Wednesday, April 11, 2012

April Secret Agent #28

GENRE: Middle Grade Fantasy

The girl Mike dreamed of one day marrying, cared about pitching first, being a girl second. Maybe that explained why Teagan could whip a softball fast.

Almost as fast, as the knuckle sandwich Mike swallowed for trying to examine her tonsils with his tongue after she tossed a shutout today. He winced, rubbing his chin. Darn thing hurt more than his pride. The reason she fouled his romantic play. Simple as 1-2-3. One year, two months and three days. Their age difference. Too bad his parents didn’t drink that bottle of wine two years earlier because next week Teagan started high school leaving Mike behind.

A hamster pumped on steroids pounded the wheel inside Mike’s chest while he sweated on her porch to see the future Mrs. Grabczyński in a dress. Hair combed and not under a cap. She decked out to visit her twin sister, knowing somehow it made Sleeping Beauty happy.

Well, she didn’t make Mike happy because she stepped off the bus with her dress tucked into track pants. The baseball cap, along with her girlfriend, Rachel, whose nickname for him, MGM--middle-grade-Mike, completed the disappointment.

Mike placed his backpack on the railing as they walked up the steps. “Why we messing with voodoo dolls?”

“I promised my sister and they’re not voodoo dolls.”

Mike elbowed his pack.

Rachel jumped backwards, saving her pink painted piggies before the bag landed with a loud thump.

Mike grinned. “Good, because I forgot to defrost the chicken.”


  1. I think this could benefit from some tightening.
    As an example, the first sentence:

    "The girl Mike dreamed of one day marrying, cared about pitching first, being a girl second"

    Is missing a word and has an extra comma. It should really read more like:

    "The girl Mike dreamed of one day marrying cared about pitching first and being a girl second."

    I laughed at the 1-2-3 detail, though. That was really clever. As is the title. I think once you really tighten up some of the extra commas and sentence fragments this will really shine.
    Good job!

  2. This seems like it could be a cute story, but there is some awkward writing that would keep me from reading on.

    There are two misplaced commas that should be removed: after ‘marrying’ in the first sentence and after ‘fast’ in the third sentence.

    *The reason she fouled his romantic play. Simple as 1-2-3. One year, two months and three days. Their age difference.*
    --This was confusing. I think it would read better as: The reason she fouled his romantic play was as simple as 1-2-3. One year, two months and three days—their age difference.

    *Too bad his parents didn’t drink that bottle of wine two years earlier*--This makes the voice/character sound more YA than MG to me.

    *A hamster pumped on steroids pounded the wheel inside Mike’s chest while he sweated on her porch to see the future Mrs. Grabczyński in a dress.*--This sentence is more complicated than it needs to be. Try: Mike’s heart pumped like a hamster on steroids while he waited to see her in a dress.

    I found the rest of the piece somewhat confusing because the voodoo dolls seemed to come out of nowhere. I think they should be mentioned sooner.

  3. I'm a little confused. I had to read the first sentence a few times. I wondered what pitching was and didn't find out until the mention of softball.

    And then the comma at the beginning of the second paragraph confused me some more.

    I like the smart-alecky (sp) tone, though.

    Good luck!

  4. Agreed with some of the previous commenters. I love snark (love, love, love snark), but some of it's hard to understand. Also, though I'm not an expert on middle grade, make sure the sort of sarcasm you're using would be understandable to the middle grade set. I don't believe in writing down to children, but I know from experience that certain types of humor will go right over the 9-13 year olds.

  5. Yeah, I'd have to agree with Arielle. It felt a little too old for MG. My son, 10, would read this and probably ask me to explain. It was snarky and I appreciated that, but I was also confused by some awkward writing. And maybe that's your stylistic approach, I'm not sure. But it just seems to jump from thought to another, very stream of consciousness. Hard to follow at times.

    Still I enjoyed his voice, so I'd probably read on a little longer. :)

  6. This one confused me a lot :( I had to read the first sentence out loud to myself so I could figure out what what you meant.

