Posted by: Kathy Temean | August 12, 2011

Free Fall Friday

I want to thank Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency LLC for taking her valuable time to give us some feedback on the first pages that were submitted.

Below is the picture prompt.

Liza asked me to put up Wednesday Nights as an example of a first page that came closest to reflecting the spirit of the illustration. She said it kept her interest and she would have turned the page to read more, but wished the author would have mentioned the MC’s first name somewhere on the page.

WEDNESDAY NIGHTS

Every Wednesday Ma makes her famous Chicken and Dumplins for dinner.  It’s my favorite night of the week; the one night when everyone is happy.  I swear it is all because they are filling their bellies with the best food east of the Mississippi River.

Pop goes into town on Wednesdays and he always has so many funny stories to tell when he gets home.   It’s the one night of the week when baby Jenny doesn’t cry or spit anything out that Ma feeds her.

When Chicken and Dumplins is in front of my brothers, Jacob and Abe, they never throw food at each other and our dog Rufus stands by the table with his tongue hanging out beggin for food.  What am I saying?  Rufus does that every night, so he doesn’t count.  He’ll eat anything.

Every Wednesday night, Ma laughs the whole time.  Her smile gets so wide it almost reaches her ears.  I know it is all because she can see how much we love her cookin.  Yes, our ordinary Wednesday nights are perfect, but tonight is no run-of-the-mill Wednesday night in the McDougal house.  No sir-ree-bob.  And no one is prepared for what happens right in the middle dinner.

Pop is busy telling one of his tall tales about how old Mrs. Hopper’s horse got loose, broke down the fence to the pig pen, ran across the yard, knocked down the clothes line, and ended up with Mrs. Hopper’s brassiere on his head, when I think I see something out of the corner of my eye.

I would have sworn Ma had four green tomatoes on the windowsill, but when I look over toward the movement, there are only three.  At first, I think I am just imagined that I saw something, but as I listen to Pop laugh about how Wilbur their pig dragged Mr. Hopper’s long johns back to the fragrant slop he calls home and rolls the underwear around in the mud, I stare at the window.  The kitchen light flickers.  Rufus barks and then I see it.  A big beefy orange colored hand wraps its hairy fingers around the next green tomato on the sill and in between the twitches of the kitchen lights – poof!  Number two is history.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Could be a story here.  I would turn the page to see what happens.

THEY PICKED ME

            “Daddy?” I say.

He doesn’t answer.  Not because he’s ignoring me.  Because he can’t hear me.  No one can hear me.  (Saying, “He can’t
hear me.  No one can hear me.”, makes me think that something supernatural is going on.  I might consider dropping the second, third, and fourth sentences and say “He doesn’t answer. My Mom…”) My mom is singing and trying to get the baby to eat her mushed up green beans.

My brothers are having a soup slurping contest – seems to me it’s a tie.  And our dog Seamus is whining and begging my sister for some of her dinner.  This is important.  I have to make him hear me. (I would drop these two sentences.  Feels like you are telling too much and start with “I clear my throat.”)  I clear my throat to get rid of the nervous feeling and say it again, louder this
time, “Daddy?”

He finally looks at me.  “What is it, Rebecca?”  He smiles a tiny bit – but it doesn’t change the grooves around his mouth that get deeper when he’s tired.  (Nice detail)

“Well, you know how there was a big math competition at school?” (I might consider saying, “Dad shrugs.” And do away with the rest of the sentence.) My dad nods, but not like he really knows what I’m talking about.

(“You remember,” )“It was the whole fifth grade.  We had to do a bunch of math problems – they timed us – and then write an essay.”

My dad scoops up a big spoonful of soup and shoves it in his mouth, following it with a hunk of bread.  Then he grunts at
me, which I guess means I can keep talking.

“I won,” I say. (I’d drop the ‘I say’ it isn’t needed and it slows the pacing down.)  It sounds so small when I say it.  But it
isn’t.  It’s the biggest thing that’s ever happened to me.  “Out of the whole fifth grade, Daddy.  I won.” (I WON!)

