Sunday, June 7, 2015

First 5 Pages June Workshop - Manning

Name: Katharine Manning
Genre: MG contemporary

Chapter 1 - Hailey

Hailey tore down the field, soccer ball bouncing in front of her. Her cleats made divots in the soft grass, and threw mud behind her as she ran. Ebi came at Hailey, challenging her for the ball.

“Not this time,” Hailey said under her breath. She faked right and went left. Ebi fell for it. Hailey grinned and kept charging at that goal like a freight train.

Next up was Jessie, the last defender.

Grace called to Hailey, giving her support. She was open, but no way Hailey was giving up this ball.

Hailey slowed, waiting for Jessie to come at her. Jessie always lunged forward, so Hailey knew she just needed to wait.

Slow. Slow.

There. Jessie jumped at the ball. Hailey popped it past her. Now it was Hailey and a wide-open goal. She tapped it into the net, easy likeSunday morning, as her dad would say.

“Yes!” Hailey whipped her head back and forth in an Egyptian lady dance, her beaded braids clattering in her ponytail. With a huge grin, she high-fived Grace.

Coach Shulman blew his whistle and clapped. “Nice practice, girls. Like that ball control, Hailey, but don’t forget to use your teammates. Grace was wide open.”

“That’s okay,” Grace said quickly to Hailey, as they headed back to the sideline. “You had an awesome run.”

The team gathered around Coach Shulman. “Take a knee, everyone,” he said. Jessie was the only one who did. Grace and Hailey sat on the ground leaning on each other, and Skyler actually laid down on her back with her knees bent, her long brown hair circling her on the grass like a halo.

“So, you know we’ve been short a player since Megan moved to Ohio. I’ve got some exciting news. We have a new player coming in and she is something. Her name is Alexandra. She’s been the star of her league in Florida, and her dad just got transferred up here.”

Hailey and Grace exchanged looks.

“What position does she play?” Hailey asked.

“She’s a center forward, Hailey.”

Hailey’s eyes narrowed. That was her position.

“But hold on,” he said, raising a hand to stop her argument before she even got it out. “I’ve got a great idea. We’re moving to a four forward offense.” He looked around as if he expected them to gasp, or cheer. They all looked back blankly. “Two center forwards! Four players scoring goals instead of three!”

Hailey’s mouth dropped open. What?

“It’s a much more offense-focused style of play, but I think you girls are up to it,” Coach went on. “Hailey and Alexandra will be unstoppable!”

“Wait,” Ebi said, from the other side of the circle. Her pink barrettes sparkled in front of the two little puffs she always wore in her hair. “Where’s the other player come from? How do we get four on the front line?”

“Well, we go from four defenders to three.”

Ebi and the other defenders, Jessie and Sarah and Natalie, started to complain.

Coach Shulman chuckled. “Hang on a minute, girls! You have to let me finish! You know we’ve been without a keeper. I think I know just the person for that job.” With the smile of a magician revealing his best trick, he looked at Jessie.

Jessie eyes widened. “But-” she started. “I- I can’t.”

“Of course you can,” Coach Shulman said heartily. “You’ve been a fantastic sweeper for two years now. Goalie is basically the same position, but you get to use your hands! You’re going to be a stellar keeper. You know, Mia Hamm started out in goal. Not many people know that. Great field vision, that’s the key….”

Hailey tuned him out. He expected her to share center forward? That was her spot!

Coach blew his whistle again. “Nice job today, everyone. All in!”

They all scrambled to their feet and reached in a hand. “Go, Wildcats!”

Hailey walked off the field with Grace. “Coach Shulman is crazy. How are we going to have two center forwards?” Hailey said.

“I don’t know,” Grace answered automatically. She shot Hailey a sympathetic look. “I’m sure it’ll be okay. See you at school tomorrow?”

“Unless Rocky gets me first!” Rocky was Hailey’s big brother, and Hailey always complained about how he tormented her. “Bye!,” she called, hopping into the car.

“Hello, Harriet,” her mom said. “How was school today?”

