Sunday, August 16, 2015

1st 5 Pages August Workshop - Hartley Revision 2

Name: Erin Foster Hartley
Genre: YA Contemporary
Title: Skylar’s Kids

House passes sperm donation bill
By Dirk Stimmel, USA Today
February 12, 1997

WASHINGTON — The House passed a bill Monday limiting the number of sperm donations individuals may make for the purpose of artificial insemination, but only in cases where the donor won’t be directly involved in raising the resulting child.

Passed 398-12, the Reckless Procreation Prevention Act — otherwise known as the Skylar Webb Bill — received nearly unanimous bipartisan support from its inception. The president has vowed to sign it into law immediately.

Last September, in the midst of a highly-publicized nervous breakdown, movie star Skylar Webb auctioned off samples of his sperm to 100 female fans. How many of these women will ultimately follow through with conception remains to be seen, but typical intrauterine insemination success rates are between 10-20%.

The current whereabouts of Skylar Webb are unknown. The first of his offspring are expected to be born mid-July.

MARCH 2015

Principal Grimes’ jagged, dingy smile is nothing if not a cautionary tale for proper dental hygiene. “Come in, Alex,” she says. I cringe at her unwelcome nickname and take a seat next to Mr. Gillespie, the drama teacher. “We’ve been discussing the school musical. Unfortunately,Hedwig and the Angry Inch is just not an acceptable choice of material.”

“I’m sorry,” Mr. Gillespie says. “I know you had your heart set on this.” A muscle ripples along his jawline as he swallows. He’s just six years older than me, and it’s his first year teaching at City High. His pores are kinda large and he’s got a weird cleft in his chin, but he’s the school’s only gay teacher and I can’t stop obsessing over him like he’s freaking Bradley Cooper — even now when I have bigger things to focus on.

“What’s wrong with Hedwig?” I ask. “It won the Tony last year.”

“And I’m sure it was well-deserved. But a teenage boy in drag playing a transsexual rock star is going to raise more than a few eyebrows. I’d hate to see Mr. Gillespie come under fire from the PTA.” 

“We don’t care what the PTA thinks,” I say, leaning forward. “It’s not fair. This is discrimination. We’ll fight it all the way to the Supreme Court if we have to.”

Principal Grimes, clearly not appreciating my spontaneous Atticus Finch moment, pulls something from the top drawer of her desk — one of the scripts I printed out in the school library last week when I got yelled at for wasting so much paper. Its edges are adorned with a variety of neon-colored sticky notes. She flips to a yellow-marked page and clears her throat. “Hedwig climbs into the lap of an unsuspecting audience member and rhythmically thrusts her pelvis in his face, the fringe of her skirt tickling his nose. Hedwig: ‘It’s a car wash, ladies and gentlemen!’” She fans through the rest of the pages marked in green, blue, pink, and orange, and shakes her head. “There’s a fine line between provocative and vulgar. This play is about six miles east of that line.”

“We still have plenty of other options,” Mr. Gillespie says. “Jesus Christ Superstar. Or Chicago, even.”

I roll my eyes. I don’t want to play hippie disco Jesus or Richard Gere. I want to do drag, and Mr. Gillespie knows this. Why is he being such a Judas? “Could I play Roxie Hart?” I ask.

He and Principal Grimes exchange a look. “What about Cats?” she says. “You’d make a wonderful Mr. Mistoffelees.”

I stifle a shudder and focus on channeling my inner Elsa from Frozen. Let it go, let it go… Ooh, there’s an idea.

“Alex? Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” I say, but I can’t bring myself to open my eyes.  “I’ll take it into consideration.”

“Oh, wonderful. Here’s a list of PTA-approved plays, which Mr. Gillespie really should have consulted in the first place. Let me know what you decide on by Friday. I want to announce auditions at the pep rally.”

Outside Grimes’ office, Mr. Gillespie puts his hand on my shoulder. “Again, I’m sorry,” he says. “If I wasn’t so new around here, I might have had a better chance to defend you.” At least, I’m pretty sure that’s the gist of what he’s saying. It’s hard to concentrate on anything else besides the heat from his palm seeping through the fabric of my t-shirt. I somehow manage a nod.

“Don’t worry,” he says. “Whatever we end up doing, I’m confident you’ll be spectacular.” He gives me one last atta boy smile before taking off down the hall. I’m too busy watching him go to notice my friend Mathilda approaching.

“Give it up, Blueberry,” she says, grabbing my sleeve and pulling me into the girls’ restroom. “It’s never gonna happen.”

“It could.”

“It won’t.” She hoists herself onto the counter and takes a drag from her e-cig. “You need to stop watching so much gay porn. It’s warped your sense of reality.”

“Whatever.” I stick the play list in my back pocket and make a pouty-face at myself in the mirror. I dyed my hair blue last week (hence Mathilda’s brilliant new nickname for me) but it’s already starting to fade to a greenish-gray. Not a pretty sight. “Grimes killed Hedwig, BTW.”

“Bloody ‘ell. A fucking surprise, that one is.” Mathilda watches a lot of British TV shows, and she likes nothing better than to randomly whip out her crappy Cockney accent. “Did you seriously think that was gonna fly?”

I pick up a local events magazine that someone left by the sink and flip through a few pages. “I guess I sort of expected it.”

“So what’s your plan now? I mean, besides going home to fap to Mr. Gillespie’s yearbook photo?”

