Sunday, September 15, 2013

1st 5 Pages September Workshop - Hinebaugh Rev 1

Name: Olivia Hinebaugh
Genre: YA Contemporary
Title: Lark's Rebellion

I’m lying here in the tall grass, staring at the perfectly fluffy
clouds, trying to figure out how to piss off my parents. This shouldn’t
be so hard. I’m sixteen, after all. Isn’t it supposed to come with the
territory? I’m writing down a list in my five subject notebook as per
usual. This notebook is filled with similar lists.

So far all I have is:

Ways to Rebel:

1. Buy new clothes.
Start eating meat.
Join a convent.
Cut my hair.

I’ve never had this much trouble generating a list before. The white
space on the page makes my fingers itchy and twitchy. I stick the
well-chewed pen in my mouth and hold the notebook so it shades my eyes
from the sun.

I read over my list again. This won’t do.

I begin a new list:

Reasons why the previous list is impractical:

1. Buy new clothes
a. I don’t have money.
b. If I had money, I wouldn’t waste it on clothes. Not when there are
still kill shelters for animals around.
c. I enjoy making my own clothes.
2. Start eating meat
a. Meat is gross.
b. Again, no money, no car, don’t know how to slaughter animals.
c. Even if I knew how to slaughter animals, I wouldn’t. No way.
d. Sean says you can get something called “the meat sweats” and that
just plain makes me want to vomit.
3. Join a convent
a. Not sure if convents still exist
b. Could never be abstinent
c. Don’t believe in God
d. I think nuns have to sing, and I have a terrible voice
4. Cut my hair
a. I love my hair
b. Parents would probably see a short ‘do as a form of self-expression:
plan would backfire.

It’s useless. Nonconformity is the norm here in Peacesylvania.
Peacesylvania is the nom du jour for our mostly-off-the-grid tract of
land in the almost-middle-of-nowhere Pennsylvania. My parents have to
respect my individuality. It’s, like, one of the rules they signed off
on when they joined. I mean, they didn’t literally sign. And there
aren’t actually any rules written down. Old Man Nelson would say: “No
rules, man. Paper trails just let the man control you.” He’s paranoid,
but everyone still listens to him. Crazy hippie.

My goal now is to find the least hippie thing to do, but also something
that doesn’t repulse me. I tap the pen on the notebook, willing myself
to come up with something.

“Lark! It’s quittin’ time!” My brother, Sean, shouts louder than he
needs to. It startles the pen right out of my fingers.

“Jesus, Sean. You have to stop sneaking up on me!” I stand up and do a
quick tick-check on my bare arms and legs. It’s really freaking hot and
my mass of curly, partially dreaded, partially braided hair makes my
back feel immediately sticky.

I reach behind Sean and grab the ratty bandana that’s always in his back
pocket and use it to tie up my hair.

“I definitely just used that to wipe my nose,” he says. He’s been
shoveling manure or composting or something because his sweaty face is
streaked with dark brown grime.

“Whatever,” I smile, “I love your snot.”

“You’re so gross,” he says.

“Says the one with half of his lunch still stuck in his beard,” I tease.

“I’m thinking of shaving it,” he says.

I raise my eyebrows at him. He’s normally so keen to fit in. He loves
the Peacesylvania aesthetic. Because he grew up so mainstream, I think
he feels like he needs to prove something.

“So what were you out here making a list of?” he asks, trying to snatch
my notebook.

“Back off!” I scold him.

“You were on my watch, so you have to tell me,” he says as we start back
toward the little hamlet of cabins and RVs and vans. They form a loose
circle around a decrepit old Victorian home where most of the elders live.

He’s in charge of my “unschooling.” It’s like homeschooling only without
a curriculum. The emphasis is on self-exploration and real-life skills.
This translates to me reading. A lot. And writing my fair share of lists
and personal reflections. There’s a good dose of staring at the sky and
shoveling manure mixed in there. Sean is the most educated of my
siblings. He finished middle school before we joined up with the
commune. I was only five, and my memories of mainstream school were all
about nap mats and snack time.

