Friday, December 2, 2011

#38 Contemporary Middle Grade: The Secret Hum of a Daisy

TITLE: The Secret Hum of a Daisy
GENRE: Contemporary Middle Grade

After the sudden death of her mother, Grace, 13, struggles between a deepening relationship with her once estranged Grandma, and the belief that her deceased mother is sending signs warning her away.

All I had to do was walk up to the coffin. That was all. I just had to get there and set the gardenia on the smooth brown wood. Grandma said gardenias were a proper funeral flower. As if there were such a thing.

But my mind kept turning to daisies. The wild ones I’d found against all-slushy-odds and stuck into those cold white wreaths. Mama would have liked that. She’d told me once that daisies spoke in a kind of song, a secret humming that birds could feel in their hollow bones, drawing them close. She said I could feel it too if I tried, along the fine hairs of my arms and neck. That we all have a little bird in us somewhere.

But there wasn’t any bird in me. I was more like a cast iron pan.

Listen, Grace. Mama’s voice seemed to drift near the stained glass windows where the snow first stuck and then slid down the colored panes.

Grandma told me it had been a cold winter, and it wasn’t over yet. One of the only facts she’d shared with me since we’d met the week before. Of course, it wasn't like I knew how much it snowed here or when, being from just about everywhere else. In all our wandering across the great state of California, Mama had never mentioned her home town. Auburn Valley.

Grandma took my hand in her damp one and squeezed. Hard. "Listen now," she said.

46 comments:

samsevern said...

FANTASTIC OPENING LINES!! N' the title is one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard, with its sense of wonder n' mystery....

GREAT WORK!! GOOD LUCK N' THANK YOU FOR WRITING THIS! ㋡

David Barry DeLozier said...

Very nice! I love the logline - short and compelling. Great voice, hooks me from the opening line. Good luck!

Kristin said...

Just lovely.

Stefanie said...

LOVE THIS! The first sentence alone says so much. I'd definitely read on. Best of luck to you!

Anonymous said...

"But there wasn't any bird in me. I was more like a cast iron pan." This is a very compelling and telling character description. I liked this a lot and i want to know more about her.

Amanda G. said...

Beautiful, sad, compelling. LOVE IT.

Anonymous said...

beautiful and lyrical. really well done. I'd love to read more.

Sarah Cook-Raymond said...

You've created a very strong opening here and we get a sense of the character's voice. I found myself pulled away from the story a bit, however, at paragraph 4 where it begins, "Listen, Grace." At first when I read, "Listen, Grace" I was thinking her mother was talking to her at the funeral (present day) because it's all Grace's internal thoughts before this point. It wasn't until I kept reading did I realize that she's still in flashback mode. I think perhaps another sentence here could help the transition.

I do love the idea of daisies in winter but wondered if that's possible since most don't come out till spring; just something to fact check. I'd also love to know where Auburn Valley is; is that in California as well or somewhere in the Southern United States? "Mama" sounds Southern to me so I assumed maybe the mother grew up in the South and the daughter had picked that up from her, but I could be wrong. On the whole, however, you've definitely peaked my interest and I would read more. Grace sounds like a complex and interesting character and I'm always a sucker for contemporary fiction. All of the above comments are really just little nit picky things related to tightening the storyline. On the whole, however, bravo!

bethchristopher.com said...

Your entry is one of my favorites! There is I'd buy this book in a minute. The tension and emotion is compelling, the premise strong, and writing is lyrical. Best of luck!

Anonymous said...

You have a refreshingly original voice and a style that is deceptively simple yet beautiful and lyrical. Definitely would like to read more of this.

Laura said...

I almost missed this one, and I'm glad I didn't.

The opening lines are beautiful. The reader gets a real sense of this girl. The writing is lyrical. I really do want to know what happens to her.

The reason I almost missed this entry, though, is because of the logline. And, while not bad, it does not nearly match the quality of writing of the manuscript. If you're not busy sending out the whole manuscript after the auction, spend some on the logline.

Christine Bernardi said...

The voice is so authentic and distinct, this character is a real person to me right from the start. The imagery is rich and also right on -- I know exactly what she is feeling when she calls herself a cast iron pan. I can't wait to read this one in print.

Mary said...

You're story has great voice. The writing is lovely. I LOVE it. Reminds me a bit of the story EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS by Deborah Wiles. The one thing that drew my attention was your character lives in California but the phrases and tone seem very southern.

Otherwise it's a real peach. Good luck!

Tara said...

Oooh, the writing here is beautiful and I'm totally hooked--I want to know what Grandma is about to say! I especially like "all-slushy-odds" and Grace's description of herself as a cast iron pan.

Grammatical nit: In the logline, you don't need that last comma between "Grandma" and "and."

