Monday, August 25, 2014


The Self(ie) Project
81,000 words
YA Contemporary

It is a truth universally acknowledged that teachers hate us and give us homework so they can laugh at our suffering.

Lauren contemplates this as the opening sentence to her English paper on Pride & Prejudice, and while she thinks her teacher would appreciate the reference to the opening of the book, she doesn’t think he’d like her sass.

Miriam will think it’s funny; though, so Lauren pulls out her phone, and retypes the sentence in a text. Her phone slides open to reveal a keyboard, and it’s purple which is cool, but she’d much rather have a boring white or black phone if it meant she had an iPhone. All her friends have them, and they’re good for group texting and taking pictures, and they can even post to Facebook or Twitter no matter where they are.

Christmas is coming up, and Lauren’s trying to convince her dad that she’d be okay with getting nothing but an iPhone, but so far she hasn’t been successful. He doesn’t get that all phones aren’t made the same. In his mind, she has a phone so why get a new one before it’s broken. She hasn’t resorted to breaking her phone, but there have been a few times she’s been tempted.

Wynner: lol i dare you to put that stannin would probs fail you tho have you gotten a magazine yet
Miriam’s last name is Wynn which means she always has the best nicknames and best hashtags; #wynning, #wynner, #thewynninglife. Lauren’s dad, because he’s a huge dork, calls Miriam ‘Wynner Wynner Chicken Dinner’ and laughs every time like it’s the funniest joke in the world.

Like Lauren said; dork.

But she’d totally forgotten about the magazine assignment. Their wellness teacher, Ms. Kramer, who’s the coolest teacher Lauren has even if she’s teaching the worst subject, told them their only homework was to go out and buy a magazine from the store or check one out from the library.

Wynner: you forgot didn’t you im on my way to get you we’ll go to bookstore
Barnes & Noble means Starbucks. Lauren’s mood is suddenly much brighter, because she gets to buy a magazine, get a coffee, and chat with Miri all while getting homework done.

Ms. Kramer is definitely the best.

Lauren changes out of her pajama pants into jeans, but she doesn’t worry about changing out of her hoodie. It’s from cross country this year, and it’s navy blue, much better than last year’s safety green sweatshirt. There’s no hiding from anyone in that thing.

She runs year round; cross country in the fall, indoor track in the winter, and outdoor track in the spring. She’s not particularly good at running, but it’s fun and a couple of her friends are on the team with her.

Lauren: k im getting ready

Text sent, appropriate clothes on, Lauren grabs her wristlet - Vera Bradley, a birthday present from Miri - and rushes to the door to wait. Lauren and her dad live in the town’s smallest apartment complex, and it’s only a few streets down from where Miri and her parents live.

“Where are you going?” Lauren’s dad asks, looking up from the TV and his dinner.

“Have to go to Barnes & Noble. Homework.”

“Uh huh. And is this homework going to involve coffee and gossiping?”

“Coffee yes. Gossiping no. Miri and I have much better things to do with our time than talk about other people.”

Her dad doesn’t look convinced. “Well, since I’m guessing this isn’t going to be a short trip you better bring some other homework with you. I hear coffee shops have a good atmosphere.”

Lauren groans, there goes getting a break from her essay. “If you’re a pretentious hipster with a Macbook, maybe.”

Her dad frowns, his I don’t understand my daughter wrinkle scrunching in his forehead. “Points for using the word pretentious; clearly you’ve been studying for your SATs. I’m not sure what else you just said.”

“It’s cause you’re old,” Lauren tells him cheerfully, dragging her feet as she goes back to fetch her computer and her backpack.

“Old and in charge,” her dad calls after her. “Be home by nine at the latest.”

“What if I get in the writing groove?”


It was worth a shot, Lauren thinks as she squeezes her computer into her backpack. She spent most of her afternoon texting Miri, poking at Facebook, and procrastinating working on her essay by doing all of her other homework. But now she still has to write a three page paper on the importance of setting, re: houses in the book, and she’s running short on time.

