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Young Adult Novel (4)

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Jun. 17th, 2012 | 12:03 am

First Literary Magazine Carwash of the year, the weekend after flood day, which is not as stupid as it sounds. Around here, the saltwater from the bay backs up through the storm drains and everyone’s car gets gross after plowing through low-lying intersections at five miles an hour, frothy red-brown wakes behind them. We made a bunch of signs with “UNDERBODY RINSE” in big letters and Sarah-Lynne brought her dad’s hose nozzle.

We meet in the BK parking lot at 8AM, everyone holding onto Croissan’wiches and Cokes while I negotiate with the manager about which faucet to hook on to and get the water cooler.

I holler across the lot, “Sarah-Lynne, can you fill this up?”

“Would you like to add the magic word?”

“Can you fill this up, beeyotch?”

She wrinkles her nose at me and mock-stomps over to grab the cooler.

Item.
Sarah-Lynne Dennis
Hair: Mouse brown
Clothes: The Boys Frighten Me Must Hide Early Development Collection, mostly brown and always baggy
Likes: T.S. Eliot, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton
Writes: Anti-sexism-in-schools editorials for the teen page of the city paper
Has known me since: 5th grade
Has said hi: Does not believe in shortening the English language, only says “Good morning” or “Hello”


Item.
Samuel-Not-Sam Löwy. Don’t forget the umlaut.
Hair: Jew-fro
Clothes: It’s a kippah not a yamulke
Likes: Steven Spielberg, Jon Stewart, David Sedaris (secretly)
Writes: World War II Screenplays
Has known me since: 5th grade (I moved here)
Has said hi: Ever since his mother called me a shiksa at his 11th birthday party. I wasn’t that offended, but it’s not like I’m drowning in friends.


Item.
Tyler, last name as yet unknown.
Hair: We went over that. Flip back.
Clothes: Dressed to car wash in black wife-beater, board shorts, beautiful arms, beautiful legs, and built-in tan.
Likes: Burger King? Car washes? Bad high school poetry? How should I know, I just met him and what’s he doing here anyway?
Writes: Maybe? Why else would he be here at 8:15 on a Saturday morning?
Has known me since: Drool-y wakeup in library yesterday. Or immediately prior.
Has said hi: This makes twice.

Totally gobsmacked (gobsmacked: British slang, astounded or astonished, two more SAT points for you, you’re welcome), I end my conversation with the BK manager with “ThisisgreatthankyouI’llcomeinifweneedanything” and haul across the lot before my group of Passes For Friends completely alienate the new boy, just by being their special snowflake selves. Hard to believe, I know, but it happens.

“Tyler? What are you doing here?” I graciously sputter out.

“Nice to see you, too.” He looks at Sarah-Lynne and Samuel. “Hi, I’m Tyler.” 

“Sorry. I just didn’t expect to see…anyone new here.”

“I heard there was a carwash. I thought I’d get to know the literary magazine.”

Samuel demands, “Do you write? Because we’re writers.”

I shoot him a look. “Samuel, we can use the help. He doesn’t have to write.”

“Aurora. This is a Literary Magazine carwash. Not some random club anyone can join.”

At this moment, I would like to oppress Samuel until he discovers an urgent need to go to Zion right now. “Samuel. We are three. If more than two cars show up at once, we’ll be dying, and we need to make at least $300 today.”

Sarah-Lynne pipes up, “Diana’s coming over to hold signs after skating.” Her little sister spends every Saturday morning at the ice rink, thinking she’s going to be the next Michelle Kwan.

“Great. Thanks,” I say. “But we’re still very happy to have the help, thanks for coming, Tyler.”

“Actually,” Tyler says, “I write, too.”

“You do?” I must sound more stunned than I think, because he gets that would-be-blushing look again.

“Yeah. I have a blog.”

Samuel pipes in, “I think we could debate the literary merit of the weblog genre—” and right before I strangle him, adds “But it’s certainly a gateway. Welcome aboard.”

“Yeah, aboard the good ship BK,” I add. And then two cars pull in at once before I can say anything dumber.

