Sunday, November 11, 2018

1st 5 Pages November Workshop- Robertson Rev 1

Name: Kate Robertson
Genre: Upper Middle Grade, Magical Realism
Title: The Thief of Buttercup Lane

Everything is going according to plan. 

6:23 - Mr. Verhoeven arrives home from work. Yells at neighbor’s Chihuahua for pooping on his lawn. Face is alarmingly red.

6:45 - Mrs. Verhoeven is dropped off by a red sports car. She is dressed, head-to-toe, in yoga wear but looks neither sweaty nor Zen.

7:00 - Delivery driver arrives. Indian food.

9:00 - They retire to their separate bedrooms. Possibly due to the Indian food.

9:15 -They are fast asleep.

I sit in the old oak tree in front of the Verhoeven’s house and wait my standard two hours and fifteen minutes before I even think of making a move. Two hours, to make sure the Verhoeven’s are asleep. Fifteen minutes, because I’m extra cautious. I take this thieving business very seriously.
When it’s time, I creep across the grass to the far corner of the house. There is a drain pipe that I can use to get up to the second floor. Mrs. Verhoeven keeps her jewels in the guestroom, laying in a box on an armoire. No safe. No locks. They’re practically begging to be stolen.
It takes a few deep breaths before I can access my powers. I hold the air in my lungs and imagine myself, as light as a feather. The magic starts in my toes, then ripples up my body. It feels like that tingling sensation you get after you sneeze.
 Now that I’m practically floating, scooting up that drain pipe is a synch.
I scout out the narrow ledge that runs all the way from the drainpipe to the guestroom window. It’s going to take excellent balance and guts to make it across. Luckily, I have both, not to mention, a little magic. Inch-by-inch I move along the ledge, until I reach the window. I take another deep breath. This time, when I exhale, I think about making the air in my lungs as cold as ice. The window freezes.
A quick trick with my dagger and I’ve etched a hole, just big enough for my skinny butt to shimmy through. One tug, and the glass is free, but it’s way heavier than I expected. I try to set it down on the ledge beside me, but I can’t move a single inch. I’m stuck, really stuck.
Looking down, my problem is obvious. I’ve snagged zipper on the pocket of my jeans on one of the window hinges. Betta Vulgaris, thief extraordinaire gets brought down by a zipper.
I figure I have two options: drop the window to the ground below and pray that no one wakes from the crash or tug my leg free and risk ruining my jeans. Now before you go ahead and judge me, these are really nice jeans, black, skinny, distressed just the perfect amount. Plus, it took three months and commission from four other jobs to save up to buy them.

Obviously, I throw the window. Now, my hands are free to unhook that darn zipper. The good news is, the Verhoevens don’t make a peep. The bad news is, their next-door neighbor,  Mrs. Weston (newly divorced, lots of time on her hands) starts shouting at the street below, “who made that noise? Daryl is that you?” for the next eight minutes rendering me unable to move without being seen. That’s what gets me: eight freaking minutes.

Eight minutes is all it takes for the other thief to get in and out with the necklace. I can do it in six but eight as still pretty impressive. It’s been happening lately more than I care to admit, this mystery thief, showing up and stealing my jobs, making off with my hard earned loot. The only silver lining in this whole story and the only thing that could possibly save me from getting yelled at by my Uncle Larry when I get home tonight, is that I saw my mystery thief’s face this time and now I can find him.

He did a very stupid thing. If they wrote a manual on how to be a successful thief, the very first bullet point would read, “never ever under any circumstances remove your mask.” It’s a rookie mistake, but really what can you expect from someone who takes eight full minutes to get in and out? So, I saw him, clear as day. Now all I have to do is find him, then it's payback for all of the other jobs he messed up for me: the Eastons, The Van Burens and now the Verhoevens.

There is no point in hanging around the Verhoeven’s any longer. The jewels are gone and I’m not a fan of Indian leftovers. It’s dark and the street is quiet now. I figure it’s safe to use my powers again. No one will see me and my poor jeans have suffered enough tonight. I step from the ledge and float slowly to the ground, landing lightly on my feet. Unfortunately, I also land in a pile of Chihuahua poop. I now understand Mr. Verhoeven’s rage.

I figure the odds of Uncle Larry yelling at me all night are pretty good, even with the new information I have on our competition, so I decide to make a little pit-stop before I head home. Something to keep me distracted while Uncle L tells me what a worthless, good-for-nothing thief I am and if I keep screwing up like this, he’ll send me back to Aaronvale to be a beet farmer like my cousin Dole.

