Monday, May 2, 2016


Our first submission for First Impressions this month comes to us from Kristen Zayon. OVERLAND is a Young Adult Post-Disaster Adventure.


It was a seemingly innocent thing, that first flicker. We were sitting in the Anchorage airport waiting for our flight home to Cordova when it happened. The lights trembled once, twice, then went out completely. If it hadn’t been daytime, the blackness would have been absolute. There were none of those emergency back-up lights shining in the corners, no glow from someone’s iphone. Anything electrical or computerized was just finished. We heard what sounded like a few distant explosions, then an eerie silence. We looked at each other and around at the other passengers. Everyone was stabbing fingers uselessly at their phones, laptops, the kiosk computer terminals. A murmur of voices rose, as everyone began to speculate.
Some of the airport personnel arrived with good old-fashioned battery powered or crank operated flashlights. The intercoms weren’t working either, or the little cars they sometimes drive around, so they were busy hoofing it from gate to gate, letting everyone know as much as they did, which was not much. There appeared to be a blackout that was at the very least spread across the Anchorage Bowl and Matanuska-Susitna Valley, and was most likely statewide. Perhaps it went even further. Nobody knew because communications were gone along with everything else; even old school land lines.

We hung out in the airport for a few more hours, until the time of our flight had come and gone. Eventually, someone announced that all flights were cancelled for the day, or until the power came back on. We left the airport to go back to the hotel we had just checked out of that morning. We had to walk, because anything with a motor was simply not running. Something major had happened, we knew. Power outages don’t affect cars. Solar flare? Nuclear bomb? We noticed smoke rising in several spots over the inlet, and remembered the explosions we had heard immediately after the outage. The planes. They had all crashed. I started feeling sick to my stomach.

We were in Anchorage for the state cross country running meet. For the first time ever, both the boys and girls teams had qualified, so we’d taken the ferry to Whittier and made the short drive to Anchorage. There were seven guys, six girls, and two coaches for the three day trip. By the time we were supposed to return, a storm had moved in to Prince William Sound, cancelling the ferries, so we had to book flights back to Cordova. This was always a hazard in Alaska when traveling in remote areas. Then we couldn’t all get on one flight at such short notice – it’s a small plane – so eight kids and Coach Ron were on the first flight, while the rest of us waited for the next one with Coach Casey. 


I like this premise. It's eerie, and I really want to know what disabled everything. I think if you add more specifics, you can make it even more foreboding.

- Do a search for the word "was" and take it out whenever you can. That will take away some of the passive feeling of the piece. 

- Tell us what is, not what isn't. ie "none of those emergency back-up lights ..." With this statement, I can't tell if the lights are in the corners, but not working, or are just not there. Tell us what's there. 

- "I started feeling sick to my stomach." Can you make this more specific? Tell us what it feels like.

- Show more details so we can really be immersed in the setting. When you talk about the cars they drive in the airport, can you show what happened when one stopped? Did the driver fiddle with some switches? Did he get out and kick it? Anything with a motor was not running. Are the streets filled with abandoned cars? What are the people doing? Are they panicked or are they quiet?

- I don't think we need all of the details of the track meet yet. Take us from the narrator feeling sick to their friends on the crashed planes. Name someone, and make the narrator feel the loss of that person.

I found myself really engaged in your first page, and I wish you lots of luck! Thank you so much for sharing your work with us!

Make sure to head over to both Mainewords and Dianne's blog to see what they thought of OVERLAND. You can find Kristen on Twitter as @AKLibraryChick


Post a Comment