Sunday, January 14, 2018

1st 5 Pages January Workshop- Welch Rev 1

Name: Mandy Welch
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Title: The First Witch

“Could you blend please?” Aviana asked the ingredients she was mixing. “I don’t want a lumpy batter.”

Smells of fresh bread and pastries wafted over from the table of cooling goods next to her. The cinnamon bread was especially fragrant, reminding Aviana of Sunday mornings in the kitchen with Dad. Cinnamon bread had been his favorite, and it was one of the first things she asked to make after he taught her the basics. He’d be happy to know she still used his trick of asking the cinnamon to create pictures in the bread. The townsfolk loved it.

It had taken her seven tries before she got it to work. Waiting for the bread to cool enough before slicing had been painful, but Dad didn’t allow her to rush. She was glad for it in the end when she sliced the loaf to reveal a slightly wobbly leaf sketched in the bread.

Aviana poured the smooth batter into a waiting pan and slid it into the oven. “Cook well. Don’t burn.”

When was the last time she burnt something? Asking things not to was one of the first things Dad had taught her. Right after telling her to start recipes by asking the flour to not make a mess. That had saved her a lot of cleanup over the years. She wiped her hands on her apron and saw that a dusting of flour still covered them, the white powder paling her light brown skin. Asking nicely didn’t guarantee perfect results.

She walked over to the pantry. When she was younger, she had spent hours there, reading while Dad baked in the room next door. There had been something nice about sitting between the shelves of ingredients, only a few steps away from the ovens if she wanted to don an apron and help.

A basket of fresh berries sat on one of the shelves. “Oh. That’s tart.” Her lips puckered after trying one. “Could you be a little sweeter please? Not too sweet though.” She tried another and smiled. “Much better.”

Walking back to the worktable, Aviana grabbed Dad’s old cookbook, her cookbook now. They had always planned to write one together. Now writing her own notes alongside his recipes was the closest she’d get.

She flipped the book open and turned to the pantry. “I need flour, eggs, sugar...” As she read the rest of the list, ingredients began hopping off the shelves and into the room. They stopped their march when they arrived on the table in front of her. “Very good. Thank you.”


She jumped, her stomach dropping.

“You know you aren’t suppose to use magic like that.” Mom stood in the kitchen doorway, hands on her hips.

Aviana’s face burned. Yes, she knew she wasn’t supposed to. But watching the ingredients parade across the kitchen was so much more fun than carrying them across herself.

“I’m sorry, Mom.”

“You promised. Only little magic, nothing noticeable.”

“I know. I know,” she said, tugging on her braid. “I’ll stop.”

“I’m just trying to protect you, honey.” Mom let out a heavy sigh that made Aviana’s face burn brighter. “C’mon. Take a break and let me fix your hair.”

She walked over and undid Aviana’s long braid, gently finger combing the straight hair before slowly twisting it to form a plait. Aviana didn’t mean to make her mad. She just wanted to use her magic. It was part of her, and part of her that came from Dad.

If she were a boy she’d be studying at the University like he had, not trying to teach herself by reading whatever book she could find. It wasn’t fair.

“Why can’t people understand that females have magic too?”

Aviana sighed. There seemed to be endless reasons why people thought females couldn’t have magic. And a whole slough of excuses they’d use if a female did show herself to have the ability. She’s cursed or ensorcelled, controlled by someone else. She got her magic in some evil way. Aviana rolled her eyes. The list went on and on.

She knew it was dangerous to use her magic where people might see. She did. But she couldn’t just hide it.

“There may be another option.”

The words pulled Aviana from her thoughts. She blinked, trying to clear her mind. Had she heard correctly? Another way? “What do you mean?”

“You have a great uncle who works at the University. Your father said I should contact him when you turned sixteen.”

“What?” Aviana turned to face her, the braid going unfinished.

“He’s a professor there. Your dad lived with him while he was a student.”

A professor at the University? Aviana’s heart beat faster. If he worked at the University, then he could teach her. It wouldn’t be the same as actually attending, but it would be a lot better than trying to teach herself.

“Would he train me?”

Mom shrugged. “I don’t know. Your father didn’t say much. He always hoped things would change by then, that you wouldn’t have to hide your magic. He said to contact Nero if they hadn’t.”

Dad had always hoped things would change, but he never said anything about an uncle Nero, an uncle who worked at the University. “How can we contact him?”

Mom fished in her apron pocket and pulled out a folded piece of paper. “I’ve been carrying this around for weeks. Ever since you turned sixteen.”

“A letter?” Aviana asked. Would it really be that simple? She’d send a letter and suddenly get someone who could teach her. Aviana reached for the paper, but Mom wouldn’t hand it over, instead clutching it to her chest.

“It took a long time to write, and now that it’s done I can’t seem to send it.”


Mom put her hands on Aviana’s shoulders. They had the same eyes – dark brown under full eyebrows, but right now Mom’s were full of a worry Aviana knew wasn’t in hers. “I’m afraid for you, honey. The more people who know about your gift, the more danger you’re in.”

True. But Dad trusted him, and Nero could teach her.

Aviana shook her head. Mom couldn’t take this back. Not now that Aviana knew there was someone who might teach her. She took Mom’s hand. “I know you’re worried, and I know it’s just because you care for me, but this magic is part of me Mom. I can’t live with it locked away; I need to learn more.”

Mom smiled and squeezed her hand. “You’re just as stubborn as your father was. I know it’s your decision. That’s why I could never make myself throw this away.” She placed the letter in Aviana’s hand. “It’s up to you what we do.”

