Sunday, November 4, 2018

1st 5 Pages November Workshop- Krumwiede

Name: Lana Krumwiede
Genre: Middle-grade Fantasy
Title: Diluvians

Beatrice was exactly where she wanted to be on a white-hot July afternoon—wearing a long-sleeved, long-pants, zip-up suit; thick gloves; some serious boots; and a wide-brimmed hat with a veil that hung down to her chest. Kid-sized, of course. 

She was about to start her first beekeeping lesson from Mr. Andelin, her neighbor. He wore the same protective gear. Adult size, of course. 

Mr. Andelin stood next to the stack of white boxes, about to open the lid. Not boxes, Beatrice reminded herself, supers. That was the correct name for them. When it came to science, correct vocabulary was important.

A low, constant hum came from the hive. Already there were quite a few bees zipping around. When a bee flew by, a soft buzz would get louder and then fade away, like a tiny jet zooming past. A bee landed in front of her face on the other side of the mesh that hung down from her hat. She had to almost cross her eyes to look at it. “Hey there, little guy.”

Mr. Andelin looked up at her. “You mean girl.” 

That’s right. Beatrice had forgotten that worker bees were girls. "I love that girl bees are the ones with the stingers." 

“Yup,” said Mr. Andelin. 

In the insect world, the females are the workers, the queens, the warriors, the hunters. They were usually more fierce than the males. While Beatrice liked the idea of fierce females, she didn’t want to get stung by one. Good thing she had the veil. She took a step back, but the bee hung on. Its tiny legs moved up and down, rotating its body from side to side. Beatrice blinked and focused on Mr. Andelin instead.

“Is the buzzing getting louder?” Beatrice asked. “Or is that my imagination?” 

“The bees are a little uneasy because of the veils,” he said. “They’ve never seen me wear one before. We’ll have to move slow and quiet to keep them calm.”

Yes, please. Beatrice definitely wanted the bees to stay calm. In all the videos she’d watched, the beekeepers always wore veils and calmed the bees with smoke. But Mr. Andelin did neither of those things in all the times Beatrice had seen him working at his beehive. 

The only reason he wore the suit and veil today was because Mom had insisted. It had taken a lot of convincing to get Mom to agree to this, and full protection for both of them was one of her conditions. 

“Why don’t you like to wear the veil?” she asked.

Mr. Andelin gave a tiny shrug and answered quietly. “I have an understanding with the bees. I make sure they have what they need, and they share their honey with me. It’s all very friendly.”

Hmm. That sounded very non-scientific. It was true that bees were very intelligent. Some scientists had even trained bees to search out land mines in military zones. But they couldn’t have friendly feelings toward people, could they? “How can you have an understanding with bees?”

“I’ve been doing this a long time. I trust them, and they trust me—that’s what friends do. How would you feel if every time I came to visit you, I wore a bullet-proof vest and a helmet?” 

“I don’t think that’s the same thing.” Trust sounded fine, but it didn’t seem like the best idea with bees. If Beatrice was ever lucky enough to have her own beehive, she would always wear a veil and use smoke.

As Mr. Andelin pried open the hive’s lid, Beatrice noticed something she hadn’t expected: She was nervous. 

Even after dozens of online beekeeping videos she’d watched. Even after the stacks of library books she’d read. Even after she’d written four and a half science essays on the benefits of beekeeping for kids, which was mainly to convince Mom who wasn’t crazy about the idea. Even after all that, Beatrice still had a twisty-gut anxious feeling now that she was actually here.

She’d never been queasy about insects before. Mom was the one who was scared of bugs, not Beatrice. Whenever a bug showed up in the house, Mom refused to get near it, dead or alive. Beatrice would scoop the bug into a cup, cover it with a card, and release it outside. The bug was probably just lost, and nobody deserved to be executed for being lost. 

But with all the bees around, this was different. A colony this size had about fifty-thousand bees, and if they got angry or aggressive, they would defend the hive with their lives. 

Twisty-gut feeling and all, Beatrice was dying to get a good look inside of the beehive. At least, the scientist part of her wanted to.  The scaredy-cat part of her wanted to go home and read about it. The scientist won out.

