Sunday, January 6, 2019

1st 5 Pages January Workshop- Spizziri

Name: Sammi Spizziri
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Title: After I Bid You Adieu

“I can't believe you never told me about Kace.” Liv crossed her arms in front of our locked dorm room.

Kace. I hadn’t heard his name out loud since the night I’d left. The boy from home, the one I used to call my best friend. I tucked my phone in my pocket and let my hair fall in my face, as if hiding the evidence would make this conversation disappear.

“I’ve lived with you almost a year and you’ve never mentioned him. Why haven’t you mentioned him?”

I pushed past her, balancing the take-out sushi bags and fumbling for my keys. “Thanks for opening the door.”

“Don’t change the subject, Evie—” She lifted the plastic bag from my hand then let it fall right back, eyes wide. “Oh my gosh. You like him.”

I dropped my keys, then clutched the take-out bag to prevent it from the same fate. All I'd said after she saw the text notification on my phone was Kace and I used to be friends, and yet she’d drawn her own conclusions. “No, I don’t.” The butterflies in my stomach and the flash of warmth on my face proved it wasn’t true. But I had to focus on making a difference in the world, not getting stuck in our too-small hometown. Kace, with his flower shop and a heart set on staying in Ridgeview, would only get in the way of that.

Liv made a scoffing sound and nudged me aside, scooping up my keys from the ground.

I’d been so good about not daydreaming of him lately, which had been easier here, hundreds of miles away from Ohio, especially once he stopped contacting me. But memories of him surfaced anyway, mixing up my insides.

Sticky popsicles on his front steps, kicking rocks on our walk to school, slow dancing at prom. I could still remember the feel of his arms around my waist, his heart beating against mine. And that look in his eyes moments before the DJ switched to a fast song and he let go.

The door banged open, and my focus shifted back to now, the city sirens loud, the traffic droning.

And Liv dragging me into the room. “Does he like you?”

A year ago, I finally knew the answer to that question, but it came too late. I was packed and decided, with no desire to stay. I broke away from her grip and sat at my desk. “It doesn't matter.”

“Why are you here when there's a guy back home waiting for you?”

I set down our food on the coffee table. “He’s not waiting. And I have a boyfriend.”

Her eyebrows shot up. “That's the first time I've heard you call Alex that.”

“What? Alex and I have been together since the beginning of the year.”

“Yeah, exactly. And how many times have you talked about your relationship?”

My hand stilled on the chopsticks in the bag. “We don't need to.”

“Did you and Kace ever talk about those things?”

Kace and I used to be really good at talking, up until the last time we saw each other. Then he said too much, too late, and ruined everything. “We were never together.”

“That's not what I asked.”

“I don't want to talk about this.” I grabbed my sushi roll and plopped at my desk.

But she was beside me in a second, leaning against my desk, like a collector spotting a priceless antique at an auction. “What happened? If you like each other, why aren't you together?”

I opened my saved essay on my computer. Anything to prove this conversation wasn’t important to me. “I have homework.”

“It’s the first day of summer classes.”

“Well, I have to do well this semester. Audio journalism requires a B average.” This was true, but something I hadn't really worried about. I'd always managed to get by in high school and so far, college seemed to be the same.

“I’m not letting you slide on this one. I need an answer.”

“He's there and I'm here. And I have things I want to do here.”

“Like make podcasts?”


“And you can't do that back home?”

My head shot up. “No, I can't.”

She tapped her finger along my desk, hovering.

I sighed. “You don't get it, Liv. My hometown is a trap. If you don't leave after high school, you never will.” Kace knew that. He’d even planned to leave with me. Up until his dad left, and he changed his mind.

“Is that such a bad thing? Trapped with someone you love?”

I popped open the container. “Any sort of trap holds you back from doing what you want to do.”

“True,” Liv said. “But forcing yourself to settle for the wrong person is a trap of its own.”

“I thought you liked Alex.”

“I do. I'm still deciding if he's right for you.”

“How can you say that?” Alex understood me like no one else. When I sat beside him in Weather and Climate at the beginning of the year, I found myself studying him, drawn in by more than his tan skin and styled hair. Something about his high-intensity habits mesmerized me. The bounce in his knee that never stayed, the repetitive picking at stray hangnails, and the constant movement of his hands. When I was with him, I didn't think about anything or anyone else.

