Wednesday, January 15, 2014

January Secret Agent #32

TITLE: Learning to Dance
GENRE: YA Contemporary

B as in boy. G as in girl.

F as in friends. A as in always.

D as in death, diva and dancing.

F is for faith. S is for storm.

Hidden heart. Patient pal.

L is for ?

L. That’s my name. I’m not sure if it’s my parent’s idea of a joke or a sincere lack of agreement. They could only agree on the first letter of my name. I have no middle name at all. Think Harry S Truman. He, at least, had three initials. People assume my name is Ella or Elle, short for Angela. Nope. Just L. Short and sweet. Like me, Mom says. Plain, I say, especially with a last name of Smith. If my last name was Emeno I could pin it on warped parental humor, or lack thereof. Or, if I had eleven siblings with names A, B, C, etc. No. I have one older brother named Mac.

Around my eleventh birthday I discovered I could legally change my name. I dug deep into every baby name book in our small town library. Not one of over ten thousand possibilities defined me. I am simply, L.

L as in, according to Webster, several thousand things. Let’s get one thing straight, though. This L is not for love. If you want a reason not to fall in love and be married for a marathon length of time, look at my grandmother. The life went right out of her when Gramps died.

And it’s all my fault.


  1. I really like the voice. I don't read much contemp YA, but I'd be willing to give this one a shot because the character intrigued me. And I kind of wish her last name was Emeno.

    By the way, is Harry Truman relevant to the story or just an example? The reference made me think the story was set during his presidency.

    Good luck!

  2. I also really like the voice and love the character's obsession about her name. I did feel like it dragged on a bit though -- especially at the beginning when she's giving examples for other letters. I think the point can be made with fewer examples so we can get to the last line quicker, which is a great hook that definitely makes me want to know more.

  3. I LOVE your writing voice. I'd definitely want to keep reading for that alone.

  4. Great writing voice. I agree you could cut some of the examples above it, but over all I think you capture the character and you hook it in the end. Best wishes!

  5. I really enjoyed this, and I'd read on for sure! The only thing I'd comment on is the "L as in, according to Webster, several thousand things" line. I had to read that three times before I figured out what you were talking about. Otherwise, I love this. her name obsession is super cool, and the foreshadowing about her grandfather is really compelling as well.

  6. I also thought the beginning with the b is for boy, etc. wasn't necessary and dragged the beginning out too long. In general, I really liked the voice and definitely want to read on and find out why she believes she's responsible for her grandmother's death. If this is contemporary, I wondered why she brings up Harry S. Truman and not J.K. Rowling, or maybe a musician who uses initials, unless the name is part of foreshadowing or has some connection with the grandmother.

  7. I loved L's voice and her desire to pick her own name. What threw me off was that in the beginning, it sounded like she was working out new letters to consider for her new name. But then a few paragraphs later, it appears she settled for her given name of L. (Love Emeno!) So not sure what is going on with the letters in the beginning, although it is very intriguing. The Grandmother hook is great, but the shift from talking about her name to the death of her grandmother seemed very abrupt. When she said L is not for love, I assumed it meant she wasn't loved. Then she's talking about her grandmother, so it was tough to switch gears. I love this story and can't wait to see what happens, but I do think there is some minor modifications required. Great story.

  8. Sorry - I meant death of her Grandfather. It wasn't misunderstood. I just type too fast for my own good.

  9. I will start off by saying I don't read YA Contemp that often. I think you've captured the voice of a teenager well and I would read more if I had the opportunity. However, my problem is that the obsession with her name takes up too much time without telling me anything valuable. It feels like an info dump and doesn't move the story forward. I want to see L's world sooner.

  10. I love contemporaries, and I really liked it. Maybe less examples, I don't know. But I like her voice and I like the hook. You did really well at hooking the reader that early. Good job!

  11. I agree that it drags on too much at the beginning. And I don't understand the Harry S Truman either, as most kids reading YA have never heard of him. Then after all this agonizing over the name (and I don't blame her a bit!), she discovers she can change it and changes her mind just like that. If she's going to agonize for half a page on being named L, I think she should consider something different for more than just one sentence.

    The next to the last paragraph needs some sort of transition. All this time about her name, then all of a sudden "if you want a reason not to fall in love.." Where did that come from? Who said anything about falling in love? And where did the grandmother come from all of a sudden?

    But, I love the last sentence. I would continue reading, but only because of that sentence.

  12. I like the voice and the character so I would keep reading to see where the story is going. I like the idea of the examples at the beginning, but they seem a little random. It would make more sense if the letters called out were in alpha order or spelled a word.

  13. I thought all the agonizing over her name went on way too long, especially since it doesn't seem to have any relevance to the grandparents. If there's a connection between the two, it would be nice to see a hint of what it is. If it's only point is to segue into the bit about the grandparents, then it really is too long.

    ANd the line - If you want a reason not to fall in love and be married for a marathon length of time, -- this make me think you're saying someone didn't love the man they married and stayed married to him for a long time anyway. Then you go on to say - look at my grandmother. The life went right out of her when Gramps died. - which seems to imply she loved him a lot. So these two sentences confused me.

    In the end, nothing happened. There's nothing to pull me in.

  14. I like this concept, and thought the letters made for a fun and unique introduction to our main character. My only suggestion is to trim that section down. I think you can convey your point in fewer sentences, and then move on to the love/grandparents transition (which I thought worked really well). I'd read on.

  15. I agree that the list of letters at the beginning should probably be tightened up -- I found myself looking for a pattern but there doesn't appear to be one.

    The rest of the excerpt was effective, and I like the voice quite a bit. Just one little nitpicky thing: I don't think there should be a comma in the sentence 'I am simply, L'.

    But I wanted to comment because I was very surprised that so many people didn't get the Truman reference, which was immediately clear to me. The whole point is that the 'S' in Harry S. Truman also doesn't actually stand for anything -- his middle name was 'S'. (Apparently his parents wanted to avoid choosing one family name over another, to keep both grandfathers happy!)

    Well, I suppose that comes under the heading of useless trivia, but it made perfect sense to me, as it's the only example of that I could think of either! :)