Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October Secret Agent #12

TITLE: The Summer of Miracle Maude
GENRE: MG Historical

“Emmmma! Emma Sue!”

Emma hid in the hayloft. She wasn't coming out no matter how long Aunty called. Nosirree. She’d seen Unk clomp across the yard, his ax over his shoulder. It was killing time, and she wanted no part of killing.

“Emma Sue Saunders! If you don’t come now, there’ll be no supper for you tonight.”

Big threat. She’d rather starve than pick up dead chickens. And these weren’t just dead chickens. These were dead chickens with bloody necks and no heads. She sighed. It was 1935, for crying out loud. If Mom could buy her chicken at the store, why couldn’t Aunty?

The barn door squealed.

“Emma Sue, I know you’re in here. Now come on out. We have work to do. We’ve no time for silly games.”

Emma peeked through a crack between the floorboards. A sliver of sunlight sliced into the shaded barn below. Aunty stood in it, her back stiff as a rake, her flowered housedress unwrinkled, her apron spotless. Not one wisp of brown hair escaped the bun tied up on the back of her head. She peered over her bifocals and glanced up at the loft.

“All right, then,” Aunty said. “Stay here. You’ll come out when you get hungry. But don’t expect supper if you haven’t finished your chores. And there’ll be no radio tonight.”

Emma jerked back from the floorboards. No radio? What was she supposed to do all night? Read?


  1. I loved this! The setting and characters felt real to me, and I definitely sympathized with Emma's predicament. I'd definitely read on.

  2. The voice pulled me in right away. I like the name, Unk--it makes me curious to know who is named that and why. You also pull me in with the remark about Mom. If Mom is in the picture (buying chickens), then why does Aunty seem to be in charge of Emma? It makes me want to read on. I liked the last line, as well.

  3. The voice pulled me in as well. I get a real sense of place here. I could almost smell the barn. I did find the bit with the year 1935 thrown in a bit forced. Maybe there's another way to indicate what year it is. Or maybe you don't need to specifically say the year at all and let the reader figure it out through context.

  4. Cut out the first few sentences. It's telling, and there's a better opening right after that:

    "Unk clomped across the yard, ax over his shoulder. It was killing time, and Emma wanted no part of killing."

    The biggest problem I see, however, is with the modern feel and sensibilities of the main character. "It was 1935, for crying out loud." "No radio? What was she supposed to do all night? Read?"

    Those statements almost feel like parodies of something kids would say now. The voice comes off as a modern kid being thrust back in time. Historical fiction is so hard to write well because the author has to capture the feel of that era and place without coming across as forced or inauthentic. Otherwise, it falls completely flat.

  5. Great voice and a very intriguing dilemma that faces the character. I would read more.

  6. I think you've got a great opening here with a great voice, although I agree it wouldn't hurt to brush-up on Depression era speak-ease. I feel very strongly about cutting the opening quote of your MC being called by Aunty. Instead, use current verb tense - Emma is hiding in the hayloft and describe a few sights and smells. This will segue easily into seeing Unk - which is awesome! Reminds me of the American Girl series.

  7. This is great. Nice details. I'd keep reading.

  8. I like this, the problem was it just reminded me so strongly of the opening of Charlotte's Web.

  9. This was great. As far as the writing, only a single tiny nit - the word "up" in "tied up on the back" is extraneous.
    And I do agree with the secret agent that in 1935, reading vs the radio might not have caused such a snarky voice.
    But I love the voice, love the chicken killing lead in and would certainly read more.

  10. I would definitely read on. I liked the voice and the description of her Aunty.