Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 9, 2014

Free Fall Friday – Results – Jenna Pocius

CALL For: May/June Illustrations – 500 pixels wide

Jenna Pocius

I want to thank Jenna Porcius from Bloomsbury for sharing her expertise and donating her time to help all of us.

Below are the results for the four first pages critiqued by editor Jenna Porcius from Bloomsbury.

Next Friday May 16th Agent Marie Lamba from Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency will critique 4 first pages.

QUINLAN LEE, Agent, Adams Literary  will end MAY with her four critiques posted on May 30th. Deadline to submit: May 22nd.

Here are the Results:


Tiny Mitchell of 18 Hummingbird Lane was the only one in her family with any sense of magic and wonder. Her parents were scientists, and they only believed in things they could see, touch, and count.

No matter how much they insisted magic didn’t exist, Tiny knew they were wrong. She knew that her great-great-great grandmother Petunia Wilson put spells on people and animals to make them behave. Once, she even worked for the President of the United States and helped him catch thieves trying to steal all the gold in Ft. Knox. Tiny admired her great-great-great grandmother and wanted to be just like her, maybe even help the President. She just didn’t know how to go about it.

Tiny’s older brother, Jamie, didn’t believe in magic either, although he did believe he ran the universe, especially her small corner of it. She knew that wasn’t true either, despite the fact he kept trying to prove he did.

“Okay, shrimp, where do you think you’re going?” Jeans full of holes and covered with ballpoint pen drawings of everything from cars to trees and flowers, Jamie stood in the front doorway, sneakered feet ready to pounce. He grabbed for her arm, but missed when she ducked around him.

Being fast and small helped Tiny a lot in the big brother department.” None of your beeswax where I’m going, toad breath, and my name’s Tiny.” Well, her name wasn’t really Tiny. Her parents named her Theresa, but Tiny suited her just fine.
She raced down the steps, jumped on her bike, and pedaled as fast as her legs could go, because she knew Jamie didn’t give up that easily. And, she was right. Paper clips bounced off the thick rubber band in his fingers and whirred around her head, but she couldn’t let them stop her.


I love the idea of this little girl who believes in magic even though no one else does—it’s a sweet notion that feels perfect for young middle grade. I also really like the family element, and the mention of her great-great-great grandmother has me curious to find out more about the nature of this family magic. But the introduction of her brother and their fighting shifts the focus a bit in a way that is not quite as engaging. I’d love to see more focus on Tiny in these first pages to help set up the plot and give the reader a better sense of where the story is going.


The Edge, By Angela Larson – Middle Grade

“…Our final announcement this Monday morning comes from Mr. Bennett. All science fair forms are due today by noon. A reminder to all scientists: There is a strict ban on explosive demonstrations this year.” My face grows so hot I’m sure I’m turning red. The announcer didn’t need to say, “We’re talking to you Felix Mathew,” for the whole school knows those last few words are aimed at me. We all just know it. You’d think that they’d be over it — that I’d be over it –I mean, it’s been a year already. Come on, my right eyebrow grew back three months ago.

I should probably tell you what happened. Last year, specifically, on the one day a year that the athletic teams of Einstein Scientific Junior Academy give up their precious gym for the school science fair I, Felix Mathews, rocketed a potato across the gym at 236 miles per hour. I imagined it would be one of those awesome moments where everyone would stop and be wowed by my brilliance. I was even prepared. I had practiced outside once before the fair.

It was a stunning moment at the fair last year. Everyone was stopped by my demonstration. It was just the screams that I hadn’t expected.

My launch pad was stable and strong, my practice run went well, and my confidence was high. But a small nudge by one of the judges a split-second before lift off changed the projectile. With a loud bang, the potato shot out its adjusted path at stunning speed and completely destroyed the gymnasium’s scoreboard. While everyone else watched the scoreboard shatter and fall, I smacked my right eyebrow, extinguishing the flaming hairs lit by the launch.

After the shower of plexiglass stopped, the judges showed no interest in my poster explaining combustion theory. I had labored over it for hours. And standing alone with my poster, at rocket speed I was hit with the certainty that I wasn’t going to be invited to the Monday morning school assembly to show off my prize-winning demonstration. Another attempt at greatness dashed – by just one potato.


