Sunday, June 18, 2017

1st 5 Pages June Workshop - Franz Rev 2

Name: Jason Franz
Genre: Middle Grade; Adventure/Mystery
Title: Sixth Grade Secret Service


For most kids, when a relative says you remind them of great-grandpa, it’s a compliment.

Not for eleven-year-old Abraham Truman—the kid whose Grandpas are the biggest screw ups to ever wash out of the secret service. Abraham learned to live with being the family-flop, the class-klutz. It didn’t bother him. Not really.

Until his best friend (and crush), Tibby Roosevelt, became sixth grade class president. After agreeing to protect her from class bully, Chaz Nixon, Tibby is accused of taking a bribe and goes missing. Chaz is set to take over if she doesn’t return by the end of the week. But even if Abraham finds her, he fears the haters will force Tibby to change schools.

Now, Abraham must not only find Tibby, but prove her innocence as well. But locating one little girl in Washington D.C. is harder than finding an honest politician. Abe quickly realizes he needs help. Soon, his redemption, and the fate of the sixth grade, rests on his team of unlikely heroes: his German shepherd, the janitor's eccentric son, and the sixth grade newspaper writer. If they fail, their class faces rule under power-hungry Chaz, and all the wedgies that come with him.


The air in our crowded classroom was still. My attention was on the P.A. speaker. No way was I going to miss the announcement. Tibby sat in the desk across from mine. Her eyes were glued to the row of past-class presidents’ pictures above the whiteboard, specifically to the empty space at the end.

Her space.

Her dark, curly hair was held back with the beaded headband she’d gotten while visiting her grandmother in South Africa. She thought those tan, red, and purple beads went with everything and made her look good no matter what she wore.

I just thought she looked good no matter what.

It’d been a full minute since she’d blinked and I was starting to worry when a loud burp from the jock’s corner of the room made her jump. “Abraham, as my first act as class president, I’m going to make you head of my security.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Tibby, is your headband on too tight? You know what happens to presidents around us Trumans.”

“Why’d your grandpa leave Lincoln’s balcony in the first place?” She said.

“Oh I don’t know. I think he went to concessions for a box of DOTS, or something.”

See, although I’m only in the sixth grade, my problem started over a hundred fifty years ago. First day on the job, my great, great…gre—whatever, grandfather, Secret Service Agent Jessup Truman, was assigned to protect President Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre.

You would’ve had to flunk third grade history to not know how that turned out.

“Maybe it’ll be different for you.”

“Yeah. I’m sure that’s what Grandpa Clyde thought when he agreed to protect Kennedy in Dealy Plaza—right before he tripped over his shoe lace and history repeated itself.”



“Your shoe’s untied,” Tibby said, pointing at my sneakers.

“See. It’s a sign!” I snatched the laces angrily and stuffed them into my shoe. “Ya know, if Grandpa Clyde had just worn Velcro we could have avoided a national tragedy.

“Ya done?”

“I could go on—there was the time Grandpa Gus lost President Regan’s dog, Rex. Ticked The Great Communicator off so bad he almost started world war three with Russia! Let’s see—the White House burned down in 1814—”

“Abraham. Everyone knows British troops snuck in and did that!”

“Yes—but who do you think forgot to lock the White House gate? It don’t matter anyway. Sixth grade Class President doesn’t get their own secret service. I mean what’s the worst that could happen? Spitballs?”

Tibby looked at me like I looked at my alarm clock (annoyed and a little disgusted). “Excuse me? You’re not the one whose bike brakes mysteriously stopped working right after I announced my campaign against him.”

I located the kid to blame. It wasn’t difficult. Chaz Nixon had this bright red hair on top of this big ol’ forehead. I shook my (normal-sized) head as he kissed one of his biceps. He was North Washington’s best athlete, but that didn’t give him the right to trip kids who already had enough trouble getting across the cafeteria without spilling their food (namely me). The other jocks didn’t even like him—rumor had it he’d called dibs on his own special toilet in the locker room and made his teammates to scrub it down for him.

With a tooth brush.

Before (and after), he did his business.

“Chaz thinks he can win this election by threatening me. Well, I’ll show him it takes more than a cut brake line to stop the future president of this country.”

Geez. I didn’t even know what I wanted to do after I did my chores. But there Tibby was—already President of the United Sates. “You know you take middle school waaaay too seriously, right?”

“You think I’m over reacting?”

