Monday, September 19, 2011

8 1st 5 Pages Workshop - September Entry #4 Rev 2

Name: Sarah Laurenson
Genre: Middle Grade
Thirteen Black Cats Under A Ladder
Chapter 1
My idiot brother knocked my breakfast off the counter. I grabbed for the bowl, but it slipped through my fingers and shattered on the cement floor. His laugh echoed off the vaulted ceiling. Great. Nothing to eat and an early start to the madness. At least my cereal was sans milk.
“You’re running out of time, Sasha. Less than seven months left.” He snaked his cane back across the kitchen island and jabbed the salt shaker towards me. “Spill it. Work on the cure.”
So not playing this curse game. I stuck out my tongue. “Careful or I’ll break your other leg.”
“Ah, but it’s your leg in danger,” Marcus said. “Trust me. Spill the salt. It’s easy.”
“Yeah?” I waved at his cane – evidence of his failure to cure this supposed curse.
“I did not complete the tasks. Learn from my bad example.”
The salt shaker was halfway across the island.
“You’re deranged.”
“That is not nice.” His lower lip pushed out beyond the three hairs he called a moustache. The salt shaker wobbled. He whimpered. The cane clattered on the counter.
Shattering his leg had seriously mushed his brain. Dropping out of school sure didn’t help. I grabbed the broom and dustpan to sweep up the mess before Mom could come down and add her bit to the insanity.
“You were clumsy. The curse doesn’t exist.” It better not exist. I was so not ending up like him. Not even for a complete absence of homework. I wasn’t traipsing down Curse Cure Lane either. No breaking mirrors. No popping umbrellas open in the house. Not even stepping on a crack and breaking Mom’s back.
“You’ll rue the day you turn thirteen,” he said.
Just because he broke his leg at his thirteenth birthday party was no reason my party would be messed up. “No, I won’t.”
“Yes, you will.”
Shaking my head, I tapped the pedal on the trash. The bowl shards and corn puffs tumbled into the can.
“What’s that!” Mom shrieked.
Too late. I dropped the broom and scampered out of range.
She flipped the lid on the trash. “Milk? Spilt milk!” She whipped around. “Did you cry? Cry!” She caught her breath. “Wait. Is it don’t cry?” Mom’s head jerked from Marcus, to the trash, and then to me. “Which is it? Cry? Don’t cry? Tell me!”
Silence fell in the wake of the hard wooden cane bashing against the hollow island. Marcus knew how to command attention. “It is salt.”
Mom yanked her long brown ponytail. “Salt? Who ever heard of crying over spilt salt?”
He lowered his head and looked at her through his bushy eyebrows. “She must spill salt. Neither milk nor crying are involved.”
“Salt. Not milk. No crying.” She snatched up the salt shaker and held it out to me. “Please?”
I backed up a step. There was no curse, so there was no cure. The salt could stay in the shaker.
Mom plopped down on a stool. Her attention turned from me to Marcus. “My poor baby boy. My fault. All my fault.” She started rocking, then dropped her head into her hands. Her shoulders shook. The wailing would start soon.
“Morning. What’s for breakf… Whoa.” Dad stopped short in the doorway. His ice blue eyes bulged under his hairless eyebrows. His gaze darted around the room and finally landed on the wall with the bird song clock. “Is that the time? Golf with a client. See you tonight.”
“Dad!” My hand reached out for him, but it was too late. He was the fastest escape artist I knew.
The clock’s minute hand reached twelve. The little bird popped out and spoke my family’s language. Cuckoo, indeed. Time to make my escape.
I took the stairs two at a time and locked my door. The only curse in this family was a distinct lack of sanity. I shoved myself under the bed and yanked on the box up against the wall. The velcro gave off a nice ripping sound. Nothing but a direct assault would dislodge that box.
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and let it out slowly as I opened my box of treasures. The photo of me at one-day-old went beside similar photos of Marcus, Mom and Dad. Next I pulled out the copy of my birth certificate with the suspiciously crooked words. And last came the magnifying glass. There must be a chance I was adopted.


  1. I'm not sure what has changed. I know some of the wording has, but I'm still wondering about what the thing is with the curse, and why the mom is acting like that.

    I do love the dialogue between brother and sister. Seems genuine the way they pick at each other.

    I would also look at the language. Sasha is 12 years old. Do they talk like that? For example: "sans milk," "traipsing," and "shattered on the cement floor."

  2. And one more thing - is your title Thirteen Black Cats Under a Ladder? I LOVE that title!

  3. Hi Sarah,

    There really aren't any major issues with this, except that

    1)I would still like more information about the curse up front so that I'm better grounded

    2)I would like some specific details so I know the characters better--what kind of cereal, why is the floor cement? etc.

    3) I agree with Halli about some of the language, although I was more caught by things like: "Cuckoo, indeed." -- more likely to be Cockoo was right, or something like that, no? Distinct lack of sanity--total lack of sanity, maybe? Etc.

    That's it. It's got energy, humor, and a unique, fun situation. Can't wait to read the next version.



  4. Still love it. You've added good explanations. I think what's causing confusion now is the distinction between the curse and the insanity. Are they related? Or just a coincidence? If it's a direct result of the supposed "curse" Maybe a line like I was not ending up as whacked as them or whatever a 12 yr. old would say would help clarify. The only line that pulled me out was sans milk. You could just say At least I hadn't gotten to the milk yet. Or something like that. But honestly, I just love this. The originality is off the charts. :D

  5. This is good stuff. Typing one handed cause of broken arm in cement cast. AAARRRGH!
    Come enjoy Pirate Alphabet starring some of your favorite authors and illustrators.
    have you thought about Sasha knocking her own bowl of cereal off the table? That could be the "Why is this day different from any other day" moment. Maybe Sasha is never clumsy. I GET THAT she doesn't believe in the curse and that her mother and brother do, but we nneed to know specifically what the curse is. i.e "i don't believe in the family curse. it's ridiculous to believe that if i don't do (whatever) before my 13th birthday, (terrible thing) will happen.
    you might consider letting the cereal spill happening 13 days before her birthday.
    thanks for letting mr read this.

  6. I liked these paragraphs from the first entry better.

    She yanked her long brown ponytail as she flipped the lid on the trash. “Milk? Spilt milk!” She whipped around. “Did you cry? Cry!” She caught her breath. “Wait. Is it don’t cry?” Mom’s head jerked from Marcus, to the trash, and then to me. “Which is it? Cry? Don’t cry? Tell me!”


    Mom snatched out a chair and plopped down. “Salt. Not milk. No crying.” Then she started rocking. “My fault. All my fault.” She dropped her head into her hands; her shoulders shook. The wailing would start soon.

    and I also think you should keep the

    “Salt. Not milk. No crying.” She snatched up the salt shaker and held it out to me. “Please?” -->It adds a certain amount of desperate, innocent pathos to the mix. I do understand that the mother is in a very fragile state, and you are trying to convey that.

  7. I loved it! A few questions? Why does the brother purposely knock her cereal off the counter. I liked the above suggestion on her accidentally spilling it. Greta Idea! I like your dialogue and the insanity of the situation. I would like to understand more about the curse. Have they always been this crazy? The father seems to be normal. I'm always thrown off when she heads to her bedroom.Is she going to school? Is this a weekday? But I love the ending you have. Just another detail to add to the story!! Fun to read. Sheri


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