Sunday, January 17, 2016

1st 5 Pages January Workshop - Goren Rev 2

Jessica L. Goren
Middle Grade; fantasy
Pollin Pals: The Power of Flowers

I hope you’ll be interested in my middle grade book, Pollen Pals and the Power of Flowers. It is about creatures born from flowers to help save the earth.

The story starts with Owl explaining to Erisa, a Pollin Pal (PP) that she was born to help save the troubled Earth. Erisa sees things a different way. Rather than follow Owl’s advice, Erisa forges out on her own working out her own inner struggles on the way.

Erisa has several adventures. She meets three other PP, Zeki, Pieter and Sammy.  They continue on to have several adventures but lurking in the background is the issue of the struggling Earth.

During their adventures the PPs use problem solving skills to help others. It doesn’t always go smoothly. Working through their personality-conflicts and adventures the PPs find they have become friends.

Meanwhile, during their travails, it unfolds why the Earth is suffering. The flowers are dying because the bees have gone away. The PPs identify the cause of the bees’ disappearance. An errant bee-eater bird has moved in to their neighborhood. They combine their skills to return the bee-eater to his home. The bees return and the garden flourishes.


Owl yawned blinking away the sleep from her large yellow eyes. It  was the night creatures’ turn to rule the world and Owl had to get about  her business. She popped her head out of the nest hole in the tree.  Then Owl launched into the sky. The world was bathed in soft silvery  moonlight.

Owl took a good look around to see what had happened during the  day. The leaves were heavy with rain. The pond was overflowing.  Everything was as it should be. Or, at least as close as things came to  “as it should be” lately.  The large sycamore tree was rooted in place.  No more could he wander the forest. The bee hive buzzed only half as  loudly as before. It had been weeks since Owl last saw a fisher cat. A  few more flowers had black rot creeping up their stalks. Yes, the very  meaning of “as it should be” had changed.

But wait, what was that in the garden below? Owl coasted down,  landing in the crook of the willow tree branch. Her eyes hadn’t been  playing tricks. The rain water pooled in an iris was bubbling. Not a big  rolling boil, but just tiny little blips of bubbles here and there. The  bubbles floated up and swirled around collecting the moon’s light.

Owl heard a distinct pop. Then in place of the bubbles was a tiny  creature.  The creature had all the beauty of the flower which it came.  Its body looked like a human’s. It had delicate high cheekbones, a tiny  nose and pointed ears. Its legs looked like long green stalks with woody  vines growing up from the feet and winding around its eggplant purple  legs and body. The long lean arms uncovered and a lighter shade of  purple. Protruding from its back were the wings of a dragon fly. Topping  it all off was a shock of bright yellow hair.

Owl was so surprised a little hoot escaped. The creature sprinted  back a few inches. It peeked out from behind the iris and hovered a  moment. Then, hands balled into fists, it took one deep breath and flew  straight to Owl.


“Hello,” Owl said back.

“Who might you be?”

“I am Owl. And you are?”

“Erisa. But wait how did I know that?”

Owl patted the branch across from her with her long wing. “Sit  child. You have been asleep for a very long time. I imagine you must  feel all muddled.”

As Erisa settled herself Owl wondered, is it a he or a she? Owl  guessed it was a she. It is always so hard to tell the shes from the hes  with creatures other than owls.

 “How do you know how long I’ve been sleeping? Have you been watching me? Do we know each other?”

“No, child we do not know each other but I have heard of you.”

Erisa straightened up at that. “Am I famous? Is that how you know me?”

Owl hooted and it sounded like small chuckle. “I know you because  when I was a tiny owlet, just out of the shell, my mother would tell me  stories about the Pollin Pals. To be honest I thought you were a myth.  But here you are, so you must be real.”

“What’s a Pollin Pal?”

“You, child, are a Pollin Pal.”

“How do you know that?”

“Well, I heard the crashing of thunder today didn’t I? And from the  soggy state the world is in, it is clear it was a very big storm. Then I  saw pop out of the iris below,” Owl huffed puffing out her feathers.   “Besides, you leave a trail of pollen behind you. You must be a Pollin  Pal.”

Erisa looked skeptically behind herself. There was a fading trail  of yellow pollen marking the way she came. She looked back to Owl. “Is  there anything else I should know?”

“There is always more to know.  I suppose you want to know,  specifically, about the Pollin Pals right now. Now where should I  start?”

“You start at the beginning, of course,” Erisa said looking down  her nose at Owl.  Owl was taller so it didn’t work. Erisa sniffed  instead.

