Monday, May 14, 2012

5 1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Soontornvat Rev 1

Author: Christina Soontornvat
Genre: MG Fantasy
Title: Izzy Doyle and the Changelings of the Edgewood

The cashier leaned over the conveyor belt. Two of his bottom teeth were missing. “That neighbor of yours is a witch, or I’m a bull toad.”

Izzy swiveled around from the stand where she and her younger sister eyed the candy. She tried not to look too eager as she shuffled closer to the counter.

Izzy’s mom put on a polite smile and zipped up her purse. “I beg your pardon?”

The cashier narrowed his eyes. “You wanna know what she came in here and bought last week?”

“I can’t ima – “

Beef tongue. Now I ask you, what kind of person buys that? Put it in a potion or something, I bet.

Izzy’s mom smirked and started lifting the sacks into her cart. “I’m afraid we haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Malloy yet.”

“Oh it ain’t Mrs. You think anyone would marry her? Shoot, no. Marian Malloy would sooner put a curse on a man than say hello. Mind, I’m only tellin’ you this ‘cause you’re new to Everton.”

Izzy leaned over to whisper in her sister’s ear. “Hen, tell Mom you need to go to the bathroom.”

“But I don’t,” Hen said.

“I know that! It’s just a stalling tactic.”

“So why don’t you do it?”

“Because I’m listening! I want to hear more about the witch.”

This was without a doubt the most interesting thing that had happened since they moved to Everton. The possibility of having a witch for a neighbor just might be enough to make up for living in a town with no movie theater, no swimming pools, and – worst of all – no library. 

But Izzy’s mom didn’t share her interest, and hurried them out of the store to the parking lot. “Can you believe that nonsense?” she said as they helped load the bags into the car. “I don’t know why this has to be the only grocery store in town!”

Izzy stood next to the open car door, and looked over her shoulder at the faded Piggly Wiggly sign. From the amount of groceries her mom bought, she could tell they wouldn’t be coming back for at least a week.

“Hey mom, I think I left something in there…” She started to jog back across the parking lot toward the store.

“What? Sweetie, what did you leave?”

“Um – my lucky bookmark! I’ll be right back!”

The sliding doors whooshed open, and Izzy trotted up to the cash register. The cashier’s face was hidden behind a cheap tabloid newspaper with a cover that read, Elvis spotted at Monteagle Waffle House.

Izzy stood on tiptoe at the counter. “Excuse me?”

“Whatcha need, sugar?” he replied, without putting his paper down.  

“Was everything you said really true? About our neighbor being a witch, I mean.”

The cashier crumpled the tabloid and leaned towards her. “Oh it’s the truth, all right. And you little girls need to watch yourselves out there.”

Izzy bristled. At twelve, she hardly considered herself a little girl. But she could ignore the insult if it meant getting more information. “Why? What could happen to us?”

The cashier’s voice dropped to a whisper, and his eyes scanned side to side. “Anything goes near her house, it disappears. Dogs. Pigs. She says the fairies take ‘em, but I’ll bet you they all end up in a big, black kettle.”

The front doors of the store slid open. “Izzy, did you find it?” asked her mom, her hands on her hips. “Let’s get going before the ice cream melts.”

Reluctantly, Izzy followed her mom back out to the car. She took one last look at the rundown store, and then they started the long, pot-hole-riddled drive out to their new, old house.


Three drizzly, cooped-up days passed that left Izzy and Hen with nothing to do but help unpack boxes. The worst part was that all but five of Izzy’s precious books were travelling by flat-rate post, and wouldn’t arrive for at least another week. She read and reread those five until she had memorized every sentence. Just when the boredom reached a level that made her think she’d rather go to school than spend another day with nothing happening – something happened.

“It’s her, Izzy! It’s the witch!” Hen pressed her nose against the window that looked down onto the driveway, and bounced on her toes.

Izzy squeezed in beside her sister so she could see out the window. She couldn’t believe their good luck.

But when the old woman climbed out of her pickup truck, Hen’s face fell in disappointment. “She doesn’t really look like a witch to me...”

 The woman walking up their porch steps looked more like a farmer than anything else. Her work clothes were stained with mud, and her short, white hair peeked out from under a crumpled men’s hat. The only thing remotely witchy about her was that even though her wrinkles meant she must be at least seventy, she walked fast and didn’t stoop the way most old people did.   

“You can’t tell anything about her just by looking,” said Izzy. She tried to sound hopeful, but so far things didn’t seem very promising.

Marian Malloy didn’t have any of the standard witch traits. And Izzy should know. It was safe to say that she had read every fairy or folktale concerning witches. In fact, she was almost sure she had read every fairytale in existence, and the nine boxes of books in route to their house were proof. She knew that witches came in one of two varieties: hunchbacked hag, or cruelly beautiful sorceress. That’s just the way things were.

“Izzy! Hen!” their mother called from downstairs. “Girls, come down here, please. We have a visitor!”

The sisters exchanged quick looks, and then hurried out of their room and down the stairs. The old woman stood at the front door, dripping muddy water onto the rug.

