Sunday, January 20, 2019

1st 5 Pages January Workshop - Spizziri Rev 2

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

Nineteen-year-old EVIE hasn’t spoken to her best friend, KACE, since the night before college, after he told her he loved her. Determined to pursue podcasting at NYU, driven and adaptable Evie never plans to return to the town she blames for her deceased mother’s regrets, especially since Kace, ever loyal and thoughtful, tempts her to repeat her mom’s mistake of choosing a hometown boy over her dreams.

When family matters require her to return for the summer, she learns an online podcasting class is her only hope of keeping her scholarship, which is her way out of town for good. The podcast seems like a desirable distraction from Kace and reminders of her mom but soon requires Kace’s help as they unravel a mystery from their childhood. When he asks for answers in exchange for his assistance, Evie must do what she’s spent the last year avoiding: be honest with Kace, face her grief, and decide if career dreams are worth sacrificing her heart.

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

Kace. My insides fluttered at the name I hadn’t heard out loud since the night I’d left. The boy from home, the one I used to call my best friend. I jammed my phone in my pocket and let my hair hide my face. Maybe that way she wouldn’t see the feelings I’d kept locked inside all year.

“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. I hadn’t mentioned him to anyone the last nine months, not even my family. Without knowing what happened the night I left, they probably thought we were still friends. “Thanks for opening the door.”

“Stop changing the subject, Evie—” She lifted the plastic bag from my hand then dropped it right back, eyes wide. “Oh my gosh. You like him.”

Heat flooded my face. The keys smashed to the floor, and I clenched the take-out bag to prevent it from the same fate.

Minutes earlier, we’d been waiting for our takeout from our usual Thursday night sushi spot down the street when my phone dinged with an out-of-the-blue text from Kace. Liv had glanced at it, and I’d flipped my phone without reading it, but as soon as we’d gotten our food her questions began. All I’d said so far is Kace and I used to be friends, but she’d somehow picked up I wasn’t telling her everything.

“No, I don’t.” I had to keep telling myself Kace and I would never work. 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.

Liv scoffed 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 half a year ago. But here he was again, resurfacing, and making my heart race with memories of him.

Sticky popsicles on his front steps, scouring my family’s auctions for unusual items, slow dancing at prom. And the last time I saw him, his brown eyes sparkling in a heartfelt goodbye, his lips on mine like I’d dreamed about our whole lives, and hurt flooding his face when I pushed him away and left without an explanation.

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?”

I’d waited my whole life to learn he did, but now I had no idea what he thought of me. Maybe the text would give me a clue. I wanted to open it, but I couldn’t, or he’d know I read it. Responding would be re-opening that door. I broke away from her grip and dropped our food on top of the Us Weekly and Glamour magazines she’d left on the coffee table. “It doesn't matter.”

Wow, that’s a huge yes or you wouldn’t be avoiding talking about him.”

I flushed, then shook my head. As a psych major, Liv loved nothing more than to psychoanalyze everyone around her, especially me. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t use the same tactic on her. “Why are you so hung up on him? I have a boyfriend.”

She let out a little noise, drawing my attention to her, then raised her eyebrows. “That's the first time I've heard you call Alex that.”
“Alex and I have been together since the beginning of the year.”

The plastic bag crinkled as I rummaged for chopsticks. “Yeah, exactly. And how many times have you two talked about your relationship?”

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

“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.”

“Seriously, I’m with Alex now. Kace is in the past.” 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 laptop. Anything to prove this conversation wasn’t important to me. “I have homework.”

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

“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.

“So where was that drive two hours ago when you agreed to sushi and Club Azul?”

I sighed and angled toward her. As the oldest girl in a family of nine, Liv saw her meddling as a form of affection, but sharing was something I hadn’t been too good at lately. “He's there and I'm here. And I have things I want to do here.”

“Like make podcasts?”

“Yes.” Journalism was the best way I knew to change the world. Telling stories that mattered. Inspiring others.

“And you can't do that with a long-distance boyfriend?”

“No, I can't.”

She traced her finger along my desk, wiping away the dust that only seemed to land on my side of the room. When her eyes met mine, I knew I had to give her something more before she’d be satisfied.

I sighed. “What’s the point in dating someone who will never leave Ridgeview? Everyone is trapped there, working just to live, and I want more than that.” That was close enough to the truth. I didn’t need to add how hard it would be to return to the place that used to be so alive with my mom and never would be again. Or how I could never live with myself if I failed to do something that mattered before it was too late, like my mom did.

“So you think Kace is trapped?”

Kace had planned to leave with me until his dad left, his loyalty to helping his mom run the shop trumping any plans he had with me.

Before I figured out how to answer Liv, my phone rang. I turned around 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 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.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. I’m interested in knowing more about mom’s background. The mistakes that led to Evie’s choices. This revision clarifies Liv’s involvement, or meddling, in her friend’s love life- The well intentioned Psych major. I think you did a great job.