Hailey winced at the use of her full name. She was named after Harriet Tubman, who was, as her mom and dad told her a million times, one of the bravest African-American women in history, a slave who escaped to freedom and then went back and led others to freedom. She was even a spy during the Civil War. That was all great, but Harriet was a boring name. She’d started going by Hailey last year, in fourth grade, but her parents still called her Harriet.

“It’s Hailey,” Hailey said under her breath. “Fine,” she said, more loudly.

“How did your Time Test go?”

“Okay. Is Rocky home?” Hailey asked, to change the subject. Time Tests were the worst. She never won those things.

“He should be. He got a ride home from football with Denny. Your father will be late tonight.”

“What’s for dinner?”

Mom pursed her lips. “I don’t know, Harriet. We’ll have to see what I can come up with.”

The Wii was blaring from the den when they walked in, so Hailey went back to see Rocky. He was fifteen, and enormous. His long legs stretched halfway across the living room, and he somehow took up almost the whole couch with his top half. The video game controller danced in his huge hands, and he didn’t look up as Hailey walked in.

“Hi,” she said. He ignored her. “I said, hello.”

“Hey, dork.” His eyes never left the screen. He was shooting some aliens.

Hailey sighed as loud as she could, but didn’t leave. As much as she told her friends that Rocky was always bothering her, the truth was that he hardly paid her any attention at all. She kicked his legs.

“Cut it out, squeak.” He still didn’t look at her. She wasn’t going to get anywhere with him.

She sighed again, and walked to her bedroom. Rocky was a star football player, already playing varsity even though he was only a sophomore. He was a big shot now and ignored his pipsqueak little sister. Hailey missed James, her oldest brother. He was a freshman at the Naval Academy. He left a month earlier, at the beginning of August, and never even called. Mom said that his freshman year he was called a plebe and he had to work all the time.

It seemed like no one in the family had time for Hailey anymore.

Chapter 2 - Grace

Meanwhile, on the other side of Baxter, a Maryland suburb of Washington, DC, Grace was having the opposite problem: She couldn’t get a moment’s peace from her two brothers. Grace was a triplet. Her two brothers fought all the time, and she was always the one breaking it up. Teddy was taller, but Jack was heavier, so it was usually a pretty fair fight.

As she walked upstairs to put away her soccer things, Grace heard bumps and slams coming from the boys’ room.

“Give it back!” Teddy yelled.

“It’s mine!” Jack roared, just as loud.

She sighed and pushed open the door to their room.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. The beginning is so full of action and yet I was able to follow easily, despite knowing little about the game of soccer. You have a good mix of dialogue and action. I am in to this story. I already know that there will be a conflict with this team. And then we get a glimpse of Grace. I assume the book is written in two voices, Hailey and Grace. Perhaps we will have other voices as well. Such a challenge to write different character voices!

    I'm not sure why you leave out Sunday in the father's quote. Easy like Sunday morning. Even though it is an old song, I like the reference. It is something a parent would say today.

    I like how quickly you identify all the characters in Hailey's family (all in one paragraph!) I am ready to read more about Hailey and her friends.

  3. Katharine! Great job.

    I pictured Hailey immediately, and I think you have a great character on your hands. Maybe it’s because I’m a soccer fanatic—The Women’s World Cup is on!—so that helps.

    This feels perfectly MG to me. You jump right into the action and it really flows smoothly. I would like to see a tiny bit of description on the coach: is he young? Old? Does he have a belly? Does he have gray at his temples? Does he have a cap on?

    I think you can slow down, just a bit. Not a lot. Just a little. Give the reader a little time to breathe, perhaps before Hailey gets in the car or when she gets home. Let’s hear a little bit more about what’s going on in her head. Try not to make this feel moment by moment.

    Also, on Chapter Two, perhaps:…Meanwhile, on the other side of town…
    Not sure if we need the exact locale, unless it plays into the story.

    I think you are off to a fantastic start. Go Wildcats! Love the title.

  4. Hi Katharine! Thank yo so much for sharing.

    I love this opening. It's energetic and I get a really great sense of the potential conflict. The voice is solid, though sometimes it feels a little bit stiff. At this point, I'd say the biggest concern for me with this snippet is how the dialogue feels like exposition. It doesn't quite feel natural. Especially in the sections between Hailey and her mother. It comes across as oddly formal.

