May 28, 2011
Posted In: 250 Words | Contest

Made of Awesome Contest

*REVISED 5/29/11*

Title: Note to Self
Genre: YA Gaslamp Fantasy/Steampunk
Word Count: 77,000
Note to Self

The coin and train ticket Mr. Minchin pushed into her hand at the gate of the orphanage meant one thing to Gracie—freedom.
Freedom to search for her family.
The pretense that Gracie planned to spend the rest of her life plucking feathers off dead chickens, was as much a ruse as Mr. Minchin’s parting words that he regretted sending her away. She even suspected this job recommendation was his final revenge for all the fights she’d started with the other children. Though in her defense, she’d ended most of the spats long before Mr. Minchin had need to intervene with his yardstick.
She didn’t know why her aunt and uncle had never come to claim her, but if they were still in Chicago, despite the passage of eight years, she intended to find them. She refused to believe Mrs. Minchin’s explanation that they simply hadn’t wanted her.
“That money is only to be used as a last resort.” Mr. Minchin wagged a liver-spotted finger at her. “Things are different in the real world. If you’re sassy with your supervisor he’s going to garnish your wages rather than slap your knuckles with a ruler. And if you lose your job at the Rochester poultry factory, don’t bother returning here, since once I close this gate, you’re on your own.”
She nodded, tucking the coin into her skirt pocket; the money wasn’t a parting gift, it was his insurance to get rid of her for good.
 “Don’t worry. You won’t be seeing me again.”
Thanks to everyone who has commented on the old version.
Check out the contest details here:


  1. Dorothy Dreyer

    Great first page! Good luck! 🙂

  2. MarcyKate

    This has a nice flow to it and a good look inside the character's head, however, I was a little thrown by the first paragraph and had to go back and read it again to understand it once I got to the second paragraph. I think you may have too many characters up front (Mrs. Minchin, Mr. Minchin, Gracie, the other children) and that may be causing some of the confusion for me. When I read that first line, I thought she was in fact plucking chickens at that moment, so when it got to the part about the train ticket, it made me scratch my head at first. I think this might flow better if you reverse the order of the first two paragraphs.

    Great start! Good luck!

  3. Mary Kate Leahy

    I enjoyed the first page. I've never read steam punk so I would definitely want to keep going. I've never even heard of gaslamp fantasy so I would definitely keep going. The one thing I would change, and it is ridiculously small, is to get rid of the she said at the end of her quote. I would maybe break the quote apart and have Don't worry she said doing something (like pulling a scarf up against the rain etc) and then the you won't be seeing me again and end it there. Just because I think that is a stronger ending for the reader. But a great beginning, I would definitely keep reading.

  4. Jamie McHenry

    This is good. I felt like the line "for all the fights she started with the other children" was a little formal for Gracie. She sounds smart, so if that's the way she thinks, then keep it. I'm pulled in by the character and want to know more. I'd keep reading.

  5. douglas esper

    i agree with the first comment. i initially thought she was currently at her job reflecting back, but then as i read further i got it. i am curious as to what gaslamp fantasy is? is that fantasy from before thomas edison came along?

    i can say i hope gracie never has to go back, which i think also means i am rooting for her and i want to read more…so you've hooked me 🙂

  6. erica and christy

    I'm in agreement with the above comments. My first vision of her was plucking chickens and I had to read it twice to figure out why she was suddenly getting on a train. Also, I'd change the "Mrs. Minchin" to Mr. to eliminate the extra character and it should still make sense.

    Good job and good luck!

  7. Unknown

    This is good. I've read some steampunk and I'm curious to know where this is going, especially since she's plucking chickens in the real world.I do agree that there are a lot of character names up front and it's a little confusing. Good luck!

  8. Kimberlee Turley

    Thanks for the comments everyone! Will try to return the favor to you all!

    Gaslamp fantasy is cleaned up steampunk. It shares a Victorian/Edwardian era as background, but has less of a dystpoian tone than traditional steampunk, and relies less on anachronistic inventions to carry the storyline.

    Gail Carriger's "Soulless" is a great example of something that was labeled "steampunk" but is actually gaslamp fantasy.

  9. Charity Bradford

    Ooo, I loved Soulless. Nice description of the differences of steam punk and gaslamp fantasy. I didn't know that before.

    I enjoyed this, but agree with the above comments. Having said that, I love the first line. It's a great hook. Maybe you can have her in the factory remembering when she left while she works? Unless of course she never makes it to the factory. Which I'm wondering about.

    I also think the Mrs and Mr confused me because it was back and forth with them. If you give them and call them by their first names it will clear up that confusion.

    All in all, you have the conflict started and I'm curious as to how she ended up in the orphanage to begin with. Does she find the aunt and uncle? What happened to them? Why didn't they come? And so forth.

  10. Melora Bell

    Hi Kimberlee!
    I found the first para very confusing and couldn't reconcile it with any of the other info. I would like more concrete descriptions and less backstory, but perhaps that's just me.
    Good luck!

  11. Jackie

    Awesome work here! I love your attention to detail with the characters. You really pulled me into the story, and I wanted to keep reading to see what happens next!

    I do agree with Mary Kate's suggestion about having it end on "You won't be seeing me again." -Instead of ending with she said.
    But either way, it keeps the reader curious and wanting more!

