Sunday, May 14, 2017

1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Kusma Rev 1

Name: Julie Kusma
Genre: MG Magical Realism/Historical Fiction
Title: In Katie’s Attic

Katie would die if she had to wait any longer. “Come on and click already.” Her legs dangled over the edge of her bed as she swung them back and forth. “Come on, come on.” She tic tocked faster until the stiff lace bed skirt tangled between her legs scratching her calves. “Oh, never mind!” She kicked off the ruffles and landed on the floor with a thud.


“Yeah Dad, I’m in my room.”

“Leaving. Be back by five. Stay in, okay kiddo?”

“Dad, I’ll be alright.” She listened for the front door to lock, but it didn’t. He still worried about her, but he didn’t need to, not anymore. She was adjusting. All the same, a lump grew in her throat as her eyes teared. She jumped up and ran to her bedroom door, grabbed the frame and leaned out until she could see him standing at the opened front door. She wiped the tear from her cheek, “Dad, I love you. I’ll be fine. I’m just going to read and sit on my butt.”

“Great—Hey kiddo, thanks. I love you more.”

Click. There it was. After two or three minutes, Katie felt comfortable her dad had actually left. For the first time in months, a smile formed across her face. She dropped to her belly and crept to the end of her bed and peered around the frame’s edge.

“My name is Katie. Well, actually Kathryn. Kathryn Louise, but you can call me Katie. I suppose you could call me Kate, but I guess I prefer Katie. So, call me Katie.” She sat up, cautious not to stir the lace again and sank against the footboard. “You’ll need to remember my name so you find me if we get separated along the way. I like to dog ear the corner, but you can use a book mark if you have to stop reading.” After catching her breath, Katie jumped up and placed her hands on her hips. “Oh, you do know you are coming with me, right?” She paused for a moment then matter-of-factly added, “Well, if you’re not sure, just go. I can only take serious treasure trackers with me.”

Katie studied the situation. “You’re not frightened are you? I hope not because nothing really scary ever happens. Well, sometimes it’s a little scary, but so what, it’s still fun.”

Not waiting for a reply, Katie went on, “The first thing I should mention is that we are treasure tracking.” She stepped out of her bedroom and headed down the narrow hall. Her fingertips trailed along the flocked wallpaper. “By treasure tracking, I mean digging through piles of junk. Then, we will spot the one gem waiting all this time for us to find it. Don’t worry.” She leaped toward the ceiling, “They jump out at you.”  Her eyes grew larger. “Some things may whisper to you.” Katie looked back over her shoulder. “Now, don’t start getting weird on me. Can you imagine, a little box or something saying your name?” Katie paused as the image formed. “Anyhow, a talking box calls your name—super freaky, right?”

The smell of the morning’s pancake breakfast lingered in the air and caused her mouth to water. “Do you like pancakes? I love them.” She savored the aroma as she made her way down the worn hallway path. She past the first set of balcony doors and watched the trees waving outside. As she passed the second balcony and around the main staircase landing, the handrail reminded her that sliding down was on her to-do list. Her dad forbade it, but it was still on her list. Then her stomach knotted as she drew near her parent’s—her father’s room.  She stood several steps short and swallowed down the familiar knot in her throat. Forcing herself passed their door; she hurried toward a smaller hallway. From there, she could gain access to the attic’s stairs. “Hey, you're still following me aren’t you?” Each step replied with a creak.

“So, just start looking through stuff and select the one most attention-grabbing thing. That’s when the true adventure begins.” Katie stopped at the attic’s door. “You’re not going to believe this. Are you ready?” Without hesitation, Katie gripped the glass doorknob and turned.

The attic was above the central part of the second floor, which gave it an odd cross configuration. The exposed trusses created a beautiful vaulted ceiling where the four sections joined, and a lone dormer overlooked the street and provided charm. Katie thought the space was wasted on storage, so last week, she rearranged all the stuff.

“There might be cobwebs.” Katie swiped in front of her face. “Don’t you just love it?” The dusty air reeked of old things, but Katie didn’t care. She made her way toward an open space in the attic’s center. “Don’t worry, in a minute, you won’t even know you were here.” Her mouth drew into a grin. “Seriously, because, in a minute, you won’t even be here.”

Katie ran to a cleared space in the center of the room and listened for a treasure to call as she twirled. "What? You've found something? Let me see." Katie rushed over to an old steamer trunk covered in dust. "Wow, that was fast. You're a natural at this."