    While I get that the, "Hello, Harriet,” her mom said. “How was school today?” section is a good way for you to introduce her name and the meaning behind her name, I can't remember the last time my mother called me by name or spoke so formally. Don't be too concerned with getting all the information in that you lose the organic quality of the scene. Plus, there are other ways to get her name in. It could be written on a test hanging off the fridge, on a piece of mail or a dentist appointment reminder card.

    The rest of the voice fits well with the story. If I were to make one suggestion regarding the opening action it would be to start with the new player mysteriously joining the game rather than having the coach announce it. Sure, announcing it is fine, but you could build more tension in that opening scene by having your players as in the dark about the new player as we are.

    I can't wait to see what you do with revisions!

  5. Hi, Katharine,

    Thanks for sharing your work with us!

    You've written some solid action and introduced a host of characters, but at the end of the selection I'm left wondering what the story is about. Your main characters should enter this story with a goal in mind, and they should tell us that goal. Something has happened recently to change their lives, and they aren't adjusting well. I'd like to see what that conflict is up front.

    That may mean that you're not opening the story at the right moment. If the plot point of scene one is the introduction of a new player, then we should actually be introduced to that new player at that time. Let us plunge straight into the conflict so that you can raise questions and let us keep reading for answers.

    Your writing is easy to follow, if a bit stiff (if you read aloud, I think you'll see what I mean. There should be a little more flow and variety in sentence structure). It would be nice to have your main characters let us inside their heads a bit throughout. Try to show us Action, Emotion, Reaction, and Choice. The characters need to let us in for us to connect. The action, in effect, is not as important as the story happening on the sidelines.

    Best of luck with your revision!

    Melanie Conklin
    First Five Mentor

  6. This was a fun read and I'd definitely read more. You've got a good MG voice and good character set up with Hailey and Grace an their relationship. I'd like to get more of idea of the coach -- young, old, competent? Do the girls like him? Respect him?

    Like the easy like Sunday morning quote from Dad -- that gives us a bit of info about him in a small amount of space.

    Like the details of the Egyptian dance, showing us so much about Hailey.

    I don't know much about soccer, but I think you explained it well and gave is a good set up to problems to come with Hailey and the new girl.

    Nice intro of her real and full name -- also sets up Mom as a bit stiff and formal.

    Like the interaction -- or should I say non-interaction with her brother. That feels very real an and familiar. My older brothers hit an age where they never wanted to be seen with me. I would like to see more of her emotions though . You tell us that no one has time for her, but I think you could show that a bit more.

    Overall this is a smooth read with good character set up and foreshadowing of conflict. You have a good mix of exposition, dialogue, and action. The only thing I'd like a bit more of is her feelings. You give us a bit, but I think you can show us more of what's going on in her head. I still feel a bit distanced from her.

    Great stuff! I'm looking forward to reading the revision.


  7. Hello Katharine! As a survivor of a junior soccer team myself, this definitely brought back memories. I like that we not only set up the big conflict with Alexandra’s imminent arrival, but also get a handful of neat details and smaller conflicts that show a lot about the characters. We learn a ton from Hailey not giving up the ball, but we learn just as much about Grace when she isn’t openly mad about it. Ditto things like Hailey picking her own name (though I’d agree that the full explanation behind it can wait), and her family’s lack of attention, versus Hailey being the team’s center of attention.

    As far as things to think about, I’m not sure if our POVs are just Grace and Hailey, but if they are, consider introducing the teammates by name more gradually. Keeping track of who plays what position could be tricky, especially right at the beginning, and you’ll have time to establish their characters later. I’m going to also echo the suggestion to introduce some things by having them happen in-scene rather than being stated to us in dialogue or exposition.

    The other, most tiniest of nitpicks that I had: it sounds like Rocky is supposed to be playing a generic shoot-aliens-make-explosions video game. You could play a very few of those on a Wii, but you’re way more likely to find them being played on an Xbox, especially by a teenage boy looking to blow off some steam. (And here Mom said I’d never learn anything playing video games.)

    Thanks for letting us read! Good luck with revisions!