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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | First Impressions #15

First Impressions #15


Our final critique for First Impressions in July is Hot Flashes and Cold Lemonade, a novel by Susan Swiderski.
Pearl Bryzinski emerged from her house, sniffed the air, and stretched. Dark clouds bulged overhead, poised to dump yet another load of wintry delight, but she didn’t notice. For the first time in weeks, tentative spears of grass peeked through the snow, so sunny thoughts of springtime bloomed rampant in her head. When she started her car, she was singing about summer.
She tapped the steering wheel and sang in sync with the cheerful chick-chick-chick of her snow chains, and smiled as she drove past a red mitten lying in the gray slush beside the road. It reminded her of the time her father took her to an art show. Every painting was done in shades of Payne’s gray, with a single splash of red: a cardinal in a snowstorm, a rose atop a coffin, a pair of lips in a crowded bus. She’d never forget those paintings, or that day. They even got a strawberry shake at Arundel’s. Best shakes in the world. Best father, too.
Still smiling, she turned onto Kinship Road. Her parents had lived here in the same sprawling house for the past seventy years, and even though Pearl hadn’t lived there for almost thirty-five, every visit felt like a homecoming.
Strange. An ugly brown Pinto was backing out of their driveway. She watched the unfamiliar car, and then, with a grin, rolled down her window as fast as she could, stuck her head out, and yelled, “DADDY!”
He kept staring straight ahead, but the woman behind the wheel glanced in her direction, so Pearl waved and yelled again. But while she was still hanging out the window, panting white breath into the cold January morning, the Pinto drove away. She watched until it drove out of sight, and then parked in the driveway behind her father’s Cadillac.
Uh oh. I think Pearl is in for an unpleasant surprise. I think I can see where this is going, and I cringe at the image of this poor, naively happy woman rolling down her window and waving energetically at “Daddy,” who seems to be departing the premises with “Another Woman.” The set up is quite clever. Just from this little bit, I get the idea that Pearl is a cheerful sort who dotes on her father and perhaps dwells on a romanticized version of her childhood.
A few notes: If it is January, would spring really be on the horizon? (What state is this? Slipping that in might help – because in my state, January is just the beginning of snowfall.)
Also, if Pearl’s parents have lived in that same house for 70 years, that must make them around 90, right? So, Pearl’s 90-year old father is running off with another woman? Or wait – have I misinterpreted this? Is he senile and being driven off by some kind of nurse? I hadn’t thought of that till now. Okay, maybe I don’t know where this is going after all!
The only other suggestion I would make is to clarify that Pearl sees her father in the passenger seat of the Pinto. I had to read those paragraphs twice to realize he was in the passenger seat staring ahead, and the woman (who glanced at Pearl) was driving.
Susan, thanks for sharing your first page with us! You can find Susan at her blog, and please stop by Mainewords for Marcy’s critique!

8 Responses to First Impressions #15

  1. Sarah says:

    It’s so funny, Dianne, but the first thing I was thinking of wasn’t the “other woman” scenario, zombies or something more paranormal-ly! This piece does a great job of building some dread–I started feeling it at the mention of the red mitten. The descriptions are lovely, though it does feel like there’s a lot packed in and I found myself wondering if it could be made just a tad leaner. Also–change one of the “drove”s in the 5th paragraph. Other than that, very well-written!

  2. Susan,
    You hooked me!!!
    I never thought it was another woman. I thought it was someone stealing daddy.
    I would have her be suspicious at that very moment and have her either following or hurrying inside to see what was going on.
    Give the reader a terrible sense of dread.
    Very good first page.
    Barb W

  3. I really liked it Susan. I was a bit confused by the snow chains clinking on the ground in January, where I live that’s when the most snow is on the ground and chains (from my memory of having them years ago) make more of a crunching sound. But I could be wrong on that. I immediately thought OH NO, Dad has altimerse (I know that is spelled wrong) disease. You gave us a great picture through beautifully written words.

  4. Hi, Dianne. Thank you so much. You did an awesome job of nailing Pearl’s personality. She is definitely naive, dotes on her father, and has a romanticized view, not only of her childhood, but of life. I do mention in chapter one that the story takes place in Baltimore, but if you think I should do it in the prologue, I can do that. The fact that Pearl is dreaming about spring and singing about summertime has nothing to do with the reality of the weather. It’s just another indication of her wishful thinking approach to life. Again, thank you. (That wasn’t painful at all!)

    Hi, Barb. Thank you, ma’am. Glad you enjoyed it.

    Hi, Sharon. Thank you for your input. I really appreciate it. As for the snow chains, it’s been a lot of years since I’ve had to use any, but I was trying to describe the sound I remember when the chains are still on the tires, but the streets are mostly clear. You know? The piles of nasty stuff on the sides of the roads, but the streets have already been salted and scraped? No snow to crunch on most of the roads, but the metallic sound of the chains remains.

  5. Susan, you are off to a great start! Dianne made some helpful points that I’m sure you’ll put to good use. I can’t wait to read what happens next! I’m sure this will have a lot of your clever wit as the characters develop! Julie

  6. Linda G. says:

    Oooh, I’m hooked! I would definitely

  7. Hi, Julie & Linda. Thank you both for feeding my ego. I do appreciate it.

  8. Ooops! Sorry, Sarah. I didn’t mean to skip over you. Thanks for your comments, and for picking up on the redundant use of the word “drive”. Good eye!