your piece editing for passive voice (where not intended) unneeded words, wrong punctuation, repetition, etc.

I will NOT edit your own unique voice or substantive writing. This is an exercise intended to demonstrate how revision/clean up/intentional writing can truly make our voices pop and shine. It is intended to make you aware of your writing and tics.

If you do NOT want to be the recipient of a Superspeed Flash Edit for any reason, please message me at g.polisner@gmail.com.



So, without further ado, here's a brief excerpt -- the opening -- of our collaborative book out on submission, currently titled THE CLARITY SISTERS OF LAUREL HAVEN! 

We look forward to your feedback, and giving ours in the comments! And, FWIW, other than a few Beta readers and our agents, you are all the first to see it! 

And, of course, please support Nora by adding her extraordinary books, NINE, TEN: A September 11 Story; RUBY ON THE OUTSIDE; ANYTHING BUT TYPICAL and others to your classrooms and libraries! 



Gabrielle

They say I am the stronger sister. The more talkative one, the more opinionated and outgoing, so how does that explain Leila grabbing the scissors off the bathroom sink and whacking at her hair, grabbing a fistful and just chopping it off like that?
 And who left those scissors there anyway? 
Everyone knows Baby Gene can reach the sink now.
“What in God’s name are you doing?” I say, but for some reason I don’t move to stop her.  We are only a reflection after all. In the mirror, Leila is on the right and I am on the left, when in actuality it is the opposite. So I just stand there next to my sister and watch.
            “Cutting my hair,” Leila answers with no affect whatsoever.  She stares off past us in the mirror as a long curl of blonde hair falls onto the side of the sink, then slips to the floor, then another, and another. Something about her gaze makes me worry. She’s been acting off lately. Weird and distant. I worry the whole Seekers thing may be getting to her.
            I should take the scissors, stop her before it’s too late, but of course, it’s already too late. Her face is already changing, right before my eyes and I feel my breath catch in the center of my chest.
            Why are you doing this? Why do you want to?
            “Relax, Gabby. It’s just hair,” Leila says, but as steady as is her hand, her voice shakes. She knows, too, that Grayson may be mad since it will probably interfere with his vision. “It grows back,” is all she adds.
            

163 comments:

  1. I love the contrasts b/w the identical twins you have working here; powerful!

    It's all working for me at this point.

    Definitely want to keep reading to know the girls better and b/c I'm thinking Grayson might be blind but not sure.

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    1. Thank you for reading..(I might have forgotten how scary it is to put your work out there!)..I'm glad that something mysterious and different is coming through. ..Tone, I guess you'd call it. Exactly what we were going for..!

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    2. Thanks, LL, and welcome to Friday Feedback! Look forward to reading your work too!

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    3. Jennifer HernandezJuly 7, 2017 at 6:37 AM

      Are they identical twins? I didn't get that from the excerpt...

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    4. These are things you will have to read to find out. We can do that because we are confident it will be a book soon. ;) <3

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  2. What's working- As I read the excerpt, I felt as if I was standing beside the girls. I feel like Leila wants to be different from her sister. She wants to be seen for who she is.

    What is the reference to Seekers?

    Yes, I am compelled to keep reading. I think Grayson is Leila's boyfriend and perhaps, shallow. Will he 'see' her the same way once her beautiful locks are altered?



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    1. Thank you! "Standing beside the girls..." That is a success..

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    2. Thanks for jumping in, Nae! Look forward to reading your work!

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  3. I am intrigued by the concept of sisters and Seekers. I believe the reason she is cutting off her hair is because she doesn't want to join the group Seekers and Grayson is some kind of leader of that group. I am compelled to read on to find out.

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    1. Niiiiiice....(not that it's a contest or anything)

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    2. Thanks for jumping in, ShaRonda! Look forward to reading your work!

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  4. I love when I read something like what you just posted. I find myself becoming more and more engaged... It's like I can feel myself starting interested, and then getting notching it up even more. I think that the mystery of "the seekers and "interfere with his vision" really got my brain wanting more. :-)

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    1. Thank you..and hope it inspires you to post your work!

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    2. I just did - very scary indeed!
      (Also suddenly having a weird comment posting issue, so I'm sorry if somehow this shows up 5 times!)

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    1. Onathought- What a fantastic idea for a picture book! I love the idea of seeing things and a girl on a bike writing stories in her head. Here's the thing with picture book (which make them even harder -I think- than longer prose)..leaving room for the illustrator. Talk about a collaborative effort..but often without the benefit of communicating back and forth as Gae and I got to do.
      My thoughts of the top of my head (and I'm not sure how much you have written) are two things: Maybe switch "As she pedaled she watched. As she watched she wondered. As she wondered, she imagined." And then in the second paragraph "Rose slowed her bike to *****" find another word instead of repeating: watch. I love the repeating phrase, but keep it to the chorus, so to speak.
      Then "Rose noticed so many things..." Are you going to show each of those the same way as she sees the Puppy?...as individual pages with illustrations? I would think each thing she sees would be another chance to show Rose imagining a new story. Now here's the hard part..you are going to want some kind of STORY..a problem or obstacle. Even picture books have: set up, climax, and resolution. (unless they are pure language) I think your story would be easy to do that with. Hope this helps..because it's a terrific story.

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    2. Thank you! This is awesome feedback. I have the whole story -- almost wanted to post the whole thing since it's short... so there is a problem and a solution (my favorite part, actually!) She does notice different things the ways she sees the puppy... which leads to the problem and then the resolution.

      Thanks for the repeated word feedback! I'll look at that for sure. I think you are saying that my repeated whole phrase should change as well? Or just the next time I say "watch?"

      Illustrations - I have tried to read up on how to do this - and it seems like a hard balance ... but if I'm reading the right resources, I think I can leave notes for the illustrator if my note is a vital part of the story. I have taken out some of my original illustration notes, and tried to give up control on that... :-) You are right - it is challenging!

      Thank you thank you thank you!

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    3. I was just suggesting that the repeated phrase might start as pedaling - to watching- wondering- imagining. From least creative to most creative. And then not use those words in the regular text..but save them for the repeated "chorus". Does that make sense?..and I get it now about "story". It is hard without seeing the whole thing..but it sounds like you understand the concept of beginning, middle, end. Kids love dogs stories..so smart move. (adults do too! ..I know I do)

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    4. Ona, this is an interesting idea for a picture book. I really liked the idea of Rose making up stories. At first I thought perhaps there would be two parallel stories, one one with Rose and the one with the puppy. I also think you have some lovely images and phrases (e.g., Rose tucked the story into her mind). What might not work for the picture book format is all the description -- most of the setting elements could probably be left for an illustrator (e.g. I don't think you need "on the first day of summer in her new neighborhood" or all the details in the sentence with the dogs). For a problem, what if Rose is riding somewhere specific, e.g. on an errand, or to school and encounters some obstacles on the way?

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    5. Andrea - thank you! I have tried really hard to leave descriptions of setting, etc. out... and then I've also gotten feedback to add some back, and now your feedback to take it out. LOL! I'm finding that to be the most challenging part of the picture book for sure!
      With the dogs - I had very few details in there, but then a reader said they were confused about the dogs. Your note is making me want to go back to rework that again... find a happy medium. Thank you!

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    6. Nora -
      That does make sense. Thank you! I'm enjoying the idea of least creative to most creative. Rose will actually be noticing all sorts of things on her adventure, not just dogs --- but more animals for sure. :-)

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    7. Ona, welcome! And yay for being brave. As for picture books, I am always wary of people sharing the whole things -- or even a substantive part of them here -- as i cannot protect them. There's not much someone can do stealing three paragraphs of a longer work, then running with them on their own, but with a picture book, you're putting a lot out there... so, do only share bits at a time.

      Having said that, I am NOT the one to give Picture Book feedback as I desire to write one and have little idea. I did submit one to my agent about a year ago and he give it to another agent in house to look at, and I got great feedback but have done nothing since. The reason I bring it up, is because Nora is right about the illustration notes. It seems right now the industry wants the author to include as few notes as possible and let the text suggest the rest to the illustrator. The great news for you, is that Josh Funk will be here hosting next week -- so you will have a picture book author to get feedback directly from!

      As for my gut feedback, I love your repeating phrase, but agree with Nora that the order from most concrete to most imaginative could be strong: watched, wondered, imagined. YES, I think I agree with that.

      Love the work you are doing. Keep going!

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    8. In fact, Ona, at the end of the weekend, I will delete your particular excerpt from the comments. You can share the same excerpt if you want next week with Josh Funk, and then I'll do the same again. :D It's not like I'm John Green and 9,000,000 strangers read my blog, but just to be hypercautious. :)

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    9. Thank you, Gae. I appreciate this. I was feeling wary about posting it for the same reasons you mentioned... but tried to just get over that! It will be good to have it gone, and then I will post again with Josh Funk.

      I am going to work on that repeating line for sure.

      Thanks! This is exciting to actually be participating this year - not just lurking! :-)

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    10. Ona, I write a lot of picture book manuscripts and it's so true that the balance of what details to leave in and how to write it to give the illustrator enough to go on without spelling it all it is one of the biggest challenges! I will be interested to see what Josh Funk has to say.

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    11. Ona, will leave it up for the rest of the day so you can get feedback from other campers, then will pull it. Is that good? :)

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    12. Hi - that is perfect!

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  6. What's working is that I can see my sister and I in this same situation. It connects easily to a sibling love/hate relationship.

    I'm intrigued with, "she's been off lately," and "Grayson will be mad." I want to know more about these characters, much more.

    Yes, I want to keep reading.

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    1. exactly...The love/hate sibling relationship..So great to hear that comes through. Thank you.

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    2. thanks for jumping in, Jodi B! Hope to scroll down and see work from you! If not today, then soon! :)

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  7. Hi Gae (see, no lurking! ), and Hi Nora!

    Working for me: The disconnect between the two characters and the emphasis on not knowing what is going on (just as we the readers are trying to figure out the same). How much of Gabby's identity is roped into being a twin? She doesn't seem to be her own person ("they say...", worrying about Grayson's reaction, etc).

    This next bit is going to sound proverbial English teacher-y: I'd like more description. I'm such a visual person and to conjure the scene in my head, I like having additional details. So much is about the sense of seeing (and Gabby not understanding what she sees), but I wonder how else you incorporate additional details using other senses (touch, sound, smell) to enhance this moment. Also, the italic thoughts, it seemed as if they were said telepathically (my guess) as Leila then answered those questions in the next paragraph. Do they have such abilities?

    I'm compelled to keep reading! New characters are introduced, and I wonder about the events that lead up to this scene. Twins are supposed to be (or so we are told, I'm not a twin, so I only know what I see on TV and such) strongly bonded, yet Gabby and Leila are not here.

    I'm reminded of Jehanne Dubrow's poem, "Penelope Considers a New Do" and the significance women place on hair cuts and identity. You can read it here: https://goo.gl/v11dgo

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    1. Love! yes..they do have such abilities (or am I giving too much away, Gae?) ..And thank you for the feedback. We are certain there will be places to "fill in" and enrich with details. This might be just the spot.

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    2. Kate, great feedback! And yay for jumping in! I know both Nora and I are sitting on our hands, or biting our lips, to NOT share more information. NORA DO NOT!!!

      This book is full of reveals -- we think -- and we are super excited about it. I will say, Kate, that your read of a few brief lines was very insightful. Hope you will be sharing some writing soon! :)

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  8. Good Morning, Gae and Nora.
    As always, thank you so much for putting your valuable time and energy into Friday Feedback. It is much appreciated!

