First Friday – Feedback Please!

Welcome to First Friday!  This is designed to be an interactive post – your participation is what will make this valuable to all of us.  Please read the submission and then offer your constructive commentary by replying to this post.  Replies will need to be approved before they will appear.  If I am at my desk, they will be approved quickly.  If not, I will review and approve as soon as I can.

Below is the first page from a middle grade novel submitted by Pamela & Joel Tuck. Thank you, Pam and Joel, for participating in First Fridays!

If you would like to submit a “first” for a future First Friday, please email it to

Stepping Out of Place


Pamela & Joel Tuck

Not much spooked me. At least not until I opened the little black harmonica case. Grandpa’s old Hohner sent chills slithering up my spine. Must’ve been the lining of the case. It looked coffin-like. Yeah, that must’ve been what gave me the creeps. That harmonica reminded me too much of Grandpa—lying peacefully.

Mama gave me Grandpa’s harmonica a month ago. Couldn’t stand the sight of it, so I just shoved it into my sock drawer. Don’t know what possessed me to pull it out now, but I wished I had kept it closed.

Grandpa made low melodies sneak out of that Hohner as smooth as a baby’s lullaby. Then he’d surprise us with wavy, high-pitched notes that told our feet to pat. He always played from his heart. When his heart stopped, I wondered if the magic of that harmonica had stopped too.

            I ran my fingers lightly across the burgundy velvet lining, building up my courage to touch it. I slowly curved them over the harmonica, then—

            The screen door banged shut. “Oh, Lord, have mercy,” Mama wailed from the kitchen, “Lord help us.”

My heart dropped to my stomach, just like it did when Grandpa died. I snapped the case shut—afraid to move.

“Mitchell! Mitchell!” Mama’s voice was urgent.

I jammed the case back into my sock drawer and took off down the hall. The sight of my older brother, Ray, froze me in my tracks. He sat slumped in a chair. If it wasn’t for his two friends supporting him, he would’ve hit the floor for sure. His eyes looked like half-opened clam shells with blood drying in the creases. He’d come home busted up before, but this time he was really hurt. Hurt bad.

“Hurry, child, fetch me some water,” Mama said.

Felt like the old, knotty-pine floor had put shackles on my feet. Somehow I broke free and raced out back where Mama kept a galvanized basin by the pump. I swung the handle up and down hard—like punches to whoever had laid hands on Ray. I’d never seen him look like that. I filled the basin quickly and rushed inside.

“Your Papa and his civil rights mind is gonna get all of us killed,” Mama whispered, as she dropped a white rag into the basin.

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6 Responses to First Friday – Feedback Please!

  1. Pamela and Joe, this is a great first page! It’s very vivid and emotion-packed. I want to know more about what happened to Grandpa, if the magic’s going to come out of the harmonica again, and of course what happened to Mitchell. Lots of tension is set up about what will hapen next. The imagery is great, and the narrator has a strong voice, too. I would remove the italics from “the magic” because it grabs my attention as it is and doesn’t need the extra emphasis. Also, I might consider changing “lying peacefully,” or simply delete it. If it reminds him of Grandpa and it’s coffin-like, then it’s implied that he’s passed away, and it’s made clear when you say his heart stopped. This is very polished and interesting!

  2. Hi, I really liked it and would like to read more! Very gripping. I don’t have any suggestions for improvement.

  3. Jackie Dilworth says:

    Watch out for writing in past tense. “Nothing much spooked me.” “At least not until I opened…” “The screen door banged shut..” “Momma wailed…” Great build up of tension in the story.

  4. Elizabeth Loane says:

    I too liked this and really don’t have much else to say but keep up the good work! The voice was loud and clear and the imagery was great too.
    If you are interested I would love to hear your feed back on my piece, Wild Peace posted here on this blog as well.
    Good Luck with your story, it sounds like you are well on your way.

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