Monday, November 19, 2018

1st 5 Pages November Workshop- Krumwiede Rev 2

Name: Lana Krumwiede
Genre: Middle-grade Fantasy 


Ten-year-old science-crazy Beatrice is learning about beekeeping from her elderly neighbor.  When the neighbor’s only relative whisks him off to a senior care facility, Beatrice begins hearing things. Mosquitos recite poetry, moths whisper advice, and cicadas chant warnings. Beatrice has inherited her neighbor’s secret ability to communicate with insects. She’s the new Insect Diluvian. 

Beatrice is now privy to an entire world she never knew existed in her own backyard. She discovers how insects work together, squabble, and struggle to survive in a hostile world. Her new ability traces back to the original Diluvian who could speak with all animals, a legendary person known by many cultures and by many names—Noah, Gilgamesh, and Manu, among others.  Beatrice also has a run-in with the Diluvians’ enemy, a secret organization with a twisted scheme to recreate the Great Flood. Without any training, Beatrice must learn how to use her new ability quickly, get the feuding species of insects to set aside their differences, and enlist their help in averting a global disaster.

First Five Pages:

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 zip-up suit with long sleeves and long pants, 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. Adult-sized, of course. He opened the lid of the white box on 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. Quite a few bees were 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. 

Gently, Mr. Andelin lifted one of the wooden frames from the super. 

Beatrice leaned in for a good look. Rows of tiny golden hexagons bulged with honey, and only a few bees were crawling around. She counted a total of seven. Oh, now eight. Most of them would be deeper in the hive. “Is the buzzing getting louder? Or is that my imagination?” 

“The veils are making them uneasy,” Mr. Andelin said. “They’ve never seen me wear one before. We need to move slow and quiet to keep them calm.”

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 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. 

Pulling a popsicle stick from his pocket, Mr. Andelin ran it along the honeycomb and offered it to Beatrice. "Would you like a taste?" 
Beatrice took the popsicle stick, but there was a slight problem. The veil was in the way. "Um, how do I . . ." 
"Raise it just a smidge." 

When she hesitated, he nodded and said, “Go ahead,” then turned his attention back to the hive.            

Lifting the veil only as much as she had to, Beatrice eased the popsicle stick under it. Before she knew what happened, the bee was inside the mesh, buzzing around her face. Startled, she dropped the popsicle stick, which stuck to her pants. 

Part of her wanted to fling off the hat and run. But another part of her didn't think that was very smart.

“Beautiful work, ladies,” Mr. Andelin said. 
 Beatrice opened one eye just enough to see that he still wasn’t looking at her. "Uh, there's a bee in my face." 

 Mr. Andelin finally looked up. "Jasmine! Where are your manners? Humans need their air space. Now, Beatrice is going to lift the veil so you can see your way out.”

Gingerly, Beatrice placed one hand at the bottom of the veil, but she didn't lift it yet. "What if more bees get inside?"

"They won't," said Mr. Andelin. "Jasmine'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. Beatrice lifted the mesh a little, then a little more.

"That's it," Mr. Andelin said. "Out you go. No hard feelings, right Jasmine?""

The bee flew away, and Beatrice let go of a big breath. She told herself to relax, but she wasn’t listening. 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 now had a twisty-gut anxious feeling about the bees.

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 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 was removing the wooden honeycomb frames one by one to inspect them. He moved slowly and didn’t talk.

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. 

Mr. Andelin lifted another frame and looked it over. 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.


  1. I still enjoy your pages.

    When I read them the first time, I pictured movies like THE BEE MOVIE, THE ANT BULLY, and EPIC. So, its nice to see that premise of the novel and pages match. Good job!

    I like the premise. The idea of a secret organization of insects trying to create the Great Flood is fresh and interesting.

    Maybe drop the second "of course." I like the kid-size/ adult-size but the two of courses seems redundant.

    Other than that, I have enjoyed reading your revisions, Lana. And I wish you the best! :)

  2. I feel like the same thing for Ellie is also true for your pitch, Lana. It’s a great start but I feel like your instantly catching voice that you use when writing is not present in your pitch. I want more of what makes your writing special in your pitch, otherwise why should I bother going past the pitch, you know (the pitch is your first impression so you gotta make sure the agent/publisher knows who you are and what you stand for from the start!)

