Friday, November 29, 2013


TITLE: Like Watching Fireworks from Nantucket Harbor
GENRE: Contemporary Women's

When Janey Walker arrives on Nantucket for her brother's wedding, she expects the usual inquiries about her (less than glamorous) job and her (nonexistent) love life. But, she is unprepared for the flood of memories that comes rushing forth the moment she steps ashore, memories that draw to her to the past and a long-ago summer spent on the island.

When we were kids, my brother Ben and I loved to keep watch for the first glimpse of island peeking above the horizon. Whatever the weather – rain, shine, heavy winds – we would be out there on that ferryboat deck, straining to see who could spot the stretch of pork-chop-shaped land first. Ben was older, but more easily distracted, and I almost always won. I collected these victories, these small tokens of a younger sister’s triumph, and cherished them with almost the same reverence I reserved for our destination itself. For even as a child I sensed the island was unique and very early in life it became synonymous with the sweetest summer things; lazy days of sun and sand, longstanding traditions, and a freedom from responsibility we would never fully appreciate until it was much, much too late.

It was a foggy morning in August, the day I finally went back to the island and very little was visible through the mist. It had been seven years – almost to the day – but sitting there on the ferryboat deck, amidst the translucent mid-morning haze, everything, those long pushed-aside memories, everything felt uncomfortably fresh… and as close as the air.

I couldn’t – I wouldn’t blame Ben for dragging me back here like this. He could hold his wedding wherever he so chose – on the moon even – and I would be there, of course. And I was happy for him, for them.


  1. There's some very nice scene-setting in this, and tension in the last paragraph, when we realize the narrator doesn't want to return to the place she loved as a girl.

    For me, though, the backstory in the first paragraph went on too long. I think you could cut everything after "I almost always won." The reader can infer that the island was someplace special without it being spelled out.

  2. Very well written, smoothly draws me in. I agree with Rebecca above, the back story goes on a little too long and bogs down the pacing. Great hook though. Now I want to know why she doesn't want to go back.

  3. This is a very interesting setup, and the 'dragging back' aspect of the last paragraph is a sure attention-getter. While the opening doesn't pop, it accomplishes what it should in a more calm, reassured fashion, just kind of lulling the reader into the story before they hot that 'dragging' part.

  4. I like the writing, but I felt bored with the first paragraph, so I skipped over the second half. I'm sure the info is necessary, but it's not "draw me in" material IMO. The second two paragraphs were better, but I don't really get a sense of who the MC is yet. Hard to do in 250 words, I know. Not sure I'd read much further unless something started to let me know who I'm reading about and why I want to continue. As a reader, I need to be vested.

  5. Logline is clichéd so it really doesn't tell you much about the book.

    I likewise think the first paragraph goes on too long.

    And what does "uncomfortably fresh" and "close as the air" mean? I see "fresh" as something nice and the opposite of "close." With some thought, I could figure this out, but you don't want your readers to have to puzzle something out at the beginning.

    Beyond these bits, though, the writing is lovely and I would definitely read more. But I'd want to see something out of the ordinary pretty soon, though.

  6. To me, this isn't very exciting but it is well-written. First paragraph a little too wordy though - about the island especially. I think you should slowly make me love the island instead of trying to force it.
    Also don't get "uncomfortably fresh". Who finds freshness uncomfortable?

  7. While I agree that the first paragraph odds a bit wordy, I think it's probably ok, so long as it isn't the first paragraph. The details are nice, the characterization of Ben is good and the tone is effectively set there.

    Thought: swap your first two paragraphs.

    Also, you could probably trim some fat from the sentences... just removing a word or two from each one would be effective...

  8. The writing's nice but there just wasn't anything here to draw me in. The logline tells me this is a story about a woman remembering her past, which isn't all that compelling. If something noteworthy happened in her past, perhaps include that in the log line.

    The opening itself is basically description and memories. In the end, we learn she doesn't want to be there, which raises the question why, but because I don't know anything about this woman except that she loves Nantucket, I don't really care.

    Perhaps instead of reminiscing about the past island watching with her brother, you could have her reminisce about whatever happened that makes her not want to return. Show us the troubles she's walking into.

  9. Wow. Very nice. I found this entry totally captivating. It's not at all what I typically read, but this drew me in with her memory of her and her brother. Nicely done.

    In terms of crits, I wonder if the second half of the logline isn't a little too vague. I think some hint of what these long-ago memories are wouldn't not be out of place (otherwise it risks feeling somewhat generic).

    Best of luck with it!

  10. First let me say that this is not a favorite genre of mine, but I did keep reading so I think there is something promising here. I felt that the second line of the logline was too generic and could benefit from a few details. The first paragraph felt a little slow to me. Like other readers I didn't love the 'uncomfortably fresh' line, but I think the first paragraph could be easily tightened so we get to the hook sooner. Obviously she doesn't want to come back to the island and I immediately want to know why. Good luck.

  11. I too agree with some commenters above that the first and second paragraphs could be transposed. The use of italics, I don’t feel is necessary. That sentence could read “everything felt heavy and close” to the same effect.

    The title seems long but compelling. I might edit it to “Like Fireworks from Nantucket”, but that’s probably overstepping here.

    These 250 words attract my interest, and would definitely read on. I like Janey already and want to understand more of what happened to her. Maybe a hint of any bad memories could be inserted in the last paragraph, or even the first and second. If something bad happened, and it’s a challenge to return, then I want to feel more of that sense of being unsettled and apprehensive and less of the reverence for childhood summer days. But 250 words is short, and perhaps you get on to that rather quickly in the pages that follow. I’m just eager to read more.

    I would delete “of course” and a few other things. But all in all, I really enjoyed reading this entry; I love a story that starts with a journey, and this story portends lots of reckoning and growth—an intelligent story about real issues. Very nice writing. Congratulations and good luck!

  12. This opening successfully puts me into a boat heading for Nantucket. I like the sensory details, and it's nice, the way that she spotted the island first even though she was younger sets up the relationship. Agree with other commenters that the first graph goes on too long, and pushes the summer/sun past when you need to for an opening.

    I thought that some kind of story or character contrast was coming up, the summer of a girlhood when she could "see" and this foggy summer when she is blinded by haze, but it doesn't arrive. I am not sure what the seven years connects back to.

    I like the feeling of the story and the log line and the MC has a likable voice, I think the material just needs a little tweaking.

    Nancy Bilyeau

  13. Lovely logline—this sounds like a beautiful story.

    The formatting read a bit off to me, I think you might want to move the backstory to after establishing that she’s returning to the island. Or perhaps trim the backstory as the last few paragraphs read a bit overly descriptive—with elements that I’d assume you’re going to expand upon later in the book. Otherwise, it reads a bit too introspective.

    There were areas that read a bit formal. Ex: “For even as a child”.

    Once we’re in her head, in the present, perhaps clarify where she’s returning from? Are there immediate conflicts that arise with her having to return? I think you could use this time to draw out more of the tensions, more of the anxiety she’s feeling now, in contrast to what we’re told the island used to represent.

    Overall, the writing is beautiful and the premise sounds really intriguing! Good luck!