Wednesday, May 19, 2010

May Secret Agent #27

GENRE: Middle Grade Verse Novel

The stars don't shine too bright in Moody,
which is why I always assumed Charlene Dean was no more real than Bigfoot or the Swamp Monster.

But she stormed into town today,
and the rolling hills straightened their backs
and the sky tipped its hat so the sun shone
Everyone knows why she’s here, but

I sit in Barber Jim's shop, asking him to give me a movie star haircut.

I hold out my sweaty palm, and show him a wrinkled magazine clipping, "Just like this," I point at the actress's stylish crop, "smooth and

Barber Jim runs his comb through my tangled, noisy curls,
"Dixie Dawes, your hair don't look nothin' like this."
And then in a brassy voice like a tuba Barber Jim says, "if you so interested in being a star, why ain't you out there with the rest of 'dem?"

I peer out the window and sure enough,
everyone is crowdedcrowdedcrowed in front of Miss Madge's sweet shop
and Madge's pralines are mighty good, the creamiest pralines you've ever tasted--
but even her pralines never draw this type of crowd.

I look up at Barber Jim,
sprinkles of confusion and excitement in my muddy eyes.
A smile carves itself in Barber Jim's serious, stone face,
"Charlene Dean is back in town
and she's promisin' a big pot of money to anyone who will help her get back her


  1. I think the formating might be messed up...

    But I'm on the fence with this one. I'm not a bit MG reader.

    Good luck with SA!

  2. I really love the voice in this one. Just slides right smooth all the way through.

    Couple of nits. I don't know how she can know that there are sprinkles of confusion in her eyes. She's looking out, not in.

    Also, the last sentence felt a little flat, and I think it's just the order of the words. Maybe it's just the way my brain runs, but it stopped me short because I thought he was going to say "anyone who will help her get her voice back", and when the words weren't in that order, they didn't flow right. Like I said, probably just me and no one else will have a problem with it.

    I really think this is one of my favorites, though, and I wish you the best with it.

  3. Not a fan of novels in verse. However, I like the writing and the voice. Therefore, despite my disdain for novels in verse, if I were an agent I'd read on and say, "I am not judging for ME...I'm judging for the prospective audience." Then I'd request a partial. :)

  4. Not quite hooked. I love verse novels, and there's definitely room for some of these in MG. I also like your voice and the pacing of this piece.

    That said, based on the first 250 words, I don't see any of the poetic nuances that I enjoy with verse novels (e.g., sparse language and metaphors that make me think). In fact, the line breaks were confusing and slowed me down in places that I felt like I shouldn't be slowing down at.

    Best of luck!

  5. The first two verses were really nice and had a nice rhythm to them. On the other hand, she couldn't possibly know that everyone in town knew why Charlene Dean was there, and she's also telling it before it happens. So from a poetry angle it works, from a story angle, that last line doesn't.

    The rest didn't seem to have a rhythm to it, but I'm no expert. I never saw how "Out of the Dust" was a novel in verse, so that shows you what I know.

    But I did like the imagery and word choices, I saw the places this could go, I liked how you kept us in the story, you have a real character with a voice. I'd read more.

  6. I had a problem with the last line too, like a previous commentor. I think for me it was because you used the word "back" twice in a short space of writing...back in town and back her voice.

    I like the voice of the piece. I don't know anything about novels written in verse though. But I'd keep reading.

  7. I generally don't read verse novels, but this one hooked me. It read smoothly -- the cadence of the words maybe? I'm not the best at explaining why I like verse! But I even read it aloud, and it just flowed. I love the voice and imagery.

    My favorite lines had to be:
    But she stormed into town today,
    and the rolling hills straightened their backs
    and the sky tipped its hat so the sun shone brighter.

    So visual!

  8. I think this is very nice. I especially like the voice of Barber Jim. Feels authentic to me and I think novels in verse are gaining steam--good luck!

  9. I really like this one. It reads very easily, the descriptions are vivid, and I want to know more. AND I'm very impressed with anyone who can write a novel in verse form and have it come out this great.

  10. I have mixed feelings about novels in verse, but I really liked this. The lines flow very well. Nicely done.

  11. Wonderful voice here. Particularly loved the 2nd stanza and the next to the last one. The only line that I wasn't sure of was when she describes her own eyes- that line would make sense if she was describing someone else. I'm always amazed by those who can write a whole novel in verse- good luck with this!

  12. I am a big fan of novels in voice, and I love the setup you have here. The movie star hints are great and you've moved the story along very quickly in 250 words. I would definitely want to read more!

  13. I'm a big fan of verse so I was excited when I read MG verse. However, I'm sorry to say this does not read like verse. In verse every wd. counts & goes toward the purpose. If it doesn't then it's left out. That's what is so great about verse no nonsense wds., breaks that make a big emphasis & so much emotion & feeling. For ex. paragraph 2 could read like this:

    She stormed
    into town today,
    rolling hills straightened their backs,
    sky tipped it's hat
    so the sun shone brighter.
    Everyone knows
    why she's here,
    except me.

    I hope you can see the difference. This way rolling hills & the sky come alive. I love your imagery in this stanza.

    Please read many verse novels and analyze them. Notice where the breaks are & why. Notice all the words left out. Also read all kinds of poetry. There are also books out there about poetry that could be helpful. Sorry I can't think of any right now.

    A good blog on poetry is Poetry For Children. Go to Poetry Tag in the achives. It lists many great poems, poets & some poems taken from verse novels.

    Then go back and revise. Hope this is helpful. Also, Children's Writer, a newsletter published by the The Writer's Institute For Children wrote a great article on verse in either the May or April issue.

  14. I'm not the biggest fan of novels written in verse, unfortunately. Though I would comment that someone would be unable to know that confusion and excitement is sparkling in their own eyes.