Dianne Salerni author Dianne Salerni author Dianne Salerni books Dianne Salerni blog Dianne Salerni Appearances Dianne Salerni contact Dianne Salerni teachers
Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | Special Edition First Impressions: GUTTER GIRL

Special Edition First Impressions: GUTTER GIRL

We have a special edition of First Impressions today, to help Robin Hall get her new YA contemporary manuscript ready to share. This is the first page of GUTTER GIRL:
I rip open a blue Pixy Stix—the same color as my lucky bowling ball and the streak in my hair—and dump all that sugary tartness on my tongue. Even though my world is going right, I don’t want to mess with our night-before-school wish. V and I have been doing this tradition since sixth grade, and even though it’s lost some of its mystical power, I’ve convinced V we have to do it for senior year—the Pixy Stix, the elementary school swings, even the flying. As the sugar melts, I begin to swing.
“For my senior year,” I yell, pumping my legs harder, “I’m coming as confident Jules, no more Gutter Girl for me.” I swing higher as Veronica cheers.
“It’s back-to-school night,” she projects in her best on-stage voice. “Can Jules make it? There’s nail biting in the stands”—I launch into the air—“and there she goes”—I fumble to the ground—“It’s too close to tell, folks, but there’s no instant replay, so of course her night-before-school wish will, I repeat, will come true. This year will be a new start for the lovely and newly boyfriended Julia Burkman. Monroe High won’t recognize what hit them.” V laughs. “You’ll bowl them down, Jules.”
“Hardy, har har.” I spin in a slow circle, my arms out as if I’ve won Nationals. The twinkling stars are clapping for me, and that the great bowling ball in the sky is granting my wish.
V throws the pack of Pixy Stix at my head. “Enough already. Let’s get this over with before anybody sees us.”
“Like anyone is coming to the elementary playground after sundown besides Zach.”
“I’d like to have this ceremony over before he gets here, thank you very much.”
I fish a Pixy Stix off the ground and chuck it at V.
“Orange. Great, So not my color.”
“It is this year.”
V bites off the end and takes a long pull. “For my senior year,” she yells, moving to a swing, “I’m getting the lead in Antony and Cleopatra.”
“You won’t even have to change your eye makeup.”
“Aren’t you supposed to be commentating?”
I get serious. “Veronica couldn’t be higher, folks. Look at those long legs.” I whistle. “She’s about to jump. If she clears the line, she will not only have the best year ever, but also the lead role in the fall production.”
I have a couple of picky editing points to start with. First, I think people havetraditions; I’m not sure if they dotraditions. Secondly, I would recommend capitalizing both words in Confident Jules. That way I know it’s a persona she’s hoping for, to wipe out “Gutter Girl.” As it is, when I read it, I thought it was missing a word — “as confident as Jules” – not realizing Jules was her name. Also, it might be better to give her friend’s name, Veronica, first and call her V thereafter, rather than name her V to start with.  (And should it be Vee?) Finally, is the expression “bowl them down” or “bowl them over?”
But the biggest thing I think this page needs is at least a partial explanation for the name Gutter Girl and the bowling references. I know I read a query or a pitch for this story at some point, and I think Jules works in the family bowling alley – although I don’t remember for sure.
We definitely don’t want a big long, telling explanation, but I think a sentence slipped into the right spot would do wonders. Perhaps, right after V makes her “bowl them down” joke and Jules responds , “Hardy har har,” she could add, “Like we don’t hear that joke daily at the Burkman Bowling Alley.” Or something to that effect.  Readers, what do you think?

Robin, thanks for sharing your page with us! You can visit Robin at her blog, Robin Writes, and don’t forget to check out Marcy’s critique of the same page at Mainewords.

13 Responses to Special Edition First Impressions: GUTTER GIRL

  1. Jemi Fraser says:

    I like the voice and characters in this! At first I thought they were in the bowling alley so maybe a little comment earlier to clarify – even ‘my prize bowling bowl’. I think with a bit of polish, this will be great!

  2. Liza says:

    I like your suggestion about the bowling alley comment. When I read this over at Marcy’s, I simply thought I’d learn more about the bowling shortly. I assumed “as if I won Nationals” pertained to bowling. Although there could be some minor tweaking, I think this is well done.

  3. Robin says:

    THinking on the bowl them down vs. over. I’ve heard both. Thanks for your suggestions. I find first pages so challenging. We have so much to convey but not overload. I like the suggestions on name clarification, as well. I’ve wondered on V or Vee, but was told V was correct. Still, if you know something I don’t…;)

  4. Robin says:

    As a reader, I wasn’t disturbed by not knowing precisely where Gutter Girl came from on the first page. I figure the explanation will come soon. It is one of the things that keeps me reading. What is Gutter Girl about???? I agree about Confident Jules vs confident Jules. And I had a roommate in college named Vicki. Many people called her V. One letter.

  5. Tiana Smith says:

    As always, I agree with Dianne’s comments. I like the concept and the start of the story – I’d read more 🙂

  6. Angela Brown says:

    I agree with Dianne’s comments with the exception of the gutter girl explanation. The drop in of the title worked as a teaser for me, keeping me interested in discovering more of what gutter girl stems from.

  7. I really liked all the character details in this. And I agree with Dianne about the gutter girl explanation. But this sounds like a great story and different.

  8. This is such a fun start. I feel invested already, and I love the voice! I like the suggestions mentioned. I think you could drop “Even though my world is going right” and start that sentence right after that. That would also omit one of the “even thoughs” in that first paragraph.

    Great writing. I’d definitely read on!

  9. Steven says:

    Agreed that the friend’s name should be used at first. I could go either way with a brief explanation of the Gutter Girl nickname.

  10. ilima says:

    Love this voice. And I can already tell I’ll love these characters.

  11. Lexa Cain says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever said this before, being a very harsh critic, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I loved the voice, the characterizations, and the fact you’re giving us snippets of backstory and the characters’ goals without the reader even realizing it. Nicely done. 🙂

  12. Cynthia says:

    Dianne, I’m so happy for you. And Harper Collins is wonderful for sending you versions of the cover early so you could share them with your students. Your students are lucky to have a professional author for a teacher!

  13. I visited Robin’s blog earlier today.

    I would use V’s full first name at the beginning and then switch to V. I was a little confused by just the letter when I first read it. I found the piece very interesting. Thanks for sharing it.