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.