Tuesday, 5 March 2013

From Bookstore to Bookshelf

Whenever I step into a bookstore, I'm met with all the books clamoring for attention -- urging me to read them and making promises of wondrous worlds and exciting adventures. Alas, I cannot buy all of them.When choosing what books to read, I tend to look at three things: 

1. The cover. Yes, I know I shouldn't judge a book by its cover but if I'm surrounded by a mob of books and a cover stands out, I'm more likely to pick it up. 

2. The blurb. This makes the difference between a book that is opened and a book that is returned back to the shelf to join its comrades. 

3. The opening paragraph. If the book survives the blurb inspection, then this is its chance to reel me in and make sure I only have eyes for it. 

So, here is a list of books and their opening paragraphs that won me over. 

1. The Fault in Our Stars

Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death.

I love the voice used here. It instantly captivated me. I think the statement, "Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed" is a powerful one. It emphasizes Hazel's (the MC) voice and hints at her relationship with her mother.

2. The Hobbit

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort. 

The mention of a hobbit instantly caught my attention because I like the sound of the word and it makes me wonder what a hobbit is. The opening's strength lies in its conversational tone; we don't get a flat and dull explanation of what a hobbit is. I like the fact that the narrator addresses our notions of a hole and the descriptions he used. This makes it seem like the narrator is conversing with us. My favorite part is the end "it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort."

3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (or Philosopher's Stone depending on what version you have)

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you'd expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn't hold with such nonsense.

Usually, an opening about a no-nonsense couple would not be interesting. However, the tone that J.K Rowling employs when she uses words like "thank you very much" and "they just didn't hold with such nonsense" transforms a mundane topic into a captivating one. These statements breathe life into the characters and hint that something fantastic and abnormal will happen. I may be biased but the name Dursley also seems fitting for these horrid characters -- it sounds negative.

There are plenty of books with amazing opening paragraphs. How do you pick your books and which openings captivated you?

Thursday, 7 February 2013


Writing contests are a good way to further develop your craft and win some great prizes doing what you love to do. I have decided to list some upcoming contests. Feel free to participate in all or some of them. They are listed in ascending order based on deadline. 

1. Timekeeper Contest (open to U.S. and Canada except Quebec)

  • Deadline: February 12 at 11:59 P.M. ET
  • Prizes: 
    • Grand Prize: signed copies of Timeless and Timekeeper by Alexandra Monir, a $15 Amazon gift card, and the chance to choose the Figment homepage stories for one day. 
    • Runners-up (2): copes of Timekeeper and Timeless by Alexandra Monir
  • Prompt: In 1,200 words or fewer, write a story about a family secret. 
  • Deadline: February 13 at 11:59 P.M. ET open to males and females ages 13-21
  • Prizes: 
    • $5000
    • publication on Seventeen.com
    • a phone call with Maggie Stiefvater, author of The Raven Boys, The Scorpio Races, and the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy
  • Prompt: In 500 words or less, write a story in any genre, on any topic.
3. Hysteria Short-Story Contest (open to U.S. and Canada except Quebec)
  • Deadline: February 18 at 11:59 P.M. ET
  • Prizes: 
    • Grand Prize: copies of Hysteria and Fracture by Megan Miranda, Beautiful Lies and Between by Jessica Warman, Dead Girls Don't Lie (out Sept 2013) and Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf, a $15 Amazon gift card, and the chance to choose the Figment homepage stories for one day.
    • First Runner-up: copies of Hysteria and Fracture by Megan Miranda and Beautiful Lies and Between by Jessica Warman
    • Second Runner-up: copies of Hysteria and Fracture
  • Prompt: In 1,200 words or fewer, write a story about a character who's running from their past. 
4. Writer's Digest - Your Story 48 (open to all)
  • Deadline: February 25
  • Prizes: publication in an upcoming issue of Writer's Digest
  • Prompt: Write the opening sentence (25 words or fewer) to a story based on the photo provided
5. The Kiss Short-Story Contest (open to U.S. and Canada except Quebec)
  • Deadline: February 26 at 11:59 P.M. ET
  • Prizes: 
    • a 16 GB iPad mini loaded with a full collection of James Patterson's teen books (4 Witch & Wizard books, 8 Maximum Ride books, and Confessions of a Murder Suspect)
    • $500 cash
    • winning story will be featured on James Patterson's young-adult website
    • a personal Facebook shout-out from James Patterson
  • Prompt: In 500 words or less, write a story about a relationship that no one approves of
6. Short Prose Competition for Developing Writers (open to Canadian citizens or landed immigrants)
  • Deadline: March 1 
  • Prizes: 
    • $2,500
    • winner and finalists will have their stories submitted to three Canadian magazine publishers for consideration
  • Prompt: Nonfiction and fiction prose up to 2,500 words; multiple submissions welcome
  • NOTE: There is an entry fee of $29 per entry

