Sunday, February 19, 2017

1st 5 Pages February Workshop - Soares Rev 2

Name: Maggie Soares
Genre: #OwnVoices Contemporary Young Adult
Title: What You Have of Me

As the only daughter of rock legend Apollo Knight, seventeen-year-old Echo parties her way through the A-list in a series of short-lived flings. When she’s not posing with her latest leading man, she shares her perfect smile in sunny selfies the media eat up. Everyone with a social media account wants her life. No one ever questions the illusion.

After years of dealing with her father’s career, Echo’s an expert at selling the right story to the public. The right story means no one will look closely enough to notice the anxiety that makes her chest ache, or her girlfriend, Nora. Each faux-relationship and fabricated scandal buys her and Nora more time to go public before their senior year, just like they’ve always planned.

That plan screeches to a stop when an anonymous source reveals to the media that Apollo is the father of four other children. Stretched thin, Echo juggles her growing anxiousness, her love for Nora, and the paparazzi hungry for her new siblings’ secrets. When she learns why she was the only child publicly claimed by her father, however, she must choose between the safety of the family she’s always known, and protecting her new one.

Chapter One

Places I’ve heard my dad sing: an incomplete list.

1. Backstage at the Staples Center (five years ago)

2. Over the radio at the dentist (last week)

3. After my last exam, through Carly Smithers’ shitty headphones (right now)

Apollo Knight shifts from crooning about keeping a secret to shouting about the way someone makes him feel tonight, which means it’s his third studio album. It was born the same year I was, and people call it confused and rank it at the bottom of round-ups of his discography. I try not to see it as a metaphor.

Carly feels my eyes on her and lets out that awkward chuckle people do when I catch them listening to my dad’s music. She takes out the headphones a little hurriedly and gestures to the door we just came out of.

“That was impossible, right?”

I hum in vague agreement, even though the exam was ridiculously easy. She might be the type of person to run and tell some reporter I walk around thinking I’m smarter than everyone. Carly glides beside me and I’m miniature under her dancer’s-body shadow, the curls piled on top of my head the only thing giving me a boost.

My buzzing phone saves us from actual conversation, but when the ominous notes of the Jaws theme start playing, I cringe. That could only be one person.

 “Echo,” My dad’s PA has a voice like a tapping foot. “I’ve sent a car. Get down here as inconspicuously as possible.”

Mary hangs up before I can respond, and I clench and unclench my toes in my dirty uniform shoes so I don’t lose it with Carly still around.

“I have to go,” I tell her, but she’s distracted by something on her phone. She looks up at me, eyes wide, and nods.

If Carly already knows what’s going on, Mary showed real discipline by not pulling me out of my exam. I make my escape, nodding at a couple of people along the way. Malcom’s outside the school, but inside my dad’s least-flashy car, our standing arrangement.

“How’d it go?” He asks once I’m inside.

“What’s going on?” I ignore his question. He knows that class was my easiest A.

Malcom just shrugs, because nothing we do surprises him at this point. His hair’s greying at the sides, or maybe it’s always been that way.

“Thought Mary was going to explode. Y’know that vein on her forehead?”

If Mary’s forehead vein has made an appearance, we’re in the danger zone.

My phone is suspiciously quiet, and I resist the urge to throw it when I realize I have no service. Mary only cuts off my data when something apocalyptic happens. It’s easier to be annoyed than worried, which is how my gut’s starting to feel, so I allow myself ten seconds to glare out the window at the palm trees that line the road. Palm trees don’t have to put up with this shit. I shove my phone back into my bag and try to shove the fear down with it.

It’s probably not drugs, since Apollo Knight’s been famously clean for the past fifteen years (a voice in my head reminds me that would just be a juicier scandal). I don’t think he’s been dating, so it’s not some gold-digger coming after us. If it had something to do with my mom, she would have called me first, so I rule her out, too.

There’s a chance it’s about me. There’s always a chance it’s about me, and the longer I think about it the faster my heart starts to pound a rhythm of caught, caught, caught. I pull out my phone without thinking, squeeze my thigh hard enough to hurt when I remember I can’t use it. My knee shakes anxiously and dust and glitter and other arts school shrapnel fall from my tights onto the otherwise-spotless tan car mats.