My phone rang, muffling Liv's thoughts on Alex. I turned back to my desk to silence it, expecting a telemarketer, but froze when I read the name: Dad. I scooped it up, my thumb hovering between the red and green buttons. It'd been a few weeks since his last call, but I already knew how our conversation would go. It was the same every time, making small talk as we struggled with what to say.

Still, it was better than talking to Liv about Kace. “I have to get this, Liv.”

She ignored me, asking a question about Kace's looks I was grateful to avoid.

“Hey, Dad.”

“Hi, Evie.” His voice was more upbeat than usual, like the life it once held was back. At the sound of it, I was home, the scent of cinnamon potpourri and peppermint tea threading through the house. But I knew that wasn’t home, not anymore, and I forced down the lump in my throat.

“How are things?” I asked as he said, “You all packed to come home?”

I exhaled. Coming home? I pulled the phone away from me to glance at it, like it might give me a clue about how to have this conversation with my dad without upsetting him. “Oh, Dad, I thought you knew.”

“Knew what?” His voice tightened, more like the one that typically came through the phone during our clipped conversations this past year.

“I’m staying in New York this summer.”

Silence filled the line. Not the deadened, dropped call kind, but the kind where you knew someone had heard and didn’t like what you'd said. “I thought we’d agreed you’d be home every summer.”

“I’m sorry, I have classes to take, and—”

“Evangeline Marie Daniels.” His voice was hard, and once he said it, I realized I’d never heard him speak to me like that. With my two older brothers, he'd used that tone a million times. Mom handled my discipline, and she had a different way of approaching everything.


  1. Hi Sammi!

    Your imagery was really strong—I could *feel* the city around me as Evie and Liv walked into the apartment. It gave me a strong sense of where I was. I felt lost as to who I was with though. I don’t feel like I know much about either character. Their dialogue feels a bit too on the nose—like its more for the benefit of the reader than things they would actually say to one another. Maybe letting Evie say less and have more internalization would help ground the reader in who she is? I feel like this could really help push Evie’s voice too. Does she think one thing, but then say the complete opposite?

    The other thing I think would help make these pages pop out at the reader is more tension—I didn’t feel particularly invested in Evie’s dilemma because it doesn’t seem like one. She knew a boy back home, moved away and is dating someone else who she seems to genuinely like. It’s not like Kace is there and as we find out, Evie isn’t going home, so I’m not sure what the conflict is. I almost wonder if you’re starting too early or too late? (my go to is to start as late as possible—this may or may not work for your story).

    But I definitely want to feel more emotionally invested in Evie and I think getting to see inside her head and get deeper into her internalization would really help with that.
    Thanks for letting me read! I hope this feedback helps :)


  2. Hi Sammi!

    I was digging this and it was easy to follow. I tend to like books opening with a dialogue (a brave choice which doesn't always pay off) so you've got my immediate attention. Plus, I liked the tension/conflict packed into the question in the opening sentence.

    In the second paragraph, we start to get some introspection from our narrator and this, I feel, could use a bit of a punch. What are the narrator's feelings - can this be made a little clearer? Some of the wording here could be tightened to make things clearer. For example, in "I tucked my phone in my pocket and let my hair fall in my face, as if hiding the evidence would make this conversation disappear" it's not clear what evidence the narrator is referring to. The evidence of her being made uncomfortable by the questioning? The regret/sadness brought on by being reminded about Kace? By making these things clearer - but in a subtle way - would clarify the stakes and conflict and create more tension in this scene from the start.

    Nice way characterizing our narrator with this: "But I had to focus on making a difference in the world, not getting stuck in our too-small hometown." I quite liked that as it showed her ambition and motivation for doing things. Having said that, with the primary focus of these pages being on Kace and his relationship with Evie, we learn little about Evie. She wants to make a difference in the world so she moved interstate, she's taking summer classes, including audio journalism. Perhaps, you could say something more about her aspirations - does she want to be a journalist? What are her passions in life? And also, could we know a bit more about her relationship with Liv? I feel like, aside from being Evie's roommate and being borderline obsessed with Evie's love life, what else is there to know about Liv? You could do this by adding little subtle things to her characterization, like showing her as Evie sees her (e.g. the way she dresses or carries herself, etc) or showing Liv's side of the room through Evie's eyes. Is Liv a neat freak or is her side of the room a big mess? What books does she have on her desk, etc. Again, just a little bit about her character could go a long way in giving this opening a bit more flesh, but don't overdo it:)

    Good luck revising and I'm looking forward to seeing the next version!

