Nathan Bransford, Author


Sunday, February 3, 2008

America's Next Top Surprisingly Essential First Page (the Finalists)


VOTING IS CLOSED!! THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO VOTED.

675 beautiful first pages stand before me.

675 first pages who were fierce and who made it work and who cried whenever I asked them tough questions, because that is the best way of advancing in America's Next Top Model I mean Surprisingly Essential First Page. But only six can continue on in the hopes of becoming America's Next Top Surprisingly Essential First Page.

But first, let's review the prizes. The winner of America's Next Top Surprisingly Essential First Page will win a photo spread in Publishers Weekly with legendary fashion photographer Gilles Bensimon, a $0 cash prize to start their modeling career, and their choice of a query critique, partial critique, 10 minute phone conversation, or one of my clients' books. Runners-up will receive a query critique or other agreed-upon prize.

You all know our judges, uh, me, and living legend and blogging icon Holly Burns, author of the blog Nothing But Bonfires.

But I only have six photos in my hand. These six photos include two finalists that appeared on both of the judges' list of favorites, two choices from Holly, and two choices from Nathan. These six photos represent the six who will continue on in the hopes of becoming America's Next Top Surprisingly Essential First Page.

In no particular order, the first name I'm going to call... is Julianne Douglas.

Julianne, the judges were impressed by the sense of atmosphere and the flow of the conversation. Here is your Surprisingly Essential First Page:

Still Life with Flowers (Women's fiction)

The afternoon sun sliced the room like scissors through cellophane and exploded against the laminated flipchart in a blast of white light. Elaine shielded her face with an out-turned palm. "The slats," she interrupted. "Excuse me, Mr. Severson. The slats." She jerked herself to her feet. Wadded tissues tumbled from her purse like confused sheep. She herded them under the chair with her toe and navigated around the artificial ficus to the window. The room smelled fusty, like last week’s forgotten bagel. She muted the glare with a twist of the dowel, then reached beneath the blinds to raise the sash. Cool air rushed in; she forced a deep breath. The slats clattered into place as she dragged herself back to her chair. "I couldn't see, Peter." Over by the door, her husband grunted.

Cars whisked by on Trindle Road. The noise was louder now with the window open. Flashes from passing fenders raked the fuzzy dimness of the ceiling. A steady stream of commuters rushed home to let out their dogs. Defrost pork chops. Hug their kids. Elaine swallowed hard and tried to concentrate on the reedy voice of the man behind the mahogany desk.

"These are our most popular arrangements." Mr. Severson propped the spiral-bound catalogue upright against his forearm. "Typically, in a closed-casket service, a large floral spray covers the lid. Two matching wreaths flank the casket. An urn decorates the foot of the altar." His free hand tapped the mock-up with a pen as he listed each element.

She focused on the picture with puzzled fascination. "Lilies."

"Yes, Mrs. McArdle." Mr. Severson lowered the book to flip a page. He raised it again, this time displaying a checkerboard of smaller shots. "As you can see, all of our arrangements feature white lilies. Lilies symbolize purity, eternal life. People expect to see them at Christian funerals." He scratched the side of his nose with the pen.

"I did a painting of lilies once. I'm a painter, you know." She fumbled for a tissue. "Five white lilies in a golden vase. One for each of Christ’s wounds, though I doubt many people understood the symbolism. Hardly anyone does anymore." Mr. Severson smiled blandly and glanced at Peter, who, arms crossed in front of his chest, leaned against the wall and examined the weave of the carpet.

Severson sighed. "Of course they do, Mrs. McArdle. Of course they do." His voice caressed her with well-practiced compassion. "Especially in the case of lilies." He cleared his throat gently. "Now, there are other options to choose from besides the standard four-piece package. For example, the front pews can be draped with garlands. . ." He ruffled the book, searching for an example.

"It was a difficult painting. Especially the reflections.” Elaine frowned, recalling how hard it had been to capture white on gold. “I never did get it quite right."


The second name I'm going to call... is Kari.

Kari, the judges were impressed with the sense of style you brought to this first page, and you nailed the dialogue, which is both evocative and worked perfectly with the rest of the page. Here is your surprisingly essential first page:

Possible Happiness

He did not remember her as beautiful and did not find her particularly so that evening.

Every man at the party would have said the same, would have sworn that their wives and mistresses and secretaries were far lovelier, that they passed twenty women on the street each morning who were more pleasing to the eye. They would have claimed, with little prodding, that she measured just an inch too short, just a year too old, just a hair too wide, and that it was not one but all of these features together that subtracted “beauty” from the perfunctory sum of assets they might otherwise settle on a woman. They did not know her, or know why she was in attendance or which of their hosts might have invited her. No fanfare announced her arrival and she did not directly precede or follow any notable luminaries, so the men could not say with any certainty why—when scores of prettier women wandered in their midst—they each had turned to watch her as she entered the ballroom, only that she seemed to expect it, as though she had lived her whole life in a crowd and it was simply her nature to be appealing. Nor could they explain why their eyes continued to follow her as she weaved her way through them, whether it was the silk of her scarlet gown fluttering around their ankles or the scent of fresh gardenias that made their palms grow damp. Those who stood close enough to brush against her longed to reach out and release her hair from its complicated arrangement, to watch the dark waves tumble to her shoulders in the glow of the chandeliers. She made no sound and yet some imagined they heard the silvery trill of a laugh as she swept past them. When she reached the far edge of the marble dance floor and stopped, these men found themselves peeling away from their partners to lean toward her, eager for her true voice, and they were rewarded. “Schnapps,” she commanded of her escort, a tall fellow in a tailcoat whom they had failed to notice until that moment and ceased to recall in the next moment when he stepped away from her.

A minute passed (two? three? they could not be certain) before the women descended to recover their errant prizes. The youngest wives, who would have considered their mates immune, could see very clearly the misguided enthusiasm with which she had applied the rouge to her cheeks, and noted the black lace at the hem of her billowing gown beginning to unravel, just a bit there, just above her left foot. The mistresses smiled as they stroked the mink stoles that curled around their own pale shoulders. They understood the power of distraction and admired her for it.

“Marian said she’s some sort of actress Philip used to know. Come now, darling, I’m sure it was nothing like that. Although…yes, perhaps it was something like that.”


The third name I'm going to call... is Charlotte.

Charlotte, the judges were impressed by the sense of place you work into this page. It's an evocative setting, and yet the reader does not feel lost because you ground the work in emotion and description. Here is your surprisingly essential first page:

Another Saturday, another funeral. Lindiwe dusts breadcrumbs off her lap, takes a final sip of her sweet tea and places the mug in the sink. She’ll wash it later. She takes her coat off the hook and puts it on. She always wears her coat, even though it’s the height of summer. Putting on her beret, she leaves the house. Carefully, but conspicuously, Lindiwe locks the front door so that the scabengas who have moved in next door notice just how locked it is, and then she stands on the kerb waiting for her lift to arrive.

