Monday, June 10, 2013

1st 5 Pages June Workshop - White Rev 1

Name: Katy White
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Title: Daughter of Ethærea

Thunder roared through the hallway as Asa Huntington eased the zipper on her backpack closed. She could smell the rain, even over the perfume, sweat, and hormones of her classmates. The scent of ozone and rain hitting dry earth lifted her spirits. It was like a sign from the heavens that taking nine finals to graduate would not, in fact, be her undoing.

Her backpack, on the other hand, might be. As she schlepped it through the buzzing, ancient stone halls of Alder Country Day, she prayed for the creaking seam to hold. One more week, and she could retire the bag forever. She wondered if it would make it.

She heard steps directly behind her and looked down to a see a pair of Docs on the oak floor. “I’m not talking to you,” she told the Docs, skirting around a couple making out against a stone arch. She looked up at her best friend, his mop of bark brown hair swept to the side. “I mean, six stupid finals? Six? No wonder you have time for rugby and baseball and other stupid things.”

Cal grinned and slung an arm over Asa’s shoulder. “Hey, you brought this evil on yourself, graduating with the losers instead of next year with me. What’s so great about Harvard, anyway?”

“Apart from my phytochemistry internship? The Greenhouse Café’ is supposed to have killer kale smoothies.”

He made a face. “Tempting. At least you won’t be the only freckle-faced nerd there. ‘Phytochemistry.’ You sound like an AP English test. In the normal world, people just say ‘botany.’ ”

Asa laughed, shaking her head as lightning flashed from the small windows near the top of the pointed arch ceiling. Cal knew exactly what was so special about Harvard and her internship. But she relied on him to keep things light when they threatened to get very, very heavy. She reached up and pinched his tanned cheeks. “It’s a good thing you’re so pretty, Cal.”

At the exit, Cal grabbed the thick double doors, and they stepped out into the pouring rain. “And now you’re flirting with me?” He popped open his umbrella and held it over them. “What will Max think?”

“That we can’t hide our passion—”

“Hold up,” Cal interrupted, looking past her. “What’s going on across the parking lot?”

“Oh, probably some jocks fighting about something important.”

“Funny, real funny.” Cal said, squinting through the rain toward the chestnut trees that bordered the school hill. “No, Asa, I think that’s Max…and, oh, frick. He’s with Evan.”

“What? Grab a teacher!”

Not looking to see where Cal went, Asa dropped her backpack. The seam gave its final groan, and the contents exploded. A moment of horror rooted her in place. Her books. Her notes. Finals. She mentally shook herself. Harvard already accepted you. Then she turned and sprinted across the parking lot, her boots slapping puddles. She snaked through the ring of students encircling the fighters. Her heart jumped to her throat. Max was on the ground.

“What do you think you’re doing?” she yelled to Evan, jumping in front of him.

The oaf glared at her. She took manic glee at the milk stains on his jacket. “Max isn’t some helpless little tree, you know. He doesn’t need your protection.” Evan said.

Asa dropped beside Max, still looking at Evan. “Hey, Evan, we’re not thirteen anymore. Isn’t it time you got past that?” Blood from Max’s nose mingled with rain as it spilled down his mocha skin. She put a hand on his cheek. “Pinch your nose below the bones and lean forward.”

Max pushed her hand aside, rising to his feet. “Asa, stay out of this.” Asa followed him up, standing beside him.

“Ooh, looks like trouble in paradise,” Evan’s girlfriend, Gwen, taunted. “What do you care, Asa? Everyone knows you’re breaking up with him when you leave for Harvard.”

Asa ignored the girl and glared at Evan. She tried to control her nerves as the large, unhinged boy stared down at her. Max grabbed her wrist.

“What do you think you’re gonna do to me, Asa?” Evan asked, his voice thick.

“And what are you going to do to me, Evan? Shake some plants at me again?”

