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Spencer Byce

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  1. The jumping around of the setting confuses me a little. He dreams he's in Portugal, but wakes up in Pacific time. Even though you call it Part One California, I think you need to express to the readers exactly where we are when he wakes up.

    Also, I'm wondering if this is the start? If so, maybe consider beginning at a place where we can understand a little more about who Whitman is? I don't have a lot of context to invest in this character at this point or have an understanding of what the conflict is. 

    I love your voice. Your writing it beautiful, but I think the opening should start before this dream and her phone call.

  2. Brenda-

    This is an intriguing beginning. I like where you start it. Is the whole book written as a letter or as if you are telling Faith her story? Just curious as this may cause confusion later if not. Also, maybe go into more detail about the conversation with the teacher. Had this happened before, therefore making you confident your daughter was involved?

    Also, this sentence tripped me up a little -Like you and your brothers were who you were from birth, and all we could do was watch you become more of yourselves – for good or for bad.

    I had to read it a few times to understand what you were trying to say and it made me question if her brothers were the bullying type too.

    Overall, I think this is a memoir that will resonate with so many and look forward to hearing more of your story.


  3. Pitch- This women's fiction novel, based in the south, is told through both Penny's and Janie's perspectives, with flashback chapters to Penny's youth. It's a story about love, family and learning how to trust your heart. 

    Three generations of strong-headed Hale women:

    ·        Daughter, Janie must choose between a fiancé and an old boyfriend

    ·        Mother, Nancy has a terrible secret

    ·        Grandmother, Penny can’t stop thinking of an old love

    Now all three women must face the music


    Chapter One



    Judgmental. Power-hungry. Manipulative. That’s my daughter-in-law in a nutshell. Yet she broadcasted to me and everyone within earshot at the airport terminal, “Whoever this mystery guest is that Janie is bringing home from Italy better not act like all the other phony-acting Italian men I know.”

    “Nancy.” My son, Mac, drew out his wife’s name like the stroke of a paintbrush, long and slow until it just faded out. “What does that even mean? Phony-acting Italian? Do you know a lot of phony-acting Italian men?”

    Nancy glared at Mac. “Yes, as a matter of fact, I do. And I’m not fooled by their fake charm.”

    Mac chuckled and wrapped his arms around his uptight bride, hugging her back to his chest.  “Well, she didn’t say where he was from. She just said she was bringing home a guy she met in Italy. I’m sure he’s American. Otherwise, why would he be coming to Atlanta?”

    “The Atlanta airport is a hub,” I said. “He could be catching a connecting flight.”

    Nancy gave me a look that said, Duh––I’m not stupid, I know all about the Atlanta airport.

    Mac nodded agreeably. “He probably­­ just needs a place to stay for the night. You know how accommodating Janie’s always been. I’m sure she’s just helping a friend. I doubt it’s anything serious.” Mac hugged his wife tighter and kissed the side of her head. Her face softened slightly.

    “Besides,” he said. “Janie wouldn’t have had time to get serious with anyone in Italy. She’s been backpacking all over Europe for two months. Italy was just her starting and ending points.”

    “I don’t know,” I said. “Venice is one of the most romantic places on this Earth. It wouldn’t take long to fall in love there.”

    I snickered and Nancy glared at me, her jaw clenching tight.

    “Penny.” She barked out my name like she was about to bite my head off, but then swallowed and looked away.  

     Uncomfortable silence hung in the air, as was often the case when Nancy and I were together. She typically glared at me like she on the verge of saying something rude, and I typically bit the side of my cheek around her, so I didn’t spill what I really knew. She was a not-so-secret cheater on her husband, who’d crushed her daughter’s faith in love. Instead, we both focused on Mac, directing our conversations through him instead of at each other. “Does Janie start her new job next week?”

    Mac looked at Nancy for clarification.

    “Yes, the Tuesday after Labor Day,” she said gruffly. “And if she even thinks about pushing her start date back again, I’ll wring her neck. It was hard enough for me to convince them to wait until after this little adventure she planned.” Nancy shrugged her shoulders and her eyes fluttered shut. She heaved a heavy, self-righteous breath. “PR jobs are hard to come by. A job at this firm is a dream for most new college graduates.”

    Mac sighed and ran a hand through his thinning hair. “She’ll be there.”

    “I hope you’re right,” Nany quipped. “Because I sure can’t depend on her these days.”

    I rolled my eyes. “Here we go again.”

    I should have held my tongue. After seventy-seven years on this glorious planet, I should have learned how to be the bigger person and keep quiet when Nancy was in one of her moods. Lord knows, the last thing we needed was for Janie to arrive back home in Atlanta for the first time in months to find all of us fighting. That poor child deserved a happy homecoming for once, seeing as almost every visit home during her college years had ended in a knock-down-drag-out-mother-daughter brawl over the most innocuous events. Yet none of those fights ever addressed the true elephant in the room. The incident from Janie’s senior year of high school when she overheard her mother confessing to having an affair. She came to me instead of confronting her mother about it and we’ve all been dancing around this dirty secret ever since.

    Mac groaned audibly. “Mother, please,” he said through measured breaths. “Can we please just be nice to each other? At least for one day?” 

     “I’m sorry, honey.” I said, patting Mac’s arm. “You’re right. Today is supposed to be a happy day.” 

