Saturday, March 3, 2018

1st 5 Pages March Workshop- Thakare

Name: Sanyukta Thakare
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Title: Time And Again

Ashley paced around the crowded living room resting her eyes on the package looming on their beige kitchen counter. In hot bold black letters, it read Pemerson Lawyers. The room grew smaller as she patrolled through every corner. All the tossing and turning gave her a splitting headache but what matter stayed inches away from her in the sealed envelope. Spiraling deeper in thoughts, she plunged into self-doubt. Could the notice be for her? Did she relapse and not remember? She hadn’t been part of any foul play at school. Maybe a few clashes with her former clan but that’s nothing worth calling the lawyers over, she thought.

Ashley opinion held no mass in front of the Windrip Town women, they had their own sense of righteousness. The thought of being publicly called out yet again dried her throat and the urgency to know what the package held consumed her. As the flickering lights of her mother’s blue Ford Fusion beamed through the window behind her she dove at the counter.

Without thinking, she opened the carefully packed brown bundle Randol Myers, Windrip’s local postie had home delivery less than an hour ago. His last postal trip for the weekend. Ashley pulled out a few pages, frantically looking for any hint as to whose ruin it dictated. She needed the whys and wherefores or maybe just a name to rule her out of danger. The doorknob clicked, and Ashley stuffed the papers back within seconds before Valerie turned to face the counter.

“Mom! You’re here.” The dry mouth didn’t let her voice out.

“I think I got everything. You hungry?” Valerie asked, emptying the grocery bags.

“No, I don’t think I can eat right now.” Ashley pushed the package towards her mother. “Here, Ronald dropped this for you.” The Roman font it covered daunted her.

Ashley’s eyes widened thinking about the words she found inked on the papers. The most familiar ones, Mrs. Lockwood and Mr. Lockwood. The sign above ‘Mr. Lockwood’ looked too unfamiliar to mistake it as known, while Mrs. Lockwood screamed of the women standing before her arranging the packed food in the kitchen cabinets, Valerie Lockwood.

Valerie dismissed the package as soon as it entered her clear sight.

“Do you know who sent it? I don’t see a name on it.” Ashley dared to ask.

“Just some formality papers.” Valerie nodded but kept her eyes on the counter, opening a jar of pickles. “Do you want some?”

“Nothing to worry about, is it?”

“I don’t think so. I’ll take a look at it later.” Valerie moved to the couch. After two long walks around the discount retailer store, she had to make another, just to be sure she had left nothing off Ashley’s carefully crafted grocery list rested in her dead phone.

Valerie presented no new information, just more food. Ashley held the envelope and stood in right before Valerie so she couldn’t avoid her, “Mom. Is it from uncle Tony? Are you guys still fighting over the shop? I thought you guys settled that long ago.” The topic had always been off-limits in the house. Ashley had learned to live with the distasteful memories of Tony and Valerie arguing every now and then. Though they remained on good terms with his wife Becky, the arguments never ended.

“Actually, Arcadia was a cafĂ©,” She pointed a finger at Ashley’s face, “the one and only in Windrip at the time. We owned it and you didn’t even get to see it. I can’t ever let it go. One last thing we had left of your great-grandfather and Tony had to collude and go sell it with your father.” Valerie’s rage turned into shame in an instant. She looked away sighing loudly, releasing her rage. She snatched the envelope and said, “It’s not from your uncle, relax.”

She never talked about Ashley’s father. And if by chance such an incident took place, it would only mirror feelings of disgust and resentment. In such moments, Ashley hated not knowing him nor having the privilege to do so in the future. When last Ashley asked of him, Valerie had given her all the answers she needed.

‘It’s no use talking about dead people, who never cared about you when alive.’

At the time those hard to understand words, with each passing year became a part of her. She no more cared as for what happened to the man. She understood her mother’s attitude towards him, he reeked of a jerk as a father and as a husband. Valerie had been there for her all her life, what on earth would make her think about the man who never even appeared before her beautiful heavy green eyes, gened from her grandmother.

“Mom, I don’t wanna have more awkward run-ins with him, we hardly live thirty minutes away.  And I love Aunt Becky. Please don’t make things worse,” Ashley shouted after Valerie ascended the stairs to her bedroom.

