• Hi Michael, sorry to be late reading and commenting – we’ve had problems with both our electric and our internet this past week, when we almost never lose power or internet ever. It’s been weird …

    For your first scene, I’m conflicted in what to say. First, I like the information you give us about Violette’s interior life. But on the other…[Read more]

  • Riana, your story is shaping up so nicely. You’re doing a good job of making Albert sympathetic (who doesn’t wonder at some point what the heck they are doing with their life?), and the scene with them sipping whiskey had a lot of depth to it. Your dialog reads effortlessly, and you give us a lot of info in these two scenes in a nice, compact way.…[Read more]

  • Note: The first two scenes here will belong after Marcum walks out of the house in the rain. I’m trying to focus on the areas where I need to change things for my first scene each week and to bring over one that […]

    • Hi Maria. I can really “feel” the warm atmosphere you’ve created in the Landau and the beautiful colours, playfulness and safety. I also like the mentor personality Alvina takes on, yet in such a playful manner. I’m curious to see how she will “guide” him as the story continues.
      I absolutely loved this sentence: “He let his hands trail over the grainy tops of the ripe grass, letting it tickle his palms.” So beautiful and vivid! I also really liked the part where Marcum scratched Alvina’s head – I could just see the look of enjoyment on her face!
      I liked how you bring the childlikeness into his body language, for example the way he wrapped his arms around his shins. This sentence I had to reread two or three times to understand it: He sat up, a sudden movement of a small child and reminded Marcum that he inhabited the body of a much younger boy now. I think it is just the word order that threw me, because it makes sense. 😉
      I have to admit, although I’m starting to understand the flashbacks, I still find myself taking a while to wrap my head about the flow between the present and the past scenarios – but perhaps that is because you’ve changed their order (I think that’s what you’ve meant in your comment at the start).
      Anyway, I’m finding the Landau more and more intriguing and I’m very excited to read more about what adventure Marcum and Alvina will get into! I don’t really have any other suggestions, your writing reads comfortably and pleasantly and feels vivid! Well done! 🙂

    • Hi, Maria! I’m not entirely sure I understood what you said you were doing with your scenes, so I’ll comment on them on their own with no context. I’ll admit to feeling a bit conflicted. On the one hand, I love the idea of an older Marcum being back in the body of a younger one. But on the other hand, I like the idea of an older Marcum revisiting the Landau in an older body. I know these scenes aren’t necessarily in order, but I feel like I need some context of where we are in time. Maybe telling us exactly how old Marcum is. Something like, “although he was 14, he was in his 8-year-old body again.” And maybe also remind us of what was happening in his life when was here at that younger age. What was the incident that caused him to catapult into the Landau. I think I would also like to experience the transition more. You start with him being there and then reflect on how he thinks he got there. Maybe do it the other way around? Starting with the experience of the strange light on the porch. He doesn’t seem to be too phased by the strangeness either but just rolls with it. I’d love to know how he’s making sense of it at different ages. I’m also not sure why everyone felt nervous about the plane flying overhead. Beautiful imagery here all throughout, from the light and warmth of the sun, to the memories of the show about Australia and Daddy’s specific comic books.

  • Marcum felt like he was splitting into two versions of himself. He looked down, and saw the t-shirt and jeans he’d pulled haphazardly out of his closet this morning before school, and that matched the image he h […]

    • Hi Maria, it was quite insightful to get to know Marcum’s mother a little bit better; it really helps to clarify the context of his life and situation. I think you’ve done a good job of sketching her here – she sounds like quite a character! I was surprised in one of the previous scenes that she asked her teenage son to do the laundry, but now it fits! 😀

      I’m guessing there is a bit of a time lapse between the end of Week 3 and this week? I have to admit, I was quite curious to know what happened after Marcum’s stroll out in the rain! I’m also wondering why Trena is not on the bus? Pehaps I’ve missed it, but if not you can perhaps drop a clue about it?

      The Batman lunchbox and the special pudding were such a nice touch! You’ve managed to convey a lot with the pudding – the way Marcum gets special berries and not his sister. I also thought it was quite amusing the way neither Marcum or his mom thought that Joey sticking his fingers in the cup meant that is could no longer be eaten! 😀

      Well done, Maria, you’ve managed to tell a quite serious bit of the story here with movement and enough lightness to make it an engaging but digestible read.

      Looking forward to finding out more about the “special place!”

