The Cassandra Project: A Novel Take on Teen Participation Supplement
The April 2013 issue of VOYA features “The Cassandra Project: A Novel Take on Teen Participation” by Diane P. Tuccillo. The article tells about the project organized by The Grumpy Dragon publisher, Spring Lea Henry, for Patrick Jones’s new Tear Collector title, Cassandra’s Turn. A group of teens, self-dubbed The Elsinore Quills, edited the book with Patrick. Included below are edits and and reviews by the teens, photos from the Colorado Teen Literature Conference where Patrick and The Elsinore Quills launched their book, and corrections of photo credits in the article follow.
Chika Zuri’s Edits
This is an awesome way to start the book by keeping the intensity from the last one, but without overloading a fresh reader or letting someone down by continuing the last scene the way it needed to go.
It’s great to see the reenactment we heard about, and really see one, of I’m sure many, things that shaped Cass into a different kind of tear collector than the others, and just how long she’s felt how she does.
“…eyes meeting with crystal blue ones of her cousin who was about the same age.” I would guess this was talking about Alexei, but I believe he has dark eyes. Though her reaction would suggest Caleb, the age difference would be pretty big to say they were similar (if he’s 24 while she’s 17, he’d be 13 to her 6).
“Becca’s room is filled with the toys of a happy child; the air of her house filled with the moist misery of an unhappy family falling apart.” Nice juxtaposition.
“…a blonde haired blood eyed locust…”
Short, abrupt sentences; not necessarily bad, but it gives the beginning a choppy, stop-and-go feel especially when following the prologue and wit the relatively little action that comes with a first chapter. Try to make the flow a little smoother by tying sentences together (without repeating, there’s plenty of that in the book).
Several times throughout the book you say things like: “It’s a beat-up Chevy compared to most of the hot cars my other boyfriends drove.” Which implies it’s not actually a beat up old Chevy, it’s just like one in comparison.
Why are there no more references to Scott’s torture other than when Alexei shows up for like a second?
Jessica Stonebraker’s Review
What do you like best/worst about the book?
The explanations of places and objects were very descriptive. It really was very realistic in how parts of high school work. Worst was Cody and his crowd were very cliché. The way he talks would have been back about three years ago. The hospital parts were very good.
How do you find the characters relate to real life?
First off, let me just say that I loved Cass. She was manipulative, strong, and smart, which usually doesn’t happen in a lot of teen books when it’s a girl in first-person view. Only problem I have with her is that she appears one-dimensional at times. And she basically jumped into a relationship with Scott without even thinking about why she loves him. It was like they sat with each other in the library and decided, “I love you!” the second time they interacted. And I want to know why. Moreover, I would like to see some sweet moments that are realistic between them in Cassandra’s turn. Because why would she fight to be with him if she doesn’t get any joy out of his company? And even though she’s from an ancient line of vampires, keep in mind that she’s still a girl.
Scott fell into my neutral category. I didn’t hate him. I didn’t love him. I felt that at times he was just there so Cass could realize her human empathy. He never seemed like Cass’s equal. Or that Scott was only there so Alexsai could kidnap him and twirl his (pretend) sinister mustache and laugh evilly while Cass rescues Scott. (I’m sorry to refer to cartoon-like villains. Sometimes I can’t control myself.) What does he like about Cass? Why was he dating Samantha of all people? How did he even start dating someone like Samantha? They’re from two different groups of outcasts!
I really liked Samantha though, I found her to be annoyingly dramatic at times. I mentally shouted at her to, “Cool your jets woman!” when she was way too trustful of Cass who revealed she was a vampire. Did she only like Cass because she was a vampire? And who wouldn’t be cynical if someone close to you told you they were a mythological being? And yes, I am going to use the word stereotypical for Samantha only because there is some truth in that word relating to her emo/goth tendencies. I would like to read about Samantha’s home life more. What makes her tick? What makes her happy?
Now my focus turns to Alexsai. Oddly enough, he actually was one of my favorite characters other than Cass. Cass is always stating how “evil” Alexsai is in the book for what appears to no reason at all. Why is he so evil? What has he done!? I will admit that he did kidnap Scott and other innocent little boys for power but, really, come on! Why doesn’t Cass at least try to rat him out to her family? My hopes are that I learn more about Cass’s past with Alexsai and why she despises him. I would love for Alexsai to become a truly frightening monster-like character that Cass is afraid to close her eyes at night in fear of him. If it’s one thing some teen books don’t have, it’s a threatening antagonist.
