Monday, January 6, 2014

27 DAISIES


Well, here we are, new year and a new First Impression to start us off. For those who aren't familiar with First Impressions, this is where author Dianne Salerni and I critique someone's first page on both our blogs, and invite our readers to comment as well. If you would like to see your first page here, please check out my sidebar, top right, for submission FAQs. We are now looking for February submissions. Today's first page comes from Christy Hintz, who can be found here. Here is the first page of her YA Contemporary, 27 DAISIES:





CHAPTER ONE--SHELBY

Mom is at the stove.  I stop, confused.  She doesn’t turn, and for three seconds I wonder who this woman is and what she did with my mother.
            “What…what are you doing?” I ask.
            She turns and smiles.  She actually smiles.  “Making spaghetti.”
            When I don’t speak or move or breathe because I am afraid of this moment, afraid maybe that if I move I will smash it into a kazillion teardrops, she says, “Doesn’t spaghetti sound marvelous?”
            It does.  I can’t believe it but it does.  I bring my backpack to the room (why doesn’t she call it a bedroom?) I am using to sleep in and do homework in and hurry back to the kitchen.  I take out milk and find French bread on the counter.  I slice it up with a bread knife that has never (never? Or hasn’t been used since…?) been used and spread butter and sprinkle garlic and find parmesan cheese to grate.  Mom hands me a baking sheet, and she is
             humming.
             I look at her again and examine her hair—did she cut it?  Her eyelashes are wearing mascara and it is not smudged black underneath her eyes. Interesting choice of words: Her eyelashes are wearing mascara rather than she is wearing mascara.
            I sit and she serves me my food. We don’t pray,(do they usually pray?) but she asks, “How was your day?”
            I shrug my right shoulder. 
            The spaghetti is sweet and peppery and there are pieces of tomato and onion.  It tastes like—
            “I always loved your dad’s spaghetti sauce.  We still have six jars to use.  We’ll save them for special occasions.”
            I stop mid-bite and wait for the torrent of tears. 
            None come.              
            She twists noodles around her fork and eats them. 
            “What’s the occasion tonight?” I ask.  It’s been 10 months, 27 days since we’ve really looked at one another, since I’ve seen her smile or talk with this…this spark of life. 
            Her wide eyes look at me, see me.  “I’ve been waking up feeling better, like a black veil has been lifted and the world brightened.”  She looks away, at the refrigerator, or somewhere in her mind.  There is a brightness to her face.  I don’t recognize the emotion.  “Someone took the 215 pounds off my shoulders that has been pushing me down.” Why 215 pounds rather than weight? Is this number significant? The weight of the father perhaps?
            My heart hits my stomach and the impact echoes. 

Here is what I got from this first page: That our narrator is sitting down to supper with her mom who has apparently come out of her grief over the dad’s death (I’m guessing at this since the dad is mentioned with love but isn’t there). But then the mom mentions this weight, this 215 pounds, and this seems to make a huge impact on our narrator but I’m not sure why. I’m also a little confused by the fact that our narrator calls her bedroom the room where she sleeps rather than her bedroom (why?) and the bread knife that has never been used. Not even before when the dad was there? I definitely want to know what happened to the dad. Is he dead? Missing? Did he leave? So, lots of questions and reasons to turn the page but the one thing that’s missing for me is more of a connection to the narrator. Aside from her surprise and confusion at the change in her mother, how does she feel about the fact that her mother has been (apparently) absent and is now suddenly coming back to life? What has life been like these last 10 months and 27 days? I realize that a lot of this will likely be revealed in the pages to come but I want to feel a little more emotionally invested in our narrator and her life.

But…what do you think about this first page? Any suggestions for Christy about how to make it better? You know we love comments so don’t be shy! Don't forget to check out what Dianne thought about this first page and a big thank you to Christy for submitting!

15 comments:

  1. I like this very emotional and poignant start and the relationship between mother and daughter is just done perfectly. There are fabulous details too - the mascara, the hair, the food.

    But I think I need to know why there is such sadness - perhaps a little more information perhaps to explain why mum hasn't been seen cooking - why is it so important, what's happened? Something has but perhaps delaying this big reveal may not work? I'm already invested emotionally with this piece - it's very powerful in its quietness but I don't want the cause of the sadness to be the big mystery. Am I making sense, probably not! Anyway, thanks for sharing and all the best!

    Happy New Year! Take care
    x

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  2. It definitely makes you wonder what is going on. It felt more like a dream to me though. I agree - a little something to connect us to the main character would help.

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    1. I agree with Alex, you need a little more to draw me in.

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  3. I don't know, the first few passages wouldn't really draw me to read the book or buy it....

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  4. I lot of evocative description here. I think in the first page, that can pull you in, but I will note that if the 2nd page doesn't start to enlighten me, I'd get frustrated, because there ARE a lot of whys.

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  5. Yay, Christy! I thought this gives us enough hints to pull the reader forward. I am looking forward to more conflict on the second page, now that Mom is out of her grief. I'm likewise unsure if the 215 lbs is significant, but if I were reading this, I'd press on to discover the significance.

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  6. I already left my comments on Dianne's blog. I do agree with Dianne and Marcy that we need more focus on the main character. But with some tweaking, I think this can easily be fixed. Thanks for sharing this, Christy. Sounds like a great story.

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  7. I like the way you explained what you got from the first page, Marcy. It makes any blurred areas more visible. I left my personal suggestions on Dianne's site, already.

    Happy New Year!

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  8. Thanks very much, Marcy, for hosting my first page and for the thoughtful critique! I very much appreciate everyone's suggestions. For some, I'm hoping the next 300 words isn't too late to share my MC's inner thought's/reactions to her mom's change of actions/emotions, or to solidify the fact that this isn't her home, that they've recently moved. I'll have to do some thinking on whether or not to trim down the focus on Mom, and possibly add some reflection in the following chapters on how her change of focus, from Mom to herself, leads her to change her life and branch out...away from her sorrow to seek some happiness, even after an unwelcome, sad change in her life. THANK YOU!!! <3 Christy

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  9. I think all the hints will draw a reader into the story. There are questions the reader wants answered and will have to read on to get them. It perfect for YA Contemp as far as I'm concerned. Good luck, Christy!

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  10. Already left some comments on Dianne's page.

    This is certainly a quiet, introspective start, which isn't a bad thing, but some editors may want something more intense to happen. Where has mom been emotionally for the last 10 months or so? Was it normal grief or was she plunged into depression? And yes, I'd prefer a stronger connection to the main character. A few little details would do it.

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  11. I already commented on Dianne's about our investment in the MC, but I have to say that the first 250 words definitely makes us curious enough to read on!

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  12. Thank you to everyone who commented and offered feedback on Christy's first page. Dianne and i will have another first impression tomorrow :)

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