Posted by: Kathy Temean | March 31, 2017

Free Fall Friday: March First Page Results

TracyMarchini – Literary Agent – Featured Agent for March. 

Below is a brief bio with her likes and dislikes:

After four years as a Literary Agents Assistant at Curtis Brown, Tracy Marchini left to pursue her own editorial business and to earn her MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College. Her editorial clients have gone on to secure representation, sell books to traditional publishers, win awards and become bestsellers. She’s looking forward to being able to work with her BookEnds clients throughout their careers and to (hopefully!) see them grow as authors in the same way.

Tracy is looking for picture book, middle grade and young adult manuscripts across most genres, including contemporary, mysteries, thrillers, magical realism, historical fiction, and non-fiction. She is also looking for picture book illustrators and author-illustrators.

For picture book fiction, she loves books that are laugh out loud funny or deliciously dark.

For middle grade and young adult, she’s interested in underdogs, strong female characters and/or unreliable narrators. She feels it’s important for readers of all backgrounds to see themselves reflected in the media they consume, and she is looking to bring that diversity to my list.

She is not a good fit for YA horror, true crime, hard sci-fi, or high fantasy. At this time, she is not looking for board books or early chapter books.



NEXT STOP – DANGER by J.S. Roberts, MG mystery

Olivia Ryan jerked open the front door and glared at the rapidly approaching school bus. Fifteen minutes early. She stomped onto the porch, allowing the door to slam behind her. With a wince, she glanced back inside, an apology on the tip of her tongue. The kitchen remained empty. No big surprise really. In the year Olivia had lived there, Crystal rarely yelled. Why should a door slam at the crack of dawn be any different? It was a complete one-eighty from the first foster home they’d been placed, and for some reason Olivia couldn’t quite get used to it.

She turned to shoot another angry stare at the bus. Last year, Linda had arrived like clockwork. Apparently, summer was so long the bus driver had forgotten how to tell time. At the end of the driveway Olivia intensified her scowl at the obscenely bright vehicle. The doors groaned open as if they too were protesting the early start. She hesitated, tightening her fingers on the strap of her backpack. Suddenly, her clothes felt all wrong, and her new hairstyle fell crookedly over her shoulders. Too late to do anything about it now. With a deep breath, she climbed the steps. Swiping her bangs to the side, she raised her eyes, ready to remind Linda what time the bus was supposed to pick her up. The words died on her lips.

Instead of the familiar middle-aged woman with dimples and glasses, a lumberjack gripped the steering wheel. His head rotated slowly until black eyes glowered at her. “Back seat, driver’s side.” His deep voice practically echoed through the silent bus.

Olivia shivered. What genius had decided this guy should work around kids?


Thank you for the opportunity to review your first page. We definitely get a sense that Olivia has a strong personality, and that she has very precise expectations of how things should/have been done. It definitely gives some ready conflict, since anything that deters from the pattern would be a problem for Olivia.

That said, I wonder if we need just a little bit more softness from Olivia. She’s stomping, scowling, angry, and sarcastic, but there’s not a lot on the page to justify that amount of anger. I think we see a little softness when she worries that her clothes won’t be right, and it feels like we should feel a little more empathy because she mentions this is her second foster home. But at the same time, I wonder if there’s just another line or two that you could add to give us a bit more about Olivia’s internal state and soften her up just a bit. The reader is going to have to want to spend time with Olivia, and I worry that she’s just so angry without that emotional touchpoint that some readers are going to put the book down prematurely.

I hope this helps you as you revise, and wish you the best of luck with this story! Tracy


Roz Silva                       Homeroom Honey                             Middle Grade Novel

If the heat didn’t kill her, her mother just might. Rosie found herself saying “My mother

is going to kill me” a lot and thinking it just as often. She was supposed to be home ironing, but

had decided there was something she would rather do. So she turned off the iron, headed up the

basement steps and let herself out the side door. Then she walked thirteen blocks to the town

swimming pool in 90-degree heat.

