I wanted to know what to expect at a first page critique before attending one, so this post is for those of you with similar curiosity.  I can’t speak for every first-page session, but here is how it might be organized:

  • The editor/agent (or other professional commenter) will sit at the front of the room, along with readers.  The editor/agent may read each page aloud, or an attendee will be selected to read.  Depending upon the number of first pages, there may be more than one reader.
  • The reader will read first pages aloud, one at a time.  After one piece has been read, the commenters will present their immediate reactions.  Depending upon how much time has been allotted for the event, they may spend as little as 30 seconds or as many as 5 minutes each discussing the page.
  • Questions from attendees are typically held until the end of the event so there is enough time to get to everyone’s submission.  Occasionally a question of clarification is entertained, but a dialogue is discouraged at this time.  It is not appropriate to jump in and explain/defend your piece.
  • When all the works have been reviewed, the organizer may open the floor to questions if there is enough time.

Here’s what you’ll need to bring:

  • Multiple copies of your first page, formatted for submission: 12-point type, double-spaced, one-inch margins.  (Poetry can be single-spaced with double spaces between stanzas.)  Include the title and genre, but not your name.  You’ll need one copy each for the commenters, one for the reader, and one for yourself if you’d like to take notes directly on the page. 
  • Business cards, if you have them.  Don’t hand them to the editor/agent unless they specifically approach you, but you’ll want to network with the other writers present.  You might find a new critique partner or learn about another event.  Make a friend, give them your card to keep in touch.
  • Notebook and pen.  Take notes.  Not just about your first page, but about all the pages.  There will be lots of good information shared about what makes a successful first page.  Pay attention to the ones the editor/agent said they would continue reading. 

Remember to thank the editors/agents and organizer of the event.   They have graciously given their time and expertise in an effort to help polish your work.   Shake hands, be polite.  If you have a specific question that wasn’t addressed, now’s the time to ask if they have a moment.

Remember names.  If you are serious about your craft, you will be seeing many of these people again at other events.  Be thankful toward the professionals even if your piece didn’t receive the praise you expected.  Go home inspired to work harder instead of being discouraged.  You’re another step closer to your goal of becoming published!

And if your piece was one of the stories in which the editor/agent showed an interest, ask if you can submit to them.  They are there to find new talent, after all! 

Do you have any information to share about first page events?  If so, please comment!  Thank you!