9.02.2006

Here we go: 3rd SemiRegular Crapometer #1

Dear Miss Snark,

Even tomboys can dream of Prince Charming. Or maybe it was the Frog Prince.

In Prisses, Kisses, and Fishes, Jacqualyn’s summer had been planned to perfection; win the Big Bass Fishing Trophy, squash her nemesis, Becca, into a pulpy, pink pile, and above all, avoid Ethan, her green-haired new neighbor, before she uttered another classy line like “Hi, I’m Jac. I’m not a boy.” The only trouble is, she’s told Becca that Ethan is her boyfriend, and Becca has a big mouth.

Prisses, Kisses, and Fishes is a 30,000 word fiction novel (ARGH) geared toward nine to twelve year olds. I will mail the completed or a portion at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration. I hope to hear from you soon.


Sincerely,

J.B.

I liked what I read, I'd keep reading despite fiction novel


Chapter One:

Friday
Water tanks filled with minnows, gasoline, hogs (who, I think are truly wonderful creatures) and under it all the smell of Down Creek in the summer heat. The smell of freedom. The smell of Chuck’s Bait and Tackle.

Every year The Big Bass Fishing Tournament is hosted here, and for the first time, I was a full-fledged contestant.

Granddad Ebo slapped me on the shoulder, his eyebrows wiggling like white willy-worms. “Who knows, Jac. You could be the youngest person to ever win. It’s in your blood, you know?”

I looped my thumbs in my bib-shorts to keep from reaching into my pocket. The registration stub darn near burned a hole in my left butt cheek.

“Too bad that Miriam Henricks won in ninety-eight or you could be the youngest and the first female.” Granddad’s left eye twitched when he said her name.

He’d been the winner every year since nineteen seventy-three. Then she moved to town. He’d taken an instant disliking to her. I reckon her being the first person to beat him didn’t help none. Being neighbors and within spitting distance only made it worse.

“Do you really think I can win?” I asked.

I could picture the gleam on the trophy. The fierce struggle to reel in the biggest fish this town had ever seen. The different ways I could rub my victory in Becca Patrick’s face.

Granddad said, “I sure do. Maybe this year you’ll catch the Big Malloy. Just you set your mind to it, Jac. Anything is possible—”

“—with a little hard work and a lot of luck.” The Hayes family motto. Granddad lived by it. So had my Daddy.

“In your case, you’ll need all the help you can get,” he laughed and winked.

“Ha ha.” Another Hayes family tradtition.

He pointed down the road. “Want to get some ice cream before we head on out for a practice run?”

“Yep.” Like I was supposed to turn down ice cream. Not any time soon.

He stopped by his beat-up Ford Ranger, pulled his billfold from the ashtray, and tucked a few bills into my hand. “Run up and save us a spot. The line’s already forming.”

I zigzagged through the maple trees and cracks on the sidewalk. Kids pressed hot fingers to the smudged glass at Patrick’s Dip and Serve, debating the best flavor slushy.

Sixth in line. Granddad moseyed toward me, but stopped outside Blackthorn’s Pharmacy to chat with Walnut. He said Walnut was lonely. I said he was plain weird.

Granddad would be stuck for awhile, so I turned back and thought about the BBFT (Big Bass Fishing Tournament for those of you who’ve forgotten). The rules were simple. We had five turn-ins within three days. Best total weight wins. The real trick is knowing what is a keeper or a tosser. Daily leaders would be announced on WKLM Real Country. How cool would it be to hear my name announced on the radio?

Even better though was the trophy ceremony. People from all over came for the all-day barbeque. Local bands set up at the marina and played until the fireflies danced alongside us. I’d be hard pressed to think of a better day.

The winner of the tournament got bragging rights for a year and the pooled prize money. A twenty-five dollar registration fee times by at least one hundred people and you get a crap load of money.

If only I could catch the Big Malloy, I’d be sure to win. The Big Malloy was the meanest, smartest, granddaddy of all fish in Lake Chamblin. Granddad and I had almost had him last year when our line busted. Twenty five pound test and it snapped like a twig.


first thing is that the story itself seems to be in a time warp.
yes I live in the 212 but when was the last time a 12 year old inTHIS day and age said "I reckcon" or "burned a hole in my pocket".

It also suffers from over explanation, and too much set up.

I'd pass on this with the standard 'not for me' and keep looking for something that zinged.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

If I hadn't read the query letter, I'd've assumed the protag was a girl. And it seems to go on and on without anything interesting happening.

class-factotum said...

Welllll.... I live in the 901 (west Tennessee, right across from the 870 in east Arkansas) and it's not so unusual to hear "reckons" around here, especially from the country folk. It does sound like the story is set in the South. If it were up north, that bait shop wouldn't be just bait and tackle, it would be "Chuck's Bait and Beer."

