Writing the Book Part II

As I journey with this book, Things You Forget, in person and sometimes on this blog, I want to remember this particular incident because it encourages me, and we all need a little encouragement, don’t we? It happened a while back, April 2017, to be exact.

I submitted to a first page critique by literary agent Holly McGhee at Pippin Properties on Kathy Temean’s wonderful Writing and Illustrating blog. I sent on a whim, not expecting any results. And then I forgot about it. When I finally remembered to check the status of my entry, I learned my first page had been selected.

The April 2017 results are here. My specific results are below. I know I’m going to come back to this moment as I try to stay centered and finish this book.

THINGS YOU FORGET by S. K. Van Zandt Young Adult

It’s late November and lousy cold. Wind mixed with sleet gusts across the parking lot. Jordan Rutherford crosses to his truck, yanks the door hard against the freezing blasts, and climbs in. Engines start around him. Headlights blink on. Cars pull slowly away from the church for the long drive to the cemetery. Jordan looks toward the front of the line at the white limo, a foggy stream of air pouring from its exhaust. His mother wants him to ride with her and his grandmother, but forget that. He wants to be alone.

He pulls in somewhere near the end of the line of cars, and they drive onto the main road. People steer their cars onto the crusty edge of the pavement to let them pass. Some stop completely. A little kid leans out the window of a parked car and smiles and waves, like he’s watching a parade or something. Jordan wants this to be over.

When he finally gets to Woodland Memorial Cemetery, a crowd has already gathered, huddled beneath a dark green funeral tent that bends with every burst of wind. Several friends from school hang at the edge of the crowd, including Jordan’s best friend, T. J. Bradley.

Jordan stands on a nearby hill, apart from everyone. He looks past the crowd, at the rows and rows of graves dotting the icy ground, then back to the funeral tent and the waiting grave beneath. If he narrows his eyes just right, everything blurs. As the pastor begins talking, Jordan walks back to his truck, climbs in, and drives away without looking back.

HERE’S HOLLY:

THINGS YOU FORGET–S.K. Van Zandt

I was really moved by this one; it grabbed my attention and I wanted to know more about these characters and what Jordan’s role in the death was. I felt genuine emotion coming through the words. I think this is a strong first page. My only comment is to choose every word carefully, and where there is an opportunity for an appropriate extra detail, grab it. (I’m thinking of the line with the little kid leaning out the window, that seemed like a chance to add a telling detail and use fewer words as well.)

 

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Hemingway’s Way

EH

My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.

Prose is architecture, not interior decoration, and the Baroque is over. Ernest Hemingway

Writing tight, concise prose is difficult, no matter what age group we write for or what genre. I stumbled across an article concerning this and tried the app mentioned. The creators of the app wanted to help writers realize when their writing was too dense. I got some interesting results when I pasted a few paragraphs of my own writing into the app. As for this blog post? It got a grade 5 readability. One of fourteen sentences was hard to read. The post contained one adverb and two phrases in need of simpler alternatives.

Using this app might be helpful if someone wants a quick look at how their prose is coming along. Or if you just need to do a little procrastinating. Keep in mind, though, it’s just an exercise.

Interestingly, Hemingway’s own writing didn’t fair so well.

Happy writing!

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Word Song

 

 

 

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WHY I WAKE EARLY

by

Mary Oliver

Hello, sun in my face.

Hello, you who make the morning

and spread it over the fields

and into the faces of the tulips

and the nodding morning glories,

and into the windows of, even, the

miserable and the crotchety —

best preacher that ever was,

dear star, that just happens

to be where you are in the universe

to keep us from ever-darkness,

to ease us with warm touching,

to hold us in the great hands of light —

good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day

in happiness, in kindness.

 

I love Mary Oliver’s poetry, especially this poem.  To me, the words sing the unfolding of a new day.   Beautiful!