She and Sipho do funerals every weekend. Often they organise them; finding the cash to put caskets of different sizes in the ground and to arrange food and drink for the mourners. If they’re not organising, then they’re attending. Sometimes they are the only attendants. Last Saturday, they buried five-month-old Maria. She’d been dropped at the Mission and had not lived long enough to draw a crowd. Lindiwe mourned her, though. She always mourns, every baby, child and adult who they bury. Every time is like the first time. Sipho knows to have tissues and he passes them to her at the appropriate moment. Such a nice young man. Lindiwe wonders when his time will be.

Sipho drives up in his aging yellow Golf and she climbs in. He drives them past the over-flowing cemetery outside the township, along the dusty road into town and up the hill through the once white-only suburbs. They join the highway and climb an-other, steeper hill, Sipho’s car chug-chugging behind articulated lorries. Today Lindiwe has not had to arrange anything, but she has been asked to give a reading. She holds her Bible closely to her heart to muffle its thumping.

They leave the highway and turn right, hugging a road through plantations and farmlands. Saturday shoppers walk along the roadside, carrying babies on their backs and plastic car-ier bags in their hands. Many of them carry on their heads the large fabric bags that supermarkets now force people to buy. Lindiwe opens the car window and allows the cooler hilltop air to fan her face. She sees the faintest outline of the far-off mountains to her left, but much as she is drawn towards them, Sipho’s Golf coughs its way forward.

After a deep dip, they drive through an avenue of trees. To the left, Lindiwe sees cows in a hilly meadow, and vervet monkeys walking surefootedly along a barbed-wire fence. Through the trees she glimpses flashes of white: buildings. The funeral is being held in the chapel of his old school; a prestigious academy for boys of the elite, a place with so much money that they can afford the folly of all-white buildings that require constant repainting. Lindiwe has never been here before. She has visited the sick in villages nearby, seen the dying and the dead in shacks on the surrounding farms, but she has never been to this school for rich children.


The fourth name I'm going to call.... is Heather!Anne!.

Heather!Anne!, you took on a high degree of difficulty with a young narrator and a historical setting, but the judges think you nailed it. Here is your Surprisingly Essential First Page:

He was carrying a can of soup and needed to make change for a nickel.

I told him if I had a nickel, or five pennies amounting to a nickel, I’d be out behind the old school house with my brother’s friends, gambling on dice. You need two nickels for a Coca-Cola and a Clark Bar, and one really ain’t worth having with out the other.

He chuckled in that old man way, which seemed inviting enough, so I asked him what the heck he was doing with that can of soup anyway. He said, “Oh, nothin’,” and went on his way.

Over dinner I asked if anybody’d seen an old man wandering around town with a can of soup. My daddy said, “You ought to try reading a book some time instead of sitting outside Mitchell’s Pharmacy all day, staring at folks.” My mama said, “Sarah Beth, I told you not to talk to strangers.” And Tim, my older brother, he said, “You owe me ten cents. Don’t be spending any more money at Micthell’s ‘till you pay me back.”

I was quiet for a while, mulling it over in my head, wondering about that soup can a little bit but also about the five pennies that would have made nickel-change. Who needs pennies? They make your hands stink like copper. (Although if I’d had ten pennies, I could have paid Tim so he’d get off my back about that loan.)

Mama must have noticed I was quiet, which she called an ‘abnormality,’ so she said to my daddy, “Thomas, why don’t you tell Sarah Beth to leave it alone? There’s no need for her to be off chasin’ a strange man.”

My mama was always forbidding things by telling my daddy to forbid me to do them. I would have called that an abnormality, but nothing gets you spanked faster than a smart mouth.

“Don’t go chasing strange men,” my dad said, which caused my mama to give him that gushy smile that always made me feel kind of gross.

One time I was at the dentist and he poured some fluoride in my mouth. “Don’t swallow it,” he said. And the only thing I could think of was how bad I wanted to swallow that fluoride. It was the dentist’s fault, I reckoned. If he’d just put it in my mouth without saying nothing I could have probably kept it in there for a half hour, especially if he bet me I couldn’t do it.

But he said don’t, so I wanted to, and I did. I swallowed that fluoride.

I was afraid I might die, but the dentist just laughed and said, “You don’t die from swallowing fluoride.”

That’s how I learned that sometimes when grown-ups tell you not to do something, it’s just a suggestion. And I guess that’s the reason I went looking for that soup can man.


The fifth name I'm going to call... is terryd.

terryd, the judges felt that this is a textbook example of steadily easing a reader into a unique world while building tension, revealing the protagonist's personality, and introducing a plot. Here is your Surprisingly Essential First Page:

JERRY SHARPE - 64,000 words

It’s been two weeks since the cars died, and we’re walking out. My family is here with me in the Sierra, and I don’t know if that’s a blessing or a curse. Most electrical devices are dead, and we don’t have any reliable information about what happened, but we can guess. We’ve heard some rumors, and they’re all bad, and I can’t afford to expect anything good to happen to us, so it takes me by surprise when an airplane flies low over us. We’re walking a deer trail that parallels the interstate. The plane is on us very quickly, and I motion for Susan and the kids to get under cover. We run to a thin stand of pines and look up. It’s been months since we’ve seen anything in the sky except military aircraft, but this one is hanging from its prop and flaps, just above stall speed at tree-scraping altitude. It doesn’t fly directly overhead, but I catch a gleam of painted aluminum above the pines and I feel the pressure of searching eyes. When the pilot adds power to hold a turn, we run for better cover.

We get into a thicker stand of trees and form our four-person perimeter. It’s a sloppy diamond formation but it allows us to cover the road with three guns. Susan gives me a flat look. Her lips are moving, and at first I think she’s trying to tell me something, but then I see that she’s praying, and I wonder if she knows it.

Our son Scotty is prone with his scoped .22. God help him, the boy looks like he can’t wait to shoot somebody. Our eldest, Melanie, is farthest from the interstate. She won’t carry a weapon but I’m grateful that she still more-or-less follows my orders, no matter how it must gall her.

The old Cessna drags itself over the freeway and circles above a meadow. The pilot drops something. I watch the lumpy gleam of a bubble-wrapped package falling from the sky. There can’t be anything half-assed about it. It’s either something very good or something very bad, and I watch its flawed shape pass down through the trees and into God’s nature like a gift or a curse. I’m a naturally pessimistic bastard, and my pessimism has stood me well, as of late, so I motion for Susan and the kids to put their heads down. The ground here is dry and it smells clean and infertile. I listen to the soft, buffeting sound of my breath pushing against hard earth, but time passes and there isn’t an explosion. It isn’t an improvised bomb at all and I hear people cheering, the voices of men, women and children.

