How do I choose which manuscript to submit to the next first page session? I’ve been going back and forth, trying to decide which one showcases my best work. And yet, the two manuscripts I am considering are so very different.

One is a clever tale of a boy with an unusual name–a name that creates a lot of confusion. This picture book is in the boy’s voice, told from his point of view. Yet the illustrations will show something very different happening around him. I have repeatedly heard editors say that a PB must leave enough unsaid for the pictures to comprise half the story, and I think this tale accomplishes that.

Then I have a fractured fairy tale. With pizzas. Glorious, cheesy pies! What kid doesn’t like pizza? A familiar story with a unique new twist might take the cake. Err, I mean, pie.

I admit, I’m getting a little too hopped up for a first page session. I shouldn’t expect anything to come from it other than a lot of good advice. I listen carefully to each page and then when the editor or agent gives his thoughts, I take a lot of notes, hoping to learn from all the manuscripts, not just mine.

Unfortunately, I don’t think everyone has this attitude. Last time a woman in front of me drew doodles on her paper throughout the two-hour session. And when it was over, she complained that the professionals didn’t like her story because they didn’t understand or appreciate rhyme. That may be true, as the editors worked in middle-grade and not picture books, but I had an entire page of notes on her story, while she went home with a lot of squiggles and stick figures.

There’s two ways to approach a first-page session: as a way to grab the attention of an editor or agent, or as an opportunity to receive professional feedback. It’s important to remember that if your work doesn’t impress the editors, all is not lost. Be inspired to work harder. Editors and agents volunteer their time to these events, and we should all be grateful. They don’t owe us anything. But we owe them our very best work.