Brittany, Cody, Robin, and Craig time. Okay, so mean girls we all despise have been done a lot. What about a mean girl who we despise in the beginning but tries to redeem herself after noticing the wrongness of her ways? Brittany, whether we think it or not, is still human which means that she has hopes and dreams. Why did she “betray” Robin? I know of cheerleaders and not all of them are horrible people who are trying to climb the social ladder. Cody was just plain clingy and irritating. And we didn’t even meet Craig as far as I can remember! More info on Robin!
The second book definitely needs to have a face-to-face meeting between Cass and Siobhan! I don’t even know where to begin with Cass’s mom, aunt, cousins, and the grandmothers.
What about Patrick’s writing style appeals to you?
I really like Patrick’s writing style, he writes in a way that is uniquely his own. I actually prefer first person view and I think Patrick should keep that up. I find that his writing is very real which helps ground the story and make it more believable. However, don’t be afraid to add in more paranormal.
What questions do you hope are answered in Cassandra’s Turn?
Family, family, family, family, family!!!! Did I mention family? I want to know a lot more about Cass’s family, especially her ancestors. I’m very nerdy on account of being fascinated with history concerning mythological beings. How did her line of ancestors start? Why can’t they have real relationships with humans? What is the name of Cass’s mother?! And more importantly, who and where is Cass’s father????!!!
What one piece of writing advice would you want Patrick to know?
I thoroughly enjoyed all the aspects about Patrick’s writing. The main thing I think he needs to work on is information. I was going crazy when I read his book, all I wanted was information!!! Patrick left me with so many questions that I hope he answers in book two! Keep writing Patrick, you’re doing fantastic!!! 😀
Linnea Ren’s Edits
To be, or not to be, that is the question;
Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
– William Shakespeare, Hamlet, 3.1.
Like the quote. Gives an interesting feel to the beginning of the story.
Chapter 1 / Monday / April 20 / early evening
Becca’s sleeping, but soon she’ll be dead. If not by my hand, then by the cancer eating away at her young body. I wonder what it was like when the doctor and her parents told her. How do you tell an eight year old child they have a terminal disease? In Becca’s family, I’m sure they did it discreetly and with dignity. In my family, when they told me the reason I was different than other children, it was in public as part of a family ritual. I was six – a magic number in our kind – and attending my first reenactment on Easter weekend. Christians know this holy day as Good Friday, but in our family, it marks the dawn of our species: the tear collectors. I take a sip from my ever-present water bottle and the fluid trickles down my throat as the memories of that day flow through my mind like so many tears from human beings throughout history.
I feel this first scene is too short. Give us a scene. Everything is being told. I don’t want to be told what’s going on, I want to be shown it. Cass can wonder these things, but where is she? What’s the tension in the room like? What’s going on around her? Where is she sitting? Is she comfortable? What does Becca look like? How does Cass know she’s close to death? Is she pale? Shaking? Having trouble breathing? What’s the room like?
Give more detail about where she is. Hook me with a scene because right now I feel disconnected.
<insert flashback scene>
I don’t know about putting a flashback scene so early on unless it’s the beginning of the book. I’ve been advised against it in my stories, and the people who do have flashbacks after a description like the one above often bug me a lot. As well as a lot of other readers. My suggestion is have the flash back go first, then have her think about Becca dying and what it must be like. See what it feels like when you do that instead.
Veronica’s warning of “you may never take a human life, except in self-defense” ring in my ears, but the words “I love you Cassandra” from Scott drown them out. I dial the number.
“Hello Brittney, it’s Cassandra. I need to see you,” I say into the phone.
“What do you want?” she asks as I picture her stuck-up sneer. Brittney is the most selfish creature among any species. She’s a blonde haired blood eyed locust of Lapeer High. She consumes everything and leaves nothing except a perfect image in her ever-present mirror.
The true answer is simple: I want to kill her. I learned from my cousin Siobhan that’s the secret to becoming human. I need to take a human life and transfer the energy into myself. Then I’ll be human and able to feel love, not just fake it. I can leave my kind behind and be with Scott.
“Listen, Cassandra, I’ve got nothing to say to you. “Don’t call me again!” The phone goes dead. Like my best friend Robyn. Soon like her sister Becca. I look down again at Becca sleeping peacefully in her bed, but know, the peace will not last. It will turn to horrible pain. She won’t live to see nine, and by the time death comes, she might be in so much pain and despair, she would welcome it.
I could end her suffering and solve my problem so easily. Why should I except the fate handed to me – to never love, to live among humans but not be one, to forever thrive off human misery – when I could change all that? All I would need to do is reject everything I’ve known since that fateful Good Friday eleven years ago.
