Sunday, November 11, 2018

1st 5 Pages November Workshop- Krumwiede Rev 1

Name: Lana Krumwiede
Genre: Middle-grade Fantasy 

The first time Beatrice communicated with an insect was the day Mom finally agreed to let her have a beekeeping lesson. It was the perfect day for it—a white-hot July afternoon. Beatrice wore 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. 

Mr. Andelin, her eighty-one-year-old neighbor, wore the same protective gear. He was about to open the lid of the white box on the top. 

Not a box, Beatrice reminded herself, a super. That was the correct name for it. 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 one flew by, a soft buzz would get louder and then fade away, like a tiny jet zooming past. One 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, bees circling his head like electrons around a nucleus. “Girl, you mean.” 

That’s right, worker bees were girls. In the insect world, females were fiercer than males. They were the workers, the queens, the warriors, the hunters. They were the ones with stingers. While Beatrice liked the idea of fierce females, she didn’t want to get stung by one. 

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

“The veils are making the bees uneasy,” 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 them to stay calm. But could insects really notice things like that? In the videos she’d watched, beekeepers always wore veils and used smoke to calm the bees. All the times Beatrice had seen Mr. Andelin working at his hive, he didn’t use either. 

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

“Why don’t you like wearing a veil?” Beatrice asked.

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

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

“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. 

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

Even after the dozens of videos she’d watched. Even after the stacks of library books she’d read. Even after the four and a half essays she’d written on the benefits of beekeeping for a ten-year-old, which was mainly to convince Mom. Even after all that, Beatrice still had a twisty-gut anxious feeling now that she was actually here.

Mom was the one who was queasy about 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 aggressive, they would defend the hive with their lives. 

Twisty-gut feeling and all, Beatrice was dying to get a good look inside the hive, especially the brood nest, the innermost part where the queen and the larvae lived. 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, removing the wooden honeycomb frames one by one to inspect them, and Beatrice forced herself to lean forward for a good look. There wasn’t much to see yet. She counted a total of seven bees crawling on the honeycomb. Oh, now eight. Most of them would be deeper in the hive. 

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 dozens of questions, or spout as many science facts as she liked, and it didn’t annoy him. He seemed to enjoy it. Sometimes when she helped him water his flower garden or refill the butterfly feeders, they didn’t talk at all, which was perfectly comfortable. 

Another bee landed on her veil, 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 it. “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. And even stranger that he could tell them apart. 

Mr. Andelin pulled out another frame and inspected it. He spoke softly, but loud enough for Beatrice to hear. “Look, Hazel. Rosa has a mite on her back. Right there. Can you get it off?” 

Oh, gosh. Now he was talking to them. Did other beekeepers do that? People talked to dogs. And she’d seen a movie once where a boy talked to a cow while he milked it. 

Maybe he talked to his bees because he was lonely. Mr. Andelin lived by himself and didn’t have family nearby. Beatrice could understand lonely. She had Mom, every other weekend with Dad, and a few friends at school. But when it came to someone to talk to about ordinary stuff, not so much.

Mr. Andelin was still whispering over the honeycomb. “It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Hazel took care of it. Now, off you go.” 

A long pause followed. Did he think they were talking back? 

“We’re getting close to the brood now,” he said. “No jerky movements or loud noises. Nothing to make the bees nervous.”

Beatrice leaned closer for a better view. “Do you think we’ll see the queen?” 

“Probably not. She has thousands of children, with more on the way. She’s very busy.” Slow and easy, Mr. Andelin unstacked the last honey super and lowered it to the ground. The hum got much louder and higher, like an engine accelerating. He murmured reassuring words, but still the buzz intensified. 

Moving at a sloth’s pace, he lifted one of the frames from the brood nest. It was boiling with bees.  

Beatrice stood up straight and took a backward step. Maybe Mom was right. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea.

“Oh my,” Mr. Andelin whispered. “The queen has come out to meet you. Come closer.”

The hum was louder than ever. 

“I’m not sure I should,” Beatrice said.

“Nonsense. You don’t want to miss this.” 


  1. I went to the Royal Winter Fair this weekend and saw a big hive of bees and thought immediately of you and Beatrice! I think you have the perfect balance of action and bee facts in this version. The story is fantastic and I want to know more about if Mr. Andelin is really talking to the bees. I have only one comment, I think you’ve lost the magic in the opening that you had in your first version.

    The opening from your original manuscript had this melodic feel to it that I was drawn into the story from the first line. I felt like a kid when she described things as “kid sized” and “adult sized” and it had this lovely rhythm in your words. I think you’ve lost that in this revision. It feels a bit like your forcing the specific descriptions in of Mr. Andelin where in version #1 it just happened for me naturally.

    Your new opening line “The first time Beatrice communicated with an insect was the day Mom finally agreed to let her have a beekeeping lesson.” Is too straight forward for me (I know I said I wanted the magic sooner, I take it all back!!!). You hint the magic quite a bit sooner in this version. I’m intrigued, even without new opening line.
    “Strange how Mr. Andelin thought of his bees like people, giving them names and personalities. And even stranger that he could tell them apart”- fantastic line! The perfect amount of explanation.

    I know that Brian and I disagree on the “kid sized/adult sized” lines (and I may be completely wrong with my comment) but I’d ask a few more opinions on that line before you kill it. I think between the first half of your original manuscript and the second half of this one you have pure magic!

