Wednesday, May 16, 2018

May Secret Agent Contest #21

TITLE: Art Girl
GENRE: YA Contemporary

The bristles of the brush eased over the canvas and the light coat of black and white made it glow. I was retouching an old painting of a starry sky in an attempt to spark back my lost art mojo. The day I created this, the topic was ‘Freedom’ and I had thought of all the unlimited possibilities in the sky. Cheesy, but at the time, the idea possessed me.

Now, I laughed at the irony. I didn’t feel any sense of freedom anymore. The concept of stars reminded me that we only saw the past in the sky. Not the present or the future.

Mr. Akhiro placed his hand on my shoulder. “Your work is fantastic, Lillie.”

Tension slipped away from my shoulders. As I inhaled the familiar, bitter scent of oil paints in the art room, I ignored the compression in my chest. Lunch time was almost over so I had to leave.

The upcoming submission to an art gallery was due in one month, where an outside judge would pick the best artist. While the cash prize attracted every art student in Lincoln High, Mr. Akhiro narrowed down the list to ten, with my name being first on the list. He needed my best paintings because he knew it was my golden ticket to university—an opportunity at a dream that would otherwise be out of reach for me because of my family’s financial status.

If only I could paint.

"They will love your work," he assured.


  1. This felt more like an essay than a story intro to me--there's quite a bit of telling and most everything is in the MC's head. It also feels a bit contradictory because the teacher is saying her artwork is great, but she's saying "if only I could paint".

    I would try to set this up in a way that really creates some tension. I'm assuming the story is hinging on her getting chosen for this contest so she can go to college, so I'd really focus on that. What will happen if she doesn't get this? What is standing in the MC's way? Good luck!

  2. Your hook is stellar. I love this! If I could paint just needs one more thing. like 'If only I could still paint well' something like that. But I do love it

  3. I love how you infused the sense of smell. I could practically smell the paint. I also felt her tension leave when she did. Nice! Oh, and the opening sentence is great!

  4. I love the opening line. You've got a knack for imagery. I agree with cbaz, the one thing this is missing is her tension. Bring it out with some internal thoughts and feelings. Let the reader feel the tension as much as your MC does. She wants a perfect picture, make the reader want it too. Good luck!

  5. love how the first 250 words work on so many levels, its tells the drastic different between the state of her mind and the way people perceive her, this can be a real challenge for a teenager. cant wait to read more, when i get the chance. Good luck, Art Girl

  6. In these early words I can already feel her disappointment with herself. That's strong. I also love the visuals and the use of smell here. Many people forget that sense, especially early on, yet it really grounds us in this scene and weaves in with the art theme.

  7. I love the mood in this sample. I love the word play and the imagery in the painting that creates sets the tone. However, this feels a bit sleepy for me. If I were a CP, I might try to convince this author to consider opening with "If only I could paint." And then building on that anchor thought from there. It may just be a rearrangement that could conjure up a bit of tension and agency in the opening, but as it stands, for me, it feels too sleepy.

    That said, I love the writing.

    Thank you so much for sharing!

    Thank you for sharing!