Monday, September 12, 2011

7 1st 5 Pages Workshop - September Entry #3 Rev 1

Sheri Levy
Middle Grade

Dog Days of Summer
Chapter 1
My dogs and I made so much noise playing tug of war in my bedroom I thought for sure Momma'd fly up here any minute. I said, "Sit." The dogs sat, tilting their heads sideways, eyes glued on mine waiting for my next command. Whew! All was quiet. I gave the release word, "Okay."

It wasn’t my fault they're so loud. They're just normal active dogs. I should’ve run them this morning, but I had things to do, like packing for our beach trip. I glanced at my watch. Panic shot through me. "Ooooh! One hour till Dad hollers, 'Trina, load em up'."

I tried to lift my wooden desk chair, but it was heavier than me, so I slid it backwards into the closet and climbed up. My duffle bag sat on the top shelf daring me to grab it. Ah. Crabs! I stood on my tiptoes and bounced. The ring of the phone startled me, but my fingertips reached the handle and held on.

“I’ll get it,” I shouted and yanked the bag to the floor. “It’s probably Sarah.” I rolled it to the phone. Sydney, my temporary fourteen-month-old Australian shepherd in- training to be a service dog, followed me out and sat at my feet. “Hello?”

Sarah never even said, “Hey,” or “How are you?” She just started yakking, "I've out grown everything so Mom took me shopping and I bought lots new stuff. Wait till you see my new bathing suit and…"

I ran my fingers through Sydney's long hair like a comb, listening, waiting, wanting to get a word in. I squeezed the phone to my ear with my shoulder and continued packing. Sydney, never more than inches from my legs, panted. His floppy ears drooped. His gold eyes gave a saddened look. He'd already learned that the suitcase signaled a trip somewhere and he wasn’t always invited.

Jake, my newly rescued Black lab puppy, flopped in the middle of the floor. Only his eyes followed me. If I got close to him, his long tail thumped. He worried, too.

During the moment Sarah paused to catch her breath, I blurted out, “I’m not taking so many clothes. I want to swim and play in the sand. Don’t you?”

She ignored my question and jabbered on. "We'll meet boys....”

This time I interrupted. “You want to do what?” I looked at the phone receiver as if it spit out a different language. I had pictured Sarah with her black and white Springer spaniel, Darby, and with my own dogs having the adventure of a lifetime, running up and down the beach, splashing in the waves, making sand castles and who knows what else. Sarah definitely had different ideas about our beach trip. Instead of arguing, I just cut her off. “Mom’s calling. See you in an hour.”

With my last items packed, I rolled the bag to the back door. As I sat on the soft top, air whooshed from the zipper. I rested, worrying about Sarah. I remembered her talking to Tyler on the last day of school exchanging pieces of paper. I wonder if we’ll still be best friends?

My dogs each plopped their favorite toy, a red ball, in my lap. I patted their heads and asked them, “Are you guys going to be good at the beach?” Sydney cocked his head. “I know you can swim in Mrs. Brown’s pond, chasing her geese, but Jake." His ears perked up. "You haven’t learned a whole bunch since you’ve arrived.”

I tossed each dog their ball so they'd jumped in place to catch them. They returned them to my lap, dripping with white, foamy slobber. We did this over and over until my cutoffs stuck to my knees and my fingers wrinkled from the slime.

After breakfast I carried their dog bowls to the backseat car floor not noticing the open garage door. Sydney’s eyes never left my hands, but Jake immediately darted up the driveway. I gasped. “Crabs. Crabs. Crabs. Jake. Not again!”

I ran up the drive, calling his name. He stopped in the middle of our road. Sydney herded him down the drive. I grabbed hold of Jake’s collar, headed into the house and clicked on his leash.

“Are you ready to go, Momma?” I tapped my flip flop on the hardwood floor as the second hand on my watch ticked, ticked, ticked. “Dad’s almost ready.”

Momma walked through the house one last time. “Trina, Honey, have the dogs pottied?”

“Yes, yes!” I pushed my wild curls behind my ears. “Sarah’s probably outside waiting for us and I’ve already put Syd’s cape on and all their stuff is in the car.”

Dad called, “Okay you two. Load ‘em up.”

I grinned. "Right on time! Let's go, boys." The dogs pounded through the back doorway. Sydney slid into his learned 'Sit' at the car door and waited for his next command. Jake leaned his head to the right, squinted his eyes like he was processing the word and copied Sydney’s ‘Sit.’

“Syd, you’re going to train at the beach,” I announced. “For a whole week!” His ears moved backwards. “And Jake, I expect you to behave, too. “ He wagged. I opened the car door. Both dogs rushed to get in. “Silly boys. Sydney, Wait…Jake, in you go… Good boy!”

My eyes locked with Sydney’s. Pointing my finger at his face, I counted one thousand-one, one thousand-two, one-thousand three in my head, and then said, “Okay!” Sydney leaped to the seat. I smiled. "I'm so proud of you. We make a good team!"

We drove across the street to Sarah’s house to caravan. I blinked and looked again. I couldn't believe my eyes. What the heck? Someone's taken over the body of my best friend.

She stood at the end of her driveway wearing black shorts with blue and green sea shells along the cuff and a tight, blue tank top layered over a white one with lace at the bottom. And her blond hair was French braided with a matching ribbon. Darby ran in circles and through her legs.

I wedged my head out of the window and said, “Wow. Is that you?"

