Monday, September 1, 2014

Just do it

WRITE.

I tell myself this every day. And most days, I do. Some days, I don't. As a writer, if I don't, then I feel a sense of... undoneness. I know that is not a word, but that's how I feel. Like I didn't do what I was supposed to do. Like I put all the clothes and detergent in the washer and forgot to shut the lid.

I had a BLAST at WriteOnCon last week. I met new writers, cleaned up my query, 1st 250 words, 1st five pages, and that's writing. Rewriting, revising, editing--whatever you want to call it. What I missed? Writing something new. Writing something that I haven't thought of before. I guess the words were, technically, new because I hadn't put them together in that order yet. What I really think I missed the new idea. The next project. The next novel my brain is going to go crazy over.

Then, I read this on writing by the fabulous Victoria Marini. Encouragement, yes! Am I going to make some goals that will fall apart? Probably. But I want to write. I love it. Need it. Crave it. If I don't do it, I'm not me. It took me years to figure that out. That somehow, in my brain, people I don't know and don't exist show up and talk about their lives. Their situations. Their loss. Their love. Their pain. I want to listen. I want to write about it.

Will you join me?

How about you? What do you feel after a conference? Elated? Dejected? Tell me. I want to know. :)


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Honorary Warrior, Christy 5 of 5

We want to thank those who signed up for an opportunity to become an honorary warrior. It's scary to put your words out there to be evaluated by your peers--especially in a setting such as this. We applaud your bravery and truly appreciate you trusting us with your beloved words. 

For the next two weeks, we'll be looking at our winners first pages and providing our thoughts. Week Two: Christy.

Christy submitted a MG fantasy titled: ANCORA. Click here to see Christy's submission free of any comments. Every few days this week, we'll post one of our critiques of these first pages. To see all the critiques (once they have all posted) you can click the quick link under label titled Honorary Warriors.

Please know, we found it is extremely difficult to provide feedback on a blog post without the document becoming a bit of a mess. For this reason, some of our 'THIS IS AWESOME' comments may be at the bottom of the document. Areas that caused hesitation, questions, and praise are highlighted with the reason pasted immediately after the paragraph.
Rina's Thoughts:
Katie twisted the stark white feather between her fingertips. Three feet from base to tip, it was unlike any she’d ever seen. Not just because of its size, but because of the way it glimmered -- as if it possessed its own light source.
Very intriguing! And what a beautiful image. 
She ran a finger over its tufts. How could it be so strong and soft at the same time? A single bead of water slid from the feather’s base to its tip, glittering in the moonlight and falling to the ground.
Nice thought.
As she held it, something tugged at her inside. She had an urge to answer, to yell out, “yes!” and “here I come!” It startled her, but instead of dropping the feather, she curled her fingers even more tightly around it.
Could cut.
She was in her secret place, a tucked-back nook in the woods near her house. She guarded its secret like a dragon hoarding a jeweled chalice, never mentioning it to anyone, careful no one saw her coming or going between its branches.