Another group is travelling the road. They’re on foot too, and we’ve been trailing them for most of the day.


And the last name I'm going to call... is luc.

A poor family in space? Where can I read more? luc, even when you were referencing things the reader doesn't know about, you made. this. work. Here is your Surprisingly Essential First Page:

Deana Horsehead Chidder:

Our whole stinking family lived on a half-derelict salvage ship that floated so far from the space station, we sometimes had trouble telling it from the stars. There was Ma and Da and seven of us whelps, rattling around in an 80-year-old narrowcruiser with only one working rocket. Phyllis and Wyoming were born deformed from Ma not taking precautions against radiation during pregnancy, but Phyllis--with one eye glued permanently shut and a forehead like an old man's backside--had all her faculties.

At the station they figured us for morons, because none of us would go to that school they had. Why should we, when they wasted your time making you learn about the primary commerce drivers in Procyon A system and how to use a proto-language translation program--who needed it? No Chidder, that's for sure. We'd rather wallow on the ship in our own filth, God's honest truth, and make what living we could from salvaging burned-out probes and trash and the occasional derelict starship.

Except for me. I'd been wallowing with the rest of them all my life, but at sixteen years old I figured I was old enough to run away. Which is why I was on my way to Bay C to meet a Luytenite and a Centipede. Bay C because the airlock there didn't work right and if you hit the wrong button you could get spat out into space like a piece of bad meat. We usually kept away from Bay C, so it was a good place to keep out of sight.

I was taking extra care, because Ma was a certifiable paranoid and she did security sweeps all the time. She once accused me of being a robot spy and tried to poke me with a power probe to prove it. If she'd got me, I would have been dead that much earlier, and maybe I wouldn't have ended up in the Valley of the Dead and dealt with all those demons and everything. I'll get to that later. Anyway, I got clear of her and hid 'til she came to her senses, that time.

So I'd told the Centipede and the Luytenite they had to boost just once, at the station, and then they had to power down and use chemical brakes to dock. Chemical brakes are expensive because of all the wasted gas, but they don't show up on the sensors, so that was the only way I could have them do it. See, I had to be careful about Ma all the time, even when I wasn't up to something. Now that there was really something going on, I wasn't about to give it away and lose my chance.

I'd been hoping Ma would be in the middle of a security audit, or in bed with one of her headaches, but she must have smelled something was up: she was prowling the corridor outside the shuttle ports. She stared at the wall there, at


Voting rules: please vote for your favorite in the comments section of the Blogger post. Anonymous votes will not be counted. Please feel free to spread word around the Internet about the voting, but please do not campaign for any particular nominee(s). Voting will be open until Tuesday at 5:00 PM Pacific.

Who will become America's Next Top Surprisingly Essential First Page? Let's find out.






357 comments:

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Linda said...

Let me be the first to congratulate the finalists - all fabulous entries. And thanks, Nathan and Holly - you had a tremendous task and you done good.

I vote for... Luc. Tough decision and I'm not even a fan of this genre, but... he hooked me in with the first sentence and I never let go. More, Luc... more!

nerds said...

Wonderful! And congratulations to everyone! Four of the six I had not seen, so reading them was a treat. Thanks Nathan and Holly, what a task.

My vote is for:

Heather!Anne!

Kevin said...

Congratulations to all the winners. Thanks again for the great opportunity, Nathan. Must have been a major undertaking. Thank you!

Michelle Moran said...

Wow. These were all really, really good! But I think I'm going to have to go for Possible Happiness by Kari, perhaps because I'm a sucker for scarlet silk gowns, or perhaps because I'm dying to find out who the mysterious woman is.

I wish I could choose Luc as well. Although I rarely read science fiction, I was totally drawn in.

Laurie Ashton said...

Excellent choices!

I'm voting for luc. Definitely grabbed me and didn't let go. :)

Words In, Words Out said...

It's so tough to decide. I'm torn between Julianne's and Heather!Anne!'s. Honestly, it's nearly a dead tie. But while I love the character and scene Heather has created, something about Julianne's entry stuck with me and really struck deep. So my vote is for Julianne's.

Adaora A. said...

I vote for Luc. I thought it was great.

Jan said...

They are each so different and I was intrigued by each ... I can't decide yet.

I must re-read them to vote.

Well Done Nathan & Holly.

THANKS for a great contest!

JaxPop said...

My vote goes to Heather! Anne! & my thanks goes to you & Holly for an unbelievable job. WELL DONE!!!It was tough (for me) making a choice between the 6 finalists nominated, all were deserving - I can't imagine going through over 600 entries - & many of them were great - to get to this point. Thanks again for what you do.

Heidi said...

All of these were superb! Excellent choices by the judges, and outstanding writing by the authors!

I was torn between Kari and Heather!Anne!, but in the end I think it has to be Heather!Anne! for me, and not just because she has two exclamation points in her name, which is so cool, but because at the end I thought, "that's it??? I don't get to read the rest?" Wonderful use of dialogue and such a great strong voice!

Congrats to everyone!

brittanimae said...

Intriguing finalists--well done! I vote for Kari's Possible Happiness, although Heather Anne was a close second.

Diana said...

Wow! These six finalists were amazing. Judges, I can't believe you managed to narrow the list down so quickly!

I enjoyed all six of them, but there is something about Julianne's Still Life With Flowers that tugged at me especially hard. I think it was the fact that I could really see our character messing with the blinds, and I was taken aback when I realized they were discussing funeral plans. I wanted to know more.

So even though I had to read them all twice to be sure, my vote goes to Julianne.

Polenth said...

I vote for luc

AnnieColleen said...

Mine for Luc. Though I'd like to read several of the others as well.

Vinnie Sorce said...

Well that doesn't bode well for the query I just sent you yesterday... lol

ros said...

Kari.

johanStifler said...

I think they are all good, but none great, and I expected that with only 6/675 selected, that they would really blow me away.

However, if I were in a bookstore reading first pages, the only one that I would perhaps read page two is "Kari."

jamr said...

I thought all of these were wonderfully written. Well done, finalists!

For me it was a tough choice between Charlotte's and terryD's, but I'll go with terryD's since that would be a book I'd be more likely to read.

Thanks again, Nathan and Holly!

Hélène Boudreau said...

Julianne!

Bobbie said...

Count mine for Heather!Anne! Loved the voice! And thanks, Nathan, for doing this. It was fun (for us, anyway) and I learned a lot.

D. Robert Pease said...

Kari.

MJ said...

This was really difficult! Congratulations to the finalists, I enjoyed all those first pages and learned some things too. Choosing one is really tough, but...I really, really want to know what happens next in luc's story, so that's where I send my vote.

Lauren said...

Wow! These were all wonderful! Nice job on the judging, Nathan and Holly, and thanks for running the contest.

I read all the entries out loud to myself a bit earlier tonight, and figured I'd come back and vote for the one that stuck with me the most. And that would be... Julianne.

