Friday, November 2, 2012

first impressions - The Summer Shakespeare Saved My Life

Our first submission for this month comes from Serena, who can be found at seeserenawrite. This is the first page of her YA Contemporary, THE SUMMER SHAKESPEARE SAVED MY LIFE. My comments are in purple and be sure to go see what Dianne had to say about this piece.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life. 

     A drug rehabilitation group coined this phrase in the 60s, as a way for its members to feel like they could reinvent themselves.  You can find this sentiment in song lyrics, on coffee mugs, and encouragingly uttered by my Nana Quinn when I update her on the status of my love life. (if she has a love life then she must have had relationships, yes?) which The problem with this phrase is that it indicates I am unhappy with the way things are, that I don’t find myself to be an absolute delight. Well, maybe I’m a little rough around the edges, but theater camp is not the way to polish me up.  I imagine that all of Oxford University’s other incoming freshmen are taking summer courses, or moving to England to become oriented with the campus.  My summer is apparently going to involve tights. 
     I really didn’t have a choice.
     You’d think most parents would be thrilled that their progeny had studied their ass off for years, could debate on a great number of topics, and was one of the few chosen to continue their education in the most hallowed of halls. 
     My parents are both sex therapists and want me to continue living at home, and follow in their footsteps at Berkeley. 
     This is what I’m dealing with.  
     I didn’t even get a boisterous “Hallelujah!” when I told them the good news.  They just sat down on the worn, leather love seat in their study, and fixed their therapist stares on me.
     “Honey, don’t you think you’re a little young to move that far away?” Sophia (I assume this is mom, but I think you should say so at first, then establish that the narrator addresses her parents by their given names) said tying her long, dark hair up with one of her many floral scarves.
     “Please. I’m seventeen years old, which actually means a lot more in England.  I’m practically drinking age! Plus, I finished all my high school classwork almost two years ago!  I can’t just hang out here forever.” I folded my arms across my chest and gave them my beat-that look.
     “Ellie, we’re just concerned because you’ve never really had classmates before, and that can sometimes be a difficult transition,” Edwin, my dad, piped up in solidarity.  

I wonder if instead of having this first page start with Ellie telling us about her parents and their plans for her it might not be better to begin by showing Ellie sharing her great news and then receiving the let down of what her parents want in exchange for letting her go. Show us this scene; show us how thrilled she is to have been accepted into Oxford, how excited she is to be going, maybe even desperate to go and be away from her parents and on her own. Then show us how massively disappointed she is by her parents reactions and their deal. Then you can tell us/explain about the parents and how they're sex therapists and why Ellie doesn't call them mom and dad. By that time we'll totally be on the Ellie's side.  

Oh, and I'd love this: "My summer is apparently going to involve tights."  as the last line for page one. It's a little snarky and I can almost see Ellie rolling her eyes as she thinks it. 

Now, what do you guys think?


  1. Yeah, that one line really stuck out.
    It read a little awkward, but when you asked if she could show rather than tell, I realized that was the issue.

  2. I agree with your crit, Marcy. Switching from telling to showing would definitely speed up the pace and add flavor for the reading to taste.

  3. It's well written and I love where it's going, but I think Marcy is right about showing the scene, especially for an opening.

  4. You and Dianne must have had your "crit minds" in 100% alignment, though you usually do lol!!

    I really agree with your assessment and that in more showing it engages the reader more.

  5. I loved the title, and definitely - the summer in tights line. I think that your assessment is right on about showing versus telling. I think we should see those parents and her actions. Overall, I love the idea.

  6. Hi Marcy!

    Thank you for taking the time to read and critique my work! I really get what you mean about showing and not telling, and I can have issues with that. I sometimes catch myself "talking" at the reader rather than "showing" the action. I will definitely be making some changes, and keeping an eye out for this when editing!

    Thanks to everyone for the advice and words of encouragement!


  7. Great crit Marcy! You made excellent points. I had a few things to say and put them on Dianne's blog this time. :-)

  8. The whole premise of brainy kid with an opportunity to attend Oxford vs. Berkeley type liberal sex therapist parents is fertile ground for some interesting happenings. Love the idea, and like everyone else, I think Marcy's critique is spot on.


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