Wednesday, March 11, 2015

March Secret Agent #45

GENRE: YA magical realism

You’re not supposed to whistle at the Northern Lights. According to Arctic legend, those colored waves of light are the souls of the dead streaming across the night. They don’t pay us living people much attention, but if you whistle, they’ll swoop down and carry you off forever.

I know it’s true because my mother whistled at them.

When I was ten months old, she took me out of the house at midnight. She’d dressed me in my snowsuit and two hats, one over the other, nesting cozies for the baby egg of my head. Silent, she carried me through Itigajaq, the tiny hamlet where I was born, and stepped out onto the frozen fjord.

Everyone says I was too young to remember any of it, but sometimes when I’m just about to fall asleep I see her face, a strand of black hair caught on her cheek, and so many stars over us that it looks like a blizzard frozen in time. The lights were a long line of ectoplasmic green, their edges hinting at pink, wavering from one horizon to the other.

Miles from nowhere and nothing, my mother stopped. She held me tight to her chest, pressed her nose against my hats, and whispered my name. Elisapie. I curled into her, sleepy and safe. Then she tipped her head back and whistled. It wasn’t a song; it was a call.

The wave of electric light curved down. It took her.

It left me there, alone on the ice.


  1. what can I say? I'm certaintly hooked
    ! I love magical realism and this book definitely sounds up my alley. I love the atmosphere, the mystery, the description. Very good job! Not cheerleading here ... Just envious! ;)

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  3. Definitely hooked! What a unique idea. I'm definitely curious to see where this goes. how it's affected her life, what it has to do with our world...

    Good luck!

  4. Wow. Great beginning. Took me to another world.

    About my only suggestion would be to lengthen the description of the northern lights (ectoplasmic green...)

  5. I love the description and the way you establish the setting! I also love magical realism, and this captures the feel of the genre. I only have small comments. In the first paragraph, the rhyming of Light, light, and night slowed me. And while I love how this section ends, with the mother being taken and the child left, the short sentences of "it left her" and "it took me" felt a bit abrupt compared to the poetic language of the rest of the selection. I think you could be a bit more descriptive of HOW it took her: did she vanish, did it carry her into the sky, etc. But overall, I really like this and I'm curious to see where it goes!

  6. What a beautiful vivid description!! I love the colors and the vibrancy. The aurora's are something of an obsession of mine. I would certainly keep reading to see where this story goes. I want to know what happened to her mother and I would also like to see more of how she was taken. Was it a sweeping of color, was it a single arm of green that wrapped around her?

  7. Great first sentence and nice rhythm! It's all very beautiful, mysterious, poetic in rhythm and then swiftly,that changed. I felt the cold reality with those last short three sentences-nicely done. I'd definitely read more! All the best!

  8. I would love to read more!

  9. I'm hooked! I loved the way you established the setting. It's beautiful and yet still mysterious. I'm not sure if you need the "us" in the third sentence, but that's a minor point. I loved the "blizzard frozen in time" line. I am curious how the narrator (not sure if it's a boy or girl), who was only 10 months old and supposedly too young to remember, is able to tell us exactly what happened. Maybe that's explained later in the book. I'd read more to find out! Good job and good luck!

  10. You certainly have intrigued me. I've always been fascinated with the Northern Lights and I love the spin you've put on it with the whistling. I would have loved a bit more description of how the Lights took the mother though. And how was the baby left? In my head I pictured the mother disappearing and the baby smacking into the ice. I would read on. Good luck.

  11. I love this beginning. Both the story and the writing drew me in. For some reason, I got a little stuck on the third sentence. It seems to break the poetic flow of the paragraph -- I agree with the commenter who suggested deleting "us." You may explain this later, but I also wondered if it is just any whistle, or if you have to do a special kind of whistle (could people accidentally be taken away by casual whistling?). You've got me wanting to read the story and find out!

  12. Love this - pulled me right in and left me disappointed when I got to the end. My only comment would be, despite some of the comments above wanting more description of the lights and how her mother was taken, I thought that section was over described already - given that it is the recollection of an infant.

  13. Whoa. Nice.
    I would say also that I'm wondering how the baby avoided a concussion from dropping down into the ice. Otherwise, rock on!

  14. Honestly, this is wonderful. The language is poetic, and the concept is highly intriguing. I'd read on.

  15. This is tremendously engaging, with great description, economical details, and a central mystery right up front. I would absolutely keep reading.

    Personally, I would prefer the mystery to be a little more mysterious. The very concrete lines, "The wave of electric light curved down. It took her. / It left me there, alone on the ice." actually seemed too realistic to me. Maybe if they were not such short, declarative sentences, but maintained the lilting lyricism of the rest of the passage, they would be more effective in sustaining the mood. As written, they took me out of the mystical enchantment and into a place where I was wondering, wait, no injuries to an infant who got dropped on ice? Wait, how did the baby get home? I don't want to have THOSE questions, I want to be wondering about this mother & why the heck she whistled.

  16. I am a fan of magical realism so I appreciate that you set up in the first page a tone that seems very appropriate to the genre. There are some nice images like:
    "the baby egg of my head"
    "the lights were a long line of ectoplasmic green"
    "the wave of electric light curved down"

    Your description is generally very strong and I think it can even be made stronger in a subsequent draft - especially the first paragraph. I think the use of 2nd person there undercuts the natural mysticism of the scene or memory you are establishing. So I would reconsider that.

    What also draws me out is the memory of a ten month old - it is jarring because it creates a moment of "no way!" in the reader (how poetic I am!). Maybe qualify it more so it does not challenge credulity.

    A very nice beginning and I want to continue reading.
    If I might recommend a book....anyone interested in magical realism should read The Master and Margarita by Michael Bulgakov (translated from the Russian)

  17. I love everything about this. You are an incredibly strong writer and you've done everything right here. I love the folklore that you worked in--it makes for a very compelling opening. I have an immediate sense of setting and character. What can I say? I'm hooked and I want to read more. Sorry, Authoress! I wish I could be more constructive here, but I'm too busy looking at that frozen blizzard of stars. I want more!

  18. Congrats to the writer on getting the request! I didn't get through reading all the entries last week. I love magical realism. Good luck!