Cindy said...

Luc :)

Sasha said...

A vote for Heather!Anne! here. IT was really close between hers and Julianne's. Heather!Anne!'s is the one I would pick up and read first, which is based solely on my genre preference.

Great reading from all the finalists. Thanks, Nathan and Holly!

Paprikapink said...

They're all good. I vote for Heather!Anne!'s entry.

Thanks, Nathan and Holly!

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Well done, everyone.

I vote for Luc.

Cave Dweller said...

All are really good. I'm going with Luc, since that's what I would pick up and read.

Ernest said...

While I liked Kari and Luc's entries a lot, they didn't feel as finished and as effortlessly complex as terryd's page. So my vote goes to terryd. And kudos to Nathan and Holly for what must have been a bleary-eyed couple of days.

northwest lurker said...

I'm only halfway through reading them all - you must not have taken many breaks in reading!

Probably because it's the genre I'd be most likely to read, but the character drew me in too, my votes for luc.

Jessica said...

Luc!! I can't imagine keeping up that voice for an entire book (writing it) but it would be amazing to read. *When* it's published I hope Nathan will let us know...

moth said...

My vote is for Kari's.

~Moth

Sam Hranac said...

Somehow, I didn't think a story that starts with a dead dog was going to make the list.

Congrats to all the winners! My vote would have to be for: Heather!Anne!

Usman said...

Kari for me.
The writing was wonderful. I think it is difficult to create a character with a sense of mystery; the way Kari did.

Khazar-khum said...

terry d.

It's the only one I want to read.

Casey said...

Thanks Nathan and Holly for the great contest!

I enjoyed all the finalists' pieces, but I have to give my vote to Heather!Anne!.

Tough critic said...

My favorite is Julianne's.

Anne said...

I vote for "luc". I love the premise and the first page. Good on you, Luc!

Anonymous said...

These are two people's opinions who skimmed 675 pages in less than three days. If they have anything resembling lives, I don't see how it was possible. That's in essence a full novel a day. In reality, it would take much much longer to read 675 pages because each one is a different story, different mood, tone and characters as compared to reading 675 pages of the same story (think about it). So, the task should have taken at least a week to ten days it would seem. And if they read for hours and hours each day ("bleary-eyed" seems to be used here to describe it), then how balanced could he evaluation have been? Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the effort and have enjoyed reading through them myself.

In the same timeframe, I got through maybe about 150, and none that I thought were good made their list.

So, how about some runner ups suggested by the blog readers?

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

Uh... I read them all. Holly read them all. Maybe you just don't read quickly? Feel free to congratulate the people who thought you are the best, but trust me -- we read them.

Walter said...

This is tough. terryd and luc managed to suck me in and make me want page 2. If forced to choose...

terryd.

Thanks for the opportunity, Nathan. I look forward to your next contest, assuming you've survived this one.

Anonymous said...

Nathan, I'm not questioning your veracity, I'm sure you and she did read them all, and everyone including myself is indebted, but it just seems like such a daunting task. True, I'm no speed reader, but I think a first page can't be skimmed too quickly, and with the day to day demands of life, I only had time for about 50 a day, which is about the average page rate for most readers I think (works out to about a novel a week).

Sorry, didn't intend this to be a criticism of your fine efforts, just trying to think of a way to open it up a bit.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

By all means people should congratulate the people who weren't nominated and whom they think were deserving! In the past I actually allowed write-in votes, but people tended to stick to the nominees when they voted, so I dropped that practice.

Basically Holly and I read all 675 and came up with finalists so everyone else didn't have to. It's admittedly subjective, but I'm pretty confident with our list.

RichardW said...

Anon: you make a reasonable point, but the reality probably is that if the first paragraph sucked, I doubt they forced themselves to finish the page which would speed things up a lot. And I don't see anything wrong with that b/c I skipped a bunch based on the first paragraph alone, as I'm sure most did.

Rachel said...

Julianne has my vote - loved it!

Nadine said...

All six were amazing!

But I have to say, I would definitely turn to the next page of Kari's.

Nice job!!

Anonymous said...

Hey just remember--the REAL votes happen with your queries...and then with your agent's queries to the houses...and then on the shelves. This is playtime.

Question for Nathan out of curiosity--besides the 6 finalists, about how many of the entries struck you as something that you would ask for a partial from if you'd received it as a query? (I realize that you didn't have the benefit of receiving a query full info to accompany the submissions, but still, did you see any besies the 6 picks that really made you go, damn, I wanna read more of that...?)

Saskia said...

Congratulations to the finalists!
I vote for Healther!Anne!

Kami said...

Man, this is not easy at all! Very, very hard decision. I think I'll have to go with

Charlotte's

entry. Bravo, especially with luring me into wanting even more with mention of the rich boy's school. Very lush writing without getting overly elaborate.

MJ said...

I am pretty sure that any literary agent, in the business of book-buying and book-reading, is accustomed to reading massive amounts at faster than the average speed.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

There were three or four more out of these that I'd be curious to see more of.

Scott from Oregon said...

Luc out of the six had enough originality to make me want to read more.

Lots of deja vu writing in the rest...

AmandaKMorgan said...

Congrats finalists! And thanks, Nathan and Holly, not only for taking the time to do this but also for the ANTM format, which made up for the lack of The Hills references.

I had a little trouble deciding because I LOVED three of them, but in the end, I'm going with Heather!Anne!

Anonymous said...

Nathan, well we want to know, so cough up the 3-4 why doncha?

Annie's Got Her Pen said...

The Honorable Mentions?

Anonymous said...

Nathan--(this is the anon. who asked if there were more you'd like to see)...thanks for answering that.

I am not asking which ones--nor was that my intention; I was just curious as to how many "submissions," out of 675, one agent found stimulating enough in some way to request more if it had been an actual query.

Thanks, and thanks for hosting the contest.

Other Lisa said...

Wow. I wasn't expecting this on a Sunday. Wasn't anyone watching the Superbowl?!

I'll be back (to quote the Governator).

Sumit said...

First of all, congratulations to all the six finalists. To make it to the last six is a huge achievement in itself.

For a first time writer like myself (and I'm from a non-English speaking country), this was a great opportunity to learn from so many wonderful writers. My thanks to all the participants here.

I would also like to thank the judges for their valuable time spent on my entry.

Finally, my choice for the winner is - Luc! All the best.

Have fun everyone and keep writing.

KERRY ALLEN said...

Heather!Anne!

ChristineEldin said...

These are all wonderful! All!

My vote is for HeatherAnne!

Angela said...

Congratulations to the finalists... I'll have to come back later to actually vote...not easy to decide!

kissmequick said...

I'm going to have to go with TerryD. The one that really made me want to read the next page.

Welshcake said...

Luc. Superb.

Jessica said...

