Sunday, May 21, 2017

1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Kusma Rev 2

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

You’re not going to believe this, but yesterday, I, Katie Linn, time traveled! I know, I can hardly believe it myself, but it happened. Imagine seeing the world through someone else’s eyes. Do you want to do it? Do you want to look? Even if it means you have to feel what they do? I don’t know if I would have said yes before yesterday, but now that I’ve done it; now that I’ve discovered my family’s magic— I plan on traveling back to as many of my ancestors as I can before this summer is over. So, if you want to come with me, keep reading.

I knew you wouldn’t miss this, and I bet you want to know how time travel works. Well, I don’t really know. I was up in the attic, which is going to be my cool hideout as soon as I finish rearranging it when I saw my grandfather’s Elgin clock. He gave it to me a couple of years ago in the barn. He reached up and unhooked it from a rusty nail and said it was a memento to remember him by. I didn’t understand what that meant, but now that he is gone, I get it. Anyway, when I saw the clock yesterday and picked it up, I felt like he was hugging me. In a flash, I was viewing the world through his eyes. Really. Only for a moment, but still, it happened. There I was, bouncing along in his 1924 Ford Model TT truck, winding the very same clock. When I realized where, or should I say when I was, I dropped the clock. I guess that broke our astral connection because I was back in my attic. I tried to make it happen again, but I couldn’t. Not with the clock.


Hang on—that’s my dad. I’m so excited you’re coming with me, that I forgot he was still home. “I’m in my room.”

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

My dad still worries about me, but I’m adjusting. Not that it stops the lump in my throat from swelling or a stray tear from randomly running down my cheek. Wait here, okay? I’m going to run to the landing. I’ve got this new thing about not letting him leave without me seeing him, just in case, you know. “Dad, I’ll be alright.” Stupid tears. I hate crying. “I love you, Dad. I’ll be fine. I’m just going to read and sit on my butt.”

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

He always blows me a kiss when he leaves. I was sure I was outgrowing it, and almost told him to stop, but then the thing with my mom happened. I’ll take a blown kiss every day, no matter how old I get.

By the way, you’ll need to remember my name so you can find me if we get separated. If we do, dog-ear the corner, or use a bookmark if you have to stop reading, just remember you were In Katie’s Attic.

Hey, you’re still reading, aren’t you? I hope so because it’s really neat to share this with you. Plus, if anything scary happens, we’ll be together. This is awesome. I knew you were a serious treasure tracker when you first opened this book. Follow me down the hall.

Hey, do you like this wallpaper? It’s velvety in places. You can touch it. I think it is flocked or something. It’s always been here. Umm, and smell the pancakes. I love when dad makes them. Usually, he only has time on the weekends, but lately, he’s been making pancakes twice a week for me. Yummy. Come on. There are two balconies we have to pass. Look outside; the trees are waving at you. My mom used to say that to me. I know, it’s the wind. Okay, so we have to go to the main staircase landing. Have you ever slide down a long handrail like this? I want to, but my dad said he better never catch me trying it. Don’t tell him, but it’s still on my to-do list.

Hang on a minute, my stomach. That’s my parent’s—I mean my dad’s room. I try not to look in when I pass it because it makes sad that my mom’s not in there. No slippers at the foot of the bed. No jewelry box on the dresser. I’ll be okay in a minute. Hey, I wonder if my dad put her jewelry box in the attic?

Here, this is the hall that goes to the attic stairs. When we get to the attic, we are going to track down stuff we think might be a potential time traveling treasures. There are boxes and boxes of stuff to dig through. Oh, don’t worry; the treasures will JUMP at you. Maybe, even whisper your name. Now, don’t start getting weird on me. Can you imagine a little box or something saying your name? Hey, what is your name? Cool, I know somebody at school with your name, but we’re not friends anymore. They would have never done this with me. Anyhow, a talking box calls your name—super freaky, right?

Here we are, this way to the attic. The door must be ancient because it makes this creaky sound when I open it slow, but the glass doorknob is cool. Eeeeerrrrr. That’s creepy, right? Okay, few more steps and, ta-da. Watch out for that cobweb. Ick. Welcome to my treasure filled, time traveling, ancestor tracking hideout—my attic. I tried to arrange the old furniture kind of like a room, you know? It’s super dusty still, and the air kind of reeks of old things. Sorry about that, but my redecorating got sidetracked. Don’t worry. In a minute, you won’t even know you were here, seriously, because in a minute we won’t even be here.

I like this attic. That’s weird, isn’t it? Do you like the odd cross shape made by the four sections joining? It’s because it is the central part of the second story, remember where the four hallways meet by the main staircase my dad won’t let me slide down? I like the vaulted ceiling and the exposed trusses. Check out the dormer window. I could live up here. I wonder if my dad would let me? I am almost a teenager, you too, right?

