August’s short story will be up tomorrow!

It just needed a little more time to come together. But it’s almost there! We had a busy weekend, and I think my brain just needs a little rest before putting on the finishing touches. I’d rather take some time, get some sleep, and come back with fresh eyes than post something I know I’ll want to edit later. So, thanks for bearing with me!

And in the meantime, enjoy this sweet picture of Gatsby enjoying his favorite sunny spot. 🙂

The Power of the Opening Line

I’m working a little bit on my August short story today, and I’ll probably work on it a lot more over the weekend. It’s slow going – I have a spark of an idea, but it’s not really a story yet, and I’m waiting to see where it might go.

And that got me thinking.

Back when I was in college, I took a creative writing class. One of our in-class assignments was to write a story around an opening line provided by the professor. We had fifteen minutes to write as much as we could. This was the line:

“When we saw the headlights coming, we ducked.”

I can’t remember what I wrote, but I remember that opening line. And I remember some of my other favorite opening lines, too.

How about:

“Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom noticed it when caught by her charm…”

Or:

“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”

Also:

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”

Or, the old favorite:

“Call me Ishmael.”

Whether I enjoyed these books or not (I resolutely hated Gone with the Wind, and surprisingly loved Moby Dick), these lines have stuck with me, as have many others. This speaks, I think, to the power of a good opening line.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think it’s a make or break thing. Many an excellent story has had a lackluster or an unassuming opening sentence. One of my personal favorites begins really rather quietly with just:

“There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.”

And I’ve never been very fond of this one, but everyone else seems to like it:

“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”

Anyway, my point is this: A good opening line gives a story somewhere to go, and a really good opening line hooks a reader immediately.

In the spirit of fairness, here are some that I’ve written. Some are fine, some not so much. Some have become stories. Some are still waiting. But I thought it would be fun to share them.

Summer is the time for magic.

The girl stood alone on a beach she had never seen.

“This is not how my life was supposed to turn out.”

To anyone else, the door at the end of the hallway was just that – a door. 

It was Lloyd Alexander’s fault, not that she could ever tell him, seeing as she’d never met him, and he was dead.

See, sometimes, when I’m having trouble putting words together, I’ll just sit down and write first lines. No story or characters attached, no ideas, no strings. And I actually find it really helpful. And usually, one of those first lines will lead me somewhere.

So, tell me! Do you have any favorite opening lines? Or least favorites? Either that you’ve read or that you’ve written. Either way, I’d love to hear them!

I Found the Fountain Pen! (or, A Decluttering Poem)

Long lost,
then found.
And found again.
You and I –
we keep coming back
to each other,
my old forgettable friend.

*I am currently in the middle of a weeks-long, house-wide decluttering spree, having decided I can no longer stand the state of my closets, drawers, cabinets, and other storage spaces. I don’t have regrets. BUT, this was a much better idea before I got started.*

Four Summer Haiku

Good morning sunshine
Mist and calm in the meadows
A new day begins


Cicadas singing
A soft breeze through the green leaves
The sounds of summer


S’mores by the fire
The soft glow lights our faces
We’re summer people


Moonlight and warm air
The stars shine white in the dark
A nightly blanket

Found Friday #40: Spider Writer

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not particularly squeamish about bugs and other creepy crawlies. (Except snakes.) I find them pretty fascinating, actually. (Except snakes.) So when Graham snapped a shot of this colorful lady while he was out doing some work on the house yesterday, my first thought was, “What a pretty spider!”

And she is, isn’t she?

I did some research today, and it turns out, this giantess is an Argiope aurantia, sometimes called the writing spider. They’re known for the patterns they weave into their webs, which often look like X’s and Z’s. They’re not aggressive, but they will bite if provoked, and they tend to stay in one place throughout their lifetimes. And an interesting bit of folklore: It’s been said that if you tear down a writing spider’s web or try to harm it, the spider will build a new web the next day with your name written in silk, thereby cursing you with bad luck.

So, I’ll leave her alone, then. Which is my general rule of thumb anyway, when it comes to spiders.

But it does feel sort of appropriate to have a writing spider close by. I certainly don’t plan to bother her, but I think it’s pretty likely that I’ll check on her every now and again, if only to see what new patterns she’s created.

You’re welcome! (Or, about that quote I can’t get out of my head…)

Y’all, I just had to share this quote, because it jumped out at me yesterday, and now I can’t get it out of my head.

Write as if you were dying. At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That is, after all, the case. What would you begin writing if you knew you would die soon? What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?

This quote is from The Writing Life by Annie Dillard.

(From Goodreads)

I read it yesterday while I was procrastinating some housecleaning, and I did not expect it to stick with me like this. But here I am, several hours later, still thinking about it. And now, perhaps you are, too.

So, sorry about that. Or not sorry? I’m not sure. It’s good advice to share, I think. So maybe, then, you’re welcome!

At any rate, what’s your favorite bit of writing wisdom? Feel free to share!

My Mountain Home (A Poem)

Half of my heart is here with me,
the other half’s in the hills.
I’m not ashamed of where I’m from.
I carry them in me –
my mountains, my people,
those places and faces
and powerful memories.
See, you can take the girl out,
but she’ll come home
whenever that strong heart wills.

Summer Storms (A Poem)

They arrive
and darken the skies.
With a boom
and a crack,
like sprinters on a track,
they test their mettle for
the measure of a moment.
And in the end, they are
like victory – so very short,
nearly fleeting.
But never, ever sweet.

Happy 35th to me!

Today’s my birthday!

I’m 35. Which feels an awful lot like 34. But five-ier? To be clear, I didn’t expect any life-changing revelations when I woke up this morning. And my goals for the day are pretty modest. I just want to enjoy the sunshine, read some books, eat something sweet, and hang out with Graham.

So, this post will be a little short so I can get on all of that. I think it’ll still be fun, though. Last year, I posted 34 fun facts about me. This year, I present to you, in no particular order, 35 of my favorite things.

  1. Chocolate malt milkshakes
  2. Hayao Miyazaki movies
  3. Hot coffee on a cold day
  4. Cold coffee on a hot day
  5. Earl Grey tea with lemon
  6. Chicago (the city)
  7. Chicago (the musical)
  8. Also Gypsy (the musical)
  9. Red Velvet cake
  10. The Blue Ridge Mountains
  11. Old houses
  12. New friends
  13. Old friends, too
  14. And old books
  15. And new books
  16. John Prine
  17. Neil Gaiman
  18. Yona of the Dawn
  19. Mozart
  20. Dirt roads
  21. Craft beer (and cider)
  22. Weeping willow trees
  23. Guitars
  24. Wood-burning fireplaces
  25. Antiques
  26. Foggy mornings
  27. Rainy days
  28. Winter
  29. Snow
  30. Chicken and dumplings
  31. Christmas
  32. Halloween
  33. Foxes
  34. The color blue
  35. Graham

Feel free to share some of your favorites! And if it’s your birthday today, too, then I hope it’s a fabulous one! Or, more precisely, I just generally hope you have a good birthday, whenever it is, and a good day today, too, even if it’s not your birthday.