Friday, May 28, 2010

Answers to The Last Ten First Lines and Ten New Ones

6 comments
by Susan Berger

1. Every smiley moon without fail Claire dreamed of her childhood.
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
(This is a first book. Sarah has written two more –The Sugar Queen and The Girl Who Chased the Moon. I treasure all three.)

2. “Go away!” Brianna yelled. “No! I wanna play too!” Julianne cried.
The Sister Exchange by Kevin McNamee Illustrated by Kit Grady

3. It’s not so bad being dead. People generally tend to ignore you.
St. Michael’s Scales by Neil Connelly
(This is a first book. I plan to read it )

4. Do you know what it says on a tube of toothpaste? In small print? You have to read the small print because they never tell you anything scary in large print. Large print is what they want you to see.
Frannie in Pieces by Delia Ephron
(I took this out of the library after reading the first line. I loved it.)

5. In the middle of nowhere along a quiet stretch of road the diner dreamt of the hungry dead.
Gil’s All Fright Diner by A Lee Martinez
(I took this out of the library after reading the first line. Did not love this one, I am not sure why it is listed as a children’s book. YA maybe. Children – not so much)






6. The principal crooked his finger at me. “Come to my office,” he said. I almost choked. Please let it be something horrendous I’ve done, I prayed Just don’t let it be…But deep inside I already knew. It was my mom. She’d done it again.
Lifting the Sky by Mackie d’Arge
(another first novel)

7. When we were little, My best friend Jake and I saw eye to eye. Then I grew and he didn’t.
The Height, the Depths and Everything in Between by Sally Nemeth
(I think this is a first novel. Sally is a playwright.)

8. My so-called parents hate my boyfriend Shrimp.
Gingerbread by Rachel Cohn

9. When Bee woke up, there was a girl standing in her room. “you are me,” the girl said. Then she was gone.
The Waters and the Wild by Francesca Lia Block
(after reading this, I checked out the book. It as short, odd and interesting)

10. Olivia Kidney’s new home was an apartment building made of maroon and yellow bricks on New York City’s Upper West Side. It was twenty stories high and it contained some of the most awful people you’d ever want to meet.
Olivia Kidney by Ellen Potter. Art by Peter H. Reynolds (Another first novel)

This hunt for new lines is getting harder. Books seem to remain on the NY Times best seller list for many weeks so that is not a great hunting ground.

Do you have a favorite first line? Please leave it in the comment section and I will use it.

Here is the next set of new lines.
1. They say that just before you die you whole life flashes before your eyes, but that’s not how it happen for me.

2. So mom got a postcard today. It says Congratulations in big curly letters and at the very top is the address of Studio TV-15 on West 58th Street. After three years of trying, she has actually made it. She is going to be a contestant on the 20,000 Pyramid which is hosted by Dick Clark.

3. First catch your dragon

4. It was my aunt who decided to give me to the Dragon. Not that she was evil or didn’t care for me. It’s just that we were very poor and she was, as we said in those parts, dumber than two turnips in a rain barrel.

5. It’s my first morning of high school. I have seven new notebooks, a skirt I hate, and a stomachache.

6. The first thing I notice as the plane lands at LAX is that it is cloudy and pouring rain. So much for the myth that it’s always sunny in Los Angeles.

7. Since I’ve been pretty much treading water all day, the marquee of the Rialto Theatre looks like the prow of a ship coming to save me.

8. “Little Man would you come on? You keep it up and you’re gonna make us late.”
My younger brother paid no attention to me. Grasping more firmly his newspaper-wrapped notebook and his tin-can lunch of cornbread an oil sausages, he continued to concentrate on the dusty road.

9. When I got off the bus that crisp January morning and stepped on to the parking lot, the only thing I could see was a crowd of students gathered near the east wall of our school. It looked like some sort of outdoor rock concert, except instead of holding up lights and swaying to a heavy guitar ballad, people were raising their cell phones to snap pictures and inching forward amid the rumbling.

10. Everyone knows I’m perfect. My life is perfect. My clothes are perfect. And although it’s a complete lie, I’ve worked my butt off to keep up the appearance that I have it all. The truth, if it were to come out, would destroy my entire picture-perfect image.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Famous Rejection Letter in History by Kris Kahrs

8 comments

For those writers among us who are inspired by the rejection letters of the big dogs, here is one of Herman Melville’s from his British publisher, just after the publication of Moby Dick in New York, but before its subsequently botched release.

May 18, 1851

Mr. Herman Melville
104 E. 26th St.
New York, New York
U.S.A.

