Sunday, June 16, 2019

1st 5 Pages June Workshop - Larkindale Rev 2

Name: Kate Larkindale
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Title: Standing Too Close


Seventeen-year-old Blue Lannigan has a plan.  It isn’t great, but it’s all he has: drop out of school, work full time, and the day he turns eighteen he’ll have saved enough to move out of his mother’s crappy apartment, taking his two younger brothers with him.

But when he comes home to find one of them bruised and bleeding (again), the other cowering in terror (again) and their mother drunk off her ass, blaming all three of them for her tanked singing career (again), Blue decides they can’t wait any longer to leave.

Without anywhere to go, they hole up in one of the summer houses at the lake — just until they can figure out what to do next. Things get more complicated when the owner of the house arrives unexpectedly.  Especially when Blue realizes the unconscious woman he’s tied up on the couch isn’t a stranger after all.

Standing Too Close is a 69,000 word contemporary YA novel about loyalty, love and family.


The bell rings as I empty my locker. After so many years, I’m conditioned, and jump, ready to close it and run to class. All around me people rush in every direction, voices raised to be heard over the chatter and banging of locker doors. I should be among them, hurrying to get to bio, on the second floor.

But I don’t hurry. Because I don’t need to worry about being late to bio or to French or English or any of my other classes anymore.  As of ten minutes ago, I’m no longer a student at Milton High.

The thought makes me dizzy and I sag against the lockers. Something swims through my midsection but I can’t tell if it’s nerves, excitement or terror. Probably a mixture of all three.

 “You coming, Blue?” 

 I turn and find Sacha McLeod looking up at me, her violin slung over one shoulder as always.

“I’ll catch up,” I tell her, diving back into my locker.  I bump my head on the shelf inside, the same way I have at least once a day since school started.  Whoever designed these things didn’t have guys my size in mind.

“Well, okay,” she says. “But hurry. You know how mad Mr. Farnsworth gets if you’re late.”

She runs off and I rub the sore spot above my eye while I watch her join a group of other kids at the base of the staircase. My head feels light and not from banging it my throat thick. I am not going to get emotional. It’s school and it’s my choice to quit.

Well, that’s what I keep telling myself. If I don’t, I’ll rip up the piece of paper the principal just signed for me and take the detention Mr. Farnsworth will no doubt give me for being late again.

I shove the last of my things into my backpack and sling it over my shoulder. It’s surprisingly light. But why wouldn’t it be?  I’ve returned all my textbooks. All I had to clear out of my locker were a handful of dead pens, some stinky gym clothes and a binder full of papers I’ll probably never look at again. Papers I sweated over and stayed up all night writing in some cases. And for what?

The halls are empty now and eerily silent. I slam the empty locker closed, enjoying the way its clang echoes through the corridor. I picture teachers frozen in front of the their classes, heads cocked at the noise, kids, straightening up in their chairs, eager for whatever is going on outside the door to take them away from the boredom of conjugating verbs or solving quadratic equations.

“Sorry, peeps,” I mutter as I march down the center of the hallway toward the double doors at the far end. “Nothing to see here.”

I push through the doors and squint in the bright, morning sunlight. Despite the sun, it’s cold and I zip my jacket to my chin, turning the collar up in the hope it might keep my ears warm. The bus stop is outside the school grounds. I just have to make it across the parking lot and I’m out.

I glance back at the hulking brick building. Sage is in there somewhere. Hopefully not in a classroom on this side of the building.  Or if he is, not looking out the window.  I didn’t tell him where I was going when we got to school this morning.  Didn’t tell him about the form in my pocket on which I’d forged Mom’s signature. Telling my brothers I’ve dropped out isn’t going to be easy. 

Cringing, I step off the grass verge and onto the parking lot. Wiley won’t be so bad. He’s too young to really understand the seriousness of what I’ve done. Sage though…  Well, Sage will know. And he’ll know why. I only hope I can keep him from blaming himself.

A car barrels into the parking lot, going way too fast.

“Hey!”  I leap out of the way, back onto the verge that is damp and slippery from the morning’s frost, now melted. The heel of my work-boot hits a bald spot and skids across slick mud. I stumble, falling to one knee as the car pulls up and stops a little past me.

The click, clack of heels hurries toward me. “Are you okay?” 

I get up, brushing at the mud and grass-stains streaking the right leg of my jeans. Great. A meeting with the boss at noon and now I look like I’ve been playing football or something. I sigh. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

“Blue?”  The woman’s voice is hoarse, but familiar. I look up from my ruined jeans and find myself looking at my English teacher. She hasn’t been in school the last few weeks and she looks thinner and paler than I remember. Something happened. Something terrible. I just can’t remember exactly what it was. People whispered about it in the hallways, but like most school gossip, it drifted over me without sticking.

“Hi, Mrs. Applegarth,” I say. “No classes this period?”