Very tough call for me between Kari and Heather!Anne!, but I'm going to have to go with

Heather!Anne!

Engaging voice, authentic dialogue. Nicely done!

sylvia said...

Congratulations to ALL of the finalists. Excellent work!

Tough one.

I liked Luc's a lot but in the end Heather!Anne! gets my vote.

Well done Nathan and Holly!

Jessica said...

I know that, as I read through the entries, there were quite a few that were almost perfect, but not quite. I was curious, Nathan, as to why most of the other 669 didn't make the cut for you and I hope you cover this in a follow-up blog. I think it could make for an interesting discussion. Not just what works in an opening, but what really doesn't. I've seen quite a variety of opinions on this amongst the various blogs doing first page critiques.

elarasophia said...

I'm voting for kari and Possible Happiness. It drew me in and the writing felt seamless. Really excellent work!

Parker Haynes said...

Biggest congrats go first to Nathan and Holly for mustering the courage (and stamina) to even undertake such a daunting challenge.

As to the six finalists, You've all done yourselves proud. Six examples, six styles of writing, all excellent.

My vote, based solely on my preference of reading, is for terryd.

Anonymous said...

Kari. Kari. Kari. Absolutely exquisite. I will buy this book.

AM

Aimless Writer said...

Congratulations to the finalists!
This must have been a hard choice with all the great entries.

I vote for Heather Anne. I really liked the voice in this one.

theartgirl said...

I read through all of them this weekend also--although if the first paragraph didn't grab me, I stopped.

I made a list of my top 30 and starred two that I picked as my favorites. One wasn't nominated and the other was...


The Language of Flowers (you get my vote!)

Coll

sonya said...

Tough choice, but...

terryd

Anonymous said...

Kari.

Luc is a close second

Jamie said...

Heather!Anne!

Excellent work.

Heather Harper said...

Heather!Anne!

Cory said...

These were all really interesting reads. Heather!Anne!'s entry has an amazingly strong voice and a good sense of humour, which I love, and Luc has some extremely interesting writing going on and a setting and characters I'd love to see more of.

It was really difficult to decide between these two but my vote is for Luc.

Every single one of these six also made me realise how much more I need to learn as a writer. Sigh.

Nathan and Holly, you guys are awesome for doing this. :)

superwench83 said...

It was a tough call between Heather!Anne! and Luc, but I'm going with Luc.

Congrats to all the finalists!

R.C. said...

I'm torn. They are all so good, and so different. Congratulations all!

And put me down for TerryD.

R.C.

Roxan said...

I have to vote for Luc.
Some of the others had me scratching my head as to why they got picked, but best of luck to all the finalists.
On a another thought, I think it is important to enter the contests, even if you don't believe you have a chance of winning.

rpressey said...

Congrats to everyone! My vote is for Heather!Anne!

Luc2 said...

Although I was tempted to go with my (pen)namesake - not related - in the end I went with terry d. That entry gave me the strongest urge to flip the page.

Well done, all finalists, and thank you judges.

gg said...

Congrats to all!!

My vote: HEATHER!ANNE!

Kim Lionetti said...

Wow Nathan. Impressive turnaround.

I'm voting for terryd.

cc said...

I vote for Kari.

From the first sentence to the last, lovely images, steady tone. Good job!

Thanks again Nathan and Holly. It's such fun.

original bran fan said...

I vote for Heather! Anne!

I prefer past tense to present tense and this was in past. Plus it was just great.

Kristi Valiant said...

Heather!Anne! with a close second to luc.
Well done.

Erik said...

I guess I just don't understand this world.

DeadlyAccurate said...

First, congratulations on the finalists. Those are all wonderful entries, and I read them all with pleasure. I narrowed my choices down to three, and I hated having to choose among them. But in the end, I think I'll go with luc's entry. I like the voice to this one, and the poor family in space is cool.

Chro said...

Well, I recognize two of these from my critiquing -- I read both until the end, but was only really excited about one.

I also didn't see a few that I really liked on this list. :(

This came down to the last three for me. In the end, while I like the voice of Heather's, and the realism of the child's mindset, I'm going to have to go with Luc's, simply because I'm more interested in where the plot is going.

Loren said...

luc

Elladog said...

These are great!
I thought Kari's was perfectly lovely, so my vote is for her.

Michelle said...

First of all thanks to Nathan and Holly for doing this. It was a lot of fun!

Secondly CONGRATULATIONS to the finalists. All really wonderfully written first pages.

My vote is for Kari
I like the mystery and the marvelous way she used pov.

Heidi the Hick said...

My vote is for Heather! Anne!

SherylAdairVv said...

I vote for KARI. She left me wanting to read more

Margie87 said...

Nathan: How about starting a second thread for reader's choices?

Thanks!

mlh said...

Congrats, everyone!

I'm a bit sad mine didn't make the cut, but it's still a work in progress.

Although I like sci-fi, I think I'm going with Heather!Anne!. There's just something that sticks with me when reading that one.

Thanks for the contest, Nathan!

Thanks for being a judge, Holly!

ink wench said...

Congrats to the winners!

I have to say I probably wouldn't pick up any of these if I was browsing the shelves - just not my kind of story - but I can definitely appreciate the skillful writing.

My vote goes to Heather!Anne! That's the only that would make me turn the page.

julietrising said...

I'm voting for Luc's because aside from terryd's, it's the only one I didn't have to force myself to keep reading past the first paragraph. While terryd's was interesting, Luc's was engaging and when I got to the end, I wanted more.

Anonymous said...

I think we have to bear in mind that our two reviewers are both quite young and while talented, somewhat inexperienced, hence the apparent overall propensity towards lighter, chickier fare.

Im in agreement that a separate comment section for readers' picks would be nice

Anonymous said...

I think we have to bear in mind that our two reviewers are both quite young and while talented, somewhat inexperienced, hence the apparent overall propensity towards lighter, chickier fare.

Im in agreement that a separate comment section for readers' picks would be nice

Dimitry Papkov said...

Congrats and good luck to all the finalists.
I vote for the last entry -- Luc

P.S. Nathan, Holly, thank you for the great contest

val l said...

As Mr. L. Welk used to say: "Wunnerful, wunnerful." All six were impressive first pages and Nathan and Holly are impressive human beings and judges.

My vote goes to luc, although the decision was not an easy one.

Thank you, Nathan and Holly. And congratulations not only to the finalists, but to everyone who girded their loins and entered.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who read these after the Superbowl, and pictured Kari's protagonist dabbing on some Cashew essence before entering the party?

Jan said...

Thanks again to You Nathan and Holly!

I had a really tough time voting - congrats to all 6 finalists. They were all so well written that it took a second read for me.

I don't usually read sci-fi but Luc's really made me want to read more!

