Monday, January 23, 2017

1st 5 Pages January Workshop - Allen Rev 2

Name: Rebecca J. Allen
Genre: YA Thriller
Title: In A Flash


Seventeen-year-old Avery has lived overseas since she was too young to realize most American kids prefer hot dogs to dumplings. When Mom loses the job that pays for their comfortable expatriate lifestyle, Avery finds herself starting her senior year at “home” in a country she knows mostly from Hollywood movies.

At her new school, a story about her life in Shanghai gets Avery pegged as a princess fallen from her throne. But Seth, a quiet geek, realizes her fluency in Mandarin and Japanese make her perfect for his start-up. Flash Delivery transports haute cuisine from anywhere on the planet with an Internet connection to anywhere using experimental technology developed by Seth
’s father. And while most people wouldn’t be psyched to try out tech that pulls their cells apart in one location and reassembles them elsewhere, Avery sees it as a way to get back a piece of the life she desperately misses.

But a rogue business partner decides Flash Tech is the perfect tool for heists. Holding Seth at gunpoint, he forces Avery to steal a Faberg
é Egg. Avery has no easy choice. She wants to help Seth grow this revolutionary technology into something that makes the world a smaller place. But if they don’t shut it down, it will turn her into an international art thief.

First pages:

Chalk clattered against the blackboard as Mrs. Hernandez wrote. “Your favorite place. I want a paragraph full of sensory details. This is Senior Honors English, people, so let us visualize this place and feel your emotional connection to it.”

Notebooks were flipped to a fresh pages and pen-tips scratched across paper. But I closed my eyes and let the image of a world map take shape in my mind. The traditional one, with Asia in the East, Europe and Africa smack in the middle and the Americas in the west. Australia and New Zealand, stretched out of proportion by their proximity to the Pole, carved a huge swath out of the Pacific Ocean.

Layered over the puzzle-piece shapes of several countries were memories. The monkey with cunning eyes that had stolen a chocolate bar right out of my hand in Malaysia. A dazzling golden temple in Thailand. For Australia – the picture-perfect view of the Sydney Opera House from the cliff that overlooked it.

There were so many unique and memorable places on this planet. Who could pick just one?

But then a light gleamed on one spot on the map in my mind. A gorgeous place, but not just that. A place where I’d been with my closest friends.

I was still scrawling my final thoughts when Mrs. Hernandez asked for volunteers. Then, as each classmate named the place with special meaning to them, I tagged it with a mental stickpin, dreaming of seeing it someday.

 “The town of Orleans on Cape Cod,” said a petite girl in the front row. She gushed about the sun and the sand. Proclaimed everlasting devotion to the “The Knack,” a shack not far from the beach that served lobster rolls. “Made with just a touch of mayonnaise, no butter.” She talked about the mayo/butter distinction in lobster roll recipes with the conviction someone might use to announce her religious affiliation or choice of political party.

The guy in the seat behind her read his paragraph next. “My favorite place is Chatham.” This elicited a laugh from everyone in the room.

My face twisted in confusion and I caught the eye of the guy in the next row over. The one with a gorgeous smile and dark, curly hair just long enough that he had to toss it out of his eyes occasionally. Not that I’d noticed.

“Chatham is the town next to Orleans on the Cape,” he said.

“Oh.” I thanked him for cluing me in with a quick smile. “Cape Cod sounds like a great spot.”

The Orleans chick rolled her eyes. “Obviously.”


I ran a hand across my own paper. Just thinking about my place and the friends I’d left behind made my heart squeeze tight.

But as more classmates read their papers, the mental stick-pins on my world map piled up, one on top of the other. Towns on the Cape were picks for half the class, and each student was ready to defend the superiority of his or her choice. The sand on their beach was softer. Bay waves were better than ocean waves, or vice versa. A couple rebels preferred the Rhode Island Coast or Cape May, a three-hour drive down I-95 in New Jersey.

I held a pleasant smile on my face, but an uneasy feeling grew in the pit of my stomach. Was my place “interesting and exotic” like I’d thought? Or too different?

Mrs. Hernandez nodded at the quiet guy in the seat behind mine.