* * *

I start counting money at 2:30, the cars have slowed to an occasional impulse pull-in. The BK manager offers us all free lunch, and Sarah-Lynne and Samuel and Diana (still in her skating leotard, plus track pants) are heading towards the restaurant when a giant SUV pulls in.

“We got one more!” I holler over, and Sarah-Lynne’s shoulders droop a little, it’s been a long day.

“Keep going, guys,” says Tyler. “We got it. Save us some fries!”

Diana and Samuel are already through the door, but Sarah-Lynne turns around and asks, “Are you sure?”

Tyler gives her a thumbs-up and grabs a bucket. I shove the money envelope into my shorts and grab the hose. The blonde lady in the driver’s seat rolls down her window to ask how much for a car wash. I tell her, “It’s donation-based, whatever you want to give. We’re raising funds for the Reagan High literary magazine.”

“Great!” she says, and while she’s rooting in her purse she says, “You must know these three, then!” And I realize that piled into the back seat are

Jessica,

Ashley

and Hannah,

and it doesn’t really matter whether this is Mrs. Mattoni or a Mrs. Cohen, my fairy tale has just switched to Cinderella. Mrs. Whoever finally digs out her slim leather wallet and pulls out a twenty. Tyler knocks on the window on the other side, “Anybody coming out before I start hosing?”

“Go get some burgers, girls, I’m going to make some calls,” says Mrs. Whoever. And three sets of shiny hair and perfect teeth pile out of the back, Tyler holding the door and sweeping a mock bow.

Jessica says, “Hey, you’re the new boy.”

“Oooh, smart and pretty,” says Tyler, stabbing me in the solar plexus.

“Jessica’s having a party tonight,” says Ashley. “Why don’t you come? Get to know some people?”

“Sure, thanks.”

“What’s your number? I’ll text you the address,” says Ashley, stepping in front of Jessica who currently does not have a boyfriend and is giving the ‘you guys’ look to her friends.

Tyler takes her phone and types it in. They text him right there. Over by the cooler, his jacket pocket rings. Hark. Meanwhile, someone’s talking to me.

“Um, if you go ahead and start, maybe it will be done by the time the girls eat?” Oh, yeah, Mrs. Whoever. Carwash time.

“Just roll up your window!” I say, and she laughs like it’s the funniest thing ever.

The BFF’s walk towards the BK door, looking adorable in not-quite-matching-but-chosen-together outfits. And then Tyler pulls the knife out of my chest and throws it at them. “Hey—Jessica! Is it OK if I bring Aurora here?”

They turn. It is so not OK. I smile, weakly, and wave, weakly. Jessica tosses her hair.

“Yeah, sure. Bring whoever you want.”


whipchick is writing a Young Adult novel, parts of which may be read here, here and here.

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Comments {25}

Ellakite

Looks very good.

from: ellakite
date: Jun. 17th, 2012 04:21 am (UTC)
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Interested in learning more about Tyler. One question: How did Tyler learn about the car wash if he wasn't already a member of the Lit Club?

Overall, though: first rate story-telling.

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whipchick

Re: Looks very good.

from: whipchick
date: Jun. 17th, 2012 04:30 am (UTC)
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Thanks! Good point :) I'll put it on the morning announcements.

Have been thinking of you - let me nail down three more entries and then message!

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Ellakite

Thanks for thinking of me.

from: ellakite
date: Jun. 17th, 2012 04:42 am (UTC)
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I knew you were busy with this week's entries... but as you may have seen/will see, I've had an interesting couple of weeks...

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Holly

(no subject)

from: minnesattva
date: Jun. 17th, 2012 08:10 am (UTC)
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And then Tyler pulls the knife out of my chest and throws it at them.

Way to go Tyler! Sad that the girls' ostracism of Aurora is so obvious he knows that he needs to ask, that she's not already invited.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jun. 18th, 2012 04:28 am (UTC)
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OOoo, I hadn't even thought it through that far - I like that you picked that up!!

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Holly

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from: minnesattva
date: Jun. 18th, 2012 01:41 pm (UTC)
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I have rather a lot of personal experience, which this chimes very well with, to draw on.