I raise my middle finger at her without looking up from the magazine. “He’s not in the yearbook. Do you think I’d make a good Angel fromRent?”

“Oh, sure,” she says, exhaling a puff of vanilla-scented vapor. “If there’s one thing sexier than playing a character with a one-inch dick, it’s playing one dying of AIDS.”

“I didn’t join drama club just to get into Mr. Gillespie’s pants, you know. I actually do care about the musical.” I flip past an article on this weekend’s kombucha festival and three pages of ads for hipster used clothing stores and sub shops before my eyes catch on something interesting.

Thursday: Dance Party w/DJ Nate
Friday: Karaoke w/Laydee Twist
Saturday: Amateur Drag Show*
*Winners may be invited to join The Alley Cat’s Drag Troupe: THE P*SSY POSSE

“Uh, Mat? Does your brother still hang out with that guy who makes fake IDs? I’m gonna need one by Saturday.”

She raises an over-plucked eyebrow. “Creepy Carlos? Yeah, but a rush job will cost you. Why, what’s Saturday?”

I sigh and clutch the magazine to my chest. “My debut.”


  1. Hi Erin, good job with this revision. I think it was a great idea to shorten the news report at the beginning, and I like the extra details about the drama teacher. I think you've done an excellent job of allowing the reader to see what makes your character tick and motivates him.

  2. Hey Erin,
    Nice job trimming this up. It flows easier now, and I can see Alexander's love of performing and/ or being on stage. It gives him a drive in the story and makes him more relatable. I'm still not sure where exactly this is all going, or what direction it's heading towards, but good job overall

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  4. Hi Erin,
    Trimming down the news report has really worked. It's enough to have me intrigued but not enough to detract from Alexander's story. The early version seemed too big a jump, but maybe that's just me. I really love this piece and Alexander's sassy character, I know there will be some critics out there (aren't there always) who will say he is stereotypical and maybe to a certain extent he is, as a very great majority of gay teenagers are at that age while they are still searching for their own identity - so I think you have portrayed that sense of search for place beautifully. I can't wait to see your pitch to get a better feel of what this is all about - how many of Skylar's offspring are we going to meet? I'm fascinated.

  5. Erin, every time I read this I can't help but laugh. The voices of your characters are so strong. I love the details about the drama teacher and the Bradley Cooper comment. You did a great job tightening the news article. At this point the only recommendation I have is that when the teacher walks away, instead of him just looking at him what if you had him have some internal thought about the teacher's fabulous ass/butt in those super skinny jeans? I don't know, just a thought. Again, very well done. I so much wish I could buy this book right now. Good luck!

  6. I haven't seen it work many times, but your opening with the news report is great. The word choice and tone fit a newspaper and is so different from the voice in the rest of the pages. Well done.

    I do worry a little about the specific dates, as publishing moves so slowly and even if this is picked up now, it won't be published until at least 2017 (which is why you need to be careful about pop culture references).

    The writing in this is very good and I don't have any critiques of that.

    I do wish I had a query letter to go with this because it is hard to critique without knowing where it is going. I am assuming it is about more than only Alexander, but wonder why we are starting with him. He has a distinctive voice and I assume he is the MC.

    He may be a little too much of a stereotype. I felt like in these first pages, I was just checking the marks off of a list. That said, it is only the first five pages, so the character can easily start at this point, then grow and change.

    The theater person in me wonders why one kid gets to pick the show for the entire school. That said, I do like that you got all of your theater information correct. So many people who include theater in their book get so many easy to find facts wrong.

    I feel like I would be more helpful if I had the query letter for this one.

  7. Great job with the revision, Erin! I love the opening – it is different, pulls me in, and gives me a hint at where this story is headed. Like a mini-prolgue. Just terrific! And you’ve done a great job trimming. I would definitely keep reading now – so you’ve fixed that issue, too. I don’t read much LGBT fiction, so after reading Caitie’s comments, I would suggest devouring as many books as you can that are similar, to look out for clichĂ©’s. Other than that – bravo!

  8. Erin, congrats! This is in excellent shape. As I think everyone can tell by my comments, I am kind of hard on first lines and first paragraphs. Yours is terrific. It pulls me in immediately and makes me laugh and gives me so much voice and character. Voice is the number one thing agents are looking for and it's here in every character. Bravo. I think the news report as the way to start works perfectly. It tells enough to set the stage for the story (and give me a hint that this will be maybe multiple characters who come together) but isn't too much or too long. I really think this is working very well and I'd love to read more. As for it being too stereotypical, I don't think so personally but it may depend on where this goes. This feels more stereotypical as a kid SUPER into drama than anything else but i think that's what you are going for here. I trust that you will deepen this MC. For the pop culture references, I think they are okay. I know we are generally told not to do that but they just work here and I see pop culture references in finished books all the time. I'd leave it and an agent or editor down the road would adjust. Congrats!!! Love it!

  9. Thanks Lori! Your comments have really helped me shape this. I appreciate the time you've dedicated to all of us this month.

  10. I also really like the shortened news report. I think you've done a great job with it. My only nitpick is the blue hair. I dyed my hair all the time in high school and I got sent to the principal's office. all. the. time. I just can't imagine that the principal would be cool with a blatant dress code violation right in front of him. It might be a more modern school than ours in Texas though. Just something to think about.