“My favorite place is my computer desk because from there, I can go anywhere in the world.”

I grinned. At least he was original. And really, it was the perfect pick for him. He was in my Calculus class, too. Thin, blond and brilliant, apparently, though he only ever spoke when no one else could answer the teacher’s question. His porcelain skin made it clear his dream spot was not a beach.

The guy grinned back. But as he continued talking, the guy next to him turned to look at the clock above the classroom door. The girl behind him yawned. And the hot guy who’d clued me in on the Cape scanned something on his phone.

What? Did your favorite place have to include sand and surf or else your Stamford High Student I.D. was revoked?

“Thank you, Seth,” Mrs. Hernandez said when he’d finished. She turned her attention to me. “Avery?”

I drew in a breath. It was too late to change my essay now. “My favorite place in the world is the Great Wall at BaDaLing.”

The hot guy’s eyebrows shot up. “BaDaWhat?”

That drew snickers from all around the room, and my gut took a nose dive.

“Well…the Great Wall of China isn’t really one place.”

Blank stare.

“Because it’s ten thousand miles long, stretching across the north of the country.”


“So, I was thinking of a particular spot on the wall near Beijing where I went on a class trip last spring.”

The hot guy sat there with an odd expression on his face. My heart pounded, I silently pleaded with him to cut me some slack. Hadn’t he ever been the new guy?

But a snort sounded from the back of the room, and his face hardened. “You took a class trip to the Great Wall of China? Who does that? What planet are you from?”

“Enough, Dakis. Everyone’s favorite place is valid,” Mrs. Hernandez said, adding bold font to the word losernow scrawled across my back.

Dark hair hid one eye, but his other charcoal eye was locked on me and malicious. He knew he was destroying me, obliterating any chance I might have for a social life at this school.

I sucked in a breath, reaching for the words Sensei Wu’s deep voice had intoned every class at his dojo. He’s repeated them to me when my world came crashing down. “Never let your opponent see your pain.

I wouldn’t. My smile gleamed like it had that day on the Great Wall, surrounded by friends.

Determined to wipe that self-satisfied smirk off Daki’s face, I brightened my smile to the one from when I’d knocked out my last opponent in the Shanghai Martial Arts Tournament. Not the picture-perfect smile from when I stood on the dais holding the trophy high. The one from when I heard her breath huff out and saw her eyes go wide as she fell back to the mat.

The bell rang and Mrs. Hernandez said something about continuing the essays in tomorrow’s class. But no one was listening. I could feel every gaze in the room on our face-off.

He flinched first. His brow furrowed, three creases appearing just above his nose, as he sat there wondering why I wasn’t falling apart.

He had no idea who he was up against.

I stood, slung my bag over my shoulder, and with a toss of my hair, turned my back on him. A hiss from the girl in the front row followed me out the door.


  1. Dear Rebecca,

    On the pitch:

    I love the introductory paragraph for your pitch. It’s so clear, and it sets up part of the problem immediately.

    But I do think the tech aspect is missing from the opening paragraph. You might try using a tagline: one sentence that sort of brings all your elements together in a high concept pitch? Or you might try working the tech concept into the first paragraph somehow. I want the genre to be clearer in the first paragraph of your query. To me, that’s where we get all the basic building blocks of your story.

    And I love the stakes! Very clear.

    On the revision:

    -This really comes together for me! It’s a scene, it’s clear, it shows the two major players from your query, and it feels relatable but also shows me how different Avery is from the rest of them! I really think you’ve found a great place to start!

    -So here we go, I don’t have much to say in terms of constructive criticism. SO happy to see you decide to scrap the “prologue” feeling.

    Good luck moving forward, and all the best!


  2. Hey Rebecca,

    I’m looking forward to seeing your revisions!

    Here’s a great resource for you to look at concerning the creation of a pitch. Brenda Drake is a permanent mentor here at 1st 5 Pages, and she’s collected a lot of great material to help authors on her website. The link is:

    Okay, let’s see what you’ve done for your pitch.

    I’d insert Chinese dumplings for clarity because I love dumplings, but they are of the Southern variety, not the Chinese.

