First Page Critique Contest

The wonderful and talented Shelley Watters is hosting another awesome contest on her blog in which the prize is a ten page critique by Judith Engracia of Liza Dawson Associates literary agency.  Ms. Engracia is a literary assistant who is building her client list, and she’s actively seeking middle grade and young adult.  And since she has a husky named Grendel, I bet she’ll want to know that I took two semesters of Old English in college! 🙂

So the way this works is, I post my first page (approx. 250 words) here today.  Over the next three days, the other contestants in the competition can come here and offer their comments and critiques (and I’ll go visit their blogs too).  That’s actually my favorite part of a contest like this; I’ve met such great people this way!  Even if you’re not participating in Shelley’s contest — maybe you’re one of my loyal readers 😉 — I’d love to hear what you think of my first page.  I have put it through some changes recently and I’m still considering what to do with it, so I’m ready and willing to hear everyone’s comments.

With no further ado, the first page of “Finding Kate:  The True Story of The Taming of the Shrew” a YA historical fiction, complete at 49,500 words:

Oh, the weekly torment of market day.  The entire village gathered on the green at the center of town to buy and sell, to visit with neighbors, to chat with friends, to flirt, to laugh.

I detested market day but Father, as the self-appointed most important man in town, insisted that I go as an escort for my younger sister, Blanche. 

I detested Blanche, as well.  

At the intersection of High Street and Church Street, the center of the town of Whitelock, there is a broad, grassy common area.  Carters and merchants from all around would set up their carts on the grass, vying for the best spots in the shade of ancient apple trees.  Merchants who had businesses in town would open wide their doors and set baskets of wares on their front steps.  Within an hour after dawn, the market would be as alive with activity and sound as a beehive.  And just as a beehive has its queen, this market had my sister Blanche. 

One’s eyes were drawn to her; it was impossible not to notice her.  She stood beside a fruit carter’s wagon, one hand lightly on the rough wood.  Her pink lips were parted in a smile revealing her perfect teeth, her hair cascaded over her shoulders in waves, and her eyes gleamed golden brown, a perfect complement to the honey of her hair and peach of her skin.  Around her were gathered her followers:  the two Eleanors, three Alices, three Margarets and three Marys of Whitelock who formed her little flock. 



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21 Responses to First Page Critique Contest

  1. i remember enjoying your tag line for shelley’s last contest and was happy to be able to read a bit of the story itself. The opening is a beautiful and easily relatable scene. as a guy living in Cleveland i would love to have awoken and gone to this market, but as an older brother i can relate to the younger sister dynamic and the crowds that come with it 🙂

    good work
    douglas esper

  2. I really like the line: “And just as a beehive has its queen, this market had my sister Blanche.” It sets the tone of the page. I’d like to see more of that tone in the first few lines. Great job.

  3. Suzi McGowen says:

    I love this so much! But you know I’ve always been a fan of this story 🙂 The only thing I would tweak (and it’s so minor, I hesitate to mention it) is this:

    “there is a broad, grassy common area” to something like “is the market place”. You’ve already said the green in the center of town, and in a later sentence you say “carts on the grass”, so that just feels redundant. Too much mention of grass, maybe? The grass isn’t the focus, it’s the market place and what happens there, right?

    Love it. I know you’re going to be going places with this.

  4. The only thing I’m wondering about is your use of the word “would” in a few sentences. My guess is your mc is picturing what’s going to happen later in the day, but with your use of past tense, I wasn’t sure. (this could totally be just me)
    Good job with an interesting story and good luck!

  5. Jessica says:

    I liked how I really got a sense of the character right off the bat. I think this is a great first page. Good Luck

  6. This is really lovely. A few minor things: I would strike ‘my sister’ from the sentence about the queen bee, as you’ve already said Blanche was her sister, so it’s a bit redundant. I also agree with the poster about the overuse of the word ‘grass’. Otherwise, I love it! As a side note, I ❤ The Taming of the Shrew, so I may be a little biased.

  7. Jen says:

    This is a great start. I love the description of her sister. It’s usually the other way around where the younger sister despises the older sister, so I like this set up. I think you could cut your first sentence. You’re second sentence is a stronger sentence, in my opinion, and a better hook.

    Good luck!

  8. Love it. This has great voice. I like how you have the line “I detested Blanche as well” as its own paragraph. I’d keep reading for sure. Good luck in the contest.

  9. I actually think the first sentence is a great hook. This whole piece has great voice. I get a good feel for the MC and her attitude by the way she sees the world around her. It’s wonderful!

    Everyone else covered the little nitpicks I saw. Lovely start!

  10. Jody says:

    Gosh, I love this. I would definitely read on.

    This is my favorite line: “Around her were gathered her followers: the two Eleanors, three Alices, three Margarets and three Marys of Whitelock who formed her little flock.”

    Honestly, I have no suggestions for improvement.

    Thanks for sharing! Good luck!

  11. I want to thank all of you who have left comments so far! I have friends visiting from out of town this weekend, but I promise I will visit your blogs and comment as soon as I can!

  12. Lissa says:

    As a Shakespeare scholar, I would totally want to read more of this: especially as it’s the Taming of the Shrew, which is the play I liked least. I would love to read more of this.

  13. Nicole says:

    There are a few really great lines in your first 250 pages — I especially like the very last line. There are a few places that could be tightened and streamlined…you know, some unnecessarily repeated words, etc.

    Good luck!

  14. I love the idea for the story. Major points right there. I would change this sentence: I detested Blanche, as well. I think it’s clear that she thinks none too highly of her Father so take out the as well. Just I detested Blanche. It puts some more umph in it. You might even want to italicize the detested. Other than that the beginning is really gripping and I would definitely turn the page. Best of luck.

  15. Sarah P says:

    This is very strong as is! You’ve set the scene nicely without being boring. I can already see the tension between the sisters and I LOVE that Blanche has the list of followers. I love to see new spins on classics and I would definitely want to read this book. Awesome!

  16. Rose Eckman says:

    love the suggestions – except rather than jetison the first sentence – switch the first and second. You set up a wonderful market experience first – who doesn’t love an outdoor market – oops – second sentence shows us our character doesn’t…. very revealing and idiosyncatic – gotta love her right off the bat

  17. S.A. Hussey says:

    Great job! The scene is perfectly set. I feel the tension from the sister and can’t wait to see what you do further. Really love it. 🙂

  18. Liana Brooks says:

    You won me over with the title. TAMING OF THE SHREW is one of my favorites, I’d buy this from the cover alone.

  19. Chrissy Prisco says:

    I must admit that I’ve never read this Shakespearean work :/ but as you’ve been explaining it I have decided to pick it up the next chance I get and this seems so far from Shakespeare in a good way, very light, very common young adult.

    • Oh, Chrissy, if only you were a publisher… 🙂

      • I would also say that if you watch a production of the play, you will likely see it done in a traditional, sexist manner which is not how I interpret the play. Come back and we’ll discuss if that happens. A great deal pivots on a handful of lines and (to my mind) the use of the name “Kate.”

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