He swallows in one huge gulp – I can see the food move down his throat. (Nice detail.) “You did?

I nod.  “Yep, I won.”  I can feel a smile taking over my face.  “And so they picked me to go to the state contest – there’ll be kids there from all over.”  (I’d like to see the reactions around the table.  Is everyone listening?  What does Mom say or how does
she react?) And then I say it – the hard part.  “But it costs money to enter.  Thirty-five dollars.”  (Might consider using one sentence – “Only, I need thirty-five dollars to go.”)

My dad looks at my mom and then down at his empty bowl.  He shakes his head.  “I’m sorry, Rebecca.”

_____________________________________________________________________________

You have written a highly creative first page, but it is really hard to critique, since at this point we know we are in a different world, but we don’t know why they eat their spoons, why babies are dropped down chimneys, who is Witch Wart, what happened to all the dogs, how do you hide spoons down a dog’s throat, and why do they live so long?  I also would like to know who is the main character.  I would turn the page to find out, but you need to be careful that you don’t throw too many confusing things at the reader on the first page or you could lose them.  Please note:  As interesting as your story maybe, I didn’t think it followed the picture.  Example:  Your reference of painting the window blue was belied by the fact that the same blue came through the opened window.

THE SPOON GOBBLERS (Love the title)

Chapter 1

Cough it up, Baby Curls.

“Let Baby Curls eat his own spoon, Mother,” said Father. “You’re down to the last five Witch Wart gave you for your birthday.”

“Hush, Father,” said Mother in her calm-as-a-dead-cat-floating-in-a-millpond voice (nice phrase), “you know he has to start eating solids.  (Don’t need the ‘And’.) And now’s the time.  His fangs are nearly poking through.”

Long, sleepy summers always made Father grumpy.  It wasn’t the heat he could stand (think you meant to say, ‘couldn’t stand’), it was the sunlight.  That’s why he painted the window panes dark blue —  so it always looked like night.  But he did like the flies. (Little confused on the flies.  Are you saying that he missed seeing the flies outside with the windows painted blue?)

Second-Last-Jane wasn’t taking any chances with her spoon.  She quickly deposited her spoon down Blackie the three-legged dog’s throat for safekeeping.
I must remember where I put it this time, she thought.  Blackie had wandered into their lives almost one hundred and fortytwo years ago, and now he was the last dog in the whole valley.

Second-last-Jane never could stand the sight of Baby Curls.  Before he was dropped down the chimney, she was called Last-Jane, on account of her being the last born — then.  Being the youngest, she always got the special attention.  But good old Baby Curls just had to come along and spoil everything.

The twin boys, Gobbler One and Gobbler Two, as usual just ate their spoons in silence.  They had never talked in their entire lives.  Second-last-Jane was the only one in the family who thought this was odd.

First-Jane, the eldest sibling, was different.  She still had her very first spoon.

________________________________________________________________________________________

While the rhyming was a nice creative approach to the illustration, I felt the rhythm in some places was off and the rhyme in other places forced.  I also didn’t feel that this story followed the picture.  Example:  I didn’t feel the father glared.  While I appreciate you trying to have a twist at the end, the dad changing his mind about his willingness to eat the soup is not enough of a story arc to sustain a 32 page picture book. Even though it may not work as a picture book, you could work to make the rhythm and rhyme perfect and submit it to a magazine or keep it for a collection of poems, since it was very cute. 

Pa sat and glared, “Not soup again!”

Ma pursed her lips, “Oh come on Ben.”

“The baby likes it…so will you.”

Pa raised his brows, “It looks like goo.”

“Delicious taste,” my brothers slurped.

Black Labby nodded (then she burped.)

Sis smacked her lips, “It tastes like cake!”

But Papa sneered, “Wish it were steak.”

That’s when I lost my appetite.

You see, I’d made the soup that night.

I wanted to surprise my Pa.

Instead, I whispered to my Ma,

“I’ll tidy-up the kitchen now.

I’m not that hungry anyhow.”

And as I took my bowl and ran,

Pa called to me, “Please come back Nan.”

I turned around. His face was red.

He cleared his throat and scratched his head.