Take out the new kid's green hair and it could be set in the late 40s.

xiqay said...

Tell the truth, Miss Snark--did you read the whole thing?

I didn't. I lost it at the Big Malloy. And I grew up in hillbilly* country.

*sometimes known as hilljack, and more formally as hill William.

Anonymous said...

Writer:

I thought there was quite a bit of charm in the writing, but yes, the story does need to be tightened up. Keep working at it, and good luck! You've got definite talent; you just need a bit more polish.

Boo Boo said...

I liked your protags voice, it feels like it was set in the past but I still enjoyed it. Enjoyed the easy going feel of the words

Anonymous said...

Were I still in the age group for this story I'd have stumbled big time over the oddball spelling of the girl's name.

Heck, it still tripped me. The poor thing is going to have to spell her name out to people for her whole life. I've got one of those bleep names and it has made me a very cranky person.

The first paragraph is composed of sentence fragments. All three lines. Frag sentences. Teaching bad writing habits. To kids. For atmosphere. Works okay for haiku. Not much else.

She's in bib--uh--something or others. No jeans and a slogan t-shirt combo which is the standard uniform for kids in this place/time? (They insist on it.) I had a mental pic of Scout and Atticus Finch, which is nice, but too nostalgic for the video game generation.

E. M. #667 said...

"Fictional novel" is prima facie evidence that the author has not been reading this blog.

Authors who do not read this blog, and learn its lessons, should not waste precious Crapometer time/space.

Next time, perhaps one of us devoted Minions can write an auto-disqualifier routine for the top ten nitwitteries.

Anonymous said...

Well, in the 540 and the 434, young folks do indeed say reckon.

Anonymous said...

Um, the protag IS a girl, according to the query.

I thought the tone was nicely consistent. Okay, the green hair and the odd spelling of the MC's name detract a bit from the general setting the tone seems to set, but really, I don't see it as all that far off the mark. I grew up in the 870 (that's the Ozarks, for those who are in the 212), in an area where people come to fish, and I could see this happening in a small Ozark town.

Actually, this seemed consistent with a good number of midgrades I've pulled off my library shelves (outside of the 870), and some of them had little gold stickers on them.

To me, this seems like a case of what's not right for one may be right for another. Lose the "fictional novel" tag and get it out to someone who reps midgrade.

Anonymous said...

Water tanks filled with minnows, gasoline, hogs

That opening image confused me right there. I thought, "Wow, those are crowded water tanks."

Anonymous said...

I don't read this kind of stuff and yet continued reading this through the end. (Although, I have to say I was forcing myself a little.) I don't mind that this submission got through... It isn't what I consider to be a total waste of precious crapometer space and time. The writer clearly is working toward a polished, professional piece. To that end, I would say trim this to about half of what you have - drop everything that isn't vital in establishing character/backstory/setting. You'll have a stronger start. I found the language rather charming. My daughter read all those "Junie B. Jones" books a few years back, and there is something about those that make you feel like you're reading about a kid in a kinder, gentler age.... Some of us want our kids reading about good clean fun - prefering it border on hokey than on edgy. I've heard of 6th graders reading that novel about Suzie Salmon - you know... the "what it's like for a raped and murdered teen in heaven" book. I can't believe I've forgotten the name! I'd rather my kid read this. Just pare out what isn't necessary - tighten - and go for it. You've got the skill to make this saleable.

literaticat said...

The opening image was baffling. I JUST figured out that there weren't gasoline and hogs in the water tanks. I'd avoid serial commas and parentheticals in the first paragraph - because the first lines are what hook the reader, and if the reader stumbles over construction there, you've got a real problem.

Plus. I know the smell of gasoline, and I can hazard a guess about the hogs, but do minnows smell? If so, like what? I don't think that is a given.

If I were you, my first paragraph would be something like:

"Some folks roll up their car windows when they pass by Chuck's Bait and Tackle, but to me, the smell of Chuck's is the smell of Freedom."

Or perhaps more simply:

"I've always thought that the smell of Chuck's Bait and Tackle is the smell of freedom."

And another thing: there are plenty of country-fried middle grade novels. They DO get published, have an audience and even win awards. However, I do think this should EITHER be set in the not-too-distant past OR you should update the pore lil' critter's look.

It would be VERY EASY to set this in the generic not-too-distant past and thus avoid the time confusion that other commenters have mentioned. You needn't give a date, or even make mention of the year in which it is set, just get rid of things that might date it. (This might mean finding a new strange trait for the green-haired kid).

For example, don't let them watch "Survivor" on TV -- if they watch TV, let it be a "broken down old TV set that hardly gets reception unless you put tinfoil on the antenna", that way it could be any time in the last 50 years.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Miss Snark for your wonderful and honest comments. They will be very helpful with this story and all my future writing. I’d also like to thank the Snarklings for their comments. I appreciate everyone’s opinion and in-put.

