Wednesday, January 13, 2010

10 Secret Agent

TITLE: Garlic
GENRE: Middle Grade Fantasy

I winced at the bathroom mirror. Everything above my shirt collar was pocked with ugly red zits with yellowish-white centers. They blended with the wall behind me, like tiny yellow mountains on the tacky red velvet wallpaper. I reached up and touched Mt. Vesuvius on the tip of my nose. That hurt! It was past time for this volcano to erupt. Placing a finger on each side of it, I closed my eyes and squished. My eyes squeezed tight, forcing out a few tears. The pressure mounted, then released. Ahhhhh. My eyes popped open in time to see a chunk with white liquid ooze down the mirror. The sweet smell of garlic tickled my nose.


The yell made me jump. “Coming, Mother,” I shouted. Facing her was the last thing I wanted to do. Especially right now. Maybe she wouldn’t notice. I glanced back at the mirror. No time to squish the rest of my garlic zits, and my nose had a bright red hole now. But it didn’t matter. This was a total disaster. And it was all my fault.

I grabbed a wad of toilet paper and wiped the mirror, leaving behind white streaks. My foot hit the trash can pedal, but then I realized there were chunks of white on the sink. After mopping up those, too, I threw the soggy paper in the can. The lid slammed shut with a clang.

“Tommy! I’m waiting!”

Impatient. As always.


  1. This one doesn't hook me for a couple of reasons. The writing is solid, but I just don't want to read these kinds of details about zit popping. It isn't the kind of problem that would make me turn the page. Also, I got stopped by the description of the zits blending into the wall, because they were on his face -- so how could they blend into the wall? Then the wall is described as red and the zits are described more as standing out against the wallpaper than blending in. I had to read that sentence more than once. After a few readings, I realized that the zits were being compared to the look of the wallpaper, rather than blending into it.

    Others may feel differently about this one. As I said, the writing is good. And I may just have a weak stomach today; my son was up sick all night! Best of luck!

  2. I totally agree with brendao. The writing is good but the whole zit thing just made me want to stop reading.

  3. Your description of that monster zit-popping was so vivid and real I felt I was right there with him, but that's not someplace I want to be. So good job on the writing, not so much on the subject matter, for me.

    "That hurt!" - I felt was out of character. A simple ouch would do better, I think.

    I'm a little interested in why his zits smell like garlic, but to read on I need something a bit more intriguing than that. A hint at conflict or a more interesting story question.

    Good luck!

  4. I liked the 'voice' but the 'squick' factor was just to much for me, unless the zits are integral to the story.

  5. I love the imagery - garlic zits!!

    That said, I think that there was a bit too much space used toward the end describing him cleaning, and then cleaning more while his mom called him. I would have liked to see it jump into something more than cleaning up.

  6. Ewwwww. That made me a little queasy. Maybe a boy wouldn't be so grossed out by this, if that is the target audience.
    We don't get a very big picture with 250 words, so this has me wondering what significance the ance has. But the writing is good.

  7. As pretty much everyone said, the writing is solid, but I think that the zit-popping is a bit too extreme. Do zits smell like garlic? And I've never seen or heard of zits causing such a mess. If that's part of the "fantastical" or "supernatural" part of the fantasy, then I would make that more evident (I'm guessing it is, because the manuscript title is "Garlic"), but otherwise it's a bit overblown for my taste if you're referring to a kid who simply has a case of the zits. Still, good writing and good luck!

  8. The zit scene was very colorful and kinda freaked me out, but at the same time it caught my interest. I would definitely turn the page and read more. Was confused about the garlic connection. Are these supernatural zits? :)

  9. I agree with the comments so far about the "ewww" factor, and not being compelled by zits. The writing is very nice and descriptive - I'd like to see your descriptive powers put to use in something that won't gross me out!

    I'm also intrigued by Garlic - as the title, as the apparent theme. Is he allergic? Does it give him powers? So, yeah, love that tidbit.

    Good Luck!

