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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Great Beginnings

Those who give advice to writers often tell us that the opening sentences are so very important to draw the reader into the story. Here are a few I've selected from some of my favorite books.

Patricia MacLachlan's "Journey", the main character Journey tells us, "My grandfather is belly down in the meadow with his camera, taking a close-up of a cow pile. He has, in the weeks since Mama left, taken many photographs..."

Han Nolan's "Dancing on the Edge", the main character Miracle recalls, "Gigi said my guardian angel must have been watching over me real good when I was born. Maybe so, but I wish the angel had watched over me less and seen to Mama more.... It didn't seem natural, a live baby coming out of the body of a dead woman. Gigi said it was the greatest miracle ever to come down the pike."

Katherine Paterson's "Bridge To Terabithia", the narrator tells us after Jess hears his dad start up the truck, "He could get up now. Jess slid out of bed and into his overalls. He didn't worry about a shirt because once he began running he would be hot as popping grease even if the morning air was chill, or shoes because the bottoms of his feet were by now as tough as his worn-out sneakers."

Karen Hesse's "Out of the Dust", the main character Billy Jo tells us, "As summer wheat came ripe,/so did I,/born at home, on the kitchen floor./Ma crouched, barefoot, bare bottomed/over swept boards,/because that's where Daddy said it'd be best."

Bruce Hales "From Russia With Lunch", the hero Chet Gecko tells us, "I never could resist a mystery. Any mystery. Like, if Number 2 pencils are the most popular, why are they still Number 2?"

Shel Silverstein's "Where The Sidewalk Ends", the first poem reads, "Invitation, If you are a dreamer, come in,/If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,/A hope-er, a prayer, a magic bean buyer.../If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire/For we have some flax-golden tales to spin./Come in!/Come in!"

And Gary Paulsen's beautiful "Dog Song", the narrator begins, "Russel Susskit rolled out of the bunk and put his feet on the floor and listened in the darkness to the sounds of morning. They were the same sounds he had always heard, sounds he used to listen for. Now in the small government house - sixteen by twenty - they grated like the ends of a broken bone."

What seductive invitations to read on. They create a curiosity and a need to know more. I try, with all my guts, to do the same. Words are mesmerizing when positioned just so...just so delightfully intriguing.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Poetic Prose

I admit, I'm head-over-heels in love with poetic prose. And no one has ever done it better than Dylan Thomas. In his "A Child's Christmas in Wales" he wrote,

"All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged, fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea, and out come Mrs. Prothero and the firemen."

Of course, now you must read the little book so you will know what Mrs. Prothero and the firemen were doing.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Listening to the World Around Us

Mary Oliver is among my favorite poets. Here is a line from her poem "Marsh Hawks".

"In the morning they glide/just above the rough plush/of the marshlands,/as though on leashes,/long-tailed and with/yard-wide wings/tipped upward,like/dark Vs; then they suddenly fall/in response to their wish,/which is always the same -/to succeed again and again."

Her simple observations of life create for me an excitement about life which I cannot deny.