Monday, December 10, 2012

1st 5 Pages December Workshop - Kelly Rev 1

Christine Kelly
YA urban fantasy

Rosaleen shoved her violin case against the rehearsal room door. Inside, the clash of tuning instruments hit her head on. She stumbled and grabbed for a music stand, setting it rocking. A boy thumped a melodramatic chord on his bass.

Laughter rippled through the aisles as Rosaleen slunk to her seat. She slumped down and noticed she had cut her hand. A drop of bright blood fell on her second favorite pair of black cowboy boots. Excellent, she thought, squeezing the cut. She'd get gangrene and have to have her hand amputated. It would be the perfect excuse to skip Philadelphia Charter School's spring concert.

Music was dead to her.

She glanced sideways at her neighbor's sheet music. Jenn slid a folder to block the pages. "Late again," Jenn said. "You even practice this week?" She looked across the room and smirked. "Check out Heather and her dorky harp."

Rosaleen's childhood friend was waving so energetically, her antique garnet necklace clinked against the carved soundboard. Rosaleen made a half wave in return. Heather beamed and drew her hand across the harp strings.

Rosaleen steeled herself. Each twang of Heather's harp flashed a painful double helix of oranges and reds across her vision. She massaged her temples. The recurring headaches didn't make sense. But hello--good reason to drop violin?

"Oooh, you made her day," said Jenn. "Now let's pretend we totally love her solo."

"We will love it," Rosaleen said softly. So what if Heather was into granny stuff? Why should Jenn care?"

The other girl looked surprised then tapped Rosaleen's shoulder with her bow, leaving a smudge of white rosin. "We're all going to the coffee shop after practice. Jonathan will meet us, of course." She paused. "You know about prom, right? Him and me?"

Rosaleen arranged her face into a bland mask. "Got stuff to do tonight." Meaning: stuff yourself. And take lying, cheating Jonathan with you.

Jenn flicked the powder off Rosaleen's sweater, snagging a thread. Her eyes narrowed. "Daddy back yet? You need to nail down the concert tix for us. The kids are getting pissed."

Rosaleen flushed. "You'll get your comps. You always do." She let out a little laugh. "That's why you let me hang out with you guys, isn't it?"

"You got that right, headache girl." Jenn pushed her face toward Rosaleen. "So be a good little follower and do your job. I told you weeks ago what we wanted."

"And I told you my father would handle it." The buzz in Rosaleen's head started again.

The conductor rapped his baton on his music stand then pointed it at Rosaleen. She nodded. The less talk about Dad, the better.

When rehearsal finished, Rosaleen quickly packed up. She didn't notice a spurt of laughs circling the room when her classmates checked their phones.
Rosaleen tilted her chair against the kitchen wall, propping her boots on the recyclables bin. Remnants from last night's Philly cheesesteaks tumbled over a clutter of smelly take-out containers.

A flicker made her look up: a lost firefly. She went to the window facing their overgrown back yard and pushed. Green paint flakes stuck to her fingers but the sash wouldn't budge. "Sorry, Twinkle Butt. You'll have to find your own way home."

The phone rang. "Simone O'Reilly?"

Rosaleen pinched her nostrils. "Wrong number."

"Is Simone about?"

"I said, no Simone here." Her finger hovered over the disconnect button. How many collection calls had she shielded Mom from this week?

"I know 'tis ye, Rosaleen." The woman's soft Irish brogue turned hard. "Put your mother on. It's Brigit from Cnoc Feeorin."

Rosaleen eyed the phone, surprised. As far as she knew, her parents had broken all contact with Dad's Irish godmother. "Brigit? I don't think Mom wants to talk to you."

"Tell her your father is on his way here."

Rosaleen white knuckled the receiver. "You talked to him? Where is he? Is he okay? We haven't heard anything for---." She looked at the wall clock. For 26 days and about 12 hours.

Music played faintly behind Brigit. The phone faded then hummed back to life.

"Never mind the chatter. Tell Simone I expect you straight away. You can have your old bedroom above the pub."

"But Dad never said he was visiting you!" A swirl of colors signaled the beginnings of another migraine. Rosaleen wedged the phone on her shoulder and rubbed her temples. "Is he still with a client? Can't you tell him to come home?" Her voice had gone small.

"It's best ye come here."

"Why?" A burst of static almost made her drop the phone. "Brigit, you there?"

"I have no time for this." Brigit's voice was faint. "Pass on my message."

"Wait! My school won't be done for a couple weeks. And the twins—have you forgotten them?" Rosaleen straightened and blew a paint flake off her thumb. Serve Dad right to be ignored for a while---just like he was doing to them. He could hit speed dial, couldn't he?

"There is a school here, Rosaleen. Your father needs you, so make haste." The line buzzed. Brigit had hung up.

Rosaleen slid her hand under her sleeve and plucked at her woven leather bracelet, a gift from Dad. He was the only who had her back, but even he never noticed the unhealed sores around her wrist. The oozing red marks created an exact pattern of the bracelet's Celtic design. She snapped hard, stifling a moan.