Her dad’s pretty chill about letting her do what she wants; she has a curfew (different for school nights and weekends), and he expects her to get her homework done, but he doesn’t confiscate her phone or monitor her Facebook use until it hits 9:30 and she hasn’t finished her work.

Miri sends her a text to let her know she’s here - apparently people used to honk their horns before cellphones which Lauren thinks is definitely a point in favor of cellphones - and Lauren whips out of the apartment and bounds down the steps to where Miri’s waiting.

Miri’s older than Lauren which means she’s got her license and can drive friends. Lauren can still only (legally) drive herself and her dad. In theory, she can drive any family, but there isn’t a whole lot of family near them. Of course, neither Miri nor Lauren have cars of their own, but since both Miri’s parents have cars there’s usually one around that Miri can drive.

Nick, a senior on the track team with Lauren, has his own car, but he has to pay for insurance and gas, and Lauren doesn’t think she’d be able to afford having a car.

She works Sundays, Tuesday nights, and Thursday nights at one of the pizza place in the plaza across the street from their apartment complex, but she’s saving up money for prom, because she wants a pretty dress. 

“Backpack?” Miri asks. “How many magazines are you buying?”

“Dad said I had to bring my computer if I wanted to hang out with you. I have a paper due tomorrow.”

“The one you still haven’t started?”

Miri’s in the class with Lauren, and her paper’s probably been done for days. She’s an overachiever like that. Both her parents were the first people in their families to go to college so they’re very serious about Miri’s education. Lauren thinks if she had two parents around to nag her she’d probably have to get her homework done in a more timely fashion, but she only has Dad, and he can’t be everywhere all the time.

She has vague memories of Mom, the kind forged by stories her dad’s told her and faded pictures she keeps in a box under her bed. Some of her memories, she’s not sure whether they’re real or if she’s created them by dreaming hard enough. One of her favorite pictures is her as a chubby little kid in a mint green onesie sitting on the grass, a box of open Cheerios on her lap. Dad told her she learned to walk because Mom would hold Cheerios out in the palm of her hand, only letting Lauren get them if she took steps to get there.

The only time she eats Cheerios now is on the anniversary of Mom’s passing.


  1. I think you've got some cool character development here and a fantastic opening line. The voice is also unique, though I did feel pulled out of the story a bit by the text speak. I also wish I could've seen the pitch first. I enjoyed reading! Best of luck to you!

  2. For it's intended audience I think the text speak could work! But it might take some careful work on the pitch, for sure. Formatting it right will probably make a big difference.

    I don't know yet what the crux of the plot will be, in these first few pages, but I would read on to find out.

  3. Interesting use of texting in the story. I always like it when stories add a fun formatting. My main concern with this beginning is that I have no idea what the story is about. Right now we're getting a lot about the MC, which is good, but it feels more like a character sketch than the start of your plot. Could you incorporate the plot somehow in these first few pages, or hint at what it's going to be?

    Good luck!

  4. First off, I can totally see your title on a book jacket. It's very contemporary and I get a clear sense right, or at least I think I do, of the type of book I am reading. I also liked how you put the (ie) in parentheses like you did.

    I've seen the texting thing done in books and I think it can work. I applaud you for not shying away from it.

    And, I always love a good play off of Jane Austen. P and P's opening, along with Dickens's opening in A Tale of Two Cities, are great passages to toy with because they are still taught in schools; most people know them; and, a reader of your manuscript gets to know your MC a lot by how he/she handles the passage. Lauren seems funny, well-read, and thoughtful (she thinks better than to actually turn in her paper as is). I like her.

    I would only say that I need a little more of what's to come in these first few pages. You do a good job of setting a scene, I'm just left wondering: what makes this different from other YA contemporary manuscripts?!

    Great job:)


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