Sunday, May 19, 2019

1st Five Pages May Workshop - Duperre Rev 2

Name: Amber Duperre
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Title: The Golden Lake


Sixteen-year-old Arabella Adler has unwillingly and miserably lived with Nana since her dad disappeared three years ago. When she learns there’s a way to find her dad, she believes she can get her old life back.

Arabella transports to Tipoua. In a world where animals and humans coexist peacefully, she lands in the middle of a war. A powerful witch, on a quest to rule Tipoua, is controlling animals via dark magic. She is also closing in on the human village and killing anyone that defies her. Arabella, who discovers elemental magic inside herself, is introduced to ancient mermaids and a handsome warrior who will teach her to use her abilities. She is promised that for helping defeat the witch, she will be brought to her father.

Arabella rebels. Defeating a tyrant wasn’t on her agenda.

She has a change of heart when she grows to care for people and animals on Tipoua. But her world is upended when Arabella learns that her father has died. The witch offers an enticing bargain: if she works for her, she will bring Arabella’s father to life. Now Arabella has to decide: get her family reunion or preserve life and culture on Tipoua.


My life changed forever the day the hummingbirds showed up.

In upstate New York, seeing hummingbirds in the summer is a normal occurrence. Not for Nana and me. Every year, we filled and hung twenty hummingbird feeders in her square backyard- one of the many chores she made me do. Every year they went untouched. Until the third anniversary of Dad’s disappearance. That day, they came.

“Arabella,” she yelled from the backyard.

“I’m coming,” I answered, and rolled my eyes. Carrying the last feeder I’d just filled into the backyard, I was happy because I was finally finished. I could go visit Mom.

I found Nana standing in the hot summer sun in her favorite brown leather dress that stopped two inches above her knees. I thought of my friends’ grandmas. The friends I had before everything changed three years ago. Some of them knitted, some clipped coupons, but none made and wore short leather dresses. None were as physically fit as her either.

A buzzing sound permeated my head. Like a hundred bees at once. I screamed and ducked. The bird feeder slipped and I quickly supported it with my left hand just before it plunged to the grassy ground.

Nana stretched her arms out like Frankenstein’s monster. Twelve ruby-throated hummingbirds perched on her arms, their green and red feathers shimmering in the sun’s mid-afternoon light. She turned her head to look at me.

I jumped, spilling sugar water onto my shoe. Nana’s eyes, her piercing green eyes that reminded me of the conniving nature of some household cats, were full of joy. She was smiling. That never happened. “Arabella, they finally came,” she said, sounding relieved. She turned her attention to the birds, her back facing me.

Hoping for a better look, I walked around to Nana’s front. Her eyebrows were drawn together and her mouth made an “O” shape. She nodded, as if the birds told her something important.

“Are they…. Are they talking to you?” I asked, running my hand through my long brown hair over and over again-- my nervous habit. This was too weird. Her bright eyes stared deep into mine. I didn’t look away like usual. I was too stunned.

“It’s about your dad.” She turned her head back toward the hummingbirds. Like she’d given me enough information. Like she hadn’t just dropped a bombshell the size of Texas on me.

“What are they saying?” What I really meant was, what’s going on with you? Birds don’t talk to humans. All I heard was chirping. Is Nana losing her mind, too? I can’t handle that. “Is it about his disappearance?”

No one knew much about his disappearance. What could birds know about Dad? He disappeared by the river on the other side of town three years ago. It made no sense because he’d never gone to that river before and he had no reason to, as far as Mom and I knew. After that, he was never seen again and he left no trace, no explanation. Eventually, the cops stopped looking for him. It became a cold case. I didn’t think he was dead. He was alive; I could feel it in my bones. His body never turned up. And Mom… She was never the same after he disappeared.

“I know you and I haven’t gotten along these last three years,” Nana said. I let out an exasperated huff sound. Understatement of the century. “And I know you have questions I never answered. About your father. About his disappearance. But I had good reason. I was protecting you, and I hope someday you will understand.”

