Sunday, February 18, 2007

Writers Are No Better Than Their First Line

I attended the Nebo Reading Council Young Writer’s Conference yesterday and heard a wonderful piece of advice in a talk by author Carol Lynch Williams. She quoted author Richard Peck (Here Lies the Librarian): “Writers are no better than their first line.” To continue his thought, Carol said the first line of a novel should “grab the reader first, tell who the character is, and establish there is a problem.”

I decided to look over some first lines from a few of my favorite books and discovered this is indeed the case.

“Somehow I knew my time had come when Bambi Barnes tore her order book into little pieces, hurled it in the air like confetti, and got fired from the Rainbow Diner in Pensacola right in the middle of lunchtime rush.” - Hope was Here by Joan Bauer

“If your teacher has to die, August isn't a bad time of year for it.” - The Teachers Funeral by Richard Peck

“The bargain was quickly made between my mother and the witch.”.- Mira Mirror by Mette Harrison

“I wasn't even all the way home and I could hear it”. - A Mother to Embarrass Me by Carol Lynch Williams

“I grew up with my left hand tied behind my back.” - Choosing Up Sides by John H. Ritter.

So, I decided to look again at the current drafts of my own novels.

“Watch me, Leona. I’m Miss Tarantula, mysterious tight rope walker of Madagascar!”- Leona and Me, Helen Marie

“I was named after a movie star.” - Just Like Elizabeth Taylor

“Vickie and I had been waiting for this night for three weeks.” - A Note Worth Taking

"’A new world. Just saying the words brings a fire to my belly,’ Felipe Marco said, his fists resting on his hips.” - Tides Against the Sea

“Anita and I had made a plan on the phone: Think sophomore.” - an as yet unnamed novel in progress.

Maybe I’m more confident than I should be, but I think my opening lines follow both Carol and Richard’s advice. If my first lines can meet the test, then I guess there is hope for the rest of my novel. Now, if I can only find an editor or agent who agrees with me.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Law of Attraction

Everybody’s talking about it. Colleagues at work. People on the street. All the self-help motivator gurus from Oprah to Robert Allen, Wayne Dyer to Jack Canfield, Dr. John Grey to Dr. Phil. Everyone seems to know the secret to success—or path to failure—can be found in the law of attraction.

I’ve been proving that the law works for a long time in my life, but two very vivid examples have come to our family in the last few weeks. Both came quickly to fruition, and in the most unexpected ways.

Several weeks ago one of my co-workers—a believer herself in the law of attraction—brought around a basket of fortune cookies to each of the teachers in my building. I chose one at random and opened the message to read: “A long-lost friend will re-enter your life and re-establish a friendship.” That afternoon—less than 6 hours later—an old friend whom I had lost contact with called my house and talked with my husband. “Is this still LuAnn’s house?” She had located an old Rolodex card with my name, phone number, and address and decided to give me a call. Later, when I came home from work, she called back, we chatted and renewed old friendship ties, and made arrangements to see each other when she came on a trip to Utah. That visit was yesterday, and it’s nice to say the law of attraction worked in a most pleasant way.

The other example actually happened with my husband. A week ago on a Friday night, he commented that he wished our oldest son would stay home more often. As a seventeen-year-old, this son thinks he should be out gadding around every moment of the day, to the point he seems more of a border than a member of the family. The next afternoon, both my husband and I got emergency phone calls. A snow boarding accident and a lacerated spleen have taken their toll again—two years ago this same son had the same injury for the same reason at the same ski resort. Is this his own law of attraction?—and now this boy must stay home for two solid weeks, then he must spend another six weeks in limited activity which includes parental supervision at all times. Perhaps not a happy time for him, but it’s exactly what my husband wished for.

If you haven’t heard about the law of attraction before, maybe you should check into it. You never know what you might be drawing into your life without being aware. As for me, I’m working on keeping those positive thoughts in action—funding for my movie, a book contract or two, a giant influx of money. Hey, it all sounds good. Now if I can only locate that bottle where I’ve stored my genie. . .