“Marian, these are my girls, Izzy and Hen,” their mom said brightly.

Marian kept her hands in her pockets and nodded at them.

“Won’t you come sit down?” said their mom, leading the way toward the kitchen. “I’ve just made a pot of tea. “My husband works late at his new job with the county, and I’m not used to living so far from any other neighbors. It will be nice to have another adult to talk to.”

 “Humph,” said Marian, sitting down at the table. “Far as I’m concerned, the best thing about living way out here is not having folks to talk to.” 

Izzy’s mom laughed as if Marian had made a joke. “And you are certainly welcome to join us for dinner, if you like.”

Hen’s eyes grew wide as ­­­pancakes at this suggestion.

One corner of Marian’s mouth turned up a little before returning to a scowl. “No, I’ve got to get home to my own supper. I only came over because I was driving past your house, which I normally don’t do. I think it’s best that neighbors meet face to face. Prevents problems later on.”

Izzy and Hen pulled out chairs for themselves on the opposite side of the table. Izzy looked at the old woman’s fingernails, and wondered if they were stained green from pulling weeds or making potions.

“So, you girls got an opinion about Everton yet?” said Marian.

“We haven’t really seen much of it,” said Izzy. “It’s been raining since we got here.”

Her mom came to the table carrying a teapot and two cups. “The girls have been so helpful unpacking things for the house. Once spring break is over next week, they’ll be starting school.”

Marian drummed her fingers on the tabletop. “Everton Elementary is riddled with asbestos,” she grumbled.

“What’s asbestos?” Hen asked loudly.

Their mom cleared her throat and slid a teacup toward Marian. “Actually, Izzy will be at the Middle School. Sixth grade.”  

The old woman took the cup, and scanned Izzy up and down. “Sixth grade? You’re no bigger than a chipmunk.”

“My Izzy’s always been petite,” said her mom.
Izzy cringed. So what if she stood only an inch taller than her eight-year old sister? She hated the word petite. It made her feel like a small dessert.


  1. I like this story! I would like a little information (maybe just a couple sentences) about why they moved to this small town. If I remember correctly, you had a little more in the first version?

    Keep writing!!

  2. Good morning critique partners! I just wanted to thank everyone for their comments so far. This has been so incredibly helpful. I hope this revision addresses some of the issues brought up in the first round. If not, please say so! Be harsh! This is a fantastic opportunity to get critiqued by very talented people, and I want to make the most of it. Thanks again.

  3. Wow, nice revision! I was halfway through when I realized I was just reading and had forgotten to critique. I had to get out my fine tooth comb to find things to say.

    Izzy sounds like somebody who will drive this story now.

    POV problem. The cashier leans over the counter and displays missing teeth, but Izzy has not yet turned from the candy display to see. Or maybe I'm confused about the blocking - either way needs clarification.

    I don't quite understand why Izzy is trying not to look eager. It isn't clear whether she's actually getting any candy - if not, it should be hopeless yearning. When I first read this, I was thinking she meant to swipe some candy. I don't think that's what you mean to say. Clarify.

    Izzy's mom first puts on a polite smile, then she smirks. Is it intentional to make her become rude? If so, needs a little more emphasis. If she's just expressing disbelief, maybe do some action that Izzy would understand but the cashier wouldn't.

    Love the first conversation between the sisters. To make even better, it could use an action tag - something Izzy does to her sister perhaps.

    Instead of using "reluctantly" can you show this? Dragging feet maybe?

    I agree with Halll above about wanting a hint about why the family moved.

    Last sentence of first paragraph after the break - I call that "telling before showing" - I think you can reword to: Her boredom reached a level that made Izzy think she’d rather go to school than spend another day with nothing happening.

    The second time you used the witch's name, I had already forgotten it and so was confused. Remind the reader - "The woman the cashier had called a witch, Marian....or something like that.

    You can delete "at this suggestion" Not necessary and doesn't sound like Izzy.

    Why isn't the mom concerned about Hen going to the asbestos school? Is she older than Izzy? If so, I missed it. Somehow I got the impression she's younger.

  4. Hi! Great revision! You kept the awesome voice while addressing the issues. The one I still have a little trouble with (maybe it's just me though) is her age. I think perhaps it's the candy at the opening? Maybe she's bored at the store, or trying to prevent her sister from getting candy? IDK. Otherwise you've done well aging her a bit.

    The asbestos threw me too. As a mom, I'd be concerned about that comment if my daughter was going there. Maybe she can say something like it's all run down and full of termites? Or something like that.

    Great work. I'd definitely keep reading!

  5. fantastic stuff, yet again. I did feel a little dropped in by the first lines - as if I'd just been slammed into the middle of a conversation - but I got over that pretty quick because your writing is so good. My only nitpicking would be that this part: The worst part was that all but five of Izzy’s – read clumsily to me as it’s quite passive.

    Just when the boredom reached a level that made her think she’d rather go to school than spend another day with nothing happening – something happened. - I love this!

    And I think the asbestos is a good point - she was a bit blase about it.

    Otherwise, love the characters, the voice, the mystery, everything :)


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