  12. Sharon Bayliss

    This is a great first page! The writing is very clean and the voice is strong. My only critique point is that I have a little bit of trouble orienting the place of the scene. At first I thought she was currently plucking chickens as a punishment for starting fights, then had to reorient myself to see her at the gate prepared to leave for her chicken plucking job. It may just be me. Great job. Good luck!

  13. Kate Larkindale

    This is a good opening, but I'd lose the first paragraph since it takes place in a different time period than the rest of it. I also got a little confused by the fact there was both a Mr. and Mrs. Minchin mentioned. I thought you'd forgotten the 's' when you mentioned Mr. and his yardstick.

    That said, I'd read on. The voice is strong and I'm engaged enough to want to find out what happens next.

  14. Crystal Collier

    Great set up of conflict! I got a little caught up in the "had's" right at the beginning–the switching from present tense to what had recently happened. That could just be me. Great first page!

  15. Jessica

    I understand what the first paragraph is trying to do but maybe you could find a place for it somewhere else? I am interested to see what she is about to do. Go to the factory or go find her family? Great job and good luck!

  16. Kim

    Great opening! Good job!

  17. Kaleen Harding

    I felt that the chicken-plucking is really interesting, but at first I thought she was actually sitting there, plucking chickens and reminising about getting a silver dollar and getting on the train, but the second time I read it, I realized she wasn't happy about the job that was recommended to her. Otherwise very interesting start!

  18. Julie Daines

    I think is great. I like her voice, I like her situation, and I love the chicken plucking sentence, even though yes, I first thought she was actually plucking at the time.

  19. Melora Bell

    I love the new version! The odd thing about the chicken makes complete sense now. I like the voice, and now I feel this is the beginning of an exciting adventure. Great work!

  20. Roland D. Yeomans

    She has great voice. And you make us root for her. A smooth flow to her thoughts as well. Great job. Roland

  21. Anonymous

    I found this very easy to read and follow – loved it. The underlying tension of being shoved away is there, and I want to keep reading, to find out if she will find her aunt / uncle. It seems she might be a trouble maker as it's implied by her thoughts, but I got the impression of a young, scared girl.. hence the last line – her dialogue, felt a bit jarring to me. I guess I expected something to show more of her innocence, she her mannerisms did not reflect a rebel. Otherwise I really really like what you have here.

    Good luck.

  22. Lissa

    The only thing I can offer as critique is to remove the wayward comma in "The pretense that Gracie planned to spend the rest of her life plucking feathers off dead chickens, was as much a ruse as Mr. Minchin’s parting words that he regretted sending her away." as it adds an necessary pause.
    Otherwise, I very much enjoyed this opening, and the questions it raised such as what was the event that caused her to be sent away. I would love to read on, despite my dislike for third-person POV.


    For me it felt like the story stumbled out to fast. I wanted it to slow down. It felt too much too fast. I think it might benefit from a bit more character building and less story detail. Right now I feel like I know the story without knowing who's in it. What I'm trying to say is the pacing is off but it sounds like it could develop into a great story.

  24. Dorothy Dreyer

    I like the revision! Good job!

  25. Jody Lamb

    Oooh, Kimberlee, what an interesting story you're setting up here! I instantly like her, even though she was a fight picker at the orphanage. I want to know the deal with her aunt and uncle and I want her to be safe in her trip. I definitely would continue reading.

    However, I agree with Shellie's comment above that it seems like things are moving too fast. I can't process where exactly they are right away.

    There are some great details like "liver-spotted hands." We need more of that kind of description.
    What's the gate like? Does he open it for her? Or does she have to open it for herself? Does she have a suitcase with her. Where is it at this moment? Maybe throw in some sounds to clue us in. Are the other kids/teens around and what are they doing?

    Thanks for sharing! Good luck!

  26. Nicole

    Other than a comma splice at the very end, nothing stood out for me in a bad way. There were a few places where the narrative could be tightened, but overall a nice job!

  27. Mary Kate Leahy

    I am ridiculously excited that you took my suggestion! The other thing I would suggest is capitalizing Rochester Poultry Factory, since I am guessing it is like a proper name of the factory. If not use whatever the proper name is. It's really great though, a very real conflict. Good luck.

  28. Michelle

    I love the set up you have here, and the emotion of the scene is really well done. We can tell our MC is apprehensive about what lies in her new setup. The Ms. Minchin bit reminded me of The Little Princess' headmistress. Wasn't that her name? Hahah.

    Overall, great work, and good luck!

  29. Sonia

    Really great first 250 words. Interesting. So I guess she is going to find her family instead of on the job, huh?

  30. Liana Brooks

    For the genre, I think it's just right. If I didn't read YA often, I might not get sucked in. For anyone who likes YA I think this will do just fine.

  31. duwarr

    When I first read this, I thought coin meant a single coin and I wondered how she was going to mount a successful search with a single coin. You might want to change coin to money.

    I really like the premise and am interested to see how her search plays out. There are plenty of stories about people being rescued from orphanages. It's nice to see someone leaving on their own accord.

    I might change the order of the paragraphs and make Mr. Minchin's dialogue follow "Freedom to search for her family" because as the paragraphs are currently ordered, it almost reads like the story is moving backwards in time.

    The writing is strong and I really like the MC's voice. Good luck!

Who is Kimberlee Turley?

Kimberlee Turley grew up in California where she earned a degree in Fashion Design from FIDM in 2005. Soon after, she married her husband, who was neither Mr. Darcy nor Edward Cullen, but he’d read her atrocious first novel and said it was “good” with a straight face.

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