Sunday, February 17, 2019

1st 5 Pages February Workshop- Ramos Rev 2

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


Anita Santiago has many worries, but her biggest worry is keeping her family secret—a secret. While researching a project on birds for the upcoming science fair, she stumbles across information that leads her to believe her mother has an illness that may separate the family. Now Anita must team up with her best friend, Carmen, to find a cure to her mother’s illness before her mother is taken away from her and her little sister forever. Or worse, expose her family's secret.

Chapter One 

Anita Santiago had always been a worrier. She worried about combing 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. 

"It's santeria," whispered Carmen, standing over Anita's crouched body, peeping through a keyhole. 

Anita looked up. She tried not to raise her voice. "That's dumb. Why would Mami do magic in her bedroom?" She knew her mother avoided it at all costs, and even crossed the streets when they walked by Maria's Botanica, displaying scary figurines and incense in the window. ‘There's all sorts of evil in there,’ her mother said often. 

"Is she even up?" asked Carmen. 

Anita bent low and squinted through the large gap under the uneven chipped bedroom door, looking for a sign of movement. Or life. She could see her mother’s paints and brushes scattered over the floor, but no feet. "Probably still sleeping." 

"Then she's definitely depressed," said Carmen, looking convinced. 

"Says who?" asked Anita, forgetting to whisper. 

"Calm down. Says Cosmo magazine." Carmen flipped her long straight black hair back and rearranged her head band. "She's got all the symptoms." 

Anita sat up. "Like what?" She grew tired of Carmen’s know-it-all answers, but she was the only friend Anita had. 

Carmen crossed her arms. "Like sleep all day, not eating. Your mom doesn't even comb her hair." 

"So…lots of moms don’t,” she said, remembering the last time she went to Walmart and stared at the group of mothers standing in line wearing spandex and messy buns. “Doesn't mean she's depressed." 

Anita's little sister, Lily, walked into the hallway. She sucked her thumb and dragged her doll by the hair. Her pigtails hung lopsided on the side of her head. Lily pulled out her thumb, "What's de-pless?" 

“Remember what happened to Jenny’s mom when she got depressed?” Carmen’s eyes enlarged. “She was taken away.” 

Anita shook her head and pretended she didn’t care. But she did. Jenny’s mother never came back, and Jenny ended up moving in with her grandmother. 

“Is Mommy de-pless, Nita?” 

Carmen grinned, “Yes, your mom is very--” 

“Stop it! You’ll scare her.” Ever since Anita’s mother locked herself in her bedroom, Lily feared sleeping alone. Now dolls, a mess of wooden alphabet blocks and a maple crib crowded Anita’s bedroom. She sat on her knees and faced Lily. “Mom is not depressed. Just sad.” 

“Same thing,” interjected Carmen. “I never missed a Cosmo issue and…” 

Anita held up a finger. 

“What’s wrong?” 

Anita pressed her ear against the door, trying to concentrate. “I hear something.” 

Lily did the same, copying her sister. 

A smooth and slow vibration echoed, before an electrical guitar played. Anita smiled,  “She’s okay.” 

“How do you know?” 

Behind closed doors, Anita’s mother sang: “…if I have to…I can do anything…I am strong…I’m invincible.” 

Anita got up as soon as she heard her mother sing. “Because it’s her favorite song. Makes her feel strong and invincible.” 

“Huh?” Carmen shrugged, looking uninterested. “Don’t you think it’s weird that your mom only listens to English music? No salsa or merengue?” 

“Nope. That’s how she learned English.” Anita felt proud her mother didn’t let money stand in the way of learning English. She went to the public library, asked the librarian which singers were poets, and checked out all the albums from the artist she liked most. Turned out, her favorite singer was a woman who sang songs about woman having power. 
“Mami is invisible?” Lily’s forehead wrinkled like a puppy. 

Carmen rolled her eyes. “No silly, In-Vin-cible. It means having super powers—like Superwoman.” 

“No fair,” Lily said. That was her favorite word now. She said it all the time. If she spotted a bird fly over her head, she said, “no fair.” If she was sent to bed early, she said, “no fair.” If Anita had no time to play with her, she said, “no fair.” Lily said “no fair” to everything! 

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

Carmen rolled her eyes, “I’m glad I’m an only child.” She patted the top of Lily’s head. 

Lily pouted and smacked her hand away. “Leave me ‘lone.” 


“She’s not a dog,” said Anita. She hugged Lily, “it’s not so bad having a sister.” Anita did not mind looking after her. She kept her company. Besides, Lily potty-trained months ago and allowed Anita to pick all the TV shows. 

Carmen grabbed her school bag from the hallway floor. “It’s time for dinner. My mom’s cooking rice, beans, chicken, salad and my favorite…cheese flan.” She headed for the door. “See you tomorrow at school. Bye.” 

“Bye.” Anita turned to her sister. “Want a hotdog?” 

Lily nodded. 

Opening the refrigerator and scanning the empty shelves, she wondered when Mami would go food shopping. Anita grabbed a pack of hotdogs shelved next to the onion and wilted cilantro. While the hotdogs boiled in a pot, she brushed Lily’s hair and put it up in a neat pigtail. “There, now you look like a princess.” 