    • Maria, you really have a knack for capturing the child’s mind, especially the confusing transition age Marcum is in. The line “the boy’s belief in magic had kept him safe” was something I would like to have seen in a specific recollection or memory here. I love the details you add here, like the way Marcum daydreams in class about all the little lunch items Momma packed for him. Kids are either in the future or in the past, but rarely in the future, and I feel that here. Momma’s presence is much stronger here too and I can sense how Marcum sees her by all of the details, sights and sounds, he focuses on when she’s around — the arm around the shoulder, her turning his head. He seems to feel both protected and slightly afraid of her. The scenes where we actually experience what Marcum is feeling though these specific details of what he remembers, looks forward to, or is dreading, are my favforite and really make me feel like I’m IN Marcum’s story.

  • You do a really good job of establishing a lot of Corlwyn’s character flaws? traits? strengths? in this scene. 🙂 I laughed out loud at how he tricked the young boy into giving him money as an advance, and you really captured how Corlwyn loves the adventure, the danger of the game. The scene with the housemaid and lady in waiting was really well…[Read more]

  • Hi Riana, your storytelling is very poignant. Even though I’m not familiar with most of the places, I do understand losing an older relative, trying to comfort through familiar actions, and the small actions that occur even as we grieve. You’ve captured that beautifully here.

    One suggestion I’d like to make … when you tell us about the…[Read more]

  • Marcum’s hair, plastered to his head from the heavy rain, kept getting in his eyes. After about the fifteen billionth time of trying to push it back, he decided to stop fighting it. Instead, he cast his eyes d […]

    • Hi Maria. I loved this introduction to Marcum’s mystical world and the lovely red-haired fox! It sounds so warm and sunny and beautiful! Your scenery is descriptive (but not too much) and I could picture the surroundings in my mind!
      I have to admit, in that transition between the two points in time, I was a little unsure of what was happening. Was what followed after the *** a flashback to what happened or are you just mentioning that he thought back to that time and he was actually traveling in time? Since he says later that he was remembering talking to his Daddy on the phone, it doesn’t seem like a flashback. Or perhaps I am just being too impatient and it will all become clear as I keep reading! 😀
      I thought it was strange that his mom asked him if they are feeding him lots of yummy food, as she also said “you gave me such a fright” which implies it is the first time she is talking to him since he woke up from his spell. (Unless you were trying to show that she had been absent for most of the time he’s been there).
      You are doing a really good job at relating to the reader how restricted Marcum usually feels in his life. When I read about how he felt free to explore and pet animals because his mom wasn’t there it actually made me think of my own mom and how she was constantly telling us “No, don’t!” 😀
      I absolutely love Alvina and the way she almost embodies the almost topsy-turviness of this new strange world.
      I find your word choices so lovely and fitting. The way “just right” not only matches the way a 4/5-year old would talk but also reminds a bit of Goldilocks’s explorations, and the way “spell” hints at the magic at work here. (Perhaps I am reading too much into it, but it is fitting nevertheless!).
      I thought your closing paragraph (from “I don’t know yet…”) was very profound and feel like it hints at the central theme in your story.
      Very lovely Maria, well done!

    • The transitions between the first two scenes threw me. Maybe you’re just presenting your scenes out of order. In the first section, I like the subtle way you have Marcum notice the change in landscape and wondering if he wasn’t paying attention because he was lost in thought about his parents.

      The scene with Marcum waking up in the hospital is so vivid. You really make me feel and experience his confusion and disorientation with all of the sense. One thing confused me. If he was just waking up from a seizure, why would his mother ask if they were feeding him lots of yummy food? That would imply he was there for a while.

      It also seems like there’s something missing between him falling asleep and then realizing there’s a door he hadn’t noticed in his hospital room. Maybe something to orient us that he woke up not knowing how late it was or when his mother left.

      There are so many wonderful moments in this last section, like the memory of the conversation with Pappaw and trying to jump from stump to stump. I think since we’re dealing with a five-year-old, Alvina saying things like “affinity” would confuse him. His innocence and wanting to disconnect from the real world make his willingness to trust Alvina believable.

  • Riana, I really like the type of story this is shaping up to be. You’ve done a really good job at giving us a quick personality sketch of your characters so far, and no one is too perfect or too evil. 🙂 I think it takes restraint to provide the amount of information you’ve given us in such a short period of time, so kudos to you.

    For critique,…[Read more]

  • Hi Michael, lots of good stuff this week! I don’t know how detailed you want your feedback so if I go too deep, just let me know and I’ll take it down a notch. 🙂

    First, you’ve got some beautiful language here, very descriptive and precise. Calling Ahlara a courtesan lets me know what kind of prostitute she is, so that your previous state…[Read more]

  • “Hey Marcum, wait up!” 

    He slowed his steps but didn’t stop. After the mortifying incident in fifth period, Marcum wavered as he considered his options. His anger won out and he didn’t turn to see his friend h […]

    • Hi Maria!
      I am happy to see that Marcum and Trena were able to stay friends, but it looks like another hiccup presented itself.
      I enjoyed the way you showed us the change in his sister Bobbie Ann, how their relationship altered once she went to middle school. That is very relatable, people change as they grow.