    I’m a bit confused about how her fluency in Mandarin and Japanese make her a perfect partner for haute cuisine? If she had developed her skills in the kitchen, that would make sense, but that’s not what you’re saying. What exactly does Avery bring to the company? Seth’s dad is the developer and not Seth? So what does Seth bring to the operation?

    How does beaming oneself from place to place get Avery’s life back?

    You’ve got a lot of pieces here in your query, but none of them are connecting just yet. What does Avery want and why? What will she do to get it? Who stands in her way and why?

    How is the new technology Seth’s revolutionary technology if his dad is the one who developed it?

    Your last line really needs to be about saving Seth, not herself.

    You’re getting there. It just needs a bit more work.

    Let’s move on to your 1st 5 pages.

    Your opening lines are great.

    The second paragraph needs work. “Notebooks were flipped to a fresh pages and pen-tips scratched across paper.” I suggest you connect the first and second sentences. “With the sound of notebooks flipping to fresh pages and pen-tips scratching across paper, I closed my eyes and let the image of a world map take shape in my mind.”

    “What? Did your favorite place have to include sand and surf or else your Stamford High Student I.D. was revoked?” Great line. It tells a lot about her surroundings.

    “He’s repeated them to me when my world came crashing down.” Change this to past tense. “He’d repeated them to me when my world came crashing down.”

    I can tell you’ve worked hard on your story. What you’ve created is very different from what I first read, and I know that was difficult for you to do, but it now reads smooth. There are only a few areas that need clarifying. Great job.



    This is a great query. I love the character development, and the conflict and stakes are very clear. We get a bit of the voice as well. Only two tweaks: 1) It was unclear to me if the American protagonist is white or Asian American. 2) Based on the futuristic tech, I think you might be better off calling this a Sci-Fi Thriller.

    The pages were equally compelling, though some of the dialogue felt a little forced (“You took a class trip to the Great Wall of China? Who does that? What planet are you from?”). Overall, however, it's a very strong start to a manuscript. I'd keep reading.

    Also? Butter is far superior on a lobster roll. Duh. ;)

  4. Yes, of course. Butter!

    Thanks for your thoughts!

  5. Hi Rebecca,

    I love the pitch! Such a cool concept.

    You've really done great work with these pages, too. They do a great job of weaving in backstory without clobbering us with it. My only critique is that I don't find the bullying entirely believable. That these students are vacationing in Cape Cod tells me that they must come from some money, and therefore I can infer that a lot of them have traveled -- maybe to the Great Wall of China. I would think they'd be interested in her experiences in China, rather than disdainful. It just seems a little forced.

    I think you could address this easily. Perhaps the students aren't disdainful of China itself, but perhaps they're tired of Avery talking about it. (And Avery could feel self-conscious because it's all she knows, so it's hard not to talk about it.) Just a suggestion to think about.

    Thanks again for sharing! I really enjoyed reading your pages these past few weeks!


  6. Hi Rebecca. It's like a totally different book than the one I first read a few weeks ago. I liked that one, I love this one. Your pitch is great. One sentence that raised a flag to me was, "And while most people wouldn’t be psyched to try out tech that pulls their cells apart in one location and reassembles them elsewhere." It made me think of Star Trek and how they "beam" people to and from planets. Be careful how you word that part of your story. "Beaming" is commonly described as having your cells pulled apart and reassembled. Okay, yes, I like Star Trek. Okay, yes, I like Star Trek better than Star Wars. Okay, yes, I like pretty much anything better than Star Wars. But I digress. I like where your story begins, but do teachers still use chalk? Your descriptions are beautifully written. They were a joy to read. In your pitch, you say that Abery gets "pegged as a princess fallen from her throne." To me, that sounds like something a high-schooler would say to someone who took a class trip to the Great Wall of China. I liked this. When I read, "You took a class trip to the Great Wall of China? Who does that? What planet are you from?” I was a little disappointed. It almost would have made more sense for him to say, "What planet are you from?" to the guy who likes his computer desk. Aside from this, really excellent work! I've enjoyed reading it and look forward to seeing it on a book shelf someday. Good luck!