I had my first group of teens gather to read the first four chapters of my MS this afternoon. I was so nervous this morning it was hard to think. Couple that with the already killer sinus headache and allergy attack that hit me when I woke up and it was a hectic morning. But even all of that couldn’t dampen my excitement. This was the first glimpse I would get at the intended audience and their reactions. I prepared myself to take whatever they had to say, even consider rewriting if they had the same comments or problems with certain areas or characters.
It started off smoothly as I handed out each chapter with instructions to be honest, be clear, and don’t worry about my feelings. Take notes in the margins, I said, and circle things that cause you concern or puzzlement. I left them to sit in the room as I busied myself. I eventually came back into the room and read, wanting to watch the reactions. It was priceless.
I could tell by the pages they were on just where they were in the story. They giggled in just the right places. They called out, “Hey, who’s on page 18? Did you read that? Awesome!” I watched one girl with her eyes wide as she read a section-just the reaction I wanted.
We read through four chapters, which is two more than I had planned. After each chapter, they came right up for the next, eager to continue, finally disappointed that there weren’t anymore. Then it was time to get down to the nitty-gritty.
“I want more,” I heard. “It’s not fair to only let us read a little bit,” another said. Perfect! They wanted more and loved what they read. The notes on the pages dwindled after the first few pages as they got so engrossed in the book that they forgot to take notes. Perfect again!
One of them asked if I would just e-mail the book and didn’t care that it wasn’t completely edited yet. “Couldn’t you just send it anyway? I want to read the whole thing.” Perfect again!
There were great suggestions about clearing up a few instances where descriptions needed a little help, but for the most part, there were no complaints and no negative reactions to anything. At one point, I watched as one of them was reading a part I had just added this morning. I wanted to ask for a reaction to it after everyone had read it. “Dude,” she said, looking up. “That is wicked.” Perfect again!
So, this meeting will not be the only meeting. They are all willing to come back for more and would have gladly read more right there. My favorite comments:
“I can already tell this is one of those books I would read over and over again.”
“I totally love the main character. I get her.”
I could list them all here since you know for sure I have them locked in my brain forever. And the positive meeting with these wonderful people gave me the confidence and kick in the butt to get this thing done and off to agents. It won’t be long now…