Posted by: Kathy Temean | July 29, 2016

Free Fall Friday – July First Page Results

Natalie Lakosil, Agent

Natalie Fischer LakosilNatalie is an agent at the Bradford Literary Agency. An honors graduate of the University of San Diego, California, Natalie holds a B.A. in Literature/Writing. After nearly four years at the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency and a brief dabble in writing author profiles and book reviews for the San Diego Union Tribune, Natalie joined the Bradford Agency in February of 2011.

Natalie is drawn to talented, hard-working new authors with a fresh, unique voice and hook. Her specialties are children’s literature (from picture book through teen and New Adult), romance (contemporary and historical), cozy mystery/crime, upmarket women’s/general fiction and select children’s nonfiction. Her interests include historical, multi-cultural, magical realism, sci-fi/fantasy, gritty, thrilling and darker contemporary novels, middle grade with heart, and short, quirky or character-driven picture books. She is always drawn to an open and positive attitude in an author, professionalism, good grammar, and fantastical, beautifully written, engaging and sexy plots.


Sphere from Outer Space – Picture Book

words by Lanfranco Portas – pictures by Manuela Pentangelo  – Editing by John Arthur Nichol

[NL Comment]It’s really, really hard to sell as a team….an editor might like one and not the other. If you’re a text author, it’s best not to pair up yourself – you want to pair with an editor who will have a vision and bring an illustrator on board who will really bring the text to life and add the final layer of story vs. dictate your vision…

Federico lived near the beach. [NL Comment]We’d get that from the illustrations, and from the text below.

On 10th of August, Saint Lorenz night, Federico and his father sat on the harbour’s edge, in their small village in Sardinia, watching the sky for falling stars. It was late, but Federico wanted to make a wish. To help him stay awake, and to pass the time, his dad started to tell him a story.

In the deep universe, far from here, was a planet similar to ours completely covered in oceans. The planet’s name was Aquarius. All kinds of sea creatures lived there, including mermaids and tritons. Their queen Alura reigned in peace and tranquility over the planet. But every world has good and bad, and Aquarius had its villains. When someone behaved badly, Alura locked them in a sphere and sent them into orbit. They circled Aquarius in solitude, the light from their spheres shining like stars.

On a black, dark night a meteor storm passed by the planet, barely missing Aquarius, and no one noticed at first that a sphere was missing. It belonged to Drako Gilroy, a ferocious, evil dragon fish.

A meteor had sent Drako’s sphere hurtling towards Earth and …

Federico screamed, pointing to a falling star. He made his secret wish, and yawned, and his dad took him home to bed. [NL Comment]This is really reading more like a narrative than a picture book.

The day after Saint Lorenz night was a hot summer’s day. Federico woke at dawn and ran down to the beach, still yawning as he pulled on his goggles and flippers and dived into the sea.

He already knew lots of different kinds of sea creatures – fish, molluscs, crustaceans – and more than anything he loved taking pictures of them with his new underwater camera.

[NL Comment]We’re 300 words in and I don’t see the clear direction on where this is going. You want your text to be around 500 words…this seems like it’s going to be too long. It feels much more like the opening to a novel than a picture book, but would need a lot more fleshing out for that, too (more setting, less telling, dialogue, etc)


MILLIE’S FORMULA FOR FRIEND, Kirsten Bock, Picture Book

Millie adored math.

She loved sharp-edged sevens and fat bellied zeros.

She loved numerals strung together like train cars.

She loved how every problem had a solution, like two friends on a teeter totter.

But sometimes…sometimes she just wanted to ride the teeter totter.

Millie needed a friend.

She opened her notebook and slipped on her pencil grip.

But what was the formula for friendship?

Millie observed. [ART: Sees kids laughing. Doesn’t notice lonely girl on her own]

“A good friend makes people laugh,” she noted.

She wrote her math problem: MILLIE + COMEDY = FRIEND

Armed with numerical nonsense, Millie marched to the group.

“Why was 6 afraid of 7? Because 7, 8, 9! Get it? Seven ate nine!”

No one laughed. Not even Millie. MILLIE + COMEDY ≠ FRIEND

Millie got back to work.

[ART: Lonely girl approaches, speech bubble of her saying, “I like your ruler .”][NL Comment]You’re telling two stories here, and really dictating to the illustrator how this will look and feel. You want to leave room for the illustrator to add a vision. The text should stand alone.

“I’ve got it!” said Millie. MILLIE + COMPLIMENTS = FRIEND

Millie couldn’t wait to test her new equation.

“Excuse me,” she called. “Did you know your birthmark is a perfect right angle?”

“And your glasses resemble an infinity symbol.”

“I love the decimal points on your dress.”

“Wait! I have more !” [NL Comment]The reactions of the kids to Millie is really subjective. These might actually get her friends – these just may not be the right friends, rather than, her formula doesn’t work.

