dianne salerni author
dianne salerni author

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.
“Elena?”
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.