Sunday, January 13, 2019

1st 5 Pages January Workshop- Majo & Nessa Rev 1

Name: Majo and Nessa
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

One lick never killed anyone.

Unless it was poison.

And considering Mom’s glare, a strawberry tart might just as well be poison.

Further down the buffet table, Mom turned her back to me and leaned over the fizzy water fountain. My eyes roamed over the golden croissant on her plate, then lowered toward the poor slices of kiwi in mine.


The table was dotted with foodie crimes—caramel custards, white-chocolate cupcakes, decadent éclairs, creamy cheesecakes. All gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, and Asena-free. It was unfair. A torture.

Come on, Ase. It’s just one lick.

The strawberry tart was waving at me from the dessert tray, a glazed gelée coating its crust in sweetened swirls of forbidden bliss.

One swipe. One lick.

A vicious voice rose inside me. She won’t see you.


I jumped, my knuckles snapping against the side of the table. My kiwis nearly toppled off to the floor, but remained glued to the crystal sheen of the plate. Dammit.

I blinked back tears of pain as I looked up to Mom. She was gaping at my plate, her lashes fluttering in confusion. For a moment I thought she would offer me a treat (a multigrain bagel, perhaps?) but her hand closed around a jar of pear salad that she promptly added to my plate.

“You need fruits. They’re good for your skin.” Leaning over, she whispered, “Did you try the face masks I bought you?”

I nodded, pressing my painful hand to my mouth. “Hm-hm.”

Mom straightened, her signature glare piercing holes into my cheeks. “Do you know how to use them? You have terrible circles under your eyes. People will wonder what you stayed up doing a Saturday night.”

By people, she meant Miss Chen, her best-friend-worst-nemesis who we were having brunch with. These two had a habit of keeping scores and an accurate history of everything the other’s children had ever done wrong in their lives. It was a sort of competition. These brunches were outright interrogations, and skipping on one was pleading guilty. It was their way of maintaining the peace between two dictatorial queendoms. To me, it was another torture.

“I was finishing a report,” I replied, evasively, my attention back to the buffet table.

Not for that chemistry test, that was for sure. I had been writing a long, positively detailed report to Daya about what went down the night before.

The reason behind this majestically-filled-with-exclamation-points wall of text? The reason I’d barely slept and got us late to brunch this morning?

A smile perked up on my lips.

“Asena!” Mom whisper-shouted.

Busted, a voice called out in my head. I’d been staring at the strawberry tart for too long.

Mom was on her way back to our table—her favorite venue, next to the palatial bay windows, where the lighting of the morning sun gave her pale skin a brilliant glow.

I muttered a silent goodbye to my friend the strawberry tart and shuffled back toward Mom.

I reached the table at the same time as Truby, Miss Chen’s son. He shot me the barest of lip twitch before taking the seat next to the one I was going for. I hesitated, considering rounding the table to sit beside Mom, when Miss Chen appeared in her turquoise dress, assaulting me with all the shiny glitters. Her sharp gaze made a sweep of me in my white peplum dress.

“You’ve gotten so tall, Asena.”

Miss Chen made sure I remembered my height every Sunday. Thank goodness she was here or I might forget how much I could never find long enough leggings to wear during classes. I solved the issue by wearing leg warmers over my pants any chance I got—until Mom decreed this was not a proper dress code for young, respectable, future-med-school students. It was as though she feared some college rep from the Ivy League was going to creep the student halls and add my name to the debauched list. (Because there obviously was such a thing as a debauched list.) And thanks to my leg warmers, my name might already be on it. But, just to be safe, Mom took the natural precautions and bought me a dress for every occasion. A bit much? Not to Mom. And clearly not to Miss Chen.

“I eat all my vegetables,” I replied with a tight smile.

Not picking up on my gruff tone, Miss Chen beamed. “Tall girls like you usually have trouble finding tall boys to mate.”

Despite myself, I winced.

In normal circumstances, I would’ve glanced around to make sure no one else had heard, and definitely not looked over to Truby who I knew was hiding his face deep in his mug of coffee. Normally, I would’ve made a fool of myself and lost it. But I couldn’t give Mom any more reasons to hate me, so I simply pulled out my own chair and plopped on it.

“Asena doesn’t have time to mate.”

I coughed—a nervous tic I’d never been able to shake. Those who’d known me long enough knew it came from embarrassment. Those who didn’t figured it out pretty quickly.

Right now I was thankful for my mother, the voice of wisdom, and eternal savior of my soul. Looking at her, she seemed to idolize me. Listening to her, I was some kind of otherworldly goddess who could do no wrong.

All an act, but I wasn’t complaining.

Mom rose her chin higher. “She has a big test coming up next week.”