    1. Thanks so much for your feedback, Kate. I wanted to experiment with some new approaches to see what the result would be. The interaction between Beatrice and the queen is what I consider the inciting incident, and I wanted to see how quickly I could get there. I was looking for everything and anything I could cut in order to get there sooner, and the "adult-size" comment was one of things on the chopping table. I may very well end up putting some things back in, and the feedback I get this week will help me figure that out. Thanks again!

  2. Lana, you have a way with words. Just like the last version, this one flows perfectly, like a song.

    I can see now that something is going to happen between Beatrice and these bees. What? I don't know. The mystery of this would have me turning the page, along with your voice. :)

    The line about the bullet-proof vest made me chuckle. <3

    Just a personal preference, and you don't have to listen to me because it is your story, but I liked the first paragraph of version 1 better. Is there anyway you can use it, but then add the first line of the second version to the end of it? (In your melodic tone, of course.)

    Just read Kate's comments: Ha! She used melodic too! Anyway, I agree with her about the adult-sized. I think you could put it back in and it wouldn't hurt it. But that is up to you.

    Excellent job! I can't wait to read this book!

    1. Thank you so much for your suggestions. I'll definitely be bringing back a few things next week. It helps to know what people miss from the first version and what they like from the second. I really appreciate it!

  3. The idea of communicating with an insect is compelling, but then we shift into a description of the weather and her clothes, which slows things down a bit.

    I still love the bullet proof vest line. I absolutely love the way her logical mind is hit by the realization that she's afraid. You do say 'bug' four times in one paragraph.

    Great introduction. I'm anxious to hear about how she communicates with insects, as her mentor obviously does. You've done a good job of building up to that, while making it seem that's he's just a little eccentric.

    Seems I'm in the minority about the 'adult-sized' line, so you might want to go with your original.

    1. Thanks, Brian, for your thoughts. It really does help to hear different opinions. I'll play around more and see what I can come up with. I appreciate your input!

  4. I actually like this new opening. I like that it's giving us an idea of the fantastical reason for this bee set up without changing to much, but as others said, it does feels a little disjointed from the rest.

    I would fix this simply by making that first sentence it's own paragraph and start a new one at “it was the perfect day for it…”. Then, add on to this paragraph the sentence from the next paragraph so the sentence “Mr. Andelin, her eighty-one year old…” is included in that paragraph as well. Add “he was about to open the lid…” to the next paragraph with Beatrice's correct of “super”.

    I'll admit I miss the repetition of kid sized, adult sized. Personally I felt like that established your voice very early. We don't get it back until this paragraph about supers, imo

    I also like that you gave a bit more context on the Mr. A talking to his bees. I liked Beatrice’s thoughts puncturing Mr. A being a bit of a looney. The mention of him maybe being lonely, giving a hint of Beatrice’s situation in the process. I feel like I’m getting much more Beatrice in between all these bee facts and that’s perfect.

    All I can think of to comment on is maybe in that last section, you talk about the queen not coming out and then immediately she does. Maybe you could tighten things up a little by having the queen coming out as Mr. A is saying she probably won’t. Example:

    “Probably not. She has thousands of children, with more on the way. She’s very busy and… Oh my.”
    “What is it?” Beatrice stood up straight and took a backward step. Maybe Mom was right. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea.
    “The queen has come out to meet you. Come closer.”

    Obviously you have a lot more going on there that you can work into this little exchange of dialogue but that’s just what I’m thinking in terms of the dialogue :)

  5. This is so lovely, and I really don't think I have a lot to add here.

    I didn't mention in my original comments since Brian already had, but I was with Brian on not being super keen on the "adult-sized" half of the line. I like it better this way, without, but we might be in the minority, and that's fine.

    I enjoyed the new opening line! It made everything fall into place much more for me.

    I really enjoyed how much faster overall this felt like it moved.

    I'm not sure if I have anything else to add, and I'm sorry for being useless, but this was great!

    1. Thank you, Ellie! Your feedback is helpful. We'll see if "adult size" makes the cut!

  6. Hi Lana,

    I'm coming in at the last minute again. Sorry.

    As I think I mentioned last time, your writing is really very strong in these pages. And I'm pretty sure I like where your story is headed. I have to say "pretty sure" because I still feel like your story gets a bit bogged down in unnecessary detail. And because of that, we really don't get a sense of what your story's trajectory is going to be. As it stands, these pages could work harder to grab me.

    One of the most important things your opening pages need to do is get the reader dying to know what comes next. As it stands, the big question for me in reading these pages is "has Mr. Andelin lost touch with reality?" And I have a feeling that's not what the story is really about. If you could get your reader to a place where something significant happens--something with relatively high stakes; something that gets your reader to say "what?!?"--you'd be posing a question that really needs to be answered. For example, if we actually hear a bee speak to Beatrice that would definitely make us wonder what's going on. Or if Mr. Andelin tells Beatrice the bees are unhappy about the veils, so they need to take them off, that would plant a real sense of peril. (Especially if we feel a tangible fear that Beatrice is experiencing about doing it.)

    Bottom line for me: I still think you could get us further into the story with some careful pruning. And find a way to up the tension to get the reader hooked fast.


  7. Thanks, Rob! That gives me a lot to think about. I'll see what I can do!