What is the First Five Pages Workshop?
The first five pages of a manuscript may be all that agents, editors, and readers read, so the First Five Pages Workshop is here to help writers find their manuscript’s best possible opening with the help of two published authors and a literary agent over the course of three weeks. Currently First Five Pages is only for young adult and middle grade fiction.
We have a fabulous list of permanent workshop mentors, including award-winners and NYT bestselling authors. Two mentors will be assigned to every manuscript in the workshop and will critique the submission several times. During the third week, our guest literary agent also critiques the pages plus a pitch and picks an overall workshop winner, who will receive a partial critique of their manuscript.
The First Five Pages Workshop opens the first Saturday of each month and accepts five participants. We will post when the workshop opens and closes on twitter (@eliza_daws, @TransmediaMutts) with the hashtag #1st5pages.
How it Works
If you are selected into the First Five Pages Workshop, you will be sent instructions about where, when, and how to post your submission for feedback.
Week 1: After you post your initial entry, your two assigned mentors and fellow workshop participants provide feedback. You revise based on their comments.
Week 2: Author mentors and workshop participants review and critique your 1st revision. You do another revision.
Week 3: The author mentors, your fellow workshop participants, and the literary agent mentor review and critique your 2nd revision plus a pitch (up to 200 words) that would be the core of a query letter and describes what your manuscript is about.
Each week, you must also provide feedback for each of your fellow workshop participants.
The guest agent will choose a workshop “winner” — but, of course, you win just by joining the workshop, accepting the feedback, and working hard on revising your pages! In most workshops, the guest agent will review and comment on a partial of the winner’s manuscript or work-in-progress.
Please keep in mind, the mentors are all volunteers with writing deadlines and busy lives, and so sometimes things come up and they are unable to comment in a particular week.
The rules are simple. We ask that you follow all of them, every week, for the duration of the workshop.
Entries that do not meet all of the criteria below will be disqualified. Read all the rules and be prepared to follow them each week, otherwise, it isn’t fair to take up space in the workshop. We always have more entries than we can accept in any given month.
1. Manuscripts must be middle grade or young adult.
2. Manuscripts must be completed and must be your own, original work.
3. You have not been a participant in the 1st 5 pages workshop in the past year.
4. Your entry will be the first five pages, with each page approximately 250 words, max 1250 words. Each revision must also be 1250 words max.
5. Do NOT send any synopsis or summary information.
6. Make sure your entry is properly formatted, in plain text format, single-spaced, with a blank line between all paragraphs except the header information. No paragraph indents.
Your entry MUST look like this:
Name: Your name
Genre: Young Adult or Middle Grade with the genre: ie, fantasy, contemporary, etc.
Title: Your title
The body of the text, max 1250 words, must be SINGLE SPACED. There MUST be an EMPTY LINE BETWEEN paragraphs.
7. Be prepared to receive honest, constructive feedback EVERY week and to participate through the entire workshop. Not all feedback will be positive. The purpose of the workshop is to help you improve your manuscript, not to tell you that it is wonderful.
8. Provide honest, constructive, and thoughtful feedback to EACH of your fellow workshop participants in a kind and courteous manner by Thursday night EVERY week. Failure to do so will lead to automatic disqualification from the workshop.
9. Submit your next revision —by 6:00 PM ET on Sunday nights, properly formatted, every week until the end of the workshop.
The workshop starts on the first Saturday of each month, except April, August, and December.
How To Enter
Previously we accepted the first five people who submitted Saturday at noon Eastern, but now instead of it being a race, we’re going to select participants via KingSumo. The submission process will go as follows:
- Tuesday, Sept 28: Enter the raffle from 12 am-11:59 pm ET using the KingSumo form below.
- Wednesday, Sept 29: If you are one of the five names randomly selected, the Workshop Coordinator will contact you via email with instructions to submit the first five pages of your manuscript.
- Friday, Oct 1: If the submissions meet the workshop requirements, participants will be emailed further instructions on how to post submissions to the workshop site.
- Sunday, Oct 3: Submissions are posted to the workshop site, and the workshop begins.