    For your excerpt:
    What works?: The internal tension that Gabby feels is palpable. She's torn between who other people believe her to be, and who she is in that moment. And she's paralyzed by what her sister is doing, because, to Gabby, it's life-altering.

    What doesn't work: Nothing at this point.

    Would I keep reading?: Absolutely!

    Here's my excerpt (part of a scene)
    Backstory: Lily, 12, is in a Catholic Orphanage. The summer of 1918.
    Thanks for reading!
    ********************

    Charlie smiles. “When you’re a farmer, Lily, you have to learn how to read the weather as it truly is. You read the reports, but your eyes look at the sky, the behavior of the animals, and the direction and strength of the wind.” He tilts his head toward the trees surrounding us then continues, “The saying goes, ‘When leaves show their undersides, be very sure rain betides.’ Look at that maple tree’s leaves. They’re turned up. Your skin feels the change in humidity as much as it feels a rise or drop in temperature. Your ears hear distant thunder or the rush of rain pouring down a block away. And your nose can smell rain before even one drop has fallen.”

    I look to the sky. The clouds are high and wispy. Too light to hold enough water for it to rain. I try sniffing for rain, but I only detect the odor of manure. My skin only feels the dry, breeze. I sigh.

    “I don’t see, feel, or smell rain. And I don’t hear thunder, or anything other than the cicadas.”

    “You’re still learning, Lily. It takes time. Look, over there. See the darker clouds on the horizon?” I look where he’s pointing. I do see a slightly darker sky. “That’s the sky west of Lake Erie. That means there’s probably a storm moving in toward us over the lake. If those skies were north,” he turns to his right, “then the storm would be coming down over Lake Ontario. You have to always know where you are, Lily. Choose something big to orient yourself by, something like one of the lakes. Lake Ontario is a good one to choose, because it’s so big. That’s always to your north. Once you know that…really know that…you will always be able to tell where you are.”

    I stand next to him, quietly trying to pretend to be a farmer, and wondering if I’ll ever be as good as Charlie. I glance up at him, and see him looking at me out of the corner of his eye, smiling.
    “You should go on now, Lily. The sisters could probably use your help. I’ll take care of things out here.” He smiles at me, but his smile doesn’t make it to his eyes as usual. “Go on,” he says, nudging my shoulder.

    “Alright, Charlie.” I move toward the kitchen door, glancing back once at Charlie and the withering gardens. I says a silent thank you for the rain that Charlie promises is coming.

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    1. Wendy- LOVE LOVE LOVE...I am a nature freak so this speaks to me very strongly. But mostly I love how you get so much setting (often writers over look the power and importance of setting. It can be a character in and of itself) you get woven seamlessly into the dialogue. We know exactly where we are and can feel it. There is humor and poignancy ..so the tone is also established right away. I am engaged. ..without really understanding why (which is the magic of writing) Iike this girl! Of course, I don't yet know it's 1918 (post WWI..interesting!) but I do know where it is and I do have the clear sense it's not modern times.
      So Lily referes to this man as "Charlie"?..that would be my only thought/question..although I don't know where this section comes from. Is it the first lines of the book? Is she that familiar/comfortable with him..or does he work at the orphanage? ps- when I was a kid I was taught that about the leaves and an impending rain storm..I loved that.

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    2. Nora - THANK YOU! Yes, details of setting are something I've worked on for a while. It's very important to Lily's character. Charlie is and older boy/almost man who, due to a disability, was unable to serve in the war. He's in charge of the gardens. This scene takes place a little ways into the novel.

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    3. This is really working! I love the detail, the description. I especially love this: I stand next to him, quietly trying to pretend to be a farmer, and wondering if I’ll ever be as good as Charlie. I glance up at him, and see him looking at me out of the corner of his eye, smiling.
      “You should go on now, Lily. The sisters could probably use your help. I’ll take care of things out here.” He smiles at me, but his smile doesn’t make it to his eyes as usual. “Go on,” he says, nudging my shoulder.

      because I feel like I can really picture both characters, and I feel like I am learning more about them both here!

      I want to know more about Lily - and how she is noticing things. Her point of view - the fact the notices his head tilts and non eye reaching smiles...

      I would definitely keep reading! :)

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    4. Lily! I miss that girl. How is she doing? The old saying about weather really works for me. I remember a couple of old farmer sayings from my family...."mare's tails...mean rain in 24 hours" and, "If there's enough blue in the sky to make a farmer's overalls...it's clearing up".
      I like how Charlie has wisdom for Lily and how she is working to see it. What doesn't work for me is "distant rumble of thunder....rain a block away" It's a bit of a contradiction in my mind. But, distant is in the eyes of the beholder. I wonder if there is anything that could support this about the fragrance of coming rain? Not that you need it....but when I see/suspect rain is coming I sniff for it too.
      I'm sending Lily love and I hope she is continuing to tell her story!

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    5. Ah, Lily! So happy to be reading her again. I agree with Nora -- and love this line of hers: "I am engaged. ..without really understanding why (which is the magic of writing)" -- though I understand why as I have known Lily for a few summers now. Yes, she continues to engage me, and I agree with your strong work in this scene as regards setting.

      What I wonder if you can push, Wendy, is some quirk or character trait of Charlie's so I have a better sense of him. Maybe you do this somewhere earlier... but does he have cracked dry hands? Does he lick his lips or have some particular speech tic. Something we can see/hear directly or see through Lily's eyes. Does he smell a particular way? Some small thing that would give me a clear sense of him -- even though, as I said, I'm sure you do it elsewhere and so doing it here might be overkill. That would be my single wonder.

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    6. Also, I adore the last line of this excerpt. Carries so much emotion.

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    7. This is beautiful! "You have to always know where you are, Lily." I love this sentence. My initial thought is, Lily is an orphan so does she really ever know where she is? I love your descriptions of setting. I feel like I can picture Charlie and LIly, that I can feel the air, and that I can see them. I really want to read more. I love when I’m left with so many questions about the characters. I am left feeling sad for Lily and sad for Charlie. Why doesn’t his smile hit his eyes? Who is he? Where is his happiness? Does Lily really want to be a farmer or is she just accepting where she is?

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    8. I can feel Lily's struggle with reading both the weather and Charlie. There is hope in the rain and Charlie's smile for Lily, but there is also an undertone of disbelief or trepidation... "pretending to be a farmer"... "smile not reaching his eyes"-- I'm sensing foreshadowing! As an orphan there's a focus on identity too--something to orient herself by (and not just when looking at the physical horizon).

      I'm curious to know more about Lily's circumstances. How long has she been been an orphan? How did she get to the orphanage?

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    9. Wow. Such great feedback!

      Gae - Good point about Charlie. He has a bad leg, so maybe he rubs it a lot (especially with the rain approaching). I love that.

      Anne Marie - Thank you for your comments. "...does she really ever know where she is?" That's exactly it. This is part of Lily's journey - finding out "where" she is. Your remaining questions should be answered in the completed ms.

      Kate - Lily is actually a half-orphan. Her mother is still alive, and "out there somewhere." That's the crux of the story. She's only been in the orphanage less than a year.

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  9. Gae & Nora, I really enjoyed reading your whole post and the excerpt, Gabrielle. I especially like how Gae tackled the challenge of not taking feedback personally....but not being able to help it because that's what writer's do. We write to see how our work hits an audience. That was really powerful and meaningful...along with the playful back and forth between you. Best start of a Friday Feedback yet!
    I am a fan of both of you and enjoy watching your friendly/funny exchanges in social media. It makes me so happy when writers I know and admire KNOW each other....but to even write collaboratively? Well, that's rockstar.
    I don't have any prose to share this week. I've been sticking with the poetry thing more and more and participate in Poetry Friday. I will happily check in here though and give feedback as I like to practice. Being a good critic is a challenge for me. I struggle to find words about what doesn't work for me.

    Feedback for Gabrielle....
    Right away I want to know why being talkative and outgoing are stronger.....I want to know why Gabby who is the stronger sister watches this without more of a fight against it IF it is wrong. And, I want to know what Grayson's vision is....is he IN the Seekers and wanting Leila to join him? Or, is he against this path that Leila is on?
    Because I have questions, this passage works for me. I want to know more.
    What doesn't work quite as well is the mention of Baby Gene....Baby Gene and the possibility of grabbing the scissors doesn't add to this scene for me....unless there's a history there or a reason? I don't think the mention of Baby Gene kills the scene. It's just something that doesn't add to my curiosity the way the other lines of tension do.
    Have a great Friday and thank you for this lovely introduction and generous space to feel included in the community of writers. I cherish visiting each summer.

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    1. You know ...you are touching on something that was nagging at me too. Gae, I think we should delete the baby Gene thing..It is jarring since you have no idea who that it. I don't think it really adds anything. . and it's an odd visual ..almost a little violent. And now that I think of it, remember? It comes from an earlier version..like a left over potato peel. Thank you Linda! ...and thank you for reading our post. It is hard..and it does hurt..and it is so necessary. It takes a village..! Good luck on your poetry..would love to see something if you decide to post.

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    2. Jennifer HernandezJuly 7, 2017 at 6:52 AM

      Yes, Linda, I hope you will post some of your poetry! I haven't participated in Friday Feedback in past years, in part because it seems very oriented toward prose, and my primary genre is poetry. But I have an idea for a story (or maybe even something longer...), and I've decided that TW will be my motivation to move forward with that work. That said, I'd love to see your poetry. Hope you decide to share some with us!

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    3. Oh, Linda, by all means share poetry here if you choose to! I have several campers whose work is all verse.

      And thank you for the feedback!

      Nora, I might push back on the baby Gene thing for now only because the fact that there are always -- always -- ever-present people in the vicinity is integral to our story and setting, and that those people have a unique responsibility toward one another. But definite food for thought!

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  10. Here is a snippet of my writing for feedback. (FYI-this is the first time I've posted writing for feedback in the three years I've followed Teachers Write!)
    ----------------

    She approached the house from the wooded side, with its bay window facing the road she could easily watch the passing traffic--if there was any. No one had lived in this house for years. Left abandoned, discarded after foreclosure or a death in someone’s family long ago. Left unclaimed, the bilevel house was an empty shell to serve as a suitable shelter.
    The weathered fence surrounding the back property line was no obstacle. Slipping through the dilapidated boards was easy.

    No sirens’ calls lured her to the road.
    ...
    She awoke in the dark with the cry on her lips. Did I cry out? She lay still, holding her breath despite the ache in her chest. Straining to hear through the quiet, she knew sleep guaranteed death.

    The dream-- Flying with white feathered wings, diving through the trees into open space. A gleam of hope.

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    1. Kate- whoa..wow. very wow. You certainly know how to create a tone..and to render pain and/or fear. I love the line "straining to hear through the quiet." I feel like I really understand that sense. I also really love that first sentence..it's so unite and unusual, the structure and the phrasing. It totally creates your narrators state of mind. "the bi-leveled house was an empty shell TO serve as a suitable shelter" ..I am only confused by the tense. Is this the first time she is arriving at this house? Or "WOULD serve as a suitable shelter"?
      The confusion might be fine..because of course, I don't know much yet. Just make sure that's intentional.
      What a creative way to show movement..not showing her...but the fence and the dilapidated boards... adds so much to the mysterious tone..the immediacy.
      I also wondered about being "lured" to the road..Is she hoping for rescue? So many questions!!! which of course means I want MORE.

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    2. This excerpt is powerful. I feel like there are a lot of things going on that I don't know about - and that is engaging! I'm assuming I will find out answers to the questions I have -- like how many times has she stayed at the house, what is the siren call that would lure her? Why does she need shelter?