    A sad smile crossed his face springing instant tears to my eyes. I blinked them away and smiled. An unspoken pain passed between us. The fleeting reminder that in the six months since my husband had died, our grief had come to be measured by how many things we could look forward to instead of how many moments made us sad. Today was supposed to be one of those good days. 

  4. Assignment One: Story Statement

    Three generations of women must confront the secrets of their past in order to make life changing decisions in the present day.  


    Assignment Two: The antagonist

    Nancy Hale is a power-hungry, judgmental, manipulative mother who will stop at nothing to ruin her daughter’s wedding. She has already proven her inability to be trusted by having an affair and now she is scheming to prevent her daughter Janie from marrying the man she loves just because she doesn’t like the idea of her daughter marrying a man she’s only known for a few months. Nancy is snooty and short tempered. She’s unsupportive of this marriage because of the fiancé’s age—ten years her daughter’s senior, heritage—he’s Italian, and past—he’s divorced. Talk about judgmental! Her mannerisms come across insincere and rehearsed which her family attributes to Nancy’s background in politics. She always seems to be hiding her true feelings behind a fake smile or snarky remark. Her real reason for acting this way is because it was Nancy’s husband, not her that had the affair. But she thinks no one knows anything at all about an affair, much less, that they blame her, so she hides the pain of his infidelity behind a cloak of false self-assurance.


    Assignment Three: Title options


    1.      NO WRONG TURNS




    Assignment Four: Comps

    1.     Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes

    2.     Good Company by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

    I chose these titles because they have similar themes to my women’s fiction novel, dealing with family and marriage issues, but also because they have been marketed as book club fiction and my novel can be pitched as book club fiction as well which broadens the audience.



    Assignment Five: HOOK LINE

    Three generations of strong-headed women at the crossroads: a daughter must choose between a fiancé and her first love; a mother keeps a terrible secret; a widowed grandmother is drawn to an old love—but learning the truth changes everything.



    Assignment Six: Conflicts

    This story is told in dual POV between Janie and Penny with flashback chapters to Penny’s youth in the 1960s. 

    Janie’s primary conflict- Janie seems to be the only one excited about her new fiancé and her upcoming wedding in just two weeks. Now she must find a priest willing to marry them on such short notice, a dress that resembles the one she’s always dreamed of and a venue that fits the bill, all while trying to convince her family and friends that Matteo is the perfect man for her.


    Janie’s secondary conflict- Janie old boyfriend Will won’t take the hint that she’s moved on. He keeps showing up, trying to convince her that he’s not the scum bag she thinks he is.

    Janie is also conflicted about her volatile relationship with her mother and the secret she’s keep from her mother for years—that she heard her mother confessing to someone that she was having an affair.


    Janie’s internal conflict- Does she really think Will is a scumbag?  Has she really moved on? And her mother’s affair did more than just affect her relationship with her mother, it caused her to have trust issues with everyone when it comes to love.


    Penny’s primary conflict- Penny’s beloved husband of fifty years passed away six months ago. She’s lonely and heartbroken and when her old high school beau, who also happens to be her husband’s cousin asks about her and let’s her friend know he’ll be at their sixtieth high school reunion and wants her there, she feels torn about attending. Is she foolish to look for love at her age?


    Penny’s secondary conflict- Her old beau- Frank broke her heart multiple times and was never good for her. But Penny is certain that people can change and maybe this time will be different. Penny is also conflicted about her granddaughter Janie and the wedding because she agrees with her daughter-in-law, Nancy that it’s not a good idea. But Janie had confided in her grandmother years ago that she’d heard her mother confessing to having an affair and Penny can’t stand Nancy for cheating on her son. But taking Nancy’s side is one thing, being a co-conspirator in Nancy’s plan to sabotage the wedding is another that Penny is not sure she can go through with.


    Penny’s internal conflict- She knows that all those years ago, she chose her husband Phillip over Frank for a reason. She loved Phillip more. But she never told Frank that to his face because she didn’t want to hurt him and by the time he’d come back for her, she was already spoken for. So even now, he believes they were meant to be together. Is it worth telling him the truth now or should some secrets stay buried?


    Assignment Seven: Setting

    The book opens up in the busy Atlanta, Georgia airport in the hottest month of the year in the south (August) where tensions are already high, and nerves are already frazzled even before Janie greets her family with a surprise fiancé.

    The story moves to Janie’s parent’s house, where the familiarity of her family home brings back memories she’d like to forget.

    Much of the story takes place in Seaside, Florida, a charming little beach town in the Florida panhandle where Janie’s grandmother takes her to get her outside of Atlanta and give them both some time to think about what they really want for their future. This beach town was a place Janie’s grandmother and grandfather would take her as a child and was always a place of happiness and relaxation for their family. This setting, with bike rides and boardwalk sunsets gives them both a sense of inner peace and enables them to talk through some of their inner conflict.

    The later part of the book takes place in Montgomery, Alabama, the site of Penny’s sixtieth high school reunion and also the setting for her many flashbacks that include her early relationship with Frank and Phillip. As she drives into Montgomery, she points out to Janie places from her past that had significant meaning to her.

    The last scenes take place back in Janie’s family home where the family is able to discuss the secrets of their past and vow to work on forgiving one another proving that they are a family who loves each other.

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