Could tweak this a bit to make a little more “show-y”, something better than this but just an example:   
 “Katie rested her back against the sturdy tree trunk, exhaling and letting the solitude of her secret pace relax her.” 
She first discovered the spot between a thick of bushes and trees draped in green hanging moss. The dome of limbs and vines arched from the ground like the half-circle monkey bars on a playground. To her it was a fortress, a castle, a secret keep. She trekked the woods near her house, pulling down palm fronds to cover the dome. She named her hideout Palm Island.
Could introduce a little foreshadowing here? Maybe something like,
 “She discovered the spot on accident. One afternoon when her house was too full of worry to offer any cozy places, she ran outside, through the woods at the edge of her yard and poof—there it was.
Katie escaped to Palm Island anytime she needed to be alone. Days like today.
As she examined the feather, a shiver ran all the way down her spine and left a trail of goose bumps to her toes. It mattered. Yet she did not know why, or how much – only that it did.
At this point I’m finding myself very curious about where that feather came from
Just then, she was startled by a quick flash of movement through the layers of branches and vines. Then a stir of leaves. A step-crunch-step.
Could cut
 From her shadowed alcove, she pulled back a branch and peered out, the feather clutched at her side. Ahead, another white flash swished through panels of shadow and light. She walked toward it, but the footsteps receded. The whiteness vanished.
Could cut to keep the tension up. 
The surrounding air thickened and grew damp, the sounds of night distant, muffled as if swallowed in a cloud.
J So good! 
Her grandmother’s voice sliced through the murky air. Katie whipped her head toward home. At that moment, a gust of wind snatched the feather from her hand. She darted to catch it, but it streaked away, spiraling into the night.
And it took some part of her with it -- a small, lonely spark of light that hadn’t been there before.
Katie remained staring up long after the faintest glimmer had vanished.
Her grandmother’s third call broke the spell over her, and she turned toward home. 
In the house, pots and pans clanked from the kitchen and the smell of sautéed onions and ground beef filled the air – her grandmother starting dinner.
Katie would offer to help, but her Grandma would only usher her away, telling her to go visit her mom. She needed a little more time to work up the courage.
Random idea, what if you set this thought off into its own paragraph? 
In her room, she slumped to the floor. A year ago, the doctors said her mother had two years to live. The past year had vanished like a word written too close to the ocean’s shore.
HEARTBREAK. Poor baby.  I like these lines, but what if they came at the end of the next paragrapgh? What if the reader learns about Katie’s mom with this line: A painful ache started there the day she learned her mother had cancer, and had only grown worse since.
Katie absently lifted both hands to cover her heart. A painful ache started there the day she learned her mother had cancer, and had only grown worse since. She wondered if other girls her age felt this way. She was only twelve but sometimes felt as though she’d lived twelve lifetimes.
Absent-mindedly ? 
Her cat Coal squeezed in the doorway and rubbed against her sneakers. His eyes met hers and he greeted her with a trilling mew.
“Hi Coal,” Katie said. She stroked his silky black fur. He purred and dropped to his back, looking up at her from half slit eyes.