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    3. Thank you both! I'm still trying to figure out where the plot is going, but I'm drawn to a dystopic, post-apocalyptic type story. Your questions are helpful!

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    4. Kate, today is my first Teachers Write I shared too. I was so terrified to press “Publish”. So, good for you. Your excerpt is powerful. I feel like I’m at the house. I’m left wondering why she’s still there. And why does sleep guarantee death? I want to keep reading because I want to know more about her, where she is and why she is there. And at the same time, the voice of your excerpt has left me scared for her.

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    5. Kate, welcome to your summer of being brave-est! :)

      I love your excerpt and agree that you set a strong tone. Your voice comes through and that is something you cannot teach, so kudos, and keep going!

      The one thing that threw me a bit was the switch in tense from third to first here:


      She awoke in the dark with the cry on her lips. Did I cry out? She lay still. . .

      If it is intentional, carry on! if it is not, and you weren't aware, just note it.

      Great work. Keep going! It's so exciting when the story starts to lead us. . . follow it. :)

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    6. Hi Kate -
      "Yeah!" for you for getting up the guts to share your work.
      I wasn't sure if this was the opening of your book or a "snippet" (I love that word) from somewhere further on. No matter. Here's a few thoughts:
      I love the mood you set - empty road, creepy house, "dilapidated fence" (another great word -- dilapidated). The part about being lured to the road confused me (though it could be only because I have limited information in a brief passage). At first I thought, "if she hears sirens, why would she go toward the road? If she is trying to hide, shouldn't she stay away from sirens?" Then, I thought, "Duh, maybe she means sirens as in the sirens song."
      I love the parallel construction at the end of the first paragraph ("Left abandoned . . . Left unclaimed . . ." ) Having just the two is perfect for me. I think three would be too much.
      Yes, I am intrigued to read on. Your sentences (especially the first paragraph) shows me you are not afraid to play with words and structure (which I love and wish I could do better). Your use of fragment sentences works (as an English teacher, I am trying to warm up to the use of fragments. Really. I am!) Your mysterious setting -- a woman on the run -- sleep means death -- a dream about flying towards hope -- all of it makes me want to spend some time there.

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    7. Jennifer HernandezJuly 7, 2017 at 7:51 AM

      Hi Kate, You've really drawn me in with this excerpt! The description of the abandoned house is really effective in setting a tone, mysterious and a bit ominous.

      I was a bit confused at the line "No siren's call..." wondering if she was inside or outside the house at that point. I guess I'd like to be with her as she enters, or at least as she opens the door. Was she listening for literal sirens, like from emergency vehicles? And if she heard them, would that be a good thing or a bad thing? There is also the mythological reference of "a siren's call" drawing her toward danger. And I kind of like that double meaning hanging there.

      Great last line. I'm guessing this might end up being a recurring dream? Lots of potential for symbolism. I look forward to reading more!

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    8. Thanks all! I was so focused on the act of hitting publish that I forgot to check the formatting. "Did I cry out?" was in italics on my doc, but the formatting didn't translate when I copy/pasted. The intention was to have it as the MC's perspective.

      I'm glad you caught the double meaning of siren: both the mythical allusion and siren as alarm.

      As of now I have scenes swirling in my head but no definitive storyline. I'm forcing myself to write this summer and look forward to what will come. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share and practice in such a nurturing environment!

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  11. Gae and Nora, I really liked this sisterly moment. It seemed very true to life, at least from observing my daughters and how they worry about each other without necessarily saying something. I was quite intrigued by the line about the reflections, though I wasn't sure what it meant (until I saw Kate Baker's comment and realized it may be there to imply sisters are twins).

    I'm very curious about why Leila is cutting her hair, who Grayson is and what sort of vision he has for the sisters. What I especially liked was how, even though this is the introduction to the sisters, that I could feel Gabby's shock and worry. I would definitely keep reading!

    Here's a beginning for a new middle grade novel I'm working on and I'd love some feedback:

    I’d never left a project so last minute before and I was already regretting it. Last night, I spent too much time adding the latest Surina Silver news to my feed. It was pretty exciting that Surina gave a fan two tickets to her sold-out concert just for posting cute pictures of a rescued kitten. I’d lose my online privileges for sure if Dad or Martine knew that I’d spend half my night trying to get a cute picture of Socks instead of researching a famous historical figure. I didn’t care as long as I had something to hand in. It would be so much easier if Mr. Leombruno would actually allow us to submit our work online. Instead, I had to scramble to glue text onto a poster board while choking down the boiled eggs Martine insists I eat every morning.

    I bet no one ever made Surina Silver eat boiled eggs.

    I quickly type up a conclusion based on my research from Dad’s “History of Shoe Making: Volume II.” Apparently, shoe designer Hans Christianson came to an unfortunate end when he tripped in his own tall boots: he landed in a river and drowned because he couldn’t get them off. I definitely should’ve picked a different person, one who actually lived to see the success of his own designs. Too late now.

    As I clicked print, the bell clanged in the shop. Martine bustled across the kitchen, shooting me a “hurry up” look. Shop manager is her real job, but since Dad isn't around a lot of the time, she's also taken on the role of nanny, which means she thinks it's her daily mission to make sure I get to school on time. Throwing my dishes in the sink, I rushed to Dad’s workroom to grab my conclusion. That’s when I heard it. Someone in the shop was singing my favourite Surina Silver song, Dream Life. Who goes into a shoe store and sings? Was this for real? Whoever it was couldn't even reach the high notes.

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    1. Andrea,
      I liked the line about a shoe store and singing. What a unique setting. And the added comment that they couldn't reach the high notes was a good blend of funny and sarcastic. I would maybe add something about their living quarters being next to the shop just for clarity, at least that's how I interpreted it. I'm curious about the relationships she shares with those around her. Where's her mom? is one question that comes to mind. Best wishes for continued writing on this project.

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    2. Andrea- I am instantly engaged by the reference to a fictional pop star..and I know kids would be as well. You establish the contemporary setting perfectly and you seem to have a handle on today's social media world, which is something that is getting harder and harder to do. (If you don't know it well and accurately I don't recommend trying!)
      I also find the shoe store (or is a shoe making or repair shop) interesting..and the little trivia (I love trivia!) works so well. My only thought is this (and of course, I don't know what stage or how much you have written so far) is that this whole scene could be shown instead of told, at least in part. It's up to you..but as a general rule I like to start directly in a scene rather than replaying it in narration. Again, it all depends on what's coming next and where you want to "jump into" your story. If this singer and this concert are going to be important, which they seem to be, you might want to just SHOW us your character, ignoring her homework and setting up her cat and her camera. It feels like a very cute and engaging scene.
      Also there's a bit of time line issue. Before she eats the eggs, your character states that she's already had to glue the text to the poster board but in the second paragraph she is printing.
      We all do this as we imagine a scene..so just take a look and see if you know what I mean. I am a sucker for famous pop star stories..and interesting premises like a motherless (I am guessing) daughter of a shoe seller. Bravo!

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    3. Jennifer HernandezJuly 7, 2017 at 7:35 AM

      Hi Andrea, Great use of humor. The narrator's voice and actions are definitely authentic middle school! I like the way the pieces come together -- the family shoe business, her obsession with Surina Silver -- in your last paragraph. And I'm definitely curious about who is in the shop singing. I feel like it's going to be someone important to the story.

      One point of confusion. On my first read, I assumed Martine was a stepmom. Maybe clarify that relationship right away? (Or not. Except that once I had it in my head, it was difficult to dislodge.) Also, I'd like the spatial relationship between their home and the shop more clearly defined, as well. Is the shop downstairs, next-door?

      Thanks for sharing and looking forward to reading more!

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    4. Martha, thank you for your thoughts! You made a good point about the living quarters being attached to the shop, and if I take Nora's advice and try to write this in "real time" that will become clear, I think.

      Nora, I am kind of testing out this idea so I'm at the very beginning stages of drafting. I'm definitely going to try your idea to show it in "real time" because I agree it could be a really fun scene. Thank you for your suggestions -- it's inspiring me to work on this story to see where it takes me.

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    5. Hi, Andrea! So good to see you here and read the beginning of something new. Let me just say this:

      I bet no one ever made Surina Silver eat boiled eggs.

      May be one of my favorite lines in history. :) I love the humor that comes through this piece and, like the others, love the unique setting. I agree with Nora that, at least as an exercise, I'd try writing this in first person present with the action unfolding. It may really draw the reader right in. But wherever you are going with this, I love it and laughed at least twice in this brief excerpt. So huge kudos! Keep going!

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    6. Andrea - I love that we are in a shoe shop, it’s different and fantastic. I like that your character has an obsession with a pop star and is struggling to complete a project that is not online. It’s all unique since we live within technology today. I am so curious to know who is singing in the shop and where this story is going. Your voice is light and funny with a touch of sarcasm. I can’t wait to read more.

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  13. Greetings, so looking forward to the coming weeks. I really like the line about who left the scissors there. This speaks that they don't live by themselves, but we don't know who lives with them yet. I also like that she didn't try and stop her sister from cutting her hair. Why not? Was she wishing she could be the one rebelling and cutting her hair. I'm interested in where this is headed. And why they wouldn't have the freedom to cut their own hair. Great work.

    So here are a few lines from the opening in my current WIP called PARTS:

    Frankenstein? Totally get that dude.
    I know what it's like to be put together.
    Heart.Lungs.Liver. Cornea.
    Parts, hand selected, inserted into my body to keep me alive and well.
    They said it couldn't be done.
    They said it shouldn't be done. One person getting all those organs, at once.
    But when the you're the president's daughter, the rules don't apply.

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    1. Jennifer HernandezJuly 7, 2017 at 7:16 AM

      Hi Martha, You've got my attention! This piece has strong, authentic voice. Every word counts. And I have questions. What happened to this girl that she needs so many parts? What's the time frame -- future? Is it possible to transplant that many organs at one time with today's technology? (I'd guess no, but medical advances surprise me all the time.) And where is she? The U.S.? Again - this might be set in the future, but my one quibble (and this may not be a quibble if it's set in a futuristic society) is that the president's daughter may not be as likely to receive special treatment as the daughter of a wealthy CEO, for example... I'm definitely interested in reading more!

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    2. Okay..Gae..now I think we should keep the part about Baby Gene!!! (yikes see how hard this revision stuff is..!!)
      As for your story Martha...WOW..crazy wow. I am only sorry you didn't post more. Is this all you have so far? "They said it couldn't be done" Ha! Million Dollar Man?
      We are of course, beyond intrigued..and yes, as Jennifer says, the voice rings so true. She (Or he) is spunky and has a sense of humor..there is nothing better than a protagonist going through something hard/sad/terrible but not being pathetic and self pitying. You've nailed that in seven little fragments. Okay..where's the rest. That's all I have to say...!!

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    3. Martha, I love this! It really grabbed my attention and I definitely want to read on!!

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    4. OH! I'm totally intrigued by your WIP, Martha!

      Was she created from scratch or was there some horrific accident which predicated the need to be put back together? I too am reminded of the Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman (favorite tv shows, btw).

      The opening line captures the voice of the character very simply. Just as she has been reconstructed, I, the reader, am trying to construct her character. She is educated knowing the Frankenstein allusion and affluent being the president's daughter.

      I also wonder about the notion of choice/consent for being put together. In addition to the Frankenstein allusion (which conjures monstrous images and makes me wonder as the pres' daughter can she have a monstrous effect on political events), you could tap the Pygmalion myth. What happens when the creator's vision doesn't align with the created's reality?