Her mom shuffled into the kitchen, a faded bathroom tied loosely. Dark auburn hair hung in oily waves along her thin neck.

Rosaleen fanned herself with her hand. "Don't you take showers anymore?"

Her mom flushed. "I thought I heard you say 'dad'."

"Shouldn't I? Just because he abandoned us doesn't mean he doesn't exist." She eyed her mom. Wait for it, wait for it.

"He would never!" Her mom's red-rimmed eyes went scary wild. "He's with a client! You know how he gets when he's repairing instruments. He loses track of time." She grabbed an unwashed glass from the sink and went to the freezer to fill it with ice.

Rosaleen's mouth tightened. "Think he could be hanging out with groupies? Even classical musicians have them, not to mention his famous rocker clients. I mean, look at you."

There was no response except for the slow, steady pour of whiskey slipping into her mother's glass. Rosaleen felt her stomach lurch. Resentment at her life was turning her into a Jonathan/Jenn monster.

"Sorry, sorry. I know he wouldn't dump us." Or her, his favorite? "That was Brigit on the phone. Yeah, Irish Brigit. She says we need to get over there ASAP 'cause Dad's coming to the pub."

Her mother turned around, eyes wide. "She said that?"

"But when I tried to get her to tell me what's going on, she hung up. Guess being a million years old cuts you some slack. Still, she was massive rude. What was that about?" Rosaleen crossed her arms and stared at her mom. "Something happened on Dad's and my last visit, didn't it? Is that why he wouldn't tell us he was going to Brigit's?"

Her mom looked away. A half memory moved through Rosaleen's consciousness. So far she had been successful at quarantining her worries about Dad. Now fear heaved up like an abscess rising from a ring of pus.


  1. I liked that you changed the first sentence and reworked the entering of the classroom. My personal taste runs against the use of a lot of adj. so my suggestion would be to not use so many in the opening scene. That's just my personal taste. I still find the sentence Music was dead to her, odd. I was really confused about what was going on the paragraphs following. I had to go back and reread to figure out who was who and who was doing what. That isn't always a good thing when sending out your first five. A publisher should get drawn in and not have to go back to straighten out what happened. A lot was going on and it didn't drive the story forward much. Maybe more details and less going on. I also felt the transition from the band room to the phone conversation was rough. I had my mind going in one direction and then all of a sudden it was a totally different story line.

    The idea is intriguing and I look forward to reading more.

  2. I like the new MC name better, more distinct from rosin. I like the opening but I'd like the first line to make it clearer that she is pushing open the door, not just angrily shoving her violin against a closed door. Also, does she stumble because she is dizzy, or trip over someone's foot/instrument case... seems like there should be some mild reason beyond the noise, which she must be expecting as an orchestra member.

    I was confused by the reference to "the other girl," who must be Jenn - but I'd stick with calling her Jenn. Jenn's "follower" comment seemed a little extreme/unrealistic to me, but maybe I'm just lucky to live in a town with less bullying than others.

    When Rosaleen is packing up I'd say "the" spurt instead of "a" spurt to make it clear that there is a spurt happening.

    I agree that the transition from band room to the kitchen was abrupt. maybe you could just start that paragraph with "Back home,"... I was also jarred by the phrase "I snapped hard" - not sure what that meant, she snapped her fingers?

    When Mom enters, I think you mean to say "bathrobe" but it says "bathroom."

    Re "Dad's and my last visit," I'm not clear if they were visiting Brigit, or she was visiting her dad because the parents are divorced?

    These are obviously details; overall I really like the setting and mood and MC you've created!

  3. I like how the prose is simpler now, and I LOVE how you communicated how Rosaleen feels about Jenn and Jonathan. I want to find out why she hangs out with them anyway; it’s not clear right now, but that’s okay - it’s a mystery that pulls me forward.

    However, the last line of the first scene didn’t make sense. It doesn’t seem to connect to the content of the scene - all her classmates checking their phones all at once, like they all got the same text right at the same time or something. I get that kids check their phones, but the way it’s described makes it sound like there’s a *reason* that’s not really set up in the scene itself, which is about how Rosaleen doesn’t like music, gets headaches, and hangs out with jerks. The line hangs there kind of awkwardly, and I'm left wondering what I missed in the scene, not why the kids are checking their phones.

    Also, as an aside: This is going to out me as a total geek, but I’m wondering why you changed the character’s name from Roiseen to Rosaleen. I kind of liked the old name - I’m assuming you were going for Roisin Dubh for its historical and allegorical value - and Rosaleen has a more J.C. Mangan-y modern feel to it. Honestly? I didn’t get the rosin-Roiseen connection, but I can see how Rosaleen gets you the same idea without that connection.


    Anyway, good progress on this - can’t wait to see what’s next!

  4. It's clearer for sure! But I'd still like to understand why she's reacting that way in the opening paragraph a little better. I feel confused and that's not how you want me to feel when I start out. Otherwise I'd only watch that comment about the text. I get it's supposed to be about her, but it's a big deal and if she doesn't notice it, how can you point it out in close third? If you want her to, have the text go out from the mean girl while they're talking and have her try to ignore it or something otherwise drop it.

