Wednesday, March 30, 2016

March Secret Agent #14

TITLE: September
GENRE: YA - Contemporary

     So my mom left. Not that I was shocked or anything. Let's just say it wasn't the first time. We always managed just fine on our own until she got back--sometimes a couple days, sometimes a week. This was the longest--23 days.

     Auggie and I were just minding our business, sitting at the table eating toast and peanut butter on a spoon, when we heard a knock on the door.

     Normally, I wouldn't have answered. Normally, I would have told Auggie to freeze and not make a sound, but this time, I was the one who froze. Auggie rushed over and swung that door open so fast, you would have thought he was expecting the puppy deliveryman.

     He just stood there and stared at whoever it was. I walked to the door and saw a plump woman with a fake smile plastered on her lips, peering over her tiny hexagonal glasses and holding a clipboard. She looked like a lady who would collect cat figurines made of glass, or something stupid like that. I pictured her walking around her house, picking up each individual cat and swishing it with a feather duster. Checking it off on her clipboard.

     "Hello." She said. "You must be August and September. I'm Shirley with Child Protective Services."

     "Can I help you?" The words came out muffled as the peanut butter clogged the back of my throat. I put my arms around Auggie and pulled him close.


  1. I want to read more. I love the description of the lady and her glass cats. It makes me think that the writing that will follow will be a good mix of straightforward plot and interesting description. And I want the story on the names "August and September." I don't *love* starting the book with "so," but it didn't stop me from really liking the rest of this. Good Luck!

    1. I totally agree. (And with the horror stories coming out of CPS these days, this promises to be an interesting read, no matter how it turns out.)
      Maggie May

  2. I too love the cat offbeat as their names. I also think you might want to consider paring the first sentence down to "Mom left." I would definitely read on. :-)

  3. A lot of good details, but I think the opening is too abrupt or doesn't quite connect with what comes after. Feels like you either need more or you might fit that detail in later. Start with the woman from CPS coming and later learn mom left. Or something like, "sure my mom had been gone for 15 days, but she always came back."

  4. It's so hard to know how much to put into an opening, but I suppose really, it should tease the reader and make them curious. I very much like your set-up of the 2 kids alone without their mother. It appears to be a situation they are used to and able to cope with, which is quite unusual. Possibly you could build on this a bit more and make it even more intriguing (like a couple of specific but odd examples of how they manage to avoid child services, go to school, shop, cook or whatever is most interesting and unique about their situation) and keep the social worker for later on...

  5. I agree with removing so from the first sentence. It gives the impression of talking to the reader, which isn't matched anywhere else, so it feels off.

    I'd like to know why September froze that one time. (I love their names, btw). What changed, given that they're used to acting quickly?

    I love the description of the woman. Both very visual, and gives an insight into the character. Same with them eating peanut butter off the spoon. Little touches like this really build up the story.

    Finally, I hate to end on a grammar point, but make sure you check out the rules of dialogue formatting before you send it off to agents.

  6. I love the voice of September. I can already tell I'm going to like her.
    I think you should change the first sentence - it doesn't match the rest of what you have. Maybe, start with saying 23 days is the longest Mom has been gone.
    The sentence where the child protective agent says hello should have a comma not a period.
    Great premise and voice - I would definitely read more.

  7. Nice opening! I particularly love your voice--it's strong and gives me a great sense of September's character. You also dive right into the conflict, which is always nice to see.

    My only critique is that I'd like to get more of September's reaction to Shirley saying she's from Child Protective Services. Given how often their mom disappears, and given that September knows not to answer the door, I imagine that she knows what Child Protective Services are for and wants to avoid them. She also pulls Auggie close, making me think she's being protective for this reason. But we have no sense of if her stomach drops or she quietly panics. You've chosen first person narration, so you've got to provide that perspective or provide some kind of explanation for why September would be calm and nonchalant.

    I'd continue reading this if it was in my inbox :)

    Thanks for the entry!

  8. Great voice. This is good. The only thing that didn't ring true for me was September picturing this Child Services woman dusting glass cats. If she knows not to answer the door, she's thinking a thousand things right then, none of which have to do with dusting figurines. It's a fun line. Maybe you could use it elsewhere?