Monday, April 16, 2012

7 1st 5 Pages April Workshop - AlvaradoFrazier

Author: Mona AlvaradoFrazier
Genre: YA
Title: Strong Women Grow Here

Chapter 1

In my first life, in Mexico, I traveled on bright colored buses,
decorated with sunflowers and vines. In my second life, my daughter
Katrina and I rode the graffiti spotted buses in Los Angeles, to and
from the baby doctor. Now I am seventeen years old and my journey is
inside a small brown van with two girls and two State Officers,
driving into my third life.

My friend in Center Juvenile Hall said the girls in San Bueno are
older, like nineteen, twenty but not as old as in the women prisons.
You better watch yourself, you’re too small to fight, she told me. I
have never been in a fight and don’t want to be, so I need to stay out
of the way.

The van swerves out of the fast lane and throws me sideways until the
handcuff on my wrist yanks me back making my belly bounce up to my
chest. My hand flies up to cover my mouth, a movement that alarms the
girl next to me. The one with the neck tattoo.
“Hey, she’s gonna barf.”
The oatmeal I ate for breakfast rushes into my throat where the taste
of iron floods my mouth until a retch escapes. I want to spit, but
press my hand tighter against my dry lips. The floor space between the
seat and the screen in front of me is tiny. I keep my head down. Just
in case. The officer in the front passenger seat pushes a paper towel
through the square opening in the screen.

“Ivanov, stop looking out the window, it’s making you sick.”

I try to nod my head but the effort makes me dizzy.

“No vomito,” the girl with the neck tattoos says. She crowds against
the other side of the seat.I close my eyes and pray that I don’t make
a mess on the girl who looks like a boy with her short brown hair
combed back, shiny with pomade. The blue-black letters on her neck
spell WF 13. I don’t understand what that means but I have seen these
letters on the walls of buildings from my seat on the LA city buses.

The driver has unblinking yellow brown eyes like the iguanas near the
river in my hometown. I see those eyes watch me in his rear view
mirror before they dart to the girl with the neck tattoo. She says
something to him and mentions my name. I don’t understand because my
English is not too good, but she sounds angry. My free hand begins to
shake and I put it under my thigh.

“You okay?” A soft voice floats from behind. I turn to see the girl
who we picked up from the last juvenile hall. Her eyes and skin are
the color of piloncillo, the raw sugar cones my mother used to make
Mexican chocolate. There are no tattoos on her face, arms, or neck.
She wears a small smile, crooked with fright. “She said don’t mess up
her clothes or you have to wash them when we get to San Bueno. Feel
okay?” she says in Spanish. “Me llamo Belinda.”
“Sí, gracias. Me llamo Juana.”
She nods her head and closes her eyes. She doesn’t want to talk. I understand.
“Hunh,” the girl with the tattoos makes a sound like disgust. I don’t
need enemies. I speak to her in the English I learned in the past
three years.
“No worry, I no get sick. What is you name?” She looks at me up and
down, with a squint in her eyes that I have seen many times in Center
Juvenile Hall.
“Jester.”
“Jess-tor?”
She shakes her head and crosses her arms against her chest. I try to
sleep but before my head touches the window, the van jerks and throws
me forward. My wrist pulls against the handcuff while my other hand
slams up against the screen divider in front of me. I barely keep my
face from smashing into it.
“What the hell?” Jester says. I turn to see her slide back into her
seat with a thump.

Through the screen on the window I can see a gray concrete wall with
several brick buildings rise out of the ground. Tall chain link fences
surround the backyards. This place is so much bigger than Center
Juvenile Hall. There must be hundreds of girls there. My stomach
squeezes tight under my ribs. I need to breathe.
The van turns onto another road. Soon the smell of dirt surrounds me
when the tires dip and bump over the path. It’s stuffy, I don’t have
enough air to breathe and my head throbs with the worst headache I’ve
ever had. My breakfast bubbles up in my throat again. I can’t hold it
in anymore. Spoiled milk and oatmeal splash onto the floor.
“Fuck,” Jester yells and yanks her legs up on the seat.
“Shut up,” Iguana Eyes says.
I wipe my mouth with the paper towel, now damp and torn from my
clenched hand. The bitter smell rises. Jester pinches her nose and
gives me the squinty look. Ay Dios, I hope I didn’t make an enemy. The
van stops in front of a tall steel gate. Silver coils like thin ropes
of a lariata curl across the top. Their sharp edges flash through the
gloomy sky. I feel dizzy looking up and shut my eyes tight while I beg
God to take me back to my first life.