“Which beginning? The world is full of beginnings. It is important  to start at the right one. Very well. The Pollin Pals are born from  flowers. They come only in times of great need.  ”

“What great need?”

“The Earth’s. You see, the Earth is our home but it is also a  living being. She has needs of her own. Sometimes, when we are careless,  we hurt our home without meaning to.”

As Owl continued Erisa hugged her knees into her chest. With her  arms flailing, she rolled off the branch in a backward flip. Red faced,  Erisa sprinted back to the branch and sat as if nothing had happened.

“Excuse me. I didn’t mean to interrupt. Please continue.”

“Very well, it was nothing,” Owl said loftily.

“So where was I? Oh yes, the Earth calls on the flowers to help  restore the magic of the land. It has been a very long time. My mother  only knew of Pollin Pals as stories. I suppose I am lucky to have met  one myself. Although, if you are here I can hardly consider myself  lucky,” Owl trailed off.

“Wow,” Erisa said, slightly deflating as her wings sagged down her  back. “That sounds like a really big job! How would I even start?”

Owl reached out her wing, scooping up Erisa, so she sat under the  dome of Owl’s wing. ”I cannot tell you what you must do. You must be of  the world to know the world. Only then will you know what needs to be  done.”

“Don’t I have to agree? I mean how will I figure anything out? I don’t even know where I am. ”

Owl watched Erisa stifle a yawn. “Ah, I had forgotten. Pollin Pals  are born knowing what they need to survive.  They must learn about the  world each time they return. You are in the garden and there is a great  big world out there to explore. But the world will still be there tomorrow and you need some rest.”

“It certainly doesn’t look like a very nice garden. I mean half the  flowers are covered in black slime. How can something as beautiful as  me come from there?”

Owl watched Erisa stifle a yawn. “That is a lesson for another day.”With that, Owl shooed Erisa from the branch.

“I don’t have to go just because you tell me to.” Erisa pointed  out. She stamped her foot on the branch. But Erisa, being a very small  creature, it made no noise and Owl didn’t notice.

Erisa gave a large fake yawn. She stretched her arms for emphasis. I am tired. I think I’ll go to sleep.”

With that,  Erisa lazily floated in circles down to the iris from  which she came. She climbed into the flower and pulled the petals around  herself just in time to fall asleep.

Erisa kicked off the petals and blinked into the sun. Now what to do? With that thought, the night before came flooding back. Erisa’s wings drooped a little at the thought. But then  straightened her shoulders and perked up her wings. Who did she think  she was, sending me off to bed? She was just some musty old bird.”
Erisa’s bangs rose up and she huffed out loudly. I’ll do as I please.


  1. Hi Jessica,

    You know what I was thinking while reading your last revision? That’s a book I would give my daughter to read! It sounds like it’s going to be fun and educational.

    I like your new beginning, initially I was for keeping the beautiful introduction paragraph, but when I see it now, the beginning with Owl captures the attention immediately. And reads more like a children’s book. I also love the little character tells of Erisa’s that you included, like stomping her foot, or looking down her nose, or refusing to admit she’s sleepy. It makes her more interesting, cuter and more real as a heroine.

    Including a bit of the dark side of things, like the blackening flowers, was a great call. It shows us the stakes very early on. I believe as long as the story continues like this beginning, funny and tightly paced, you are going to have a wonderful children’s book.

    What I think still needs work is the pitch. I don’t know whether your manuscript is completed or not, if not than the pitch is probably the last thing on your mind. But make sure that, when you are ready to look for agents, your pitch presents your novel in the best possible way.

    Maybe it depends on the requirements of the agent, but to my opinion you shouldn’t give away the ending of the story, or even the way the story develops. You should just hook the agent so that she/he wants to read more.

    I would remove the first paragraph because it repeats what the second paragraph tells us. Also instead of using general phrases like “working out her own inner struggles”, “has several adventures”, “doesn’t always go smoothly” you should be specific. What does Erisa want and what obstacles prevent her from getting it?

    I hope this helps, I’d be curious to read your whole novel one day 


  2. Jessica, it's been so nice to see this story progress! It's definitely getting to the point quicker, which is good. I still feel as if the opening could pack more of a punch, but it's definitely much better. You've hinted at trouble with the planet, while showing evidence that something is amiss.