“I told you. It is not from your uncle.” Controlling her raised voice, Valerie continued, “It’s from an old friend. He wanted some witness signatures. The papers are all information about the incident, ok?” She clenched her grip on the wooden handrail.

Ashley cautiously approached, “Is he a common friend? I saw Uncle’s name on it. Wasn’t his name exactly but ” she snuck her eyes around the room.


“I am sorry, I took just a little nervous peek. I didn’t want you hiding any problems from me. It’s not easy to run the house on a teacher’s salary, plus we had so much trouble until last year because of the fire.” Ashley still clenched her fists waiting for the flash images to appear before her and drag her back into the burning house, but it didn’t. Ashley felt relief wash over her as she wiped her sweaty palms.

“You have nothing to worry about. We don’t have money issues. We never did, just a rough patch and it’s long gone.”  three stairs in Valerie said. “Could you get those test papers from the coffee table in the kitchen. I need to grade them today.”

Following orders Ashley walked back, cursing herself. Without solving one problem, other had already presented itself before her. She didn’t want to hand over the test papers, she needed them. Well, just one actually and only for a couple of minutes.

Stalling for time, Ashley asked, "Are you going to grade those now? I need a brainstorming session with you. I got nothing for my column. Please!”  Ashley batted her puppy eyes. Her dream opportunity at the Windrip High newspaper began three months ago and in six weeks of writing, she had already burnt her backup stash of remarkable work. Relentless for hours she sat before a bright white Word document and couldn’t ink a single useful word. She needed a fresh piece before the weekend or this would be the end of her journalism career, long before it began.

"Sure, but at least bring them in with you?" Valerie raised her brow waiting for Ashley to set charge again.

Fine! “Yes, I’ll get them.” Ashley walked back into the kitchen and pick up the pile of sheets ready to be marked in red and green ink. This would have been a piece of cake if Ashley had put her lousy afternoon to some actual work. She hit her pinky toe at the kitchen cabinet lost in thought and cried out ‘well deserved’. 


  1. Hey Sanyukta,

    I liked how it began with the question of what lay in the envelope, but then she opened it, scanned the words, closed it, and we had to wait to find out what she read. I think the urgency would have been stronger if we had seen what she had as she saw it, and our questions and curiosity would have grown. I also thought it was strange that she waited until her mother's car pulled up before opening it. That's a little riskier than, say, opening it before she got home. You could have perhaps mentioned Ashley looking at the clock and thinking ‘Mother will be home soon. Would I have time?’ And THEN she opens it, followed by the panic of shoving it all back in when the car pulls up and throwing it back on the counter just as her mother opens the door.

    I also didn't get a sense of Ashley: her appearance, her age, the reason she was worried about the package in the first place. Was she arrested for stealing? Was it worse? You don't have to give all the details straight away, but maybe a small thought about what happened would help to remove some of the confusion.

    You also spoke of her mother grading papers and Ashley’s desire to hold one of them back for a moment. Was that her paper? Is her mother her teacher? But then you speak of a job, and that threw me again. I would recommend showing that it's a school job from the start. She went from a twenty-year-old to a teenager so many times, I wasn't sure where to leave her by the end of the excerpt.

    I feel the story would benefit from more clarification to eradicate the confusion and allow for a smoother read.

    And watch out for the spelling/grammatical errors. I noticed a couple. :)

    I hope this helps!

    Good luck with the revision. I'm looking forward to reading the next draft.

  2. Hi Sanyukta,

    Lots of intriguing angles to Ashley's life! That envelope on the counter seems like a significant plot point.

    A dilemma reading this is that one feels pulled in a half dozen different directions, one after another. Ashley's concerned about the Windrip Town women...possible fights at school...her grades...her uncle...her father..."the incident" (mysterious)...and her journalism job. The snapshot I get is that she's got a LOT going on in her headspace--and maybe that's what you want to convey. But I don't feel like I have a clear picture of who she is as a person. Aside from all the potential problems, what motivates her the most? Maybe you need to choose one or two of the problems she's concerned with to focus on in these opening pages.

    For example, that mysterious envelope.

    I'd encourage you to read this out loud with a pencil in hand--or even hovering over the keyboard. (That's what we usually do, right?) That'll help you clean up some of the grammatical stuff and wordiness that is slowing the flow right now.

    Best of luck, and keep after it!

