I woke up bleary-eyed on the last day of our retreat. I had stayed up late revising my first page and helping my friends with theirs. It was fun, though. I felt like I was in college again cramming for a group report or paper the next day.
I wasn’t the only one who was half-awake. Some of the attendees had spent a late night too—either revising or singing their hearts off at the karaoke session.
The warm breakfast perked us up and soon after, we returned to our rooms to do some last minute packing and to load our things into the car before the First Pages Reading.
Lee and Sarah, our ever-ready organizers, gave us a few reminders and words of encouragement. And right before we began, Lynette, our Stretch Coach, helped us relax our tense muscles. After a minute of stretching, I felt relatively calmer.
The First Pages Reading is a little like American Idol for Writers. A panel of acquiring agents—and editor—sat in front of the room, listening to us read our first pages and giving us some helpful comments after.
Our teachers for the weekend, Agents Jill Corcoran and Abigail Samoun, and Editor Heather Alexander were on the panel. The organizers had also invited Agent Jennifer Rofe of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency as our special guest panelist.
First Pages Reading Panel of Acquiring Agents/Editor
All 40 participants had 3 minutes each. We would read for a minute and half, and listen to the panel’s feedback for the rest of the time.
Lee volunteered to go first so he could show us all that there was nothing to fear, and so he could keep the timer for the rest of us.
It was nerve-wracking affair, especially for those who were experiencing the first pages reading for the first time. But everyone was very supportive and took every opportunity to say “awww” or laugh at the right moments.
First Pages Reading
Our group went third, and even though I had done this before I still felt very nervous as I stood behind the podium. I snuck a glance at the audience and saw some encouraging smiles and a few nervous ones. Knowing we were all in this together made me feel a little better.
I read my 250 words as clearly and loudly as I could, and listened as the panel gave their comments. One agent said there seemed to be too many ideas on one page, but they generally liked the concept for my story. The paragraph about blood calling out to blood peaked their interest in particular. I made note of all their comments, thanked them and walked back to my seat, breathing a huge sigh of relief.
First Pages Reading
I was so glad to have gone earlier on. Now I could sit back and enjoy everyone else’s stories.
After the last person had gone up, cheers and a round of applause erupted throughout the room. We clapped for each other and the panel, and breathed huge sighs of relief.
A round of relieved applause
Sarah and Lee made sure we ended the retreat on a high note. Prizes for a drawing were given away. Lucky participants took home discount coupons for other SCBWI events, a bottle of wine and even a free manuscript critique from the famed writing duo of Judy Enderle and Stephanie Gordon.
Heather Alexander, Editor at Dial Books gave us more reasons to rejoice. She added upcoming titles from Dial Books to our giveaway pile.
We left the Retreat with a page full of revision notes, business cards from our new friends and memories to last us a lifetime.
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