When I go paragraph by paragraph I’ll give more about what I think, but for now this is my opinion of this second scene; it’s too short. Cass should be feeling some emotions right now, right? Well give me some. Show us some more about who she is. How she feels about Becca. More description of her actions, and her ideas. Why does she want to kill Brittany? In my eyes, Brittany isn’t a bad character. She really was just made shallow and 2-D in the first book so I don’t get it, and think about if you’re picking this book up for the first time. What makes her so evil? Why does Cass want her dead? Show us more. Maybe make the conversation longer. Have Brittany call Cass a bad name, or have her make fun of Samantha. Maybe have her say something like, “you moved on from Robyn being your friend so quickly you have no right to judge me. Now you’re hanging out with that whale, Samantha” or something like that. It gives us a sense of what a bitch she is, and we get to know what kinds of things Samantha is called.
Overall I didn’t feel the hook of the first chapter. I know it’s a sequel, but after that cliff hanger you gotta give us something more exciting. Action. Jump into the action. Maybe if you do start with the flashback, it could be Cass performing the ceremony. Don’t start with her thoughts, but start with her doing her part. Right now it just seems bland. Nothing has happened so far.
M. Hawkins’s Edits
To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
– William Shakespeare, Hamlet, 3.1.
Prologue / ten years earlier / Good Friday
<insert flashback scene of Cass at age six at first re-enactment and learning what she is and her origin story and basics of the tear collector world. She plays the role of Veronica and Alexei plays the role of Simon. The family member playing Jesus puts tears from the tear collector vial directly on their shoulders so for the first time, they feel the rush of energy. Cass’s eyes roll back in her head, her breath grows short. In the distance, she hears screams and is told someone is being exiled from the family. Maggie, against her mother’s objections, drags her to see the man being punished (it’s Mr. Abraham, but his face is covered) . Scene should end with Veronica explaining tear collector “commandments” / rules for interacting with humans>
Hello! So RED is my comments (obviously).
First off, loving the Shakespeare quotes, because ah, Shakespeare!! Plus, Hamlet is kind of the best play ever, and I love the parallels Cassandra’s drawing. Even though it’s first person, the comparisons don’t feel forced. I really do think it adds some relevant levels of allusion, as do the Biblical images and references, and help make the story much deeper and more substantial.
I’m excited for this flashback, because I think it’ll add SO MUCH.
Chapter 1/ Monday / April 20 / early evening
“Becca, are you awake?” I whisper but she doesn’t respond. I’ve snapped of the past, focused on the present, but the life and death decision I must make is about the future.
For now, Becca’s sleeping, but soon she’ll be dead. If not by my hand, then by the cancer eating away at her eight year old body. Her big pink bed is too big for her small body; her pain is too much for her family still reeling from the death of their older daughter Robyn. My best friend killed in a car accident, or so everyone thinks. Becca’s room is filled with the toys of a happy child; the air of her house filled with the moist misery of an unhappy family falling apart.
Just a phrasing thing, “so everyone thinks?” I understand everyone THINKS it’s an accident, but it could seem like “BUT SHE ACTUALLY DIED IN A SKIING ACCIDENT, IT WAS AN ELABORATE ROUSE!! THE CAR ACCIDENT WASN’T REAL!!” It’s just a tad confusing, and even just saying something like “My best friend killed in a car accident, or at least everyone thinks it’s an accident…”
And I could change it all. I could save Becca’s life, or I could save my love. I cradle my phone in my hand, unable to decide or act. In my mind, I hear my great grandmother Veronica’s warning that “you may never take a human life, except in self-defense” but the words “I love you Cassandra” from Scott drown them out. But words are hollow, mostly lies, only actions matter. If I’m going to take a life, then I need to choose a life worth taking. A life not needed by anyone.
“Hello Brittney, it’s Cassandra. I need to see you,” I say into the phone.
“What do you want, bitch?” I picture the stuck-up sneer on her overly made-up face with her nails and tan as fake as her tears. Worse than her false appearance is the essence of her soul: she’s the most selfish creature among any species. She’s a blonde haired blood eyed locust of Lapeer High. She consumes everything and leaves nothing except a perfect image in her ever-present mirror. Her list of crimes against my friends is long; her list of good deeds is non-existent. Brittney is sin dressed in cheerleader sneakers by day and red stiletto heels by night.