I really like the classic boy middle-grade humor here, and I laughed out loud when I read “Come on, my right eyebrow grew back three months ago.” But I do think the opener would be stronger if it didn’t lead with the announcement. Situating Felix in the school first (maybe he’s walking to class, sitting at his desk, etc. doing something characteristically Felix) and then bringing in the announcement, for example, could help with pacing and build. Also, there’s some repetition here of information about the fair and what happened last year, so tightening that up will help make sure that the story is packing a tight, funny punch.


THE RIGHT STUFFING by Margo Sorenson – Picture Book

Jared picked up Carrots and his baseball glove.

Jared’s big sister Sarah frowned. “Don’t take that old stuffed bunny outside,” she said. “Aren’t you too old for him, anyway?”

Jared whisked Carrots out the door quick as a bunny.

“Good catch, Carrots!” he shouted.

Next, it was time to go to the grocery store. Jared sneaked Carrots into his car seat in the car.

“You shouldn’t bring that old stuffed bunny inside,” Sarah scolded. “Ick!”

But Jared raced up and down the aisles with Carrots tucked safely under his arm.

He stopped in front of the vegetables bin. “Look, Carrots!” he said, pointing. “There’s your name!”

At dinner, Jared squeezed Carrots next to him in his booster seat at the table.

“You’re not bringing that old stuffed bunny to dinner again, are you?” asked Sarah. “If you really have to have a bunny around, I’m going to tell Mom and Dad to get you a nice, new one.”

Jared scrunched Carrots down behind him. Only Carrots’ ears stuck up.

“Lettuce decide what dressing you want,” Jared whispered.

Next, Jared got in his pajamas, grabbing Carrots’ paw.

Sarah sighed, “You can’t take that old, dirty bunny to bed! Oh, my gosh. You’re too old for this bunny stuff.”

Jared snuggled Carrots under the covers next to him.


Myself and my stuffed animal dog, Doggy (who I’ve had since I was three) thank this author for understanding the importance of the child-stuffed animal relationship. J In all seriousness, though, this is definitely something kids and parents can relate to, and Jared and Carrots are an adorable pair. But the action here feels rushed, and the arc not fully fleshed out. I’d love to get to know Jared and Carrots a little more, and it’d be great to see them have a moment where they do something that gets them a positive response from the people around them to make the story a little more dynamic.


Eye on the Fly by Shiela Fuller  –  Picture Book

Bentley spied the fly.

It was on the screen door as Mom left the house.

The fly took off.


Bentley had his eye on the fly.

It landed on the rocking chair.

Bentley jumped.

The fly took flight.


Bentley kept his eye on the fly.

It landed on the trash can.

Bentley pounced.

Off went the fly.


Bentley saw the fly.

It landed on the blueberry pie.

Bentley darted.

Away went the fly.


Bentley had his eye on the fly


I think this is a creative idea, but the repetition is making it hard for me to get into the story. I’m not sure where the story’s going, and more importantly I’m not sure why I should care about Bentley and this fly. Widening the focus beyond following the fly—maybe establishing why Bentley is so focused on following the fly, for example—could help to develop the story.


Here are the submission guidelines for submitting a First Page in May: Please “May First Page Critique” or “May First Page Picture Prompt Critique” in the subject line. Please make sure you include your name, the title of the piece, and whether it is as picture book, middle grade, or young adult, etc. at the top.

Attach your first page submission using one inch margins and 12 point font – double spaced, no more than 23 lines to an e-mail and send it to: kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com. Also cut and paste it into the body of the e-mail and then also attach it in a Word document to the email.

DEADLINE: May 22nd.

RESULTS: May 30th.

Use inch margins – double space your text – 12 pt. New Times Roman font – no more than 23 lines – paste into body of the email and attach.

Talk tomorrow,




  1. Wow, it’s been AGES since I allowed myself the time to read the Free Fall Friday pages—and I miss them! Today I did and have to say, I really enjoyed them. I especially took to “The Edge” finding it very entertaining and funny 🙂 Thanks for the helpful critiques, Jenna, and the authors for putting their work out there for us to enjoy 🙂


  2. This reminds me of a conference class on first pages. So good when thinking about structuring that first page to see how others have done it and the feedback about that. The conference class used published novels and what succeeded. Thanks for doing this.


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