I did. “Of course not! It’s just—you really think I can protect you—from THAT?” I threw my hand in Chaz’s direction as he crushed an empty soda can with nothing but his desk and his giant forehead, leaving behind a bright red mark.

Yeah, like he needed to draw more attention to that billboard.

“I know what you’re trying to do, Tibby. You’re trying to make me feel better. But I can’t do it. I can’t even get through football tryouts without losing the ball, remember? I even had to buy the school a new one out of my allowance. I took the presidential fitness test and Coach O’ Hern said I owed points. Then there was the time I tried to help with the school play…”

“Translation please.” Tibby said, refusing to see my point.

“Everything I touch either costs me something or goes crashing through the stage wall into the science room. I won’t add your name to that list!”

Tibby got that look she gets when she thought I was being too hard on myself. She was thinking of just the right piece of what her mother called “Tswana wisdom” to change my mind. “You think you’re so different. But we all share the same ancestry.”

“Translation, please.”

“It means you’re no less than any other sixth grader, Abraham.”

“Hah!” Chaz bolstered.

Great. He’d overheard. A pit grew in my gut as Chaz puffed out his chest and strode over, his big stupid arms swinging like big stupid sausages. “That’s nice, Tibby, but as Chaz joins us, I’m reminded of some Truman family wisdom: watch out for cow pies.”

“Hey losers.”

“Don’t call your future president a loser,” I said.

“I didn’t, Truman. You’re just such a loser, you count for two.”

“Now, whatcha talking about—what a great class prez I’m gonna be—or the look on Tibby’s face when she realized she wouldn’t miss that dumpster without brakes?”

“For your information, Abraham was just agreeing to be my secret service after I win this election.”

Chaz took the wind out of me with a hard slap to my back. “That true, Abe?”

“I haven’t agreed to anything yet, Chaz,” I said, immediately regretting it. I knew what was coming. Aside from sports, Chaz was gifted in only one thing—finding new ways to torture me with my family’s failures.

“Aw c’mon Abe, don’t drop the family torch, who’s gonna peel toilet paper off the first lady’s shoe when she gets outta the crapper if not a Truman?”

Yup—Chaz was the reason everyone in school knew that after Kennedy, agent Trumans always got stuck with things like First-Baby diaper duty or following behind First-Fido with a little plastic baggy.

“Shut up you big butthole,” Tibby hissed. “You don’t know what you’re talking about—and neither do you, Abraham. Your family made mistakes but your dad and brother are like the Batman and Robin of the Secret Service now. That big action movie from last summer, FRANCE HAS FALLEN, could’ve been their biography!”

Chaz got that prickly grin then put his arm around me. “You hear that, Abe. Tibby’s right—guess it’s not your family—you’re just an apple that fell too far from the tree—then got chewed up and spit out by a lawnmower!” Before the words even left his fat mouth he was laughing.

And then it hit me. All of my humiliations—the football tryouts, the fitness test, the school play—had something in common. They all ended with Chaz standing over me.


Teeth clenched. Hands balled into fists. “Tibby…” I said, my eyes burning into Chaz’s.

“Yes, Abraham?”

“I’ll do it.”


  1. Pitch:
    Jason, great job on your pitch. It sums up your story without losing your voice. "Harder than finding an honest politician" and "all the wedgies that come with it" were hilarious touches.
    There's just 1 sentence that stumped me. "After agreeing to protect her from class bully, Chaz Nixon, Tibby is accused of taking a bribe and goes missing." It sounds like Tibby is the one who agreed to protect someone, but then is accused of bribe accepting and disappears because Tibby is your subject, the only one. Rephrase this so it's clear Abe did the agreeing to protect and Tibby got accused of taking bribes and disappeared.
    I love all the changes. Love the additions of President Reagan's dog and forgetting to lock the White House gate.
    I only have 1 comment. I'm not wild about this sentence: "See, although I’m only in the sixth grade, my problem started over a hundred fifty years ago." You basically jump from showing to telling with it. And it's noticeable. I don't think you need it at all, to be honest. If you removed it, your story would work just as well.
    Great job and good luck!

  2. Jason, the first two sentences of your pitch are so much fun. I love them. However, when you call Abraham the “family-flop” I get a little confused. It seems to indicate that Abraham is the black swan in his family, when really it’s his family that is the problem. Also, the sentences preceding explain how bad his grandfathers were, not Abraham. Therefore, it comes a little out of left field when you start talking about how Abraham has accepted that he is the class klutz as there has been no mention of this before. I think if you say something about Abraham accepting that he’s doomed to follow in his grandfathers’ footsteps would make more sense here.

