Wednesday, May 16, 2018

May Secret Agent Contest #33

TITLE: A High-Strung Italian Beauty
GENRE: YA Contemporary (Coming of age)

Maybe I should feel good that a new rider searched me out. Asked for advice. A lot of the junior-men cyclists crowded near the starting line are eighteen. Me, I’m only seventeen.

           But why should I help him? Hey, I don’t want to be a jag-off but I’ve never seen this guy before. Why should I tell him what I’ve learned from miles of sweat and blood and road rash?

            I’m not in this to be nice. I’m in this to win.

            He stares at me, waiting, like I owe him something. We straddle road bikes, minutes before the first pre-season race at the Oval. We’re not alone. Bunched around me is my team, the Burgh Boys, along with forty-two other riders from all over Pittsburgh.

            My buddy AJ says, “Go on, Sam. Give him something.”

            What the hell. I remember my first time. The nerves, the rush. Changed my life.

            “The beginning of a race, it’s an avalanche of sensory overload,” I say. “Don’t let the distractions wreck your focus.”

            The guy stares at me with his mouth open, like, huh? His face and thick neck flush red. He pushes off and disappears into the throng, muttering “asshole” under his breath.

            AJ stifles a laugh. “Really? You could’ve just told him what gear to use.”

            “He’s lucky I didn’t answer in French.”


            “Non. Un amateur.” Our high school requires a language. AJ and I’ll need French when we get to the Tour de France.


  1. Interesting lead in. Consider showing the question posed by the new rider.

  2. I like the concept of a character trying to get to the Tour de France. It's interesting and different! But I'm having trouble connecting with this scene. Can you help flesh out the setting more, the crowd pressing in, how he's feeling as he prepares to race, the smells and sounds? I agree with Tonya, what question did the new rider ask? And what does the new rider look like? A few concrete details would immerse us in the scene and make it pop more!

  3. I love the opening. There's nothing so exciting like the buzz before a big race, be it cycling or running or whatever. I had to read this twice, though, before I realized the new rider had asked a question. I think you should set the scene with all the riders around, the buzz at the starting line, smells, colors, all the sensory images at the start of a race and then have the new rider pose the question, followed by the exchange between Sam, his buddy A.J. and the new rider. Good luck!

  4. Refreshing to see cycling! And I was born and raised in the Burgh, so I love seeing some Pittsburghese. The title is a cute play on words (I think...if there's also a girl involved...). I really enjoyed the voice in this. It felt fresh! Dialogue was natural, however, Sam does seem like an asshole, given the follow-up conversation between Sam and AJ, as well as Sam’s internal thoughts stating he doesn’t want to seem like a “jag-off” but… .

    It would also help to raise the tension if we knew the importance of this “first pre-season race at the oval.” What level of competition is this? Local, regional, or national?

    Also, I'm not sure I like Sam. I love his focus, but his first interaction shows a true jag-off move. Maybe he can at least feel bad that he totally blew the guy off. Even for a second?

    Thank you for sharing!