So here's another vote for Luc

Also thanks to this contest I've had an epiphany and am re-writing the first page to my work in progress. It came to me in a dream last night - my poor husband! I do my best writing between 1 and 3 am :)

So thanks again for an inspiring contest...

jungashick said...

Congrats to all the finalists! Well done! My vote goes to terryd - what an interesting world - I wish I could read more!

Thank you Nathan and Holly for this very interesing competition.

Guy Stewart said...

DANG! that must have been hard. I only managed to read 150. But you guys found the gold. All of these are great, but I'm going to go with

luc

because of the voice of the main character.

debiwrites said...

Heather!Anne!'s entry definitely gets my vote. That was one excellent first page. I want more!

dawtheminstrel said...

Luc

The writing's sharp and the story's fresh and engaging.

Thanks to Holly and Nathan for all their hard work.

Laura in Aurora said...

I really liked them all, but I think my favorite would have to be terryd by a hair, with Charlotte coming in a tenth of a second behind.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ryan Field said...

Kari

Maripat said...

Thanks for doing this, Nathan and Holly! My vote goes to Luc. Fantastic voice. I would've read on.

Congrats to all the finalists!

Idea Man said...

Please put me down for:

Heather!Anne!



And! Nathan! and! Holly! thanks! for! your! effort!

Adrian said...

I'm going to vote for luc, but admit that that is partly cause I like the SF genre and he did a great job in it. I thought that all the finalists were good and there were more great ones that didn't make the list. Great contest, Nathan, thanks!

Precie said...

Congratulations to all the finalists! All fine and impressive entries.

And thanks very much to Nathan and Holly.

My vote goes to Julianne.

Anonymous said...

While all the entries were wonderful, and the six selected first pages were, indeed, quality pieces, I'd like to add this for some of the people who didn't agree with the selections (and for all those who are not mentioning out loud that they don't agree... I'm sure there are plenty).

My own personal entry was the first page of a short story that has been previously published, for payment, by a large NY publishing house for a popular, commercial anthology that was released two years ago.

Now, while I truly do agree with the decisions, and I thought there were many excellent first pages that were far better than my already published piece (I really did!), I wanted to mention this to all the people who didn't agree with the finalists. It's all subjective, and don't ever take it personally.

Had my published piece been selected as a finalist, I would certainly have disqualified myself from the contest...But I knew, safely, it wouldn't be chosen for this contest.

Tara said...

Nathan, thank you for this contest. Cheers to Holly as well!

All the pieces were very well written and the six finalists deserve kudos.

My vote goes to Luc. I typically race right past sci-fi tales, but Luc had me so intrigued, I would plunk down my money on his book right away.

Onovello said...

Great Contest! Thanks to Nathan and Holly & congratulations to all the finalists.

I vote for Charlotte.

Eric said...

Kindly scrutinize my dangling chad to be a vote for Heather!Anne! And then stop with the dangling chad jokes. And then ask Heather Anne to stop screaming her (their?) name(s). This being Super Bowl Monday morning and all....

Heather!Anne!'s page immediately offers a nice sense of the personality behind the narrator.

A big Thank You to Nathan and Holly for suffering us.

Congrats to the other nominees. Well done.

Richard said...

I was going to vote for Terryd, but then I read Luc.

Something about the insane mom got me laughing. I could actually see the busted Bay C door in my mind.

My vote is for Luc.

Christy said...

Thanks for running the contest, Nathan!

My vote goes to Julianne.

julcree said...

Heather!Anne! gets my vote.

Congrats to those chosen, the lucky and gifted 1%. i can only imagine how utterly difficult this has been for Nathan and Holly. Thanks!

ConstantReader said...

I vote CHARLOTTE.

Nathan, can you and Heather please also tell us (after the voting is over, of course), which one would've been your choice for the winner?

And thanks for everything you do!

Jared X said...

Great contest, guys. Thanks.

I pledge my exclamation point for Heather!Anne!

constantreader said...

Oops, sorry, I wrote "Heather" when I meant "Holly."

All those exclamation! points! are confusing me.... :)

Nathan Bransford said...

anon@7:05-

Lighter, chickier fare? We have two funerals here. Not dark enough for you?

And everyone should feel free -- in this comments section -- to single out people who weren't nominated that would have been their choice, in addition to their votes.

Taylor said...

My vote has to go to Kari because of her beautiful use of the English language. Reading such beautiful writing just makes me happy. Heather! Anne! was a close second though.

Felicity said...

I vote for Charlotte's page.

It was tough to decide, so I imagined that I had read all of these first pages in a bookstore but I only had money to buy one of the books. I would buy Charlotte's first.

Jordan said...

Luc! Luc!

(Although they were all good, and I enjoyed them all every much.)

Thank you Nathan and Holly for putting on such a good show. What a crazy exciting week it's been!

cwsherwoodedits said...

Kari!

Bob75959 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
benwah said...

Of these selections, I think I enjoyed Heather!Anne!'s entry (can I get a Strunk & White ruling on the placement of that apostrophe after the exclamation point?). Impressive job of establishing a difficult and intriguing voice in very little space.

Thanks very much to Nathan and Holly. It's been quite informative.

cyn said...

congrats to all the finalists!

i vote for heather! anne!
i agree, you nailed the voice. and i was right there with the character. i'm intrigued, i'm amused, i wonder what will happen next!

well done!

sunjunkie said...

One page and I already love Sarah Beth. I'd follow her to the end of a novel any day. And that story set-up - well done.

Heather!Anne!

Bobagain said...

You censor my post because I light-heartedly refer to the board here as the "Hallmark Greetings" crowd? That's the "insult"?

You've got to be kidding. Obviously from your taste and your censorship, you are no advocate for original thought or art in general. You're in the wrong profession.

Go ahead and delete this one too.

Nathan Bransford said...

bobagain-

I don't mind dissenting opinions, but there's no reason one has to be rude while offering dissenting opinions. If you want to be polite and offer up your opinion I'm all ears, but I don't appreciate semi-anonymous snark. It's just unproductive and pointless.

Mary Robinette Kowal said...

Luc!

Bob again and final said...

It's hard to defend your position when you apparently saw the error in your own reasoning and removed your own post concerning my post. That's admission enough for me, thanks.

Eric said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nathan Bransford said...

bobagain-

For the record I was re-writing my response when you posted your second, so I just responded to that. Trust me, I didn't reconsider.

Lori said...

Many thanks to Tyra -- er -- I mean Nathan! And to Holly for having this contest. It was hard to choose from these great entries, but I'm going with Luc. It was the entry that most made me want to keep reading.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous who moaned that s/he wanted "lighter, chickier fare."
Um... are you kidding?

Arranging lilies at a funeral was too light? Luc's sci-fi writing was too "chicky"?

Holy cow. Get over yourself.

Nathan Bransford said...

eric-

I appreciate the sentiment, but let's all just get along.

Scott said...

Thanks, Nathan and Holly, for the glimpse into your world.

