Sunday, February 10, 2019

1st 5 Pages February Workshop- Ramos Rev 1

Name: Lisa Ramos   
Genre: Middle grade, Contemporary 
Title: Becoming Invincible Senorita 

In a small town, near Spyglass Island, Georgia, lived Anita Santiago. And she meant “near,” because she was not allowed to give out her exact address to anyone. The island was surrounded by large brick houses with gates, guard dogs, and tall trees. But Anita’s place, just a mile away and a former slave home that survived the Civil War, was the ricketiest, shabbiest tiny home that looked like it could have been blown away in one huff and puff. And like the three little pigs, this worried Anita. But many things worried her. She worried about combing out the tangles out of her long curly hair every morning, in time for school. She worried about stitching the holes in the jeans she outgrew over the summer. But lately, she worried about her mother, who appeared less and less out of her bedroom. 

Anita had knocked. No answer. 

The doorbell rang, but Anita ignored it. She had an idea who was at the door.

“I get it,” shouted Lily, her little sister from the living room. 

She kneeled to squint under the uneven chipped bedroom door, and looked around for a sign of movement or life. She spotted the outlines of her mother’s paints and brushes scattered over the floor. A dim light appeared through the cracks, elongating her shadow on the floor. A second shadow emerged next to hers. 

“Spying on your mom, again?” asked the voice behind her. 

“I’m not spying,” Anita said. The only one who knew where to find her, any time or day, was her neighbor Carmen Fuentes. She lived two houses down the road, in a nice two-story house, with a rose garden, white picket fence, and a cat named, Papaya. She showed up, most of the time, uninvited. 

“Looks like it to me.” Carmen raised an eyebrow. “Hey, maybe she’s doing santeria in there.” 

“No way,” Anita whispered back. She knew Mami avoided magic. When her mother spotted a botanica, displaying candles and magical figurines in the window, she crossed the street. Mami said they contained all sorts of evil. 

Carmen shook her head. “Did she even get up this morning?” 

Lily walked in, sucking her thumb and dragging her doll by the hair. 

“Your mom is definitely depressed,” Carmen said. 

Anita looked at her. “Who says she is depressed?” 

“Says Cosmo magazine." 


"Read it in a questionnaire." Carmen crossed her arms. “She has all the symptoms.” 

“Like what?” 

Lily pulled out her thumb. “What’s de-pless?” Her two pigtails hung lopsided on the side of her head. 

“Like sleeping all day, not eating,” Carmen said, ignoring Lily. She raised her voice. “Anita, your mom doesn’t even comb her hair anymore.” 

“Is Mami de-pless, Nita?” 

Carmen looked at Lily and half smiled. “Yes, your mother is very--” 

“Stop it, Carmen! You’ll scare her.” Anita grew tired of Carmen’s know-it-all answers, especially when it frightened her little sister. Ever since Anita’s dad was taken, Lily feared sleeping alone. Now dolls, a mess of wooden alphabet blocks and a maple crib crowded Anita’s bedroom. She boosted herself up and sat on her knees. “Mami is not depressed. Just sad.” 

“Same thing,” replied Carmen. “I never missed a Cosmo issue and…” Carmen stopped when Anita raised her eyebrows. “What’s wrong?” 


Anita heard something scrape across the knotted wood floor. “I hear whispering and music.” 

“Is Mami singing?” asked Lily. She pressed her pudgy cheek against the door to listen, just like Anita. 

Anita smiled and got up. “She’s okay. She's playing her Invincible song.” 


“So, Mami says it makes her feel strong and invincible.” 

“Oh.” Carmen looked uninterested. She flipped her long black hair and rearranged her bedazzled head band. 

“Mami invisible?” Lily’s forehead wrinkled like a puppy. 

Carmen rolled her eyes. “No silly. In-vin-ci-ble. It means having superhuman powers…like Superwoman.” 

“No fair,” said Lily. That was Lily’s favorite word now. She said it all the time. If she spotted a bird flew over her head, she said, no fair. If she was sent to bed early, she said, no fair. If Anita didn’t play with her, she said, no fair. Lily said no fair to everything! 