Again with the awesome Biblical allusions, ahh!! Though I still have this feeling like… I dunno, like Brittany is being villanised without cause or development. The sooner you can get in the “psychopath” thing, the better! Without it, it just seems like Brittany isn’t well developed, but with it, she comes across as really well written!
“Listen, Cassandra, I’ve got nothing to say to you. “Don’t call me again!” The phone goes dead. Like Robyn. Soon like Becca. I look down again at Becca sleeping peacefully in her bed, her peace will not last. I know from my volunteer work at Lapeer Hospital the pain her cancer will bring. She won’t live to see nine, and by the time death comes, she might be in so much pain and despair, she would welcome it.
I could change that. Rather than being selfish and taking it for myself, I could trade Brittney life for Becca’s life. I’ve done so many bad things, I need to set things right. Rather than causing sorrow yet again, I will – with my Grandmother Maggie’s ability to perform the miracle – create joy.
“Cassandra, is everything okay?” Becca’s mother asks. She’s behind me in the door. I’ve been up for more than an hour just watching Becca and considering options.
I turn around, fake a smile, and lie so easily. “Everything’s fine.”
“Scott said that you two should probably get going,” Mrs. Berry whispers, then leaves, but I don’t move. I stare at this sweet little girl. Why should she have to die? Sometimes I question my family history and believe there is no God. Like my new friend Samantha said, what God would allow so much suffering? Why should an innocent like Becca die, while a sinner like Brittney lives? Or will I be selfish like her and use Becca’s life so I can really love?
Becca’s suspended between life and death just like me. Life as a human or the deathly existence of colleting tears by causing human misery. We’re studying Hamlet in my junior English class and so many people seem bored because they can’t make the connection to their own life. For me, ever word rings true as my family’s needs battle my desires. To be or not to be a tear collector is my question. Do I accept my fate or do I fight for Scott, for Becca, for myself?
“I’m thinking of quitting peer counseling,” I tell Scott as soon as we’re in his car. It’s a beat-up Chevy compared to most of the hot cars my other boyfriends drove. For once with Scott, I focused on the person inside, not the outer trappings that helped me snare men in my web.
“Why would you do that?” He strokes my long rainbow colored hair out of my eyes. It falls on my shoulders, which, as always, are bare to the world and all it’s wretchedness. The skin in my shoulders absorbs in its microscopic pores human tears and converts them into energy. I merely survive on human food and oxygen, but can only thrive on despair and sorrow.
I have some issues with her hair being “rainbow.” It’s a great description, but when I was on swim team, I wasn’t allowed to have died hair, because even if the chlorine doesn’t kill it, the constant washing that comes with having long hair filled with chlorine will. Maybe rainbow isn’t a great description, just because it implies she’s probably spending many hours a week on her hair. Maybe just saying her “dyed” hair, or her “multi-colored,” because it takes away some of the implications of her destroying her meticulous hair with pool water.
“So I can spend more time with you.” I bury my face into his shoulder. With Mr. A.’s help, I stared peer counseling program at school where students help other students. This lets me soak up tears, but gives me information I need to create drama. Quitting counseling will be my first small step away from my tear collector ways. If I’m to leave my life behind for Scott, I ‑ must begin to act more human, less like a tear collector. Maybe like the tear collectors of old, I’ll provide genuine compassion, not just fake empathy and concern.
Scott half-smiles. “I’d smile more, but it still hurts.” My cousin Alexei tortured Scott trying to get to me. His mouth will recover, but I hope his memories of that night never return. I kiss Scott to heal him, I also want to feel his pain, but I can’t, for that would be real love. Like my cousin Siobhan told me once, human love isn’t about sharing pleasure, but sharing the pain.
I gently kiss his cheek to push the images away. “When you’re hurt, I’m here.”
“You always are.” Scott pulls me closer. When I look into Scott’s brown eyes, I don’t see him or me, I see Robyn’s eyes. When Scott talks to me he has the same sparkle in his eyes than Robyn did when she talked about her boyfriend Craig. Craig, who broke her heart and led Robyn to take her own life. Love isn’t a four letter word; it’s a full life sentence.
I literally shouted “NO! ROBYN, BABY!!” so congrats, I care way too much about her character!! Poor lamb chop!!
My shoulders start to tingle. I sense Scott’s emotions on the rise. “Scott, are you okay?”
“I’m just thinking about Robyn, about my grandmother, about all this loss in my life.”
“I understand,” I lie. Tear collectors don’t feel loss or love or any human emotions except anger, jealousy, and fear. Those three stoke fires that allow us to manipulate humans for our own purposes, but also to help these human cry out their pain. We are catharsis machines.