My vote goes to:

Heather!Anne!

emf67 said...

All six were very strong, and so different.

I vote for Luc. Loved it.

Thanks for a great contest, Nathan.

Cam said...

My vote is for Heather!Anne!

With wonderful dialogue and phrasing, she developed some likeable characters at the outset and sucked me into the time/setting... Keep going, Heather!Anne! I'd like to read this one!

Maya Reynolds said...

BobAgain: You're the reason that agents don't offer personal feedback to writers.

Instead of behaving professionally, you respond emotionally and with insults.

Lily said...

I vote for Heather!Anne! - I loved it! I wish I had the book in my hands.

Ryan Field said...

Since you said we could mention something we liked, even if it's not part of the final list. I'd like to mention this one:

CINNAMON CHRISTMAS

Nona said...

I think they were all great. Bravo to everyone who entered and also to the "finalists." I'm not even going to vote because if you've made it this far, that's good enough for me. I hope to see you all in print very, very soon.

Linnea said...

My vote goes to Kari. Each sentence drew me on to the next, almost hypnotically. Loved it.

Maya said...

I vote for Luc!

kap said...

I vote for Heather!Anne!

I also liked terryd and luc, but I'd have carried the Heather!Anne! novel to the checkout lane.

gabor said...

Holly, Nathan,

Thank you for the enormous effort and for the chance to show you our work. Hope to see more contests like this one from you in the (possibly near) future.

Also, congratulations to the winners!

As for my vote: Luc gets it.

PS: Had my entry ended up among the finalists, this post of yours couldn't have had "America's" in the title... :)

Tiffany Aller said...

Good job, ya'll!

I vote for...Kari! Good luck!

althrasher said...

Congrats to all the finalists! I vote for Luc, becuase the premise interested me the most.

Nathan, I agree with some others that I'd like to hear what pages grabbed you more than others and what were some common problems with the pages you didn't select. Perhaps a future blog post?

As for all the anons who are so irate, you could just leave them to us...;)

Kristin said...

Kari's for me. That is the book I would pick up and read.

It also tells me, yes, this industry is extremely subjective. Just like a reader's tastes.

I also assume the finalists were chosen *because* each was so different and was a good example of a particular genre or style. Which also means there were others in the contest that probably did an equally good job, but just weren't different enough.

I like seeing inside the mind of an agent. Thanks, Nathan, for taking the time.

Nathan Bransford said...

Thanks, althrasher. I'll definitely try and go more in depth into what worked for me and what didn't. Some of my thoughts in the rough: perhaps this is the agent in me, but what I found myself attracted to again and again were pages with a high degree of difficulty. At first blush, some of these might seem very straightforward, but it is VERY difficult to capture a pitch perfect voice and a historical setting like Heather!Anne! did (she even used the word reckon well, which is nearly impossible to do), it's VERY difficult to ease the reader into a world while building some spine-tingling suspense like terryd, VERY difficult to simultaneously introduce a strange world while at the same time eliciting a response like "yup, I know this family" like luc, VERY difficult to master the impeccable flow of kari's first page and then bring a smile to the reader's face with that dialogue, VERY difficult to elicit a sense of place like Charlotte, and such an impeccable and precisely-constructed mood like Julianne.

There were others who made my shortlist who were very well done indeed -- but maybe this list reflects the fact that I know how hard it is to do what these six did well, and I appreciate that they did it in a non-flashy and seemingly effortless way.

Rachel said...

I vote for Luc. I thought about it for awhile because I wanted to make sure I genuinely liked his the best, but I'm sure. Luc's was my favorite.

Heather Anne would be my second choice.

NiNi said...

Huzzah to each finalist!

It was a little tense to choose. Each is well written. I am going to pick Kari's because I like the undercurrents present in the scenery and emotion.

Of the many entries I was able to read, my favorite was "Urban Fantasy", because I was struck by the immediate atmosphere of the piece.

It really goes to show how we each bring our own perspective to things.

I would never have been able to narrow the entries, but I think the one's chosen are chosen well.

Sunna said...

My vote's for Heather!Anne!

Great contest. Thanks, Nathan and Holly, for volunteering your time and effort.

NiNi said...

Woops! "...ones chosen."

lol

heyjude said...

terryd.

I'd love to read more of this!

kat! said...

I vote for Heather! Anne!

Andrhia said...

I vote Kari. The entries all stake out a solid claim, but Kari's is the one with a character that itched my curiosity and that I'll be thinking about later on the day, when I should be doing something more useful.

Judson R said...

I vote for Luc, for a terrific and incongruous blend of high-tech sci-fi and backwoods trailer trash. Will there be a surprise appearance by Brittney in space?

Cher Gorman said...

Fantastic! Everyone of the finalists produced really strong writing. You make me ashamed to call myself a writer.

The decision was hard so hard in fact there is a tie between Julianne and Charlotte. Both of these entries touched a strong emotional cord with me. The title, Sill Life with flowers would be stronger if it were just Still Life. IMHO. Which really doesn't mean squat here.:-)

Cher

helengranberry said...

All of these are awesome.

terryd's, Heather!Anne!'s, and luc's would come home with me based on the first pages without even thinking about it. Once I got them home, it would be difficult to pick which I would read first, but ultimately I think it would be luc's. And I'd probably be reading it at stop lights on the way home.

Morgan Dempsey said...

Congratulations to everyone who made it up there, and a pat on the back to everyone who submitted. Far more courageous than I :)

I'm comment one-hundred-sixty-odd, so no one will read that anyway, except maybe Nathan, and that doesn't apply to him. He probably would have rather read something questioning his sanity and offering him some bourbon.

I vote for Heather!Anne!

Tom Burchfield said...

terryd: I like the setting and its enigmatic atmosphere.

R.C. said...

Thank you Nathan, for those insightful comments. I am now having a "you'll never be this good" moment. Sigh.

I also appreciate how you take the high road and keep this forum from deteriorating into petty quibbling. Kudos to you for being fair and deleting Eric's nicely worded smack-down.

R.C.

Southern Writer said...

Oh, no. I could never choose just one of these. They're all fabulous, and I want to read each of them cover to cover. Twice. Great work, y'all. Congratulations.

Thanks, Nathan and Holly. I look forward to your next contest!

Brenda said...

Thank you Nathan and Holly for doing this and especially Nathan for your amazingly helpful blog. It is easy to see why these six people were selected. I also appreciated your follow-up comment, Nathan, on what the six had in common. I too would love to hear more info on the others that showed merit. I do believe we all learn best from seeing the winning elements in pieces and why they work.
that said, I would like to congratulate all six on their wonderful prose. Loved them all. Especially Luc's and Keri's, Luc's made me laugh, but I do think I have to go for Keri's in the end because she made me see the place and the beautiful woman.

C.J. said...

i'll vote for terryd's.

thanks again to nathan and holly.

