Monday, March 23, 2015

25 Picture Book First Lines

This week the SCBWI San Fernando Valley Schmooze is focusing on picture books and first lines. I grabbed some favorites from my first line posts and I divided them between prose and rhyming Picture Books. The titles are linked to the books. I have fiddled with the spacing and font and today is one of those times Blogger hates me. So I apologize for the non-uniform look of the titles and links and fonts/. Think of it as Blogger's creativity shining through.
Please tell me your favorite. Want to share your best first line from your own work? Comments welcomed. Happy reading and writing.

Prose first lines

1. Everything was just dandy till that Emily Post book showed up.
Thanks a LOT, Emily Post! by Jennifer Larue Huget, Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger (First book)

Tuesday written and illustrated by David Weisner

3.  In the biggest, brownest muddiest river in all Africa, two crocodiles lay with their heads just above the water. One of the crocodiles was enormous. The other was not so big.
The Enormous Crocodile. Roald Dahl Illustrated by Quentin Blake.

4.  In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines 
Madeline  written and illustrated by Ludwig Bemelmans

 5.  Out in the hottest, dustiest part of town is an orphanage run by a female person nasty enough to scare night into day.
Saving Sweetness by Diane Stanley Illustrated by G. Brian Karas 

6.  Five little puppies dug a hole under the fence and went for a walk in the wide, wide world. 

The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey - Illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren

 7.  My friend Lincoln says you have two dads. That’s right poppa and daddy.

A Tale of Two Daddies by Vanita Oelschlager Iluustated by Kristin Blackwood and Mike Blane

9.  Mama love to sing. Her singing was always a happy part of everyday life. But everything changed the day after my seventh birthday.

Floating on Mama’s Song by Laura Lacamara, Illustrated by Yuyi Morales(First book)

 10. I took the moon for a walk last night.
I took the Moon for a walk by Carolyn Curtis, illustrated by Allison Jay.(First book)

11.  Once upon a time Chicken Licken was standing around when a piece of something fell on her head.
The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka, Iluustrated by Lane Smith. (As best as I can determine, this was his first book. Wow!)
On a cold afternoon, in a cold little town, where everywhere you looked was either the white of snow or the black of soot from chimneys, Annabelle found a box filled with yarn of every color.

ExtraYarn by Mac Barnette. Illustrated by Jon Klassen Extra Yarn is a also Caldecott Honors Book for 2012

12. Everyone was perfectly fine with the way things were. Everyone but Mr. Tiger.

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild written and illustrated by Peter Brown  2014 Cybil winner.

13.  Whenever the wind lifted off the river, and sent the trees to dancing, I itched to fly a kite.
I’d race to the great Niagara, plumes of mist rising from plunging waters, wind licking at my face.
 A boy like me knew, just knew which day would be perfect for flying kites.
The Kite That Bridged Two Nations by Alexis O'Neil, Illustrated by Terry Widener 2014 Crystal Kite Winner

14.  The Lion is known throughout the animal kingdom as the “King of Beasts.” 
The Great White Shark is the most feared predator in the ocean. 
And the Timberwolf’s howl strikes terror into the hearts of fuzzy woodland creatures everywhere. 
But even SAVAGE CARNIVORES get their feelings hurt.
Carnivores by Aaron Reynolds, Illustrated by Dan Santat  

15.  Peter snuggled into Uncle's lap as the carriage clattered through the valleys of Switzerland. Baby Annette slept in Mother's arms, a small pink blossom against a wall of black.
The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, written by Jen Bryant. 2015 Caldcott Honor Book

16.  He was born on an island far away where imaginary friends were created."

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, Written and Illustrated by Dan Santat


 Picture Books that Rhyme

1.  Not last night but the night before, three black cats came knocking at the door.

Not Last Night But The Night Before by Colin McNaughton, Illus by Emma Chichester Clark

2.  One morning at the breakfast table, when I read the juice box label, (thinking it was tightly closed), my daddy’s pants got orange-hosed. 
I Always ALWAYS Get My Way by Thad Kranesky, Illus by David Parkins (Thad is a first time picture book author. It was published in 2009) 