Please make sure to enter a valid email address and check it on Wednesday, September 29th, to see if you have been selected for the workshop, so you can submit your pages on time. If we don’t hear from you by the deadline, a new participant will be selected.
Meet the Guest Agent
I was drawn into the world of literature by default when my sister’s growing collection of books in our tiny room began to overflow onto my bed. Born to Pakistani immigrants in Sri Lanka, and knowing how to express myself only in English for the first fifteen years of my life, I found comfort in reading about other culturally displaced people, unable to communicate in their native tongues, and hesitant to assert themselves in environments where there were few examples of people like them. Moving to Pakistan and absorbing what it meant to be an educated and empowered girl coming of age in a traditional Islamic society contributed greatly to my desire to seek similar narratives, especially from other women. I took the next step in my immigrant journey by moving to the United States to study Economics and Middle Eastern Studies at Wellesley College. I then studied modern Persian Literature at the University of Chicago, where I helped edit our department’s academic journal. After a stint at Sourcebooks as an Editorial Intern, I joined the team at Talcott Notch Literary, and the rest is history.
Being an author today is an entrepreneurial endeavor, and I see my role as my clients’ primary advocate as they navigate each and every stage of the publishing process – from digging deep into developing their craft, to representing their interests zealously even after they find homes for their books. I am also committed to highlighting marginalized voices with bright careers ahead of them and compelling stories to tell; stories that demonstrate the true range of perspectives that exist in this world and address urgent and often underexplored issues with veracity and heart.
When I’m not reading, you’ll probably find me running after my two small children, secretly learning another foreign language, playing Scrabble, watching a Bollywood movie, or singing in the bathroom (the acoustics, am I right?).
Martina Boone is the award-winning author of Love for Two Lifetimes and the romantic Southern Gothic Heirs of Watson Island series, including Compulsion, Persuasion, and Illusion, for young adults as well as romantic fiction for adult readers starting with Lake of Destiny. She’s also the founder of AdventuresInYAPublishing.com, a three-time Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers Site, and YASeriesInsiders.com, a site dedicated to encouraging literacy and reader engagement through a celebration of series literature. She’s on the Board of the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia and runs the CompulsionForReading.com program to distribute books to underfunded schools and libraries.
She lives in Virginia with her husband, children, Shetland Sheepdog, and a lopsided cat, and she enjoys writing contemporary fantasy set in the kinds of magical places she loves to visit. When she isn’t writing, she’s addicted to travel, horses, skiing, chocolate-flavored tea, and anything with Nutella on it.
Erin Cashman writes young adult fantasy novels. She’s the award-winning author of The Exceptionals and Uncharted, now available from Page Street Publishing. She is a contributor to AdventuresInYAPublishing.com, a three-time Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers website, and a permanent mentor at The 1st 5 Pages Workshop.
Erin lives in Massachusetts with her husband, three children, and their energetic rescue dog, Riley. When she’s not writing, Erin enjoys reading (of course!), walking her dog, hiking, and watching TV with her family (all diehard fans of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Star Trek). She also loves to bake. She’s known for making her family and friends ugly but yummy birthday cakes.
Photo by Peter Su
Melanie Conklin grew up in North Carolina and worked as a product designer for ten years before she began her writing career. Her debut middle grade novel, Counting Thyme, is a Bank Street Best Children’s Book, winner of the International Literacy Association Teacher’s Choice Award, and nominated to four state reading lists.
Her second novel for young readers, Every Missing Piece, publishes with Little, Brown in May, 2020. When she’s not writing, Melanie spends her time doodling and dreaming up new ways to be creative. She lives in New Jersey with her family.
Katya de Becerra
Katya de Becerra is the author of genre-bending YA fiction, What The Woods Keep and Oasis. She was born in Russia, studied in California and now lives in Melbourne.
She earned a PhD in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Melbourne and now works as a social scientist. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook @KatyaDeBecerra or read her blog katyabecerra.blogspot.com
Kelly deVos is from Gilbert, Arizona, where she lives with her high school sweetheart husband, amazing teen daughter and superhero dog, Cocoa. She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from Arizona State University. When not reading or writing, Kelly can typically be found with a mocha in hand, bingeing the latest TV shows and adding to her ever-growing sticker collection.