“Um…didn’t mean to be so rude.

Guess I was in a sour mood.”

I sat back down. I saw him grin.

Pa winked and said, “Let’s both dive in.”

He grabbed his spoon. I got mine too.

“I hope it doesn’t taste like…” Phew…

__________________________________________________________________________________________

I feel the picture depicted a happy family, so I felt your story did not follow the illustration.  The story itself was not cohesive.  Example:  It didn’t seem right that Mimi would move to a farm and still attend the same school.  If the argument is that the farm is in the same district, it would seem that her friends would be used to farm kids in school and it would not bother them.  Some places were good, but her voice at times felt young and other times older.  Example:  Used the words such as ‘protest’ and then had friends calling her piggy pee, pee.  A twelve year old might use the word ‘protest’, but I don’t think her friends would call her Piggy PeePee.

Dad was calm in his response.   I on the other hand was more than a little upset,(I was upset) and I hoped my one crossed arm showed my silent protest.   “Mimi, we talked about this before we sold everything to buy the farm (and).  Wwe all agreed to go for it. and Wwe knew there would be bumps in the road.”  (I would consider starting a new paragraph here.) By bumps, he was talking about the mush we had to eat for breakfast AGAIN.

The farm just wasn’t making enough money yet.  The sun wasn’t even out, but all the chores had to be done before we went off to school.  (I would consider making this next sentence into three sentences for more umph) I was tired, I wanted to sleep, and I did NOT want to go outside to feed the chickens or the pigs.  Well, maybe I wanted to feed the chickens….  there was a good chance the baby chicks hatched in the middle of the night.

“Dad, when you said that you would be home with us all the time and you wouldn’t travel anymore, you forgot to mention how much we couldn’t do!”

I couldn’t join swim camp, or participate in any after school activities.  Mom needed help with the kids and there was always something to do on the farm.  Right now, all the apples were coming to color, which meant we had a lot of apple picking to do. (consider making this a new paragraph)  My classmates were starting to catch on that something changed, and I was getting it from every side.  Even the kids I thought were my friends joined in on the fun.  I could hear it now, “Mimi sleepy, smells like piggy pee pee.”  I knew this was ridiculous, I took a shower and changed after all the morning work was done, but it still made me feel pretty bad.

I was alone in my protest. (First sentence sounds a little old for a child) The twins didn’t agree me.  Bobby and Billy were in heaven with dad around all the time.  He had them helping with all the tool-work.  Hammering and clipping, sawing and snipping.  What more could any boy want?  Bobby had gotten so good with the rope that he could twirl it cowboy style and catch any run-a-way piglet that made a break for the open. (Nice detail)  I needed more (I would leave out the ‘though’ and make two sentences) though, I was a girl!

I just knew when my sister was old enough she would side with me, but by then my personal life would be completely ruined.  I would forever be known as Mimi Sleepy.

Mom looked up from feeding the baby.  “Mimi, you haven’t had anyone over.  Don’t you think some of your friends would like to see what a real organic farm really looks like?  (Maybe) wWe could arrange a special school trip?”    My head snapped around to look at her.  Mom was on to me! She knew this was more than just about the mush!
________________________________________________________________________________________

PLEASE NOTE: Everyone indented their paragraphs correctly. I just could not get WordPress to cooperate to reflect the indents. Hope you found this helpful. I hope you will try again. There were a lot of entries and Liza picked five (one more than requested)to share feedback. If yours was not chosen, this does not mean your story was not as good. It was very hard to chose. She understands that all were first drafts and experiments on starting a new story. I have not gotten many first page submissions for the next prompt. https://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2011/08/05/free-fall-friday-25/ So click on the link, look at the picture and follow the directions for submitting.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Hey there! I’ve been following your web site for some time now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Houston Tx! Just wanted to say keep up the great job!

    Like

    • Kathie,

      It’s nice to know you are out there and finding the effort I put into doing a daily blog is being enjoyed. I’ve been to Houston, Texas, but always with business meetings. Never enough time to really see everything. Thanks for leaving a comment.

      Have a great weekend,

      Kathy

      Like


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