  5. I'm going to throw a monkey wrench into the comments. :) Usually it's way easier to edit when everyone's saying the same thing, and in this case it seems like I might be the outlier. I actually loved the opening and thought it was much smoother than last time--in fact, I loved the first 3 paragraphs and feel like they immediately gave me a sense of who this person is. It may just be that I can see some of myself in her so I'm personally connecting to her, but I immediately liked her and I think the way you introduce her shows exactly who she is and establishes her voice.

    The only critique I had with this round is that she says that Jenn "lets" her hang out with them, but she doesn't say why she actually wants to. She clearly dislikes Jenn, and I know they have a sort of businessy relationship, but why would she want to hang out with them beyond that?

    This story's totally my style and I'm really enjoying it!

  6. Hi Christine,
    Thanks for sharing your revision. I like Rosaleen and want to know more about her. She likes her friend Heather, but isn't really ready to stand up to Jenn. As for Jonathan--love Rosaleen's reaction to him. Rosaleen is no one's fool.

    This is merely an observation--I'm a little surprised at how mean Jenn is about the harp. They'd have to be pretty good to join the high school orchestra. In turn, most musicians would appreciate the beauty of all the instruments. A lot of high school orchestras don't have a harp, so it also makes me curious about whether their school orchestra competes or plays professionally. Jenn is competitive about the practicing, so where do they fit in the violin section? 1st and 2nd chair? 1st violin? 2nd violin? Obviously not something you need to spend time on in your rewrite, unless this plays later on into your story--just curious whether Jenn is just a mean girl, or doesn't like Heather and everything she does.

    This is an urban fantasy--curious whether Rosaleen's headaches signify some sort of power she's growing into and how Jenn's power play over Rosaleen will play out. Not important to know now, it makes me want to read further.

    I was a little confused with the texting at the end of practice. Do the kids normally make fun or bully Rosaleen?

    There's a mystery behind Rosaleen's dad's disappearance. I'm wondering whether it makes sense to add a couple more clues that point to something unbelievable.

    Looking forward to the next round!

  7. Hi Christine,

    Nice job! Much clearer this revision and I like how you have woven a lot of things together more tightly.

    My take on the opening paragraphs is a bit different, too. I actually love the second paragraph, but not the first. I wonder if you could do something like this for your first paragraph.

    Laughter rippled through the aisles as Rosaleen slunk to her seat [carrying her violin case]. She slumped down and noticed she had cut her hand. A drop of bright blood fell on her second favorite pair of black cowboy boots. Excellent, she thought, squeezing the cut. She'd get gangrene and have to have her hand amputated. It would be the perfect excuse to skip Philadelphia Charter School's spring concert. Music was dead to her anyway.

    That says so much about her, and focuses less on the extraneous stuff. This is one of the two most important paragraphs in the book, so you really want it to be about your protag and her problem. That second paragraph sets it up. The reason I brought the third paragraph up is because I love the line, but the way you had it separated, it drew too much attention. In context with the second paragraph, it didn't seem like a natural progression of Rosaleen's thoughts to separate it out.

    I agree that I preferred Roiseen for her name. It introduces the nature of the book sooner, and I think that's critical.

    The lines about "letting" her hang out with Jenn really pulled me out of the story. You need to give us a hint of a reason why Rosaleen would want to do that, because the girl in that 2nd paragraph doesn't seem to be the kind of girl who would put up with it. Just one sentence to hint about not needing to put up with Jenn's crap for much longer, or whatever--virtually anything to suggest the relationship isn't what it seems.

    The bracelet thing -- is that her equivalent of cutting? I wonder, if it's a recurrent thing, whether you might consider having the blood in the earlier scene come from opening a scab under the bracelet? Let us wonder why she has scabs under her bracelet and then give us the pay out in the second scene.

    Is there significance to Heather's antique garnet necklace? It draws quite a bit of attention, so if it isn't critical, consider cutting that.

    Overall, my main question now is what is important. I feel like there are a lot of places where my attention wants to go, and no clear path. What does Rosaleen want? What is the story question? I'd like to know why music is dead to her. If that's the thread, than can you draw it into more prominence through the rest of the narrative? I get that it is probably connected to her father, but maybe make the connection clearer and draw some connections to some of the other disparate elements so that we can see they relate to a unified, cohesive whole? Right now, in just these pages, we have:

    1) The music issue
    2) The Heather issue
    3) The Jenn/Jonathan issue
    4) The reason she wants to hang out with Jenn et al
    5) The mystery of who the father is that she gets tickets from him for Jen
    6) The headaches
    7) The missing father
    8) The garnet necklace
    9) The electronic bullying

    There's too many mysteries and no answers, and so as a reader, I don't know where I should focus my attention. Also, and very critically, Rosaleen isn't acting. She's reacting and withdrawing in every respect except that she steps in to defend her former friend. That gives us a reason to like her, but I'd love a little more reason to love her!

    I'm eager to see what happens when you distill this down! There's a lot of great things in here.