Friday, July 5, 2013

first impressions - THE MOTHER TREE

Our third and final first impression for this month comes from Angela Bigler. You can find her at Dream Big Words (great name, btw). This is the first page of her YA Magical Realism, THE MOTHER TREE. My comments will be in purple and you can read what Dianne Salerni thought of this opening here. As always, we especially appreciate comments on these first impressions as the more comments there are, the better the author can see what's working and what's not, so don't be shy :)

The Mother Tree

Rachel woke up late. Her sheets were balled up on the floor, kicked off in the humid night. She squinted her eyes as she shifted from dreaming to waking, called by the voice of a crow squawking outside.

She crawled out of bed and stretched over the windowsill to see a quick flash of black fly out from the oak tree. It had been waking her up all week. Was it crazy to think that crow was harassing her? She smelled her mom’s smoke signals rising up from the porch below. It meant her mom was awake, a good sign.

Rachel opened a dresser drawer and pulled on faded jean shorts and her green t-shirt. She looked into her mirror and smiled at her disheveled pile of short dark hair.I like this. Ordinarily having our characters look in the mirror is a big NO but this feels natural.

She found her cat lapping up a drink of water downstairs. “Good morning Luna.” Rachel scooped her up as she studied the calendar on the wall, the summer spread out ahead of her. It seemed strange that high school was really over. Luna purred for a moment, then wriggled her way out and jumped down. “Fine. Be that way.” Rachel called after her.

Rachel's mom sat on the porch was sitting on the porch. Her eyes looked dark, heavy rings pooling underneath. She was imprinting feverish loops into the pages of her leather journal. At least she was writing again. Rachel watched as her mom looked up and closed it.

“Good morning.” She motioned for Rachel to come closer and started brushing Luna’s black fur off of her shirt. “Are you working today?”

“No, Aunt Sandy took the day off. She said I should too.”

“Are you up for a hike?”

“Yeah.” Rachel felt like hugging her but pulled back. Was she really going to act like nothing had happened? Ooh, what happened?!

“Let me finish my coffee. I’ll be getting breakfast started soon.” Her mom pulled another cigarette out of her pack and inhaled deeply as she leaned into the flame. “Okay?”

“Okay.” Rachel felt a rush of hope. It had been weeks since her mom had wanted to do anything. Out of nowhere she had decided to take a break from working, spending long hours in her bed. Rachel could hear her crying inside her room. Aunt Sandy had come, administering tea and herbs, trying to bring her sister back to life. It seemed her mom had given up. But why? I want to know, too!!!

This is good. There really isn't much to comment on. In the first paragraph you could say that the sheets lay on the floor balled up and get rid of the passive 'was' but I don't think it would make a huge difference. I like the hints of something interesting/strange coming: the crow, the smoke signal, the feverish loops in the journal, and of course the mom's sudden lethargy. I want to know what happened to cause this and I want to know what that crow is trying to tell Rachel, because crows don't come calling at people's windows without reason. I would definitely read on.

What about you? Does this first page intrigue you? Care to add any comments or suggestions for Angela?   


  1. It was a very clean and intriguing beginning.

  2. Yes. This intrigued me. Its pretty clean. But might I add beware of the the filter words like could show her leaning in to hug her mom and have her pull away. Give a thought while in action.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  3. Yes, this first page intrigues me. It teases with hints of what's yet to be revealed. Good start!

    I disagree about changing "was sitting" to "sat". The first indicates that she sat down some time ago, and is still sitting there when Rachel finds her. The second makes it sound as though she just now parked her butt. Just my opinion.

    1. Good point, Susan, thanks for chiming in :)

  4. I am intrigued. I want to find out more!

  5. I love all the subtle questions this page raises.

    Great critique!

  6. You definitely hook the reader with unanswered questions and get us right into action, that's a huge plus, and the balled up sheets are a great question. Unfortunately, a lot of agents and editors suggest not starting with a character waking up, because that is used so often as an introduction. Good luck with this! :)

  7. Thank you everyone for stopping by to comment! I appreciate it and I'm sure Angela does, too :)

  8. I'm intrigued. What's with the crow, what's with her mom? I would as mentioned above, watch out for "was" and go for more action oriented words where possible. Most times the word felt can be eliminated: "Rachel felt a rush of hope." How about something like, "A warm rush of hope coursed through her veins." You may want to try to avoid phrases like, she watched, or she heard or she smelled, etc. Writing this way makes your reader see through the eyes of the character instead of seeing the action directly, which distances them from your story. "Rachel watched as her mom looked up and closed it," can be simply changed to "Her mom looked up and closed it."

    There are some nice details here. I'm not well versed in YA, but I'd hope to get to some meaty action soon.

  9. Thank you all for your comments. I am happy to be able to share my work with you and I am taking all of your advice with me as I dive back into this labor of love!

  10. Very interesting straight forward storytelling and yet there is that hint of mystery. I like it.


If you're interested in my blog I'm interested in your comments.