My First Page, or how I learned to stop sulking and love the bomb.

About a month ago, my MFA colleague Elizabeth Hilts blogged about her submission to writer and teacher Peter Selgin’s Your First Page, a blog on which he critiques – for free and with considerable knowledge – the first pages of in-progress fiction and memoir, emailed to him by hopeful writers.

I was impressed with Selgin’s comments on Hilts’ first page, so I sent in my own. I’ve been more or less a shut-in this fall, working furiously on this novel. Except for one brief reading in October, no one outside my house had seen or heard the thing. So I sent the first page of my novel off to Selgin and waited. On Friday evening, he posted his critique.

This is what I hoped he would say: “Good lord! You’re a literary genius! How come you’re not already required reading for high school English classes?”

What he actually said is here.

I’ll be honest with you. I sulked like a little girl for about an hour after I read it. Then my adult self re-emerged and took another look at Selgin’s comments. And I realized that he has a very good point: By starting my story in the way I do, I shortchange both my main character and my readers. So I’m playing around with ways to change the the opening page, and I think the novel will be stronger for it.

I’m not changing anything just yet, though. I will be interested to see what my fellow MFA master class workshoppers say about the piece when we discuss it after the holidays. I plan to print out Selgin’s critique and bring it to my residency so that I can use his comments as well as theirs.

At any rate, I encourage all writers who want an objective (and blunt) pair of eyes on their work to check out Selgin’s blog. Submit your own first pages – Your First Page is actually going to become a regular feature in The Writer Magazine, starting in January, so if you send in a first page, you never know who might pick up the magazine and read your work.


6 thoughts on “My First Page, or how I learned to stop sulking and love the bomb.

  1. OMG! That is both awesome and terrifying! Good job on having the balls (I love that he refers to the author as “he”) to do it and for seeing the message being slammed in your face. Can’t wait to see what you do with it, and your lovely queen.

  2. I tried My First Page as well and was impressed with the feedback on my first page – he is very honest about what is wrong and I totally agreed with him…eventually.

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