“Do you miss Robyn?” He asks. As always, Scott’s thinking about me, not himself.
“Every day,” I answer which is only a half-lie. I’m not capable of missing anyone, but I miss the connection Robyn gave me in school. She was the apex, but like that poem we read by Yeats, the center could not hold. It was Robyn’s death over a month ago that set these events in ‑ motion: my relationship with Scott, my friendship with Samantha, my feud with Brittney, and the turmoil in my family. Like the murder of Hamlet’s father, Robyn’s death hangs over everything.
I’d love to see the Yeats quote extended.
Also, I love the connection between Robyn and Old Hamlet, because, at least for me, it gives an extra level of motivation to Cassandra. If Cass is Hamlet (who she does seem to associate with), then Robyn’s death, like the death of Hamlet’s father, would help drive her to what she intends to do. It helps give her purpose.
Jordan McMullen Audio Review
Cassandra’s Turn Editing Project Session 1 Notes
The Purpose of Editing:
- Help the author tell the best story possible.
- Look for plot-holes, character inconsistencies, etc.
- Identify any parts of the story that need growing.
- Help trim any excess parts of the story.
- Move around commas and other grammatical schtuffs.
Things to Consider While Reading The Tear Collector:
- What do you like best/worst about the book?
- How do you find the characters relate to real life?
- What about Patrick’s writing style appeals to you?
- What questions do you hope are answered in Cassandra’s Turn?
- What one piece of writing advice would you want Patrick to know?
Editing Terms Covered:
Iceberg effect: This is the idea that the author of the book must know everything about the world, the characters, and any supernatural/magic/technology systems at play in the book so that the reader feels like there is a much deeper aspect to all
this as the foundation for what is actually seen on the page. It adds depth to everything. The best tool to encourage an author to build the bottom of the iceberg is to keep asking, “Why?”
MacGuffin and Deus ex Machina: These are terms that refer to the reader feeling the hand of the author on the page saying, “This is so because I said so” and no alternate or deeper reason being offered. A MacGuffin is a plot device (usually a character who shows up) specifically for the reason of conveying information to the reader in a way that feels clunky and forced. Deus ex Machina is Latin for “God in the machine” and is when the reader feels like the only reason certain actions are happening in the plot is because the author wants it that way and not because of any character motivation. Again, the best tool for getting around these is to ask, “Why?”
Suspension of Disbelief: This refers to how real and believable the story feels to the reader. It covers everything from character motivation to the laws of physics. In a story involving supernatural/magical/science fiction elements, this becomes critical when dealing with the “real world” aspects of the story so that readers will be more willing to go along with the fantastic elements. Asking “Why?” of yourself as the editor helps you to test suspension of disbelief as you are reading the work.
Critiques to the author should be delivered gently and with suggestions on how to make the story more believable.
Show vs. Tell: This refers to the dynamic of how the story information is delivered. Are we told someone is sad, or are we shown the sadness through the character’s words and actions? A good way to guide authors to work on this dynamic is to remind them to appeal to the five senses, especially smell since it is hard-wired to the memory center in the brain.
Tell Me More: This part of editing is to fill in holes in the story, be they plot, setting/character description, or character development. Encouragement in this area should come in the form of specific questions. Example: Don’t just say, “Tell me more about Sally!” Say, “Sally is a little vague to me. Can you tell me more about how she looks and why she came to be a professional lemonade vendor for life?”
Arc vs. Conviction: This is the BEST tool for character development! It refers to the general way a character exists on the page: Are they fairly stable and unchanging? (Conviction) Or do they go through a small or large transformation?
(Arc) Luke Skywalker is an example of an Arc character. He goes through many changes on his journey from whiny moisture farmer to competent and compassionate Jedi. Superman, on the other hand, has been, is now, and ever shall be the Big, Blue Boy Scout. Even death did not change him. Explaining this dynamic to authors and applying these labels to all their characters will help you stay on the same page with how characters should think/act. One note of importance: Just because a character is Conviction-oriented does not mean that they should be one- or two-dimensional characters. Many Conviction characters can be deep creatures of important thoughts. Obi Wan from Star Wars is a fine example of a character who is pretty much the same throughout all three movies.
Even death doesn’t change him from being a wise man (not to mention a wise-ass with that whole “True from a certain point of view” stuff!)
Your assignment for this week:
Apply the above tools to The Tear Collector and write some feedback for Patrick as if you were in a position to be able to change what was on those pages. This is practice editing for the real deal! 🙂
Colorado Literature Conference Photos