Sunday, January 13, 2019

1st 5 Pages January Workshop- Spizziri Rev 1

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

“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 for so long.

“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.”

“Stop changing 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.”

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, but as soon as we’d gotten our food she’d started asking questions.

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 back in November. But here he was again, resurfacing, and making my heart race with memories of him.

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 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.”

The plastic bag crinkled as I rummaged for chopsticks. “What does that mean?”

“Oh come on, avoidance of emotional triggers is what you do.”

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.”

“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 one of my family's auctions. “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.

“You realize when we go out to Club Azul in an hour, I’m just going to keep grilling you, right?”

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? My future is where I can find stories, not the place where everyone is trapped and working just to live. 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? Does he see it that way?”

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 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.


  1. Many character descriptions within this story were spot on...
    - meddling is a form of affection,
    - Liv dragged her in and asked if he liked her,
    - Alex's description of picking at a hangnail (boyfriend, but also a little blech).

    I also liked how you tightened up the motivation for Kace to stay behind.

    My favorite line is about the phone call, "It was the same every time, making small talk as we struggled with what to say." Nailed it!

    I'm interested. You've defined enough for me to picture and wonder about each character.

    Awesome job.

    1. Sorry, I didn't include my name. This is Jeannie Lambert

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

    Hi Sammi – good job adding more detail. I have a better sense of Liv and there are fewer mysteries about Evie, as well. Because I’m not reading the whole book I’m not sure what revealing, specifically those details will do to your tension/pacing for the rest of the story – was it necessary for people to learn later that Evie’s mom is dead or that Kace’s dad left? I can’t say without the rest of the pages – something you’ll want to look at

    Some of the dialogue feels more informative now than natural. I had a good sense of the easy banter of the girls in the first draft and now it’s a little more writerly – maybe look at that again.

    I like the glimpses of Evie’s inner dialogue. I think some of the missing tension I’m seeking has to do with the fact that Evie sees Kace simultaneously as someone flutter-worthy and someone who would hold her back.

    I guess my biggest question for these pages is — where’s the question that will leave the reader hanging? Wanting more? Turning pages? Is the question whether she and Kace get together or not? What are the stakes for Evie if they do/don’t? Right now, they’re kind of generic – typical college vs. love left at home – but what about this story is interesting or different? (The answer will be found in the character’s specifics.) What’s the hook to make the reader want more? Nothing entices like an unanswered question.

  3. Hi Sammi!
    I love the additions – they really help to make Evie and Liv more solid people and reveal all these little bits and pieces that are absolutely delicious and intriguing. I agree with liking how you’ve given a stronger reason as to why Kace and Evie aren’t together. And I like the glimpse of her internal struggle for wanting to ignore him, but I also want a hint as to whether she wants to potentially end things with Alex and possibly try to reconnect with Kace.

    Can you reveal the text he sent without giving away anything major? It would help set the tone for where he feels their relationship is at this moment—was it just a hey how are you or was it a please come back and be with me kind of thing. And I’m guessing she hasn’t answered (that was the impression I got) but it might not hurt to clarify with a firm reason as to why she’s not answering.

    I love the additions!
    -Katie P

  4. Hi Sammi!

    Great job on adding context about what they were doing before this conversation and how it's related to the current scene. I still love that you're starting in the action and that we get background info about Kace from the start. It makes the rest of the conversation clearer and I'm more invested in what's being said. I love how you tied her reasons for not being with Kace with the dialogue, I'm definitely on Evie's side. Amazing revision!

    At the end of the excerpt, I'm curious to know how close Evie and Liv are. They seem roommate-ish, but were they friends before becoming roommies? If they are I'd love to see this shown more, in the form of small clues here and there.

    Evie mentioned Kace hasn't contacted her since November but there's no way for us to know if that was weeks or months ago, maybe try to mention they're back from summer school earlier?

    (A small line-edit suggestion) I'd suggest you move "It doesn't matter." to the start of that paragraph so the reply doesn't get lost in the context. I laughed at Liv's response to that, you did a great job at showing a fun side of her personality!

    I agree with Katie's suggestion to give us a glimpse of what the text was.

    Great revision!

  5. Hi Sammi! It's so much more streamlined, and the characterization is much clearer - the dynamics between Evie and Liv more fine-tuned and there's a nice tension set up between them - with Liv being all "up your face" with her meddling as a form of care and Evie bring all about emotional avoidance.

    I'm repeating the feedback of others here, but I agree that while overall it reads well, I'm still hoping for a more of a "hook" to get me more invested in the story. Because so far while this sounds like coming-of-age, leaving home but wanting to return story, with a romantic love at its core, I want to know what makes it stand out.

    There could be a few tweaks for clarity done here and there, but I did pick up on most of things that stood out to me in the first read.

    Well done!

    1. Clarification on the last sentence of my feedback: I meant to say that I think you picked up on and fixed most things that stood out to me as needing tweaking during the first read:)

  6. Hi Sammi! This is a great piece of writing, thanks for sharing.

  7. Sammi,
    I like this version. I understand Liv and Evie's relationship more. You use more active verbs and moved the story along. I enjoyed the reading and flow of this revision. Thanks for sharing.