And in the first paragraph of the 250, I didn't love how the word "all" was repeated in the first and second sentences--I thought it made them sound too similar. Perhaps something like "That was it" would work better for the second sentence.

I hope to get to read the rest of this someday and wish you lots of luck with it.

Michael G-G said...

Very nice writing. My favorite line is: "She’d told me once that daisies spoke in a kind of song, a secret humming that birds could feel in their hollow bones." Such great rhythm here.

The only brief stumble for me, was in the second to last paragraph, the transition between the sentences "...over yet. One of the only..." I wouldn't be afraid of putting in an "It was one of the only..." Yes, yes, I know that people get out their gatling guns to blast any "was" off the blank page, but "it was" has its uses.

But this is something minor and easily fixed. The overall impression I take away is of someone who knows how sentences work and who can use words for their proper ends. In short, an excellent writer.

Add to this the interesting premise, and I'd say you have a winner. Good luck!

Kate Larkindale said...

The writing is beautiful here and your voice is spot on. I love her description of herself as cast iron.

The logline though, does you no favors. It's too short and the story seems very generic. And your writing is anything but!

Cortney Pearson said...

I loved the excerpt, beautiful, contemplative writing. Love love your opening line and the daisy song concept! I got a real feel of sadness, which is completely appropriate for this scene, nice work! The logline, however, didn't reel me in, so I was happy that your writing did!!

Anonymous said...

I hate to be redundant, but the word "lyrical" is a beautiful description of your writing. Great title, too! The log line does need work. I wonder if you could use the "In all our wandering..." line somehow? "In all their wandering across the great state of California, Mama had never mentioned her home town, Auburn Valley. Or her mother. When Mama dies suddenly, Grace, 13, finds herself in Auburn Valley, with a grandmother ... Well, that's my puny attempt; you can surely improve on it, but I think using something more "Grace-like" would definitely be a better draw.

Amanda Sun said...

Absolutely beautiful writing. I love this piece, love the voice, the premise, everything! I'm definitely hooked and would want to read more.

With the logline, I'm wondering why her mother would want to warn her away from her grandmother. Is it that Grace is dealing with feelings of guilt for building a relationship with her grandma?

Beth Hull said...

Echoing what everyone said above - the writing is lovely. Beautiful beginning.

And again, echoing others: the log line needs some work. It doesn't do the excerpt justice.

I'm a sucker for beautiful writing and would devour this book.

Sarah Shumway said...

#38 THE SECRET HUM OF A DAISY

Logline: There’s an edge in this pitch, especially with the idea that Grace’s mom is sending warnings that she shouldn’t have a relationship with her Grandmother. I’m intruigued, though I wonder how dark it can go for a mg audience.

Line notes: The logline says Grace has a “deepening” relationship with Grandma, but the penultimate paragraph tells a different story with the “one of the only facts she’d shared with me” line. But then it swings back around again when Grandma takes her hand and squeezes. I’m feeling more confused that I think I should in the opening scene. I’d rather see the doubt unfold, than to be faced immediately with contradiction.
I share the concern about daisies blooming in slushy conditions before winter is over. I’m not a Californian, but this doesn’t paint a picture I recognize. Does it need to be winter?

Overall: I do like my middle grade to have strong emotional pull. There’s clearly some heartbreak here, and I suspect from this sample that you can pull the strings.

Gail Shepherd said...

This is excellent.

Lauren MacLeod said...

5 pages please!

Sarah Davies said...

25 pages.

Josh Getzler said...

10 (no puppies!)

Sarah LaPolla said...

50 pages!

Tamar Rydzinski said...

75 pages

Melissa Jeglinski said...

90 pages

Lauren MacLeod said...

95 pages.

Josh Getzler said...

100

Tamar Rydzinski said...

110 pages

Ammi-Joan Paquette said...

the full please!

Lauren MacLeod said...

149 pages.

Lauren MacLeod said...

You cant go full till it gets to 150!

Ammi-Joan Paquette said...

crap, I can't do that!
Make it 120

Tamar Rydzinski said...

150 pages

Tamar Rydzinski said...

full!

Lauren MacLeod said...

Full

Ammi-Joan Paquette said...

full

Lauren MacLeod said...

Tamar!!!!!

Ammi-Joan Paquette said...

you guys are FAST!!!

Authoress said...

BIDDING ON THIS ITEM IS NOW CLOSED!

(LOL)

Sarah LaPolla said...

D'oh! Stop having the same taste & being faster than me, guys!

danielle chiotti said...

Wow. You guys are fast. I'm (fashionably) late to the party today.

Victoria Marini said...

I need a whole new system next year - you are all speed demons!

Linda Covella said...

The title is very intriguing. I agree with the others—wondering about the daisies in winter. But this looks like the start to a very heartwarming story with a little mystery thrown in. Good luck!!