Wednesday, May 20, 2015

May Secret Agent #14

GENRE: Middle Grade Fantasy

“There was something odd about that summer camp where your parents met,” Grandma said. Her gray eyes swept the room with the sad look she got when she talked about the past.

I followed her gaze over the stacks of newspapers, ringing us like yellowed skyscrapers. They formed a nest with just enough room for Grandma’s recliner and a bench for Lindsey and me. Lindsey had come over to make origami cranes, and Grandma was helping us cut the newspaper for folding.

“What was odd?” I asked.

She hesitated, and I could see the questions brimming, creasing the wrinkles in her face into worry lines.

“I can’t remember, Stella.” Her hands fell weak on her lap. “But I found something yesterday. It’s by the sink. An old box that belonged to your mother.”

My mother? A surge of excitement zipped through my feet, and I jumped up so fast the origami cranes scattered to the floor.

Lindsey followed me through the mounds of boxes and baskets lining the hallway, and into the kitchen where neat piles of dishes, pots and pans covered every surface.

“Your grandma has amazing collections,” she said, her blonde braids swishing as she peered at the stacks. I could tell she was itching to explore them again, but something inside me was drumming hurry, hurry.

I scanned the room and found a rusty box beside the sink. Faint letters scratched in the lid spelled “Franny.”

“My mother’s name.” The words stuck in my throat.


  1. The sentence "questions brimming" tripped me up. The grandma is not asking questions, but answering one. Am I reading that wrong?

    I get that the grandma is a hoarder and is possibly losing her memory, and I think it makes her a good character. I like the hook that the mother (apparently long gone) was at a weird summer camp, so I am guessing it is a camp that will be revealed to be a "school for kids with some power".

    I would just say be careful since there are so many books now with special schools and super powers, etc that you will have to work hard to keep it from becoming cliche.

  2. Well, I'm intrigued. The writing could be tightened up a little, but this has definitely caught my attention and I would want to read on to find out what happened to Franny at this summer camp.

  3. It caught my attention, the one *huh* was when the friend said her grandmother had amazing collections when most kids would say weird. Nice, but still weird.

  4. I like the voice of this character. The only suggestion I have is to add more sensory information. Smells. Sounds. I'd keep reading.

  5. I'm intrigued by Grandma's many amazing collections and the treasures to be found in the boxes and in your story. My favorite image was the "nest" of stacks of newspapers that ringed Grandma like skyscrapers.

    Someone commented on tightening the language. Here's one way you could tighten Gramdma's dialogue in the 5th paragraph:

    “But I found an old box that belonged to your mother. By the sink.”

    I'd read on to find out what happens!

  6. While there are a lot of interesting sentences and nicely built tension, I don't feel centered in the story. I feel as though I am reading in the middle and I'm missing a beginning. I would consider where your story really starts as I read I feel off-balance.

  7. I like your writing and I like your voice. You especially do a nice job setting the scene. But this doesn't feel like the start of a story; I feel like I've picked up a story mid-chapter. If this is indeed your opening, reconsider that. I don't feel placed in this world, nor am I invested in these characters.

    Otherwise, nice work.

  8. I really liked your write---craftwise, it is excellent! I think perhaps you could start out with a little gentler opening, something that will help us know why we should care about this character and her parents. I really like the picture of oragami--maybe something on that.
    Plus: GREAT title.