Sunday, March 10, 2019

1st 5 Pages March Workshop - Spizziri Rev 1

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

Mom always encouraged me to get out of Ridgeview and chase my dreams, but she never said those dreams would mean inhaling horse manure on a Saturday afternoon.

I tried not to breathe through my nose as we walked through the stables, waiting for the owner to meet us. “Is this worth it?”

Liv tied back her dark hair in a ponytail. “How else are you going to get your story on horse carriages?”

My summer class was my first intro to my major, audio journalism, which meant I’d be creating my own podcast like I’d dreamed of. At eighteen, I couldn’t ask for more. Everyone back home was still two weeks away from graduation. “You’re right.”

We strolled down the stable, stopping in front of a horse.  As the horse in front of us whinnied, I stepped back.

Liv laughed. “I thought all farm girls loved horses.”

“I’m from a small town, not a farm.” I hadn’t been back since starting college early at the beginning of the year, and I had no plans to return. My family didn’t understand my dreams, and without my mom’s voice to counter them, it’d only lead to arguments and hard feelings. It was easier to keep striving toward my dreams surrounded by other ambitious people. At Dignitas University, in the accelerated program with other high schoolers starting college early, I had no problem staying on track with my goals.

My phone rang, and the name Dad flashed across my screen. 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. I needed to focus on my story anyway. I only had a week to select my topic, so I wanted to focus on taking in this experience as best I could to have the best chance at an interesting story. As the call disappeared, the clock on my phone read 9:20. We’d been waiting since 9:00, when the woman who greeted us said the owner would be right out.

“Who are we interviewing tomorrow?” Liv asked. As my roommate and best friend, she’d unofficially partnered with me on my project, more as an excuse to get out of the dorm. I appreciated the help since I’d never made my own podcast, and I could use someone to bounce ideas off of.

“A Wall Street financial analyst. Then Wednesday is a Broadway actress, and Thursday is a sous chef at La Bleu.”

Her eyebrows shot up. “Important people.” She walked up to the horse and stroked his mane.

I furrowed my brow. “Is that a bad thing?”

“Have you considered telling a story about an ordinary person? Sometimes they have the best stories.”

“If I wanted ordinary, I wouldn’t have left Ridgeview.”

The woman who had let us into the stables earlier walked toward us, her boots jingling. “Evie? I’m so sorry, but Roger had an emergency pop up. Can we reschedule?”

My heart sank. I hadn’t realized how set I was on this story, but it had an intriguing combination of elements. The glamour of carriage rides in Central Park, the rags-to-riches story of the owner, and the resurfacing debate of if horses should be banned from the city. “My topic proposal is due on Friday. Is there time before then?”

“He’s heading out of town tomorrow. But if you give me a few minutes, I can try to answer some questions instead.”
I agreed, and sat with Liv on the bench the woman gestured us toward as she exited the stable.

Liv kicked her feet out, her Toms scuffing along the dirt floor as they swung. “You know, I’ve lived with you almost a year and I hardly know anything about your hometown. What was it like growing up?”

Before I had a chance to respond, my phone rang again. Dad. My thumb hovered between the red and green buttons. Two calls in a row must mean it was important. And I didn’t mind an excuse to avoid a discussion about my hometown with Liv, especially if she wanted to ask about friends. Or worse: boys.

“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 without Mom, that wasn’t home anymore. I forced down the lump in my throat.

“How are things?” I asked as he said, “When are you coming 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 Dad without upsetting him. “Oh, Dad, I thought you knew.”

“Knew what?” His voice tightened.

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

Silence filled the line. Not the deadened, dropped call kind. The kind where you knew someone didn’t like what you'd said. “Didn’t you reschedule the Christmas flight I booked you?”

Now that he mentioned it, I had said something of that sort when I’d canceled back in December, an attempt to soften the blow of missing the holidays, but I’d left that credit untouched with no intention of booking a flight home. It was easier to stay away than face Mom’s absence. Or run into my best friend from home.  Kace would want to talk about it all: her death, me ghosting him, the kiss…. “I’m sorry, I have classes to take, and—”

“Evangeline Marie Daniels.” His voice was hard. 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. Where he was firm, she was tender. Where he was oblivious, she was in tune.

I swallowed, feeling like a chastised kid. Distancing myself from my family hadn’t been the plan. But if I wanted to move forward, to do something Mom would be proud of, I had to continue on the path I’d started: college. “Dad, you can’t tell me what to do anymore. I’m in college.”

“Barely. If you hadn’t gone to Dignitas, you’d still be in high school.”

“But I did go, and I’m not in high school.”

He sighed. “Evie, things are different without your mom. We need you.”

 “Why? You've been fine without me all year.”

“I’m retiring.”

“Seriously?” It’d been something he’d talked about since I was ten, yet kept putting off. My brother Luke had been waiting to take over the auction business since he graduated high school. He’d be happy. My heart leaped, followed abruptly by a pang in my chest, the reality of not seeing my family for so long catching up with me.