When I grow up, I'll live in a tree.
Just my cats, Quentin, Quigley and me.
Growing Up Dreams by Susan J. Berger, Illus by Samantha Bell

4.   Beep Beep. Sheep in a jeep on a hill that’s steep

Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw, Illustrated by Margaret Apple (First Book)


5.  In a House on a hill there’s a wild little child not ready to close her eyes.
She burrows in blankets and talks to her toys and listens to lullabies.
Hillside Lullaby by Hope Vestergaard Illustrated by Margie Moore
6.  Many places make a home – a heap of twigs, a honeycomb.
A castle with a tower or two, an aerie with a birds-eye view.
 Castles Caves and Honeycombs by Linda Ashman Illustrated by Lauren Stringer
7.  See the piggy, see the puddle, see the piggy in the middle of the muddy little puddle.
See her dwaddle, see Her diddle, in the muddy muddy middle.
See her waddle, plump and little, in the very merry middle.
The Piggy in the Puddle by Charlotte Pomerantz Illustrated by James Marshall
 8.  In a wee little house in a wee little hole, lived a wee little mouse and a wee little mole.
One Dark Night by Lisa Wheeler Illustrated by Ivan Bated.(This was Lisa Wheeler’s first book. She has written many wonderful books. I wanted to blog the first line of the first one.)

9. Dusk creeps in and day is done.
The last few rays of stubborn sun
Cling to the hilltop, tree and town.
We wish that we could push it down.

 Bats at the Ballgame Written and illustrated by Brian Lies  

Monday, March 16, 2015

Dispatch #35: Imaginary Book Cover

Imaginary Book Cover
by Lupe Fernandez

I finished a final draft – and when I mean a final draft, I mean it could always use another look – of a YA contemporary comedy. I see the characters and the locations. I smell car exhaust and recirculated air. I hear class bells and phones ring. I touch a girl’s hand and a computer keyboard. I taste an energy drink and cheesy chips.

But I wonder what the book cover looks like?

Of course, publishers, marketing staff and sales personnel determine the face of the book cover. However that day is years and many edits away. In the meantime, I recalled an exercise I learned in a UCLA Extension writing course.

“Writers! Make Your Own Book Cover.”

Movie Poster
Say what?

The imaginary book cover will not be included in a query or cover letter. It won’t get past this blog post. But this book cover will keep my spirits up during those long months of submission, rejection and submission.

My manuscript I Was a Teenage Lawyer borrows its title from a 1957 teen/horror exploitation movie called I Was a Teenage Werewolf starring a young Michael Landon, aka Pa from the TV show Little House on the Prairie., and distributed by American International Pictures.

Wedding Photo
At a SCBWI event, I told a fellow writer about my funny title.

“You have the last name as one of AIP’s producers,” I told her.

“That was my grandfather,” she said.

In 1957, my mother, recently immigrated to the United States, saw her first American film in a theatre outside Fremont, Ohio. That film was I Was a Teenage Werewolf.




On second thought, I could use the luck.

Monday, March 2, 2015

First Lines
from the Encino Charter School Book Fair

By Susan. J Berger

I participated in the Encino Charter School Book Fair. LOTS of local authors, and a Pancake breakfast. Jason Preston did a wonderful job of organizing the event and I got to talk to lots of readers and authors.

Between sales and reading of my own books, Jamie's Dream and Earthquake, (I forgot to get anyone to take a picture of me with my book covers.)
I wandered the room picking up first lines. Because I REALLY love first lines. There were lots more authors here. Illustrators too.  I wish I could have gotten to all of them.

 All of these books are available both as eBooks and print books.

Something was eating my socks.

I loved this story,. It has over 667 customer reviews.
He has self published over forty books and has no second job. Imagine that? He makes his living as a writer/illustrator. (my dream.

It is difficult to describe the depths of my despondency that late  October afternoon of October 1861 as the open air carriage carried Poppa and me through the wrought-iron gates of White Magnolias and up the gravel drive toward the main house.

