Wednesday, January 16, 2013

January Secret Agent #2

GENRE: MG Contemporary

The instant Mama clipped the rosebud, I started to pack. Sure as anything, we’d been kicked out of our house—forced to move somewhere we could afford. I figured we’d live in an apartment or the pay-by-the-week rental motel over by the highway.

Not a spooky-looking church.

“Faithee, you up?”

The metal cot frame squeaked as my little sister Hope tugged my covers, her raggedy Minnie Mouse doll rubbing my cheek. Across the darkened Sunday school room, Mama turned on her makeshift bed, rubbing her arms to keep warm. Any wonder she was shivering, seeing how her blanket was wadded in a ball on the floor. I knew she wouldn’t use it, even though the Shelter Network driver said it was freshly washed.

“Go back to sleep, Hope. It’s the middle of the night.”

“But Minnie wants to go home.”

I sat up, my eyes flitting to the three Hefty Cinch Saks propped against the Bible bookcase—our jeans and t-shirts bursting through the plastic drawstrings holding our lives together. Don’t you get it? I wanted to scream. We were thrown out. Forced into a shelter like stray dogs.

But then I glanced at the withered rosebud on the window ledge—the one Mama cut from Daddy’s garden. I remembered our big talk, where Daddy told me I needed to take responsibility and start helping out. As sick as he was, he knew Mama was falling apart.

“Get in,” I whispered, folding back the covers.


  1. I really, really like this. I don't think I've seen a MG dealing with living in a shelter and it's a topic that's so needed. In so few words, you really established character, especially your MC. You had me at the part where she protects her little sister. I would definitely read on.

  2. Wonderful. I love that her mom won't use the blanket. Great voice. I'm upset already and I've only read 250 words! I hope these girls will be alright.

  3. You may want to consider adding some more grounding here. I found myself a little lost at points. I don't think it is immediately clear that Hope is standing next to Faithee's cot. At first I thought they were sharing the cot. Also, the line "Go back to sleep, Hope..." could also have been said by Mama, since the reader's attention was focused on her, turning in her bed, her sleep disrupted. You may want to consider a dialogue tag or some additional context around the statement to make it clear that it is Faithee delivering this line. And I might want just a little more context about the significance of the rosebud :)

    The premise is interesting, though. Good luck!

  4. I love the voice. You've done well with characterization as well. Great job. You've already got me wishing I could find out what happens to the family.

  5. Love love love the first two paragraphs here. I think you do a great job setting the scene. I also like that your characters, who are in a church, have religious names. I like the idea of a MG contemporary dealing with homelessness, if that's where you're going. I'd read on for sure.

  6. Interesting premise but I need to know more about who is talking to who because it is unclear at times. If you could clarify then that would strengthen everything. The first time the little sister talks for example, I was unsure that it was she who was speaking because I had not been introduced to her yet. It sounds very intriguing and I would like to read more. Some of the language is questionable - like "stray dogs" - because I think someone who lived in a world like this would be grateful for a warm place to sleep. Apparently, it is the mother who is responsible for this way of life so I would be interested to see the dynamics of that relationship play out.

  7. As a whole, this is a terrific concept that deals with a sensitive issue that deserves attention. However, the way you've written it is a bit rough, especially your opening, because it's unclear. I expected to see Mama clipping rosebuds from a bush, but I couldn't make the connection it had with packing. Sure as anything? That's as vague as can be. I think you need to rearrange your prose to clarify what's going on.

    I like the characters, and I like Faith's internalized thoughts. However, the choreography gets confusing when it's unclear where Hope is and then who tells Hope it's the middle of the night. I thought the mother had spoken, but from the other comments, I'm apparently mistaken.

    You have a decent start, you just need to polish it up. Good luck!

  8. I had to reread this a couple of times to understand what was going on. I like the first line, but wasn't such a fan of the rest of the opening paragraph. I think you could segue into the shelter a bit more smoothly.

    I was also a bit thrown by the 'Hefty Cinch Saks' - do you need to use a brand name here, is it that important? For some reason it took me out of the story.

    Overall, the writing is fine, and I really like the detail about the blanket, as well as how she lets her little sister into her bed at the end.

    However I don't think I'd read on, sorry. I read it again, trying to figure out why, and I think it's because, although they're in a shelter so we wonder where their lives will go from here - that's the only story question, and I want something more intriguing and specific to entice me to read on. Entirely my subjective opinion, of course.

  9. I like your voice, but I didn’t wasn’t excited about the rosebud as the framing device. I might omit the first paragraph altogether. This seems like a quiet story, which can be a problem in middle-grade, although the setting in the homeless shelter could set it apart, if done authentically. You’ve got nice details, and established the relationships well. So, I’m intrigued, but not completely hooked.