She giggled, fluttered her eyelashes and twirled, showing off. I did see her eyes matched her new top, but I wasn't going to tell her. "I'm wearing my bathing suit under my t-shirt and shorts. Are you riding with me?”

“Sure.” She climbed in with her backpack. “Hi, Mr. and Mrs. Ryan.”

“Hi, Sarah,” Momma turned around and said. “You look very pretty! Are you excited about going to the beach?”

“Oh, yes.” She played with her ribbon. “I can’t wait to lie on the beach and work on my tan.”

The windows went up and the air conditioner blew. Sydney climbed on my lap. I scooted over letting Jake press his nose to the window.

“Well. Uh. That’ll be fun for a while,” I said. “Then we'll learn to surf? Or boogey board? Maybe ride a wave runner. Right?”

“Hum. I’ll have to see how cold the water is, or how many jellyfish I see on shore, first.”

“Oh, I can’t go to the beach without swimming.” I fidgeted in my seat. “I wonder what our beach house looks like! The realtor told Momma it’s older, but right on the water.”

“Oooo! That’ll make it easier to walk up and down the beach.” Sarah’s eyebrows rose as she smirked. “You never know who we’ll meet.”

I scrunched my nose. "Like I care!"


  1. Liked the feel of this. It sounded rather like middle grade rather than YA?

  2. Sydney, my temporary fourteen-month-old Australian shepherd in- training to be a service dog, followed me out and sat at my feet. --> Needs rephrased. Too much info in one sentence. Move some of it to the paragraph descibing Sydney's hair.

    I had pictured Sarah with her black and white Springer spaniel, Darby, and with my own dogs having the adventure of a lifetime, running up and down the beach, splashing in the waves, making sand castles and who knows what else. --> again, too much in one place. Rephrase and make this two sentences, at least.

    Still need to watch tense-issues. You're doing better, though.

    After breakfast (comma)

    We drove across the street to Sarah’s house to caravan. I blinked and looked again. I couldn't believe my eyes. What the heck? Someone's taken over the body of my best friend.--> Not my favorite sentences in this piece. The first sentence needs some rephrasing (just sounds a little clunky). The last sentence also needs to be slightly rephrased. How about something along the lines of: "My best friend looked like she had been possessed by the spirit of a young Britney Spears"...or something similar.

    Much better definition on the dogs' respective characters. Now they are starting to stand out as seperate entities. Do the same with Darby, please (one or two sentences for this dog).

    Overall, you've got a tighter read here, and more movement in these paragraphs. This is a much more interesting read than your first run.

  3. Hi! I like the addition of Sarah and the interaction/voice of the MC in response to her, so good job! I still see several tense switches. You need to decide past or present and read through for consistency.
    One small thing - you call the suitcase a duffle, then describe it (wheels, the way it closes, etc.) like a rolling suitcase.
    I still feel like there's a bit too much detail. She's excited about the trip, we are introduced to the dogs and Sarah, then maybe a bit too much exposition/business with prepping the car? See what's needed. Go through and ask if each sentence is necessary. Does it either move the plot forward or build character?
    Great revision!

  4. Love the descriptions of the commands to the dogs - like where she counts in her head before letting Sydney get in the car.

    I'm wondering if this would have more impact if there was no phone call. Have her be excited about the trip, maybe tell the dogs they'll love running on the beach with Darby. Then show her reactions to Sarah's changed appearance and talk of doing things like looking for boys.

    Did Sarah bring Darby? Last I saw he was twining between Sarah's legs. I'm assuming Sarah's parents took their own car and Darby went with them? Do you need Sarah's parents at the beach? There's room for humor here with all three dogs and the two girls in the back seat.

  5. I love the way the details about the dogs are staggered in with interaction from her friend. I think it shows the reader what to expect and brings the action along. I do agree that excluding the phone conversation since the girls are going to be seeing each other... Maybe some of the interaction with the dogs could happen in the car on the way to Sarah's house? Then, you can show the dogs doing this kind of behavior in action in relevant places in the rest of the story.

  6. Thank you all for your great comments. The duffel bag has been a question. I have a duffel bag with wheels, so that is why I kept that line. I hope others are not confused. Suggestions, please!! I've really looked for my verb changes. Thank you so much for pointing those out. The second chapter goes further into Sara and Trina's differences and the ride becomes very difficult for Trina.

  7. Hi Sheri, I can see you've been working hard on this! I think you've done a better job of including relevant details and giving us a clue as to what the main problem of the story is (MC and best friend conflict about growing up). Definitely a story-worthy problem that I'm sure many MG readers could relate to!

    I agree with the other comments that there are still some areas that could use tightening, and I still think you can omit the dialogue about packing up the car. As Lisa said, if it's not revealing information about the characters or providing necessary plot info, it can go. (Because the reader can assume that they'll pack the car before they go; it doesn't need to be spelled out, know what I mean?)

    The main challenge I see is regarding the MC's voice. I'm guessing she's around 11 or 12? For the most part, you do a nice job of reflecting that, but when I read the phrase "my temporary fourteen-month old Aus shepherd-in training to be a service dog" that pulled me from the story. Seems like a bit of an info dump, and not something a child would say. At the same time, other parts seemed too childish, like her phrase "I want to swim and play in the sand, don't you?" Even if she has zero interest in boys, I don't think she would be so shocked about her friend's interest. Maybe she could talk about wanting to surf/boogey board etc there rather than later and make a funny comment about not caring about boys. Just a thought.

    Overall, good work!


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