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    5. Okay, Nora, first, if you scroll up, I "pushed back" against the Baby Gene removal even before getting to Martha's comment... and Martha's comment is the essence of why.

      Secondly, Martha, this is fabulous, fun and full of tone. Wonder if it will be serious or heavy, ultimately. It could go either way. Right now, for me, it leans toward fun, and if it shouldn't, wonder if you could add a word or two strategically, to let us know what we are in for...?

      Also, is your MC a girl as everyone is assuming, or is he male? I'd love you to think about a way to clue us in there (without going to body-parts places!)

      Great stuff, keep going!

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    6. I'm so intrigued and really want to read more now. The President's daughter? I love this. Is she receiving this because of power and affluence? I am so curious.

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    7. Thanks everyone for the encouragement and insight. Just one of the many reasons I love this group. Hope everyone has a good weekend of writing. And yes, my MC is a girl. Her name is Maze.

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  14. I'm so happy to be back to Friday Feedback and see that Gae and Nora are collaborating. What a privilege to hear your conversation and to know all writers, no matter how accomplished, struggle with confidence. The strength of Friday Feedback is the support system.

    I love the idea of a book about identical twins. I've always wondered how they work through their own identity. It's hard enough for a single teen to figure out. I wonder about starting with "What in God's name are you doing?" It brings me right into the action. I agree about Baby Gene, but it does help me to understand that they are from a bigger family. It's not just the two of them. I am curious enough to keep reading as well as wondering which sister I will relate to more. I want to know why she is cutting her hair. In fact, I've got to know. Thanks for being here.
    Like Linda I am writing poetry. Do you want to read verse as well or just stick with prose?

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    1. Jennifer HernandezJuly 7, 2017 at 7:06 AM

      I vote for verse, as well!

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    2. Oh, Margaret, you know I am always enthralled to get peeks at your verse work. It is gorgeous and compelling! Do share!

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    3. I am currently working on a book of poems about the Louisiana bayou where I live. This one is my favorite. I had such a hard time working with the rhyme and meter, but the results were so much fun.

      Dear Mama Raccoon,

      I think you’ve been quite mischievous
      under the veil of night.
      You’ve left a trail that’s suspicious
      of nocturnal delight.

      I know you’re not malicious
      attracted by the smell,
      but do you find that trash nutritious
      to feed your kittens well?

      I hope you will forgive us
      for locking up the bin.
      We’re weary of your surreptitious
      ways of getting in.

      This may be too ambitious--
      I’ve left another trail.
      So please be more judicious
      and take my mother’s kale!
      (copyright, Margaret Simon)

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    4. hah, Margaret! Love this... and can see why the meter etc was tricky. But I love the icious rhyme scheme and the humor at the end!

      Maybe it's just me, but there is something in that first verse that sounds a little, um, dirty (I know, I know, probably just me)... wonder if you can work the word garbage or wrappers or something in instead of or with nocturnal up front (I think it's because of what I associate nocturnal emissions with ...) IF anyone else's mind went, initially, where mine did. They probably didn't. Oy, apologies.

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  15. Jennifer HernandezJuly 7, 2017 at 6:31 AM

    Who are the Seekers? Who is Grayson? Why would he care if Leila cut her hair? Is she in some kind of trouble? Is that why she's acting so weird? OK, I know that I'm out of order here. But yes, I definitely want to keep reading. I have so many questions! What I love about this excerpt is that in relatively few words, the distinct characterizations of Gabby and Leila have been established, a couple of other characters have been introduced, and a potential conflict has been hinted at. Boom. We're right in the thick of it. And we care. Because who hasn't questioned the judgement of a sibling? Who hasn't made a questionable decision regarding a new hairstyle? The scene is relatable and realistic, and then with the introduction of the Seekers and Grayson, it widens into something more. Dystopian? (How I love Dystopian!) Brava, Gae and Nora!

    One more note on process -- thank you for the conversation about collaborative writing. Such a powerful way to move ideas forward. Kind of like the writing process on steroids, as feedback comes fast and furious from early stages onward. This is definitely a model that I'd like to employ more in my classroom. I think it could be especially motivating and powerful for students who don't see themselves as strong writers. And in middle school, where everything is about relationships anyway... it just makes sense.

    And now, my excerpt:

    “I won’t do it!” Daisy cried, running out through the doorframe on her still-pudgy, just-past-toddler legs. The screen door slammed behind her. She stood on the top step and pulled at the woolen mask that covered her head. It came off in her chubby fingers, and she shook out her brown curls, staticky now from the mask. Her honey skin was slightly flushed, her breathing heavy.

    “Daisy, no!” her mother was suddenly behind her on the step, reaching for the mask in her daughter’s hand. “You must put it back on.”

    “No, mama… please…” Daisy held the mask as far from her mother as she could. “It’s too hot. It’s itchy.”

    “I know, sweet girl.” Helena’s fingers touched the mask that covered her own face. “But we must. It’s the law. Not our place to question.” She tousled Daisy’s curls with one hand and started to grab her daughter’s mask with the other. “Now let’s get this back on before…”

    “No!!” Daisy pulled her mask firmly from her mother’s grip and flung it out onto the lawn, where it lay. Navy blue on green. A beacon for those who might be watching.

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    1. Jennifer- wow wow..just as with Martha's I am so gripped by this..but by an entirely different tone. (Tone is such an important and almost indescribable unteachable aspect to writing) This tone is decidedly darker. The fear the mother exhibits of course, immediately signals danger. (Are you a fan of Margaret Haddix?) Is that where this is going?
      I am put in the mind of a future world..and that the color of the child's skin is significant. .and of course, the color of the mask as some kind of class/status category. Love love love this kind of story..(I AM a big fan of Running out of time and Haddix's new series)
      Now here is my question..Have we yet to meet the main character? Who is telling this story? Right now we have a third person, pretty much omniscient narrator.. Will that change? Will a middle grade aged story teller emerge? Daisy seems young..clearly. So just wondering..Very much wondering..because I really really want to know the rules and set up of this world. (and as with all good sci. fi ..it speaks to our world now) I await the answers!!

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    2. So, I love reading stories question societies and rules. I love when we question the world around us and what the world might be like if (fill in the blank). I instantly feel sad for Daisy and my stomach turned knowing they are being watched. I want to know why they have to wear masks and who is watching them. The only thing I question is Daisy's language, if she's a toddler would she speak so well? Her language makes me feel like she's older 5 or 6.

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    3. Okay, Jennifer, a lot to cover here. First, wow, to your excerpt but more on that soon!

      First, thanks for your feedback -- ours is definitely not dystopian (sorry! ;)) but mystical or magical... And that makes me curious about yours! Is yours dystopian. Some cool clues - because at first I just thought the mask was like those snow hats w masks, but maybe not. . . obviously not, because I don't think Helena would have one on. In which case, it's a great creepy way to draw us in! Is this the beginning or middle of this piece? I love those last two lines, especially the simplicity of the "Navy blue on green." You do much with this excerpt and I love it. My food for thought would be to not do too much or over describe, that possibly you could pull back on the adjectives in the first paragraph and let the stronger ones stand on their own. But that's all stuff for revision and what you have here is strong and COMPELLING, so onward you go!

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    4. Jennifer HernandezJuly 7, 2017 at 2:04 PM

      Thank you all so much!! For both the encouragement and the incredibly helpful questions and suggestions. This piece is in its infancy, and these questions give me a lot to think about and play around with as I continue to shape the narrative.

      Also, Anne Marie -- I completely agree with you about Daisy's language and was thinking the same thing as I wrote it. I'm going to have to make some choices and either change her age, change her speech patterns (which would be my inclination but I'd like to find a way to do it without resorting to alternate spellings and lots of apostrophes that can sometimes become distracting). OR, I suppose I could somehow clarify that her verbal abilities are very advanced for her age -- which *can* happen (not just a cop out!!) -- my youngest son has always sounded much older than his age. So, anyway. Much to think about. Thanks again!!

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    5. Wow, Jennifer I love the line, "A beacon for those who might be watching". That is so much better than the first line that usually comes to mind of, "For everyone to see." Your line implies more sinister consequences. And I love the use of dialogue to propel the scene forward. I'm big into dialogue myself and appreciate the way you used it. Keep going. Sounds like you've got a gem on your hands.

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    6. Jennifer, I'm really intrigued by this piece -- so many questions arise in my mind as I read it. I hope you keep working on it because I'd like to know what happens next!

      I wondered who was telling the story and it seemed to me that you tended to center what was happening around Daisy. What would happen if Daisy were a bit older, say 10 or 11 (middle grade?) and the story was told from her perspective (third person POV). Just throwing it out there as something to try out.

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  16. I love the differences of identical twins even though they are a “mirror image” of one another they are never same. Twins are different, but are always seen as the same. I want to know more about Gabrielle and Leila.

    I don’t see anything not working at the moment.

    I’m intrigued, who are The Seekers and who is Grayson? Is Grayson a Seeker? Did someone put the scissors there on purpose? And why is cutting her hair going to change things or her? Or is Leila just stepping away from her sister?

    My excerpt, I don't have a target audience yet, just the ideas.

    I practically ripped my thumb trying to get the lighter to light. One deep inhale of that cigarette felt amazing, dizzying, I was relaxed….sort of. When was the last time I smoked? I can’t remember. I couldn’t for so long, more like I wouldn’t.

    Vie saw me puffing away. “Are you kidding me, Frankie?”
    “Calm down Vie, it’s fine.” Charlie always defended me.
    “Go somewhere else to sit if it bothers you Vie.”

    Charlie opened my bag and grabbed a cig for herself, “I haven’t had one of these in forever, smells good to me today.”
    Vie rolled her eyes.

    Charlie inhaled her first drag, “So, when was the last time you saw each other. It’s been a long time. He hasn’t lived here for a long time.”

    I laughed, “I haven’t lived her for a long time..”

    “Well,” said Vie, “He’s here. You’re back.”
    “Temporarily.” I added.
    “You should go and say hello. Tell him you’re leaving soon.“

    Charlie and I turned to her, had she lost her mind? God, she was so fucking optimistic all the time.

    “Vie, I know you mean well, but I’m not. It’s done.” I took a long drag on that Parliment light, “Did he see you guys?” They looked at each other. Shit. He did.


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    1. I feel like I am reading something Gae wrote! I am so envious of those who can capture that very real very authentic older teen speak..that laid back, conversation..and even the behavior. I am completely believing this.. I am just THERE.
      And if this were Gae's piece..I'd make little suggestions here and there. Like: Instead of starting another sentence with Charlie "opened her eyes" "inhaled her first drag" ..maybe vary that beginning so you don't have two in row. I might might might ..want more visual set up. But then again, I might not. This is working. So I'd just keep going. Certainly older YA..you have it nailed. . It's all about the voice. (again- can't teach voice!)

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    2. Hah, Nora, I wasn't thinking this was YA. Maybe New Adult (hmmm) or adult... interesting.

      Anne Marie, you capture well this moment - one many of us can relate to, and I love that you have all these characters introduced. Something I'll have to do in the new piece I'm thinking about working on. I would also say, sometimes I wasn't quite clear who was speaking and wonder if this isn't the beginning and so somewhere you ground us well, more clearly, in Frankie first. If she continues to play with that lighter -- love that opening image -- that would also be an ongoing clue who is thinking/saying/doing what.

      Keep going!

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    3. Thank you, both! I always struggle with dialogue and differentiating between speakers. And love the idea of getting more visual. There is a more visual set up in the paragraphs before this, but I couldn't decide to what to put out there this morning. I can't wait to tweak and edit more.