    “After agreeing to protect her from class bully, Chaz Nixon, Tibby is accused of taking a bribe and goes missing.” This sentence grammatically doesn’t make sense as it is not Tibby who has agreed to protect herself from the class bully, it is Abraham. Rework this one here. 

    The last paragraph of the pitch is really fun and exciting. I think, however, the bit about the “wedgies” lessens the impact. I like your sense of humor, but perhaps there is something else that could work better!


    The sentence “I just thought she looked good no matter what,” feels redundant here. Maybe you can rework the sentence prior to this.

    The sentence, “My first act as class president…” seems to come from the person who did the burping as opposed to Tibby. You could add in a buffer sentence there, make the dialogue its own paragraph, etc.. Later on, you have a lot of quick dialogue back and forth. I’d just go back through and add a few, “Tibby said, or Abraham said” in there so the audience is always clear on who is speaking.

    Also, when Tibby asks Abraham why her grandfather left Lincoln’s balcony, I think she should already know the answer. She’s his best friend and it’s clearly something Abraham is obsessed with. I don’t think Tibby would be learning about it for the first time in these five pages, so you should include something, probably non-verbal, to indicate that!

    Besides that, this edit is wonderful! The dialogue is so much better and the ending is great. You did really good work!

  3. This is a great revision. I won't rehash what others said. I think the first sentence of your pitch is probably inaccurate from a kids POV, I don't know many kids who appreciate being compared to ANYONE, especially a dead relative. But I do like the wedgie line.

    I think you can get rid of ALL parenthetical comments. I found them intrusive, and unnecessary, and I think young readers will have even less patience with them.

    I love that you gave Abraham an immediate conflict and goal, with Chaz as the antagonist who makes this family history a present nightmare for him. Well done!

  4. Hey Jason,

    Your pitch is great. The tone sets it up right off the bat and I love the bit of humor you added to it. I'd keep the wedgie part. It's too fun.

    I love this revision. I think you have some great feedback like Maria said so I won't expand on that but I do like how you've set this up. As a reader, a kid going missing in DC and this other kid is gonna find her and save her?! I'm so intrigued! Great job, Jason. I wish you luck with this!

  5. Hey Jason,
    My apologies in advance for this brief note and for the possibly disjointed thoughts that follow -- I haven't had a free minute this week so I'm just coming in under the wire.

    In a word, I like your pitch and your pages a lot! The overall concept is pretty great and the execution is coming along nicely. I do think you introduced a few new rough spots into your pages with this draft. For example, I couldn't figure out who says this line: "Now, whatcha talking about—what a great class prez I’m gonna be—or the look on Tibby’s face when she realized she wouldn’t miss that dumpster without brakes?” I assume it's Chaz, but he just spoke in the previous line, so it feels like he's having a conversation with himself. Also, I just don't get what's being said there.

    "See, although I’m only in the sixth grade,..." feels a little jarring to me. You may want to smooth that over.

    And look out for opportunities to polish and refine your pitch. I feel like it's really close, but you may want to tighten up the beginning -- Im not sure you need your first line. It could just start "Abraham Truman comes from a long line of the biggest screw-ups ever to wash out of the Secret Service."

    Anyway, best of luck with your MS! I've really enjoyed reading it and have no doubt you'll be able to get it into outstanding shape in no time!

    Thanks for submitting your pages!

    1. Hi Rob!

      Thanks so much for your honesty! Those first couple of lines of the pitch were actually new. I figured what the heck, I will try them out while I have an audience. That's what this thing is for. I'm glad I did because I found what worked and what didn't. I have since taken the first lines out of the pitch and replaced it with my original opener which closely resembles your suggestion. I've also moved up that "whatcha talkING about" line to where it should have been.

      To everyone else, I thank you as well. I have since gone through and taken out that nasty tell paragraph altogether, and followed your other suggestions as well.

      Your opinions on what works and doesn't work, even when the author doesn't agree, is what makes this workshop so special. We have had the chance to get so much feedback regarding that in such a short amount of time, its just amazing! It's taken out a lot of guesswork and I am so grateful! Thank you all again. I would say good luck to us all with our work, but we don't need it. We are making our own luck. We are writers, we just need an audience.

  6. Jason, congrats on being crowned the winner! *throws confetti* :) You totally deserve the title! Best of luck to you with this MS. I hope to see it in bookstores soon.

  7. Congratulations, Jason, and thanks for your support in this workshop!