Monday, January 07, 2013

New Beginning 987

To the Admissions Board of the University of Northern California

I did not start the fire that destroyed Rio Seco High School, despite what you may have heard on the news. I did sell a chunk of my soul to a demon, but the deal was only loosely related to the disaster. I'm writing this essay to set the story straight. (If my version of events moves you to contact law enforcement, please note that I am no longer “a person of interest.”) So, for the record: I’m Lauren Faustino, and until last semester, I was a junior at good old “Rio Sicko” High in Vista View Heights, California, home of the Fighting Jackrabbits.

I have no transcript, academic history or “permanent record.” When the school burned down last December, everybody’s file went up in smoke. Every hard copy, digital file and microfiche was vaporized—gone with the Santa Ana winds. Some of my classmates are grateful for a clean slate, but not I. My hard-won 4.0 average is now one big Incomplete. Thus I stand before you naked, Dear Admissions People, bureaucratically speaking. Formless, you might say. All I have is the story I’m about to tell.


Dean of Admissions Peter Fresco put the paper down on the table and looked up. Professor Brian Markham, to his left, shuffled some papers, while Adrian Brofowski on the other side cleared his throat. Not one of them could take their eyes off the prospective student standing in front of them.

After what seemed like the longest while, the Dean cleared his throat. "Well, Lauren," he said. "This is quite unusual, but unusual scholars are the most interesting, wouldn't you say, Professor Markham?"

"Uh, hm, y-yes. Most interesting."

They paused and considered some more.

"Well," the Dean continued. "I think it's possible we may have a place for you."

Lauren relaxed and exhaled loudly. "Really? I can get dressed then?"

"Let's not be too hasty, dear," the Dean replied. "I'd like to hear the rest of your story first..."

Opening: Ann Anderson .....Continuation: anon.


Evil Editor said...

Here's what I would do:

Sentence 3, change to set the record straight, and end the paragraph there.

Start the 2nd paragraph: I’m Lauren Faustino, and until last semester...

Delete: Thus I stand before you naked, Dear Admissions People, bureaucratically speaking. Formless, you might say.

Change the last sentence to something like: All that remains of my academic career is the story I’m about to tell.

And you're good to go. It would be interesting to know whether the entire book is the story she's about to tell, or just the first chapter.

Tk said...

I liked this very much - including the naked sentence (am a reader, not an editor, so weigh the votes accordingly).

In the first paragraph I thought the tone slightly jarring and annoying (because obviously it doesn't match an admissions essay) but the voice is strong and by the end of the second paragraph I'd forgotten that quibble and was just interested in reading on. Mission accomplished.

150 said...

A Faustino dealing with a devil? Who's ever heard of such a thing? ^_^

I'd probably read on, although with the hopes that the entire novel isn't in the form of a college admissions essay.

Dave Fragments said...

Is this going to be a complete epistolary story or are you going to switch it to a more standard narrative in a later segment?

I wouldn't write as many words but that is style in this case. I won't say cut, cut, cut...
Truthfully, I would gut the second paragraph from "Every hard copy" to "You might say." I think those sentences belong after the great line: "All I have is the story I’m about to tell."

This certainly gets the reader's attention.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I like the idea and the tone. I've been waiting to post, to see if others had the issue I had. It seems no one does but I'll throw it out there anyway:

My willing suspension of disbelief got snagged at the outset because no hopeful student would really write such an essay. Instead, they'd try like hell, pardon the expression, to hide their situation from the admissions committee. They'd say they were homeschooled, or had just emigrated from a country where the infrastructure has been bombed into the Stone Age. (I have had students who actually had the latter problem, and it *does* screw up transcripts).

Anyway, if that doesn't snag anyone else, don't worry about it, I guess. Seems good otherwise.

Mister Furkles said...

My guess is that CA school systems archive their records on a regular schedule just like any business or government agency. You might have a hacker break into the archive and remove all records of Lauren. That is more believable. Even if a fire destroyed all records, wouldn't that be public knowledge throughout the education systems from k12 to the universities?

You can’t expect readers to suspend such disbelief. I mean, walking dead people, vampires and werewolves are believable but a school fire burning up records? It’s simply too much.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Yeah, I figured someone would make that remark about suspension of disbelief, but I also figured that any writer will understand that the everyday details are exactly what you DO have to get right if you want your readers to accept vampires etc.

Eg, a vampire senator who feeds on the blood of lobbyists at a firm on J St in DC would never work: everyone knows there is no J St in DC.

A. Anderson said...

Thanks for your comments, all. I received a request for a full from Myrsini Stephanides at Carol Mann. Anybody know her? Have any personal experience with CMA?
Thanks. AA

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Congrats on the full request, AA. I know nothing about that agent, but I think you should take the question to absolute write and post it anonymously.

(Or, more than likely, there'll already be a thread at AW discussing the agent.)

Mister Furkles said...

I don't know anything you can't find on the websites like Query Tracker.

Carol Mann is a member of AAR. Her list of clients include many best selling authors -- most of them write nonfiction. I have half a shelf of books by one of her clients -- he's written over twenty and all of them are NYT best sellers.

I'd guess Carol Mann wouldn't take on a new agent who couldn't do a good job. Also, if she is new, she won't be too busy with existing clients.