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    4. Jennifer HernandezJuly 7, 2017 at 9:42 AM

      Hi Anne Marie, Interestingly enough, I read this as adult fiction -- as opposed to older YA. So after I read Nora's comments, I went back to re-read, and found that it works either way. Which speaks, I think, to the fact that this excerpt is centered in the dynamics of female friendship, which maybe don't change so much over time! You said that you haven't decided on a target audience yet, so I think that you could successfully go either way with this.

      Questions that came up for me as I read: Why hasn't Frankie been smoking (couldn't vs. wouldn't), and what about the current situation has got her lighting up? What's the setting? (I'm guessing home town. For some reason, it feels small town. And maybe not contemporary? Maybe 80's or 90's?) Why did Frankie leave, and why is she back? Who is He? (A former romantic interest?) I look forward to reading more!

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    5. Thank you for the feedback, Jennifer. The three girls are intertwined, as sisters. You got the setting, definitely small hometown. Frankie is complicated, I adore writing her. I hope to share more along the way. Having feedback is so helpful.

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    6. Anne Marie, I really liked this! There's a definite tone and feeling to this piece and I love all the tension that comes across. I'm wanting to read more!! Keep writing!!

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    7. Thank you, Andrea! Lots of tension is right.

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  17. Feedback before my own post! (Scariest thing I have done in awhile!!)

    What works: I love this paragraph, especially the "Her face is already changing."

    "I should take the scissors, stop her before it’s too late, but of course, it’s already too late. Her face is already changing, right before my eyes and I feel my breath catch in the center of my chest."


    I think it captures beautifully the image you are trying to portray of Leila. You mentioned the emotional change in Leila but adding this physical change, and that tiny moment we have experienced when we get a dramatic hair cut that we can be a whole new person - loved it. It really resonated with me.

    What didn't work for me: Two phrases didn't seem to quite capture the same voice/tone as the others. "She's been acting off lately." and "...Grayson may be mad..." Perhaps a more specific description? Of the two, Grayson may be mad was the one that didn't work. With mystery and what seems like a sophisticated group - Seekers - it felt like he should be more than mad. Disappointed? Frustrated? Perhaps you want that emotion to be mysterious as well.

    Am I compelled to keep reading? Yes! So many questions unanswered!

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    1. Meg, that's really interesting feedback. Will look at the moment through your eyes. Thanks!

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  18. Is this too long for a post? 5 paragraphs total, some short, one long. Felt like it was close to the limit. Apologies if too long!


    As Alice rolled in to her grandmother’s driveway, she ignored the kickstand and laid the bike on the walkway up to the house before reaching the door. Everyone said Gram and Alice walked the same way, as if they were the boss of the ground underneath their feet. Alice and Gram were in charge of everything.

    Alice knocked one time, as she always did, and then walked in through the front screen door. “GRAM! I’m here!”

    “Come on in, Chickpea,” Gram hollered from somewhere in the house. Alice stopped to put an old lady wrapped candy in her mouth and went looking for Gram. She found her in the back room, sitting at her desk going through boxes.

    Gram’s house was a living museum of her travels. Gram said that even when she wasn’t moving, her gypsy soul was all a flutter. Gram moved 7 times before she was 5 years old. Now that she was 84, she wasn’t moving anymore but she often got lost in her collection of items from her travels. The basement walls were flanked with bookshelves that went from the floor to the ceiling. Alice had seen other grandmother’s houses where everything was neat and tidy and everything had a place. Sometimes those places were so organized they had special doilies to mark where things belonged. Not at Gram’s house. The bookshelves had books on them, for sure, but those books were not sitting straight and tall like soldiers. Gram had books leaning on their sides, more like tired old friends. Dusty ping pong paddles were wedged in between books. Jars full of buttons and pennies and trinkets were on top of, underneath, and next to postcards from around the world. Masks, puppets, plenty of cobwebs, soldering kits from 60 years ago, wind-up radios, wooden spoons, puzzle pieces, nutcrackers, thimbles, acorns, I like Ike pins, and more were stacked on random shelves. More books and old magazines were piled on the floor. Drawers were filled with pincushions, boxes of photographs, pens that no longer held ink and who knows what else.

    It was perfectly normal for Gram to hold up a trinket and say, “Now would you look at what I found?” Then, holding up a sea shell, she would dive deep into a story about the adventures that led her to getting that seashell. Usually Gram didn’t start out by trying to look for that seashell. Usually she was just trying to find a pencil sharpener, or a thumbtack. But as soon as Gram started looking through drawers, she would be lost for anywhere from 10 minutes to a couple of hours reliving the the moments that led her to getting whatever relic she found.

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    1. Meg, I too love that line "they were the boss of the ground underneath their feet". Your descriptions left me feeling like I could smell moth balls and that Gram's house is a treasure chest of memories. I'm curious to know more about Alice and Gram.

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    2. My favorite line actually "her gypsy soul all a flutter"..like Gae just commented..it speaks to both the girl and the grandmother. I imagine your main character has gotten a lot of her tone and voice from her grandmother. The love is palpable...I am fond of lists. I love the items. I guess I thought if you were to pick one to hold up it would have been something more specific than a sea shell. You gave us so many wonderful visuals. I was just taken with the voice and the tone..the love. but like Gae said, maybe the tiniest hint of what is about to come. Or why we are here in this place at this moment in time. Love this!

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    3. Nora, I loved gypsy soul aflutter too!

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  19. Meg, I love the voice in this, especially the line about them walking as if they were the "boss of the ground." Such a great image! I also really liked all the details about Gram's cluttery house, though I wonder if that paragraph is a bit long for middle grade (I think this is a middle grade?) But I would keep reading this. I'm wondering if Alice is going to find a mystery in Gram's house!

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    1. Thanks Andrea! I was feeling the same thing about the length just got a little carried away. :) Yes, this is for middle grade! Forgot to mention that but I'm actually glad to hear that came through without me mentioning it.

      Thanks for the feedback!

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    2. Hi, Meg! Welcome to Friday Feedback. Your piece length was fine. :)

      I, like others, copied this moment:

      "Everyone said Gram and Alice walked the same way, as if they were the boss of the ground underneath their feet. Alice and Gram were in charge of everything."

      It's so strong and tells us so much about two characters with very little. Bravo! :) I also love the detail of her nickname Chickpea. That too really defines character on both sides. You're doing a great job building character! Here's my food for thought: Is there somewhere in this or right near this where you have tossed in a bit of tension? It could be the smallest thing - one of the objects triggering emotion in your MC "Chickpea." A moment of fear or concern about her grandma. What is she worried about, what is the reader looking out for? Like I said, you may already have it right near here, but there may be an opportunity right here to amp it up?

      Wonderful stuff. Keep going! :)

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    3. Thanks everyone! The tension has been a hard part for me to put in. I look forward to more feedback and the work over the summer!

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  20. Gae and Nora,

    Your excerpt definitely grabs the reader's attention. I like how the scene is being viewed in a mirror - everything is opposite of the way it truly is, including the behavior of the characters. I wonder what prompted Leila to cut her hair in such a way. It would appear to be an act of rebellion, perhaps against the mysterious Grayson? One line that didn't quite work for me was "She knows, too, that Grayson may be mad since it will probably interfere with his vision." I would think that Grayson is someone with power and someone who possibly should be feared if it weren't for the words "may" and "probably." I want to find out who the Seekers are and why they may be affecting Leila's behavior.

    In the scene from my excerpt, Nina, an eleven-year-old girl, is at her grandmother's house, which has been sold, and they are getting ready to leave for her grandmother's new apartment.

    “Nina, where are you going?” she heard her mother call out in surprise. Nina didn’t stop to answer. She didn’t stop until she was in front of the swing, her swing. As her mother had done with the front door, Nina lovingly caressed the cool, smooth chain. Tears blurred her vision as she sat down on the old wooden seat, hands grasping desperately to the chains. Automatically, her feet pushed into the dirt, straightening her legs and pushing her body back. Lifting her feet, she plunged forward, creating her own breeze to blow her hair back from her tear-stained face. She used her whole body to pump herself higher and higher. When she was little, she had thought swinging your legs only was what made you move. How many times had she sat in this seat, frantically swinging her legs back and forth, going nowhere? Thankfully she had figured out somewhere along the way that you had to put your whole body into it to really get moving.
    So, that’s what she did now. Used her whole body to push the swing to its limits, all the while hoping that maybe this time she could actually break free and fly up into the sky. To escape for just a moment from this world that looked so much like the one she had always known but yet felt so different. Maybe there was magic in the swing, and when she came back down, everything would have returned to normal.
    “Nina? What are you doing?”
    “I’m swinging. Obviously.” Nina continued to pump as hard as she could, even though she knew the spell had been broken the moment her mother spoke. There was no magic in the swing that could take her back in time. She never would be able to touch the sky, no matter how hard she tried. And there was no way of fixing the things that were wrong. She let her body relax and felt the swing slow down, each rise up a little lower than the last, until there was nothing left to do but put her feet down on the ground and skid to a stop.

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    1. I love the whole use of the swing. It is such a universal experience, and you describe it well. I found myself saying, "yea, yea, you have to use your arms - your whole body." Anyone who has spent any time with little kids has seen them swinging their feet back and forth, trying to figure it out. Having her disappointing realization mimic the slowing pendulum of the swing is a wonderful metaphor.

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    2. I too love the swing as a metaphor. I have yet to meet a child who cannot swing for hours. As an adult I love swinging next to my children, you still have the same free flying feeling. I want to know what Nina is trying to get away from. What is so wrong with her "normal"?

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    3. Amanda, this is just a lovely, lovely excerpt. Everything that David C says (HI, DAVID!!!) and more. You use the moment so well to create both physical sensation and emotion. Bravo! Keep going.

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    4. Amanda- I too was very taken with the familiar childhood experience of swinging..and LOVE the metaphor of having to put your whole body into it. Will that theme/metaphor/meaning reflect back to the story? I am imagining it is significant. I was a bit confused by what you meant by the mother caressing the door frame (that your main character does with the chain) Is this the very beginning of the story..or would we have seen that earlier? I am guessing from your description the mom is also very upset about leaving the house.
      You write very beautifully and it is so easy to SEE what is going on..as well as feel the strong emotion.
      Now I have one thing to add..Is there a reason you are teasing out her grief and keeping what's going on from the reader? Before careful about using that as a method to engage. We are engage anyway..She is a real and likable character so if there isn't a reason to keep that secret, consider just stating it?

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    5. Thank you all for the feedback! Nora, I can understand your confusion. I should have explained that this is quite far along in the story, so I THINK it is clear to the reader what is going on at this point. But you have definitely given me something to think about as I revise this part of the story. In particular, I think I need to change the line "And there was nothing she could do to fix the things that were wrong." Thank you!

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  21. Here's my excerpt. This is what I just finished yesterday. I'm about halfway into an early YA/late MG novel, so I am at the point where I suck, the idea sucks, writing sucks, and I should stop wrestling with this and give up.