  10. The writing is definitely strong, but the zit-popping grossed me out a little. I have a weak stomach... :o)

    But I'd still turn the page since I'm intrigued by these mysterious---and gross---garlic zits.

  11. eeeewwwww gross!
    But strong writing. I'm curious to figure out what's up with the garlic zits.
    However i wouldn't ever re-read the zit popping if i could help it

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  13. This made me feel sick.

    But... I'm curious with the relationship with garlic and what you are describing in this scene (see? I can't even write it). I'd keep reading but I might not eat garlic today.

    Good luck.

  14. Poor pimple-faced Tommy.
    *I'm laughing at all the comments*
    I can see middle graders enjoying this one!
    Might squirm as I turn the page, but that's point, right? You got me turning the page.

  15. Wow! This may be a case of being too good at your job. I usually go for dark, gross, off-the-wall, blood and guts stuff, and nothing I have ever read has ever grossed me out, but your description of those zits made me squirm. I actually wanted to stop reading it. (But I didn't).

    And I can't decide if I'm hooked or not. On one hand, your description was so good, I really want to see how you apply that to other aspects of the story, but on the other hand, I'm not sure if I'll be able to take it. Now I know how those people feel who watch scary movies by peeking thru their fingers - watching, not watching, watching, not watching.

    In any case, this was very good. If you lose readers, it won't be because of bad writing, but personal tastes.

  16. I think the zit popping is hilarious!

    It's also funny that people don't bat an eyelash over violence in kids books but popping a zit freaks them out? My middle grade son would be fascinated!

  17. I thought the writing was great and kids love this kind of thing, but maybe add a little more humor like:

    I reached up and poked the tip of my nose where Mt. Vesuvius had made a home. "Ouch!" It was way past time for this volcano. I gritted my teeth, then squished it, wincing with pain from the pressure, but enjoying it all the same. It erupted with a pop and splattered all over Mum's clean mirror. The sweet smell of garlic tickled my nose.

    "Tommy!" yelled Mum. "Are you squeezing zits again? I've just cleaned the bathroom."

    (This was just a suggestion. I know you would write it much better. I loved your version, but I think if you tighten it and add some more inner thoughts, it would be even funnier.)

    Good luck with it. Boys will love it, some girls too. I would read it if I was a chil

  18. Excellent description. Major gross out factor. Middle grade readers might just love it. I liked the reference to Mt. Vesuvius and really wondered why this was all his fault.

  19. I would have kept reading even though I think I might vomit.

    However, if the story became vulgar I would stop reading.

  20. I like your writing style and character-thru-action. It takes a certain kind of person to love popping zits. I'm not going to lie, the garlic was gross. And how much really came out? A soggy paper. You're a sicky (in a good way.)

    My suggestion would be to trim it up a bit more so we can get more of the story (unless it really is just about popping zits--then you're golden).

  21. Okay--this definitely grossed me out, and I would love it if I were a kid. I liked the pacing of this, and can't wait to hear why garlic is so important. I'm hooked!

  22. Pulled this up for my 11y.o. to read.
    He might not be laughing at zits in a few years, but he was last night.

  23. I think middle grade boys (and possibly girls) are going to have a lot of fun with this.

  24. Sarah,

    I just absolutely love this. I think it is hilarious and yep, absolutely repulsive. Middle grade boys adore repulsive. Farts are the height of humor. (I still think farts are funny but I justify this because apparently Chaucer did too.)

    I also think, gross as this is, it is extremely relatable. Middle grade kids get zits. It also reminds me of the "bubotuber" episode in one of the Harry Potter books.

    The voice reads pitch perfect and the humor is age appropriate. Judy Blume with some ick worked in.

    If I picked this up in the bookstore and read this passage in the first chapter, I'd buy it.

  25. Congrats on a job well done! Never saw so much conversation about zits. (grin) You stirred up a storm over here.

  26. Thanks everyone for your comments!

    Who knew zit popping was so controversial. ;-)