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Mommacrit July 2007

First page by G.Watts, one writer who dared send work to Mommacrit.



A Thawed Mind (498words)


G. Watts


He’s running.  He keeps close to the wall, fingernails dragging across the worn dry brickwork. Moonlight chases his footsteps and silvers the nearby oak trees.   It illuminates his thin white face, his hollowed eyes. Wild thoughts circle inside his head. His pounding heart swells and fills his hollow chest.  


* * *


David woke early and watched the sun slanting through the bedroom window.  He stretched feeling good. Swinging his feet onto the carpet, he strode to the bathroom.  The face that stared back from the mirror bemused him.  He lifted a trembling hand to his cheek and traced bloodied scratches.  Fear flickered. Hazy thoughts struggled to surface. Ignoring the unease in the pit of his stomach, he turned on the radio. When music blared, he recognised the tune and started to hum.  Once dressed, he sipped hot coffee, his two hands holding the cup tight.


Shocked, he found police outside the Library.  They stopped him at the main door.  A burly policeman asked for his name and position before letting him into the building. Once inside he waited with other library staff in the lobby. 


Sweat covers his hands, gleams on his brow and his head starts to ache. The low muttering of his colleagues, their concerned faces, start to irritate and the heavy pounding in his head grows stronger. The headaches, now occurring more frequently, and with increasing severity; leave him fighting hazy thoughts he can’t quite grasp.


Silence settled when Julia Masters, the Chief Librarian, walked into the lobby followed by a short stout man with greying hair. She spoke with a deliberately slow voice.


‘I’m sorry…but a body was found in the basement storeroom early this morning.’  The body now identified, is that of Mandy Roberts.  She was killed sometime yesterday.’


Voices low at first, grew louder; a clamour that filled the lobby. Julia raised her hands.


‘Mandy is…was our youngest colleague.  I know we will all miss her.’ Julia’s voice faltered. ‘This is Chief Inspector, Don Bradman who is leading the investigation.  Everyone will be interviewed this morning.  I ask you all, please be patient and wait in the staff-room until called.’ Julia’s voice broke, her low sobs hitting the silence as uncomprehending faces with bleak eyes stared back at her.


The staff-room felt cooler after the heat of the lobby and the pounding in David’s head eased. He lay back on the worn sofa; its sagginess a familiar comfort.  He closed his eyes, tried to drown out Joe’s voice.  


’What was she doing in the basement?’  Joe’s question echoed in their heads, but got no reply.  ‘I left same time as you, do you remember Alisa?’ 


‘I was rushing, not sure I remember you leaving.’  Alisa smiled apologetically.


‘It’s important we remember Alisa, try to think back.’ 


Alisa’s cheeks took on a rosy glow. She fastened mild grey eyes on Joe.  Once she’d been grateful for Joe’s attention, now dislike settled on her thin face, and she stayed mute. Someone suggested coffee.




Reaction from Mommacrit



As well as the first email from G. Watts, Mommacrit received another, printed below for your edification:


“Hi Mammacrit


I did sub a piece to you some time ago, but have forgotten which piece - now wondering if you received it.  Name is G Watts.”


What message is this writer sending to the Momma?

(a) You, Momma, sexy black underwear notwithstanding, are not important enough for me to remember if I’ve sent you a sub.

(b) You, Momma, are so trivial in my scheme of things that I spell your name incorrectly.

(c) You, Momma, have plenty of time to waste so please keep track of my submissions and when I lose your confirmation email, send me another.



Fortunately for G. Watts, Mommacrit is a saint as well as a sex goddess. From the kindness of her heart, she replied in this way:


“Try to keep up, G. Watts. Start a Submission folder where you keep your subs and include the email contact, date, and all other text. Mommacrit sent you an acknowledgement of your submission. Mommacrit keeps records. See below. Don't ask again.”


So many editors, agents and publishers are, in fact, pedantic, anal-retentive jerks, that it’s easy to prejudice them against a writer. Publishing professionals admit to trashing manuscripts because of an incorrect salutation, the font being identical to the one that scared Aunt Mabel in the woodshed or, (gasp!) a colored envelope. Even someone as saintly as the Momma could easily push a sub to the end of the queue, just because she can. So don’t take the risk.


Are you quaking in your boots, G. Watts? First off, has the writer followed the guidelines? Apart from the aberration mentioned above, G. Watts’ submission was professional and guidelines were followed to the letter.


Is this first page a hook, carefully crafted to grab a reader’s attention?


The first paragraph intrigued the Momma. Apart from the guy having hollowed eyes and a hollow chest - some kinda genetic abnormality? – it’s tight, active and engaging writing.


However, the rest of the hook let Mommacrit down.  Tension built in the first paragraph dissipates under the following deluge of detail. Does the reader need to know that David’s coffee was hot and he held the cup tight with two hands? How does this contribute to the reader’s understanding of David’s character or the situation? Later we read that the sofa’s sagginess “…is a familiar comfort…” Two words from the Momma: “Who cares?”


Present tense works in the first paragraph. It is physically separated from the rest of the text and gives the impression of a dream or nightmare memory. The switch to present tense again, after past tense in the second and third paragraphs, doesn’t work.


POV shifts don’t work either. What seems to be David’s POV, morphs into Julia’s POV, “She spoke with a deliberately slow voice.” and flirts briefly with Alisa, too “Alisa smiled apologetically.” and “Once she’d been grateful for Joe’s attention…” Head hopping confuses readers.


Mommacrit decided not to mention the misplaced speech mark after “morning” or the missing commas after “Bradman” and “remember”. The Momma has mellowed.


G.Watts seemed to be implying that Hollow David with his bloody scratches did something naughty in the nighttime. Perhaps even murdered Mandy? But the latter part of the hook implies that Joe is under suspicion for the crime. Mommacrit might turn the page and skim to sort this out. Or not.