    Backstory -- Josh is a slightly troubled 16-year-old who inherited some property and money and moved with his mother to rural New Hampshire. Mr. Whately is a throwback to an earlier time. He is the old-handyman/gardener who works for them part time and who has become a mentor and friend to Josh. He is also from about 5000 years in the future. His real job is being the caretaker of the time portal that Josh has recently found and is learning how to use.
    Josh's mom is dying of cancer. They are driving home after a night spent bringing her to the hospital (for the second time). Mr. W has just informed Josh that he has read his police and court records.
    ****
    “So, what did you learn?”
    “I learned that you have been in trouble several times, starting at the age of 11, again at 12 and 13, and then, seriously, almost three years ago, when you were incarcerated for a year. I also learned that every incident could be interpreted two ways. One way, the way the State of Connecticut chose to see it, you were a young man with an anger management problem who was involved in progressively worse and worse fights, until the last time — that is, if we do not count the unfortunate Mr. Leavitt — you broke several bones on another young man who had to be hospitalized. It noted something about facial reconstruction.”
    “Yea. Did it say why? Did the records say anything about why I did that?”
    “Yes, you claimed in your confession that you were defending a friend.”
    “Yea. Defending a friend.” Josh stares out the windshield at the lightening landscape. “That friend was a kid in my neighborhood. A nine-year-old kid who was always getting picked on. He lived in our building. He had Autism. I used to get him Starbursts. He loved them. Whenever I went to the store, I got him Starbursts. I had some in my pocket. I was going to stop by and give them to him before I went home. I came across him and this older kid — older than me, did the report say that? I came across them in this small storage space behind our building. I used to cut through to get to the store.” Josh turns and stares out the side window. “He had . . . He had that little kid’s pants down. I don’t want to know what he was going to do. If you had seen the look on that little boy’s face. He was just a kid, ya’ know? Like, he acted way younger than nine. Because of the Autism. He was so scared. And so confused. The kid — the older kid — I’d seen him around, but I didn't even know his name. He pushed the little kid down and turned to me. He had a knife in his hand. The little boy started crying. I . . . He . . . The older kid. He came at me. I sidestepped him. He turned back and I planted a foot in his balls. He doubled over. Dropped the knife. I brought my knee up into his face. Hard. Three times. He didn’t get up.”
    “And the little boy?”
    “I walked him home. I told his mother. Not all of it, but most of it.” Josh laughs quietly. “I never did give him the Starbursts. Ya’ know. I never . . .

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    1. David, I'm disturbed and uncomfortable reading, which is a good thing. There is a lot of anger in Josh. I'm curious to know more about him and why he has so many police records. If he is the hero, why is everyone against him? Why doesn't he tell the boy's mother, his mother, the police the whole story?

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    2. Ah, David, great to see you here, and read you here. As Anne Marie says, this is disturbing and uncomfortable reading, so you've done your job... of course it is. I love the moment of humor Josh shares at the end of this moment. We need it, don't we. We love that he has that intact. Since this is new, anything I offer is merely food for thought, but what I'd love if anything, is for you to slow this all down just a bit when you revise it. Take the time in the back and forth to slow the dialogue down, break it up a bit, inject either memory or observation or emotional pause as Josh is doing his telling so it feels more organic and not like he's doing this information spill... which he might be, but there are moments in there to make the reader really feel his pain and tension. Feel free to take your time with them.

      Good stuff! I'm rooting for Josh. Hope to hear more of him!

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    3. I'm going to disagree with Gae..(that's what we're here for isn't it?) Much like Anne Marie's older YA/adult piece above I am willing to break the rules if the voice and the monologue/dialogue is working and I think this is. My bigger concern was actually the interjection of action. Josh turns to look out the window when he was already looking out the window. (a minor fix)..but I am intrigued by the fact that he is in a car doing all this talking. And I am intrigued by his voice and of course, the story. His anger..and the trouble he is in..and his obvious humanity. I wouldn't suggest going on too long in the monologue style..but it really grabbed me.

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    4. Hi Gae!!
      Thanks for your insight. Thank you, too, Nora. I like that you had different takes on my using a "spill your guts" monologue. It gives me much to think about.
      Nora, thanks for pointing out the double "stare." I think it's important that he look away from Mr. W just before the hard part of the story, so I'll have to figure out where he's looking in revisions.

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    5. This also illustrates why it can be hard to collaborate at times! We all have things we like and don't like, things that work for us and don't work for us, and, as we all know, it is impossible to find one place where all of us would agree. Especially out of context, it is why this is a good time to remind us all that this is just for illustrative purposes, and to get us thinking objectively and making sure our writing is intentional. No one should go running to change their manuscripts because one or two people took issue with something (unless those one or two persons are your agent AND editor! ;) ) <3 Onward you go, David!

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  22. Intrigued! So honored to be reading part of this book that I have been reading the two of you share about for months. Definitely another one to add to my TBR pile. I am specifically intrigued about the line that states that they are only reflections in the mirror. Is that literal or figurative? Are they mirror twins? Is the chopping of the hair an act of defiance against Grayson and the Seekers? Each of these questions compels me to read more.

    Looking forward to sharing some of my summer with you both.

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    1. Thanks, Susan! Glad to see you here. Thank you for the feedback. Look forward to your shares soon!

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  23. Hello Ladies! Love getting to read an excerpt, and love that I can hear your voices in the written exchanges :) Fabulous advice!
    What works: love the paradox between being told she the stronger and the inability to even say something to stop her sister. Also, your word choices help the reader feel the pressure felt by Leila while trying to act dismissive, as so many teens do.
    What doesn't: Nothing yet.
    Definitely compelled to read more! (Like that was a question!)

    My excerpt:
    Rochester, NY
    12 year old male protagonist
    No guidance, no window into the possibilities beyond the "neighborhood," lots of responsibility, and lots of pressure to fall in line to take up his role in the neighborhood business.



    I could feel them. I couldn't see them, sitting in judgment from their plastic perches along the drive-thru windows, but I could feel them there. Cheeks burning, despite knowing we needed this - I needed this. 42 hours. It had been 42 hours since Maleek and Shaya had eaten anything. That made it 56 for me. The heat of embarrassment fanned the flames of anger. I could feel it coming. Shifting from foot to foot and daring not look up, I inhaled deeply while criticizing my raggedy nikes and filthy jeans. No wonder they stared. More heat - more anger - more shame. More hate. You're not supposed to hate your mother.
    There's nothing left.
    I could feel it coming.

    Brian's voice cut through my inner monologue. For the first time in minutes, my eyes lifted from my kicks to focus on his face, his words.
    "Dante. You ok, man?" How long had he been there?
    Bite the anger.
    Hide the hate.
    Quick.
    I forced a cool smile, stepped into my role, "Yea, bro. I'm good. Wouldn't be here a'tall 'cept for the little ones."
    There was kindness in his eyes. It wasn't pity - I knew the difference. As he handed me the bags of Whoppers and fries left over at closing, his eyes never left mine, never went all weepy or sad. They told me 'I get it. No big deal.' They spoke to me, man to man. Not that I knew what that was like, but this was all I had.
    And from a white guy.
    Go figure.

    Risks. I think a lot about risks these days.
    Walking home alone, with food, in this neighborhood, at 11:07pm, is a risk. Brian takes a lot of risks. You see, giving away food at the end of the day isn't allowed by BK big shots. He's been caught before and they threatened his job. I stopped going there for a while. What kinda karma would that bring, gettin' a nice white guy fired for helping this pathetic black "family?" He came to me, though. Left bags on the stoop. Brian takes mad risks.

    This risk is a minor one, easier for me than Brian. An outlawed transaction, but far different from the typical ones that go down a thousand times a day on this street. I know my way through. Been doin' it since I was three. Bo taught me... before.

    At the shadowy edge of the parking lot, I stop to tie my laces up for the venture home. I open a bag, close my eyes as I smell the unmistakeable mixture of potatoes, grease and salt. I can't resist a quick handful. As I chew, my mind shifts to messin' with one of the cars of the high and mighty judges inside, but that is a risk not worth taking tonight. The little ones are waiting; counting on me for food.

    Thank you!

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    1. I'm definitely intrigued by this! What's working: the general concept; the language and image about the drive thru window (I could feel them. I couldn't see them, sitting in judgment from their plastic perches along the drive-thru windows, but I could feel them there.); how specific details tell us a lot (the Nikes and raggedy clothes).

      Not working for me: nothing!

      Would definitely read more...

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    2. Oh Kendra- how powerful and how brave. . and I know you know what you are writing about. I am almost breathless reading it..and feeling that kind of hunger and that kind of shame. I think you've worked out a perfect blend of internal voice (the short fragments) and the narration. The sentence structure fits with the emotion and tension..and talk about beginning with a problem, something that has happened or about to happen. There is nothing more immediate than hunger. I also love the hours..the counting of the hours.
      (did you mean "daring ME not to look up" ?)
      They say there are not many books about real poverty and what that really feels, smells and tastes like. As you know..I've been touched my some of this (not to this extent) in my life and I say..it's working. I feel this..and I believe it.

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    3. Kendra, agree with the braveness and importance of this piece... and really feel the poignancy here. Tugs at your heart, it does. :(

      One thing I might pay particular attention to is whether your character's dialogue and internal thoughts match your character's age and personality... since it's first person, they're both his from his perspective right? So, for example, I love the rapid, brief Bite the Anger, Hide the Hate type of thoughts -- so wonderful and real -- and questioned, from this close first person perspective if the character would think something "fanned the flames" or notice something cutting through his "inner monologue" vs. "broke through my thoughts" or something. Nora is better at this than I am, so I'm hoping she might chime back in. At any rate, just decide that you're okay with those (meaning intentional) vs. you hadn't thought about them (unintentional) as you move forward.

      Beautiful work!

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    4. jumping back in..I am thinking those are things that could be altered or changed in revision. As the character grows and develops..For now I'd just plow ahead. (the inner monologue stuck out for me, too a bit..)

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    5. Yes, agree! Plow ahead. But good to note, if you agree too... :)

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    6. Thank you all. I appreciate your feedback and completely agree with the inner dialogue. Too much me, not Dante. Revisions made this afternoon. Inspired to write more tonight, so on I go!

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  24. Yay! It's so much fun to see familiar TW people here again this summer and new ones! Thank you, Gae and Nora, for starting us off a little early and with such a fun collaborative post. You've put me in the mood to write!

    Your excerpt has me wanting to know more. As others have said, I'm liking the tension that Gabrielle is feeling- she's supposed to be the outgoing one but she feels secondary, passive. She's unable to act or react and that's new for her. Things are changing. I get the sense that, while nervous for her sister, she wishes she'd had the nerve to cut her hair herself. I'm intrigued by the Seekers and by the fact that "we are only a reflection after all". I'm eager to read on.

    My excerpt is from a WIP some of you have seen parts before. The MC's much younger sister has gone missing and she's trying to continue with her day-to-day life without knowing where she is or what has happened to her. In this scene Grace-Ann is at her best friend's house:

    Mariko didn’t make it ten minutes before she was asleep nestled in to her older brother’s shoulder. His chin almost touched the top of her head and her hair moved gently with his breath. He watched the tv screen, the bright lights and colors reflecting in his eyes, the color of his skin changing with the movement of characters and scenes. He was greenish, then blue, then bright white. There was a slight smile on Ru’s lips, and his forehead was smooth and relaxed again, the visitor forgotten. Mariko’s body rose and fell with her breaths.

    Twenty minutes later, Masumi’s legs were over my lap, her feet on Ru. She had fallen asleep too, and the lights and shadows danced across her face in synch. Her long dark lashes fluttered slightly and I wondered if the sounds from the movie made their way into a twisted, silly story in her dreams. Masumi’s legs were warm and heavy and I felt like I’d somehow become one with the leather couch. I was growing roots and melding with my surroundings. I wanted to stay here forever. I wanted this family.

    When the credits rolled, Haruki blinked and looked over at me, almost surprised I was there. It was like he was waking from a trance. I grinned at him.

