First Page Critique Contest Redux (Happy B’Day Shelly!)

In honor of her birthday, author Shelley Watters is hosting yet another awesome contest on her blog, and this time, the prize is a critique by Victoria Marini of Gelfman Schneider Literary Agents, Inc.  Ms. Marini is actively building her client list, focusing on young adult and women’s fiction. 

I’ve done this before.  In fact, I did this about a month ago in Shelly’s last contest.  The way this works is, I post my first page (approx. 250 words) here today.  Over the next few days, the other contestants in the competition can come here and offer their comments and critiques.  This weekend I will be camping in the beautiful Rocky Mountains so I won’t be able to bop around to the blogs, which makes me very sad.  I always love seeing what everyone else is writing and I get to meet such interesting people out there in the blogosphere!  However, I hope you’ll still read and enjoy my work, even if I can’t read and enjoy yours. 

What I am posting here today is the revised first page after the comments from last month’s contest, so if you visited me during the last contest, this will seem rather familiar but also different.

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 49,100 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.     


Every Monday, carters and merchants from all around set up their carts on the grass of the broad common, 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 was 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.  I had abandoned her as soon as we arrived on the green, and yet she was a constant nettle under my skin.  There she stood beside a fruit carter’s wagon, one hand lightly on the rough wood.  Her pink lips were parted in a smile revealing all 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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11 Responses to First Page Critique Contest Redux (Happy B’Day Shelly!)

  1. J. N. Khoury says:

    Love it! But you know, it had better be darned good to try and follow Shakespeare. Very ambitious of you. 😉
    The voice is awesome. Despite the setting, its contemporary and a little bit snarky, which is, of course, exactly what Kate should be. I’d be really interested to read the rest of it. I’m a Shakespeare buff myself and love this play in particular because its so much fun to argue about, what with the was-Shakespeare-sexist issue and all. 😀
    Good luck and happy writing!
    J. N. Khoury

    • Thanks for your comments. I shied away from this play for the longest time until I saw it and realized that it’s not about dominance but partnership, and that distinction is harder to find on the page. I wrote about that in the first entry here on my blog. It is fascinating stuff to talk about!

  2. mrsulleseit says:

    I love the opening, until ‘I detested Blanche, as well.’ From there you begin telling the story instead of showing me. Can you work her sightings of Blanche around the market into the overall description? Give us some action–maybe Blanche laughing with a posey seller or complimenting a tanner on his hides? Maybe include something that tells us why the narrator holds back, why she isn’t like her sister OR what she IS like. Wow, that’s a lot for 250 words, huh? (

    • I ‘m not sure I completely agree with that. I like show, don’t tell, but I wouldn’t want learning about Blanche to go on any longer–if you’re going to show, can you cut some telling! I’m already waiting to get to the “you can’t marry till your sister does” part, and I especially want to see who Kate’s going to be fixed up with. that’s just how I read, though–I want to find out what’s going to happen

  3. Sarah says:

    You got me with your title. Love the concept. Love that you’re using Taming of the Shrew.

    I really like this. You’ve got a great voice for your main character, good description and the writing is tight. Small edits I’d suggest:

    First paragraph:
    “The entire village gathered on the green at the center of town to buy and sell, visit with neighbors, chat with friends, to flirt and to laugh.”

    Fifth paragraph: “Everyone’s” instead of “One’s”. One’s is kind of confusing for the reader.

    My favorite line is the “self-appointed most important man in town”. It makes me feel like I know the character right away.

    Nice work. Good luck!

  4. Lissa says:

    I remember this from last time, and I still love it. I hope Kate gets snarky or at least keeps her wits about her later in the book. I love the way she thinks, and I love the way you describe Blanche.

  5. Tom Hoefner says:

    I would read more of this just to see if you manage to keep “Shrew” from becoming the exercise in misogyny that it is while still remaining true to Shakespeare’s text. Also, I’d read more because it’s very good. Nicely done! – Tom H.

    Check out my first 250?:

    • Thanks for your response, and having lived with the play for a while, I’d have to disagree – it’s not misogynistic, it’s anti-stupidity. 😉 But seriously, it’s about partnership and the power that love has to reveal the true self. I hope that one day you’ll get the chance to read my whole novel so you can see it.

      • Tom Hoefner says:

        You know, I’ve never worked on a production of “Shrew” (I read it whenever I’m considering directing Shakespeare at the college where I teach and always pass over it). I can’t ever get my mind to wrap around it in a way that would make it work for a contemporary audience with modern views on gender relations. But that just might be my own lack of imagination in this particular instance. Good luck with the book!

  6. I invite you to read my first blog post (Lightning Strikes) about the first time I saw the play performed live, providing the inspiration for this adaptation. I’d be happy to enter into an email conversation with you, if you’re interested. One thing to remember is that in Shakespeare’s comedies, it is generally the women who have the upper hand when it comes to love, and love is always a redemptive factor, not a punitive one.

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