Wednesday, May 19, 2010

May Secret Agent #57

TITLE: Dear Anna
GENRE: Middle Grade

Dear Anna,

You'll never believe what I just did! Remember when you went to Sassy Salon and cut off all your hair for Locks of Love? And I was too scared to do it too? Well, meet The New and Improved Pansy.

Actually, I didn't go somewhere fancy like Sassy Salon. I put my hair in a ponytail and then... .I chopped it all off. Taa-daa! It sure feels weird not to have all that thick hair against my neck.

This year, I'm going to be different. When you get better, you'll be shocked to meet The Extraordinary (Incredible Too) Pansy Smith!

Love, your best friend 4ever, Pansy (with short hair)

Here's the thing about feeling brave. It's easy to do when you're sitting on your canopy bed, surrounded by stuffed animals, writing a letter to your very best friend in the world. It's something totally different when you're walking down the hall on the first day of fifth grade with a lopsided haircut without your best friend by your side.

My heart thumped. I tucked a strand of hair behind one ear and stared down at my shoes. One pink... .and one blue!


I drew in my breath and clamped a hand over my mouth.
Turning into an extraordinary person meant getting noticed for all the right reasons: Cutting off your hair to give to Locks of Love. Becoming a straight-A student. Winning contests and being good at stuff, just like Anna.


  1. I'm totally drawn in! Nice job!

  2. Love the voice - feels dead on for a fifth grade girl.

  3. I’m not hooked, but I love the voice and I’d keep reading until I was.

  4. I love it, very nice voice and humor. And I like how you've managed to include a hook of sorts already (trying to turn into an extraordinary person) at this stage. Nice job, I'm hooked!

  5. I'd take out the letter. I loved the rest of it, but felt that it worked without the letter and actually drew me in more that way. You mention everything from the letter in the last paragraph so I just don't see the need for it. On a more positive note, I love the MC's voice.

  6. I like the letter, but would the writer actually describe her own hair as thick? It's nitpicky, but seems like author intrusion. The jump to the present is a bit confusing for me too. The shoes thing didn't seem authentic for me, unless this is going to be a part of her character (a bit of an eccentric?) I'm wondering why her friend isn't there. Is it because of illness? Did she move away?

  7. I actually thought it was cute. Not completely hooked, but I'd read more. I agree about the shoes - that threw me - maybe socks? Because unless you're blind or dressing in pitch black it's hard to miss match pink and blue shoes - just saying - now black and blue LOL, I have done that.

  8. I definitely like the voice--I'd read on for a bit. :)

  9. I really loved this. Great voice and a great character, but after the letter, the story seemed to jump to the scene on the bed and then to the school, but with no connection. I couldn’t work out if Pansy was thinking from the bed or if she was walking down the hall at school.

    I really loved the letter and would definitely keep it, just add something to connect all the paragraphs. I would read on though. I loved the quirky Pansy. She’s a girl after my own heart. I often cut my own hair just before a special event, but it never comes out right. I usually end up looking like a crow that’s been run over by a truck.

    I laughed out loud at the odd coloured shoes. That part hooked me. Pansy sounds like a fun character that girls will relate too. I already like her so I would definitely read on.

    (I often wear odd coloured flip-flops around the garden. If one breaks I save the good one. Once I forgot and wore two odd ones to the corner store.)

    Good luck with this. I’m sure it will get snapped up, and when it’s published let me know. I want a copy.

  10. I really love your voice, and I agree that the story feels like it takes off after the letter. However for me, the letter feels just a bit forced, maybe too formal? I might actually suggest starting the letter with the last paragraph of the letter and going from there. But I'd definitely read on as from "This year, I'm going to be different." on you caught me.

  11. I almost think you could cut the letter out completely and start the novel with "Here's the thing about being brave. It's easy to do when..."

    I am the mother of a fifth-grader, and I can't see someone in fifth grade writing like that. And you say everything you need to say about the MC without the letter.

    Maybe instead of pink and blue shoes, you could do one black and one brown? Or maybe one white sock and one yellow sock?

    I don't mean to sound harsh. I like your MC's motivation to be an "extraordinary person", and I like this a lot. I'd keep reading.

  12. It's the author here. I know it's probably not the right thing to leave a comment, and I appreciate all the feedback from everyone! Thanks so much for taking the time to give me your honest opinion. I just feel like I need to explain why there's a letter at the beginning- there are letters throughout this novel. That's because Anna has suffered a serious brain injury, which the reader finds out by the second chapter...Anna cannot read the letters. Pansy is only hoping that someday she will recover and be able to understand what she's written.
    Again, thanks for the feedback!
    Thanks so much for your comments!!

  13. Thanks for the explanation. I wasn't crazy about the letter, either--I think your first line post-letter is a much stronger beginning, actually...but I figured there would be a lot of letters. It might be good to make this one, at least, shorter?

  14. I liked this but I was thrown off by two little things: 1) the juxtaposition of her calling herself scared and Pansy. I thought she was using Pansy like the word "chicken." "I'm such a scared pansy!" 2) the pink and blue shoes. How many girls own generic shoes in different colors? Flip flops or sneakers? There's gotta be a reason for this mistake. Unless she's rich, she probably has sneakers for gym, sandals for summer, dress shoes, and boots. Only adults have to worry about similar shoes with the same use. Kids' feet grow too fast.

  15. My hunch about the letters was right - based on your title, Miriam. I figured there was a good reason to be writing to Anna. One thing I don't think a kid would do is refer to herself by name twice, esp. when she's about to sign the letter (third mention of her name in 3 paragraphs.

    I'm hooked enough to read on, but caution you to make the letters really count, so the reader does not tire of the format. Good luck!

  16. I loved it. I'm an elementary teacher and just yesterday someone wore two different shoes - worse even than one pink and one blue - two righties. She and her sister are one size apart, oops. Wondering, though, if there's a reason that her parents didn't notice the weird haircut before she went to school (especially if it's for Locks of Love, seems like it would be a big deal in the family).

    And, re-reading, do girls still have canopy beds with stuffed animals when they're in 5th grade? I know several and they don't, but that's no biggie.

  17. After reading your explanation, I still think you could eliminate the letter from the beginning. The text is much stronger and sets up who your MC is. It gives her a voice and shows her as a wonderful, likable character. And it plops us right into the story.

    You can still have all your letters throughout the story. It just doesn't necessarily have to start with one. And the letter kind of gives everything away. Without it, we wonder why her friend isn't by her side, why she has a lopsided haircut, and why she wants to be just like Anna - a really nice hook and page turner.

  18. Voice feels very natural for this age group and I think the letters are a nice touch. Seems like a good way to draw the brain-damaged friend into the story when direct communication isn't possible.

    Great job. I'm hooked!

  19. Well I loved the letter the best, it felt like it could even be the blurb. But when you jumped out of the letter, it was a little jarring for me and I actually was expecting 3rd person... or maybe hoping for it.

  20. Not a fan of starting out with letters; however, if you began with "Here's the thing about feeling brave," I think it will be more of a hook for the reader. Then you can bring the letter into the picture a few paragraphs later.