Our second First Impressions for the month of September is a sample from the beginning of Nicole Zoltack’s middle grade fantasy, Elena’s Pen.
Mr. McMichaels has hated me ever since he confiscated a story I wrote during class last week. A story about an evil goblin warlord. Named McMichaels.
I guess I can’t blame him, but wouldn’t most English teachers love a student who wanted to be an author? Not this one. I was lucky he only threatened me with detention.
I took my time walking to my sixth grade English class, not looking forward to Mr. McMichaels and his evil-eye glare.
The crowded hallway slowly thinned out as sixth, seventh and eighth-graders swapped classrooms. A kid slammed his puke green locker shut, wafting the scent of body odor and days-old sweaty gym clothes toward me. I gagged and hurried past.
I turned and spotted Artex, the new guy, down the hall. He waved a piece of paper in his hand. His lopsided smile was so inviting that I smiled back. “Hi.” Why was he talking to me? I forced myself to not shuffle my feet or play with my hair.
He jogged over. Dark hair fell across his forehead and made him look oh-so-cute. “I think this is yours.” He handed me the story I had started during science.
“Thanks.” I shoved it into a notebook. “I guess I forgot to grab it.”
“Poor Roderick. Fighting without his armor and his horse against three bloody pirates. I’m not sure he can handle them.” He fell into step beside me.
My cheeks grew hot. “You read it?” My biggest dream is to see my name, Elena Streaming, on the spine of a book, but I couldn’t let anyone read it!
I’m sure that most of us who were writing stories in notebooks in middle school can relate to Elena. I never wrote my teacher into a story as an evil goblin warlord, but I did write a lot of fantasies – and I was picky about whom I shared them with. And my daughter has been caught writing stories in the middle of class, so I know she would sympathize with this situation!
The first sentence gave me some pause. Something about the combination of “ever since” and “last week” struck me wrong. We don’t usually say “ever since last week.” So, why not say that she wrote that story last month, or the first week of school – just to make it seem like a longer time that this teacher has hated her.
As for the last sentence in this passage, is Elena saying she would never let anyone read her work even after it was published? Or just the stories she writes now, as a sixth grader? It made me think that for someone who didn’t want her stories read, she’s awfully careless with them – both Mr. McNichols and Artex have managed to get hold of one. That’s just a little internal inconsistency Nicole might want to address.
I wonder about the new boy and his name Artex and whether its uniqueness stems from his connection to another world, since this is a fantasy. But of course, it’s too early to know much about him yet, other than he enjoyed Elena’s story.
Overall, the writing is solid, vivid, and a pleasure to read. Thanks for sharing your first page with us, Nicole! Please stop by Mainewords to see Marcy’s take on this piece, and you can find Nicole at her blog.
I know who Artex is because I’ve seen the synopsis. *grins*
I agree about the inconsistency. But I’ll admit that opening phrase (ever since last week) sounds exactly like me when I was that age. For publication purposes, it probably would be better to trim it down so it isn’t so wordy.
Great job, Dianne and Nicole.
Great feedback! Artex immediately made me think of Artax, from the Neverending Story, but then he was a horse, so it’s hard to compare.
I would read more.
I love the conflict between her dreams of being published and her fear of being read. I can totally relate.
I really liked the voice- felt it was dead on for a middle school girl. I never dared to write down my stories in notebooks in class. But they were definitely playing out behind my glazed-over regard.
There’s probably not a writer out there who can’t relate to both the compulsion to write and the fear of being read.
Nice work, Nicole! Listen to Dianne — she won’t lead you astray. 🙂
Excellent voice. Nice job, Nicole.
I really enjoyed this. The voice caught me right away, and I’m interested to see what happens with Artex. Great job, Nicole!
Thanks for having me and for all the great feedback, everyone!
You make so great points, Dianne, thanks!
I’ve trimmed it down, thanks, Stina! I do think that kids that age tend to be overdramatic – which is what I was going for, but too many people think it’s too much so I changed it.
Thanks, Matt! I originally wanted to name the MMC for the horse but I had loaned my copy of The Neverending Story to a friend when I started this story and I misspelled it. The misspelling stuck!
I think all writers can relate to that. Thanks, Donna!
Thanks, Katie! I actually did write stories during middle school – in fact, I started the first draft of this story in the 6th grade!
Thanks, Linda! I already tweaked my opening to follow Dianne’s advice.
Thanks so much, Susan!