“I know you did something with that tree, you little—”

Her laugh sounded tinny in her ears. “Get over it, Evan! Haven’t you been at this long enough? How did a stupid tree escalate into you vandalizing my house? Stealing my dad’s car? You’re 18. You won’t go to juvie for messing with me this time, you’ll go to big boy jail. Is that really what you want?” Evan stepped closer, his rage almost palpable. Max tried to get in front of Asa, but she cut him off. “I wouldn’t try anything, Ev. See all those iPhones? These kids are recording us. Do you want that much evidence against you in court?”

Rain streamed between Evan’s eyes, and the effect was sinister. He dropped his voice so low, she had to strain to hear him over the rumbling sky. “Oh, I’m not going to hurt you, Asa.” He stepped closer. Dangerously closer. “I just want to have a little chat.”

A fist came out of nowhere, connecting hard with Evan’s jaw.

“Cal!” Asa yelled.

“Run!” he yelled back.

She looked at Max, whose eyes darted between her and the now roaring Evan. “Go! Go!”

She bolted towards her car. She reached for her pocket, realizing too late that her keys were in her backpack. At the school’s entrance.

“Crap!” she screamed. She veered back towards the school. Her eyes flitted towards the circle of students. Evan’s toadies had entered the fight, and Cal and Max were badly outnumbered. Fortunately, several of their rugby teammates were running from the field to help, the coach following quickly behind. She exhaled and slowed to a jog.

“Asa. Oh, Ay-suh,” a thick voice sang. Her head snapped back to the direction of the school. It was Evan. Somehow, he had escaped the carnage he’d caused. And he was holding her keys.

She stopped dumbly. Then Evan started coming for her.


It had all been so stupid.

“He’s evil, mom,” Asa had said five years earlier, trying not to cry as she’d pulled another leaf from her hair. She’d sat at the foot of her parents’ bed, her knees tucked under her chin, staring at the empty fireplace across the master suite. A pile of leaves sat by her foot on the ivory rug. “He attacked me for no reason.”

Her dad’s voice punctuated her words from the sitting room. She couldn’t ever remember hearing him so angry. Evan’s dad was getting an earful.

Her mother reached for her hand. Auburn hair spilled in front of her face, framing a look that could only mean one thing: story time.

“When Lilya was a few years older than you, she learned a difficult lesson like the one you learned today,” her mom said, her Ukrainian accent stronger than normal.

Asa sniffed and rolled her eyes. “I’m thirteen, Mom. Don’t you think I’m a little old for ‘the Adventures of Lilya and Lucya?’ ” Her mother’s brows arched over dark sapphire eyes. “Sorry,” Asa mumbled.

“Don’t worry, I gave up on telling you tales about nymphs and jinn long ago.”

Asa smiled. “It’s about time. So what was the lesson?”

“Simply that people can be cruel.”

Her smile vanished. “That’s it? People can be cruel? Mom, people suck! Gwen’s supposed to be my friend, yet she just laughed while Evan and those jagweeds humiliated me.” To prove her point, she touched her hair and pulled out a leaf from the tree Evan had denuded onto her.

“Asa, language.”

“I know, I’m sorry, but they were so mean! They laughed at me, and Evan called me a witch, and they talked about—”


Asa nodded and the tears started. They’d mentioned her father, too, but she wasn’t ready to talk about that. “Evan was tearing apart a really rare Japanese Maple that Gwen’s mom doesn’t have a clue how to tend, let alone their gardener. So I went over there with Cal and his cousin and told him to stop. Some of the guys just laughed at me. Whatever. But then Evan launched into this thing about how at his house the foreigners who spend all day in the garden aren’t called mom, they’re called ‘the help.’ ”

“Why did this bother you?”

“They were making fun of you!”

To her surprise, her mother smiled. “Do you think their words hurt me?”

“Um.” She blinked. “I guess not.”


