First Page: All I Ever Wanted
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Readers, though, the way that I look at it is this: Would the hook itself interest you in reading the book. If yes, what interests you and if not, what would you change to make it more appealing?
I am submitting the first page of my as-yet unfinished novel for critique. The working title is All I Ever Wanted, and it is an inspirational chick-lit romance of a projected 95,000 words.
The thing about life is, no one ever tells you when it’s going to change. When you buy your calendar for half-price on January 10th, you never open it to find, two rows under the fluffy bunnies snuggling among the sunflowers, bold red letters declaring, "MAJOR LIFE CHANGE."
Because, if I had, I’d have worn better underwear.
As it was, it was an achievement that I’d dressed at all. It was a sweltering July day-‘July 7th , to be exact-‘the Monday after a long 4th of July weekend. My Fourth had fallen something short of glorious. After the traditional cookout at my parents’, increasingly violent arguments over croquet, and a bonfire which ultimately required professional extinguishing, I’d spent the rest of the weekend groaning on the couch, and, intermittently, in the bathroom. I blamed, alternately, my sister’s potato salad ("I even made the mayo!") and waaaay too many s’mores (the firefighters had politely declined).
I was still feeling queasy that morning, and I wouldn’t have gone to work at all if Roger hadn’t scheduled an important meeting for 8 a.m. . I’d neglected my traditional Saturday laundry, hence the four day-old bra (which still smelled a little smoky), and the stretched-out grannies. I consoled myself with the knowledge that my suit would have been wrinkled by day’s end anyway, and that the run in my hose could still be hidden in the sole of my shoe. Despite an excess of styling products, my hair went from fluffy to flat the instant it hit the humid air, but with the state of my stomach, I didn’t care. I wanted to call in and spend the day sucking on ice cubes, anaesthetized by daytime TV. Instead, I prayed that traffic would be light; I probably had twenty minutes before I’d need a bathroom again.
I made it downtown in twenty-five. For all of their ominous lurching, my innards behaved. Of course I hadn’t felt like putting anything in them for a few days, so they were pretty much empty. But, I reasoned, it had to get better sometime-‘maybe by the end of the day I’d be back to normal.
Summer turns the normally crowded campus where I work into a ghost town. With a week to go before the next summer session and no new student orientations, I was able to park my aging Subaru close to the building and shuffle gingerly inside to wait for the elevator. Normally, when I am not on the verge of heaving, I take the five flights of stairs, my anticipation rising with each floor. I love my job. When I graduated from another college eight years ago with an English degree, I was constantly assailed with the question, "What are you going to do?" followed by "Teach?" A few education classes and a participation lab had convinced all involved that this would not have been wise. I toyed with the idea of becoming a novelist, but novelists have to have characters, plots, themes and, well, imaginations. Everything I managed to dream up seemed a little too much like the book I’d just read, the movie I’d just seen or, heaven forbid, last night’s stale sitcom plot.
So no, I wasn’t a writer. But I was a reader. I couldn’t remember a time when I couldn’t read, when I wasn’t reading, or plotting when I could read again. Other kids looked forward to Disneyland, little league, long hot summer days with nothing to do. I counted the days until the library’s summer reading club. I spent three months lugging home bagloads of books, keeping track of each title, obsessively examining each construction-paper chart to make sure no other kid was gaining on me. Occasionally, a "Greg L." would get a little too close for comfort. When that happened, I’d sequester myself with all of the Encyclopedia Browns. Come August, first prize was always mine.
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