The next words out of my mouth came louder than necessary. “Protecting me from what? Of course I had questions. There was a chance he was alive.” My voice cracked on the last word. I paused, feeling like I would hyperventilate if I didn’t. I paced back and forth, forcing my body to take slow breaths. “But you didn’t care. All I needed was some guidance. We could have found him. But you wouldn’t help. You shut me out at the worst time in my life.”

All the emotions I felt back then came rushing in. Like an angry dark cloud engulfing me and dragging me down to the ground. Losing both my parents, pushing away all my friends, being forced to move in with Nana, who treated me like a stranger and a maid. I took more slow, deep breaths. A drop of sweat ran down my cheek. A lump formed in my throat. I cleared it and continued. “I will never understand.”

“Let me explain. The hummingbirds said I finally could.”

“The hummingbirds? Are you kidding me?” I thought about turning and walking away. Going to sit with Mom at the home like I did every day and forgetting this ever happened.

Though I didn’t believe hummingbirds could tell Nana what to do, I couldn’t help but wonder what she would say. Curiosity and the need for some kind of explanation, any kind of explanation, got the better of me. I stayed put.

“I was prohibited from explaining certain things to you three years ago. But I also didn’t know everything. That’s what the hummingbird feeders were for. I was trying to learn more, so I could give you something, anything, to ease your mind. And they finally came.” Her eyes moved from me back to the birds and she smiled the most genuine smile I’d ever seen. I hadn’t known the frown lines on her cheeks could make that shape. A tear ran down to the corner of her upturned mouth. “Today is the day, Arabella. On the third anniversary of his disappearance, you can find him. You can be reunited with your father. He needs you.”

I drew in a quick breath. I was silent for a minute, absorbing the information. “Huh?” Nana’s words swirled in my mind like chunks of fruit in a blender while my brain tried to comprehend them. “He…he is alive?” I asked, tears welling up in my eyes. I felt dizzy.

“Yes. And you need to find him. I can’t leave. I have more work to do here. That leaves you.” She paused, searching my eyes. “Your first task is to visit your mom. Bring your cell phone. I’ll give you instructions from there.”

“How do I know you’re not lying?”

She turned her attention to the birds. “The hummingbirds said to tell you, ‘They say that blood is thicker than water. But water has always run through my veins. You and me, my darling girl, we’re thicker than blood and water.’ They said that would convince you.”

My legs wobbled and I almost dropped to the ground. How did she know that phrase? Dad always said that to me. But that was our thing. It was private. It never made sense but he’d said it to me my whole life. When you’re young you don’t always question things. When I got older, I just took it as a phrase of endearment. No one else knew that phrase, not even Mom. Definitely not Nana.

 “Okay. I’ll go,” was the only thing I could say. Dazed, I turned and started walking back toward the house. I unscrewed the lid on the feeder I was holding and doused a small cooking fire Nana had built. Skewered over the fire was something small. It looked like a charred squirrel. God, I hoped it wasn’t squirrel.


  1. ​Hi Amber,

    Thanks for submitting your pitch. I've read it with great interest! ​Here are some thoughts and suggestions I had for you. Hope that it's useful :)

    I'd suggest starting with "Ever since her dad vanished into the river three years ago, Arabella Adler's been living with her secretive and closed-off Nana" [or whatever other adjectives you'd like to use to describe Nana to give some idea of what's their relationship is like instead of saying "miserably" which doesn't give away much of their dynamics.]

    ​The second sentence is too vague to my liking; maybe you could say instead something along the lines of "But there was a reason for Nana's silence, and a dangerous one at that. When at last Nana reveals to Arabella the truth about her dad and implying there's a way to save him, Arabella decides to embark on a rescue mission. All she wants is to get her dad - and her old life - back." It's a bit awkward but something like that?