Mr. Andelin had the lid off now, and Beatrice forced herself to lean forward for a good look. There wasn’t much to see yet, just a row of wooden honeycomb frames, like skinny rectangular picture frames standing up inside a box, only these frames had a wall of honeycomb where each picture would be. Ten of them, all fitted vertically in their slots inside the super. She counted a total of seven bees crawling around on the edges. Oh, now eight.

Mr. Andelin stood very still and didn’t talk for a bit. 

Beatrice did the same. This was one of the things she liked about him. She could ask him as many questions as she wanted, or spout as many science facts as she liked, and it didn’t annoy him. In fact, he seemed to enjoy it. And when she helped him water his flower garden or refill the butterfly feeders, sometimes they didn’t talk at all, and it was perfectly comfortable. 

A bee was on her veil again, walking in a circle in front of Beatrice’s face. Following its path made her a little dizzy. 

“That’s Jasmine.” Mr. Andelin motioned toward Beatrice’s veil. “She’s just curious. And a bit too outgoing for her own good.”

Strange how Mr. Andelin thought of his bees like people, giving them names and personalities.

“I didn’t say nosy, I said curious and outgoing,” Mr. Andelin said. “It was a compliment.”

What was he talking about? “Uh, I don’t—” 

“You might think the veils are weird, but most beekeepers wear them.” Mr. Andelin kept right on talking over her. 

“I didn’t—”

“Of course I don't wear one. But that’s different.” He seemed to be talking to the bee. It was like he’d forgotten Beatrice was there. 

Did all beekeepers talk to their bees? People talked to dogs. And Beatrice had seen a movie once where a boy talked to a cow while he milked it. 

The hum seemed to settle down again, and Mr. Andelin handed Beatrice the red hive tool that looked like a mini crow bar. “See this dark gummy stuff around the edges of the frames? We have to scrape it off and loosen the frames so we can take them out.” 

Beatrice started scraping. It was easier to keep her twisty gut under control when she was doing something. “I read about the gummy stuff. It’s called propolis.”

“Tell me what you read,” Mr. Andelin said. 

While she scraped, she repeated everything she’d learned about how propolis is the glue that bees make to seal up the cracks and protect the hive from intruders. Amazingly, she began to relax and untwist. 


  1. I love the way that you write. It’s whimsical and fun. The “kid sized” and “adult sized” lines are two of my most favorite. I have a great picture of the characters in my head from these first few pages and I was living in the moment with them.

    My next comment is very subjective and I’d like to caveat that I love my fiction fast paced, especially my fantasy. I’d consider moving a (very) small portion of your fun bee facts to a little later in the book. I have the attention span of an ant and kept waiting for you to tell me what this book was going to be about and where the magic might be. I’m wondering if you may lose you impatient middle grade readers (or agents) who are not as into bees as Beatrice if they don’t make it to the end of your five pages. Another option might be to allude to the magic and whimsy just a tad sooner so that I’m intrigued to read on. The bee facts are super important in painting Beatrice’s bookish (or should I say beeish? ;) character, I just think the story would benefit form a slightly faster pace.

  2. I had to smile when you described the bees. And when Beatrice said, “Hey there, little guy," and then Mr. Andelin corrected her was adorable. The entire scene is cute.

    Solid writing. I learned a lot of facts, but it was a lot of facts. Consider sprinkling them throughout the story instead of all at once.

    In this paragraph: “In the insect world, the females are the workers…” I would remove the first two sentences altogether. Keep the story with Beatrice.

    My only issue is that I have no idea where the story is heading. I don’t know what in Beatrice’s life is about to change. Usually, in middle grade, the inciting event happens on the first couple of pages, if not on page one.

  3. Disclaimer: Please take my opinions with a grain of salt as I do not read much middle grade!

    Overview: I don’t even know what to say about this one because i just loved it. It was so feel good. It’s weird because like, clearly you don’t touch on the fantasy element in this first 5 pages, but at the same time, I’m invested in Beatrice regardless. You’ve made her such a strong, quirky voice that I’m just absolutely in love with her and want to hear all about the fantastic epics she’s going to take part in on her fantasy adventure.

