Wednesday, November 4, 2015


Our second submission for First Impressions this month comes to us from Mary Livingston. THE OLD DAYS is a short story aimed at an adult audience.


Some people claim they have a vivid recollection of themselves in their mother’s womb and claim they can tell you, in detail, the usually elusive experience of birth.  They see themselves a little ball of flesh, floating in darkness.  The volcano erupts, the walls heave violently and close tightly around them.  One solid shove and they are forced into the world of things to come.  I must confess that I have no such recollection, but I can remember my parents before they were my parents.

He used to steer her down the streets of the past when she was just a baby.  And who would have thought that he would be steering her baby one day.  Certainly not him, for he was busy.  Busy maintaining his freedom to be wild, strutting like a male peacock, knowing the attraction of his brilliant color.  Busy trying to spread two dollars on as many girls, as many drinks and as many laughs as he could.  Seven years his junior, she was busy then writing in her diary, while he had already read (Since she's writing, it seems like this word should be "written" instead of "read.") that chapter in the book.  Today, he says, “I was waiting for your mother to grow up.”  And everyone smiles and slyly glances at everyone else, knowing that those laughing blue eyes in that devilish Irish face were looking anywhere but into a baby carriage. 

I remember about a year before the “big war” was over.  His number came up.  His family said, “Thank God that no good son of a …is leaving.”  They cackled and chuckled to cover the dull ache in their guts.  For people feel sad when a while (wild?) animal is on the verge of becoming domesticated.  The battle in the streets was common to them.  But this new battle was foreign to them.  And although they had slackened the line attaching him to them years ago, they now held tightly onto their end.  They gave him a party, as people will do, on the night before he was to go.  But, true to his leprechaun nature, he didn’t go anywhere, (I'm not sure how this makes him like a leprechaun.) except to sleep with a smile on his face.  And if they all hadn’t been so hung-over, they would have killed him.  When he was out of sight, they would commiserate in humor about the boldness of his nature.  In his presence, they would mumble their disapproval, look everywhere but at him, and stifle an urge to grin.  (It sounds like he was drafted. How did he get out of that?) Today, he winks while opening a beer and says, “I had a lot of parties when I went into the army”.  She moves her eyes without moving her head to look at him, and when he looks away, she smiles and he knows she is smiling.

In those days, she was totally and wholeheartedly obsessed with the smile of the boy in the grocery store.  And the boy on the corner.  And the boy…Mind and eyes mesmerized by the silver screen, she would lick the last bit of her sundae as she ("She" here refers to the mom. Do you mean that? If so, can it be clearer?) and Astaire finished their dance.  He (Here, "he" refers to Fred Astaire since he was the last named male.) was her older brother’s friend and another piece of furniture in the mishmash that was her home.  And though they were so close, she could lean slightly to the right and touch him; in those days, she was looking past him into her own reality. 


I think there is some really beautiful imagery here - the peacock, spreading the two dollars, the parties when he didn't go into the army, etc. It shows so much about the characters without telling. You just have to be careful that it doesn't become confusing. For example, the last line in the first paragraph mentions a baby carriage. However, since both the mother and her baby are referred to as babies earlier in the paragraph, it is unclear who the baby in the last sentence is referring to. In the last paragraph, the shift from her obsession to local boys to Fred Astaire is a bit awkward. In both of those instances, it might help to cut down on some of the images and pick just a couple that really bring the point across.

I also had pronoun confusion in a couple of places. A bit of rewording can clear those up. 

I like how he was wild and she was completely uninterested and would love to see what ultimately brings them together. Keep working on it, because I think you have a wonderful talent for words. I felt completely immersed in the time.

Thank you so much for sharing your work with us!
Make sure to head over to both Mainewords and Dianne's blog to see what they thought of THE OLD DAYS.

Monday, November 2, 2015


Today's First Impressions is a bit different. BROTHER WOLF is an MG contemporary novel originally released in Portugal. The author is Carla Maria de Almeida and the illustrator is António Jorge Gonçalves. The novel is now being translated into English by Lyn Miller-Lachman. 

Lyn states, "Along with writing my own fiction, I'm a translator of children's books (and other materials) from Portuguese to English. I'm applying for a grant, due November 16th, to translate a novel for older middle grade readers by the Portuguese author and journalist Carla Maia de Almeida titled Irmão Lobo (Brother Wolf). I'm somewhat limited in how much I can change the original text, but there are ways I can tweak it to appeal to both the grant committee and tween readers, so I'm looking for suggestions."


I once believed I was madly in love with Kalkitos. But that couldn’t be, because I was eight years old at the time and Kalkitos was the same age as Fossil, my much-older brother. He could have almost been my father, and something about it didn’t seem right. Actually, a lot of things didn’t seem right.

First of all, according to Blanche, I was the one born “out of time.” I began to believe this before I could put the feeling into words. I’m fifteen now and almost ready to start my own life, but I still don’t understand all the things that happened to me.

When I was eight years old, time was the microwave oven’s red numbers, always changing and blinking in the dark kitchen.

Time was Blanche running around like a crazed chicken, beginning at daybreak when she woke me and helped me get ready for school. She would glance at her cellphone and say, We don’t have time right now. We don’t have time. She’d keep running throughout breakfast, leaving crumbs of toast all over the floor like Hansel and Gretel. The crumbs never led us to a house of chocolate, and the next day they were sucked up by the vacuum cleaner.

Cold, rain, sunshine—those were the seasons of time. Jackets, boots, hats, gloves, scarves, sandals, t-shirts, shorts—all ways of dressing for the seasons. I understood. It was easy to figure out.

The same way, when Grizzly Bear sat on the sofa in front of the television and said between clenched teeth, “We are living in ungovernable times,” I knew whether this was good or bad by the way he changed the channel. Bored, zap. Annoyed, zap, zap. Enraged or worse, zap, zap, zap.

Now, I know. I wasn’t born out of time. I simply didn’t understand.

Because in the end, I went to school like the other kids, I wore sandals in summer and a hat when it turned bitter cold. I had a home, like all the kids. In this home lived Blanche, Grizzly Bear, Fossil, and Miss Kitty—my family. My parents and my older brother and sister. It wasn’t possible that they all lived in time and I lived outside of time.
But there were things that didn’t seem right.


First off, I love the way time is described. From the seasons to the crumbs, the descriptions are stunning.

I'm not exactly sure what Lyn is able to change here, but these are the things that jump out at me.

- Fossil, I'd like to see a definite age instead of "much-older."
- The line, "I'm fifteen now ..." seems out of place. If it can be cut, the line before it, "I began to believe this ..." is a much better lead in to the discussion about time. Her age can be inserted later into the line, "Now, I know."
- "I simply didn't understand." What didn't she understand?

Other than that, I feel like it's pretty well polished. If I picked up this book, I would keep reading simply because of the lyrical writing. 

Thank you, Lyn, for bringing this challenge to us this month. You can visit Lyn's website at And here's a piece on Irmão Lobo:

Make sure to head over to both Mainewords and Dianne's blog to see their thoughts on BROTHER WOLF.