  3. Hi, Sanyukta! Thank you so much for submitting to the First Five Pages Workshop! I absolutely LOVE how this story starts out. I am totally, completely hooked in the first paragraph. I think, like the other critiquers, I want to stick with that envelope, have the plot unfold and bloom from there. As I’ll tell the other writers in the workshop, I look for a handful of things in the first pages when I’m reading and also try to put it in my own writing. I want the writer to HOOK ME, GROUND ME, GIVE ME A REASON TO KEEP READING, and DRAG ME FORWARD. You totally hook me, but then my grounding in characters and setting gets lost a bit because I have a hard time picturing these characters as well as the space they’re in. I would give a few important details so we get more of a picture. Also, her voice seems too old and formal at times, such as in these lines, “In such moments, Ashley hated not knowing him nor having the privilege to do so in the future. When last Ashley asked of him…” A little more slang and how teens speak will help to shore up her character. If this is difficult for you, grab some critique partners and run the draft by them to get their take and input. However, with regard to grammar and mechanics, get the story down first, with all plot points the way you want them, then fix the other with either your own careful edits or editing with someone you trust. Also, your main character mentions how she is seen by the Windrip Town women, but if she’s a teen girl, it seems she would be more concerned with what her peers think of her, not women. This reference to women also makes her seem older than her YA character.

    With regard to focus on what the main conflict is or what compels a reader to keep reading, you start with one (the envelope) and then move to others (her uncle, the “incident,” the ungraded papers). The paper she wants and the “incident” seem very vague and float there without giving the reader much of an explanation. You don’t have to give all the details, but something that tells the reader how these relate to the overall conflict would help. The envelope is so intriguing and really would be the best choice for your main focus. The other plot points may connect to that envelope, but we don’t need to know that necessarily in this first five pages. She might hypothesize about who sent the envelope or why it was sent, and that could play into the mystery and building of tension here, which is what drags a reader forward into the next pages or chapter.

    Looking forward to your revision!

  4. Hi Sanyutka,

    I like that you started with Ashley being worried/nervous about the package. It grounded me into the story and her situation. But I don’t know much about her after these five pages. How old is she? Where do they live? Windrip could be in any state in the country.

    I also think you did a great job giving us an insight to what Ashley’s like and especially what she wants right now, toward the end of this piece. I’m very curious to know whose test she wanted to see. I’m guessing a love interest and whether or not I’m right doesn’t matter. You have me wanting to know more and read on.

    The package in the first line made me think of a box so when you later describe it as a letter it stopped me for a beat. Maybe switch it around and start by saying it’s a sealed letter then the reader will know the package refers to the sealed letter.

    Who are the members of the ‘clan’ mentioned? Since it’s YA I assumed other kids her age but the next paragraph talks about the Windrip Town women. So it was unclear.

    How does Ashley know it was the postal worker’s last delivery? Was she home when it was delivered? Did she have to sign for it? Mentioning this fact makes me ask more questions that maybe aren’t relevant to the story.

    I would refer to Valerie as Mom as this is from Ashley’s POV. If you need to inform the reader of her name maybe you can do it later or in another way.

    The Mrs. Lockwood/ Mr. Lockwood paragraph really confused me.

    You have a POV issue. You entered in Valerie’s POV during the first scene.

    It also seems like there’s a lot of dialogue that is for the sole purpose to relay information to the reader. A lot of what’s called “As you know, Bob”. For example, “As you know, Bob, today is your birthday.” The information about what’s happened in the past is already known to both Ashley and Valerie so they wouldn’t speak about it in this manner.

    Hope this helps, if you have any questions, let me know. Good luck with the revisions.


    1. About POV's they, shift since this is in third person perspective and there are multiple characters, mainly the mother and the daughter as important. there are also certain things that readers will know before the characters.
      the book has as essence of suspense and readers will need to know whats on their mind, i hope that makes sense, if you have an idea on how to make it better, do let me know.

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  6. Hi, Sanyukta! Thank you for sharing your pages!

    I love, love, love the envelope. Mystery correspondences are my jam. So I want to know more about it. And I want your character to dare more in these opening pages. I don't want her to pace, and I don't need to know room details. I want you to viscerally describe the action of diving into the envelope and finding something out before Mom walks through the door. You don't have to give us everything, just enough to keep our curiosity heightened. This could be really high stakes for your character, which is really important in storytelling. I think it's important to keep your reader focused on the envelope and what it will reveal (as I assume it's the catalyst for change in their lives) so having two characters not give it any real attention dampens down the great mystery element you've planted.