Chapter 2

The driver, Iguana Eyes, jumps out of the van and slams the door,
while the nicer officer remains in the front seat. I can hear voices
laughing but the screens over the windows don’t let me see who is
outside. The door slides open and Iguana Eyes stands with his hands
crossed in front of his thick chest.
“Montes, guess who’s back? Gonzales thought it was time for another
state paid vacation at beautiful San Bueno Youth Correctional
Facility,” he says.
A lady with a purple headband holding back her wild frizzy hair
laughs. She has on a thick belt, like his, around a long blouse that
drapes over her black pants. Several keys dangle from a black strap
attached to it.

Jester tells the lady something and makes a loud smacking sound with
her mouth. This girl acts very familiar with the staff lady and
officer. Why isn’t she afraid of them? Maybe the girls at Center
Juvenile Hall exaggerated about San Bueno. Iguana Eyes reaches in with
his big hands and unlocks her handcuffs then pulls her off the van, by
her arm. “Watch it,” Jester yells, then walks across the driveway the
way the gangbangers at the park walk, slow and unafraid. “What’s up
Ms. Montes?” Ms. Montes jerks her thumb to a hallway behind her.

The officer gets out of the front seat and unlocks my handcuffs and
then Belinda’s. My wrist has marks around it like a red splotchy
bracelet. When I step out of the van the scent from the fields
surround me. It’s apio, celery, sending me it’s cool waves of moist
green. I close my eyes and for one brief moment, I feel like I’m in my
mother’s garden, back in Santa Isabel. The familiar smell brings me
some comfort.

Iguana Eyes says something, points at me and then the van. My stomach
starts to twist. Ms. Montes looks back and forth at Belinda and then
me.
“Which one of you is Ivanov?”
"Me?” I say.

7 comments:

  1. Great job! I still love it, but now I wonder if she would be thinking about what's happening and her daughter on this journey? I also think the sickness is taking up too much of the space now, whereas last time it was balanced more because you've cut. But the writing is still great, you did much better with the language issue and understanding who this girl is. I just want to know more internal thought from her about where she's ending up and what/who she's leaving behind.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nice job. I definitely like starting here! Is she pregnant again? I didn't catch the belly bouncing before, it if you mean just that the contents of her stomach bounce, rephrase.

    I agree with lisa that we could use more of what she is thinking as she heads to the facility,and clearer sense of how she feels about where she is going and why she is going there.

    Nice job!

    Martina

    ReplyDelete
  3. I really like the voice, and now the language issue is sorted out I'm finding it a great read!

    In that first paragraph - which is excellent, by the way - I think there could maybe be a bit more about her daughter. Where is she now, and how does your MC feel about leaving her behind?

    Looking forward to seeing your next draft - this is close to having me hooked!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I really like what you did with the first paragraph. I get a much better feel for the character, where she’s been and where she’s going. And I think it has voice.
    But I do think you get lost in a lot of telling and description. For ex.
    Her eyes and skin are
    the color of piloncillo, the raw sugar cones my mother used to make
    Mexican chocolate. There are no tattoos on her face, arms, or neck.
    She wears a small smile, crooked with fright. “She
    One of these sentences is enough to give us enough information about this character. Even if this character appears later and is important to your story, this amount of description slows the pace of the story.

    Also, some of the writing and voice sounds like stream of consciousness writing-that is, then this happened, then that happened. Make sure, especially in the first pages to hook the reader that everything is necessary and moves the storyline forward.
    She shakes her head and crosses her arms against her chest. I try to
    sleep but before my head touches the window, the van jerks and throws
    me forward. My wrist pulls against the handcuff while my other hand
    slams up against the screen divider in front of me. I barely keep my
    face from smashing into it.
    This is a really strong rewrite. Nice job.
    Shelley

    ReplyDelete
  5. Great work on your revision! This is much clearer.

    I'd suggest that you move "the driver" to the first time you use Iguana Eyes.

    Can you drop a small hint of why the MC is in this situation in the first 5 pages?

    This is just a nit pick, but why is she trying to sleep? It seems like a short ride and I would think she'd be too nervous to sleep.

    Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great work on the revision!

    I like that you started out with her past lives and where she is now. I'm hooked.

    It does slow down a bit slow with all the desciptions.

    Nice revisions, DiNae'

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thank you all for your very specific comments and examples. This helps me in revision. Interior monologue is my weakness and will concentrate on this area. See you all soon.

    ReplyDelete

Tell us what you think. We'd love to hear from you! :)