No one felt happy. Not even Millie. MILLIE + COMPLIMENTS ≠ FRIEND

[NL Comment]I do love the idea of a girl who loves math, and I love the idea of her trying to come up with a formula – making friends is hard! To that end, though, how is this really helping readers going through this? What about this will they be able to take away? It’s very obviously message-driven, and that makes it feel too didactic. Once you read this once, why would you want to keep re-reading it? Especially when you understand, this is to teach me how to make friends.


The Sibbecoss by Sandy Green Young Adult

Born of the union between the Heavens and the Water eleven centuries ago, a clear shimmering bead among her sister droplets, Amélie grew up as their second youngest daughter. She lived with her eight sisters in a stream named for them, the Arroyo de las Nueve Hermanas, shaded by black pines and cork oaks in the subtropics. [NL Comment]Beautiful but confusing; a little removed of a voice.

Her mother skimmed the Spanish skies as Alba, the Cloud Goddess. Her father ruled the Río Fardes in Andalusia as its River God. Along with her sisters, Amélie was a naiad – a fresh water spirit – each having rosy lips, like ciruelas, the sweet plums of southern Spain. [NL Comment] All very telling; show these in a narrative, don’t info dump on me.

By the middle of the 15th century, a break from war [NL Comment]What war? Why do they minister to soldiers?  with no weary soldiers to minister to gave the naiads a short rest. Amélie’s sisters painted watercolors in the shade of their small olive grove, sang and played the lyre in the valley to calm stray sheep, composed poetry in the watery depths of their home, and danced in an explosion of emotion in a secret spot deep in their woods.

Amélie sat alone on the bank of the stream peeling an orange. [NL Comment]She’s doing this while her sisters do all of the above? Kind of a funny and abrupt transition.

A large man swathed in a voluminous robe pulled his merchant caravan into the shady part of the stream. [NL Comment]Way too many adjectives; very wordy. The caravan groaned as the merchant climbed down from the driver’s seat, his sword bobbing at his waist, and he unhitched his horse.

Youthful-looking Amélie  [NL Comment]Telling – whose POV is this in?? sprang up to lead the large gray horse to the water.

“You’re very kind. You must have a special liking for horses.” The man smiled at her.

“He’s a real beauty.” Amélie ran her hands along the horse’s mane and powerful neck.

The merchant reached into his sleeve. “May I show you something?” He balanced a leather purse in his palm. “Do you want to guess what’s inside?”

Maybe gold escudos with King Carlos’ shield? One can never have enough. I know I can’t. She grinned at the thought of her stash of gold coins she’d “collected” [NL Comment]Stole? Is that why this is in quotes?  from other merchants. Safe in the roots of the massive chestnut tree. [NL Comment]Now we’re getting into some voice….the above was rather confusing and very telling.


Valerie Coulman                        THE TOYSHOP DE LA RUE                        Middle grade novel

Dansons la capucine

Y’a pas de pain chez nous

Y’en a chez la voisine

Mais ce n’est pas pour nous


Jean-Luc stepped around a puddle on the cobblestoned street as the song of the girls swirled through the mist shrouding the village square. The shops weren’t open yet but lanterns began to wink on in the various windows, casting a soft yellow glow through the haze.

He pulled his collar closer and smiled. It [NL Comment]A confusing start; he calls them young girls – so how old is he? Makes him sound older. And above, I thought these were like mystic girls – it sounded eerie but now it’s echoing comfortably?  was early for young girls to be playing on the street but the song echoed comfortably from the stone-fronted buildings crowded around them. These winter mornings could be silent as tombs.

Not tombs, Jean-Luc cautioned himself. An unfortunate choice of words. Again. The toymaker, his own grief still raw [NL Comment]About what? A little telling but too vague to make an impact, would take him to task severely if he ever spoke words like that aloud.

Out of the fog behind him, racing footsteps rattled down the cobblestones and a small boy suddenly hurtled past, startling Jean-Luc for a moment. Jean-Luc grinned to himself, then began counting quietly, “Trois, deux, … “

Just as expected, the singing voices quickly changed to a wail of protest, and Jean-Luc’s mouth curved in a satisfied half smile. Of course. Small boys on the run always mean trouble. [NLComment]I feel very removed from this opening. This narrator seems too old for MG, and it doesn’t invite me in as a reader to any distinct place or setting. The narrator is removed from the main action, which removes me as a reader even farther.


Thank you Natalie for sharing your expertise with everyone. We all appreciated your feedback.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. A very nice article


  2. Reblogged this on The Sandy Side of Life and commented:
    Agent Natalie Lakosil critiqued my first page on Kathy Temean’s blog! I’m so appreciative of the feed back!


  3. Thanks for offering first page reviews, Kathy! I sincerely appreciate having my first page critiqued by Natalie Lakosil!


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