Wednesday, March 5, 2014

March Secret Agent #38

TITLE: Trouble Comes
GENRE: Contemporary Middle Grade





I craned my neck to see what had died, but it was gone. I flung off my seatbelt, ignoring Mama’s “Hey now!” and raced the fifteen feet through our Winnebago to peer out the back window, hoping to catch a glimpse of the corpse at the side of the road.

“Slow down!” I hollered. Mama obliged, stomping on the brake and sending me sprawling. The Ford that had been trying to pass us all morning swerved and kept going, horn wailing all the way. Mama let the engine die, then twisted in her seat to give me her Behave look.

“Journey Jones, what’d I say about running around in Born Free while we’re driving?”

“Don’t,” we said together.

“Sorry.” I scrambled to my feet and pressed my forehead against the rear window. Through the dust clouding the glass, I made out a small brown shape about fifty yards behind us.

“Can we back up a little?” I asked.


“Just fifty feet?”

“Sit down, darlin’.”

I squinted hard as the wind from passing cars made a flattened, bottlebrush tail flap limply against the road. Satisfied, I made my way back to my seat, where Mama sat with her arms folded across the steering wheel.

“Can we go now?” Mama asked as I strapped myself in.

“Can we go back to Nashville instead?” I countered.

“You know I hate going back,” Mama said, and I sighed, ‘cause it was true. In my twelve years on the road, we’d only ever gone forward.


  1. I love the opening to this. Nice touch-- it draws me in right away and I like the narrator immediately.

    I also like how the names of the narrator and the Winnebago reveal something about Mama and about her urge to travel. The last line of the submission is nicely done, too.

    I am a little curious about why Journey is curious about the roadkill and whether this is something she? he? always does when they travel.

    It's a good opening and leaves me curious about where they're going and why her mama hates going back-- and where her father is. Not sure if there's a way to reveal the narrator's gender in the first few pages, but I was curious since the name is somewhat ambiguous.

    It feels very much MG-- nice work.

  2. I especially love the last paragraph! We know there's a lot more to the story, past, present and future.

    (One nit-picky thing to consider---wouldn't Journey have rolled to the front of the Winnebago when his/her mom hit the brakes?)

  3. Great voice. Well done. I dove right in and smiled. I'm intrigued and want to read more!

    My only nit-picky comment is this:
    Re: "I squinted hard as the wind from passing cars made a flattened... Satisfied..."

    I didn't totally understand why Journey felt satisfied after seeing the tail flap? It sounds like the animal was still alive? Or, was it because Journey recognized what kind of animal it was, and felt satisfied with that knowledge?

  4. Right away, I got a sense that Journey would be an interesting protagonist. Not every day you've got a kid fascinated with roadkill--though whether this is born out of boredom or genuine interest, I'm not sure. Still. Interesting opening, and it does some heavy lifting for your 250 overall.

    I don't know where Mama and Journey are headed, but there's enough character and voice here to intrigue me to read on :)

  5. Great beginning. I'm curious about why Journey finds road kill so interesting especially when he seems completely satisfied when he identifies what it is or, maybe, what it isn't. Love the last paragraph. Makes me want to go read more.

  6. Love his (her?) name, and the name of the camper. Love Mama's accent. Great voice.

    Not sure I like a kid with such a ghoulish interest in roadkill that he'd jump up and run to look.

    But I would read on to see where this one was going.

  7. There is a strong voice here and an interesting set-up but a few things tripped me up. Starting with Weeds, weeds, weeds while interesting, doesn't ground us. At first I thought we were in a garden, not looking out a car window. The seatbelt was the first clue that we were driving.

    When you say Roadkill! tell us what the MC sees -- a brown lump?

    I don't think you need fifteen feet -- people know how big a winnebago is.

    Rather than say "Slow down!" I hollered, maybe say, I told Mama, and she obliged -- just so it's clear who your MC is yelling at -- I thought she was yelling out the window at first.

    I assume Born Free is the name of the Winnebago but would Mama actually say that in a sentence? took away from the flow.

    When Journey says "Don't with her mother, I think only Journey would say it since her mother asked the question.

    When Jouney looks out the back window is the Winnebago completely stopped on the side of the road? Make it clear that Mama pulled over...and that she didn't just stop on the highway.

    I absolutely LOVE the last line -- it's a great metaphor for where I believe this story is headed -- as is Born Free and Journey's name. There is good energy here and I love that we are thrust right into the action...just be sure to ground us while we're in it.