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Mommacrit's March 2007 Column

First Page by J. Wolf - one writer who dared send work to Mommacrit!



From the novel, Abigail




            The evening meal was a ritual of sorts.

            Abigail would start by ironing the white linen table cloth, working out the creases until it was smooth. Then she would spread it over the polished oak wood table, making sure that it was even on all sides. Next, she would iron the placemats; always two of them and always in a bright, solid colour. He hated anything with patterns.

            Next, she would polish the silver candlesticks. She always loved seeing herself in the gleaming metal when she was done polishing; they filled her with a light that was lacking during the rest of the day. When the candlesticks came out, she knew her day was almost over and she would be having dinner with her husband.

            Abigail would then place the mats at either end of the table, with his mat at the head of the table, hers at the foot. It had always been this way. She would take out the blue china, his favorite, and set the plates at the centre of each mat. He abhorred sloppiness and was such a stickler for symmetry.

She would put the candlesticks in the centre of the table so that they shone like a beacon during the whole meal. She usually turned the lights down low so that their light lit the room.  

There was music too. She would put on soft jazz, no vocals. The sort of music that you could swoon too, lose yourself in. It was always fun choosing what they would play that night, what tone they would set for the evening.

            All the while during this ritual, Abigail kept up a constant stream of conversation with her husband. She told him how her day had been, what she had gotten at the market, what book she was reading now, what Sally Jenkins had said about Holly Blunt at the hair salon where she went every week. She would tell him about a snippet of poetry she had remembered or a piece of music that had intrigued her.

            They ate at the table she had set so beautifully at six o'clock every evening. The meal would usually be one of his favorites: pot roast or lamb chops. He was a meat and potatoes man after all and liked to have iron in his diet. Even at dinner, Abigail would entertain him with stories of her day, people she had talked to. She would listen for his replies, but they never came.

            Abigail's husband had been dead for over five years.

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Reaction from Mommacrit


First off, Mommacrit notices this is one writer who avoids providing nits for Momma to pick. Admittedly, Word seems to think table cloth should be one word, but internet context divides 50/50 on that one. J.Wolf also knows how to follow submission guidelines – no fun for Momma there.

Does J.Wolf push Mommacrit’s magic button? Does J.Wolf write a damn good beginning and hook Momma into wanting to read more?


In a nutshell, J.Wolf has written almost 500 words about a woman setting the table. If the prologue covers table-setting, what will chapter one move on to – making the bed?  Even a description of Mommacrit’s bikini wax has more chance of snagging interest.


However, J.Wolf has succeeded in hooking Momma’s interest with the last sentence: “Abigail's husband had been dead for over five years.” That’s intriguing. The writer has set the scene for a meal and conversation between two people, one of whom is dead. Not every day you pick up a book like that.


I’m not sure if J.Wolf has deliberately set out to make this prologue linear, perhaps to echo Abigail’s mind-set. It reads almost like a procedural text – “first catch your table…” The writer has provided us with many details of Abigail’s ritual - more information than Mommacrit ever thought to read in a hook.


The prologue is also very repetitious – there was a heavy emphasis on “was” and “would”, giving it a passive feel. Perhaps those constructions are suitable in a description of meal preparation for a dead person? Difficult to use active verbs in such a situation, but active verbs might help grab a reader’s attention from the get-go.


The monotony and repetition of the writing certainly give an impression of Abigail’s life. J.Wolf may have planned it that way. But with this sentence:  “She usually turned the lights down low so that their light lit the room”, the repetition is ambiguous and would be clearer as “glow”.


If this was a book store, Mommacrit might sneak a look at the page following the prologue, to see if it covered more house-keeping. After all, a Momma can never have too many tips for making a cozy home. But as a hook to lure a sale, Abigail’s prologue just didn’t jab the magic button.