Anni's Attic by Anne Loader McGee
This looks like a fun read. I enjoyed Anne's The Mystery of Marlatt Manor ad so I put this one on my TBR list.

The boy opened his eyes Tia sky the color of melted butter and a sense of inexplicable terror.

The Lost Planet by Rachel Searles.
That is an AWESOME first line!

Do you ever wonder what animals do

when they gather in groups of more than two?

Thus is Betsy's latest book which isn't out in hardback till April 1st. She has lots of others.I love this book because it reminds me of An Exaltation of Larks.


England 1348

Once upon a time in a cozy wooded town,
Lived a little boy whose mother was buried in the ground.

Fiddler In the Darkness by David Gutterman. Illustrated by Elwira Pawlikowska-Modzelewska.
Beautifully illustrated PB about love and loss.

My Grandma is not your average Grandma. Sure she has white hair, violet framed glasses, comfy square shoes and bakes spectacular chocolate chip cookies. But don't let that fool you. My Grandma has SECRETS.

Grambo by Beth Navarro. Illustrated by Betsy Hamilton.
I Pre-ordered Grambo and I loved it. Lupe  interviewed Beth Navarro before Grambo came out.

"Penny for your thoughts." Casey Grant asked. Normally I would be nervous talking to the prettiest girl at Jackson Middle School and I'm not just talking about sixth graders, either. But I was too distracted. I was standing by my locker and couldn't remember my combination. I tried to read my own mind, but that doesn't ever seem to work.

ESPete Sixth Grade Sense by Arnold Rudnick.
I am a sucker for ESP. When I was younger, my ambitions were to be rich, thin and telepathic.

I had a fantasy girlfriend I met in a dream. She had orange hair and dark skin.

The Abduction of Joshua Bloom by Michael L. Thal.
This looks like a great book. The first line doesn't let you know that this is Sci Fi Suspense for teens or late mid grade, so I thought I would tell you.

My lucky sneeze

Come to think of it, the day my brother tried to eat his first-grade teacher turned out. To be the same day that my dad brought me home a very, very strange cat.

I handed Rhonda cash for the book on the basis of that line. I have a stack of TBR's right now, and I can't wait to get to this one.

Justin and his mother were on their way to a party. I the back seat, Justin carefully held a big plate of cookies as they passed the bike store and some people waiting for the bus.

by Patrice Karst. Illustrated by Jana Christy.

This book is truly delightful. 
I hope you find one that catches your fancy. Happy Reading.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Dispatch #34: Ramon Vasquez In Memoriam

Ramon Vasquez
by Lupe Fernandez

February morning, the pallbearers wheel the casket into St. Joachim's Church and leave it before the altar. During the funeral service, I wonder what the Ramon I knew from Burbank Elementary school would think of this service.

What if Ramon and I, at age nine, discovered a time machine, I would be scared to use it and Ramon would encourage me to go with him.

I was a shy kid. Ramon was funny, artistic, well-like and handsome. He took an interest in me at Burbank to bring me out of my silent shell. Sure we did a few things that were unlawful - the trash fire in the bathroom was a good test of the school principal's fire extinguishing skill - but Ramon was a good kid. Okay, Ms. Roberts, my fifth grade teacher, didn't want me associating with Ramon; she thought he was a bad influence on me. But Ramon allowed me to hang out and play with the other guys. George. Joey. Martin. Mark. Tommy and others.

Girls liked Ramon. He flirted with them. I enjoyed it vicariously.

Ramon and I travel from the year 1972 to 2015 and find ourselves inside a church.

"That's you!" I point out Ramon's casket to Ramon.

"I wonder what I look like. Let's good look eh?"

I hide while Ramon sneaks a peek at his body.

He finds me. "I look bad," he says.

Ramon recognizes his weeping family. People he doesn't know, people older than him. Crying.

"Everybody's so old." he says.