“I could ask the same thing of you.”

I shake my head. “No. I don’t have a class. I won’t ever have a class again.”

Saying the words aloud makes them real.

Fuck. I don’t ever have to suffer through a boring lecture again. I don’t have to do homework again. I don’t have to deal with Coach Gary constantly trying to recruit me for his football team.

My throat thickens again. Not having to do homework or dodge overzealous football coaches sounds good, but I know as well as anyone that doing this will limit my future.

“Blue?”  Mrs. Applegarth looks curiously at me. “Is everything all right?  What do you mean?”

I like Mrs. Applegarth. Her class was fun. She never asked us to dissect books or asked dumb questions about why certain characters do the things they do. People do stupid things. It’s a fact of life. The same way people hurt the ones they’re supposed to care about the most.

“I gotta go,” I say. “See you around, Mrs. A.”

“Blue.”  She touches my arm as I step off the grass and back onto the slick driveway. “What’s wrong? Please tell me.”

I shake loose. “Nothing’s wrong. I dropped out this morning. Now I have to go get the bus.”

Mrs. Applegarth gasps. “You dropped out?  You?  Oh, Blue, why?”

I bite at my lower lip, scraping my teeth across the just-healing split in it. It’s not visible because the worst of the cut was on the inside, but I can feel the scab, scraping beneath my teeth.

“Talk to me, Blue.” She sounds tired. I look at her and realize she looks tired too. Exhausted. She’s put make-up on, but it isn’t enough to hide the dark rings beneath her swollen, bloodshot eyes.

“Are you okay, Mrs. A?”  I ask. She looks like she’s been crying all night. “You look…Well…”

I trail off. Probably not a good idea to tell your teacher, even a former teacher, she looks like shit. Especially a teacher like Mrs. Applegarth who always seemed so pulled together.

She gives a bitter, humorless laugh. “Am I okay?  No. I’m not. But we’re not talking about me. Why would a smart boy like you drop out?”

Way to deflect, lady. She’s smooth. I’ll give her that. But if she’s not answering me, and I’m not answering her, I guess we’re at an impasse.


  1. I really like this. I liked the pitch a lot too. I don't really have any advice. The pitch seems really well written to me. From the first chapter, I'm wondering if the teacher is the one who owns the lake house. I hope she ends up adopting them. I want to read this now to see what happens. The only critique I would give is maybe try to incorporate more physical descriptions of Blue. I would like to know what he looks like and why he is named Blue.

  2. Love the pitch Kate - I too wondered if the person who owns the lake house is Mrs Applegarth.

    I'm also with Susan on wanting a little more physical description of Blue apart from his size. I don't know why, but I assumed he was African-American for some reason. But then in Australia, "Blue" is a nickname we give to red-heads (because Australia) so now I'm less sure.

    I'd really love to read the rest of your story and I think you're well on your way to getting an agent.

  3. Oh wow, what a pitch! So I'll second what I said last week--Blue is carrying SO much emotional weight here, but I don't feel it during this very pivotal moment as he leaves school. Maybe a place to get it in there is when he thinks about his brothers. They don't know how much their lives are going to change, I'm doing this for them, etc. I'm also now curious about the woman Blue tied up....

  4. I liked your pitch. You give a good balance of what the book is about and plenty to think that there will be more twists and turns. I'm hoping its not Mrs Applegarth that is tied up though as I feel that would be too obvious. I also wonder if the repeated (again) worked.

    The first pages were still an enjoyable read and I wish you luck in the future!

  5. Ooh I love the pitch!! So excited to see that's where the book is going :) I see you took my other notes into consideration and I really have no other feedback other than I can't wait to see this on shelves someday.

  6. Hi Kate! I think you've done a fantastic job with Standing Too Close. Great pitch! Concise and written well. I am left wondering who the tied up owner is, which is a great way to end the blurb. :)

    You've added more emotional depth to Blue, which I as a reader appreciate. A part of me really hates the school for not noticing that three brothers are being emotionally/physically abused by their mother.

    Great pages and best of luck in your endeavors!

  7. Thanks everyone! So glad you like the pitch and the pages. You all helped make them shine!

  8. Hi Kate! I love this pitch! My favorite queries are those that capture the voice of the project and you’ve done such a great job here. I know the main character, the stakes, and I’m even left with a little bit of mystery making me want to read on. Well done!

    The sample pages are similarly strong. The first few sentences are fantastic. There’s enough description for me to visualize the scene, but not so much so that it weighs down the story and hurts the pacing. Immediately I feel inserted into the scene and I’m intrigued by why this kid is leaving school.

    My only small issue was with the dialogue between Blue and Mrs. A. At times, I felt it bordered on cliché. You’re clearly a gifted writer and I think there’s room to go deeper with both these characters and really make sure their voices are coming through clearly.

    Overall, fantastic job!