    If I had to give some advice, I’d say be careful with frequently used words, and really tighten up your punctuation. Generally everything read smoothly but every now and then there was a line that I was like, maybe that reads a bit too long or maybe I’d use a different punctuation there. Seriously nothing huge though.

    I think if your whole book holds this same fantastical voice it would be a joy to read. Beatrice clearly sees the world in her own special way and you do a wonderful job showing it. Whimsical, as Kate said, is a wonderful word.

    Line by line: Listen, I love this opening. It’s so cute. Like Kate said, the Kid-sized, of course — and — Adult-sized, of course, is so great.

    You’ve already established such a strong voice right from the first three paragraphs and that’s so awesome. Like I just find myself smiling reading this already. It’s great.

    You use the word bee a lot in this one paragraph. You can take one out in the forth paragraph, I think. “One landed in front of her…”. She’s already speaking about bees so we know that’s what she means.

    This may be just because I have a fascination for bees myself and watch beekeeping videos all the time but I just love this so much it’s so cute and I’m just finding myself sitting and enjoying it! That’s a good thing, because it means there’s not much in the narration or dialogue that feels clunky or weird. It’s just smooth and I’m very easily able to get drawn in without getting pulled away by awkward lines.

  4. Nice beginning. I'd drop either the 'kid sized' or 'adult sized,' otherwise it seems repetitive. I'd also cut the 'yup,' it doesn't add anything.

    Do bees really notice something like a veil? I bow to your knowledge, though that seems unlikely.

    I'd like a description of Mr. Andelin. Is he 80? 30? And how old is Beatrice?

    I love the helmet/vest line. I love the way Beatrice wants to see everything scientifically. And I love that she gets scared.

    If he has 50,000 bees he's not going to know them by name, though the next paragraphs show that he's odd.

    I'm loving this. Beekeeping is an interesting hobby and I'm sure it would be one that would make a nice frame for a middle grade book, wherever you go with this. Like others have mentioned, I'd include fewer beekeeping facts and terminology right now (but leave the female warriors bit) and more about Beatrice's background. I can tell I'm going to like her as a character.

    And as someone mentioned, watch repeated words (such as veil).

  5. Many thanks to all for the helpful comments. Clearly I have some tightening to do, and your feedback will help me find the places that need trimming. Very much appreciated!

  6. I love the voice of the girl scientist MC here! Her love for bees and science just oozes from the page and makes me feel it, too, even though I personally hate bees/am terrified of them.

    That said, I wondered if there could be a little less facts about the bees in there, and a little bit more about what they mean to her in particular. I connected with her most in the moments where she was battling her own fears about the bees—the scardy-cat vs the scientist—but I did wonder if there was a particular reason she was so interested in bees specifically. If she’s just interested in science, there are plenty of other things to study, right? Why bees? I certainly do feel like I get to know her in these pages, but I also think you could go a little deeper.

    I’m getting the vibe that the fantasy element here is that Mr. Andelin actually can talk to the bees via magic, which is why he doesn’t wear the veil, has names for them, etc, and he’s not just quirky. That said, it’s so subtle that I’m really not sure. I'm not sure there's anything you should necessarily change here, just letting you know that this is how I'm reading it, so if I'm not supposed to suspect that Mr. Andelin has magic powers, it might be worth toning that down.

  7. Hi Lana,

    Thanks for submitting your pages! So sorry for my late comments--it's been a busy week. Overall, I really like your writing and your voice here. And I definitely think this type of STEM-oriented novel is quite popular right now.

    I have a couple of suggestions for you:
    -- I'd hold off on some of the bee facts you offer up in these opening pages. Unless they're critical for the story, you can weave them in later. The first five pages are all about the economic use of your limited space. Bee facts are unlikely to hook a fiction reader. But action and a compelling story are. By taking out some of those facts, you can give the reader more to sink her teeth into.

    -- I'm not sure where this story is going. Seeing Mr. Andelin talk to the bee is intriguing, but I'd love to know what kind of adventure B has ahead of her. And when an agent is reading these pages, she'll want to see that as well. So see if you can get the inciting incident into your first five.

    I think these changes will help your pages hook readers much more quickly.