As I journey with this book, Things You Forget, in person and sometimes on this blog, I want to remember this particular incident because it encourages me, and we all need a little encouragement, don’t we? It happened a while back, April 2017, to be exact.
I submitted to a first page critique by literary agent Holly McGhee at Pippin Properties on Kathy Temean’s wonderful Writing and Illustrating blog. I sent on a whim, not expecting any results. And then I forgot about it. When I finally remembered to check the status of my entry, I learned my first page had been selected.
The April 2017 results are here. My specific results are below. I know I’m going to come back to this moment as I try to stay centered and finish this book.
THINGS YOU FORGET by S. K. Van Zandt Young Adult
It’s late November and lousy cold. Wind mixed with sleet gusts across the parking lot. Jordan Rutherford crosses to his truck, yanks the door hard against the freezing blasts, and climbs in. Engines start around him. Headlights blink on. Cars pull slowly away from the church for the long drive to the cemetery. Jordan looks toward the front of the line at the white limo, a foggy stream of air pouring from its exhaust. His mother wants him to ride with her and his grandmother, but forget that. He wants to be alone.
He pulls in somewhere near the end of the line of cars, and they drive onto the main road. People steer their cars onto the crusty edge of the pavement to let them pass. Some stop completely. A little kid leans out the window of a parked car and smiles and waves, like he’s watching a parade or something. Jordan wants this to be over.
When he finally gets to Woodland Memorial Cemetery, a crowd has already gathered, huddled beneath a dark green funeral tent that bends with every burst of wind. Several friends from school hang at the edge of the crowd, including Jordan’s best friend, T. J. Bradley.
Jordan stands on a nearby hill, apart from everyone. He looks past the crowd, at the rows and rows of graves dotting the icy ground, then back to the funeral tent and the waiting grave beneath. If he narrows his eyes just right, everything blurs. As the pastor begins talking, Jordan walks back to his truck, climbs in, and drives away without looking back.
THINGS YOU FORGET–S.K. Van Zandt
I was really moved by this one; it grabbed my attention and I wanted to know more about these characters and what Jordan’s role in the death was. I felt genuine emotion coming through the words. I think this is a strong first page. My only comment is to choose every word carefully, and where there is an opportunity for an appropriate extra detail, grab it. (I’m thinking of the line with the little kid leaning out the window, that seemed like a chance to add a telling detail and use fewer words as well.)