Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Got that first line hook? Yes? How about the 14th?

My daughter's soccer coach started the season with a pep talk.

"We're only as good as our 14th player," he said. Then he added, "Of course, we don't have any '14th players.' Everyone on the team brings something unique and different to the field."

I loved it when he said that. The girls did, too. Their eyes lit up, they nodded, looked around at each other; because they knew it was true.

Sure, there are a few strong players on the team, but they can't hold their own in every position. And they can't win the game alone. They definitely need the whole team.

The fourteenth player statement got me thinking about my own work -- my books and my writing -- because I think the philosophy is a good one to apply.

Writers hear over and over again how important it is to have a great opening line, an intriguing first scene. As readers, we've experienced this. Some first lines even stay with us, long after the book is closed. . . . It was a dark and stormy night. . . . But what about every other line that follows? Do they deliver everything the first line has promised by way of a satisfying story?

If it's a good book it does.

Writers and readers may focus a lot of their attention on the first line, but it's the fourteenth line, the fourteenth page, the fourteenth scene, the fourteenth chapter, the fourteenth character . . . that keep the reader turning the page. The fourteens may be what make a book a best seller.

In a good book, from the very first line, every word that comes after is intricately tied to every word that came before. In a good book, every sentence contributes something unique and important in moving the plot forward. In a good book, every detail, every sigh, every twist, every new discovery, is what keeps the reader reading until the end; and sometimes, when the end is reached, a good book drives her to return to the beginning to read the story all over again.

What a great place to bring a story--full circle. Literally. Because of number 14.

From now on, I think I'm going to weigh my writings there.

(photo credit of #14 Thierry Henry: Eddie Keogh)

Friday, April 11, 2008


Okay, so it's been well over a month since I last posted, and I've got good reason.

What have I been doing? For one thing, I've been teaching eighth grade science (physics--aghh!) for a teacher on maternity leave. It's been fantastic, overwhelming, rewarding, tiring, and everything in between, but all in all, well worth the time spent. Plus, I've also been coaching soccer (for my youngest son's team), shuttling my other two kids to their practices and games, and getting in a last few runs of winter skiing. Put all that together, along with everyday living and writing, and it doesn't leave much time for blog posting.

But, here I am, ready to fill you in on stuff that might be worthwhile to share. Like the writer's conference at UVSC. I did go to it, and better yet, I got the chance to hear Kirby Larson speak and then later chat with her, which in and of itself, was like opening a beautifully wrapped, unexpected gift.

In the picture above, Kirby is in the middle, my friend and fellow writer, Sara Olds, is on the left.

Kirby wrote the wonderful, Newberry Honor book, Hattie Big Sky. Did you know she wrote 7 books and had them published before she got an agent? I didn't. I mean, as writers, we hear that this happens--that writers sell books on their own without an agent all the time--or, some of the time--I'm not sure on the exact "time" reference in that . . . . And we hear that it takes lots of hard work, but getting published is doable, if you take time to learn the craft and make the contacts at conferences . . . but to actually talk with another writer who has found so much success and acknowledgement for her talent by doing it that way, makes the goal of publication and pursuit of writing seem all the more tangible.

I also got the chance to hear David Small and his lovely wife Sarah Stewart. My friend Claudia bonded with Sarah and David during the last moments of booksigning. I'm so happy I captured the moment--or, the after-moment. Tears in photos can be so misunderstood. At any rate, I believe they are kindred souls.
And I couldn't leave the book store without getting David's hilarious illustrated book, When Dinosaur's Came With Everything, which was written by Elise Broach.

And I just ordered Sarah's The Gardener, which David also illustrated.

According to my friends, Sara and Claudia, this book is their favorite book EVER. So, I can't wait to get it.

Lastly, I got the chance to meet Alexandra Penfold, assistant editor at Paula Wiseman Books at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Let me just say that any author who gets to work with Alexandra is incredibly lucky and blessed. Alexandra is smart, witty, kind, and definitely knows her stuff. Kudos to them. If only, if only.

That's all for now! Happy spring!