    That being said, I’m really interested in the details that your pitch suggests, and I’m glad it’s along the lines of what your first few pages suggests.

    I’m not sure what happened between this revision and last revision but we’ve lost some of the events to word count I think. I was hoping to see more about the queen (I’m assuming she hears the queen speak to her maybe?)

    Other than that, it’s the same fun, quirky voice as always and it’s a pleasure to read every time (btw, I’m glad to see, kid size of course, adult sized of course, back again. The repetition is what makes it work!)

    YOu definitely have something strong here, all I think you need is a little more research and attention to your pitch!

  3. I do get where all of the other comments are coming from that the “voice” of your writing isn’t quite in your pitch but at the same time I think the pitch alone is excellent and full of exciting content in that makes me want to read your pages.

    I do think what you have right now is a 1,2 punch. Intriguing pitch to make me want to read your pages, then a wonderful voice in the pages. I think your topic and the STEM trends in the manuscript wish lists will have plenty of agents reading past the query anyway. I also thing that if it were on the back of your book it would intrigue lots of middle schoolers looking for adventure. I’ve learned a lot from reading your pages this week and hearing your feedback. This is my first crack at MG and I appreciate all that you’ve taught me! Good luck with this book.

  4. I love your pitch, I assume it's going to have something to do with the bees dying out. I might mention the neighbor by name. I'm intrigued, now that I know more.

    I think you've nailed the beginning. I wish you every success!

    1. Oh, and I still dig Ellie's personality, the precocious middle schooler, such a great mixture of childhood and maturity.

  5. I love the pages, and I think they're pretty great as is, so I'm going to focus my comments here on the pitch.

    I think the first paragraph of the pitch works, but the second drifts towards feeling a little like a synopsis and I don't think it builds as much tension as it could.

    I'm not sure if the line "Her new ability traces back to the original Diluvian who could speak with all animals, a legendary person known by many cultures and by many names—Noah, Gilgamesh, and Manu, among others." is really necessary, and it doesn't really contain tension, so I'd rather see it gone.

    For the line following it "she also has a run in..."--the "also" that makes this feel more like a list of events in the book than a pitch. Is there a way to transition more intensely or with more connection than just an "also" from the line about insects living in a hostile world to that one?

    Best of luck to you, Lana!

  6. Hi Lana, love your premise! Suzie has been out of town traveling over the holiday. I'm posting her comments below:

    Hi Lana,

    You've done such a great job here. So glad I got the chance to read your pages. Below are all my comments:

    Title: You should absolutely change your title. While this current title might mean something to people who have already read the book, it doesn’t mean anything to those who haven’t. Your title is just as much of a marketing tool for your book as your cover, and you need a title that will draw in people who have read the book. It needs to be intriguing, yes, but if it’s too unfamiliar, it won’t draw anyone in.


    It feels like there’s a lot of backstory in your pitch here. It’s not until the last line that I have a sense of what the plot and stakes are. I think we need to know more about that sooner. Why are the insects feuding? Who is the secret organization? What actually does she need to do to stop them? We need to know more about what she’s trying to do and less about backstory like Noah.

    There seem to be some religious undertones—the mention of Noah and the Great Flood, etc. If that’s your intent, this is fine. It does limit the marketability a bit though, so if this isn’t your intent, I would focus this squarely more on today/present.


    You have a great voice here. Beatrice’s voice feels age-appropriate and at a sentence level your writing is quite good!

    My biggest notes is that sometimes it sounds a bit didactic. There’s a lot of explaining here. Right away: a super, the worker bees, the buzzing/the veil. It actually feels like Beatrice is saying things incorrectly or asking questions in order to educate the reader. Kids will see right through that, and it also slows the pace quite a bit.

    I actually wonder if you’re starting in the right spot or with the right details. While your writing is very good, I didn’t feel grabbed. I don’t really know enough about Beatrice, who she is or what her hopes and dreams are. Instead I’ve learned a lot about bees. The set up of the first line is great, but then it falls flat and actually leaves me (as a reader) feeling a bit deceived. She isn’t really communicating with an insect by the end of the chapter.