Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Somewhat Manly Scrapbook Of Lumberstan's Big Woods Adventure

Our final submission this month comes from Alison DeCamp. You can find her on twitter as  @aliyooper. This is the first page of her MG Historical and she likes to describe it as Laura Ingalls Wilder meets Diary of a Wimpy Kid. My comments will be in purple and italics at the end. You can find out what Dianne Salerni thought about this first page over at her blog


The envelope sits on the kitchen counter. It’s as hard to ignore as my empty stomach at three o’clock in the afternoon. And it reminds me.  
It’s three o’clock in the afternoon. 
And I’m hungry. 
I stuff a hunk of bread in my mouth and examine the envelope closely this time, now I know it’s tied to so much hullabaloo, and remember the first time I saw it. 
To tell the God’s honest truth (which, of course, is the only kind of truth I ever tell), the first time I saw the envelope, I didn’t think much of it. Heck, it was just an envelope; it didn’t look like it would turn my life all topsy turvy. I picked it up, saw the sharp slit across the top and the empty space inside, and set it back on the table to continue on with my very important day. That was the day I spent cutting out pictures of trick banks to glue in my Scrapbook. I remember because Mama asked me what I was doing, and I told her “cutting out pictures of trick banks,” and she said, “Hmmm. Let me take a look, Stan.” The next thing I knew, she had snuggled up to me like butter on warm toast. I'm not sure why but this image creeps me out a little - but it's probably just me. I think if the narrator seemed younger it wouldn't.

I told her about all the money we would save with a tricky kind of bank, one no robber could ever break into. I am hoping to get one for my twelfth birthday, even though it costs a whole dollar, which is kind of expensive.
It doesn’t cost anything to look and very little to wish,” Mama said as she snipped the picture out of the Montgomery Ward catalog. “Also, we have lots of time for hoping--your birthday is almost a whole year away.” 
“Practically around the corner,” I replied, and Mama smiled. 
That’s why I remember, because my sweet Mama has not been smiling as of late. Hmm, this sounds ominous.
The second time I saw the envelope it was crumpled on the table. (I'm curious, when did this happen? Not long after the first time he saw the envelope?) When I flattened it out, some of the words looked like they were melting off the paper. It was still empty, and I was starting to wonder why. (Is he starting to wonder why or is he just plain old wondering why. Usually the only time you want to use start to is when the action will get interrupted. Usually.) In fact, some might say the entire scene appeared suspicious: an empty envelope, wrinkled up like a used hanky. Mama attacks messes like her very soul depends on it. If cleanliness is next to Godliness, she could be God’s Siamese twin.

“We don’t have much,” she says, “but we take care of what we have.”
She has the bad habit of picking up stray garbage before it’s even labeled as such. If she picks up something once, it’s a warning and twice it’s the trash. Which is why my valuable finds from magazines and catalogs are immediately pasted in my Scrapbook. And why I’m sometimes found digging things out of the garbage. And also why the crumpled up envelope was so out of place on our dining room table.
I am not the type of man (at 11, does he consider himself a man even though his mama still snuggles up to him? Just asking.) who jumps to conclusions, so although the situation seemed as strange as a cat in a wedding dress, (Love that expression) I most definitely did not overreact when I spied it for the second time.
I am not known to overreact. Also, I’m pretty sure no one even heard me scream. lol
The third time I saw it, however, was cause for genuine panic. It was twelve days ago, and the envelope was firmly clenched in the claws of a homely, old woman. Holy Cow! Is this the same envelope? 

 Well, all I can say (besides the fact that blogger is pissing me right the eff off with its wacky formatting) is that I am definitely curious about this envelope and why it keeps appearing and what was inside. There were a few spots that rang a little false but for the most part, I like the narrator's voice, which sounds like a boy might have back then. One thing that might help nail his voice a little more is by thinking about not only who he is, but who he's trying to be. I didn't hear any mention of a dad so I wonder if he's trying to be the man of the house but maybe doesn't quite feel that he measures up. In which case his comment about what type of man he is makes perfect sense. Or, is the dad just not mentioned and the boy is just a boy living happily except for this very odd envelope intruding into his ordered world. Either way I want to know what happens next. 

What about you guys, what did you think of this first page? Care to offer any comments or suggestions?


  1. Yes. I find this intriguing. Dump the 'as' words. That's easy to do. Drop 'very' in the naration part. Too many sentences in the beginning with 'and' and the first 7 lines are a bit clunky to me. Reading to oneself out loud helps to solve that problem. Other then that, I love the boys voice.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  2. Left my comments on Dianne's site.

  3. I always leave my detailed feedback at Dianne's, so I'm doing it here today!

    Normally I say cut all "thats" but I think "I stuff a hunk of bread in my mouth and examine the envelope closely this time, now I know it’s tied to so much hullabaloo, and remember the first time I saw it," would read better with a "that" before "know."

    I also tripped up on the narrator referring to himself as a man. I can see how some boys might want to, and it could be an important bit of characterization, but it gave me pause, just FYI.

    Otherwise, this is utterly charming.

  4. I liked this one. There were a couple places, though, I thought the voice needed some evening out -- meaning the age of the voice wobbled between eleven and thirty years old, if that makes sense.

  5. I really like the voice & I think its a very interesting concept. My son is a huge DOAWK fan. The biggest draw for him is the humor.

  6. I'm definitely interested in the envelope and enjoyed the voice, although I agree with L.G. that it could be evened out. The humor had me laughing, so that's good.

  7. Great voice and characterization!

  8. Thanks so, so much for any and all comments. I always take them to heart and appreciate the time it takes to read and leave feedback!

  9. And I understand completely about the voice...I guess for me it's that line between how the language was more formal in 1896 and Stan still being 11. In earlier drafts I had readers mention that it didn't seem historical enough. :) And as is revealed in the next chapter, there is no father so Stan is the "somewhat" man of the house. But maybe I need to clarify sooner.

    1. I think I would've gotten right off that was this was historical - even if I hadn't known. Certainly the pictures help, but also the language. And if Stan is the man of the house, then the comment he makes is fine. I sort of suspected it was just him and his mom.

  10. Love your new banner. It is great fun changing these things out.

  11. I really liked the story. I fell in love with the two characters right away and hoped he got his bank. However, I feel as critiquer in that the boy does seem older and sometimes younger than 11. Are you putting those pictures in the book? I think they add so much to the story.

  12. I really loved the intro to the story, and the voice is charming and good at weaving a story. Good job Alison! :)

  13. Intriuging beginning. The whole idea is fun :)

  14. I already commented at Dianne's, but now that you mention the boy referring to himself as a man, I have to admit I tripped over that a bit, too. Now we know that without a dad in the picture, he kinda IS the man of the house, so it makes more sense.

    I still like this beginning a lot.

  15. I commented over on Dianne's blog, where I had only good things to say! I wasn't bothered at all by Stan referring to himself as a man. In 1896, an 11-year-old boy probably would think of himself as the man of the house. Although I admit it would help to know there's no dad around.

    Usually, I would tell crit partners to avoid flashbacks on the first page, but I think it works beautifully here.

    Marcy, I sympathize with the blogger formatting issues. I've posted interviews with authors that involved cutting and pasting from email, and it's always a pain!


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