The last event of the SCBWI Working Writer’s retreat consisted of 3 minutes allotted to each attendee to read aloud their first page of a manuscript. Professional critique was squeezed into that 3 minutes from a panel comprised of 4 agents/editors. All conference-goers were in attendance. We all heard what we all wrote. Y’all.
I. Heard. A lot. Of first pages. Bless all writers, O Muse(s)–bless their creativity, whim, persistence, inventive ideas, bravery: standing before a roomful of writers and critiquers, NOT fleeing when some in the ‘audience’ shout (so loudly that I put my hands over my ears): I CAN’T HEAR YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
What I noticed about the panel’s critiques:
First pages that were concise, action-packed and character driven were the most well received, i.e. (literally): “Yes, I would continue reading if this came across my desk”.
Also noticed: I disagreed almost every time the panel’s conclusion was a unanimous: “No, I would not continue reading if this came across my desk”.
Whoever made Gripping First Pages the new criteria for getting a manuscript read by industry professionals must be the same person who pushed HDTV into the norm: Laser beam vs. magic (lack thereof).
I don’t believe love of story has been flattened by Mario Kart et al. And my son loves Mario Kart. He also loves Cornelia Funke.
Listen: You know in the movie Always when Holly Hunter sleep-talks her shopping list? That’s what I sound like whenever I leave this particular retreat–or, honestly, any SCBWI event. JK Rowling. Rebecca Stead. Gary Schmidt. Joan Aiken. E. Nesbit...
My comfort loop. Carrying on even when I stop for a comforting Chipotle chicken burrito. Sour cream, guacamole, Cornelia Funke, E. Nesbit, extra chips, Philip Pullman…
It’s about story. It will ALWAYS be about story.
Yours in enlightening retreats,