“What’s the plan?” I ask.

“Security waiting at the gate.”

“Seriously?” I lean forward until my head almost touches the back of Malcom’s neck. His shoulder twitches.

If I have to walk up my dad’s driveway, that means three things. One, paparazzi are camped outside his house. Two, he wants people to see me there, so, three, whatever this is, it can be improved if people think we’re a happy family. A united front.

I dig through my backpack for my emergency pair of jeans, letting out a little noise of accomplishment when I find them buried under a stack of posters Nora asked me to put up ages ago. The thought of Nora sends my hands shaking along with my knee, and I internally mutter a few choice words at my useless phone.

“Mary wanted you to stay in your uniform,” Malcom eyes me in the rearview.

“Mary’s gonna have to live with the top,” I wiggle into the jeans under my skirt. “Every time I wear a uniform skirt in public I end up on niche porn blogs.”

He doesn’t have anything to say to that. My heart’s in my throat and I breathe cautiously around it, sure if I’m not careful I’ll bite down and destroy myself. My tapping foot’s crept up my body, a low-level tremor going through me by the time we make it to my dad’s house.

I’ve never seen it like this.

My dad’s A-list status rides on obnoxious guys my age who think he’s the Last Real Rock Star and the handful of number ones his label’s produced, but everyone knows Apollo Knight is not exactly at his peak. He might get papped grocery shopping sometimes, but we all know in a few years he’ll be surviving or dancing or racing with The Stars.

With the crowd outside his house, you’d think it was twenty years ago. There’s at least fifty of them, yelling and waving cameras and trying to swarm the car. My dad’s head of security pushes through the crowd. Dylan offers his arm, and I allow myself to be pulled up. I squeeze my eyes shut behind my sunglasses, swallow my heart, and step into it.

I know how to handle a paparazzi scrum. Head up, shoulders back, sunglasses on (no anti-glare: anything you can do to ruin a photo is good). Hands relaxed: clenched fists means the internet’ll be speculating about what has you so angry within the hour. You look straight ahead and you never, ever stop walking.

My name’s being called from thirty different directions, but I don’t turn to any of them. I don’t smile up at Dylan like I want to. Someone would write an article claiming we’re having an affair, and by the look of things, we can’t afford another scandal right now.

I try to pull my face into a placid smile. Anything too happy and it’ll look like I’m not taking this seriously. Anything too angry and I’ll look like a bitch.

“Hi Echo,” Greg Peters’ smarmy voice says. He’s recording, and if I don’t say anything I’ll be public enemy number one on his livestream tonight.

“Hi,” I try to keep my voice from going completely flat.

“What do you think about all of this?” Greg’s chasing after me now that I’ve opened my mouth. I press my lips together, tight enough that Greg seems to notice. He gets this look on his face like he’s about to go in for the kill.

“Are there any others?”

I stop walking.


  1. Pitch comments:

    I really like this pitch! The last paragraph especially has me very intrigued, because I get the sense that there will be this great cast of characters with the different siblings, and some heartfelt decisions coming from the new relationships. I wonder if you can build on the stakes a little more by just elaborating a little on how Echo comes to feel about her new family. What is it about them that would make her give up her old life to make sure they’re safe? Overall, I’d love to read this book.

    I do see a bit of a disconnect between the first paragraph of the pitch and what I’ve seen of Echo over these past few weeks. I didn’t get the sense that she uses or embraces this spotlight in any way. I know we are only seeing the first few pages, and I’m sure this side of her is developed as the story progresses; however, since these first pages do involve the paparazzi, I wonder if there can be some reveal of this “parties through the A-list” side of her. I certainly get the anxious side of Echo, but maybe you could develop a little bit more this other pesona that she keeps so that the girl from the pitch seems like the girl from the pages.

    Pages comments:

    I LOVE YOUR NEW OPENING! I think the list works so well. The only thing is that, as a reader, I automatically think this list concept is going to become a pattern, so I might consider having some other lists like this in your manuscript if you don’t already. I think the whole opening scene with Carly is much more engaging now with your revisions, but I might say it gets a little clunky in the paragraph right after your list, maybe because you pack a lot of details into that one small part. You could consider just naming a song that she hears, rather than talking about a transition from one to the next.

