First Pages with Erica Finkel, Senior Editor at Abrams Books for Young Reader and Amulet. The event was held at Touro College in Bay Shore, New York on March 31, 2019. Erica gave feedback, suggestions and critiqued on first pages submitted by attendees. Each first page was read by volunteers, Maria Wen Adcock, and Annina Luck. RM Rivera took the notes. https://www.abramsbooks.com/imprints/amuletbooks/
At Abrams, Erica acquires middle grade, young adult, graphic novels and some picture books. During the event, as the first pages were read, a pattern emerged from the picture book, middle grade, young adult and non-fiction, and historical biography submissions. Erica repeated the following:
1) Work in exposition scenes organically without it being an “info dump.”
2) Set the scene on the first page. This can be done several ways to pull the reader in. Give enough information, such as does the character do something, like stuffing a mattress with chicken feathers on a daily bases or trying something new. Make it clear.
3) Children nowadays might not understand what happened in historical or ancient times give them little information to help them. Keep them in mind.
4) Show don’t tell the story. Readers want to be immersed in the story.
5) Write either in first person or third person voice; don’t switch back and forth.
6) Give enough information about the character and give cause why the character is doing a particular action, such as climbing around on the furniture. Is it to let out frustration or the character wants to be a mountain climber?
7) Add more description where there is too much dialog. Give the reader the POV of the character by adding the where, why and what’s next. This will help the reader connect with the character.
8) In Picture books, authors can set up situations without it be bogged down with words. Erica doesn’t believe there is a set rule on word count for picture books, but there is a norm, 1000 to 1200.
9) Think about the visuals in a picture book manuscript this would help edit the word count.
10) Move content around. If the story begins on page twenty, move it to the first page.
11) Starting the first page with a lot of action doesn’t give enough information to a reader, add a little information to set the scene.
12) Authors need to write what they’re passionate about.
13) Reset the specific scenes if needed.
What Erica Likes in a Manuscript:
• Humor, puns, and wordplay.
• Natural dialog
• Both contemporary and historical children’s books
• Compelling characters
• Super kid-friendly topics and themes
• Characters that aren’t defined by one thing
• Clever writing and great visuals and fun.
• Narrative non-fiction
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