As she neared the pool, she could smell chlorine and hear the squeals and shouts of happy

kids. She tugged the hem of her Bermuda shorts down and pulled up her tube top that had

inched lower, thanks to the long walk in the heat. In a moment, she would be in front of the pool

and couldn’t help wondering if he was there–that tall, blond, blue-eyed hunk. Like an arrow, her

eyes shot up to the lifeguard chair facing the pool. Their eyes met and a smile spread crossed his

sun-tanned face. He motioned with his right hand that he would be out of the chair in five minutes. Good, her timing had been right.

She proceeded to walk down a long slope that ended at the L-shaped pool and surveyed

her surroundings, turning in a circle. In the grassy area adjacent to the pool, kids were lying on

their colorful beach towels or coming back after a visit to the snack bar for a drink or Popsicle.

She observed a few boys whipping their towels at one another while others were hanging on the

fence talking to friends or parents. You knew when a girl was about to leave because her head

was covered in rollers–the bigger, the better. How they managed to keep soda pop cans in their

hair was a mystery to her since she had always had short hair. Rosie was even known to cry

when her older sister, a budding hairdresser, tried to “tease” it. She liked her hair in its natural state–black and straight.


Thanks for the opportunity to look at your first page. I felt like I was there at the pool, and I enjoyed this limited view of Rosie and her persona.

That said, the soda pop cans makes me think that we’re in a different time period, but I’m wondering if there’s one more hint that you can give to the reader that will set them in the right time frame? I also wonder about where we’re going. While the page says it’s a middle grade, it feels a bit like we’re about to see more of a YA romance with the lifeguard. And if she is a twelve or thirteen year old who is already that confident around her love interests, then I wonder if there’s another hint that you could give to the reader about her age and experience? Perhaps a clue as to how the soda pop girls at the pool respond to her, since she is the one that has the attention of the lifeguard. (Are they jealous? Do they think she’s lucky? Do they think he really likes her? Whatever their response is, will tell us a lot about the relationship between Rosie and the lifeguard as well as Rosie and some of her peers.) So, in setting the scene, I would look at what details could be replaced with something that would do double duty by both setting the scene and giving the reader a hint at what is important/where the story is going.

In looking at individual lines, it feels like the second sentence is a reworded version of the first. I would delete the second, as it’s not as strong and you don’t want an editor/agent going in with the expectation that they’re going to see a lot of repetitive text. I also wonder if “there was something she would rather do” could be a little stronger. Feels a little vague, but not necessarily in a way that grabs the reader as much as it could.

I hope this helps as you revise, and wish you the best of luck with the story! Tracy


Maria Marshall/ BIRTHDAY TREASURE/ Picture Book

“It’s me birthday!” Beni yelled, jumping from his bunk. THUMP. He waited – nothing.

He peeked out his porthole.  “AHOY, whar ye all be?”

Not a creak, not a whisper.

He sprinted down the passageway, toward the galley.

Empty. Silent.

Did they forget my birthday?

Warm gruel and grog waited for him.

Shuttling his dishes to the sink, he spied something strange. What’s that? he wondered.

Beni unrolled the tatty, crinkly pages. “Blimey, it’s a treasure map!”

He studied the map. “I be needin’ galoshes ‘an me spyglass.”                       [leads to swamp]

He listened for others, then sighed.

“Yo, ho, ho, pacin’ treasure we go.”

“One, two, three.” He opened the door.

“Four, five,” SQUISH.                                                                                   [monster puddle]

“Arg, looks like bilge water!”

Beni sloshed through the swamp.

“Looky here! Thought I’d lost that torch.”

Beni checked the map, “Tally ho, to the cave we go.”

“One, two, three,

four, five, six,


“Hello?”  Helloo . . . loo                                                                                 [dog house = cave]

“Any scallywags be here?”  Here . . . eere


Thank you for the opportunity to review your first page. I’m a fan of pirate tales, and I like the idea of a child using a treasure map to find their birthday party.