“It was a rough day,” she said, scratching his stomach. He took her hand between his front paws and licked one of her knuckles, then rolled on his side. His tail hit the carpet in soft thumps.
So glad she has this source of comfort. 
Some things I thought were especially awesome:
* She guarded its secret like a dragon hoarding a jeweled chalice, never mentioning it to anyone, careful no one saw her coming or going between its branches.
To her it was a fortress, a castle, a secret keep. 
The past year had vanished like a word written too close to the ocean’s shore.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Honorary Warrior, Christy 4 of 5

We want to thank those who signed up for an opportunity to become an honorary warrior. It's scary to put your words out there to be evaluated by your peers--especially in a setting such as this. We applaud your bravery and truly appreciate you trusting us with your beloved words. 

For the next two weeks, we'll be looking at our winners first pages and providing our thoughts. Week Two: Christy.

Christy submitted a MG fantasy titled: ANCORA. Click here to see Christy's submission free of any comments. Every few days this week, we'll post one of our critiques of these first pages. To see all the critiques (once they have all posted) you can click the quick link under label titled Honorary Warriors.

Please know, we found it is extremely difficult to provide feedback on a blog post without the document becoming a bit of a mess. For this reason, some of our 'THIS IS AWESOME' comments may be at the bottom of the document. Areas that caused hesitation, questions, and praise are highlighted with the reason pasted immediately after the paragraph.
Michelle's Thoughts:
Katie twisted the stark white feather between her fingertips. Three feet from base to tip, it was unlike any she’d ever seen. Not just because of its size, but because of the way it glimmered -- as if it possessed its own light source.
Oooh, I like this opening!
She ran a finger over its tufts. How could it be so strong and soft at the same time? A single bead of water slid from the feather’s base to its tip, glittering in the moonlight and falling to the ground.
As she held it, something tugged at her inside. She had an urge to answer, to yell out, “yes!” and “here I come!” It startled her, but instead of dropping the feather, she curled her fingers even more tightly around it.
She was in her secret place, a tucked-back nook in the woods near her house. She guarded its secret like a dragon hoarding a jeweled chalice, never mentioning it to anyone, careful no one saw her coming or going between its branches.
Loving these descriptions.
She first discovered the spot between a thick of bushes and trees draped in green hanging moss. The dome of limbs and vines arched from the ground like the half-circle monkey bars on a playground. To her it was a fortress, a castle, a secret keep. She trekked the woods near her house, pulling down palm fronds to cover the dome. She named her hideout Palm Island.
Katie escaped to Palm Island anytime she needed to be alone. Days like today.
As she examined the feather, a shiver ran all the way down her spine and left a trail of goose bumps to her toes. It mattered. Yet she did not know why, or how much – only that it did.
Just then, she was startled by a quick flash of movement through the layers of branches and vines. Then a stir of leaves. A step-crunch-step.
I’d suggest being careful with phrases like “Just then.” It adds unnecessary weight to something happening suddenly. 
 From her shadowed alcove, she pulled back a branch and peered out, the feather clutched at her side. Ahead, another white flash swished through panels of shadow and light. She walked toward it, but the footsteps receded. The whiteness vanished.
The surrounding air thickened and grew damp, the sounds of night distant, muffled as if swallowed in a cloud.
Her grandmother’s voice sliced through the murky air. Katie whipped her head toward home. At that moment, a gust of wind snatched the feather from her hand. She darted to catch it, but it streaked away, spiraling into the night.
And it took some part of her with it -- a small, lonely spark of light that hadn’t been there before.
Katie remained staring up long after the faintest glimmer had vanished.
Her grandmother’s third call broke the spell over her, and she turned toward home. 

In the house, pots and pans clanked from the kitchen and the smell of sautéed onions and ground beef filled the air – her grandmother starting dinner.
Katie would offer to help, but her Grandma would only usher her away, telling her to go visit her mom. She needed a little more time to work up the courage.
In her room, she slumped to the floor. A year ago, the doctors said her mother had two years to live. The past year had vanished like a word written too close to the ocean’s shore.
Katie absently lifted both hands to cover her heart. A painful ache started there the day she learned her mother had cancer, and had only grown worse since. She wondered if other girls her age felt this way. She was only twelve but sometimes felt as though she’d lived twelve lifetimes.
Her cat Coal squeezed in the doorway and rubbed against her sneakers. His eyes met hers and he greeted her with a trilling mew.
“Hi Coal,” Katie said. She stroked his silky black fur. He purred and dropped to his back, looking up at her from half slit eyes.

“It was a rough day,” she said, scratching his stomach. He took her hand between his front paws and licked one of her knuckles, then rolled on his side. His tail hit the carpet in soft thumps.
I feel terrible that I don’t have much to suggest, but I loved this! 

Honorary Warrior, Christy 3 of 5

We want to thank those who signed up for an opportunity to become an honorary warrior. It's scary to put your words out there to be evaluated by your peers--especially in a setting such as this. We applaud your bravery and truly appreciate you trusting us with your beloved words. 

For the next two weeks, we'll be looking at our winners first pages and providing our thoughts. Week Two: Christy.

Christy submitted a MG fantasy titled: ANCORA. Click here to see Christy's submission free of any comments. Every few days this week, we'll post one of our critiques of these first pages. To see all the critiques (once they have all posted) you can click the quick link under label titled Honorary Warriors.

Please know, we found it is extremely difficult to provide feedback on a blog post without the document becoming a bit of a mess. For this reason, some of our 'THIS IS AWESOME' comments may be at the bottom of the document. Areas that caused hesitation, questions, and praise are highlighted with the reason pasted immediately after the paragraph.
Marlana's Thoughts:
Katie twisted the stark white feather between her fingertips. Three feet from base to tip, it was unlike any she’d ever seen. Not just because of its size, but because of the way it (1)glimmered -- as if it possessed its own light source.
(1) This is really intriguing and you've caught my attention. :) 
(2) Can you take this even further? Is it glowing? Is it a pulsating light?
She ran a finger over its tufts. (1)How could it be so strong and soft at the same time? A single bead of water slid from the feather’s base to its tip, glittering in the moonlight and falling to the ground.
(1) I think there's also an opportunity here to show us more. What physical indicators are present that shows Katie that it's strong? For example: when she runs her finger across the tufts, does it make a sound?  
As she held it, something tugged at her inside. She had an urge to answer, to yell out, “yes!” and “here I come!” It startled her, but instead of dropping the feather, she curled her fingers even more tightly around it.
(1)She was in her secret place, a tucked-back nook in the woods near her house. She guarded its secret like a dragon hoarding a jeweled chalice, (2)never mentioning it to anyone, careful no one saw her coming or going between its branches.
(1) I think this paragraph might serve better as your opening. For some reason, it feels a little like backstory placed here. 
(2) Possible cut since its reiterated what the previous sentence established.
She first discovered the spot between a thick of bushes and trees draped in green hanging moss. (1)The dome of limbs and vines arched from the ground like the half-circle monkey bars on a playground. To her it was a fortress, a castle, a secret keep. She (2)had trekked the woods near her house, pulling down palm fronds to cover the dome. She named her hideout Palm Island.
(1) Awesome description - I can totally see it.
(2) Add 'had' -- had trekked
Katie escaped to Palm Island anytime she needed to be alone. Days like today.
As she examined the feather, a shiver ran all the way down her spine and left a trail of goose bumps to her toes. It mattered. Yet she did not know why, or how much – only that it did.
(1)Just then, she was (2)startled by a quick flash of movement through the layers of branches and vines. Then a stir of leaves. A step-crunch-step.
(1) 'Just then' slow down the action / diminishes the tension. Possible cut. Also, I think you could combine this paragraph with the paragraph below
(2) Repeat word
 From her shadowed alcove, she pulled back a branch and peered out, the feather clutched at her side. Ahead, another white flash swished through panels of shadow and light. She walked toward it, but the footsteps receded. The whiteness vanished.
How does this make her feel? 
The surrounding air thickened and grew damp, the sounds of night distant, muffled as if swallowed in a cloud.
Beautiful! 
Her grandmother’s voice sliced through the murky air. Katie whipped her head toward home. (1)At that moment, a gust of wind snatched the feather from her hand. She (2)darted to catch it, but it streaked away, (3)spiraling into the night.
(1) Again - this is a slow down phrase IMHO. Possible cut. 
(2) I love the verb 'darted' but with all the imagery you're painting, here I just wanted it simple because I felt darted sounded a bit forced. Possibly change to  -- She tried to catch it
(3)Great imagery
And it took some part of her with it -- a small, lonely spark of light that hadn’t been there before.
Katie remained staring up long after the faintest glimmer had vanished.
Her grandmother’s third call broke the spell over her, and she turned toward home. 
Repeat phrase.  
In the house, pots and pans clanked from the kitchen and the smell of sautéed onions and ground beef filled the air – her grandmother starting dinner.
I feel like I'm missing a sentence or two of entering the house
Katie would offer to help, but her Grandma would only usher her away, telling her to go visit her mom. She needed a little more time to work up the courage.
This foreshadowing doesn't work for me here, maybe give us more of a reason why she needed more time.
In her room, she slumped to the floor. A year ago, the doctors said her mother had two years to live. The past year had vanished like a word written too close to the ocean’s shore.
Aha. Okay - I'd suggest putting this before the line that she needed more time to work up some courage
Katie absently lifted both hands to cover her heart. A painful ache started there the day she learned her mother had cancer, and had only grown worse since. She wondered if other girls her age felt this way. She was only twelve but sometimes felt as though she’d lived twelve lifetimes.
This feels forced IMHO and I'm wondering why she'd think of other girls feeling like this since other girls she's referring to probably don't have a mother dying of cancer.
Her cat Coal squeezed in the doorway and rubbed against her sneakers. His eyes met hers and he greeted her with a trilling mew.
“Hi Coal,” Katie said. She stroked his silky black fur. He purred and dropped to his back, looking up at her from half slit eyes.

“It was a rough day,” she said, scratching his stomach. He took her hand between his front paws and licked one of her knuckles, then rolled on his side. His tail hit the carpet in soft thumps.
You are very gifted at painting imagery through your words. I'm very curious about the giant feather and am wondering what important role it will play in Katie's story.

Here are a few of your lines that struck me as especially awesome.

* A single bead of water slid from the feather’s base to its tip, glittering in the moonlight and falling to the ground.
She guarded its secret like a dragon hoarding a jeweled chalice,
The past year had vanished like a word written too close to the ocean’s shore.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Honorary Warrior, Christy 2 of 5

We want to thank those who signed up for an opportunity to become an honorary warrior. It's scary to put your words out there to be evaluated by your peers--especially in a setting such as this. We applaud your bravery and truly appreciate you trusting us with your beloved words. 

For the next two weeks, we'll be looking at our winners first pages and providing our thoughts. Week Two: Christy.

Christy submitted a MG fantasy titled: ANCORA. Click here to see Christy's submission free of any comments. Every few days this week, we'll post one of our critiques of these first pages. To see all the critiques (once they have all posted) you can click the quick link under label titled Honorary Warriors.

Please know, we found it is extremely difficult to provide feedback on a blog post without the document becoming a bit of a mess. For this reason, some of our 'THIS IS AWESOME' comments may be at the bottom of the document. Areas that caused hesitation, questions, and praise are highlighted with the reason pasted immediately after the paragraph.
Diane's Thoughts:
Katie twisted the stark white feather between her fingertips. Three feet from base to tip, it was unlike any she’d ever seen. Not just because of its size, but because of the way it glimmered -- as if it possessed its own light source.
What a cool detail! 
She ran a finger over its tufts. How could it be so strong and soft at the same time? A single bead of water slid from the feather’s base to its tip, glittering in the moonlight and falling to the ground.
Replace with 'length' to avoid repetition base to tip. J
As she held it, something tugged at her inside. (1)She had an urge to answer, to yell out, “yes!” and “here I come!(2)It startled her, but instead of dropping the feather, she curled her fingers even more tightly around it.
(1)Makes me so curious! I’m guessing this is not an animal feather. J
(2) Replace 'It' with 'The need'
She was in her secret place, a tucked-back nook in the woods near her house. She guarded (1)its secret like a dragon hoarding a jeweled chalice, never mentioning (2)it to anyone, careful no one saw her coming or going between its branches.
 (1) Replace with 'the'
(2) Replace with 'her hideout'
She (1)first discovered the spot between a thick of bushes and trees draped in green hanging moss. (2)The dome of limbs and vines arched from the ground like the half-circle monkey bars on a playground. To her it was a fortress, a castle, a secret keep. She trekked the woods near her house, pulling down palm fronds to cover the dome. She named her hideout Palm Island.
 (1) This implies a time frame. So at the end of the sentence tell when. For example: “She first discovered the spot between a thick of bushes and trees draped in the green hanging moss when she was eight.”
(2) Great description. J I can picture it. J
Katie escaped to Palm Island anytime she needed to be alone. Days like today.
As she examined the feather, a shiver ran all the way down her spine and left a trail of goose bumps to her toes. It mattered. Yet she did not know why, or how much – only that it did.
Interesting…
Just then, she was startled by a quick flash of movement through the layers of branches and vines. Then a stir of leaves. A step-crunch-step.
 From her shadowed alcove, she pulled back a branch and peered out, the feather clutched at her side. Ahead, another white flash swished through panels of shadow and light. She walked toward it, but the footsteps receded. The whiteness vanished.
Ooooo this must be the owner of the feather! 
The surrounding air thickened and grew damp, the sounds of night distant, muffled as if swallowed in a cloud.
Her grandmother’s voice sliced through the murky air. Katie whipped her head toward home. At that moment, a gust of wind snatched the feather from her hand. She darted to catch it, but it streaked away, spiraling into the night.
Add 'sky' (..spiraling into the night sky) Just because below she is looking up. J
And it took some part of her with it -- a small, lonely spark of light that hadn’t been there before.
You’re doing a great job of building suspense around this feather and its owner. I can’t wait to see who it is! 
Katie remained staring up long after the faintest glimmer had vanished.
Her grandmother’s third call broke the spell over her, and she turned toward home. 

