Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July Secret Agent #30

TITLE: Fly Away Home
GENRE: Upper MG (magical realism)

Mandy pulled a marigold out of the vase and snapped the stem short. “You look handsome, Grandpa,” she said, and stuck the golden-orange blossom in his button hole.

“Thank you, darlin’.” He grinned and bent at the waist in a courtly bow. “Got to make a good impression on the judges.”

Mandy rinsed her cereal bowl and left it in the sink, then followed Grandpa outside to the old white truck. She yanked hard to unstick the rusty passenger-side door. Grandpa was already revving the engine, the sound muffled in the fog that clung to the hills. They bumped down the gravel road, tires churning up a cloud of dust, then turned onto the blacktop that led to the highway.

The engine thrummed a steady, rumbling rhythm and the truck’s heater blasted stale warmth. The dewy fields and orchards sped by, row after row, mile after mile, the colors and patterns flowing together in a blur.

“How much longer, Grandpa?” The ride was taking forever.

Grandpa winked at her. “Almost there. Half an hour, tops.”

Mandy rolled down the window and squinted her eyes against the rushing wind. Her hair whipped around – it almost felt like she was flying. She’d whoosh right out the window and up into the air, soaring high into the blue sky, the cool wind under her wings. She smiled to herself. Arms. The cool wind under her arms.

Loose papers began blowing around inside the truck. Mandy rolled the window closed.

“You feelin’ sick? Want me to pull over?”


  1. Yes, I would definitely read on. This is a shining, shining example of how to show instead of tell. I know exactly where they are from the cloud of dust you described and the trees -- incredible writing, really. It's the kind of writing I like to savor. Also, my interest jumped off the charts when she said wings instead of arms. So subtle, which makes it excellent. It's like giving me just one potato chip. Well done! Good luck!

  2. wonderful description of setting and characters! the beginning did't capture my interest, but this line surely did: "the cool wind under her wings. She smiled to herself. Arms. The cool wind under her arms." intriguing! would definitely read further to satisfy my curiosity. i love well-written magical realism. =)

  3. oops, i meant "didn't" above. =)

  4. Truly an intriguing piece right from the start. Mandy's out-of-body experience locked my attention.Also, I love the language: 'steady, rumbling rhythm,' blasted stale warmth.' A hint at time of day would be helpful as well as a hint about what will be judged and by whom (it's hard to see everything in 250 words).

  5. I'd like to know a little more about where they're going but it is beautiful. Great job. I just hope we get a little more conflict soon. Otherwise, you're totally on the right track!

  6. Wonderful job describing the setting! Your details are subtle and inviting. I had a little bit of trouble blocking the scene in my head. Is it foggy? If so, how can the roads be dusty? It's summer time (the wind is cool, the orchards are in bloom), so why does Grandpa have the heater on in the truck? I understand, it's impossible to answer every question in 250 words.

  7. This is nicely written, but I thought some of the imagery takes away from its overall success. You start off with going to court and then it's dropped, and that's the first thing that catches my attention. They're going to court. Why? But there are no answers or hints because we're admiring the scenery.

    I'm assuming you started with court for a reason, and that it must matter. Perhaps let us know why they're going or give us a hint as to whether GP is the accused, a witness, whatever. That, tied in with her wishing for wings would be a better draw than wings and scenery, I think.

  8. I absolutely loved the imagery too, truly great writing in all the little details. I felt like I could really see Grandpa and his musty car. Maybe you get to it later, but would like to know a little more about what Mindy thinks and her personality. I see she's impatient, but is she excited to go or worried? I know it's hard to convey everything in 250 words, but hoping you bring out her thoughts and personality a bit later. But already an amazing start!

  9. This is my entry -- thanks so much for the kind words!

    In the next few sentences, they arrive at the Exhibition Hall of the Oregon County Fair, where they set out their entry for the judges. The conflict becomes clear very soon, too.

  10. This is nicely written but not much really happens. I wonder if this is the right place to start the story. It almost seems like a dreamy remembrance of the quiet time just before the interesting stuff starts. If so, better to start with the interesting stuff and place this farther along in the story as a wistful memory.

  11. love, love love it. Not even a nitpick.

  12. I love the dynamic between grandfather and granddaughter here, and you do a nice job setting the scene. I get a very charming, old-fashioned vibe from your writing. I would love some more details about what is being judged and where your characters are off to. Nice hint of magical realism when Mandy think about her wings, but would she then edit herself to say “arms” if she isn’t talking out loud? Other than this, some sense of what type of journey we’re in for would be helpful – whether it has to do with the judging or something else.