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Rowan

(no subject)

from: mzrowan
date: Jun. 17th, 2012 02:45 pm (UTC)
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I'm loving the YA excerpts!

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jun. 18th, 2012 04:28 am (UTC)
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Thanks! That's the book I'm working on now :) Will keep you posted!

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carcrash heart

(no subject)

from: genesisdesire
date: Jun. 17th, 2012 04:48 pm (UTC)
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These are always a delight to read. Your protagonist has such a brilliant voice. I hope you feel like putting up a Kickstarter for this. I would gladly fling money at you to own a copy of your work.

Edited at 2012-06-17 04:50 pm (UTC)

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jun. 25th, 2012 09:58 pm (UTC)
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Thank you!! I'll probably try a traditional agent path first, but Kickstarter's a great idea!

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Lose 10 Pounds of Ugly Fat...  Cut Off Your Head.

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from: n3m3sis42
date: Jun. 19th, 2012 07:16 pm (UTC)
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How are you keeping these standalone? Teach me, o wise one.

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blahblahblah, whatever

(no subject)

from: kathrynrose
date: Jun. 20th, 2012 06:30 pm (UTC)
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Teach me, too. I'm tracking this thread now. :)

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jun. 25th, 2012 10:18 pm (UTC)
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OK. That's a tough one :) Thanks for the challenge!

I think it has to do with expressing a complete thematic thought in one section, and making sure there's a strong initiation at the beginning, and a "button" at the end. And having a voice/main character distinct enough that the reader understands who they are and why they're here without any backstory.

So, to use the piece above, when it stands alone:

The thematic thought is "Aurora Dawn is having a typical geek day, when something new happens and there's hope for a better life."

The button is, "Sure, bring whoever you want," which subtextually says, "You can date all the cute boys you want but it will lower them instead of raising you," or, it can also say, "Aurora just scored a point--the game is on."

And (I hope) the snarkiness of the voice lets us know that she's a geeky high school girl and we can all relate enough to make assumptions about who she is and what she's doing without her having to tell us.

Then, my hope is that when the piece is in the book, the thematic thought is, "Aurora's routine has been broken--what might happen now?" and also, "Tyler's able to stand up for himself and he's confident" and, "There's a prize at stake--friendship with the new boy."

And the button will definitely read as "the game is on, flip to the next page and let's find out what's going to happen at this party."

High context/low context communication I think are also big things to be aware of - it's something we talk about in theatre improv and play-writing. A lot of times, when we want a chapter to stand alone, we get trapped in low-context communication:

"Hello, Bob," James said, trying not to show his disgust at meeting the man who'd slept with his wife. His promotion was on the line, though--he had to be pleasant.

Where we over-explain to make sure the reader GETS IT.

Instead of high-context, where we trust the reader to make associations (or read further to find out what's up):

"Hello, Bob," James said. Does he know I know?
"I'd like to talk about the Martin account," Bob said. "I think you're about ready to handle it alone."
He doesn't know
Bob was still talking. "How's Marlene?"
He knows.
James twisted his wedding ring unconsciously. "She's--she's fine." He met Bob's eyes. "She's fucking fine."
For a moment, the silence stretched, and then Bob laughed, uproariously, and slapped James on the shoulder, so hard they both staggered.

So we know something happened, and we may not know what yet, but the process of "trying to find out" is so much more compelling than the process of "having the situation explained." And when the whole thing is explained, it doesn't stand alone, because it's like nothing happened - we just got told stuff. But when we have to investigate and make discoveries, there's a sense of satiation and completion because we found out something, and that's fulfilling even if the story's not over, and even if we started in the middle.

So, as I write this comment, and discover what I'm talking about (again, thanks for the challenge) I actually think that last paragraph is the most important - that the reader needs to make a discovery, which, if it goes hand in hand with the completion of an action, feels like a complete piece.

What do you think?

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Lose 10 Pounds of Ugly Fat...  Cut Off Your Head.

(no subject)

from: n3m3sis42
date: Jun. 25th, 2012 11:43 pm (UTC)
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OMG yes. Thank you. The high-context communication is what I needed the most. Because I swear if I have to write "the things I write become real" or "Daisuke is my best friend" one more time I'm going to claw my own eyeballs out.