Katie stared at the blackened trunk. Embossed grapevines wound their way over the entire metal surface. Oak wooden slats added strength to the frame, and two latches and a large lock secured its lid. She blew some dust hoping to uncover a monogram. Initials would designate which relative it had belonged to, but there were no initials. Katie knelt next to the trunk listening for any message or guidance it might provide.

"Wait, don't touch it," she pleaded. Katie hadn't explained what was going to happen. She hadn't explained that the tracking part of treasure tracking involved little astral projection.

Yesterday, Katie found her grandfather’s Elgin clock. She remembered him taking it off of the barn's wall and handing it to her. A little memento to remember me by he said. When Katie picked it up, her grandfather’s love overwhelmed her. In a flash, she was viewing the world through her grandfather's eyes. Only for a moment, but still, it happened. She was bouncing along in his 1924 Ford Model TT truck winding the very same clock. Katie had been so shocked, she dropped the clock, and their astral connection broke. She had tried again, but she couldn't make it happen again with the clock. She had been lucky with a few other items. Each time, the astral projection had only lasted a few minutes. Katie had discovered her family’s magic, and she was hooked. Every cabinet and drawer was home to a potential adventure, and she was going to visit all of her ancestors before the summer was over.

"Ok, so here's the thing," Katie gathered her thoughts. "Somehow, and I'm not sure how, but when something in this attic belonged to an ancestor, and I touch it, I am transported through time." That's not exactly what happens, Katie thought, "Well, I'm not, my body’s not transported through time. My body stays here, but somehow, when I travel, my mind goes back in time, and I can see what my ancestor sees." She closed her eyes and continued, "I am connected to my ancestors by some magical thread linking us through time. A thread I can follow and track back in time."


  1. Great revisions. I'm intrigued where this is going and want to read more. I like how you’ve taken me further and provided more details about what’s happening. However, from the opening paragraph, I’m still not getting that Katie is talking to me, the reader. I would personally drop the reference to the lace as I find it confusing and it takes away from the opening pages where you need to make a unique connection with your readers. So, here’s my suggestion. What if you started with…

    “Hi there. My name is Katie, and I’m twelve.[This solves the problem of how old Katie is] Well, actually Kathryn Louise, and I suppose you could call me Kate, but I guess I prefer Katie. So, call me Katie.” Katie jumped up and placed her hands on her hips [add something about what she’s wearing, and what she looks like. Maybe have her play with her hair. Use her body language. I need to connect with her right away due to how your story unfolds. I want a clear vision of Katie.] “You’ll need to remember my name so you can find me if we get separated along the way. Maybe dog-ear this page just in case.” [Here you could have her pause and put her finger to her lips and say, “Shh,” then checking the clock, and note it’s just about time for her dad to leave. Then perhaps continue with the conversation with her dad and come back to us once he leaves with the ‘Oh, you do know…’ part.

    Down where you say, “Wait, don’t touch it.” I would take out the ‘telly’ part where you tell us about astral projection as you do that in the next paragraph. You could also turn the next paragraph about what happened with her grandfather’s clock into dialogue. I do love how Katie talks.

    The very last line:
    "I am connected to my ancestors by some magical thread linking us through time. A thread I can follow and track back in time."
    And the last line:
    "Somehow, and I'm not sure how, but when something in this attic belonged to an ancestor, and I touch it, I am transported through time."
    Contradict each other. I would just lose the last line, so there is more mystery to the story with her not knowing how it happens.

    Hope this helps. Love what you're doing and want to read more about Katie's journey.


  2. Good job with this revision. I get a better idea of what's going on now. The "click" is the door locking, correct? And I get that the lace is just there on her bed instead of her imaginary friend. It also makes more sense that we, the reader, are her friend following her along on the journey.

    One thing, this sentence "You’ll need to remember my name so you find me if we get separated along the way" readers a little off to me. Maybe it should be "remember my name so you'll find me" or "so you can find me".

    I agree with Catherine that the last line sort of contradicts what she said. If you want to keep it, try making it seem like a guess. Like she thinks that how it works but isn't sure.

    This was an interesting read and I'm drawn in now

    1. Thank you for your input. Yes the click is italicized so the reader knows it is a sound.

  3. This is much less confusing, and you are keeping me in the scene quite well now. I’m definitely hooked, in suspense.

    I’m wondering if you could take the “talking to the reader” thing even a step further. How about an even more straightforward approach to making the reader aware that Katie is talking to them. “You, that’s right, I’m talking to you, the reader of my journal, that someday will become a book.” I believe The Giggler Treatment, does this. Kate DiCamillo also employs something like this in some of her books (Desperaux?). It seems tricky, but also powerful and fun for kids when done deftly.

