Friday, June 25, 2010

The Slush Pile

by Lupe Fernandez

After listening to editors and agents speak, I salute the great work they perform in their quest for that great manuscript. When they mention The Slush Pile, I wonder what that repository of hope, that monument of potential looks like?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Answers to the Last First Line Post

by Susan Berger

1. They say that just before you die you whole life flashes before you eyes, but that’s not how it happened for me.
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
(This is a debut novel and is on the New York Times best seller list.)

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
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.
(This is a second novel – also on the NY Times Best seller list.)

3. First catch your dragon
How to Train Your Dragon written and illustrated by Cressida Cowell.
(First in a series of incredibly popular books. You may have seen the movie)

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.
Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George
( I think this is a first book. I am going to read it.)

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

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.
Beige by Cecil Castelucci

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.
Stoner & Spaz by Ron Koertge

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.
Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor.
(A fabulous book. Oldie but goodie. Well worth your time.)

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.
Tagged by Mara Purnhager.
(This is a first novel)

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.
Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

I am sure all of you have written lots of stories. Won't you please send me your favorite first line that you ever wrote? We will pick ten and post them as the next group of first lines. Send your entries to

Namaste!! (I did not steal this from Lee. We both love this.)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Hemingway Discovery!

by Kris Kahrs

A page of recently discovered notes that had been accidentally stuck together in one of Ernest Hemingway’s many notebooks is reprinted here with permission from the Hemingway Society in Scranton, PA. Apparently, on the eve of his admission to the Mayo Clinic for depression, he had been considering alternatives including the newly created 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous.  His notes indicate that he only got as far in his reading as Step 6.
(Pen and Ink Ed.--Hemingway’s notes are underneath in red.)

Step One: admitting that one cannot control one's addiction or compulsion
Did I bring the fish in from the car?
Step Two: recognizing a greater power that can give strength
Did I leave the beer in the car?
Step Three: examining past errors with the help of a sponsor (experienced member)
Maybe I can ask Scottie (a.k.a. -- F. Scott Fitzgerald) to be a sponsor. Where is he anyway? He’s probably still holding a grudge about me calling him a “baby” to the Trib in Paris.
Step Four: making amends for these errors
Past errors? Dressing me like a girl for six years—that’s an error.
Step Five: learning to live a new life with a new code of behavior
Ummmm, ‘new code of behavior’? Where’s that Mayo Clinic brochure..electro shock therapy..rough stuff…hmmmm.
Step Six: helping others that suffer from the same addictions or compulsions.
Note to self: Send 12 step material to Ezra Pound. Where’re my car keys….is that fish still in the car?

Monday, June 7, 2010


by Lupe Fernandez

The two paragraphs below come from a new story, fresh from my mind, tingling my fingers, pounding on the keyboard, and blazing on this screen. Not even my trusty colleagues here at Pen & Ink have read this. Sorry ladies. But you, dear readers, can be the first. I invite you to critique this paragraph, this manuscript draft 0.00. You know the rules of the revision road. Be merciless. Spare not my feelings. All comments will be posted, except for the spammer who keeps writing posts in Chinese characters.

And now………..

On your Mark…..

Get Set………….


Title: The Adventures of Calaveras Cal: Boy Skeleton

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Logline: A boy skeleton, an outcast among humans on the planet Andalusia, sneaks aboard an treasure-seeking rocket expedition to a mysterious new world, and risks his life among a hostile crew to learn his true identity.

First Paragraph:

The boy skeleton rummaged through the garbage mound outside the city of Andalusia after sunset. The small, spindly figure picked his way between burnt piles of fuel tanks, torn gaskets, and charred bulkheads where jets of flame spurted. He had memorized the location of all hidden gas pockets of rotting organics. The gantry lights from the space port down by the sea blazed like stars. The boy skeleton drew back his hood and admired the view: black space, the sounding ocean and the sparkling city. Then a bright ball of orange erupted at one of the gantries. The whole garbage mound and hillside were lit up by the blazing white light. Engine thunder rumbled. The ground shook with a mighty rumble. A slender, golden rocket lifted off from the space port, pitching over the sea for orbit insertion around the planet. If the boy skeleton had eyes, he would cry. Rocket launchings always made him want to cry…if he had tears. The only other reason to cry would be learning his real name.