“It’s time. I have to train Luke, which means Jackson will be doing Luke’s, and that leaves no one to train Scarlett before she and Jackson get married—”

I bolted up. I'd heard Scarlett's name a few times from Dad the past year. I hadn't texted my brother Jackson much lately, and he never told me anything important, instead mostly sharing weird things he'd found at the latest auction. I knew better than to think it was his fault, though. I was the one who left unexpectedly. I was the one dodging calls from home. “Wait, what? They’re getting married?”


  1. Wow! This is so different and much clearer the story you're telling. Great work.

  2. Not that your first submission was bad, but this one is so good. Very different, but the same. Moving the setting from NYC (where there was probably too many potential things going on around the MC and her friend) to the stable is a great choice. The setting is grounded and familiar enough to most readers that the sprinkling of details provided is plenty enough to set up the scene. I suppose you could add a sound or two in the setting, but that's being nitpicky. Might be a little heavy on the word "dream" in the first few hundred words (again, nitpicky), so maybe consider swapping one for a different word or phrase.
    The conflict is clear and you added the subtle hint of Kace while removing the current boyfriend (in the previous version). Again, it's a great touch and eliminates confusion.
    The visual on "I bolted up" is still a struggle for me. Maybe I tie it to laying down too much. Did I mention I'm being nitpicky? The reason: the overall quality of the revision is fantastic, so there's really nothing more I can add from my perspective to improve it. Bravo!

    1. Tim, your comment about bolted up is SPOT ON...I just forgot to change it lol. That was a carryover from a previous version where she was in her dorm room, sitting. Thanks for pointing that out!

  3. Hi Sammi, As the other commenters have noted, this works much better. The tease about Kace (and the embedded sense that she is NOT going to deal with her feelings around him and her mother's death) are great. I also liked how the line, “If I wanted ordinary, I wouldn’t have left Ridgeview," (probably—I'm assuming based on the end of the chapter) foreshadows her return to Ridgeview and having to confront the ordinary. Once again, the conversation with her dad makes the immediate conflict clear, but this time, her desire to avoid her feelings is more apparent.

    The thing I think needs improvement is the opening. The setting is more conducive to meeting Evie and Liv, and her situation in college. However, the bulk of what would be the first two pages are backstory. One of my CPs pointed told me a nice way to think about first person present: is what your narrator talking about happening now? If not, why is she thinking about it? Sometimes you need a bit thrown in, but to get the audience engaged at the start, you want to be as close to in-the-moment as possible. Some of the details you have in narration could be worked into conversation with Liv (although, having just gone through edits on my first 1250 words, I know how hard that word count limit is for this exercise!), some of it could be removed.

    I'm looking forward to seeing what Rev 2 looks like.


  4. I really enjoyed this revision. Things felt a lot clearer, but I’m worried you sacrificed some of the emotion for clarity. Once the phone call is answered, that emotion is right there again, and everything feels tense and intriguing. Before that, I felt like her reasons for leaving home were a little over-explained.

    For example, the paragraphs starting “I’m from a small town, not a farm” and “My phone rang, and the name Dad flashed across my screen” seem like they’re saying the same thing in different ways. I think you could really trim them down and combine them into one paragraph to make things move faster.

    A few nitpicks:

    If she’s been attending college since the beginning of the year, why is she just now (in the summer) taking a class that applies to her major?

    “more as an excuse to get out of the dorm” feels like an unfinished thought. “More as an excuse to get out of the dorm” than to…. What? Uncover interesting stories? Be a part of a podcast?

    Why does the woman at the stable leave a second time? It felt a little convenient, like she only left to give Evie time to answer the call.

    These lines confused me both times I read your opening: “It’s time. I have to train Luke, which means Jackson will be doing Luke’s, and that leaves no one to train Scarlett before she and Jackson get married—”

    Jackson will be doing Luke’s what? Training? Since her dad just said he’d be doing Luke’s training, I’m not sure why Jackson would need to, and I’m also not sure why Scarlett can’t train with Luke, eliminating the problem.

    That’s about it! I loved the lines: “If I wanted ordinary, I wouldn’t have left Ridgeview” and “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 Dad without upsetting him.” This version is definitely stronger, and I really enjoyed reading it.

  5. Hi Sammi, I think your first line is hilarious, so two thumbs up for making me laugh. It made me want to keep reading. However, I had no idea who Liv was, so I suggest maybe clarifying that when we first see her? Also, a show vs tell nitpick, try limiting usage of "was," and words like walked, know/knew, realized, etc. I also felt there was a lot of info dumping, and although these pages are a lot more active than the previous version yet less confusing, I felt a lack of focus. Like does her horseback riding have to do with the rest of the story, or her dilemma of her not wanting to go home? Either way, good job with your revision, and I'll look forward to read your next revision. (Side note, it'd be beneficial to check out Janice Hardy's "Understanding show vs tell and really getting it). Hope that helps.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.