In the house, pots and pans clanked from the kitchen and the smell of sautéed onions and ground beef filled the air – her grandmother starting dinner.
Katie would offer to help, but her Grandma would only usher her away, telling her to go visit her mom. She needed a little more time to work up the courage.
Interesting. This goes along with the mention that today was a secret hideout kind of day
In her room, she slumped to the floor. A year ago, the doctors said her mother had two years to live. The past year had vanished like a word written too close to the ocean’s shore.
LOVE!!!! J
Katie absently lifted both hands to cover her heart. A painful ache started there the day she learned her mother had cancer, and had only grown worse since. She wondered if other girls her age felt this way. She was only twelve but sometimes felt as though she’d lived twelve lifetimes.
This fits perfect. J I guessed middle grade from the voice. Great job!! J
Her cat Coal squeezed in the doorway and rubbed against her sneakers. His eyes met hers and he greeted her with a trilling mew.
“Hi Coal,” Katie said. She stroked his silky black fur. He purred and dropped to his back, looking up at her from half slit eyes.

“It was a rough day,” she said, scratching his stomach. He took her hand between his front paws and licked one of her knuckles, then rolled on his side. His tail hit the carpet in soft thumps.
Is it because she visited her mother earlier or for some other reason? SO curious to know! J You did a fantastic job of weaving little bits of info about you MC and what she is experiencing without dragging me through tons of back story. J And that feather! I’m guessing guardian angel? You’ve caught my interest! J  

Monday, August 18, 2014

Honorary Warrior, Christy 1 of 5

We want to thank those who signed up for an opportunity to become an honorary warrior. It's scary to put your words out there to be evaluated by your peers--especially in a setting such as this. We applaud your bravery and truly appreciate you trusting us with your beloved words. 

For the next two weeks, we'll be looking at our winners first pages and providing our thoughts. Week Two: Christy.

Christy submitted a MG fantasy titled: ANCORA. Click here to see Christy's submission free of any comments. Every few days this week, we'll post one of our critiques of these first pages. To see all the critiques (once they have all posted) you can click the quick link under label titled Honorary Warriors.

