First two lines are a great hook.
My attention wandered immediately thereafter.
Therefore, can you break it up? For instance:
The woman read the paragraph again. "We regret to inform you that you have not been accepted for the English tenure vacancy posted in a recent staff bulletin." Yes, that's really what it said.
With growing tension [or some other description of her emotional state], she kept reading: "Later this month, we will be reviewing your work over the past six months. At that time, you will either be assigned another course from the upcoming semester, or you will be informed that your services are no longer needed."
Seque into her reaction, and kick the story into gear.
Also, can you say something more specific about "the woman"? The old woman? Young woman? The woman in the coffee shop? Clearly, she's receiving not-good news, but it would help to have a hint about who she is right off the bat.
Thank you for answering so quickly, Carolyn. I'm still working on how to express the range of emotions this story is creating inside me. I wish I could tell you that she's an old woman, or a young woman. I don't know yet. Plus, I think this story will gain tension by keeping her identity a little shadowy at first.
How about this?
The woman read the words again, to be sure she'd read them right. "We regret to inform you that you have not been accepted for the English tenure vacancy posted in a recent staff bulletin." Yes, that was what it said.
Silently, a python squeezed her mid-section, her larynx, her eye-sockets. She continued reading, more quickly now: "Later this month, we will be reviewing your work over the past six months. At that time, you will either be assigned another course from the upcoming semester, or you will be informed that your services are no longer needed."
The woman dropped the letter on the cluttered kitchen table. Why even bother sending it out? They'd sent her this identical letter the past three summers. She opened the orange and white bottle, and shook its contents onto the glossy pages of the latest issue of the New Yorker. She wouldn't give them the pleasure of firing her.
You're getting the idea. If you're on the first draft, just keep going and don't look back or second-guess. When you get to the revision phase, work on clarity details, for instance:
In the second paragraph, I jumped and had to read twice to realize you were describing a squeezing sensation not an actual snake. All you need there is to insert the word "seemed" (e.g., "a python seemed to squeeze her mid-section" or "it felt like a python squeezing her midsection").
Similarly, in the third paragraph, the segue from "...shook its contents onto the glossy pages of the latest issue of the New Yorker. She wouldn't give them the pleasure of firing her" suggests that she works for the New Yorker magazine yet the letter implies she's a teacher.
Stuff like that. For now, you've definitely got a question going that makes the reader want to continue.
Here's mine for my latest manuscript:
Pearl Buck once said “Every great mistake has a halfway moment, a split second when it can be recalled and perhaps remedied.” As I stare over a perfectly formed, artificially tanned shoulder, into the familiar passion-dazed eyes of my husband, I wonder if this is true. Was there a moment when this mistake could have been recalled and remedied? If I had taken the time to dig my cell phone out of my purse on my way to his office, if I had given him any sort of warning, would he have taken the time to slip Melanie Evans' pert little breast back into her black lace bra, zip his pants and brush his hair into its normal lines? Would he have at least had the foresight to lock the door that joined his office with the reception area?
Oooh, this is great! I would totally keep reading that! :)
Thousands perished in the ashes the day the darkness fell, as if the lamp had been put out in a closed room. So too was extinguished a medical breakthrough that could save thousands today, nearly two thousand years later.Six weeks ago, it surfaced.
My husband was naked the first time we met.
Ha, this sounds interesting! ;)