Kelly is represented by Alice Sutherland-Hawes of the Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency in London. Her work on body positivity has been featured in the New York Times as well as on Vulture, Salon, Bustle and SheKnows. Her debut novel, Fat Girl on a Plane, named one of the “50 Best Summer Reads of All Time” by Reader’s Digest magazine, is available now from HarperCollins. Her second book, Day Zero, is coming in 2019 from Inkyard Press/HarperCollins.
She grew up the youngest of three children, an Air Force brat, and the continual new kid at school. She’s the founder of Pitch Wars and #PitMad. When she’s not writing or hanging out with her family, she haunts libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops, or reads someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment). Brenda is represented by Peter Knapp at The Park Literary Group.
S. D. Grimm
S. D. Grimm’s first love in writing is young adult fantasy and science fiction. She is represented by Julie Gwinn of the Seymour Agency and author of SCARLET MOON and the forthcoming SUMMONER. She currently has four books under contract, including the remainder of her YA fantasy series Children of the Blood Moon.
When she’s not writing or editing, Sarah enjoys reading (of course!), practicing kickboxing and Brazilian jiu jitsu, training dogs, and binge-watching shows with great characters. Her office is anywhere she can curl up with her laptop and at least one large-sized dog.
Stasia Ward Kehoe
Stasia Ward Kehoe is the author of YA novels THE SOUND OF LETTING GO and AUDITION, both published by Viking. She grew up performing at theaters along the eastern seaboard, then shifted from stage to page and has been writing fiction, marketing copy and educational materials for almost two decades!
She holds a BA in English from Georgetown University and MA in Performance Studies from New York University, is represented by Catherine Drayton of Inkwell Management, and still enjoys choreographing the occasional musical.
Christina June writes young adult contemporary fiction when she’s not writing college recommendation letters during her day job as a school counselor. She loves the little moments in life that help someone discover who they’re meant to become – whether it’s her students or her characters.
Christina is a voracious reader, loves to travel, and hopes to one day be bicoastal – the east coast of the US and the east coast of Scotland. She lives in Virginia with her husband and daughter.
Photo by Hannah Bjorndal
Sheri Larsen (S.A. Larsen) is an author, reader, and Maine-iac ice hockey fan, who has watched more hockey games than she could ever count. She loves books that open up secret passageways and hidden worlds to inspire and challenge the heart. Her award-winning, fantasy adventure for middle grade readers, MOTLEY EDUCATION: The Urd Saga (former Leap Books, 2016) was released as a second edition by Ellysian Press, 2019; book II in the series will release late 2020.
She’s also the author of MARKED BEAUTY (Ellysian Press, 2017), a contemporary-fantasy romance for young adults – also an award-winning novel. She lives in the land of lobsters and snowy winters with her husband, four children, a spunky German Shepherd, and three kitties.
Photo by Katelynn JF Larsen
Jessica Lewis is a Black author and receptionist. She has a degree in English Literature and Animal Science (the veterinarian plan did not work out). She lives with her way-funnier-than-her grandmother in Alabama. Her YA debut novel is BAD WITCH BURNING, but she also writes under the pen name Jazz Taylor for younger audiences. Her MG, MEOW OR NEVER, is out now.
Amren Ortega writes YA contemporary and fantasy fiction about people making terrible decisions – they can never let their characters be happy for long. At present, they are on submission with their first novel, GIRLS BREAK THINGS. Amren is a team member of the writing blog Operation Awesome, where they founded the First Page Impressions feedback event and where they currently host Query Friday. When they’re not writing, Amren enjoys being an evil dungeon master, cuddling with their shadow goblin (otherwise known as a black cat named Toothless), and brewing hard cider. In other words, Amren is a witch.
Shannon M. Parker
Shannon M. Parker, author of YA novels THE RATTLED BONES and THE GIRL WHO FELL and contributor to WELCOME HOME, an anthology of short stories focused on adoption, has also collected 37 stamps in two passports, hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and to the top of the Andes, and has degrees from Saint Michael’s College, University of Massachusetts at Boston and University of Southern Maine. When she’s not writing, she helps at-risk families gain literacy and citizenship skills. She likes you and chocolate chip cookies.