My Dear Sir,
We have read with great interest your intriguing effort of Moby Dick, or The Whale, and while it fortified us greatly, despite the somewhat vision-impairing length of the manuscript, we were wondering if changing certain of the story’s elements might not buoy its purchases at the shop, as it were?
First, we must ask, does it have to be a whale?
While this is a rather delightful, if somewhat esoteric, plot device, we recommend an antagonist with a more popular visage among the younger readers. For instance, could not the Captain be struggling with a depravity towards young, perhaps voluptuous, maidens? We are sure that your most genial friend and fine author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, would be instructive in this matter? Mr. Hawthorne has much experience introducing a delicate bosom heaving with burning secrets into popular literature.
I’m afraid that while we can appreciate the heartiness with which Captain Ahab pursues his passion for fishing, we would find it estimably helpful on your behalf to leave out his personal belief system. Let us not identify one faith over another, in such sense, that were it to prove an offense to our readers, this would most certainly thin shillings from our purse. If this development affects your character’s motivation disagreeably, then would it not suffice to make him a Lutheran? Everyone knows that Lutherans always have a “bee in their bonnet” anyway and there are not quite so many of them in London.
Bentley & Son appeals to your more libertine nature and requests that (for heaven’s sake, we are trying to sell books here) you discard the employment of ‘thou” and “thee” as it will put the reader too much in mind of the Vicar’s sermon on Sunday, and thus, ruin a good Saturday night read as being just “too much of a good thing”.
All in all we were quite delighted with your previous efforts, Typee and Omoo. They were just the thing, what with the cannibalism and native non-state of dress and all. We remain hopeful for more of the same.
Yours in commercial endeavors,
Peter J. Bentley
Editor
Bentley & Son Publishing House
New Burlington St.
London, England

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Getting Ready For Revision

9 comments
by Susan Berger
(I took these notes at the 2008 BEA Writers Conference. I finished turning my NaNoWriMo novel into a readable first draft. So now I am going to follow this advice. Wish me luck)

Print out a fresh hard copy. Put it in a binder. Make a title page. Write a great blurb (or put the name of an author you love and pretend you are reading their book.)

Read like a reader. Take minimal notes. Fight the urge to edit

5 Symbols you can use:
  1. Smiley face: Like it a lot
  2. Check mark: Story Dragging
  3. ( ): Clunk writing. Metaphors they don't work. Sentences that don't make sense.
  4. O : Material missing.... Transition point? Explanation?
  5. ? : What was I thinking? I am Confused!
Now it is time for analysis:
Does my story make sense?
Do the Characters act like real people.

At every significant juncture in the story look at the viewpoint of every character and let them make thee best move they can from his or her point of view.

Are there any coincidences that HELP the lead character? This is not generally a good idea. Coincidence should HURT the lead character.

Are the stakes high enough? Is "Death" overhanging. Either Physical, professional or psychological or emotional Death?

Societal stakes: Does what happens to the character affect the people around him?

Do the scenes flow or are they choppy?

Does the story feel organic?
Are the transitions clear?
Helpful thing to do: Create an actual physical calendar. Put in the plot points.

Do my main characters "jump off the page"?
Write simple stories with complex characters. The key to originality in fiction is not the plot, but the characters. 
Follow the character's passion. What does he yearn for?

Helpful thing to do: Create an off camera scene. Put the character in an uncomfortable place. See what she/he does

Is there enough "worry fodder"? We want to care about these people.

At what point could a busy editor put my book aside and not come back to it?

"A great story is life with the dull parts taken out."

Write a summary (2000-3000 words.) Change what you need to make it compelling.

Now you are ready for the second draft. Rewrite according to the new story.
Helpful thing to do: Go to a bookstore and read all of Dean Koontz's opening paragraphs. I would add to that: Read the opening of Ellen Raskin's "The Westing Game." I went to Barnes and Noble and spent an hour reading opening pages. I do this for both picture books and novels.

Friday, May 14, 2010

FIGHTING SKELETONS

9 comments
Another in a series of Why I Write
by Lupe Fernandez


The photo appeared in a book on monster/fantasy films. I can’t remember the book’s title, but I’d never forget the film’s name. The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. As a boy, I stared at the black and white photo of heroic sea captain and the skeleton crossing swords, black curly hair, determined head tilted, his white tunic, marveling at the sweep of Sinbad’s arm, his muscles taut, the downward sweep of this sword, the position of the shield, the magic lamp hanging from his belt, his back against the wall, yet he fought on. The skeleton charged, relentless, ghoulish, black eye sockets, bony arms and legs in motion. The frozen moment made me think how did Sinbad get there? What powers created up such a foe? What happened next? I had to know.

The character was based on several stories in One Thousand and One Nights Arabian Nights with two Sinbads - Sinbad the Landsman and Sinbad the Sailor. Sinbad the Sailor was a wealthy merchant who regaled the poor Sinbad the Landsman about his oceanic adventures. Although Sinbad the Sailor never fought a sword-wielding skeleton, he did encounter a giant whale, a monstrous bird called the Roc, a hungry Cyclops, cannibal tribes, bird-men and a lot of ship-wrecking storms.

In 1975, Columbia Pictures released The 7th Voyage of Sinbad to coincide the premiere with a new Sinbad adventure, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. I learned the name of the modern movie conjurer was Ray Harryhausen, an apprentice to stop-motion animator Willis O’Brien – think the original King Kong – and a close friend of author Ray Bradbury.