    “You were pretty riveted by Disney there, Ru.”

    “Hey, I didn’t hear any complaints from you. It’s good stuff.” He smiled and rubbed his head with his free hand. His other was pinned under his sister. “Jesus, I feel like I’ve been drugged. Must be that saccharine stuff. Let’s get these kids out of here and we can start our movie. You can find it?” He tossed the remote to me and I caught it above Masumi’s legs. I scrolled through the menus on the dvr.

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    1. Jen- I am assuming from your comment that you are jumping into to a scene further into the story than I'm seeing. I love your writing and I particularly love the way you describe the light emanating from the television and changing the color of Ru's face. To me, it's all about the language, the writing and it is moments like that, which keep me reading. Signal to me that the author knows what they are doing and I am willing to follow them anywhere. Your writing feels that way to me..but since I am joining in the middle, I am not sure what's going on..or who anyone is. So I got a little confused. . Yes, despite that ..I am willing to follow you anywhere. :)

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    2. Jen, this is beautiful. Just laden and loaded with quiet emotion, with visuals, with what isn't there.

      Nothing more on it from me. Keep going.

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    3. Jen- I am new this year, and I am posting a little late. I agree with Nora. I liked your description of the light from the the tv on Ru's face. I was intrigued by the names of your characters. They are really interesting. I would like to know more. What is the background for these names?

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    4. Hi Kay! Thanks- I wanted to capture how Grace-Ann isn't really watching the movie but rather watching others watch the movie because she's starved for company and belonging. My character's best friend is American-born to Japanese, Japanese-American parents. His name is Haruki (called Ru) and he has three younger sisters: Mariko, Mai, and Masumi.

      Have fun with TW your first year! I learn so much by reading everyone else's writing and how people respond and share.

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  26. Here's my excerpt:

    We stopped at CVS with the prescription the way home. Mom stayed in the car, arms folded over her chest, tapping her feet. As I walked between the parked cars with Dad, I wished myself into someone's trunk, dark and closed in. Hiding from reality.

    Dad handed the pharmacist the prescription, and went to look for a birthday card for Uncle Frank. I checked out nail polish and hair stuff, but they looked alien, not designed for someone about to go on crazy people drugs. I paced up and down the aisles. My hands stated to shake, and my heart beat too fast. I went to use the bathroom, and escaped into the sterile orange space like it was a haven.

    No permanent marker this time. I unclasped my change purse and pulled out a tiny chisel blade, loose among the pennies and dimes. I couldn't cut where they'd see it at the body check, but my socks were always on when they examined me. Before I could change my mind, I pulled off my sneaker and sock and scraped a tiny stripe of red into the fleshy part of my sole.

    It was a new kind of pain--more intense, like an injection with the knife. I could only do it for a second. I took eight deep breaths to slow my heartbeat, and then wrapped toilet paper around the cut. I limped back to the main part of the store, and every step reminded me I was a freak show.

    When the woman called my name, Dad and I returned to the counter. I couldn't look at her. She'd seen the label on the bag, and she knew the truth about me.

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    1. Lisa..wow. very powerful. I love the parking lot, the mom, the walking with dad and wanting to be transported into someone's car trunk! that said it all...in particular it said she'd rather be with strangers. So I am brought in immediately. But my favorite part is wandering the aisles looking at the "normal" things of life..I completely FELT that feeling. I could see the bright over head lights ..(I think you can delete "like it was a haven"- it is more powerful without that)
      I am loath to do this (but I think it shows how much I like this story and your writing)..but I wonder if it wouldn't be more powerful (there's that word again) if she goes into the bathroom to cut herself..but doesn't. It would be as effective but leave you more room for the story to grow. Of course, without knowing what you are thinking or at what point in time this story is beginning it's hard to suggest that. But it jumped out at me..
      It feels that this scene is about exposure..about being labeled. Being caught. Sometimes less is more..(but again, it's your story and this is such a tiny bit)
      Have you read This Little Life? ...its for adults but very vivid cutting scenes.

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    2. Hi, Lisa, and welcome. A very painful raw excerpt and that orange space struck me as well. Nora makes interesting suggestions which of course, as she notes, really depend on where in this piece -- this story -- you are, which we cannot tell from this small bit. What I can tell is that you've captured the discomfort your MC has being who she is. We feel her discomfort and we want to see her out of it. That is compelling. Good work.

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    3. Thank you so much, Nora and Gae! I'm so thrilled to get your feedback. I'm glad it was compelling! I put in this scene because it's where I'm revising now, about halfway through my WIP. My MC had just resisted cutting a chapter or so ago, so this is her moving backward with the stress of the medication. I'll definitely look at that, though... it's definitely about being labeled. Hmmm...

      No, I haven't read that book but it's already on my Goodreads TBR list, so someone else must have also recommended it to me!

      Thank you *so* much!

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  27. What works for me is the instant "plop" into the action between the two sisters. I like the clues left behind in dialogue and description that help the reader get a deeper sense of the characters and developing plot. For some reason I'm drawn to the question of "who left the scissors" in the bathroom.

    The only minor thing not working for me was that I did not expect Leila to have blond hair - I felt it was almost too cliche.

    I am definitely left with wanting to read more- is Leila being groomed for a position of power in the mysterious Seeker group? Or is she trying to rebel against all? What is the more talkative twin going to say?

    Thank you for sharing! I am a newbie!

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    1. we are all newbies when it comes to sharing..it's always hard. always scary. Why don't you consider posting something!

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    2. Welcome! And thanks for the feedback, Heather! Look forward to you diving in more and moving toward sharing when you have something and/or are ready! YAY!

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  28. Gae and Nora, or NorGae, which has kind of a nice ring to it.

    I'm going to write my comments now, before I read any more of the 100+ comments so far. I started getting mixed up! (How do you handle so much feedback?)

    In your delightful collaborative piece about Gabrielle, what works for me is the intrigue - Why is Leila cutting her hair? It's such an unusual thing to do, yet she goes about it matter-of-factly.

    Regarding what doesn’t work - Of course, I have questions, which surely will be explained in subsequent chapters, about the Seekers, Baby Gabe, Grayson…(It’s not that it is not working; it is working to make me long for more.)

    Here’s one idea, though. Can you show us another way Leila has been "off", weird and distant lately? Of course, the haircutting is a huge example of that, but maybe in one sentence you could refer back to a time she did something else, maybe even a foreshadowing or something that helps us get to know more about the problem. So, something like this: “She’s been acting off lately. Weird and distant. Like the time she__________. I worry the whole Seekers thing may be getting to her.”

    That’s just a thought, but really, it’s pretty awesome already. The work you have done--the exhilarating and terrifying work of collaboration on this story--is seeping out the paragraphs. The love is coming through.

    I certainly want to learn more, and would welcome continuing reading Gabrielle's story, so I can figure out with her what her sister is up to.

    Today I wrote a blog post about my husband, who is funny and talkative. Here are a few paragraphs:

    While I started the car in the stifling ground level garage, Keith carried the hefty, plastic shopping bag overflowing with garbage toward the dumpster. When he came back to the car, he noticed I had opened my sunglasses case and had them ready to put on when we pulled out of the dark garage. He started in, "Now, what am I going to do? You know that's my job. Are you taking my sunglasses job? Now, I guess I'll just have to do my other side car driving tasks." I began driving through the cramped garage. "Watch out...Don't hit that wall...Careful, there's a car...Ooh, that was close."

    "OK, wise guy." He handed me my sunglasses, and I put them on and pulled into the narrow alleyway, into the 110-degree heat. (It feels like 113, so the humidity isn't that bad today.) "So, which mall should we go to?" I asked my husband, who is inevitably more opinionated than I about such things.

    "Let's go to the little fancy mall by Seef," my husband said, "It won't be so crowded on the weekend." I turned the car toward the mall of our Friday afternoon walk.

    Thanks for this opportunity,
    Denise

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    1. Denise, thanks for the feedback and for jumping in. I love this little portrait you've drawn of the rapport between your husband and you. It sets a lovely tone and makes me want more. I'm just musing -- if it were story -- all the places it could go. It could turn dark, or be a memory of a time long ago. It really takes little to launch us into story if we don't try too hard... I need to remember this myself. Keep writing!

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    2. Yes..agreed. It was adorable..and just the kind of rapport between people who know each other well that works so well. One thing I noticed..I didn't see you turn the glasses over to your husband so that he would give them back to you. I am the sunglasses giver in my car ..so I totally get why your husband would be miffed. And I love his way of retaliating! I don't know what "seef" is of course.. This was a delightful little moment in time that actually spoke to an entire relationship. Well done..And thanks for reading and commenting ..something to consider, Gae.

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    3. Thank you so much, Gae and Nora, for the feedback. I am humbled. Gae, I think I will try to keep him going as a character at least in some story. Wow...I'm already feeling like a writing. Nora, I loved the very specific remarks you made, and I hope I improved the writing taking your suggestions: http://testblogscs.edublogs.org/2017/07/07/paying-close-attention/ Thanks again to you both.

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  29. WHAT WORKS (and why)?: I really liked the internal dialogue going on with Gabrielle. I think it's always easier to get into a story if you can hear what they are thinking and this little blurb has shown a lot of who she is quickly.
    WHAT MIGHT NOT BE WORKING if anything (and why)?: The following two lines - And who left those scissors there anyway?
    Everyone knows Baby Gene can reach the sink now.
    I feel like these girls are written at the age where scissors on a bathroom sink wouldn't be questioned. Since this is just a snippet, I'm not sure how Baby Gene fits into this, but it feels like there should be more alluding to him if he's going to be in this part.
    ARE YOU COMPELLED TO KEEP READING?: I am very compelled to keep reading. I think sisters are a very interesting dynamic to write about and I can see there is so much more here that we don't know and won't know until we can read it! Thank you for being willing to model how to accept feedback gracefully! It helps the rest of us to be brave!

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  30. I'm a teacher who's just begun doing any writing for others. Here is a short story that I'm working on.

    It all comes down to this. If I can kick the ball into the end zone and through the goal posts, the championship is ours. I know this play by heart. I've practiced it until I've started to dream about it. Coach trusts me with finishing this play. Ugh, the pressure. Here goes nothing...

    The crowd goes wild! There's chanting and high-fiving and I'm hearing my name over and over again. I look around and I realize that they're adding a word to the end of my name, two actually, and they rhyme, except for the "ing." One word is sucks and the other...well, you can figure it out. I look at the ball, it was just to the right of the goalpost. I missed by mere inches.

    As I look into the stands, my eyes lock with a man wearing a Notre Dame sweatshirt. He's looking back at me, shaking his head. He packs up his things, stands up, and puts his cap back on.

    It's over. Before it even began.

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    1. I love the last two paragraphs. The reader really feels the disappointment of the athlete. I'm also curious who this spectator is...does the athlete know him? Is it a random person? Is it "over" because the game is over or is it over because this relationship is over?
      I have to agree with Nora on the 2nd paragraph. It was kind of awkward reading that and they reader has to stop and figure out what you're not saying. What if you focus that whole paragraph on the tension of the moment? Yes, tell us the crowd is chanting, but rather than telling us what-show us how the character feels as the ball is flying through the air.

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    2. I agree with Nora of course, but I would also challenge you to look at the first paragraph again. You do a lot of telling us with inner monologue and it gets repetitious.

      Then end is fantastic. I didn't envision the man in the stands to be a scout but more like a father I guess. I suppose that would fit well if the main character is younger. Needless to say it makes me want to know more.

