First, the winners of the Spooktacular Giveaway were selected the old-fashioned way. I put all the names into jars, where they were pulled by Dread Daughter the Younger. The winners are:

  1. signed copy of WE HEAR THE DEAD — Caroline
  2. signed ARC of THE CAGED GRAVES — nfmgirl
  3. Kindle ebook of TWO & TWENTY DARK TALES — vicjbr
Winners, congratulations and please contact me at so I can send you your prizes! If I have not heard from you by November 9, I will select other winners.
Next, our first submission for First Impressions in November comes from Serena Kaylor, who happens to be the sister of my critique partner, Krystalyn Drown. This is the first page of her contemporary YA, THE SUMMER SHAKESPEARE SAVED MY LIFE.
Today is the first day of the rest of your life. 
A drug rehabilitation group coined this phrase in the 60s, as a way for its members to feel like they could reinvent themselves.  You can find this sentiment in song lyrics, on coffee mugs, and encouragingly uttered by my Nana Quinn when I update her on the status of my love life.  The problem with this phrase is that it indicates I am unhappy with the way things are, that I don’t find myself to be an absolute delight. 
Well, maybe I’m a little rough around the edges, but theater camp is not the way to polish me up.  I imagine that all of Oxford University’s other incoming freshmen are taking summer courses, or moving to England to become oriented with the campus.  My summer is apparently going to involve tights. 
I really didn’t have a choice.
You’d think most parents would be thrilled that their progeny had studied their ass off for years, could debate on a great number of topics, and was one of the few chosen to continue their education in the most hallowed of halls. 
My parents are both sex therapists and want me to continue living at home, and follow in their footsteps at Berkeley. 
This is what I’m dealing with. 
I didn’t even get a boisterous “Hallelujah!” when I told them the good news.  They just sat down on the worn, leather love seat in their study, and fixed their therapist stares on me.
“Honey, don’t you think you’re a little young to move that far away?” Sophia said tying her long, dark hair up with one of her many floral scarves.
“Please. I’m seventeen years old, which actually means a lot more in England.  I’m practically drinking age! Plus, I finished all my high school classwork almost two years ago!  I can’t just hang out here forever.” I folded my arms across my chest and gave them my beat-that look.
“Ellie, we’re just concerned because you’ve never really had classmates before, and that can sometimes be a difficult transition,” Edwin, my dad, piped up in solidarity. 
I love the premise of this story: A straight-laced, serious, home-schooled girl with Berkeley-educated sex therapist parents gets accepted into Oxford but has to jump through her parents’ hoops (including a summer Shakespeare camp) to get permission to go. I also liked the first line, but after that I think the order of presentation could be improved.
Serena could jump straight from the quote in the first line to Ellie sitting down for this interview with her own parents, which sounds more like a therapy session than a family conversation. The information from the opening paragraphs could be conveyed just as easily through dialogue and Ellie’s internal monologue. Certain lines – like the one about Nana Quinn worrying about her love life and what other Oxford freshmen were doing and how their parents were proud of them – could be woven between the lines of dialogue with Ellie’s parents.
Imagine the first page happening this way:
1. Positive-sounding therapist double-speak from Ellie’s parents.
2. Reasoned, logical spoken response from Ellie.
3. Internal indignant rant from Ellie.
4. Repeat 1-3 as needed until conclusion of scene.
The reader would see the complex dance between Ellie and her parents, grasp the situation, and watch Ellie lose her case (and be sent to Shakespeare camp) in one dynamic scene. What do the readers think?
Serena, thanks for sharing your page today, and I hope the feedback is useful! Readers can say hello to Serena at her blog, See Serena Write, and don’t forget to check out Marcy Hatch’s feedback at Mainewords.