"That's you," Ramon points to a bearded man with glasses. "You got a girlfriend." He refers to a red-haired woman holding my hand.

"I do?" I'm amazed. Girls scare me.

"You got fat," he says Ramon looks at my skinny body and then at my adult self. "Too many frijoles."

People in the back row tell us to be quiet and ask about our parents. They stare at our clothes.

"Let's go back," Ramon says. "I don't want to miss Sanford & Son." One of his favorite TV shows. He loves comedian Redd Foxx.

I wasn't Ramon's best friend. Our kids didn't grow up together. The ground we played on, the elementary school we attended is razed. The lot abandoned. A new school built across the street.

Old Burbank Elementary Lot/New Burbank Elementary across street

The mural he created on the wall of La Mexicana Tortilleria on A Street is covered over with new paint. After I graduated from high school, I left town and didn't keep in contact with anyone.

Through Facebook I discover Ramon's obituary.
Ramon C. Vasquez July 28, 1961 ~ Jan. 29, 2015 Resident of Hayward Ramon, son of Adrian and Esther Vasquez, born in the small town of Zinaparo, Michoacan, Mexico and lived in Hayward from the age of 4. Ramon Graduated from Sunset High with the class of 1980 with high honors and innumerable academic awards and recognitions.
I attend the funeral with my wife, Angel. I don't know what ailed him. I don't know if he had kids. I do know my fellow high school Alumni grieve. Everybody liked him. Respected him. Ramon's body is buried in the green fields of Chapel of the Chimes.

He lives forever on the playground of my childhood.

Monday, February 16, 2015

"Hilde, wake up, your blog post is due!"


By yeah, you guessed it, me, sleeping like a baby.  
(No photo available of the current me, sleeping selfies are not a thing yet).

by Hilde Garcia

One of my biggest struggles is coming up with a blog idea consistently that won't bore my readers.  Last night, I stared and stared at the screen, daring it to talk to me, checking my email constantly, wishing someone would send me an email so I could do something other than write, and I just woke up… holding my computer… without a post.

Monday morning.  I missed my deadline.

Hmmm.  There has got to be an easier way.  I need some transformation.

What do you do when you are just not feeling it?  When you just feel like it's futile to even try?

Google it.  (It needs to be a new verb in the dictionary).

So I did.  I typed in "quick ideas for writing a blog post."

And Google came up with 176 million links!


I was more than a bit scared.  Truly, that much on how to write a blog?  Oy vey.  And why didn't I do this sooner?  Am I that disconnected with the technology world that I didn't think to use the resources all around me?  So many ideas?  No idea where to start!

The truth is, I feel much like a fraud.  Why should I give anyone advice on anything about writing?  I am not published.  I have no claim to fame.  I don't even have an agent, someone who thinks I will eventually be a published writer, but here I am, dutifully giving some type of advice or sharing something "interesting" every three weeks with everyone and anyone who stops at our blog.

DO I even have the right?  Shouldn't I be someone of worth or merit?  Someone with credentials?  Or at least consistent writing habits?  My daughter just published an article in her school newspaper.  It's her 4th one.  She's only 10 and she's already worked on her school newspaper, interviewed her cheer coach, and even Mr. Richard Peck!

When I grow up, I want to be her!

But truly, I think the conversation goes deeper than that.  It goes to the core of who I think I am as a writer.  And I tie the act of writing with the success of writing and truly, they are two different facets of the same thing.  But when I write, I worry about how I will come across, what will people say, will anyone think I am worth the read?  And I stop believing that I am a writer.

I should just write.

But I don't.

However, it is never to late to start a new year's resolution, and lucky for me it's only February, so I have a whole lot of year left.  So I have a plan.

Here are the first ten links of the 176 million links Google found on "how to write a quick blog post".  I am going to go to each link and explore… and try each tip.  And I will share with fellow writers how it felt or what I learned in hopes that someone feeling rather "fraudish" can find his/her way too.

A place to start.  A plan.  I'll take it!

Happy Valentine's Day Weekend.

May you love everything you write or at the very least the road you took to get there.

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