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    3. Thank you Kim and Allison on your insightful feedback. This is my first dip into publicly sharing my writing (as rough as it is) and you've both given me some great direction.

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    4. Ugh, Sara, that moment that the scouting coach packs and leaves. That is painful. . . if this is YA and your MC is a highschooler, really dig in there to find that level of voice. Maybe a bit more layered in the tension in the early paragraphs. Specifically what does this mean to him? Is there a girlfriend in the stands? Peers? Has he not been sleeping well? Are there things you can spot int to make us feel the weight of his age? The cusp of his life is before us/him, and at first I thought it was a young kid. Of course, this can all be done on revision and as you get to know your MC better... A good start. Look forward to reading more! keep going!

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  31. Sara- thank you for your comments and for reading! This is perfect..I am a fan of the sports story. It's such a wonderful genre..It has its own built in rules..and they work. (One of my early novels was a basketball book..but no matter what the sport ..the method fits) One "rule" (which of course can always be broken) is the underdog- which is what you have here. The underdog. We will always root for the her or him.
    The line about the chanting the curse words isn't really working..more confusing than it needed to be, I think. Though I totally understand needed to use that kind of language when writing about sports. There are always ways to say what you want to say without saying it. .just don't make it too complicated.
    of course, I am guessing that a scout was in the crowd. Just wondering about the age of your character. . if it is a scout, then is your character in high school? Is this a YA or middle grade audience. The language would be very different ..As it reads now, it's middle grade.
    The immediacy of your story is terrific..we are right in the moment and we are there for the disappointment. We never tire of sports stories. Just make sure you really have the intricacies of the sport and have them accurate. I am assuming he or she is a kicker on a football team? Make sure the jargon is correct..and Go team!

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    1. Nora - Thank you for your feedback. This is my roughest of drafts and I appreciate the advice. I see this studet as a high schooler and the scout was in the crowd. I will definitely rework the middle section to make it more reader friendly and solidify my jargon. Thank you again!

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  32. Hello Gae, Nora, and everyone else! My name is Stephanie and I'm a first time 'Teacher Write' participant.

    Nothing of my own to post this week (I'm starting fresh when it begins on Monday), but here's my thought on your excerpt...

    WHAT WORKS (and why)?: I like how even though it is told from Gabby's point of view, you still get a side of Leila as it seems that cutting her hair is not something she would do. Maybe this is Leila trying to break from her shell, or make herself seen since it seems Gabby may be the more dominant one in personality.
    WHAT MIGHT NOT BE WORKING if anything (and why)?: Part of me feels that this is one of the first scenes you read. If it comes later in the book, I'd hope that who the Seekers and Grayson are has been explained, cause I was left wondering that at the end. Also the relationship between the two girls - friends, sisters, twins? I can guess that they are twins or sisters who are close, but it'd be nice to know the dynamic between them as well.
    ARE YOU COMPELLED TO KEEP READING?: Yes! I want to know why cutting Leila's hair seems to be a big deal, yet not big enough at the same time for Gabby to put more effort in stopping her.

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    1. Welcome, Stephanie! Thanks for the feedback! look forward to reading your writing as summer progresses!

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  33. The love the suspense/mystery of Gabby just watching her sister Leila cut her hair, when she knows what she should be doing. I also think it's important you noted she's the "strong sister" to show us why that's a big deal to begin with in the first place. I'm curious about the Seekers, the baby and Grayson. It makes me want to keep reading to find out more.
    My summer plan is to focus on OLW for my writing: Journeys. Today I just have a list of words that I'll eventually form into a poem. I want to focus my work on poetry this summer as I'm not very good at it and want to improve! 40’s
    Fitness minded
    Active
    Healthy eater
    Energized
    Engaged
    Jump out of bed ready

    50’s
    Unmotivated
    Dismayed
    Frustrated
    Sleepless
    Stressed
    Confused
    Worried

    Lately
    Embracing chaos
    Moving my body
    Building strength
    Finding flexibility
    Inner strength
    Calm envelops me
    Peaceful for a time
    Seeking radiance

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    1. Love how you're stepping in to this phase of your writing, Kim. I'm thinking you could take each one of those lines and write into them the same way. It's reminding me of this "postcards" exercise that Madelyn Rosenberg shared on TW! last year. Was one of my favorites to try to learn about my characters: http://www.katemessner.com/teachers-write-7-26-16-tuesday-quick-write-with-madelyn-rosenberg/

      Look forward to seeing where it goes next!

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    2. just these few words say so much (I think it's the story of my life, too!) ..enjoy playing with the language.

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  35. I really enjoyed reading your excerpt. It peaked my interest. I want to know more about these girls and why is the one cutting her hair, and why is the other so afraid of her cutting her hair? I would love to be able to use this excerpt with my students to delve into questioning and what keeps a reader interested if I may?
    I teach 5th grade in Indiana currently. I have found writing to be my therapy these past 5 years since my mother passed away.
    Below you will find an excerpt I have written but is not complete. I came up with this idea watching my daughter play with sticks (a favorite of hers). I envision it being a picture book, but as I am not much of an artist in that fashion I have taken to writing it as a short story first.

    A Girl and Her Stick
    The sun shines brightly behind the silhouette of a small girl in a twirly dress and pigtails standing in a meadow scattered with wildflowers surrounded by tall green trees. She is looking down at something on the ground. She bends down to pick up a straight stick as long as her arm. She holds the center of the stick and looks at it with her head cocked to one side and a smile on her face. The wonders this stick holds are numerous for the girl. She could save the world or create beautiful music with this stick. She could build castles or breakdown walls with this amazing stick. She cannot help but wonder what should she do first? Where should she go with her amazing new stick?

    Suddenly the meadow shrinks away below the girl’s feet, and she is flying through the air directing a small plane in her hand. She is flying over mountains and oceans to find her next adventure. She hums the sound of the motor as she flies, “brrrrrrrrrmmmmm!”

    Her plane crashed into a large mountain and falls to the ground as a stick. Above her stands a mountainous man whom she recognizes as her grandfather. He picks up the stick and smiles at his granddaughter. He looks at the stick and begins to twirl it like a baton. The stick becomes a long handled broom. He begins to use the broom to sweep up the wreckage of her plane. She frowns at the broom. Her grandfather passes the broom to her. She sweeps up the remains of her plane as her grandfather smiles at her. She smiles back and walks away holding her new broom.

    She frowns at the broom in her hand and closes her eyes for just a moment. She opens her eyes to see a hammer in her hand. She looks around for building materials. She gathers bits of wood and nails to begin construction on the best fort in the world.

    As she is pounding nails into the planks that will build her fort walls with her new hammer, a woman walks up behind her to say hello. The girls turns around to find her aunt smiling down at her and her new fort. Her aunt takes the hammer from the girl and shakes her head. Then she turns the hammer over in her hands until it becomes a spoon. She uses the spoon to stir the contents that were once her fort together like a big soup. The girl watches as her fort is mixed into a muddled mess. Her aunt hands her the spoon and motions for the girl to try. She mixes her fort like ingredients in a soup as her aunt wishes, but feels a bit sad at the destruction of her most amazing and impenetrable fort. Her aunt claps and walks away with a cheerful gait.

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    1. Alison..jumping in this morning..and piggy backing on Gae's comments, just to add..or ask, rather. Is this an outline or story treatment for a picture book? What a delightful idea..Now the key will be to Show and not tell. As written this is all TOLD..which often happens as you are working out a story and the details. The key is to go back in and show the action unfolding, find the POV and voice and let the magic of this story come alive. Find the beautiful language to match the lovely images. . It's such a creative, universal story!

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  36. Allison B,

    This piece is so intriguing with lovely mini moments, esp as the stick turns to a spoon... and then that lovely strange cheerfulness at the end. Am so curious where you might go with this. You could slow much of it down and make each "stick moment" a chapter, or, as you say, shape it into a picture book. Either way, the question will be where the tension or conflict are... look forward to reading more!

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  37. It looks like I am a little too late tonight to post my snippet, but I wanted to thank you for motivating me to get down in writing a little bit of the story I've been writing in my head for years. Now, I'll be ready for next week!
    I enjoyed reading your excerpt and especially waa intrigued by the collaborative process by which you are writing this book! Looking forward to seeing more of it!

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    1. Looking forward to reading you, Shannon! yay for beginning to get that story out of your head! <3

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  38. Erin Boyer. That was her name. I was at my job in the library when I first saw her. She asked me where the reference section was, and so I pointed her in the right direction and didn't think much about it, but then, she came back and asked me if I could help her find a certain book, The Collected Poems, by Sylvia Plath. She still had a faint tan from the summer, medium height, and wore expensive clothes.
    "So, is this your first semester here?" I asked.
    "Yes," she answered.
    “My name is Matt, where are you from?"
    There was a pause, like she hadn't heard me, and then she said, "Oh, um, Twin Falls." Twin Falls was a city about 400 miles from campus. I felt like she didn't really want to talk, but I couldn't help staring at her. She had striking green eyes and brown hair that fell down to the middle of her back which swung back and forth as she walked. Not only was she pretty, but she intrigued me, although I am not sure why.
    As we walked past the elevator doors, I caught sight of myself. What was I thinking? I still had a young, pudgy boyish-look; my blond hair was my only feature that might be called "good looking." I was fair skinned and my eyes were too large. I had been here six months, barely been on anything close to a date with a girl, and I was just lucky enough to get a job that I liked in the library. I was still taking generals, but wanted to be a P.A.
    “So, what’s your name?”
    “Oh, Erin. Erin Boyer.”
    “Nice to meet you Erin Boyer from Twin Falls.”
    After we found the book, she went to the back corner of the library where she buried her head in the book, oblivious to her surroundings, and wrote on a yellow legal pad. One ear bud dangled from her ear as she comfortably sat at the table. After about three hours, she didn't check any books out; and she crumpled up a piece of paper that she was writing on and flung it in the garbage can and left.
    I don't know why, but I went and snatched it out. I looked around. It was near 4 o'clock, and dark clouds hung in the air making it seem even later. I walked to the middle of the library so I could sit under the skylight, but even there, it seemed dark. I pulled out the crumpled lined yellow paper. Her handwriting was neat and precise. Most of it was notes about Sylvia Plath's poetry:
    English 2520
    Look on pg. 77- Plath's words - "This love of death"
    Lady Lazarus - dying is an art, like everything else. I do it exceptionally well.
    I do it so it feels like hell. I do it so it feels real. I guess you could say I've a call.

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    1. Hi Kay- I came back to read what was posted after I shared and am glad I did. I really like the start of your excerpt- the short sentences work for me and I understand and "get" that your narrator is admiring and watching this new, intriguing girl. (It reminds me a bit of the voice in "A&P" by John Updike, have you read it?) I don't know that I care to see what Matt looks like (it can be a bit cliche to see a character in a mirror) but I do like that he would compare himself to her in that he thinks she's out of his league. But we kind of get that with his awkward conversation and that he continues to watch and notice how long she's there, but she's oblivious. Your ending lines with the research are powerful and haunting and make me worry about what's to come- which is a good thing! I'm sorry to hear that this was inspired by a personal tragedy.

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  39. I posted this late, and I am a newbie this year. I know that I might not receive any comment, but wanted to post anyway. The above excerpt is about a boy who befriends a girl who is having suicidal thoughts. I wrote this short story after one of my friend's son took his life. Hopefully in the next few weeks I can get some feedback. I am excited to participate.

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  40. I do know the A&P. I am an AP Lit teacher, and I usually teach that short story. Thanks for the feedback. You're right, now that you point it out, it is cliche.

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