  2. Hi!

    Pitch: Great pitch, I’d love a bit more info on the mystery that they have to unravel—does it relate back to her personally or is it just a random mystery that they have to Scooby-doo?

    For your revision, I think we have a clear picture of the beginnings of Evie’s dilemma and that if you tighten up some of the prose it’ll really drive it home. Can you hint a bit more about why she left (other than the fact that she wants to get out of the town and she thinks Kace can’t/won’t) because as it stands, I actually really respect Kace’s decision to stay home and help his family in light of the death of his father and I think Evie is being unfair in completely writing him off because of it. I don’t’ think that’s Evie’s intention, but for me, that’s how she’s coming across. If there’s a way to dig in here and make her reasons a bit more solid/understandable it might help draw the reader in. (I do like her, but that little bit is just hitting me wrong and making me want to not like her)

    Great job! Good luck!

  3. Hi Sammi!

    You did an amazing job on the pitch, we got a clear character, her goals, a touch of mystery and full of tension/stakes! I agree with Katie, if you could give us a little more info on the mystery they have to solve and why it's important for them to solve it (make us care) I think you'll be all set!

    I looove the revisions! The way you added the little hints about her mother tells us a lot about Evie and her decisions to move on. I'm not sure the whole part about whether they "talk about those things with Kace" is relevant, or maybe you could tighten this part because I felt like it dragged a little. Other than that, I loved everything and would read more!

    Great work!!

  4. I love the line - "I've been so good at not thinking about..." It is raw and authentic. My friend hiked the Appalachian Trail. Week three, she wrote in her journal, "My feet didn't hurt today." You also created a glimpse into that yearning...I can't believe she pushed him away. I like the reluctance to read the text. And her friend's reaction that Evie must really like Kace. Your MS really picks up speed from the point that Liv traced her finger along the desk. Thanks, Jeannie Lambert

  5. This is a strong pitch! Well done. I only have minor feedback and it mirrors what others have already picked up on.

    The pitch could benefit from more specificity and clarifying the stakes.

    You could specify, for example, why Evie exactly blames her hometown "for her deceased mother’s regrets". It becomes kind of clear from context that (I think) her mom regrets not leaving the town to pursue her dreams (whatever those were) but some rephrasing and specific details could make that clearer and more personal to the reader. Some questions/ideas to consider: what exactly did her mom lose by not leaving? Was she particularly good at something, talented, etc. but staying with her local bf and settling down was the choice she made and then came to regret, etc.? Just a few little details could flesh out these things.

    I'd also like to know a bit more about the mystery from their childhood that they need to investigate for the podcast. Is there a way to weave that mystery into the story of Evie's present? Do the two relate in any way? Does solving the mystery help Evie come clean to herself/Kace and/or make decisions she needs to make?

    The pages also look really good to me. The narrative is dynamic and you pack a lot of character and nuances into only a few pages. A minor thing I picked up: re sentence "his lips on mine like I’d dreamed about our whole lives..." - should it be "my whole life" since she's talking about her own perspective?

    Overall, REALLY good.

  6. this is Erin posting for Amy:

    Sammi, well done! I don’t have much to say, other than that specifics are always your friend. George Saunders talks about this at length in an interview in the Guardian which I’ll quote here:

    “As text is revised, it becomes more specific and embodied in the particular. It becomes more sane. It becomes less hyperbolic, sentimental, and misleading.”

    Saunders goes on with this example:

    “When I write, “Bob was an asshole,” and then, feeling this perhaps somewhat lacking in specificity, revise it to read, “Bob snapped impatiently at the barista,” then ask myself, seeking yet more specificity, why Bob might have done that, and revise to, “Bob snapped impatiently at the young barista, who reminded him of his dead wife,” and then pause and add, “who he missed so much, especially now, at Christmas,” – I didn’t make that series of changes because I wanted the story to be more compassionate. I did it because I wanted it to be less lame.

    But it is more compassionate. Bob has gone from “pure asshole” to “grieving widower, so overcome with grief that he has behaved ungraciously to a young person, to whom, normally, he would have been nice”. Bob has changed. He started out a cartoon, on which we could heap scorn, but now he is closer to “me, on a different day”.

    How was this done? Via pursuit of specificity.”

    I love this so much and wish I could beg George Saunders to sit on my shoulder when I’m writing and remind me to slow down and really, deeply imagine my characters, then miraculously pick the few specifics about each of them that perfectly communicates what I need the reader to know about who they are in each scene. Ha! Wouldn’t that be great? Alas, I have to be my own Saunders. I know we’re only talking about the first five pages of your work here, and I do have some sense of Evie and even Kace and a little bit about Liv, but I would encourage you to write a paragraph on each of them (and Evie’s mom and dad) listing some details (light but specific touch here) that might give your reader a quick door in, to really begin to build the intimacy needed to make a person read on, give their hours, their heart, their minds to your story.

    This is gonna be great.