    There's a segue missing between the first and second paragraph. This is a HUGE jump from "she might be able to bring her dad back"​ to "she transports to a magical land". It leaves me confused and with many, many, many questions. I totally get it if you don't want to give away too much about the mystery of her dad and his connection to Tipoua but you need to give away *something* - just enough for us to understand how her dad is connected to this magical land and the stakes that come with it.

    This sentence seems to contradict itself: "In a world where animals and humans coexist peacefully, she lands in the middle of a war." Maybe say "used to coexist..." since they're not currently peacefully co-existing but rather engaged in a war?

    Once again, the role of her dad in all this is unclear - aside from him being kept captive (I'm presuming), does he have any active role to play aside from serving as stakes for Arabella?

    I find the second half of the query a bit much and also not enough at the same time - if that makes sense. Can you think of one primary plot line you want to describe here? Maybe focus everything on the clash between Arabella and the witch? I'd like to see this witch person fleshed out a bit so she can be her own character - what's her motivation for taking over the land and killing everyone? Is she just driven by blood lust and power grabbing? Is there more to her and her motivation?

    I do like the stakes changing in the end, but I feel like you need more personal stakes for Arabella other than "preserving life and culture on Tipoua". How about she finally finds home and feels the sense of belonging here that she's never felt before, hence protecting Tipoua is now a personal matter for her and not abstract, noble idea.

    Overall, I think you have an interesting story here!

    The pages also look much stronger now. I like how you fleshed out Arabella's relationship with her Nana and the role of the hummingbirds. I want to know what happens next Well done and good luck. Katya

  2. Hi Amber,
    I agree with Katya about the pitch. I like the idea of starting out the way she suggested, and her other comments as well. The pages are tighter. I like the ending with Arabella recognizing a phrase her father used before his disappearance. I still feel like Arabella jumps to the conclusion that her Nana is "talking to" the birds too soon. Maybe that's just me. Good luck, and good job with your revisions.

  3. Hi Amber,
    My posts aren't showing up. Hopefully, third time's the charm. I agree with Katya's suggestions on your pitch. The pages flow better in this revision. Great job on all your hard work! All the best to you!

  4. Hi Amber,
    I think everything has been already said above. The transition from paragraph one to two in your pitch is a bit too abrupt. Your pages are stronger and draw me into the story. I can't wait to find out what happens when she gets to the fantasy land!
    Good luck and happy writing!

  5. Wow, that’s one of the best rewrites I’ve ever read. You nailed it. The only comment I have is when they talk about her dad, it’s in the past as if she believes he’s dead, except that she doesn’t, so switch it to present.

    The pitch is generally less important than pages, but I think make it tighter. Also, between the first and second paragraphs, insert a line with the arrival/ significance of the hummingbirds. I also think that it’s confusing to say people and animals live in harmony and then there’s a war...say they’ve always lived in harmony until...

    This is fabulous. Good luck!

  6. Hi Amber,

    What a great premise! I love that this is the story of a girl trying to rescue her father, and can already get a clear sense of how far she's willing to go to achieve that goal. You've done a fantastic job with the pitch and pages.

    For the pitch, you've got a really great start (pitches are always so tricky because they need to be long enough to get the general idea across, but short enough to leave the reader wanting more). My recommendation is to keep an eye on your word choices and how the pitch is phrased. The key elements to any pitch is what the main character wants, what stands in their way, and how they plan to overcome that obstacle and achieve their goal. You have all these elements, now the next step is making sure that your wording gets these ideas across as vividly as possible.

    In terms of the opening pages, you've done a gorgeous job of establishing the scene and creating a really clear picture of the characters and where they are. My one piece of advice here is to keep an eye on how you're balancing all the elements in the story. Your opening pages are doing a lot of heavy lifting setting up the plot, and pack a lot of information, and I think that your characters are getting a little lost in the process. Who Arabella is as a character isn't coming through as strongly as it could, and I think these pages will hit the reader with more impact if they are able to connect with her on a deep level from the very start.

    Overall, a great pitch and opening. Best of luck to you!

    All best,