That said, I’d be careful about the amount of dialogue that’s used. In a picture book, you really want to use dialogue sparingly, and only when it’s vital. In this case, I think there are places where you can switch out some of the unnecessary dialogue for narrative. And while I enjoy the pirate dialogue, I think you can still incorporate some of it into the narrative without having it all come directly from Beni. I’d also encourage you to be a bit selective. “Tally ho!” is generally associated with horse racing, so it feels a bit out of place here. And I’d also be cautious about the incorrect grammar (it be my birthday, etc.). While you can use it once or twice, I worry that it’s going to be a little distracting if it’s used throughout the picture book.

I hope this helps you as you revise, and wish you the best of luck with this story! Tracy


WHERE IT ALL FALLS DOWN by Carla Ketner – YA Contemporary, with Speculative elements

Ty crosses his arms over his chest, stretches his long legs under the wobbly table, and shoves aside a plate of cold pizza. He draws his eyebrows together. “Do you think it’s true?”

Across the table from him, his twin sister Penny stares stupidly at a guy in a St. Louis Ram’s t-shirt who’s shooting pool with a group of their classmates. She gives her brother a different kind of look. “I doubt it.”

Ty waits.

Penny rolls her eyes. “What’s true?”

He tips his head toward the pool table. “What they’re saying about the new guy.”

“His name’s Sam, not new guy.” She waves her arm in Sam’s general direction. “Does he look dangerous?”

Ty has to admit, at least to himself, that he doesn’t. In fact, Ty’d never have noticed him if Penny hadn’t. He looks mostly harmless—but that doesn’t mean he is.

“Besides,” Penny adds. “I googled him. No arrest record.”

Ty jiggles his foot. ”I guess you don’t need me to look out for you anymore, do you?” The question sits heavy in the air between them, mingling with the garlic molecules and steam rising from wet winter coats.

“Of course I do,” she says automatically, eyes already back on Sam. “I’ll always need you.”

Ty says the rest with her. “You’re the only thing in this universe I can’t live without.” He still means it. She may or may not. Deep down, he knows she can take care of herself. She’s tougher than she seems. He isn’t.


Thank you for the opportunity to review your first page. I like that we’re getting a sense that something isn’t quite right with the new guy, and a hint of the future conflict in this sibling relationship.

I do wonder if we could get a little more information about Ty in this first page, and if perhaps the way to do that is to condense the dialogue just a bit so that there’s space for some physical and/or internal reactions to what he and Penny are talking about. Why does he think Penny noticed him? Is he worried that she’s romantically interested? Or does she have a history of spotting bad eggs? I’d love to get another hint about what exactly Ty fears about the new guy, as this will tell us a bit more about where the story is going. Dangerous could be in any number of ways – Sam could be a physical threat or an emotional threat. He could be a threat to Ty vs. a threat to Penny vs. a threat to the whole student body. Let’s get just a little bit deeper and pull us into the scene a bit more.

I would also take another look at the first line/paragraph. Is there a way to reframe this so that the reader is drawn in a little more?

I hope this helps you as you revise, and wish you the best of luck with this story! Tracy


Tracy thank you for sharing your expertise with us – nice job! We really appreciate your time and effort in helping us improve our writing skills.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. I thoroughly enjoy viewing another like minded and fellow passionate author through a reverse telescope. Analyzing a subject far away from close up gives a fresh and inspiring perspective that keeps motivation stable and consistently at its peak. Great job Kathy with your blog and thank you Tracy for your free insight and willingness to share!


    • You’re welcome, Kurt. And yes, thank you Kathy for having me!


  2. Thanks, Tracy, for this advice! Knowing everything that will happen in the book, I didn’t realize how critical Olivia’s personality came across on the first page. Thank you for you these suggestions, and I’ll definitely add her feelings to page one!

    Thanks, Kathy, for this wonderful opportunity!


    • You’re welcome, J.S. Glad this helped!


  3. As usual, I love reading these critiques and Tracy was extra helpful and detailed in her thoughts. I learned a lot! Thank you!


  4. Thanks so much for the critique, Tracy, and for the opportunity, Kathy. I’m revising the scene based on your comments and appreciate your input and time!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: