Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The First Line

The deadline for The First Line's summer 2009 issue is rapidly approaching (May 1st). After my last rejection letter from them for the spring issue, I was debating not submitting to them anymore. At least my first two submissions both included nice personal notes encouraging me to submit again even though my story wasn't quite right for this particular issue. Since the last one I got back was a plain-jane form letter, though, maybe they're getting a bit tired of me.

And yet - The First Line offers a fun creative writing prompt. Then you can submit whatever you come up with for possible inclusion, and even if that doesn't work out - you still have a jaunty new story completed. So it's hardly a bad deal.

For the uninitiated, you can find The First Line here. Here's how it works: each issue has a wide variety of stories, but they all begin with the same opening line. For instance, I have the summer 2007 issue here in front of me. The first line for that issue was, "My first impression of Phillip was that he was blessed with ignorance."

It is such fun to read the divergent directions writers take from their one line. For instance, from Phillip the stories include: a story about an old man with two left hands, who makes a difference in a young person's life; a tale about the end of a relationship, told from the POV of both Phillip and Sheila; and the story of a family finally coming to terms with a daughter's sexuality. It also helps that the stories in The First Line are usually first rate.

So, I guess I'm going to give this most recent issue's first line a shot before the deadline; this means I only have a few days to write the damn thing, compose my cover letter and send it out, but that's all right. It usually only takes me a few hours to pound out a short story once I get down to it (I might not have quality down, but I sure can do quantity), so I might as well give it a chance.

For anyone else who wants to play, the first line that is due by May 1st is:
"For two weeks now, I’ve been trying to figure out if people are laughing with me or at me. "

I have no idea where I want to go from that. But I know from experience, I don't do my best plotting in front of a Word document and a blinking cursor. My story ideas always come up when I'm out on a long run, in the shower or about to drift off to sleep. You know. Whenever it's inconvenient to find pen and paper. My muse is a real jerk sometimes.

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