First Page Critique by Peter Selgin

For a limited time, Peter Selgin, award-winning author of Your First Page, offers this first-page critique opportunity due to the great success he’s had at workshops and conferences with what at first seemed a brave experiment: to see how much useful critical commentary and helpful  feedback could be extracted from just a single page—the first page—of a work-in-progress.

So many things happen on the first page of a book. There, within a paragraph or two, and sometimes even within the first sentence, a bond is formed between reader and writer, one that will endure—hopefully—for as many pages as the work is long.

Unless the reader is being paid to write a review, or the book is an assignment for a literature or creative writing class, the only thing compelling readers to keep reading is what’s there on the page. And what’s there on the first page is all that compels them to read the second page, and so on. Of hundreds of stories Peter reads every year from my students, for every one whose first sentence appeals to him with a human voice, others assail him with mannerisms, pretensions, shock tactics—i.e., with the voice of an overeager writer writing.

But many other things can go wrong on that first page, errors resulting in confusion, frustration, or a blurry, imprecise experience for the reader. Those countless manuscripts that editors reject daily? They’re all being rejected for the same reason: for having failed—somehow, at some level—to successfully bond with their readers.

If you would like to be considered a first-page critique from Peter for a fee of $75, please complete the following form with your first page—and only your first page.

If your page is selected for critique, you will be contacted with follow-up instructions on how to submit the critique fee of $75. You also must be willing to give permission for your first page and the critique to be published at this blog (JaneFriedman.com) and in books by Peter Selgin, although your identity will be kept private. Writers who are not selected for critique will not be contacted and their material will be destroyed.

Visit this page to see examples of Peter’s first-page critiques.

About Peter Selgin

Peter Selgin is the author of Drowning Lessons, winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction (Univ. of Georgia Press, 2008). He has published a novel, Life Goes To the Movies (Dzanc, 2009), three books on the craft of fiction writing (Writers Digest, Serving House Books), and a children’s picture book, S.S. Gigantic Across the Atlantic (Simon & Schuster). His first essay collection, Confessions of a Left-Handed Man (University of Iowa, 2012), was a finalist for the William Saroyan International Prize. A novel-in-manuscript, “The Water Master,” won the Faulkner-Wisdom Prize for Best Novel. His memoir, The Inventors (Hawthorne Books), which won the Housatonic Book Award, was among Library Journal’s Best Nonfiction Books of 2016 (Of it their reviewer wrote: “It is a book destined to become a modern American classic.”). His work has appeared in the Missouri Review, Colorado Review, Gettysburg Review, Glimmer Train, The Sun, Ploughshares, Salon, Best American Essays and Best American Travel Writing. He is an affiliate faculty member of Antioch University’s MFA Creative Writing Program in Los Angeles, and Associate Professor of English at Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville, Georgia, where he lives on and swims in a lovely lake. Oh yes, and he has a twin brother.


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