Wednesday, January 14, 2015

January Secret Agent #22

GENRE: YA LGBT Contemporary

I roll over to check if the milk is frozen. Neatly stacked in three crates of glass bottles, it’s solid. That probably means the apples and potatoes are frozen, too.

The omen of a bad day.

I could pray that the bottles won’t break as my bedroom warms with daylight. I could pray, but I won’t. If it’s going to get cold, it’s going to get cold, and all things—milk among them—freeze. There’s a life lesson for you.

My folded clothes lay on my nightstand, and I pull them into the warmth of the sleeping bag.

I am the salamander that once lived in the cellar. Joseph and I used to amuse ourselves by enticing it with earth- or mealworms. It would shoot from under the stone long enough to bite down before retreating. The salamander couldn’t guess we weren’t going to hurt it. It didn’t need to move fast, but I do. Otherwise, my body heat will escape. The chill will never leave me then.

In middle school, I slept in my clothes, the extra layer providing what the wood stove in the dining room can’t. But it took only one overheard conversation during that petrifying first week of high school before I stopped.

“Did you see Sarah’s shirt? It’s so wrinkly it looks like she slept in it.”

That was the last time I did.


  1. I like this! It's poignant, and that's a powerful place to stop.

    The only part that stood out to me is the salamander paragraph. "I am the salamander that once lived in the cellar" is a great metaphor, but it's unusual enough that I would want the next sentence to explain HOW she is being a salamander. That's kind of in the 3rd and 4th sentences of that paragraph, but by then I was already unclear.

    I'd personally just shift the sentences around--"I am the salamander that once lived in the cellar. [Some sentence about how she is moving quickly in and out of the sheets, just like the salamander moved.] [...And the "Joseph and I used to play with the salamander in the cellar" stuff at the end.]"

    ...Which I think would make the metaphor stand out more.

    But that's it! Poor girl. :(

  2. Great voice in this, and I like how you start with the frozen milk. You could make it a smidge more active by showing how the MC "checks" - tilting a bottle, for example? I also like the detail on pulling the clothes into the sleeping bag and the short memory of middle school. I was kind of thrown with the line about the salamander though. I wonder if it would make sense to add a half-sentence transition or to turn it into a simile instead. Good luck!

  3. I agree with Ellie and Laura that you could use a little more explanation on the I'm the salamander line. You describe the coldness perfectly. I feel for you main character having to suffer through cold her entire life. You show her vulnerability by caring what others have said about her wrinkled clothes in the past.

  4. Great voice here. I agree with the other comments on clarifying the salamander line. And I also kind of want to know why she's sleeping in the same room as the milk? But those are small things. I really like this.

  5. I love the frozen milk bit. Not sure why the bad omen line is on its own, because I don't think it needs to be. Usually a line on its own is left separate to stress, but I think saying bad omen is enough and you could move that line up.

    I was lost on the salamander paragraph. While it's beautifully written, it took me out of the moment/story and it took me a few lines to get back in. I don't think that's the effect you're really after.

    And I adored the sleeping in her clothes bit. I agree with Nataliewrites in that I didn't understand why she was sleeping in the same room as the milk, but that's a tiny thing.

    I think this is a strong start. Good luck!

  6. I. Love. This. Your writing is so clean and effortless. I think if you want to keep the salamander part, you would only need to add one word--like. I am *like* the salamander...That may clear things up? I love it. Living in Maine in a 1850's farmhouse with more holes than walls, I know cold winters. You have the chill and desolation just right. Good luck!

  7. Great writing voice! You do a good job of capturing the frigid scene with a unique detail--the milk. The only thing that was a bit jarring for me was the salamander paragraph--didn't feel like it added much about your MC. You do a really good job of conveying her shame about being poor. Overall, a very good first 250 words! Best of luck!

  8. I agree with everyone else that the strongest point is the voice. Great work there. It reminds me of Grasshopper Jungle a bit, but maybe that's just because I finished reading it recently. In any case, I like the hints about what's going on, but I don't really know what's going on as of now. For me, that would definitely propel me to read more!

  9. I like this too and agree to add in I am like the salamander would clear it up because I thought for a moment this was a fantasy and the salamander was talking! LOL. Great voice! Good luck!

  10. This opening gives us a good sense of voice and place. The salamander paragraph brought me a bit out of the story, and I don’t think it’s having quite the intended effect. You make us feel for your character from page one, which is great. I wouldn’t rely on having single sentences on their own too much, but save them for when you really want to pack a punch.