    A couple of points to mention: most of the text is in Owl's pov, but then the last couple of paragraphs switch to Erisa's pov. If you're going to switch pov, then it would make sense to do it in a way that's clear to your reader. Either a new chapter or a section break, with a clear distinction that you've purposely switch from Owl to Erisa.

    Also, there are many extra spaces within the text, as well as missing words. That's simply a result of quick editing. I just wanted to point it out so you can fix all that before sending it out.

    As for the query, I think it would be helpful to download Elana Johnson's book "From the Query to the Call." Elana offers great advice on how to write a snappy query that gets attention. I think it would be worth your investment. Here's the link:

    Good luck!

  3. Hi Jessica,

    I like all the additions you’ve made to show the environmental degradation, and that the meaning of “as it should be” has changed. This will be a great book for young readers to really think about the world around us!

    Reading your pitch, I would have loved to get a better sense of foreshadowing ad Erisa’s personality in the first five pages — what are Erisa’s inner struggles? She seems very distractable when she is talking to Owl, but I would like to get a better sense of what’s motivating her that’s in contrast to what Owl thinks she’s supposed to be doing/saving the world.

    Thanks for sharing, and your helpful comments throughout the workshop! Good luck!

    Melanie `

  4. Hi Jessica,

    First, let me say that I really enjoyed reading your second revision. I went back and compared it with the first two versions, and the story is flowing so much better now, and Erisa is showing so much more of her character. Great work!

    (One quick question of clarity: you mention the black slime on the flowers, which is a great visual of something being terribly wrong. Could this condition be caused by a lack of bees? You probably have those details in hand, but it did occur to me so thought I’d mention it.)

    I don’t know how far along your novel is, whether it’s actually complete, or whether you’re still in the writing or revision process, but as you proceed I would suggest continuing to do everything you did with these first two revisions (tightening language, shortening sentences, taking every opportunity to show us character), but specifically with an eye to upping the tension. We have the conflict now, this garden (or is it the Earth?) is sick, and Erisa is supposed to find the cure, but what is it about Erisa, or the garden, that will prevent her from doing it? (Is the bee-eater bird going to be a villain character?) Being very clear on Erisa’s goal, and who or what is stopping her from reaching it, will make us root for her, and want to turn the pages to find out how she eventually does reach her goal.

    Having this more clear will also help your pitch, I think. Right now, it seems like Erisa has been born to convince an errant bird to go elsewhere. To correct an accident. Having a more clear “enemy,” whether it’s the bird, or something big that holds Erisa back from solving the problem, will up the tension of your whole book and make your pitch more compelling.

    Also, don’t be afraid to be more specific in your pitch. You don’t have to say everything that happens in the story, but honing in on the “big elements” of the conflict will help bring the excitement of the story front and center.

    You have a lovely gift of language, Jessica. Never stop honing your craft! But most of all, enjoy your writing journey! There really is nothing like it. Thank you for sharing your work with me and the workshop!

  5. This is Erin commenting for Laura since the blog was giving her trouble!

    PITCH: The pitch could use a little more polishing. It reads a bit “this happens, and

    then this happens.” You want something snappy, enticing. Tell the agent enough

    about the story, but hold back a little about the ending.

    STORY: We need a little bit more work on perspective. At first the story is told from

    Owl’s POV, but by the end of this sample it switches to Erisa. Because (I’m assuming)

    Erisa is our protagonist, you may want to begin the story with Erisa waking up and

    noticing the world around her – the plants, the soggy ground – giving us a visual of

    the garden’s troubles.

    Erisa’s personality is adorably childlike, with her foot-stomping and refusal to listen

    to “some musty old bird.” Children will certainly get a kick out of her!

    Why must it be Erisa saving the garden (or is it the world?)? What makes her, in

    Owl’s eyes, the important one? Or is it simply part of who she is: because she’s a

    Pollin Pal, she must care for the garden (Earth?)? The reader will need to know

    Erisa’s importance and purpose so they can rally behind her and her friends when

    they come across the errant bee-eater bird.

    I am curious about the decaying garden (world?), too. I’m sure it would come

    around later in the manuscript, but is there a reason the flowers are covered in

    slime? Or is this truly a result of the lack of bees? I can see this book being

    adventurous, entertaining, and educational for children! So if we want to focus on

    educational, there may need to be a bit more research on plant decay; if we want to

    add in a dash of fantasy, then the slime may have its own purpose for existing in this

    garden (world)! Entirely up to you and the story you want to write.

    A lovely younger middle grade! I can see young readers stepping out of chapter

    books and into this one quite nicely.

    Keep on writing and honing your craft!