      I loved this line:
      “The toast and jam threatened mutiny,”
      Very clever and fun way to say that!

      I am curious as to what will happen next. He is leaving his house and going into the rain!

    • Hi Maria. I felt like I got better acquainted with Marcum in these scenes without being overwhelmed with information and the story still being moved along – so well done! I think you did a really good job of sketching what was going on inside Marcum’s head; it was easy to understand and relatable to me. I’m guessing Marcum suffers from some anxiety, and liked how you described his regular experiences of life (such as the Rolaids and ginger ale) rather than spell out what is wrong with him. I felt drawn in to his life!
      I was a bit tired when I read this, so I might have missed it, but I was curious to know exactly what happened between Marcum and Trena in class. For example, did she yell? Did he yell back? You don’t have to go in to detail, perhaps just drop more hints? I liked how you did not explain the whole incident in chronological order – it matched that tone of not wanting to talk about it. Perhaps that is why you left out exactly what happened; in that case it works as it serves a specific function!
      Here and there I thought there might be some unnecessary words, such as the “iced” in “ice in fresh brewed iced tea” and “this afternoon” after “orthodontist appointment.” But overall this read smoothly and coherently and kept my attention throughout.
      I enjoyed the little body language gestures, such as Marcum turning up the radio volume and Trena hooking her thumbs into her shoulder straps.
      I liked the Wizard of Oz reference, and the way the “literature” in his life is almost seeming to become a theme.
      Enjoyed this! 🙂

    • Great scene with a lot of character insight about Marcum. For some reason, I didn’t think Marcum was in high school. He seemed much younger in the last scene, like maybe grade school. Maybe it’s the use of Daddy. I would think a high school student would want to sound a little more “grown up.”

      Bouncing back-and-forth between the incident with Trena and walking to the student parking lot threw me a little. I’m wondering if you just laid out the chronicle of events all in one chunk, that would make it more clear. Maybe open with Marcum storming away and reliving the whole incident and then Trena calling and chasing after him.

      I think because Marcum is always connecting the dots, something might have dawned on him about his mother possibly going on a date. Maybe something he saw on TV or heard a friend say about their parents. He just seemed a bit too naive at that moment based on what we’ve of him so far.

      As always, you put us right in Marcum’s experiences with his vivid and specific memories, like the Reader’s Digest article and his routine to deal with an upset stomach. I also enjoyed the phrase, “The toast and jam threatened mutiny.”

  • Hi Michael, good feedback about being more dramatic with the farming and animals. I knew plenty of people who had to do farm labor when I was a kid, and you’re right – we were all pretty horrified at the thought of having to help set tobacco, put it up in the barn, put silage in the troughs … you name it. So I appreciate it. 🙂

  • Hi Riana, thanks for your feedback. I know the phrase “window unit” could be something to trip up readers. I’m writing a story set in the 1980s, when a lot of people here (in the US South) still had window air conditioners instead of central heating/air. I’ve had trouble showing the time period I’m going for because it’s recent enough that it…[Read more]

  • Thanks, Casey. I appreciate the feedback. So … I live in the south, and it is pretty common for some adults to still refer to their parents by Mommy and Daddy (especially in the eastern parts of Kentucky and Tennessee, as well as the western parts of West Virginia and and Virginia). I’m trying to be as close as I can to sense of place, because…[Read more]

  • Hi Casey, I don’t believe I read any of your scenes during the first draft, but what a wonderful world you’re building here! Since you asked about starting the story with the myth, I’ll throw in with Jessica and say I like it this way. I am curious to know more about Talia and I feel certain that the myth you gave us is somehow going to play a big…[Read more]

  • Hi Leona, I don’t think I read any of your scenes during our first draft. Wow – your story packs a punch with this strong opening. I like the world-building you’ve done here, while laying out the immediate conflict among family members.

    Some critique: at the very beginning, it was difficult for me to know which sister was talking with the…[Read more]

  • Hi Michael, I’m just as intrigued by this pair as I was in the first draft. I noticed a couple of things, but it could be that I missed a detail or two. At the end of your first scene, I noticed that they are leaving via the alley behind the Golden Gryphon and you mention it again in the next scene. But when Violette asks (at the end of scene…[Read more]

  • Riana, I really enjoyed these opening scenes for your story. I can’t remember if I read any of your scenes during the first draft, but there are a lot of things that hooked me here. For me the most important detail is that your main character is relatable. It’s obvious his life isn’t very exciting, but probably he doesn’t have too many real…[Read more]

  • Marcum scuffed the bottom of his shoe against the bus’s floor as he stared out the window waiting for the bus to pull out of the parking lot. His scowling face stared back at him from the window’s reflection, and […]

    • Hello Maria!
      This was a good opening. You give us a lot of information about the world Marcum is growing up in and dealing with currently.
      Your descriptions are very vivid and easy to picture.
      The embarrassment of the middle school memory was well done. I felt so bad for him and kids are so brutal at that age. I remember tripping up the stairs once and heard about it for a month afterward. You do a great job here of showing us that trauma.
      It was nice to see Marcum had a friend in Trena. I hope they stay so after he spilled the bit about her father to his own sister though!