Yes. The big test. The one I absolutely, unquestionably, non-negotiably had to pass. Without these extra credits, I couldn’t apply to med school. Without med school, I couldn’t ensure the succession of the cardiologist gene that ran in my family. I would be a sham. An unworthy child meant for exile.

Miss Chen let out a disinterested hum and picked up a warm cinnamon roll with two manicured fingers. She licked at her thumb, her eyes sparkling with delight, and eagerly reached for her dessert spoon.

The soft pastry gave way to the spoon, and a cloud of heat escaped, a scented joy that made my stomach grumble. Truby shot me a look. Being the same age, he was in most of my classes. Sometimes I had a feeling he was spying on me on behalf of his mother. Mom certainly suggested I did the same.

I shifted on my seat, and stabbed my fork into a piece of pear. Facing us, Mom and Miss Chen raved on about some Kamila girl who’d dared to send her children to Canada. Quite frankly, McGill University seemed like a good enough school. But I wasn’t sitting at the good enough table.

Something brushed against my leg. As I peeked under the table, my heart made a rattling jump. How did you get there, buddy? My friend the strawberry tart sat next to me on the cushioned chair.

I lifted my eyes and met Truby’s. He stared back at me with an expression I couldn’t read. The murder weapon laid between us, inconspicuous, and outrageously delicious. My mouth started to water. This time one lick wouldn’t be enough. This tart deserved to be eaten whole.


I startled so hard that my arm spasmed and the tart made a dive to the floor. I hid it behind my crossed legs as I gawked at Mom. Had she seen what had happened? Had I voiced my sinful thoughts aloud? Was the tart all right?


  1. Hi Majo & Nessa

    Great job clarifying Asena’s age/where she is in school. I feel like the conflict between her and her mom’s expectations is more prominent . You’ve tightened up everything and it flows very nicely. I still adore Asena’s sassy voice and relationship with the strawberry tart.

    I think there is still room to tighten up even more and make different aspects pull double or triple duty in the scene. Like making a clearing link between Asena’s food restrictions and her mom’s high expectations (if there is a link—that’s how I’m reading since I don’t for sure if her dietary restrictions are voluntary [read mom makes her do them] or if they are health related) .

    -Katie P

  2. Hi, it's Charlotte posting for Amy McNamara. We still can't figure out the technical difficulties!

    This revision is tighter than the previous work but I still don’t yet know what’s most important – is this story going to be about Asena’s relationship to “forbidden” foods? Is it a romance that’s hinted at (from the long text to Daya?) Is it a story of mother-daughter conflict? All of the above? Also – I’m slightly unclear about that strawberry tart – not sure how to read its appearance at the end – is it literally mobile on its own? I’m assuming Truby put it there to torture her, but the action verbs “the tart made a dive…” and her concern for its safety at the end send me down another path and leave me unsure, tonally, how to read it.

  3. Hi there,

    I echo the sentiments of the comments above me. I would now ask: what are the stakes here? What is the conflict for Asena and what does she stand to lose? Is it something with her relationship with Mom? Is it related to med school? There are hints, but no clear conflict. I'd encourage you to think of how you can get more of this in the opening pages so the reader immediately feels invested in her journey.

  4. Hi Majo and Nessa,

    I love that you added more about the stakes and why it’s important to her to do well on the test (and further, to not be a sham to her family.)

    I think, as others have mentioned, clearing up if her food restrictions are due to a health issue vs. parental rules (or at least what Ase thinks the reason is) would help us understand how this piece fits in the overall story. If it’s a contemporary YA about her overcoming her mom’s oppression, we’ll have a clearer understanding of why she’s going along with her mom here (out of duty or necessity).

    I also think having a better understanding of what happened the night before might help us relate to what Asena wants. Yes, she wants to please her mom by doing well, but what does she REALLY want (or perhaps NEED)? Is she distracted by a boy who she knows she can never have? It’s hard to say without knowing where the story is going exactly, but I think having a hint of what’s to come will help draw us in!

    Great job revising!

  5. Hi Jeannie here:
    Your first three lines are much tighter. Your mom is effectively portrayed as embarrassing - relatable to any teenager. THe relationship between Ms. Chen and Asena's mom his delish. The need for your character to exist in such a toxic relationship keeps the tension - the expectations are layer upon layered on Asena. I can see why she wants to push back, with a tart; even if it will make her hurt. Asena has a nicely described case of the wanting disease. Enjoyed your take on a food crisis. Thanks.

  6. Majo and Nessa,
    Wow, I get it. The first version, I understood her strained relationship with her mother, but I was confused about her food obsession. The first line reads nicely. The two mothers discussing the fate of their college students. I enjoyed reading this version. Thanks for sharing.