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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

An Excerpt

I've been having some fun working on something new, so you aren't getting a typical blog post today.  Not sure where this is going, but here is an excerpt.  Objective, critical thoughts, anyone?

I looked up Tarrant County in an atlas once. It was during Mrs. Snyder’s social studies class and we were in the library. I was supposed to be writing down the names of the counties in New Hampshire, where we live, but, you could say I took a detour. Maybe you could call it a short-stop, because I stopped at “K” for Kentucky, before I got to “N” for New Hampshire, and there it was, right in the middle of that key-shaped state. Tarrant County. So, at least that part was true. There is a Tarrant County.

That’s as far as I got though, because that sneaky Mrs. Snyder came up behind me. “Melanie Foss, I do not believe that we live in Kentucky. I believe your assignment is to research the State of New Hampshire. So kindly, get to the task at hand.” That’s the way Mrs. Snyder spoke. All clichés and such. She was always saying, “Put your nose to the grindstone” and “Give it your best shot.” If you listen to Miss Russell, clichés are phrases that are used so often they become ordinary. I guess being ordinary didn’t matter much to Mrs. Snyder.

Later on that week though, I went back to the library during free period and took my sweet time looking at Tarrant County on the map. When I was little, eight maybe, I used to drive Mama crazy asking her questions about the beauty pageant. Mama and I are a team of two.  She’s only been saying that for about a million years. But even if we are, it seems to me that the team had to get started somewhere. I mean, I know she grew up in Kentucky.  The thing is, other than telling me about the Honeydew Festival, she never talks about it.

I'd love your comments.


Helen Ginger said...

The piece and the character seems to meander, but it's such a short piece that we're only reading a snippet. I kept wanting to know what could possibly fascinate her so about Tarrant County.

Sharon said...

Great hook! In three artfully written short paragraphs you've given me the history, geography, and personality of three characters who I definitely want to know better.

Sharon said...

Or should that be "whom" I definitely want to know better?

J.B. Chicoine said...

I love how you’ve baited my curiosity, making a mundane exercise intriguing with the statement “So, at least that part was true. There is a Tarrant County.”

You digress a bit in the second paragraph, but it adds to the distractible profile of a schoolgirl.

Then you deliver: “I mean, I know she grew up in Kentucky. The thing is, other than telling me about the Honeydew Festival, she never talks about it.”

This is a wonderful setup for a story and I do hope you take off with it. I would really enjoy reading more :)

glnroz said...

i first reaction was to scroll down to "get the rest of it". I was looking for continuation without being aware of it. I feel there is something of intrest swirling around. (there is a Tarrant County,, Ft. Worth Texas,lol)

glnroz said...

i am going to Barnes and Noble today and buy a grammar/spelling workbook.

Wine and Words said...

Yes...hooked!!! I know something is going down and we were just shown the tip of the iceburg! Wonderful!

Okay, so my two cents (and I humbly submit them as worth little else), and mind you...I ain't no writer...but the last paragraph jumped around a bit. If it were me, I would take the first sentence of that paragraph and have it start the next, leaving out "though".

Also...in the second paragraph...who is Miss Russell? Perhaps since it is an excerpt I would have known in whole, but perhaps you meant to put Miss Snyder?

Unknown said...

I was definitely intrigued and left with many questions. I think the most stand-out sentence, the true hook (for me), was this line: So, at least that part was true. There is a Tarrant County.

Best of luck with the project!

Bish Denham said...

I like it. And...I got a little confused by the last paragraph. The whole while the MC is talking about Terran County and SUDDENLY there's a switch to a beauty pagent?

Tabitha Bird said...

Awesome. Keep writing Liza. Don't revise this until your finished the book, or short story or whatever this will be. You can't possibly predict what is wrong with a n exert because it's not viewed as a part of the whole. Writer. Write. Write :)

Oh, and I'd love to know more about that county :)

Robin said...

Definitely intriguing. Sounds YA to me. One thing I have read repeatedly about writing YA is that before you start to write one, you should have read at least 200 current ones so that you are well steeped in the genre. That said, I wouldn't let that stop my wheels from turning, but if you are thinking of pursuing it as a YA, I would start checking them out of the library like crazy. YA is hot hot hot. Get on the bus!

Lydia Kang said...

I like the personality of the MC, the curiosity, and the details about the cliche-ridden teacher. I'd like to see a tiny phrase or something in the beginning that unfurls the mystery of Tarrant County. Like..."Mama never talks about it. So I looked up Tarrant County in an atlas once."

Also, if you''re not crazy about cliches, I'd take out "take my sweet time" and replace it with something else.

Otherwise, I loved reading your writing! You have a natural way with the movement in your story.

Chris Phillips said...

I like your hook because it makes us wonder why you looked it up, but you might consider "I looked up Tarrant County in an atlas once since she's never really told me much about it." or something that hints to where it will be going w/o giving it away from the offset.

I agree with Lydia's compliment about the movement.

Arlee Bird said...

This is a good illustration of how teachers can sometimes stifle our creativity and quest for more knowledge. Fortunately some of us persist despite the discouragement we receive.

This was good although the last paragraph took a startling shift that left me with a feeling of disconnect.

I could really identify with this narrator.

Tossing It Out

Liza said...

Hi all,

Thank you for your helpful comments. This is not the beginning of the piece, so it makes sense that it is confusing in places. If anyone has a burning desire to know, there are two teachers (which the character talks about earlier), Mrs. Snyder - Social Studies and Miss Russell - English. The the comment re: the beauty pageant in the final paragraph is also covered earlier.

Helen, thanks for the meander comment. I'll look at this again to see if I can tighten it up.

Robin, I'm not sure it is a YA, although with this voice, I understand why you think it is. It may yet turn into one. Who knows?

Lydia, I did pause when I put the cliche in. Now I know I need to take it out!

Glen, I picked Tarrant County out of the blue. I will need to do some research to decide if I want to keep it, or change it to a real county in KY. Let me know what grammar book you buy. I could use some help too.

Sharon and Bridget, Thanks ladies. I hope I can pull this whole story out of me.

Tabitha, thank you! It is out of context and yes, I will keep writing.

Annie, Nichole, Bish, Lee and Chris, thank you for reading and commenting. It really helps.

If anyone is interested, this same blurb is going to be torn to smithereens via The Literary Lab http://literarylab.blogspot.com/2011/02/value-of-being-tiger-mother-reviewer.html on Monday.

Now I know what kind of "Tiger Mother" criticism to expect and hope we can all learn from it.

WritingNut said...

Very interesting.. I definitely want to know more!