“Just leave it alone,” said Anita. “She’s only three.” 

“I’m sure glad I’m an only child.” 

“It’s not so bad having a sister.” Anita did not mind watching over Lily. She kept her company. Besides, Lily was potty-trained and allowed Anita to pick all the TV shows. 

“Well, I have to go now. My mom’s making chicken, rice, beans, salad, and my favorite…cheese flan.” Carmen waved. “See you in class tomorrow.” 


After Carmen left, Anita headed to the kitchen. Lily followed behind. “You hungry?” she asked Lily. 

Lily nodded. 

“Okay. I’ll make you a hotdog.” 

It was hard to tell when Lily was hungry. One day she ate just fine, the next she refused to eat. 

Anita grabbed a pot from the cabinet and filled it with water. The two hotdogs sank to the bottom. She turned on the stove and placed the pot over the open flames. 

She heard a door squeak open in the hallway. Mami popped her head out and looked around. Her rollers sprung over her forehead like yo-yo’s. She whacked them away from her eyes. “Did Fuentes leave?” Mami called Carmen by her last name because she says she’s the fountain of gossip. 

Lily ran and wrapped her arms around Mami’s fluffy bathrobe. “You not invisible!” 

“Of course, I’m not invisible,” she said, rubbing Lily’s back. 

“Si, Mami,” said Anita. “She just left.” 

“Good. Tell Carmen’s mother I’m not up for a game of dominoes tonight. She’ll have to find another partner to play with again.” 

Anita felt relief. She did not want to visit the Fuentes family anytime soon. Every time they dropped by for a visit, Carmen’s mother interrogated Anita’s mother like a suspect in a mystery novel. Why didn’t you play last week? Did you hear anything from the girl’s father? What are you planning to do? They were questions Anita’s mother had no answer to. And when she did, Carmen’s mother asked the same question again the next visit. 

“Dios mio, Lily. You are still wearing yesterday’s clothes! I think you need a good bath. You don’t want to smell like a skunk, do you?” 

“I stinky-stinky-stinky!” shouted Lily. 

“Mami. Want a hotdog?” 

“No gracias,” she said, patting her belly. “I’m not so hungry, lately. Don’t have the energy to do anything either. Anita, can you?” 

“Si, Mami, I’ll give Lily a bath.” Anita spotted a ketchup stain on Lily’s dress. It reminded her to load the washing machine before going to bed. 

“Lily, go with your sister.” 

Lily hopped over to Anita singing. “I stinky-stinky.” 

Mami reminded Anita to bathe with the lights off. “You know we are being watched by la migre. Don’t want to draw attention to this place. And don’t stay up too late watching TV.” 

“We won’t,” Anita said. 

“I’m tired. Buenas noches, girls.” 

“Buenas noches, Mami.” Anita watched her mother return to the foreign world behind closed doors. She wondered, this time, how long it would take before Mami felt better?


  1. Wow! This is quite an improvement. You’ve added some great personal nuance to character, which not only makes them believable, but helps me connect to them. There’s so much going well for this story that I’m finding it difficult to offer bigger critiques.

    I have a couple things:

    1) The line: “Ever since Anita’s dad was taken, Lily feared sleeping alone.” I’d maybe flesh that out a little bit. Tell the reader what happened. This is assuming the “taken” vagueness isn’t a mystery you plan on revealing later in the story. It might even be more dynamic to have the girls or their mother talk about their father leaving/dying/etc. That way it comes into the story more naturally, and the narrator doesn’t have to pass over it. Same thing with the line: Anita heard something scrape across the knotted wood floor. “I hear whispering and music.” I’d also expand on the music they’re hearing. Describe how the soft, low beat reverberates through the door, or how hearing the lively trumpets is the only time the girls want to dance. Something like that. Because at the moment, the music could be anything.