Even in the days before videotape and DVDs, I lost count how many times I watched 7th Voyage, but I could not own the film. From the library, I checked out an LP that contained excerpts from the soundtrack. The brassy, horns, deep strings and pounding tympanis first conjured scenes from the movie, but later I imagined other scenes and other stories. I saw myself battling armies of skeletons in the hallways of high school, saving a girl – whom I was too shy to talk to – who would swoon in my arms and become my grateful girlfriend.

Seen from today, 7th Voyage of Sinbad appears culturally myopic, melodramatic, and technically primitive. But viewed from a childhood, the film was dynamic, inspiring, and unforgettable.

Though I didn’t have the nimble fingers and model-making skills Ray Harryhausen – he made 15 films including the original Clash of The Titans - I realized I could put one word next to another, like single frame animation, and bring my own skeletons and heroes to life.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Answers To First Lines

1 comments
by
Susan Berger
These are the answers to the first lines from the SCBWI Writer’s Day held on Saturday April 10, 2010.

1. The morning after the noted child prodigy Colin Singleton graduated from high school and got dumped for the nineteenth time by a girl named Katherine, he took a bath.
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

2. I sold my cell phone to the devil. In my defense it had been a really crappy day
Georgeous by Rachel Vail
(This was an excellent read.)

3. “Where oh where…”wondered Ophie Peeler, looking around her big almost empty bedroom, “did mom
Ophie Out of Oz by Kathleen O’Dell
(I bought this one at the conference because of the title and the first line. It is one of my new favorite books)

4. JUNE 21, 1895 Bombay, India. “Please tell me that’s not going to be part of my birthday dinner this evening.” I am staring into the hissing face of a cobra. A surprisingly pink tongue slithers in and out of a cruel mouth while an Indian man whose eyes are the blue of blindness inclines his head toward my mother and explains in Hindi that cobras make very good eating.
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
(This was Libba’s first book. I already blogged the the first line from Going Bovine. She is a wonderful speaker as well as a wonderful writer.)

5. Miguelito wiggled and jiggled his loose tooth until one night it fell out. “Yay! Mi dente my tooth,” he said and put it under his pillow. Soon Miguelito fell asleep.
The Tooth Fairy Meets El Raton Perez by Rene Colato Lainez Illustrated by Tom Lintern

6. 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

7. 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

8. 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

9. 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.)

10. In a tree, in a nest, on a gusty spring morn, a speckled egg cracked, and aa small bird was born.
What’s the Magic Word by Kelly DiPucchio illustrated by Marsha Winborn
(This was Kelly’s first book)

Here are Ten more first lines to titillate your palate (Guess what I’ve been reading lately).

1. Every smiley moon without fail Claire dreamed of her childhood.

2. “Go away!” Brianna yelled. “No! I wanna play too!” Julianne cried.

3. It’s not so bad being dead. People generally tend to ignore you.

4. Do you know what it says on a tube of toothpaste? In small print? You have to read the small print because they never tell you anything scary in large print. Large print is what they want you to see.

5. In the middle of nowhere along a quiet stretch of road the diner dreamt of the hungry dead.

6. The principal crooked his finger at me. “Come to my office,” he said. I almost choked. Please let it be something horrendous I’ve done, I prayed Just don’t let it be…But deep inside I already knew. It was my mom. She’d done it again.

7. When we were little, My best friend Jake and I saw eye to eye. Then I grew and he didn’t.

8. My so-called parents hate my boyfriend Shrimp.

9. When Bee woke up, there was a girl standing in her room. “you are me,” the girl said. Then she was gone.

10. Olivia Kidney’s new home was an apartment building made of maroon and yellow bricks on New York City’s Upper West Side. It was twenty stories high and it contained some of the most awful people you’d ever want to meet.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Customer Support

16 comments
by
Lupe Fernandez

What if writers had access to a customer support service? I imagine the choices would be as follows:

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Ten First Lines

9 comments
by Susan Berger

These first lines come from the SCBWI Writer’s Day held on Saturday April 10, 2010. Some are examples given by the speakers. Some were available to sale and/or perusal at the event.

1. The morning after the noted child prodigy Colin Singleton graduated from high school and got dumped for the nineteenth time by a girl named Katherine, he took a bath.

2. I sold my cell phone to the devil. In my defense it had been a really crappy day.
(I immediately went to the library and checked out this book.)

3. “Where oh where…”wondered Ophie Peeler, looking around her big almost empty bedroom, “did mom

4. JUNE 21, 1895 Bombay, India. “Please tell me that’s not going to be part of my birthday dinner this evening.” I am staring into the hissing face of a cobra. A surprisingly pink tongue slithers in and out of a cruel mouth while an Indian man whose eyes are the blue of blindness inclines his head toward my mother and explains in Hindi that cobras make very good eating.

5. Miguelito wiggled and jiggled his loose tooth until one night it fell out. “Yay! Mi dente my tooth,” he said and put it under his pillow. Soon Miguelito fell asleep.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. In a wee little house in a wee little hole, lived a wee little mouse and a wee little mole.

10. In a tree, in a nest, on a gusty spring morn, a speckled egg cracked, and a small bird was born.