      I was a little thrown by the use of Daddy, but I typically associate it with a smaller kid using. I enjoyed the way you took us back to his memories with his father. You showed us good information about their relationship and the dynamics of the family with telling us.

      I am intrigued about what will come next. Your writing is lovely and very easy to read!

      • Thanks, Casey. I appreciate the feedback. So … I live in the south, and it is pretty common for some adults to still refer to their parents by Mommy and Daddy (especially in the eastern parts of Kentucky and Tennessee, as well as the western parts of West Virginia and and Virginia). I’m trying to be as close as I can to sense of place, because I’m trying to write what I know. 🙂 You are not the first person to comment on this, and I may change it at some point. Since this is only second draft, though, I’ll leave it for now. I got bigger fish to fry in my current draft!

    • Hi Maria, I really enjoyed the opening of your story, and the characters! Marcum’s inner thoughts feel natural and remains captivating throughout. You also chose your details very smartly in order to introduce your characters and the relationships between them. I thought your descriptions of Marcum’s relationship with his dad and their visits were especially stunning! The awkwardness and the comic books help the reader to see into Marcum’s world.
      Your writing style is lovely; it is detailed but light, easy to visualize and reads comfortably and coherently. I like the way you describe small everyday things, such as moving his bag a little closer to the “bus wall” (love that description!) to make more room for her legs.
      The “window unit” had me a little puzzled, but I realised later on that it was an air conditioner!
      I’m just curious: I see you said your genre is fantasy, but I couldn’t really find a hint of that in these two scenes. I know there are still plenty of time in the story for that, but perhaps you can you just hide a small few clues here that there is an element of fantasy coming in your story, otherwise it might seem too unexpected later?
      Well done!

      • Hi Riana, thanks for your feedback. I know the phrase “window unit” could be something to trip up readers. I’m writing a story set in the 1980s, when a lot of people here (in the US South) still had window air conditioners instead of central heating/air. I’ve had trouble showing the time period I’m going for because it’s recent enough that it wasn’t that different, but far enough back that people who grew up in that era will get some of the cues I’m giving but others will not. If you have any ideas on how to show the era better, I would love to hear them.

        Because you asked, I will give you a little bit of what’s in store. Marcum doesn’t love his life. His mom is over-protective (for good reason, but try explaining to a kid why he’s not allowed to do what other kids are doing), and he feels isolated. In the next few scenes, he will move into an alternate world, one where he fits in and gets to do so many of the things he isn’t allowed to do in the “real” world. Not too many spoilers there. 🙂

        • Hi Maria! Ah I see, the “window unit” makes sense now! I love stories that takes place before the era of cell phones and laptops! 😀 If I think of any ideas to drop clues about the time I’ll let you know. I also love alternate universes, so very excited about reading your story! 😉

    • Hi, Maria! I’m so excited to be back with Marcum again for another round. One thing I noticed this time around was how much his mind jumps from thought to thought (or rather memory to memory). It feels like just how a child’s mind works.

      Passages like “He’d seen it done plenty of times on Mamaw and Papaw’s farm…” and “he’d felt like he had to be polite while at the apartment, as if he was visiting someone else’s parents” shows how he’s are still making sense of the world through his relatively small storehouse of memories.

      There are a few moments where the dialogue feels a little too adult and too articulate. A sentence like “Then I guess you haven’t heard that my dad decided that he’s going to be a dairy farmer” could me more dramatic and emotional. I could picture hearing it on a school bus: “You didn’t hear? My dad bought a farm. With cows. I’m going to be milking COWS, Marcum!”

      I also liked the way Marcum moves from feeling alone in the first scene to latching on to the thought of Trena sitting with him on the bus a few days a week… and then being mad at ruining all of that by losing control around Bobbie Ann. Anyone who longs to be a kid again doesn’t remember how emotionally tumultuous those times really were.

      • Hi Michael, good feedback about being more dramatic with the farming and animals. I knew plenty of people who had to do farm labor when I was a kid, and you’re right – we were all pretty horrified at the thought of having to help set tobacco, put it up in the barn, put silage in the troughs … you name it. So I appreciate it. 🙂

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Maria Johnson

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