Monday, April 21, 2014

1st 5 Pages April Workshop - Litwin Rev 2

Name: Laurie Litwin
Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary
Title: Bee Stadium

Harrison Templeton has a big fat head. Thankfully I sit right behind him. When I slouch, Mrs. Cooper, my seventh-period Language Arts Teacher, can't see a single hair on my entirely proportionally sized head.

My right knee taps in time with each second - thirty minutes to go. I've been waiting for-freaking-ever for the first day of baseball practice. This year we might go all the way to the Little League World Series.

"Can anyone tell me from what point of view the Red Badge of Courage is written?" Mrs. Cooper asks, pacing in front of the white board wielding a dry erase marker like a bayonet.

Ugh. I'd rather eat moldy broccoli than read this book.

They should let us read something cool, like The Boy Who Saved Baseball or The Wild Pitch. Heck, I kind of even liked Holes. All this talk of themes and symbolism makes me want to poke my eye out with my number two pencil.

I duck out of her line of sight. She's going to call on someone to read out loud soon.

My eyes blur and I can smell the grass on the field as I wind up to pitch. "Strike!" the ump yells.

“Jake?” I snap my head forward as my heart hammers.

“What?” My voice comes out high, like a girl.

Next to me, Kyle Filbert snickers, his black hair flopping forward and covering one of his eyes like a pirate's eye patch. I shoot my arch-enemy a dirty look and ball my hand into a fist under my desk.

Sometimes I really want to punch the jerk in the face. He's not beating me out of MVP this year.

“I asked you to read the first paragraph of chapter three out loud to the class,” she says slowly, lifting her eyebrows at me. Or, should I say, eyebrow. She has one thick brown eyebrow that crawls across her forehead like a caterpillar.

She picks on me because I have a harder time reading aloud than the other kids. It’s not fair.

I sigh as loud as I can and tap my hand on my leg. Praying for time to speed up so I can get out of this nightmare.

"Henry ... uh .. himself ... I mean ... he ... wal ... k ... walked by ... him ... self into ... uh ... into the ... uh ... dark ... nessss ... darkness." The words are jumping around as I try to read them. I wipe my palms on my jeans.

I peer two inches to the right, around Harrison's watermelon head, at Mrs. Cooper. His hair is sticking straight out on one side, like he battled with the hair gel and lost.

"Continue, Jake."

I take a deep breath, fiddling with the baseball hat in my lap. I have to keep it hidden under my desk because Mrs. Cooper won't let me wear it in class. Last week she kept it for a whole day when I forgot to take it off before I walked into the classroom.

"He ... he ... down ... um ... I mean ... he lay down ... in ... uh ... in the ... in the grass ... sorry ... no ... and ... felt ... sorry ... for ... uh ... him ... self ... himself." I'm sweating so much I could fill a bucket.

"Thank you, Jake. Kyle, please start where Jake left off." She paces back and forth.

My shoulders slump forward and I drop my head. Kyle may be able to read better than me, but I can strike him out with three straight fastballs.

As Kyle reads, I turn my head and look out the window. I squint my eyes and peer at the diamond in the distance. My butt leaves the seat and I spend the next twenty minutes on the field. The ump yells "Batter up!" and I wind up letting pitch after pitch go, striking out three batters in a row. "You're out!" rings out as the bell signals the end of the day.

Another day of sixth grade in the books.

Over the bell, Mrs. cooper calls out, “Pick one of the major themes in The Red Badge of Courage and tell me how it relates to your life – One typed page by Monday. And the practice spelling bee is tomorrow.

Don’t forget to study the word list.”

I freeze in my seat.

Crap, I forgot!

I hate spelling. I hate spelling bees even more. Last year I got the easiest, girliest word ever: Tulip. Of course, I spelled it T-O-O-L-I-P. Everyone laughed. I wanted to hurl.

I can't put myself through that kind of humiliation again.

I pull my baseball hat free from my belt loop and shape the bill between my palms, shoving the spelling bee out of my mind as I race for the door.