Mary E. Roach
Mary E. Roach is an author in the MG, YA, and adult spaces. Their focus is thrillers and mysteries, though they do love to dabble in the occasional romcom. They are a #PitchWars alum, AMM R7 mentor, and member of several online writing groups, including the #LlamaSquad. They love mentoring first-time authors, and especially adding depth to characters and intrigue to opening pages. They are currently represented by Jen Udden at New Leaf Literary.
Stephanie Scott writes young adult and romance about characters who put their passions first. Her debut ALTERATIONS about a fashion-obsessed loner who reinvents herself was a Romance Writers of America RITA® award finalist. FALLING INTO PLACE is sweet second chance romance part of a multi-author series. She also has a short story in the YA anthology WELCOME HOME from Flux Books. She enjoys dance fitness, everything cats, and has a slight obsession with Instagram. A Midwest girl at heart, she resides outside of Chicago with her tech-of-all-trades husband and fuzzy furbabies.
Photo by Leah Lewis Creative
Ronald L. Smith
Ronald L. Smith is the award-winning author of the middle grade novels Black Panther: The Young Prince, The Mesmerist and The Owls Have Come to Take Us Away. His first novel, Hoodoo, won the 2016 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award. His latest is Gloomtown, a Junior Library Guild Selection.
Before becoming a full-time writer, he worked in advertising and wrote television commercials for cheeseburgers, cars and airlines. Without a doubt, he’s much happier writing for kids.
Photo by Erik Kvalsvik
Wendy Spinale is the author of EVERLAND and UMBERLAND, both from Scholastic. She’s a published professional journalist with the AOL/Patch Media’s Pleasanton Patch and an active member of both the California Writers’ Club and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. A former Disneyland Cast Member, she is familiar with the world of “make believe.”
Beth Turley is a graduate of the MFA in Creative and Professional Writing program at Western Connecticut State University. She lives and writes in southeastern Connecticut, where the leaves changing color feels like magic and the water is never too far away. She is the author of If This Were a Story and The Last Tree Town. Beth was a former 1st 5 Pages participant!
Rob Vlock writes fun, funny, fast-paced kids’ books that are perfect for reluctant readers. And when he’s not writing, you can usually find him somewhere in the greater Boston area trying to make his trumpet sound like something other than a dying goose. It’s a work in progress.
Meet the Coordinators
Elizabeth Dawson will be your guide during your First Five Pages journey. She was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay area and lives vicariously through the adventures of her teenage characters as they run around the streets of San Francisco solving crimes. By day, she writes help articles for a software company in Tucson, AZ. Her two cats are gracious enough to let her and her husband live with them and cater to their every wish.
Assistant Workshop Coordinator
Shirlyn Chin was born and raised in Malaysia, where she works as a clerk by day and pursues her writing by night. Living in a multi-racial country, she is passionate about learning about different cultures, especially her own Chinese heritage. She has attempted sci-fi, fantasy, and mystery, manuscripts—basically anything that requires magic or the magic of innovation, preferably with a dead body or two. When not writing, she can be found hogging the kitchen to bake edible treats, in other words ‘writing fuel’.
Lorna Riley is a scientist by trade and an optimist by nature. She lives with her husband and two children in a small village on the edge of the Peak District. In the virtual realm, she can be found all too often on Twitter as @lc_riley, and occasionally, on novel competitions’ longlists or shortlists for her YA sci-fi. When she’s not writing, she likes long walks, short runs, and a half-pint or two while playing the ukulele in her local pub with friends.
Danielle Simonelli grew up in New York, where she spent eighteen years unaware of her strong, Long Island accent. She has a PhD in lasers, two patents in micro-electronics, and if you ask her to critique a science fiction manuscript, she might get a little too ravenous with her red pen. Danielle writes young adult fantasy late at night and spends her days leading engineering teams from various countries across the globe. As a writer for more than a decade and a former First Five Pages Writing Workshop mentee, she refuses to give up on her dream to find agent representation.
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