Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Adorable Editors Winners #5

TITLE: A Hundred Frogs, Even
GENRE: MG Contemporary

I would have given Mom a good-bye hug, but StepThad’s arm rested across her shoulder. Like the two of them were glued together. Double hug or nothing.

My giant duffel bag and I stood, immobile, in the shadow of the camp check-in tent.

“Have fun this week.” Mom’s smile was directed at me, but I could tell. She was really focused on StepThad.

“We have to go. I can’t be late,” my sister said. “Remember the rules.”

“Don’t tell Grace what to do,” Mom said.

“I’m helping her.”

"She's helping me," I echoed.

Mom and StepThad turned as a unit and headed for the car. Zoe tossed me my backpack.

Too light. I checked. The only thing left inside was Zoe’s Teen Vogue magazine. My mouth fell open.

Zoe grinned. “Much more fun.”

“But I was in the middle--”

“That Laura Ingalls Wilder biography. I know.” She covered a fake yawn. “But--”

“Stop. If you really want people to treat you like you’re a star--”

I whispered the words. “You have to be the coolest all the time.”

“So do it. You’ll have fun.” She whirled and sprinted to catch up with Mom and StepThad, leaving me on my own. My superstar cheerleader sister made everything look easy.

If things had worked out, I would have been going to cheerleading camp in the valley with Zoe. Her junior varsity squad and my rising-sixth-grade squad. All of us together. Except things didn’t work out. Not for me.


  1. This is an interesting set up with a kid who nothing quite works her way. I was a bit confused by the empty backpack. I re-read and it seems you are saying the older sister took the book she was reading away, but at first I thought she had stolen all her clothing, etc.

    I was also unsure of why she didn't complain to her parents. I get they are engrossed in each other, but mom did correct the older sister once. Why would the MC protect someone who is being mean?

    Overall, I think I would read on to see how this MC handles her misfortune.

  2. This is a nice, clear, simple set-up, and I'd read on - but I would hope that we'd dive straight into the action at camp/ learn more about the MC now without any more setting up.

    ADORE the title.

  3. Interesting set-up in the opening there, and I'd definitely read on, but I found the move into the next scene -- with exposition -- a little disappointing. I'd like to see more of Grace, get a feeling for her character and her apparent conflict between her personality and her desire for popularity. I think a move towards action next would be a good step, rather than more set-up.

  4. Love the beginning of this. Simple, clear prose makes this really zip along.

    I got confused with the backpack being empty and I had trouble following the short bit of dialogue that comes after that. In fact, I've read it three times and I'm still not sure what they are really saying.

    Although I love the opening line and the empty backpack angle is intriguing, I don't feel a sense of conflict yet. This is a long time to go in a MG novel without introducing some definitive action or a conflict between two characters. Does Grace get mad at her sister? Does she try to get her clothes or book back? Could you introduce a sense of conflict with this instead of having Grace simply accept it?

  5. I like the voice. My only hang up was the mother correcting the older sister for telling the younger sister what to do--despite the fact that she told her to remember the rules. (This struck me as an unlikely mom move.) I realize now after rereading it that Zoe isn't referring to the camp rules. This was only evident to me on the second time through.

    The MC referring to her stepfather as 'StepThad' is great.

  6. Intriguing title! Promising premise. I like the term "Step-Thad!

    I must be the only one who got confused as to who was who, though. I was juggling the MC (I), Mom, Step-Thad, my sister, Grace, and Zoe before I figured out who was who.

    Since Mom had just spoken (“Have fun this week.”), I wasn't sure who the sister was talking to. I think it would be clearer if you said: “We have to go. I can’t be late,” Zoe said. “Remember the rules, Grace.” Then: “Don’t tell your sister what to do,” Mom said.

    I, also, had to reread about the empty backpack, thinking the sister had taken clothes and everything out of it. And I think you have an unattributed bit of dialogue in there:

    “That Laura Ingalls Wilder biography. I know.” She covered a fake yawn. “But--” (This is Zoe.)

    “Stop. If you really want people to treat you like you’re a star--” (Who said this?)

    I whispered the words. “You have to be the coolest all the time.”
    (This is Grace.)

  7. I loved "Step Thad." That was very clever and definitely the kind of name a 6th-grade girl would think of for a stepfather she wasn't sure about.

    I kind of got lost with the dialogue, though. I guess I wasn't yet grounded enough in the story to be able to tell who was talking and what was going on. I got that Mom and Step Thad were dropping her off at some camp, and someone was going to be late for something, but I didn't understand the conversation between the sisters and it left me with so many questions that I was more frustrated than intrigued. Perhaps, if you added a bit more exposition into the scene, to really ground us in the situation, that would help. (Not too much, because you don't want a big info-dump, but a few hints as to what's going on would be nice.)