Or this First Paragraph:

The monster of the trash heaps comes out at night. He has many names: Los Huesos del Diablo (Bones of the Devil), El Fantasma Blanca (The White Ghost) or El Calavera Que Risa (The Laughing Skull). I have to go so I come out here. I wish I was brave like the explorers down at Andalusia space port. They’re not afraid of anything. But you won’t get me in one of those giant golden ships. I’m staying right here on the hills. It stinks, but sometimes I find some good scraps. Wait. What’s that noise? Laughing. A dark shape leaps over the discarded exhaust tubes and fuel tanks. It’s getting closer. Got to run. I trip and fall. Clatter of junk slides down the mound, rising twinkling dust. It’s him. The monster! The ground trembles. A rocket roars overhead on a pillar of fire. I’m gonna die!
“Hi.” The monster, bones clack clack, towers over me.“Do you know my name?”
“You….your….Cal…” I wet myself. My teeth ache. I point at it. “Calaveras…Cala…”
“Cal?” The Bones of the Devil puts its hand on its chin. “Calaveras Cal? I like that.”

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Writing Seminars I’d Like To See

by Lupe Fernandez

Woman, Thy Name Is On Your Tag
Two thirds of attendees are women. Howoes a single man take advantage of the situation? Just because she likes your story premise, doesn’t mean she’s going to marry you. Learn how start a conversation, avoid stalking, and get her committed to a monogamous relationship that is give and take with lots of compromises but doesn’t impinge your use of the TV remote control.

Dealing With Distractions
Kids. Spouses. The Internet. TV. There are 100 reasons why NOT to write. This seminar will teach you how to parcel out your time with old and new “time-out” techniques. For example: Provide your spouse with silly putty; she/he will amazed and astounded for hours. Remove and place home circuit breaker in a safe deposit box and throw away the key. Write by kerosene lamp. No worries about all those plug-in devices.

Addicted To CrackBerry
Guaranteed to be a must-attend, standing room only session. Do you find yourself checking e-mail, responded to messages, updating appointmen that handheld demon device and never getting any writing done? “Yes Say No” isn’t enough. Learn effective psychological, sociological, and physiological techniques to wean yourself from the devil’s clutches, including Coffee Deprivation, Shoe Shaming and Self-Amnesia.

I Eat, Therefore I Am
Tired of cigarettes and coffee as your writing sustenance? Expert nutritionist to the stars will teach simple recipes that will satisfy the four basic food groups: sugar, salt, fat and more sugar.

Are All Letter Equal?
Some letters of the English alphabet are more equal than others. Renowned alphabetologist explores the dark, sinister controversy between consonants and vowels. Why do some letters in the receive more acclaim than others? You will learn which letters are more likely to get you published, and which letters will sink your manuscript.

Dress For Success 
Tired of sweatpants, baseball caps and t-shirts? Just because you’re at a keyboard doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look good. Acclaimed fashion expert and runway models will exhibit the latest in alluring writer wear and editing accessories. Put S. E. X. back into writing.

No Hablo Espanol*
Fall asleep during high school ll asleep during high school English? Hung over during college freshman Comp. 101? Too ashamed to admit you don’t know the difference between an adverb and an adjective? Don’t worry. This confidential seminar will teach you the fundamentals of the English language. Master mysterious terms like syntax, grammar, and vocabulary. Dissect a sentence (free range sentences, written with organic materials). By the end of this session, you’ll be shouting “Subject Verb Object” at any manuscript.

*Due to the confidentially of this session, all participants will wear blindfolds. Come on, folks. Do you really want other conference attendees to know that you don't know the definition of a gerund?

Faculty will include experts from a variety of occupations:
  • Macrobiotic Archer
  • Competitive Oceanographer
  • Green Beret Pacifist
  • Agoraphobic Lion Tamer
  • Ferris Wheel Operator
  • Estonian Cat Hacker
  • Trendy Bartender
Oh yeah...a writer, too.