“Yeah, I princess,” Lily said to her doll. 

Anita heard a door squeak open in the hallway. Her mother dragged her feet into the kitchen and looked around. Her eyes were red and swollen. A large tangled curler hung over her forehead like a yo-yo. She smacked it away from her eyes. “Did Fuentes leave?” She called Carmen by her last name, because she says Carmen is the fountain of gossip. 

“Si, Mami.” 

Lily ran and wrapped her arms around Mami’s bathrobe. “You not invisible!” 
“Of course, I’m not,” Mami said, rubbing Lily’s back. “I wish you didn’t spend so much time with her. One day, Carmen’s going to get this family into trouble.” 
“She’s okay,” Anita said. She wanted to tell her mother she could trust her. Carmen had kept their family secret since the third grade, but she kept silent. Mami said she trusted few people.   

“Look-it!” Lily pointed to her pigtail. “I’m princess.” 

Mami’s eyes brightened, “You are, but little princesses don’t wear dirty dresses,” she said, pulling on Lily’s hem. “And you don’t want to smell like a skunk, do you?” 

Lily jumped and clapped, “I stinky-stinky.” 

Anita spotted a ketchup stain on Lily’s dress. It reminded her to load the washing machine before going to bed. “You hungry?” she asked her mother. “I can make you a hotdog.” She couldn’t remember the last time she saw Mami eat since she ate all her meals in her bedroom. Anita and Lily ate most of the time alone in the living room, watching Animal Planet. 

“No gracias, I’m not so hungry,” she said, rubbing her belly. “Don’t even have energy to do anything. Anita, can you give Lily a bath for me?” 

“Si, Mami.” 

“Gracias, Mija. Lily, go with your sister.” 

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

Before heading back to her bedroom, Mami reminded Anita to bathe with the lights off. “Don’t draw attention to this place. You know la migre is watching us…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 would it take before Mami felt better?


  1. Hi Lisa! What a difference this is from the first submission. You’ve definitely sharpened Anita’s story into something of great beauty. I find myself more invested in her life than every before. Great job!

    My only comment is about your pitch:

    The pitch has a lot of vagueness and generalities that might not hook a reader or an agent as well as it could.

    Example: the pitch mentions a family secret, but it’s never actually revealed what the secret is. Especially in a query, you’ll want to tell the agent what that secret is. Same thing when you write a synopsis.

    Another example: “Anita has many worries”—what worries are those? Is she worried about her mom? Her school life? Her friends? Her sister? Without knowing what’s on her mind, it makes it difficult for a reader to empathize and ultimately connect with Anita.

    Ex: “stumbles across information”—what information? “an illness that may separate the family.” –What illness? How serious is it? I know I should be worried, but without knowing the varying degrees of her illness, it’s harder for me to feel concern.

    Your story has a strong foundation now. The scene flows better and as a reader, I’m not only pulled in, but I STAY in. Again, great job!

    1. Kim,
      Thanks for further feedback. I'll definitely work on my pitch. It's the face to the manuscript. :-) This was lots of fun!

  2. Lisa! This revision is fantastic! The voice completely reads middle grade to me now and I love the little humorous moments you added. Amazing work. I have one tiny thing - I don't think many middle school kids are reading Cosmo (though google tells me there's a Cosmo Girl). Teen Vogue might be a better choice.

    Best of luck with this!!

    1. Thank you Christina,
      I'll definitely look into this. Initially, I had her addicted to reading a Spanish gossip magazine for teens, but I'll rethink her source of information. I appreciate your feedback immensely.

    2. I think I'd go back to the Spanish magazine actually. Whatever us most authentic!

  3. Just wow, Lisa. This is such an amazing improvement, I don't know where to start, only that I really, really, like it! Anita's voice, Carmen's voice, the characters, the pacing.

    Pitch: here is where you can most improve. Giving you the same advice I gave Jenn, go to queryshark and see how the pitches are formatted there, or just look up query letter format. You can get a sense for the formulas of success there, and the way conflict and hooks are written.

    In terms of the pages, I think there is so much improvement that I really don't want to dwell on the hang ups, which are few. I would echo comments about references to Santeria and Cosmo being a little too mature, but otherwise, I really like where this is going!

  4. Thank you so much. I really enjoyed working on these pages with this group. Great team! Keep writing, you are very talented.

  5. Hi Lisa!

    Once again, great revisions! I love what you've done through the workshop. Small nitpick, but I think the first paragraph would read smoother in the present tense: "She worries" rather than "worried" since that is something Anita has an ongoing tendency to do. Overall, I love the premise and the fact that you are incorporating such strong cultural elements. It has been great being in this workshop with you and I wish you all the best as you keep writing!

  6. I liked the revisions a bunch. I found the dialogue much better in this revision, and more true to life. There's a lot of really good tiny details, like how Anita is the one in charge of the family laundry, woven into this version.
    I found the pitch a little flat, if i'm honest, and missing the charming voice found in the pages. Additionally, that first sentence the "secret-- secret" really tripped me up, and I had to read it multiple times. Maybe work on the pitch's voice and flow, having it more in tune with the pages?