Kipalee was often trying to make uncomfortable situations more comfortable by making herself laugh. As she stumbled on her way into her new school, she awarded herself a gold metal…for tripping on air.
“And the gold medal for tripping on air goes to…,” a voice in Kipalee’s head said as she tried to straighten up quickly after almost falling, smoothing her faded jeans and blue t-shirt. In her mind, the crowd went wild waiting to see who won the gold medal.
“Kipalee Ann Carrigan! Congratulations Kipalee, who would you like to thank?” Kip laughed quietly as she accepted the award she bestowed on herself for being so clumsy.
Kip had a knack for tripping and often she tripped on nothing. That was the case the morning she first walked up the sidewalk leading to Jackson Middle School. Fortunately, no one seemed to notice and she caught herself before she fell all the way to the ground. This time.
She walked into school, eyes darting from side to side. She was trying so hard to look calm and comfortable but failing miserably. The expression on her round, innocent-looking, sweet face made her look like she was wound tighter than a drum.
Looking around at her new classmates, Kip noticed the fold lines from the store in their new clothes. Tears sprang to her eyes, missing her friends from her old school. “Quit your blubbering Kip, you are not a baby. You are a seventh grader! Grow up girl and own your bad self.”
Beyonce’s song Run the World ran through Kip’s head. Thinking about her favorite songs always comforted Kip. Today though, she couldn’t shake the pit in her stomach. At her old school she was well known and she was comfortable being herself. She knew she was a bit of an odd duck and she was always a little uncomfortable and self-conscious, but so were many of her old classmates. They knew her inside and out, her strengths and her weaknesses, and accepted her just the same.
She was dreading the first time the teacher said her name, fearing the ridicule that would follow. What new variation of her name would they come up with? She probably had heard them all…Pippy, Skip-a-lee, Skippy…ugh, who was named Kipalee anyway? It was so embarrassing that her mom found her name in a romance novel with that long-haired blond guy named Fabio on the cover, the guy who was on nearly every romance novel cover on her mom’s bookshelf. And then moving her to this new school and new town without even asking her opinion? Unforgivable. Her nickname, Kip, was only marginally better. Although she was teased less about her nickname, everyone thought she was a boy when they saw Kip on a class list. Last year she was even assigned to the boys locker room for PE.
Kip found a desk in the back and pulled out her fresh new notebook. Typically she loved new school supplies and the endless possibilities of a new school year made it one of her favorite times of the year. She tore open her package of multi-color flair pens with a little help from her teeth. Taking out a purple pen, she settled into the hard wooden seat as best as she could and breathed a heavy sigh. This was going to be awful, she just knew it.
More kids piled into the room and Kip looked up through her long brown bangs, her deep blue eyes looking at her classmates apprehensively. Her mom says that her eyes are the color of the deepest part of the ocean and that wearing blue makes them stand out even more. That is why she wore her favorite blue t-shirt today. As she looked around, she noticed a couple other kids who seemed as nervous as she was. “Maybe they need a new friend,” she thought hopefully. Maybe.
She was startled out of her self-pity by an exuberant greeting from her teacher. “Good morning boys and girls! Welcome to seventh grade! This will be an exciting year for all of us. This is just my second year teaching and I am so excited to begin our adventure! My name is Mrs. Holiday and I get to be your teacher this year. Let’s start by getting to know each other with a little game.”
“Wow!” thought Kip. “I have never had a teacher start the first day with a game. Usually we go over the same rules year after year. The rules we already know. The rules that the same kids follow and the same kids break year to year. Maybe Mrs. Holiday will be different. Maybe.”
The light of hope that sparked within Kip when she noticed that she was not the only nervous student in the class just grew to a barely perceptible flame. Kip felt the warmth of her tiny light of hope loosen her up and she wondered if her new school wouldn’t be as horrible as she imagined. Maybe a little less horrible.
Mrs. Holiday explained the directions to the class. They would stand in a circle and pass the ball to each other. The only rules were that they could not pass to someone next to them or to someone who already had a turn. They needed to say the name of the person they were passing the ball to in a loud voice, and they needed to remember who passed them the ball and who they passed the ball to so they could repeat the pattern.
“Here we go,” thought Kipalee, straightening her shoulders and faking a confidence she didn’t quite feel. “Let the teasing begin. Who will be the first sucker to laugh at my name? Bring it, I’ve heard it all before.”
Whack! The ball hit Kip hard in the chest. Before she could catch her breath, she glanced up and saw the sneer of the boy who threw it at her. “Kip-a-lee,” he yelled, emphasizing the syllables of her name. The snickers that followed made Kip want to melt into the worn carpet below her.
Questions for my editors:
- Does this first chapter of the book grab your attention? How could I make an even better first impression with readers?
- What information do you learn about Kipalee in this chapter? Is it enough to help you begin to understand who she is?
- What traits of Kipalee do you like? Are there any you don’t connect with?
- Is there any place where I use an ordinary word that could be replaced with a more descriptive word?
- Is there any place where I repeat a word too frequently?
- Always let me know if you find grammatical errors.
Please put your edits in the comments on this post. I can’t wait to learn from you!
Behind the scenes info:
Kipalee was my mom’s name. My mom passed away in 2012 after a two year battle with ovarian cancer. You can read about my mom’s illness here. I love using her name in this story for the main character. She seriously was assigned to the boys locker room once because they thought that Kip was a boys name. My grandma did find the name Kipalee in a romance novel, but Fabio wasn’t on the cover because he wasn’t born yet. My mom actually grew up in Jackson and moved to Grand Rapids as an adult.
That ball name game that Mrs. Holiday played with the class is one of my favorite name games to play with students and even with adults. You should try it with the speed and extra balls variations. It is so fun!