Let’s stand in the over there and listen for treasures to call us. If we are quiet, and we—what? You've found something? Let me see. You think it’s the old black steamer trunk? Wow, that was fast. You're a natural at this. Okay, but I don’t know whose it was, somebody on my dad’s side of the family I think. Check out the embossed grapevines winding over its metal surface, and the oak slats. I bet that was added for strength.  Have you seen one of these before? It was like a suitcase chest when people used to travel by ship.

Look, the two latches are flipped up—Wait! Don't touch the lock. We have to be in position. Our bodies are staying here, and if we lose connection with the trunk, it will break the astral journey. Let’s sit down next to it on this old pillow.  When I touch the trunk, I will see a magical thread linking me to my family. I can follow it back in time.


  1. I guess I missed out- I thought we had one more revision (revision 3) that also included the query. I didn't understand.

  2. That's a drag, Julie. I would have liked to hear your pitch. Can you post it as a comment? Just a suggestion. I'm curious where this is going.

    I like that you formatted this in first-person present tense. Have you considered this being a prologue, and then starting chapter 1 with the story? Somehow that makes sense to me after reading this. But I feel you've done a great job making it that Katie is talking to the reader. However, I wonder how you will continue the rest of the story.

    Catherine Garrett

  3. That sucks about the pitch :(

    But the pages are great. I like that you changed it to first person present tense. It makes more sense now that the reader is the "friend" going on an adventure with Katie. I feel much more connected with Katie. It seems like a fun story to follow. I didn't see anything that I think needs to be changed, but it may just be me.

  4. Hi Julie,

    Sorry you weren't able to post your pitch -- I would have liked to see where you see this story going. I'll have to be brief tonight, as I'm heading out of the country in the AM and I have a ton to do before I go.

    To be frank, I still don't think you've cracked this whole talking-to-the-reader thing. Part of the issue is it's basically all monologue with very little action or dialogue. It feels a bit like Katie is talking AT us rather than talking WITH us. I'm not sure what the solution to that would be since we're not working in an interactive medium, so the reader can't actually respond. I think one of the reasons you don't often see books written in this way is it can be pretty tough on the reader. If I were writing this, I'd seriously consider either limiting the talking-to-the-reader device to a short prologue or I'd lose it altogether and revert to a standard first- or third-person narrator. Writing a book is hard, and by adhering to an unconventional narration, you're forcing yourself to work that much harder.

    So while I like your writing and the premise of the story, I'm just not quite with you on the narrative approach.

    Best of luck! And thanks for sharing your pages.


  5. This is not my favorite version. Plus, the story is finished, so rewriting in a different POV would be a massive undertaking. I certainly have received worthwhile advice. Thank you, Julie

  6. I connect with this version much more than the previous two. It is now clear that the reader is a character. I still think that this has great potential, but also has a very high degree of difficulty. I mentioned Kate DiCamillo and I would add Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events. They both do talk to the reader, but they do not talk to the reader the whole time. They jump out of the 1st or 3rd person POV to address the reader, then jump back into the story. There's a reason this is rare = challenging! I do think this may wear on the reader if you do it the whole time.

    Again, I like this much better. I think it is a very compelling story. It puts me right into the story with Katie. I think it can work, but maybe only in smaller doses.


  7. Katie only talks directly to the reader (in either POV version) in the first two short chapters and then again at the very end. The whole book really is her astral project back to her ancestor. Thank you for your input. This has been a learning experience for sure.Julie

  8. Hi Julie! It's been a pleasure reading your story and revisions. I've loved Katie's voice from the start. I think you've made it even stronger here. (Okay, I just have to tell you this. After I finished reading the new opening paragraph my brain saw Katie tip her head back (like she'd be staring at the ceiling), close her eyes, and hum for a few seconds, almost waiting for the reader to decide whether or not to go with her. [It struck me so strongly I just had to tell you.] And this makes me feel like you could almost use this as a short prologue to clue the reader in that he/she is welcome to join Katie on her journey.) I like the way you've included the audience in this version. My only caution is to use her addressing the reader sparingly. Done too much it will negate the action, and the action is where the story moves forward. Kate's excitement is awesome, which should attract young readers to keep reading.

    Not sure if this helped you at all. If nothing more than for encouragement's sake. I think you have something here. Best of luck with it!

    1. Thank you so much. I love your suggestion for Katie waiting on the reader. The comments have been very helpful. As the writer, one feels they are convey their meaning, but as demonstrated in their workshop, that's not always the case. I appreciate everyone's input. Hope to do this again in the future.

  9. From Hillary:

    Julie, don’t worry about the pitch I’m sure you can nail it! You definitely have a very distinct voice and the premise is awesome. I would say this style of talking to the reader makes the current paragraphs feel a bit jumpy, and there could be a bit more flow between them. I also bet that once you get into the rhythm of telling your story and the voice this will get smoother.

    1. Thank you. It was tough rewriting the POV in a limited most of time, so yes a bit jumpy for sure. I have enjoyed the workshop and found it valuable.
      Thank you, again.

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. Thank you so much. Best of luck on your project too.