  1. Hi Katy. I found the revised version much easier to follow than the first version. Removing one of the friend characters was a good call and the shift to flashback is quite clear now. You've also maintained the highly realistic feel of the school scenes. Asa is a very attractive main character.

    There are a few places that felt awkward to me. First the bit where she takes "manic glee at the milk stains on his jacket." Manic glee just didn't feel like it fit with the mc and the other emotions in the scene. I also didn't think it felt natural for Asa to talk about Evan's escalating behavior in such a emotionally charged moment. You may not even need to reference the tree incident here as the flashback is so much clearer now. Finally, I find something oddly distracting about the word "denuded". Not sure why, I just do. Those are all small things though. Overall I think its a really strong opening.

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Rebecca! I see what you're saying about the word choice in those places and will tweak those. :)

  2. I really like this revision! I agree that it was a good call to have Asa with just one of her friends at the beginning, and I enjoyed how you tweaked their conversation. It was fun and cute! In the conversation between Asa and Evan, I actually do like the little details we get about that incident. Maybe it's more than is needed for such an emotionally charged conversation, but I think a few of those details are important. In the flashback, it looks like Evan shook the leaves off onto her, but from what Evan says about her doing something to the tree, it makes it clear that Asa might actually have been the one to do something even if she didn't realize it. And, to me, that gives a fantastic first clue about the fantasy element and about potential abilities Asa may have. Maybe if you trim the list of things Evan does, like vandalizing her house, etc. and work those things in at a more natural point later--because I'm sure they'll end up in another confrontation :)--it might work well.

  3. Hi Katy,

    You've added a lot of nice details about the school setting. I like that I can picture where they're walking and what the vibe is like. I also think ancient stone hallways and smelling the rain hitting the earth helps to set your tone -- stone and earth just feel fantasy-ish, right?

    I feel a little guilty that Ian's name got changed because I wasn't smart enough to keep the characters straight! I have to admit though, it reads much more clearly now. I agree with Rebecca that manic glee doesn't seem like quite the right phrasing, and I think Lora's suggestion that you cut out a few of the things that Evan has done is a good one. Maybe you could allude to the fact that the tree incident kicked off a long history, or that he'd been tormenting her for years.

    Overall, I'm very curious what is going on with Asa and her parents. Nice opening!

    1. Don't feel bad about the name! I actually like Max better for his character, but his name was Ian from my first draft, so I just never thought twice about it. It was a great call!

  4. I agree with the others about the revisions in the beginning. It was much easier to follow with fewer characters in the conversation, and I got a better feel for Asa's character and her relationship with Cal.

    Not sure if this is on purpose or if it's just me, but I'm not feeling any sort of a connection between Asa and Max, even though they are dating?? It seems that Cal is more protective and caring about Asa, especially when he steps in and hits Evan, when Max just tells her to stay out of it.

    I appreciate the clarity in the flashback. Good revisions, looking forward to next week.

  5. Yes! the flashback is much clearer now. But here's the question: Is it necessary? If you can keep flashbacks out while dripping in the info it would be better. Also if she's graduating a year early, she can't be 13, 5 years ago. She's be 12 or even 11. OR maybe it was 4 years ago? Silly detail I know, but it bugged me. I also wonder about Evan, who I connect with more than Max. I want to know more about their relationship. :D But I suppose that's a good thing.

  6. Hi Katy,

    This is a lot of great revision, and I still think it's wonderfully evocative and intriguing, but I'm afraid I still stand by my recommendations from last week--and Lisa's suggestion--about keeping this linear. We don't need the flashback, we really don't. You can show us what we need to know in real time. This early, it simply derails us.

    Be careful with your use of "as" throughout, and stay with simple past tense wherever possible.

    1. Thanks for the feedback on "as" and the flashback. Regarding flashbacks in general, do you suggest simply cutting them throughout the book? I use them to show interactions with her parents as the story progresses that mirror important changes/events throughout the book. So are you saying that flashbacks in general should be avoided or that a flashback this early should be?

      Thanks so much!