A story’s first line is an invitation to the reader. In a few short phrases, the author introduces the subject and tone of the story, creating context and mood. This is particularly true of picture books, where low word counts create even more pressure for an opening line that pulls the reader in. So much pressure can make finding just the right words challenging.
Today, I’m going to show you the transformation of my debut’s opening line. Keep reading to the end for details on a critique GIVEAWAY! (Spoiler: everyone who enters wins!)
Finding the Right Words
When I was getting ready to query the manuscript that became my debut, Pando: A Living Wonder of Trees (illustrated by Turine Tran, out from Capstone on August 1st), I thought I had a solid opening.
The environmentally-focused story, which tells the story of 47,000 Aspen trees connected by their roots to…
I was one of four editors for Rabbit Hole 3, helping to select and develop the winning stories. But I do have a story in Rabbit Hole Volume Zero: A Different Life, which was a semi-finalist in the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Contest.
Proceeds from both volumes go to the Against Malaria Foundation.
Volume 3 of The Rabbit Hole (ebook) is now available for pre-order.
Romantically weird, weirdly romantic: 27 stories that take you down the rabbit hole to love. But if love never did run smooth, here it goes wild – this is love that twists and torments, plunges and prowls, love that crosses boundaries unknown. Oysters and aliens, ghost and gods, stalkers and stars – there’s no limit to the forms that love can take. Why, that toaster – be honest now – are you sure it doesn’t arouse a burning desire?
Tragedy, humour, mystery, drama, hope – Volume 3 of The Rabbit Hole brings you love in its most mischievous guises, from cunning and cruel to cloud nine bliss. Confirmation, if any were needed, that love is a weird, but many-splendoured thing.
Anyone who pre-orders now (at the special launch price of $0.99) will have it delivered to…
But my little package took 6 days to get from San Diego, California, to Colorado Springs, Colorado.
At first, I was puzzled by the delay — not to mention disappointed. But then somebody said the new Postmaster General wanted to celebrate election year by reinstating the Pony Express. My immediate reaction was:
When you think of teaching science, you might imagine dry, boring textbooks. And if you unexpectedly find yourself homeschooling this year, you might be less than enthused about teaching those.
Luckily for you, your local library is chock full of gorgeous, engaging STEM picture books. These books are perfect for early elementary schoolers and also have great read-aloud qualities for preschoolers. If you have older kids, consider using an engaging picture book to ignite interest in a topic before delving deeper into the details.
I firmly believe that picture books are for everyone from babies to adults. Jeopardy! champion James Holzhauer used them to prep for his historic winning streak. And these books are not only informative, but beautifully written and illustrated pieces of art.
I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with Vanessa for something more than four years through our blogs. Now, six months after her husband passed away at far too young an age, she has shared moments from his memorial service. I believe it was the most beautiful memorial service that could ever be.
I am not a devoutly religious person, but the best I could hope for after I’m gone would be to be remembered with sentiments like these.
Today weighs heavy on me. Six months ago today, my husband died, happening even on the same day of the week. My last Shabbat as a wife was Valentine’s Day. Somehow that seems … appropriate, in a weird way.
6 months is
182 days is
15,724,800 seconds is
262,080 minutes is
4368 hours is
182 days is
26 weeks is
49.73% of 2020 is
So I’m naturally a whirl of memories, about his death and the aftermath. I don’t think I ever shared with you anything about the memorial we had for him in June, once the Corona “shelter-in” had mostly passed. This six month “milestone” seemed like a good time to do that.
Thank you for listening.
Love, Vanessa ❤
The Rabbi asked my son if he would like to speak at his father’s memorial. I expected him to say, “No.” He’s just 18, and…
I admit it’s possible to discover something accidentally. Takebacteriologist Dr. Alexander Fleming, for example. In 1928, he returned to his lab after a vacation in Scotland to discover a mold called Penicillium notatum had contaminated his petri dish colonies of Staphylococcus aureus, and was preventing its growth.
“When I woke up just after dawn on September 28, 1928, I certainly didn’t plan to revolutionize all medicine by discovering the world’s first antibiotic, or bacteria killer. But I guess that was exactly what I did.” Dr. Alexander Fleming
Of course, Dr. Fleming had already studied bacteriology, so while it may be possible even you and I could accidentally discover some new scientific fact, if we don’t have the underlying knowledge, if we don’t know the rules, our discovery probably won’t make much of an impact on the world.
But for someone who has the knowledge and knows the rules of their field, like, say, art or agriculture or aerospace engineering, the rules can be a springboard into new understanding and advances.
“You have to know the rules before you can break them with purpose.”Me, reflecting on what little wisdom I’ve been fortunate to stumble into.
I lament the passing of my generation’s defiant motto: Question Authority. We didn’t believe the rules weren’t meant for us or that there shouldn’t be any at all. We wanted to know why they were rules and what would happen if they weren’t. Could we get along more peacefully if some of the rules were different? Like desegregation. Or Congressional term limits. Or decriminalizing pot. (Legalizing marijuana was only a pipe dream back then.)
Today, it seems too many people simply believe the rules don’t apply to them. We can see examples of the resulting chaos in any city that harbors those solar powered scooters as helmetless scofflaws ride them in the wrong direction on one-way streets, or cross multi-lane streets mid-block or against red lights. We can see that chaos in any government that denies reality, espouses ignorance, and ignores the Rule of Law.
Where will we go from here? To Mars? To a nation of healthier, better educated citizens? Or will we remain stuck in a man-made quagmire, clawing the mud to keep up with the rest of the world?
I know what I want. I’m watching for people who know stuff and understand the rules well enough to think beyond them. Those are the people who will launch us forward. Those are the people who can make a large-scale, positive impact on the world.
The Writers’ Co-op invites submissions of short stories (and poems) for the second edition of our yearly anthology, The Rabbit Hole.Volume one was released in November last year, volume two is scheduled for September 2019.
This year, we are looking for weird stories dealing with the following themes: entertainment, weather or science. (If you want to combine all three, we’re very open to stories about a group of scientists on their way to the theatre when they’re caught in a freak snowstorm.) However, there will also be a section Weird At Large for stories that don’t fit the specific themes suggested.
There is a maximum word count of 5000. This is more a guideline than a strict limit – quality is the main criterion, not length. So a great story will be accepted, whether it’s 6000 words or 200 (flash fiction is…
Each of us has at least one weird friend who defies convention and relishes the bizarre. It’s even possible many of us are that friend. Of course, there are degrees of weirdness — I, for instance, consider myself to be on the charmingly eccentric side of weird as opposed to being on its totally bonkers, crazy-eyed, bat-eating, raggedy edge.
However, even if I were, I would still enjoy indulging in other people’s weird literary thoughts — like the stories inThe Rabbit Hole— just as much as I enjoyed writing “Life Changing” for this anthology.