Conduit said...

Congrats to the finalists.

My vote goes to Heather!Anne! because it held me to the end, and I would've kept reading if there was more.

heather! anne! said...

I'd like to vote for Luc. It's my favorite, and also I don't want him to poke me with a power probe!

Anonymous said...

Wow, I found the finalist selections were pretty sophisticated -especially because of the reasons given in the blog and here in the comments.

I didn't read all the entries. I read as many as I could before my eyes would complain. I also came back a good number of times for more.

Trying to start all over on a new first page every page was hard.

My respect to the participants and the judges is hereby extended.

Personally, I think that either working with a prompt or within a genre or style would have made this
contest and exercise make more sense for both participants and those trying to evaluate the entries.

And personally, I look for very different (not better not worse, just different things pull me in as a reader) criteria in a first page.

However I have learned quite a lot and still am.

Thank you and applause to all!

Of the finalists, I was intrigued with Kari and Luc.
Kari's descriptions were inspiring. And Luc - well I want to go on that adventure with his MC. I want to read more now please.

Anonymous said...
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Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...

"lighter, chickier fare." & bobagain's comments...

DISCLAIMER: No, my first page wasn't chosen.

I don't know why I should find the whole thing kind of comical, but in reading through the 6 chosen, I could plainly recognize "I don't write like that." I'm making no value judgments, but it's like when I went to the Detroit Institute of Arts recently, in the modern section, there was a shiny aluminum, vertical, zig-zag sculpture that nearly touched the ceiling. I liked it, it reminded me of a thunderbolt. And then in another gallery there were Native American baskets with a zig-zag/thunderbolt pattern on them, signifying rain.

Confession: I don't weld aluminum sculptures I need scaffolding to reach the top of, and I don't weave baskets. And the point is (if anyone is still with me) I don't feel bad about it at all, I don't care that I don't know how.

I thought I would feel stupid if my first page wasn't selected, but now that I've seen them, hmm, well, I would vote for Luc (Scywalcer?), but otherwise...I think I will go back and look at first pages of books I DO like, to see how they would stack up (yes, I'm thinking particularly of that by-now-oldie "Wicked").

Wordily Yours,

Wanda B.

Maya Reynolds said...

Congratulations to all of the finalists.

Thanks to Nathan and Holly for their hard work.

I've read and re-read all six. It's so hard to choose among them--they were all done very well.

In the end, it came down to which one I would most likely choose to curl up and read.

For that . . . Luc

CarBeyond said...

My vote is for Luc! (for fun reading)
and, if I could vote twice,
-or for different reasons-
to Kari (for writing).

GIANTS RULE!!!!!

Luc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Luc said...

Nathan and Holly, hoppin' mad props for reading through and considering such a huge and varied body of work in such a short time.

Well said to whoever mentioned that agents and editors and readers have different tastes and might well choose different books out of the same slush pile. Personally, my vote goes to Heather! Anne!'s, because I found her narrator immediately engaging and loved the family context and the five-penny hook. I theorize that the guy has five record players that are skipping.

(Please excuse the deletion; I had an embarrassing typo in my original.)

thegirlintthecarthatgotaway said...

My favorite Super Bowl commercial was
the take off on the Godfather movie scene for that delicious car.

Got my attention and made me dream of driving away in that beautiful machine!

Anonymous said...

I disagree with the "lighter, chickier fare" comment. I didn't think it was light. It wasn't quite literary, either, but maybe..what's the term--"upscale?" (with the exception of the SF entry).

For possible future contests, it would be interesting to focus them by genre.

But great contest, and thanks, Nathan, for your extra effort.

Nathan Bransford said...

Anonymous snark is being deleted from here on out. If you have something to say about the finalists a) have the guts to put your name on it and b) be polite and constructive.

(and btw, this is not in reference to the very nice anon comment that precedes this one, but rather to several farther up the thread).

Stephen Parrish said...

Kari. She has a good old fashioned command of English, a rarity nowadays.

Diane said...

wow who knew this even existed!

Mig said...

These were togh choices, but Heather!Anne! gets my vote as the best written.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to everybody! My vote goes to Julianne.

Isla said...

My vote is for Kari.

Julianne Douglas said...

Thanks to all who have read and considered my entry. I'm truly amazed and humbled that it was chosen when there are so many excellent openings here.

If the finalists are allowed to vote, I'd like to cast mine for Charlotte. I agree with Nathan on the success of her evocation of place, and I'm intrigued by the hint of conflict that surfaces at the end with the characters' arrival at the elite white school. Well done!

Congrats to all the finalists and to everyone who was brave enough to enter. And many, many thanks to Nathan and Holly for their time, patience, and willingness to help new writers.

JaxPop said...

I already voted - but any of the 6 could be the winner in my opinion. I'm also thinking, Nathan & Holly gave up their free time (including weekend) to do something helpful - no fees or charges - with a real value for all. I don't see where there's any room for criticism or "snarkiness" - For what it's worth - I'm sure 99% appreciate everyone's effort. This is like a workshop that many would gladly pay for. I for one appreciate the effort & good natured guidance.

Travis Erwin said...

Congrats to all the finalists in a very stiff competition but my vote goes to ...

Kari.

Lynne said...

I'm having enough trouble picking one favorite from the six; I can't imagine starting with 675 and narrowing it down to just 6 in such a short time.

I have to say Heather!Anne! is my favorite though. I really want to know what's up with that soup can guy.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I remember Margaret Atwood saying something along the lines that when she started her writing career the writing community was like an ant hill. All the ants worked in unison and supported one other for the common good (paraphrased). It has always stuck with me.

Yes, we might all wish our entries were in the finals. But that’s not what is important. What is, is 6 of our fellow writers are finalists and have their time to shine in the sun. Way to go! Their success is our success. We’re all in this together.

And Nathan, that’s what I like about you, your contests and your blogs. You’re in the ant hill with us!

My wish for all finalists: That from this contest you'll get an agent and a great publishing contract. Go get 'em!

Kat Ping

A Writers Mom said...

I vote for Kari - although they are all excellent. This was an amazing contest - A big thanks to Nathan and Holly. I don't know how you were able to narrow it down to 6! There are many that I would like to read more of. Wonderful opportunity for all looking to publish and there are alot of you out there! Keep writting and I will keep reading.

Anonymous said...

Hi Julianne,

I read in your profile that you are "desperately seeking a wormhole into sixteenth century France."

Have you read Chrichton's TIMELINE? I think it's 14th century France, but, you might like it still, as one of the characters expressed your same sentiment.

I thought it was very well done--a historical techno-thriller, if you will.

StirlingEditor said...

I would like to vote for Kari, as I would immediately turn to the next page to discover more about this "beautiful woman."

Congrats to the finalists, thanks to the judges, and I am looking forward to entering next year, if there is another contest that is!

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