The distraction’s name is Andrew P. Jordan. The P stands for Positively Perfect, either that or Paul. He also goes to Fairfield Heights Middle School. We’re completely, undeniably, totally in love, he just hasn’t realized it yet. His house isn’t far, he also lives in the good neighborhood, like the Eastons and the Verhoevens and every other house Uncle Larry plots to hit. The Jordan’s have a large maple in front of their house. There’s a branch with an excellent view and a little dip that fits my butt perfectly. I love to sit on that branch and watch him. His face is perfect. I think he likes admiring it as much as I do but I am cool with that. If I were that good-looking, I’d spend hours gazing in the mirror too.

I really want to see him so I have to scoot. His light turns off at twelve sharp and after that, the show is over, at least the show I can see from my spot in the maple tree.

I am about to climb the tree when I spot him walking down the sidewalk, the thief who undercut my job. There is no doubt in my mind it’s him. Same jet black hair that waves to just below his ears, same papery pale skin and green eyes. Plus the dingbat didn’t have the brains to ditch his mask, he carries it in his hand as if it were his paper-bag lunch. Amateur. Rookie. Idiot.

I bid a silent farewell to Andrew P Jordan and his perfect cheekbones before I follow the thief down the street. He cuts through memorial park, turns down the main street and follows it all the way to the end before ducking down a small side street with a sign that says “Buttercup Lane”.


  1. Hi Kate! So sorry about my email issues, which led to me missing your first draft. I'll take it from this draft and comment as I go. :)

    I like the way the opening is set up, especially for a middle grade story. It catches the eye. And ooh, we have special powers. <3 I also love that we have a theft on our hands, here. One thing I question, though, is how does Betta know so much about the what's and where's of the interior of this house? Does she see Mrs. V put her jewels in the guest room, and has she ever been in the house before? Using the word 'standard' in the beginning makes me think so, but if so has the house been robbed before?

    Okay, so there's another thief. This mystery thief can move in and out despite the neighbor causing issues for Betta to have to be still. I feel like there's something missing just before this information is exposed. Does Betta hear the other thief? See movement first? As a reader, I'd be interested to know how this other guy got in from Betta's perspective. You could amp up the tension with that, too. Oh, so the mystery thief is outed. I'm assuming you have a reason for not revealing it here, which is cool. But there's a lot of telling in the section. Maybe incorporate a little action into Betta's thoughts of how this thief has been nothing but an issue. For ex: what's Betta doing while waiting for the neighbor to go away and while this thief is getting away with the loot? Yes! The thief is the same boy. So funny, and I can see loads of conflict coming down Buttercup Lane. Love how it takes this turn!

    I really like Betta's voice and snarky humor as well as the world you're creating. I can totally see myself reading more.

    Please remember these are just my observations. And I did miss your first posting here, so I'm sure you've taken the previous comments into account and edited. Thank you so much for sharing your work here! I'm excited to see where you take this.


  2. Kate, I love this version so much better. I read it without a stop or a stumble. Laughed three times. Nice job on landing the street name at the end of page five. :)

    My only questions: Did Betta staked out the Verhoeven house before tonight? And, is it synch or cinch?

    I wish there was some tension between Betta and our other thief. But then again, that could be on the next pages as far as I know. (I want to read more to find out.)

    Excellent job on the revisions!

  3. I still love your introductory timeline.

    'Verhoeven’s are still asleep'...don't make me send the apostrophe police after you.

    Also, she's been watching these people for almost three hours and then waits another two hours...yikes!

    Much better description of the magic this time.

    'not to mention, a little magic' Take out the comma.

    'One tug, and the glass is free' Take out the comma. Also, describe the dagger.

    Nice way of introducing your character's name...and I like the name.

    'Now before you go ahead and judge me' (cut out 'go ahead and')

    Good description of the rival thief, but we need a description of him(?) and what he's doing. Helplessly watching someone else take your prize needs to be described in detail.

    'The Jordan's have a large maple'...seriously. Watch your apostrophes and commas.

    Nice description of the thief, but we need it earlier. And your heroine's habit of watching a boy in his bedroom...if this was a boy watching a girl, we'd all freak out. I'd like this a lot more if she were watching him shooting baskets in his driveway, rather than in an intimate moment in his room.

    I love the way she describes her crush. So typically middle school. And I like the implication that she's going to rob him some day, even if maybe she doesn't realize it.

    All in all, this is pretty compelling. I'd wonder if you even need the magic, and couldn't just make this girl an experienced sneak thief, but I'd have to read more to really suggest that.

  4. Great job with these revisions! I liked seeing the explanation of her powers, and I thought you did a solid job making it clear without it bogging down the action.