Please know, we found it is extremely difficult to provide feedback on a blog post without the document becoming a bit of a mess. For this reason, some of our 'THIS IS AWESOME' comments may be at the bottom of the document. Areas that caused hesitation, questions, and praise are highlighted with the reason pasted immediately after the paragraph.
Cheryl's Feedback
Katie twisted the stark white feather between her fingertips. Three feet from base to tip, it was unlike any she’d ever seen. Not just because of its size, but because of the way it glimmered -- as if it possessed its own light source
Interesting opening that drew me in! I assume this feather is important somehow and am curious to find out what its significance is
She ran a finger over its tufts. How could it be so strong and soft at the same time? A single bead of water slid from the feather’s base to its tip, glittering in the moonlight and falling to the ground.
Wonderful description in these beginning paragraphs. J
(1) As she held it, something tugged at her inside. She had an urge to answer, to yell out, “yes!” and “here I come!” It startled her, but instead of dropping the feather, she curled her fingers even more tightly around it 2) .
(1) Could cut. We already know that she’s holding the feather, so this introductory clause doesn’t add any new info. In fact, the POV may even feel closer without it.
(2) I’m super curious about what her connection with this feather is. Great job at reeling me in.
(1)She was in her secret place, a tucked-back nook in the woods near her house. She guarded its secret like a dragon hoarding a jeweled chalice, (2)never mentioning it to anyone, careful no one saw her coming or going between its branches.
(1)I wonder if this might work well moved to the opening paragraph in order to ground us in the setting.
(2) Could cut. The simile already gets this information across nicely
She (1)first discovered the spot between a thick of bushes and trees draped in green hanging moss. The dome of limbs and vines arched from the ground like the half-circle monkey bars on a playground. To her it was a fortress, a castle, a secret keep. She (2) had trekked the woods near her house, pulling down palm fronds to cover the dome. She named her hideout Palm Island(3).
(1) Could cut. ‘First’ indicates that she’s discovered this place more than once.
(2) Insert 'had' She had trekked...
(3) * The description here is nice, but the placement of this backstory doesn’t feel organic. You’ve introduced us to Katie in the midst of an interesting discovery of this strange feather and her curious reaction to it, but then the story pauses to tell us how she found this secret spot.
 * I’m assuming Katie has been here many, many times. So why now, other than for the purpose of informing the reader, would she recount how she discovered this place?
 * Consider what information is necessary to drive the scene forward. I think the key piece of info is that she calls this place Palm Island. Can you trim this to one sentence that conveys this?
Katie escaped to Palm Island anytime she needed to be alone. Days like today.
As she examined the feather, a shiver ran all the way down her spine and left a trail of goose bumps to her toes. It mattered. Yet she did not know why, or how much – only that it did.
Just then, she was startled by a quick flash of movement through the layers of branches and vines. Then a stir of leaves. A step-crunch-step.
Echo of startle from a few paragraphs above, but also, you’re using passive voice that gives us the effect before the cause. Can you rephrase this sentence so we experience the flash of movement with her, and then get her reaction?
 From her shadowed alcove, she pulled back a branch and peered out, the feather clutched at her side. Ahead, another white flash swished through panels of shadow and light. (1)She walked toward it, but (2)the footsteps receded. The whiteness vanished.
(1) What motivates her to do this? Can you put us in Katie’s head a little more here?
(2) If she doesn’t see the source of the sounds, how can she be certain that noise is caused by footsteps?
The surrounding air thickened and grew damp, the sounds of night distant, muffled as if swallowed in a cloud.
Her grandmother’s voice sliced through the murky air. Katie whipped her head toward home. At that moment, a gust of wind snatched the feather from her hand. She darted to catch it, but it streaked away, spiraling into the night.
Could cut.
And it took some part of her with it -- a small, lonely spark of light that hadn’t been there before.
Katie remained staring up long after the faintest glimmer had vanished.
Her grandmother’s third call broke the spell over her, and she turned toward home. 
Echo of ‘toward home’ from three paragraphs above 
In the house, pots and pans clanked from the kitchen and the smell of sautéed onions and ground beef filled the air – her grandmother starting dinner.
Where in the house is she? Standing in the doorway?
Katie would offer to help, but her Grandma would only usher her away, telling her to go visit her mom. She needed a little more time to work up the courage.
I’m unsure what task she has to work up courage for. Visiting her mom? If so, that’s somewhat unusual, so maybe see if you can make that more clear.
(1) In her room, she slumped to the floor. A year ago, the doctors said her mother had two years to live. The past year had vanished like a word written too close to the ocean’s shore.
(1) I’ve become a bit lost setting-wise since she entered the house. Could you show her going to her room?
Katie absently lifted both hands to cover her heart. A painful ache started there the day she learned her mother had cancer, and had only grown worse since. She wondered if other girls her age felt this way. She was only twelve but sometimes felt as though she’d lived twelve lifetimes.
Her cat Coal squeezed in the doorway and rubbed against her sneakers. His eyes met hers and he greeted her with a trilling mew.
“Hi Coal,” Katie said. She stroked his silky black fur. He purred and dropped to his back, looking up at her from half slit eyes.
Just adding a note to say that I feel like the feather from the opening seems to have gotten lost. An internal thought from Katie placed somewhere around here may work to bring it back to the forefront. It seemed important, as it’s what you choose to open the story with, but Katie seems to have dismissed it entirely. Of course, it’s possible she thinks back on the feather just after this snippet ends. If that’s the case, please ignore me. 
“It was a rough day,” she said, scratching his stomach. He took her hand between his front paws and licked one of her knuckles, then rolled on his side. His tail hit the carpet in soft thumps.
A few of the things I especially love:
* She guarded its secret like a dragon hoarding a jeweled chalice
* The past year had vanished like a word written too close to the ocean’s shore