I constantly need to remind myself to show and not tell. This really just a subset of that, in a way.

Although a strong beginning and end seem important in any piece, too. :)

Thanks!

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blahblahblah, whatever

(no subject)

from: kathrynrose
date: Jun. 26th, 2012 03:21 am (UTC)
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I think I hope you clipped this so you'll have it for your book or your classes.

That's very helpful and I love the example at the end.

FWIW, I took it that Aurora scored a point.

I've thought about trying to write an excerpt for a HG entry. Maybe one of Nenna's stories.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jun. 26th, 2012 08:02 pm (UTC)
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I copy-paste into a doc all my long-winded diatribes :)

Glad this was useful!

Yes, a Nenna story would be a fabulous excerpt!!

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jun. 25th, 2012 10:19 pm (UTC)
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I don't know how comment nesting works, so just in case, i answered this below kathrynrose's reply just below :)

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Jemima Pauler

(no subject)

from: jem0000000
date: Jun. 20th, 2012 05:57 am (UTC)
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I'm loving this story(ies), and the protagonist, and the detailed way the world around her is filled in. And the humor. :)

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jun. 25th, 2012 09:59 pm (UTC)
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Thank you - this one's close to my heart :)

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Jemima Pauler

(no subject)

from: jem0000000
date: Jun. 26th, 2012 05:20 am (UTC)
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You're welcome. :)

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basric

(no subject)

from: basric
date: Jun. 20th, 2012 11:04 pm (UTC)
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Another excellent entry.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jun. 25th, 2012 09:59 pm (UTC)
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Thank you very much!

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The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors

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from: halfshellvenus
date: Jun. 22nd, 2012 05:50 am (UTC)
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Clothes: The Boys Frighten Me Must Hide Early Development Collection
Yes, that is a fashion. Nice to have a label for it!

The Jew-fro reference kind of jolted me, though. Unless Samuel is saying it, that's a touchy area.

and while she’s rooting in her purse she says, “You must know these three, then!”
This made me think (whether you've run across it before) about the way in which parents often imagine children who know each other surely must get along. It's as if they've got the pre-school goggles on and don't realize that the backstabbing middle-school years change everything.

And possibly that their own perfect princes of a child is now a twit. :0

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Jun. 25th, 2012 10:02 pm (UTC)
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I worried about Jew-fro a bit, but three of my friends have them and told me they were cool with it - they're probably not speaking for all of Judaism, though, and yeah, I'll definitely have to make sure that the context works. In the book as a whole, the protagonist will show up later at a Jewish holiday event, so I'm hoping to make sure that Samuel is a rounded character and that the references to Jews and Judaism are well-thought-out and carefully researched. Thanks for confirming that strategy!

Oh, God - parents who assumed we'd all get along :) And my favorite, "What do you mean you don't have any friends? You always played with Susie!" and now Susie's captain of the cheer squad...

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The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors

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from: halfshellvenus
date: Jun. 25th, 2012 10:44 pm (UTC)
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I worried about Jew-fro a bit, but three of my friends have them and told me they were cool with it - they're probably not speaking for all of Judaism, though, and yeah, I'll definitely have to make sure that the context works.

To me, it seems like a phrase people might joke about from within a group, but to use it outside of the group (especially to label someone with it, as happens here, where it's internal thinking and not even a form of teasing)... I can't think of it as anything other than offensive. If your main character were Jewish, maybe, but if not then it just comes off as mean.

What do you mean you don't have any friends? You always played with Susie!" and now Susie's captain of the cheer squad...

It's funny-- I'M a parent, and even though I've been through it from the other side as a child, I still found myself thinking things like, "You mean that shy girl? She turned snotty?" Because time is so fleeting when you're older, and the 3-4 years during which that girl changed are an eyeblink to me. It's an overnight transformation into someplace I never thought she'd go!

Actually, even looking back to Middle School myself, there were still a few kids where they did seem to suddenly become jerks overnight. And never went back...

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