The letter was sealed and marked with an address in Elleer.  Aviana held the paper up to the light, but no words were visible other than the address. “What did you write?”

“I told him I was Peter’s widow and that your father told me to contact him if I needed help for our daughter. I didn’t dare write anything about you having magic. I believe we can trust Nero, but I don’t know who else might see the letter.”

“I think that should be enough. I’ll send it by dragon. I can use some of the money I’ve saved to pay for it.”

“You don’t need to do that, honey.”

Aviana nodded; it was decided. “I want to. This is for me.”


  1. This is a great revision!

    I wonder if you should use something more formal for Mom and Dad. The voice of this sounds a little Otherworldly and the Mom and Dad sound too modern. That might be what you want. It depends on your setting. Speaking of that, we could use a little more information about where and when this is. Fantasy is often written to sound like it's set hundreds of years ago but your word choice sounds modern. Try to add a few more tidbits here and there to ground us in the when and where. For example, don't just say "the University", give it a name that tells us the town or something. Names go a long way in grounding the reader in the setting.

    Finally, watch the number of times you use the word "magic". It's almost a little too on point to keep saying it. Maybe you could alternate by referring to it as her gift (or curse) or powers or something. The way she refers to it will show us what she thinks of it. A curse would mean she hates having these powers while a gift would mean the opposite.

    Good luck!

  2. Mandy,
    I like the changes you made, the writing is much smoother, especially at the beginning. A few thoughts. The dialogue bw Aviana and her Mom jumps from "Why can't people understand that females have magic too" to "there may be another way." The thoughts in between these two phrases make the transition understandable, but the dialogue does not include thoughts. "Why can't people understand" suggests a reply along the lines "because" or "it's the way it is," there is no "way" in Avianna's words for her mother to counter with "another way."
    Another small suggestion is to lay out the stakes. I see that magic is not expected from women, even frowned upon. But that's not to warrant such secrecy. You say "dangerous" at least twice, but that's too general. Have there been cases of women with magic being killed? Beaten? ostracized? You might want to mention it, or else the whole wavering about sending a letter and such seem excessive. Good progress!

  3. This is great! Your revisions make this so much pacier and there’s a greater sense of conflict and the wants of the protagonist. The imagery is also snappier and clearer and more immersive. And, you’ve managed to do all this while maintain the charm and delight of the magic that can bake and move all the ingredients. Your details about this world’s view on woman and their ability to have magic is so much clearer and blends effortlessly into the story. The conflict is here straight away as she could, potentially be going to university to learn about her powers. She wants this more than anything else but there’s danger in people knowing she has magic. It’s all here and that’s fantastic.

    I have two main suggestions that might make this a stronger opening.

    1 – I did find the sudden announcement, just one day out of the blue, that there was a lecturer who might train her a little too….convenient? As in, she’s baking with magic, her mum finds her and scolds her, Aviana wants to use her magic, and her mum is a bit like, ‘Now that you mention it, here’s a lecturer that promised your dad he will’. Do you kind of see what I’m getting at? I think it’s an easy fix. Maybe hint more that this has been brewing, and her mum has been out of sorts, or hiding something, or something along these lines, that means when it is announced it’s not so out of the blue.

    2 –I am reading this as an MG Fantasy. From the voice, to the protagonist, to the dialogue, this, to me, is an upper MG Fantasy. This isn’t a problem if this is the intended audience (and her amazing powers warrants her to go to university at a young age, sort of like a genius child skipping school and getting a PhD at 15 sort of thing). I’m reluctant to say change this to make it more YA. You clearly write very, very well for MG. MG is a fantastic age-group to write for. I’m reminded of Artemis Fowl, but for slightly younger readers. If your voice suits MG don’t change it. You write it fantastically. If this has to be YA then there will need to be a further revision. If she is of the age to go to university (is she meant to be about 17? 18?) then the voice does need to be adjusted for an older audience.

  4. Hey Mandy,

    Great job on your revisions. I especially like all of the added details about the cinnamon bread and her dad’s recipes.

    The reveal of Uncle Nero is a little sudden. I also wonder whether her reaction might be a little stronger. She’s desperate to learn more about magic and now she finds out her mom has been hiding a possible solution from her. Maybe she’s angry or hurt instead.

    I think that your last line is a little confusing. “This is for me”. Does she mean that she finally wants to do something for herself? Does she mean she will pay for it since it’s concerning her magic?

    Good luck!

  5. Hi Mandy,

    This is really lovely. The bits about Dad are very touching and I feel for Aviana right away. I agree with others who have said the introduction of this mysterious uncle comes out of the blue. Perhaps this is random, but what if this scene is her birthday? Mom presents her with the letter as a gift? Just a thought! If not, just making sure that you’re transitioning to that part of the scene smoothly would be key. Really nice revision!


  6. Hi Mandy,

    I love your revision! The image of baking pictures into cinnamon bread is a really nice one. I also like the additions about her dad at the beginning.

    I also like the way you've shown her mom walking in on her using magic, her reaction gives a much stronger sense of the stakes. I wonder if you can get us there a little bit sooner? There are four paragraphs of reminiscing about her dad at the beginning, and I feel like some of them could be trimmed/combined to get to the action a little quicker. In particular, I think the paragraph that starts "she walked over to the pantry" could easily be trimmed and combined with the one below it.

    I also like the background you've added on the specific reactions people have to women with magic, that paints a much more vivid picture of her society and is great worldbuilding right off the bat.

    The letter her mom pulls out throws us into the action right away, but I shared Aviana's reaction of "is it really that easy." I think making that a little more conflict-laden would seem more realistic.