Wednesday, September 10, 2014

September Secret Agent #21

TITLE: Among the Red Stars
GENRE: YA Historical

The voice on the radio spat out a few intelligible words before melting back into static. "…Large crowd here, despite the gloomy weather. They are all looking up, hoping to catch the first glimpse of…"

"Pasha, you're messing it up," said Valya. The ink from a newspaper clipping was rubbing off on her palm.

Valya, Iskra, and Pasha sat on wobbly wooden chairs that had been pulled out into the middle of the apartment's sole room, their slippered feet tucked behind the chair legs. Valya was a tanned, trousered fifteen-year-old, mostly elbows and knees, with rubber band-fastened brown braids tumbling out from under a red scarf. Pasha was often taken for Valya's relative, even though he wasn't. Iskra, a few years older, was never taken for her relative, even though she was.

Pasha's parents occupied the two comfortable chairs, his mother mending a dress and his father smoking and reading the communist newspaper simply titled Pravda. His pigtailed sisters sat on their bed, playing with an amorphous, eyeless stuffed animal that they claimed was a dog.

"The clips on the coil are a little rusty, that's all," said Pasha, a boy with an awkwardly proportioned face that looked like it had been assembled out of the wrong pieces. He hopped off his chair and, crouching next to his precious radio, reached reached into its wire and wood innards, absentmindedly singing the folk song, "Kalinka, kalinka, kalinka moya."

"We're going to miss it," said Valya.


  1. I really like the first line, and also how the second makes me wonder what they are looking up at and enticing me to read on.

    At first, I wasn't sure where they were, so Pravda was a great way of showing it.

    I also like the description of who looks like a realtive and who doesn't and the amorphous stuffed animal.

    The only two super nit-picky comments I have are if you could describe Pasha's face as he does something (like squinting at the coil) instead of just describing it.

    The other is a typo: "reached" is doubled in the last paragraph.

    Great job! Good luck with this!

  2. I like it! I feel like you don't need their physical descriptions there - they can wait until later and get worked in better.

  3. I liked it a lot for the same reasons commented above. I also agree that the physical descriptions aren't fitting in well at this point. Although I do think the 'relative, not a relative' comments still work.

  4. What worked best for me is how effortlessly you put me in the mind of Soviet Russia, just from the little details. The staticky radio, the gloomy weather, the wobbly wooden chairs. And yes, the names, too, but even before that, you'd conveyed such a clear sense of mood.

    Well done!

  5. Very nice work. A few minor suggestions:

    1. "apartment's sole room" is awkward. Maybe change to "one-room apartment," or just eliminate sole room and say "middle of the apartment."

    2. Eliminate "simply titled" before Pravda.

    3. "amorphous" seems a bit beyond YA.

    4. "an awkwardly proportioned face" could be shortened to "an awkward face," especially since you go on to give more detail.

    5. "He hopped off his chair and, crouching next to his precious radio," could be shortened to, "He hopped down next to his precious radio," especially since the sentence continues from there.

    The radio broadcast suggests some sort of aviation event, or someone arriving by air. I assume this is Pre-WWII Soviet Russia and not an American immigrant tenement setting because it would have been a violation of the Sedition Act to receive Pravda by mail in the U.S. That's quite a setting to tackle! The inclusion of the folk song is a nice touch. Best of luck.

  6. I LOVE THIS. You've chosen the perfect details to let us know exactly where in history we are.

    I love the descriptions, especially the one of Valya, but I agree with the others that it detracts from the pace a bit here. Save it and sneak it in in a page or so.

  7. Wow, I really like the details you provide and how they are worked into the story. Your descriptions are great. I agree with the above comments about slipping a little more action up front and springing the description in a bit later. Great piece!

  8. The physical descriptions slowed the whole pace of this down. I'd cut them out and sprinkle those details in later. Well done, setting the scene.

  9. I love the voice of this piece and the kalinka, kalinka singing. Maybe trust the reader a little bit more? You could try moving the 3rd and 4th paragraphs to points in the story where the reader is starting to wonder about each detail.
    Fascinating story world.