I hope that you find this list helpful and good luck to anyone who is participating in any of these contests. If anyone knows of any other contests that are occurring in February, feel free to list them. 

Thursday, 31 January 2013

100 Favorite Movies Challenge

So, Nathan Bransford (if you aren't following him already, you should start now) posted 100 of his favorite movies and proceeded to challenge his readers to do the same.  This was my reaction: 

In no particular order, here is the list. It's going to be 

Barney Stinson - Legen...wait for it... dary!

  1. Gladiator
  2. The Last Samurai
  3. John Q
  4. Man on Fire
  5. Invictus
  6. The Help
  7. P.S. I Love You
  8. The Lion King
  9. Braveheart
  10. The Patriot
  11. The Avengers
  12. The King's Speech
  13. Finding Nemo
  14. Monsters Inc.
  15. A Time to Kill
  16. The Blind Side
  17. Speed
  18. Mystic River
  19. Secondhand Lions
  20. Jurassic Park
  21. Cast Away
  22. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  23. Ocean's Eleven
  24. I Am Sam
  25. Just Like Heaven
  26. Ghost
  27. Finding Forrester
  28. Coach Carter
  29. 3 Men and a Baby
  30. Lord of the Rings
  31. The Matrix
  32. 16 Blocks
  33. Armageddon
  34. Gangs of New York
  35. Die Hard series
  36. French Kiss
  37. The Man in the Iron Mask
  38. Beauty and the Beast
  39. Up
  40. The Dark Knight Rises
  41. My Big Fat Greek Wedding
  42. Pay it Forward
  43. Back to the Future
  44. Pride and Prejudice (2005)
  45. Shrek
  46. Holy Man
  47. Anna and the King
  48. The Silence of the Lambs
  49. Wall-E
  50. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
  51. The Last Castle
  52. High Crimes
  53. Double Jeopardy
  54. The Terminator
  55. Meet the Robinsons 
  56. The Ant Bully
  57. Stepmom
  58. Antz
  59. Kate and Leopold
  60. Serendipity
  61. E.T.
  62. Erin Brockovich
  63. Mrs. Doubtfire
  64. Benny and Joon
  65. Pirates of the Caribbean 
  66. Chocolat
  67. Father of the Bride
  68. The Other Sister
  69. The Family Stone
  70. The Pursuit of Happyness
  71. Rain Man
  72. The Notebook
  73. Brave
  74. Despicable Me
  75. August Rush
  76. Remember the Titans
  77. Forever Strong
  78. The Joy Luck Club
  79. The Green Mile
  80. Dead Poets Society
  81. The Amazing Spiderman
  82. Dinosaur
  83. My Cousin Vinny
  84. Cinderella Man
  85. Ice Age
  86. Kung Fu Panda (1 and 2)
  87. Avatar
  88. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
  89. Big Fish
  90. Brother Bear
  91. Collateral
  92. Coraline
  93. Death Sentence
  94. Grease
  95. The Emperor's New Groove
  96. Little Giants
  97. My Sister's Keeper
  98. Mary Poppins
  99. Extraordinary Measures
  100. Man on a Ledge
That was harder than I thought it would be. I can't imagine ordering these based on preference.