“It’s a bit of self-reflection,” I tell him. “I’ve been reading as wide
a variety of coming of age stories as I can and there’s a central theme.”

“Oh yeah?” He’s actually interested. It’s why we get along so well. My
other older brother, Hudson, is a hooligan. Hudson says he’s pursuing a
life of spirituality, but let’s call it what it is: an extreme pot
habit. Sean’s the opposite, hardworking to a fault and sickeningly
helpful. Our dad says he takes after his mom, whom he barely remembers.
My mom, on the other hand, probably has more in common with Hudson and
my wild younger siblings. “Free spirit” would be an understatement.

“Well, there’s always a sort of declaration of independence. A coming
into one’s own. A division from the group. And always some sort of great
self-discovery. Occasionally regarding sexuality. Other times regarding
moral obligation.”

“So which of these aspects are you pondering?” Sean asks.

“The division from the group thing. How exactly am I ever going to be
independent if I keep being exactly who mom and dad expect me to be?” I
ask him.

He laughs. “But they don’t expect anything specific of you. ‘Be you. Be
real,’” he quotes my mom.

“Exactly! There’s got to be some way to ‘be me.’ I’m not sure I want to
lead such an insulated life. I need to get out there. Find out who I am.
Separate from Mom and Dad.”

“You gotta let these happen organically,” Sean advises.

“Oh my god. You’ve been drinking the water! You’re no help.” I tease.
“I’ll work out something.”

“When you do, you’ll have to let me know what little act of rebellion
you’re cooking up,” Sean winks at me.

“Oh, you’ll be the first to know,” I say. “It might involve the use of
your car.”

We reach the main house where we cook and meet and eat if the weather is
bad. Tonight will definitely be a picnic night.

“Anytime,” He offers. “Though I was going to replace the wheel bearings

“Ooh, can I help you? I’ve always wanted to learn how to do that.” I say.

“Really?” He asks.

He’d probably love to teach me this, but I have no real interest. “No,”
I laugh. He swats at me as I run up the steps into the kitchen.

“Lark,” my mother calls. “Come help Basil and Blossom chop veggies.”

“Sure,” I say, going to the sink and washing my hands and face. I
readjust Sean’s bandana to keep the hair out of my face. I put a calico
apron over my plaid sundress and kiss Mama on the cheek before sitting
down at the long table.

Blossom and Basil are seven-year-old twins. They each stand at the table
with knives as long as their forearms. I don’t think many parents would
trust such little kids with those blades, but we believe in letting
every person decide when they’re ready for something. For example: I’ve
been drinking wine since I was twelve.


  1. Love the "I'm sixteen. Doesn't it come with the territory" line. Makes me smile.

    There are numbers missing under the "way to rebel".

    Smooth intro to the brother--made it clear who he was right away.

    Love the sibling names.

    The MC is set up very nicely here. The reader knows her right away.

    Like "startles the pen right out of my hand" line.

    I think this paragraph needs a little breaking up.

    Well, there’s always a sort of declaration of independence. A coming
    into one’s own. A division from the group. And always some sort of great
    self-discovery. Occasionally regarding sexuality. Other times regarding
    moral obligation.

    Could you incorporate it into the conversation more? As in, could her brother respond to it somehow, breaking this into two or three snippets instead of more of a monologue.

    Otherwise, I think it's a great start to an interesting premise. I like how you encorporate the details (the RVs surrounding a Victorian house where the elder live, in particular).

    Best of luck. Isn't this workshop wonderful?

  2. Hi Olivia,

    The pace of the excerpt felt tighter -- and I appreciated finding out who Sean was as soon as he entered the story. My notes are all under the heading of 'picky points.'

    Lark's thought about 'generating a list' felt too clinical -- though perhaps I don't know her well enough yet.

    The numbers 2-4 are missing on the first list.

    I liked the inclusion of "No way' on item 2c. Funny and tells us a lot about Lark

    To avoid repetition of 'list' in close proximately, perhaps 'I begin anew (list).'