    I see lots of other little revisions that make the pages work even better as a whole, like the shrapnel coming off her tights rather than just falling to the floor. As I mentioned in the pitch comments, the last scene might be a good place for you to develop that other persona of hers that almost eats up the paparazzi. Right now, she seems pretty cautious around them, so it’s more difficult to imagine her partying in front of the cameras and creating scandals.

    It has been so great to watch your work evolve to where it is now, and I wish you lots of luck with your writing.

    All the best,

  2. Hey Maggie,

    How great is the voice in your pitch! I also agree that this is going to have lots of emotional stakes and some great characters, but my only question is: If Echo doesn't like the spotlight and is trying to keep her relationship with Nora under wraps, and now the papps are after her siblings, wouldn't she welcome that as a distraction? Because now they'll be after the others and they'll leaver her alone? If that's not the case, then we need to see how this will make things worse for her. Other than that, I think it's a solid pitch:)

    And I think you nailed that last revision. This flows much better and we still get those great lines you had at the opening. I love the line "caught, caught, caught." Echo's fear feel so real in that paragraph and I'm invested in her as a character, 100% there.

    I'm so grateful to have met you and to have traded feedback in the workshop. Best of luck going forward!


  3. Maggie!

    I love the pitch, and am more intrigued now that I know where the story is headed...4 secret siblings! I'm interested to see how this changes Echo's life. The only thing I wonder is why she's determined to help these 4 strangers. I'm thinking its because of the secret you mention, the reason she's the only one claimed. But I feel its a tad vague, and to get us more hooked, maybe be more specific about it. Other than that minor thing I love it.


    Love how you've made the pages really sparkle! I can see the hard work you've put's paid off. I only have one thing, and it was actually something I did that one of my mentors mentioned. With this sentence:

    "Carly feels my eyes on her and lets out that awkward chuckle people do when I catch them listening to my dad’s music."

    You're writing from Echo's perspective, so she can't "know" what Carly feels. Does this make sense?

    Everything else is amazing. My favorite line:

    "Palm trees don’t have to put up with this shit."

    It caught my attention last week, and this week made me smile again. I love the voice. I'm glad we had this experience together!

    Can't wait to read the whole thing someday!

    A L

  4. Cool pitch. Casts a different light on the opening and I'm intrigued by the story. Secret siblings plus our MC is dealing with hiding her gf and a plan to come out. Maybe give us a little bit more about WHY Echo parties/flings (e.g., "survives living in her father's shadow by..." or something like that?) Pitches are so tricky in terms of how much you tell the prospective agent/editor. I'm just a novelist so this is a singular opinion but I feel like it might serve your interests to give away a little more or at least something to show us how coming out as a lesbian and discovering a secret family are connected since they're both such big plot elements. That might give the agent a stronger sense that, beyond an intriguing premise, you have control over the whole story.
    REVISION is well done! You have such strong energy, and the flow is much smoother. As always, make sure Echo (not Apollo) are center stage--maybe a few words here or there to let us know WHY she keeps having these fake relationships or WHAT she wants for herself w/r/t dealing with washed-up rockstar dad (love? money? attention? to move out? why does she jump into the car when his PA calls?)
    LOVE the way you are experimenting with the opening. TINY point, maybe have Carly say, "that TEST was impossible" -- just to ground us in the moment. Also maybe a line or two about the school or classroom she's leaving.
    Keep writing! Would love to keep reading! - Stasia

  5. Hi Maggie!

    I have to admit that your pitch surprised me. 1. I had no idea that Echo was a party girl. No sense of that at all. In fact, I felt like she was adverse to the spotlight and was really into her studies. 2. I had no idea she was in love. Wouldn't her mind go to Nora at some point through these pages? Something big is happening. She has no phone service. Wouldn't she be desperate to talk to Nora? Couldn't she be even the slightest bit worried that it was HER secret that was being revealed?