    2) While I like that you give Carmen her own introduction—I.E, the doorbell ringing and Lily answering it, I’m not sure how necessary it is. I honestly think you could start this story with Carmen already in the home with Anita and Lily. It just feels a little unnecessary to give Carmen an introduction when she leaves the scene 500 words later. If you start with Carmen already in the house, teasing Anita for spying on her Mom, Carmen can leave at anytime and it wouldn’t feel out of place (at least to me).

    --Also, Carmen exits the scene rather abruptly. “Well, I have to go now.” The transition doesn’t feel smooth. I’d probably add a couple things here about Carmen getting ready to leave, like rising to her feet or straightening up. If her departure was intended to be sudden, I’d put that in the story.

    3) The Santeria line: Since this is an MG, I’m worried Santeria might be a concept too mature for 11-14 year olds. But it’s up to you.

    4) Small thing: “No fair” would be a phrase, not a word.

    5) This line: “Anita grabbed a pot from the cabinet and filled it with water. The two hotdogs sank to the bottom. She turned on the stove and placed the pot over the open flames.” To me, this felt incredibly wordy for a simple task. I feel like this would be a great place to show off her personality a little more. Maybe we can find out Anita cooks a lot for Lily, or that she’s still not very good at making hot dogs b/c she’s never sure when their done, and then give an instance where Lily bites into an undercooked hot dog and cries. Of course, I don’t mean to write your story for you. But something to this effect would put less light on the action and more light on the MC.

    Again, a fabulous improvement! I’m even more hooked to your story. This has the makings of a great MG novel.

  2. Hi Lisa, I can see such improvement in this revision! Reading through several times makes it clear that you've incorporated the advice and feedback provided last week. Also, this revision brought me so much closer into Anita's world, so kudos!

    Now, two points that would further improve this:

    1) Don't start with an info dump: as it stands now, you begin with a lot of telling and that does not immediately capture the reader. Start, instead, with the scene and with Anita knocking. Weave in all the information, which is still necessary to include in these first five pages, but do so subtly throughout the into rather than all at once.

    2) Carmen's character: as it stands, Carmen has no redeeming qualities in my eyes and serves only as Anita's foil. I'd love to see her given at least one such redeeming quality so we can see why Anita tolerates her, despite her rudeness.

    3) Introducing Lily: my recommendation here is to introduce her with her first line of dialogue, the one where she says de-plessed. Have her intro be a surprise to Anita, who didnt expect her little sister to sneak up on them, and that way, it is more natural rather than planned.

    Good luck on your second week of revisions!

  3. Hi Lisa,

    what a fantastic revision! You've made some very thoughtful changes and I get an even better sense of who these characters are and what they're up against. I would echo the sentiments above, though, about the opening paragraph. It's quite an info dump and probably not necessary for the reader to know immediately. This is the type of info you can introduce little by little through dialogue or inner monologue. It is often better to just jump right into the scene. I like the sentences about Anita worrying about various things, so I might suggest starting there. A first sentence could be something like "Anita had always been a worrier." And then continue with "She worried about combing out the tangles out of her long curly hair every morning, in time for school. She worried about stitching the holes in the jeans she outgrew over the summer. But lately, she worried about her mother, who appeared less and less out of her bedroom." That to me really sets up her characterization AND gives us a hint at the stakes right away.

    Good luck this week!


    1. Thanks to all! I will definitely take all of this into consideration for my next revision.

  4. Hi Lisa,

    You did an excellent job with your revision! It is very clear that you considered the feedback from last week in this new version, and I can see what you were going for in that first paragraph after being told to set the scene a little more. I would agree with what’s been said that it does come off as an info dump. I don’t think what you have there should be wasted, but rather integrated more organically.

    I also think the scene is still a little dialogue-heavy. I’d rather spend that time inside Anita’s thoughts than in a long conversation. I think you’ll still be able to get across these characters’ relationships and personalities (maybe even more so) by tapping more into Anita’s voice and her inner monologue.

    Great job this week, and I’ll look forward to reading the next version!

    All the best,


  5. Hi Lisa,

    I just wanted to chime in and say that I enjoyed your edits this round of revisions. Your draft has already gotten stronger! I also enjoyed some of the foreshadowing elements you sprinkled in.