Batting seventh ... Number 11 ...


I stop so fast my sneaker squeaks on the floor.

When I turn, Mrs. Cooper's holding a sheet of paper in front of her. I shuffle my way over to her and take it. There's a red D glaring at me.

My stomach drops into the basement.

Mom's going to murder me and feed my insides to the seagulls.

"I understand today's the first day of baseball practice," she says, putting one hand on her hip and jutting her chin out to the side, toward the baseball field.

"Uh, yeah." I take a step backward toward the door. I wanna jet outta here so bad.

"You're very close to failing my class. If your grade falls any lower, you won't be able to play baseball."

My breath gets caught in my throat and I croak, "Huh?" I try to swallow, but it's like there's a huge wad of Bubble Yum bubble gum stuck there. "No way."

My face burns hotter and hotter the longer I stand here.

"The school has an agreement with the little league program. A failing grade means no baseball," she repeats, saying the words super slow, like I'm hard of hearing. I can hear her fine, I just don't like what she's saying.

"Is there anything I can do. Extra credit, or something." My voice rises.

As she pauses, the caterpillar above her eyes wiggles.

" If you place in the top three in the classroom spelling bee next week you'll advance to the school spelling bee. If you do that, I'll give you enough extra credit points to raise your grade one level." She stares at me so hard I'm surprised I don't combust.

"Is there anything else I can do?" Say yes. "I'll volunteer to read out loud every day for the rest of the school year." I pause.
"Anything but spelling. I get the letters mixed up in my brain and I freeze."

Her face softens and she puts a hand on my shoulder. "You can do it. I've seen your potential. Put some thought into today's assignment. You've excelled on the writing exercises. Otherwise, winning the spelling bee is your only option for extra credit."

I hang my head and stare at the ground.

"Okay." I nod. I'll figure out how to deal with this after practice.

I clobber no less than six kids in the rush to get to my locker and grab my gear bag.

"Dude, it's time!" I whip my head around as Ethan barrels toward me in the hallway, bat bag slung over his shoulder. As he turns, the bag swings around and he almost whacks Emily Hanson in the head.


  1. I enjoyed reading your first five, although I’ll be honest and say your entry has been excellent right along.

    A few suggestions:

    Instead of I can smell the grass, maybe put us in Jake’s mind by showing the smell. For example (only better, of course): My eyes blur and the sweet smell of cut grass settles in my mind as I wind up to pitch.

    Ways you could tighten up here and there: The words are jumping . . . could be: The words jump; and His hair is sticking; could be His hair sticks. As Kyle reads, I turn my head and look out the window. I squint my eyes and peer at the diamond in the distance. Could be: As Kyle reads, I squint out the window at the diamond in the distance. We assume it’s out the window and we know he’s looking if he sees it. There’s a red D glaring at me could be: A red D glares at me.

    It was fun to get a little more of your story. The almost whacking Emily made me laugh.

    All the best with it!

  2. Hi Laurie,

    Wow! I am so impressed with this revision! I think it's perfect! (I know that's not very helpful but it's the truth)
    The only thing I thought to look at again was the "my butt leaves the seat..." Because it doesn't. His head/attention does but not his body.
    LOVED the last part where he clobbered no less than 6 kids. Hahaha. You really got your character.

  3. Laurie, This is fantastic. I think there a few formatting things but I'm sure it's just the pasting into this. You have really done a terrific job of streamlining this. It was great to begin with and now it really shines. Your writing has efficiency, we get much more about Jake and his nemesis. The humor is here (love the seagull line--that new?), the stakes are clear. You give us enough about him having a learning problem without us having to ask all the questions we did the first time. It's presented in a great way that you can now build on. I love the way you incorporate him imagining himself on the field instead of in the classroom and the softening of the teacher at the end works better for me too.

    Terrific job and please let me know how things go for you! A pleasure to read your pages and thank you for participating in this workshop and letting us all nitpick you!