    Given this info, why was it so easy for her to leave school? Wouldn't she have an entourage? At school, she seemed like an average kid. She doesn't seem average at all. I'd expect her to be surrounded by friends, Nora, hangers-on. If she's not surrounded because she just left a test, would that feel weird to her?

    Are the flings decoys to keep the media away from Nora? Who is Nora? Does she go to school with her or know her from somewhere else? How long have they been together? Why is she hesitant to come out? Is she fearful of someone or is she wanting to protect Nora from media scrutiny?

    I felt like I knew Echo. Now I feel like I don't. I'm fine with either version of her, but I want to see her from the very beginning. I want a sense of her love, her social life, and attitude.

    I love the idea of new siblings. I'm curious about them. I want to know her parents and their relationship. I want to know more. I want more pages.

    Honestly, I've found myself thinking about this story a lot in the past week. I've had the flu and this story has been swimming in my fever head. Please get it published immediately. :)


  6. Hi Maggie,

    I'm sorely tempted simply to say "great job!" and leave it at that. Because I feel like you've really done a great job here. But if that was all I said, I wouldn't be doing my job as a mentor.


    Compared to the first round, these pages are tighter, more focused, more emotionally resonant and more engaging. Your hard work absolutely shows in your submission! Like I said, great job!

    Seeing the pitch first helps me understand the overall dynamics and the stakes, but even if I hadn't read that, I'd be really drawn in by these pages. Really engaging.

    You've done such a nice job of conveying Echo's emotions this time around with stuff like this: "There’s a chance it’s about me. There’s always a chance it’s about me, and the longer I think about it the faster my heart starts to pound a rhythm of caught, caught, caught." Those lines are awesome! They suddenly raise the stakes wonderfully for Echo and that's exactly what you want!

    I love the premise of your story now that I have a 30,000 foot view of it with your pitch. It takes everything you'd expect about being the child of a celebrity and turns it on its head. And, of course, stories like this that deal with questions of sexual identity are so important to get in front of YA audiences. So thank you for writing it!

    There are a few sentence-level nits I could pick if I were so inclined -- like if Carly "takes OUT the headphones a little hurriedly," you probably mean earbuds); for clarity Malcolm should probably say "How'd the test go?" rather than just "how'd it go?"; and there are a few places where you need a period rather than a comma at the end of spoken lines like "'Mary’s gonna have to live with the top,' I wiggle into the jeans under my skirt." But I'm not so inclined. Still, you have a little polishing left to do. But all really minor stuff.

    That's all I really have. Thanks again for sharing this! I enjoyed reading your work very much and I wish you all the best of luck with your manuscript!

    All best,

  7. Pitch:
    This is a very strong pitch. I have great sense of the who/what/when/where. The only thing I struggled with slightly is the conflict. After the press get wind of Echo’s additional siblings, her plan to come out with Nora is put on hold. I think there needs just a little bit more information tying these two items together. Is it because her family can have no more “scandal”? Is it because Nora is now more focused on her new family? This news is hurting their relationship but I’d like to know why (just brief!).

    This is a great opener—I loved the numbered list of where Echo’s heard her dad’s song. It’s unique and also gives me a great sense of who Echo is right away. I think you do a great job of capturing Echo’s voice (someone else mentioned this, but my favorite line was also, “Palm Trees don’t have to put up with shit”).

    That said, a lot of characters are presented within these first five pages, and I would streamline that bit. Nora is obviously a much bigger character than Mary and Malcolm, but she is hardly given any more page time. Without the pitch, I wouldn’t have known that Nora was anyone special—let alone Echo’s girlfriend. When Echo begins to panic, I think there are many ways her thoughts could drift to Nora that would clue the reader in on her role in Echo’s life.

    Right now, there also seems to be some slight disconnect between the pages and the pitch. The pitch presents Echo as someone who has terrible anxiety on the inside, but on outside, appears to not have a care in the world. She has no problem playing the role of media darling. In the actual pages, we never really see this. She’s very cold to the paparazzi. While she may be struggling on the inside, we should see her still trying to dazzle the media on the outside and putting on a brave face.

    You really have strong start to a very interesting story. Overall, fantastic job!

    All best,