    You have this very intriguing section: "Did she relapse and not remember? She hadn’t been part of any foul play at school. Maybe a few clashes with her former clan but that’s nothing worth calling the lawyers over, she thought."

    So, first..."relapse". I like how you give us this tidbit of information that I'm certain will be useful later. But whatever she may have "relapsed" from, she would be really, really curious to know if the papers in that envelope pertained to her. Like, unstoppably curious as most teens are. So again, I'd like to see her dive into that envelope and give the reader enough to keep us flipping the pages. (And if she was suffering from a relapse that would cause her to lose memory, the following sentence would not ring true since she couldn't know without doubt that "She hadn’t been part of any foul play at school."

    Also, I want the mother to be called Mom. I'm sure you have a reason for calling her Valerie, but it's atypical for YA so something to think about.

    Lastly, I'm a mother & educator and an envelope from a lawyer's office would never, *never* show up at my house without me ripping it open. So I think you want to consider why Mom doesn't open the envelope right away, and you'll need to convince the author it's a legitimate choice. Otherwise, the envelope is a lot of buildup that doesn't get any payoff for the reader in these opening pages, and you definitely want some payoff for the reader. Maybe the daughter opens the envelope and the reader knows what it says, but the character has to hide if from Mom. So the reader knows something explosive or life changing is going to happen (especially if the lawyer's note is about something the daughter has to hide from Mom and then the reader is kept on edge wondering how this is all going to come crashing down since of course Mom will find out eventually.)

    I would recommend you stay focused on one or two story threads this early on in the manuscript. Really ground the reader in who your character is, what the life-changing event is, and how she is going to deal with it (based on what type of person your character is). Let the reader see this decision making, whether it's good or bad. And layer your characters choice with emotional reactions.

    I look forward to reading your revisions and I'm so honored to have to opportunity to read your work!


  7. Hi Sanyukta!

    I love your first line. I want to know what’s in that package:)

    One thing I try and think of when I read first pages are: is the MC someone I would like to root for? What does the MC want? What is the conflict? In your first five pages I don’t know enough about Ashley yet to form an opinion. I am intrigued by the suspense of the letter and the assignment.

    Curious about this line: “Could the notice be for her? Did she relapse and not remember?”
    What did she relapse from?
    And this one: The thought of being publicly called out yet again dried her throat and the urgency to know what the package held consumed her.
    Publicly called out for what :) ?

    Intriguing! That definitely hooks readers. There is a sense of urgency you build in the first two paragraphs that I really enjoyed.

    “She didn’t want to hand over the test papers, she needed them. Well, just one actually and only for a couple of minutes.”
    This was also intriguing.

    I love detail in writing but its a personal preference. I wonder if you might want to describe what Ashley and her mum looks like. What their home looks like and perhaps note the smells or sounds around them?

    Wow.. I love this line :
    ‘It’s no use talking about dead people, who never cared about you when alive.’

    Overall I enjoyed your first few pages. You just need to perhaps ground us readers with a better understanding of Ashley :)

    Thank you,

  8. Hi! With apologies for my delayed reply, here are a few thoughts - though, I feel like Shannon, above, offers great advice. This is a cool mystery premise and the envelope is a great starting image. That said, these pages feel very wordy to me - sentences like 'Spiraling deeper in thoughts, she plunged into self-doubt. Could the notice be for her?' are expositional and feel extraneous. I thing these pages would be stronger if you edited out bits of info that could be introduced later (do we need the name of the postie, or the make/model of Valerie's car in these opening pages?). I'd dial down on these elements and help readers connect better with Valerie and Ashley through details - how old is Ashley? Instead of 'food' maybe we could know what particular items Valerie bought (dry beans, cans might indicate direct financial straits without have to say 'the were poor' generically). I'd pick one or two key motifs/issues (e.g., the envelope and the 'relapse') to hone in on and really connect readers to the characters and the story in a focused way. I often tell workshop participants that they shouldn't hold back 'secrets' at their story's start. In your case, you've tantalized us with so many story threads, I feel like you might need to save a few for the pages that follow.
    Thanks so much for sharing your work! Good luck with revisions! - Stasia