Wednesday, July 15, 2009

32 Secret Agent

TITLE: I Thought I Grew Up
GENRE: Adult narrative nonfiction

I am middle-aged.

I am an older woman.

People call me “ma’am.”

I call underwear foundation, and, after years of the weight of gravity
on my body, I now look better with foundation than without it.

I am a much different woman than I was when I moved to New York more
than twenty-five years ago. I was a fresh-faced Midwestern girl with
little life experience. The wildest thing I had ever done was drink
sloe gin in the college dorm room of a young man who wore pink leopard
print spandex pants like Rod Stewart. I let him kiss the sloe gin from
my lips and then went tearing back to the safety of my own dorm room.

I came to New York, seeking my fame and fortune as a serious actress.
I imagined I would quickly be discovered and, just as quickly, my
career would skyrocket. I would be a household name.

Things didn’t proceed quite as I had imagined them, but landing in a
city where I knew no one and no one knew me set me free. I managed to
get myself on the A-list at New York’s hot spots. I dyed my auburn
locks amazing shades of platinum with soft pink and gold rinses. I
sang in clubs that ranged from CBGB to the Playboy Club. New York City
and I embraced each other. I was where I belonged. I came of age for
the first time in New York, and now I find myself coming of age again.


  1. Being of "a certain age" myself, this interests me and I would continue.

    You may want to consider that 12 of your sentences begin with "I" and that is repetitive and distracting, imo.

    Good luck!!!

  2. This interests me, but I couldn't get over all the 'I' sentences. Also, sloe gin makes me pause, and you use it twice- I would cut that down to once.

    I am definitely intrigued though. I would like to jump a little more into the action though... I am guessing that your story gets REALLY interesting in the next 250-- I bet that part totally hooks me!

  3. I think the sloe gin paragraph should come later, not in the first 250 words. The rest is great and it would help us get to the meat sooner. I like it and would read on though I agree with the comments about the "I" sentences.

  4. I agree with Jamie too many "I" sentences, found it distracting.

    Didn't really care for the character even though I am of that age...

  5. This has an Evita feel to it to me, but only because I recently watched the film. Small town girl goes to city to become an actress and dyes her dark hair platinum blond.

    The middle-aged part is different. I'd see where you are going with this...

  6. I liked the lead with the foundation bit, and gin/kissing anecdote, but then it started to read like summary because there's so much telling: "Things didn’t proceed quite as I had imagined them, but landing in a
    city where I knew no one and no one knew me set me free."

    It would be more grabbing for me if we either had more sense of the character or the story problem right away, and less of the last 20 years in a sentence or two.

  7. Not hooked--I see a lot of these types of memoirs come through the slush pile and this one doesn't seem (so far) to have anything new to say.

    Also, I found the first three sentences to be a little boring--I think the 4th paragraph would have worked better as an opening.

    This seems very tell-y to me. You might want to consider starting with a memory, story or incident rather than an introduction to capture readers' attention first.

  8. I have a feeling, based on what was in the last paragraph, that there could be something interesting to come, but I didn't feel any pizazz to make me want to stick around.

  9. The history and life and times of your character-- well, actually, you-- really sparked my interest. I agree with Secret Agent and the others about the telling. As a fellow memoir writer, I have went back and forth from framing story or not framing story. Start as present day adult and reflect back, or start at the beginning and let the jacket copy set up the story... So, I know what you are experiencing. I am finding my first 250 words do not grab the attention right away because I END that chapter with what flips my little world upside down. There should be some compelling action here instead of just backstory...

    I would actually leave out that things didn't go as planned. Let us wonder if you did become successful actress... just as one idea.

  10. Wow - this isn't typically what I read, but it intrigues me.

    I think I'm hooked!

  11. I liked it, but was a little confused by the "underwear foundation" paragraph.

  12. I'm not hooked primarily because I think you need another round or two of revisions.

    To be honest, I don't think you are writing from your heart. You are relating this important metamorphosis from the outside looking in rather than the other way around.

    Go ahead and let this thing bleed on the page. Then I think I'd be totally hooked.

    Don't give up.

  13. Not hooked but could be. There was something about it that I couldn't put my finger on, and then I read Being Beth's comment.

    I don't sense you in the story. I don't know if I'll explain this well or not, but it feels written -like a writer wrote this, like you were thinking about how the words worked on the page. It feels writery, rather than confessional. (I know, that sounds dumb.) But you're not coming through (unless you're a very bland, monotone kind of person, and I'm guessing you aren't.)