    Aside from Mike being in love with a girl who plays baseball, I'm not sure I understood anything else. I feel like you really understand all your characters, and their backstories, so when you read this, I'm sure it makes perfect sense to you. But it almost feels like... you know when you're with a group of people, and someone makes a joke, and everyone gets it but you? That's how this feels to me. That I'm being left out.

    Let us get to know Mike a bit slower, since he's the one we'll be spending the most time with. I can sense the snark just under the surface, and I think I'd really like him, but he's drowning a bit in the details.

    I'd also agree that this reads more like a YA than a MG.

    Good luck!

  7. I got confused enough to quit reading before the end of your 250 words, so I'd say trim and clean and work out some of the issues mentioned.

    It needs some polish, but I sense a strong voice under it all.

  8. I think the line about the parents drinking that bottle of wine a year earlier may be a bit old for MG.

    I liked the 1-2-3 line, and the fact that it's a younger guy chasing an older girl.

    I'm not sure how the first and second sentence connect. Maybe that explained why Teagan could whip a softball fast.

    (Why would his wanting to marry her explain why she can throw a fastball? Shouldn't it be that because she can whip a fastball, he wants to marry her?)

    I get that it's that Teagan cares about pitching first, but to me the way it's set up sounds confusing.

    That said, I'd read on. :)

  9. Like some of the other commenters, I was a little confused by this one. I think a lot of it has to do with misplaced commas, which have already been pointed out. Also, "pink painted piggies" didn't sound authentic to the voice. I like the overall premise but I think the writing needs some polishing. Good luck!

  10. As mentioned earlier, I found this confusing in spots and had to reread to make sure I was getting it. I agree this seems more YA than MG. Do kids nowadays say knuckle sandwich? I agree with the others re: misplaced commas, the 1-2-3 bit should be part of the previous sentence, hamster/heart beating - but you lost me with waiting to see her in a dress, twin sister, bus, voodoo...all a bit thrown in and confusing to me. I think some straightening up and this would be very cool. Neat title.

  11. There are a few confusing spots in here and the voice doesn't feel particularly MG. There are also a few errors in punctuation which tripped me up.

    I think if you tighten and polish, it will be great, but it's just not there yet.

  12. It isn't just the voice that seems inauthentic for MG. Starting with a boy who has a crush? On a girl who's starting high school? And he tried to tongue kiss her? (At least, I think that's what happened. That was one of the very confusing parts.)

    I don't think tongue-kissing references are really the thing for MG...

  13. Yes, this is confusing. I'm sorry to say that because I can tell you have a firm grasp on your character's voice (that's the hard part), and I already like Mike! I think the problem is that you're jumping from one idea to the next. The other problem is some of your punctuation is wrong. The commas have been mentioned, but this sentence should probably be posed as a question, "The reason she fouled his romantic play? Simple as 1-2-3." (I wouldn't combine those sentences, as I think someone suggested, because you don't want to lose Mike's punchy voice.) Anyway, I love the younger boy/older girl angle. I have high hopes for this one!

  14. Wow, that was really interesting. :-)

    Good things: you seemed to be having fun, and I actually laughed at the end because everything seemed so random in a way that kind of goes together, if that makes sense.

    I'm not sure of the action, but if there is a point to the first chapter, and you manage to tie them all together, then I think that is a worthy feat!

    The wine allusion seems too grown up for a kid to think of, and made the MC creepy.

    The hamster metaphor was so different that it took a second re-reading, but you chalk up points for creativity there.

    Good luck! :-)

  15. PS Oh and I just have to say, your title is funny!

  16. This has got some great showing going on, but it's so garbled, I only half catch it.

    I think a streamlining is in order. Mike likes Teagan and plans to marry her someday. She's just as good at sports as he is, but she's already off to high school, right?

    And then they are on her front porch and she's going to deck someone? Her sister is sleeping beauty? In a play or something?

    I love the image of her dress tucked into track pants (I know a girl JUST LIKE THIS!) and a baseball cap still on.

    I think you've got all the elements you need for something really cool, but it feels like you just threw it all on the page in an early draft. Think about your reader. How best to get all this info across so you don't confuse us the next time.