    Might want to look at cutting speaker attributions when paired with action, e.g., "...a list of?" He (asks trying) tries to...

    This line was a little unclear -- perhaps substitute 'Sean' for one of the 'he's?: Our dad says he takes after his mom, whom he barely remembers.

    Nice job folding in the fact of the different moms for the kids and giving the first glimpse into Lark's home life. I'd keep on reading.

    - Peggy

  3. Nice revision. I'm still not clear on why she wants to rebel. She seems pretty happy. Why is she obsessed with the idea? Also, you say that she doesn't remember her mom, but then Mom and Dad are around... Confusing. If it's a new mom, maybe just a quick clarification like "my real mom" when she doesn't remember. But even so, she then goes on to mention a character trait, so she does remember?

    There are a lot of telling lines you don't necessarily need. Like when he asks if she's really interested in working on the car. You can just go straight to "no." It'll be funnier than trying to explain it when you probably don't need to. Trust the reader to get it.

    What is it she WANTS? I want to feel her longing for it and that can explain to me the missing piece of why... :D

    1. I'll try to clarify. Sean is her half-brother, so he has a different mom. I like cutting "no." So much snappier!

  4. Didn't realize this was a revision as this is my first read. I liked Lark and her brother Sean's relationship. Very comfortable and loving. I do know why she wants to rebel -- she's a teenager! LOL. No matter how happy things are they want something different. So, Olivia I like that point.

    The alternative hippie family in a YA book I like as well. So, this little girl seems like she wants to try mainstreaming. It's not implicitly stated but b/c she's in the hippie life, where else will she go for adventure and to 'find herself'? You could put more of her longings in with some additional thoughts from Lark's own mind (in italics??) so we can see more that she does not write down.

    You need a closing quote mark on 4B; you missed it.

    Otherwise, I like the story and how it's developing. If you can stick in a bully/antagonistic person (even for a second) in here then we can get a conflict going early on which is always a great thing.


  5. Hi Olivia,

    I love these characters and this setting more each time I read. I'd still like to see the latter right up front. If you are going to open with the list, I wonder if it's possible to infuse it with more of Peacesylvania.

    I like that you made the sibling relationship clear right away. Their dialog is terrific. And I'm really enjoying the character/setting details -- "the "ratty bandana", "little hamlet of cabins and RVs and vans", "knives as long as their forearms".

    During this read, one line stood out to me: "My goal now is to find the least hippie thing to do, but also something that doesn’t repulse me." That's a great struggle and I want to feel more of the impetus and urgency behind it. Why this rebellion? And why now?

    This is such an interesting and unique set up for a story. I'm eager to see where you take it.


  6. Hi Olivia,

    The pacing and flow are much improved -- trimming the redundant words and details helped!
    You pack a lot of character and voice into the list and it's authentic and laugh-aloud funny.

    The nits:

    "He laughs. “But they don’t expect anything specific of you. ‘Be you. Be
    real,’” he quotes my mom." - If he's her brother, shouldn't it be "our mom" and instead of "my mom"?

    Could probably trim the (a) (b) (c) (d) options for each item in the list down and still get the point across. When it's this long, it's easy to skim after the first few bullets. For example , the bullet showing her ignorance or lack of regard for convents is already conveyed by the bullet about not having a good singing voice. You don't need the "Not sure if convents still exist."

    Why the variation between "Mama" and "mom"?
    I'm struggling a little to understand her relationship with her parents. Is she resentful of being bored in middle of nowhere? Does she blame her parents for their unorthodox upbringing or lifestyles? Where does she stand with them? And most importantly, why does she decide to rebel. There's a catalyst for her making this decision and the reader needs to know why.


  7. Sorry my comments are so late.

    I love the setting and the voice. Great job on those. But, I don't feel like there is any action at all. You're 5 pages in. We need to know what your character wants and why. We also need to see a reason why she can't get what she wants. Also, why is this the place to start your book? What is special about this day in terms of her getting what she wants?

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