  3. I especially liked the description of Alex and the smells that remind you of home. Your story picked up speed and my interest when you described the tension between dad and Evie. I can imagine that pause and misunderstanding that you clearly created. As a result I'm interested in learning more about why she couldn't go home especially since her dad is sick. I think you characterized those kinds of phone calls. My husband always says, "the best thing about family is distance." Thanks, Jeannie Lambert

  4. Hi Sammi!

    I love the tension and the natural flow of your dialogue! I can feel the awkwardness-turning-to-annoyance-and-maybe-regret from Evie. I'm lacking a bit of context about Kace, about why they're having this conversation about him *now*. I feel like something is missing at the beginning of the chapter to really set us in the scene, before the rest of the conversation (read interrogation) picks up.

    The mention that Kace would never leave their hometown because of his flower shop, and then later, that he would actually never leave because of his father's departure, was a bit jarring to me. Is there a connection between the two? Is it his dad's flower shop, perhaps? I'd like to be able to make my own connections to figure this Kace fellow better.

    The part when they jumped to talking about Alex made me pause and wonder what exactly where the characters doing in this scene except talking/having dinner? Are they back from work/school? Is it a sort of routine? What's happening around them? Giving them more of a goal, and giving us more context, would make this scene more alive and the characters more active.

    I enjoyed the voice in this and would read more. Best of luck!

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  6. This is a fun read. It reminds me of the Hallmark romances I watch every once in a while. Liv sounds like a very persistent friend (or intruding roommate/friend), at least invested in Evie's relationships. I wondered if Liv majored in Psychology, Relationships, Women's Studies...? She sounds like a fun friend and antagonist. My thoughts were covered in the other comments. Thanks for sharing, looking forward to the next revision.

  7. This is Erin, posting for Amy:
    Greetings, Sammi – happy to meet you online and read your work.

    Tonally, I’m with you from the beginning. We jump right in to the middle of a conversation between Evie and Liv – both in school in NYC. Diving in through dialogue can build immediate intimacy which pays off when the dialogue feels genuine which it does here, in tone.

    We learn, immediately: Evie left a love behind in Ohio. Evie’s got a new boyfriend in school, and when she’s with him she doesn’t think about anyone or anywhere else, yet the mention/memory of Kace is still powerful. So, Evie’s someone who throws herself into her relationships (for better or worse). Something ominous has happened back at home that has affected her father – and Evie no longer feels like “home” is home. Possibly mother is dead? Kace (love the flower shop detail – gives an anonymous character some immediate shape) has had trouble at home, too, & because of it changed his future plans.

    The central conflicts seem to be Evie’s desire to be away from home versus the pull of home, and Evie’s current relationship with Alex versus her past love with Kace. These structures are pretty basic and could use more specifics to show the reader why this story is different or unique. You might do this by offering more information about Evie’s internal world in these pages, a little more detail to build the tension about why it matters that Evie left a boy behind to go to school (which is common). What are the stakes for her? What does she desire? We know she wants to get away from home, but who doesn’t at her age? Why, specifically to Evie, does she want to get out? Is it to do with the mystery over the father and his changed status? I don’t know yet and I’d like something more to really grab my interest. Something to make it more than a standard old love vs new love story.

    One question: why is Liv so speedy to admonish Evie for leaving a boy to go to school? Presumably both girls worked hard to get to whatever school they’re attending in NY, and to be so quick to urge Evie to toss is aside for a romance in Ohio seems strange to me. She says, “Why are you here when there’s a guy back home waiting for you?” I need either to know more about Liv and why she would urge her friend to leave school and the possibilities that school represents for her future, or more about Evie (has she been miserable there? did she only go away because someone wanted her to? her mother? her father?) to understand why that advice would be first and urgently offered. Am I misunderstanding? Does Liv just mean why did Evie stay in the city over the summer when she could have gone back? Yet it’s clear Evie’s in class over the summer, so…?

    The friendship between the roommates is well drawn through how they speak to each other. I’d love to have a tiny bit of detail more about each of them (maybe told through any detail in their room?).

    I look forward to seeing what you do with this!