  8. I like the title for a MG book and can imagine the fun & adventures Grace will have at camp, but think this needs some smoothing to really pull the reader in. I also love the step-father's name. I think the dialog might need some smoothing to flow more naturally.

    A few suggestions:
    The duffel bag can’t stand—it has no legs. I get what you’re saying but it doesn’t really work as it's written.

    “Mom’s smile was directed at me, but I could tell. She was really focused on StepThad.” I dislike these lines. I’d rather see why she feels Mom is like that rather than being told. Right now, the Mom character feels very flat.

    The exchange between the sisters and their mom is awkward.

    And this is probably just a formatting issue with posting it online, but after the sister covered a fake yawn, the “But—” should be on its own line since Grace is saying it. As it reads now, I thought Grace was saying “Stop…” until I got to the next line.

    The last paragraph is very telling. I think there is a way to give all that information in a more wistful, wishful, longing kind of way.

    As it is now, I don't have a clear view of how Grace feels about the camp she’s going to. Also, I don’t know what kind of camp she's going to, just that it isn’t cheerleading camp. Maybe add that info in sooner.

    You've set up a nice intro. I'd be interested to see what action happens next.

  9. I agree with the comments about the confusion as to the dialogue attributions.

    "Don't tell Grace what to do" confused me. The sister is just reminding her parents that she's due somewhere else by a certain time, not telling her sister to do anything.

    Maybe try a version where you mention her camp earlier? The reader goes along thinking she's not crazy about being at the camp in general, not because it's not cheerleading camp. Depending on the camp, there could be obnoxious camp leaders greeting them (i.e., with singing or something equally horrifying to a middle schooler). They might be required to wear something she doesn't want to wear?

    I'm interested to see what kind of camp this is and what happens to the MC.

  10. There were a couple of rough spots, but overall, I really enjoyed this excerpt. You did a great job of showing that Grace's mom is newly re-married and all wrapped up in her romance, at the expense of paying attention to her children. (Or at least, that's how Grace sees it, which is good enough for me at this point.)

    I had the same responses as some other commenters, getting lost in that bit of dialogue between the sisters near the end. I also wasn't sure if Zoe was also being dropped off (Zoe throwing the backpack after Mom turns away made me think she was staying), so I felt a little off-balance.

    The one piece of info I'd like to have in this section is what kind of camp this is. We know it isn't cheerleading camp, where she wanted to be, so why is she concerned about people treating her like a star?

    These are nits. I would definitely keep reading.

    Oh, and count me as one more vote for Step-Thad.

  11. Hey, there!

    It's the editor who chose your story. I have to agree with what many others have already said: I love the direction the title is going in (the visual of 100 frogs is so fun--I hope it factors somewhere into your story) and I love the nickname "StepThad," which already shows a distance between the two. These factors largely contributed to why I chose your story--so good job on that front!

    I also appreciate the dialogue and pacing. It feels quick and bouncy and it drops us right into a scene--all perfect set-up for middle-grade.

    The good news is that you have a terrific starting-off point, and with some polishing, this could get even better.

    First of all, I'd love to actually hear from StepThad. I imagine he's the sort of character where one word or phrase would tell you all you need to know about him. It's clear he has some power over Mom, but let's actually see it. Mom herself is sweet, but he has such a presence that he's distracting her from dropping her kids off at camp, where they'll presumably be without contact for at least a few days/weeks/maybe even months depending on the camp. Why would Mom say goodbye so easily? And does she really want to or is StepThad calling all the shots?

    I love the differences you've already set up between Grace and her sisters, Zoe. Zoe is a cheerleader who reads magazines. Grace loves reading novels. They seem like total opposites...so why is Grace bummed that she's not going to cheerleading camp? Is she really into cheerleading? If she isn't, then is her motivation to be with Zoe? Because Zoe is decidedly eager to get going and leaves Grace with "words of wisdom" that only relate to "how to be cool" and popular.

    Like others have said, I think it would help to know what kind of camp Grace is ending up at. That will tell us A LOT. Because right now I'm just not convinced she'd be upset about not going to a cheerleading camp full of JV "superstars" when she'd clearly rather be reading a collection of novels. You'd have a much stronger cliffhanger at the end of this passage if we ended on the type of camp Grace will be forced to spend her summer (or whatever length of time you've designated) in.

    I think there's a lot of good stuff brewing here. We just need to flesh out the details and the characters as well as their motivations more.

    Keep writing! Tie those sentence down and don't show them any mercy until they are perfect in your eyes. I know you can do it!

    All my best,

  12. I thought this worked pretty well except for that last parg. Everything before it happens in the moment. In that last parg, you jump out of the story to tell the reader what the outcome is, that things won't work out. I'd suggest cutting that and staying within the bounds of the story. Show us something happening at that moment at camp that let's the reader know things aren't going to work out.