J.B.

JJ said...

Good writing that just needs a bit of polish. Put the character's age in the query and mention early that it's a MG. And make something HAPPEN in the opening - the conversation with Gpa, though telling and sweet, is probably not enough to make this manuscript stand out from crowd. (Maybe she GETS the entry stub in the first scene?) But otherwise this is pretty decent (and I've read a lot of, and have sold, MG fiction).

Sherry Decker said...

Hey, good luck, J.B. and don't give up. Persevere!

Frainstorm said...

Wow, the comments really surprised me. I write MG, and I was pretty impressed here. Kept me captivated till the end, and I can see some things already being set up.

Arch-enemy Becca Patrick and they're heading to Patrick's for some ice cream, that sort of stuff. Sure, there were a couple times -- but not many more -- when I thought I might change something, but overall I would have said this has a great shot.

And in my neck of the woods (yeah, people around here say that) you can hear reckon every day if you listen to folks.

Writer, if you want any line comments, let me know, but this is some great stuff. Good luck with it. And as Evil Editor would tell you, I'm not usually so positive.

John

Anonymous said...

John,
I'd very much like your input. :) I'll say that I was very nervous about submitting but am glad that I did. This has been a positive experience.

J.B.

Anonymous said...

I would have kept reading... of course, I have the dubious qualifications of being a parent of a couple middle graders, and so read many books aimed at that age. I'm guessing the ultra-tomboy, even so far as the bib overalls, is quite intentional... and I think the voice is fairly authentic. And this may well be set in the South, but it wouldn't feel too odd to a rural Pacific Northwest child.

JacklynKy said...

I enjoyed the voice of this piece. Maybe I am naive, or just nostalgic for a simpler time, but I like the fact that this kid is excited about a fishing tournament and not a rap video. I like that this kid is hanging out with her grandpa and doesn't seem to be doing it against her will. It made me think of Mark Twain.

I can't add much to the writing comments that have already been posted. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Yep, in the South, "reckon" and "burned a hole in my pocket" are still quite common in all age groups, from the 6-year-olds to the 60-year-olds.

I liked what I read, but I don't think I can add anything to the comments that have already been made.

Crystal said...

I like the voice, and rather than rewording, I'd just skip the first few sentences and go with "The smell of freedom. The smell of Chuck’s Bait and Tackle."

Then, when it goes into the description of the fishing tournament, everything indicates that the girl is going to, yanno, be in a fishing tournament. That she was on an a trip to get ice cream came as a bit of a shock, especially when she keeps describing the tournament as she waits in line.

It's enough to know that she's excited, and what the trip is. The conversation with Granddad is a fine way of introducing and underlining said fervor, but I don't need to know the rules of a fishing tournament. And I don't need it described before she's actually there...

Anyway, good voice. You don't suck.

Hava said...

Water tanks filled with minnows, gasoline, hogs (who, I think are truly wonderful creatures) and under it all the smell of Down Creek in the summer heat. The smell of freedom. The smell of Chuck’s Bait and Tackle.

After I read all of the comments, I went back and reread this paragraph. Three reads later, I finally figured out what you were actually trying to say. I am a speedreader, and sentences like this completely trip me up. Definitely need to rewrite this sentence.

FWIW, I'm from Idaho, and hear phrases like "reckon" and "burned a hole in my pocket" all the time. I loved the voice, and think you have a good start here.

Can't wait to see it in print!

Havs

Anonymous said...

I agree that the voice seems a little out of date - it struck me as a bit too overly Tom Sawyer.
Having said that, with a slight reckon-ectomy, I would REALLY like this. The writing is good.

Natalia said...

What bothered me was the "supposed to turn down ice-cream" bit. "Supposed" is the wrong word here, it jars horribly in my head. Something simpler would do, something akin to: "As if I would turn down ice-cream!" or "Would I turn down ice-cream?" Or... You get my drift. I'm a stickler for the little details, yes, I am.

The set-up is really cool. Needs work, but I think the potential is clearly there. :)

anonymous said...

Wow, the comments really surprised me. I write MG, and I was pretty impressed here. Kept me captivated till the end, and I can see some things already being set up.

Arch-enemy Becca Patrick and they're heading to Patrick's for some ice cream, that sort of stuff. Sure, there were a couple times -- but not many more -- when I thought I might change something, but overall I would have said this has a great shot.

And in my neck of the woods (yeah, people around here say that) you can hear reckon every day if you listen to folks.

Writer, if you want any line comments, let me know, but this is some great stuff. Good luck with it. And as Evil Editor would tell you, I'm not usually so positive.

John