    There is almost too much in between Katie waiting for the click and the door clicking for me to remember that those two things are related. Maybe if that is something you are trying to emphasize you could mention that the clicking of the door was the signal she had waited for before going on her attic adventures in the past? The signal that the coast was clear.

    You’ve done a nice job of tightening things up from the first draft.


    1. Thank you. I appreciate your comments. Thank you, Julie

  4. The opening sets me in the scene and a bit in the character. I know the 'click' is the front door closing, but you might want to just say that or at some point when she's waiting for it because that's the sound that tells her her adventures will begin. It would eliminate all confusion. I don't find the bed skirt distracting anymore. If others do you could always cut the 'lace.' I really like the interaction with her father here. It tells so much without giving too much away. Same thing with your brief mention of 'that she's holding up okay.' I also like how you cleaned up the reader being a make believe friend for Katie. That paragraph explains it well. As I was reading I kept thinking why not address the reader personally. I noticed another commented about that. I agree, although I'd use it sparingly. Like when she's sweeping at a cobweb. She could do that to the 'reader', 'Here, you've got a web in your hair ... or whatever. Nicely done. Looking forward to the next read...


  5. Thank you. I appreciate your input. Julie

  6. Dear Julie,

    Interesting. You've done a very good job with this revision. The pacing is much better, and the choice of descriptions (and their length) makes much more sense. I loved the line about "adjusting." It was the perfect hint. You made it clear that something bad has happened and that her father is worried, but you didn't give us too much. I also love this idea about time travel and objects. Very cool. I wrote my master's thesis on time travel mechanisms in YA, and this one is really cool.

    Two thoughts. First, you need a stronger opening line. This one feels like a tease, because it turns out Katie won't die if she has to keep waiting, she's just being impatient. Maybe you could focus more on her desire to get her father out of the house so that she could go touch the objects?

    Second, I'm curious if you've considered writing this in first person. If you put it in first person, present tense, you could address the reader more directly and without having to break the action and dialogue so distinctly. It would be a radical change, and I don't know if you want to go that far, but you might try rewriting a page or two and seeing where it goes. As Catherine pointed out, it still isn't clear here that Katie is talking to the reader, but putting it in first person would fix that. (I recommend present tense in this case - although I don't normally - because I think it would be necessary to allow Katie to both talk to the reader and narrate events.) Give it a try.

    Great work!

  7. Kit,
    Thank you for your input. I will work on the opening line as well as a rewrite version in 1st POV present tense. I guess this is the place to try that out. Thanks, Julie

  8. Hi Julie,

    I really like what you did in this revision. I definitely don't feel as lost as I did the first round. Much easier to read. Also, I love how you had Katie talk to the reader about using a bookmark or folding over the page if they need to stop reading. That was an elegant way to establish who she's talking to.

    I think since Katie is now looking at her dad as he's about to leave, the idea of her waiting for the click doesn't work as well for me. She can just see him leave, so she'll know when he's gone. She can still hear the click, but when you write "Click. There it was." it seems a little odd to me. Not a big deal, of course.

    What is a bigger deal is something that just occurred to me this round. Having Katie talk to the reader is cool, but I'd be careful with that device -- it may get tiresome after a while since one would never really be reading a dialogue. It also makes me wonder if an omniscient 3rd person narrator is the right way to go here. If the reader is essentially a character in the book, would s/he have any insight into what's going on in Katie's head? What would happen if you wrote the narration in second person present? (e.g., "You follow Katie down the hall. Her fingertips trail along the flocked wallpaper. As if she can sense your hesitation, she turns to you. 'You're still coming with me, right?'") Just kind of thinking aloud here. But take it for what it's worth. I do worry about the limitations of the reader-as-character device unless it's handled really carefully.

    The bottom line: I really like where this book is going. And I think you are clearly a skilled writer. I'd just make sure you think through the absolute best way to pull this off. It may be a really challenging book to write.

    Best of luck in your next revisions!

  9. The majority of the story takes place during Katie’s astral projection back in time. Her ancestor tucks the object (a letter) into her bodice maintaining contact until near the end of the story. So, talking to the reader only occurs in the first couple of short chapters and then again on the last page. I use my ancestors and real antiques that I have, so I will be able to include photos as well as the actual letter from 1861 referred to in Katie’s story. Thanks for your advice. I will see what I come up with for this revision. Kit Alloway suggested 1st POV present, and you have proposed 2nd POV present…I will try them out and see.
    Thank you, Julie

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.