    I just have two minor suggestions:

    It might be worth describing some of the characteristics of the rival thief when she first sees him take off his mask. It seems a little strange that it says she sees him clear as day, but then there's no description. Plus, if you do describe him there, the reader can realize she sees him again at the same time as she does later on.

    Second, when she goes to visit Andrew, it says she's about to climb the tree--but why would she climb instead of float? She's been using her powers so far, and presumably it's still dark, so it's not clear to me why she suddenly wouldn't.

  5. This opening is so much stronger and no quirky voice littering up with extra words that are unnecessary. I think you're getting your voice across just fine without all that, and this reads way smoother. Something about the lines ending these two paragraphs “I take this thieving business very seriously.” And “They’re practically begging to be stolen.” they worked so well together.
    Great extra explanation for the powers. It's still a little curious, but it doesn't feel out of place or thrown in there. You've given her powers the attention it properly deserved, and can spend time later elaborating more and more.
    “I've snagged /my/ zipper” I think you mean or maybe /the/ zipper :)
    Also, “Betta Vulgaris, thief extraordinaire, gets brought down by a zipper.” Usually you need two commas around an “addition” like this. Like: My grandmother, who thinks it's still 1945, doesn't really understand today's fashion choices.
    I don't see people using “I figure” much and I like that. I liked it last time around. Just a little note :)
    I would consider breaking up the jeans sentence. “Now before you go ahead and judge me, these are really nice jeans. Black, skinny, and distressed the perfect amount.” (Maybe instead of just the perfect amount either go with “the perfect amount” or “just right/just enough”.) Personally, I'd use a colon between these two sentences since you start a list related to the previous sentence, but I know I'm personally still not the best at deciding exactly where colons should go so sometimes it's better to play it safe and just use a period lol
    I like that you changed for 18 to 8. I didn't really mention it before because I didn't think it was a huge thing, but 18 minutes is a fairly long time and 8 is more reasonable. Definitely enough time for her job to be stolen under her nose but not too long that it feels unrealistic that someone would wail into the night for that long haha
    I think the only suggestion I'd make is Betta taking notice of the thief's appearance earlier. I feel like it's more natural in this case for her to file away his features the moment she sees him, for future reference, than listing them later when she sees him again.
    Also something I noticed is that you took away Betta's age this time around. While I didn't particular like the way you presented it last time, I do think hints at age range would be good, otherwise I feel like this actually reads a little older than the 12(?) you intended. I don't think this is a deal breaker, as this is something you can clarify in your query, but it's something to consider if you can figure out a smooth way to include it without it feeling forced in there
    Otherwise, this was a fantastic update and so great to see the improvements you made. You really cleaned it up without losing Betta's voice and I like that. And the opening is much more catching. Just positives all around!

  6. I thought you did a terrific job of describing her powers and how she uses them. That's not an easy thing to do! I felt like there was enough of an explanation but not so much as to slow the scene down. Nice job.

    The voice is still strong and pulls me in right away.

    I still have a problem when you say "when I spot him walking down the sidewalk," because the him sounds like it's referring to Andrew P. Jordan, but then we learn that it's referring to the thief. So I'm still stumbling a little there. It's okay if you choose to keep it as is--I promise I won't mention it again next time. :)

    The extra apostrophes and comma issues did get in the way a little, but overall a strong opening chapter. Nice writing!

  7. Wow. I'm so impressed with how well you took the critique and turned this so quickly. You've done an amazing job. Only a couple comments on the content. While she's stuck on the ledge, I think we need to see the thief getting in. He can't be entering the hole Eta made, so how does she know he's in there and out in such precise time? And when does she see his face? Is it when he comes back out that he takes off his mask? I think this should be shown in real time as Betta is watching it.

    Excellent job introducing the magic.

    If she's such an excellent thief, then hasn't she done this trick before with the glass? I think just a quick excuse for why this glass is different will keep this from feeling like an inconsistency. Maybe it's the old kind of leaded glass or something. Maybe it's bullet-proof, but also, wouldn't she know that when she was cutting it?

    The voice is great.

    It might be explained later as well, but it feels like an inconsistency that she just happens to run into the thief while going to ogle the cute boy. If we discover that there's a connection there later, then great. If not, try to eliminate the inconsistency. One suggestion would be to make her a more proactive character and have her run after the thief as soon as she sees him exit. Instead of stealing the jewels from the people, she'll just steal them from the thief. And she goes after him to Buttercup Lane. Maybe she passes the cute boy's house on the way and wishes she could be ogling him instead of going after the idiot thief. That wouldn't feel like a coincidence as much.

    So good! Watch the commas and passive voice, a little distancing language.

    Look forward to next week!