Wednesday, January 20, 2010


I'm surprised by all the new posts. I thought you guys would be lying down and drinking through a straw!

I don't have the residency to reflect on, so I'll write about what's on the writer's part of my mind. I like to read short things, so I picked up THE BEST AMERICAN TRAVEL WRITING. I like that Best American series, anyway, and wasn't disappointed.

Here are a few opening sentences from the essays: "'I can smell the sea from here,' said the prisoner." Or, "Chunking Mansion is the only place I have ever been where it is possible to buy a sexual aid, a bootleg Jay Chou CD, and a new, leather-bound Koran . . ." Or, "The throbbing music emanating from Le Carnivore Restaurant behind our hotel grows tinnier with each throbbing beat."

Hooks, right? Get your reader's attention right out of the gate. We've all done it. As teachers we've all told students to do it.

So I'm at the local library standing in front of the narrow YA shelf and hoping something will, cobra-like, dart out and stun me. Instead, I read first page after first page and my blood sugar drops. Instead of a voice I want to hear for two hundred pages, I hear the lieder of the craft book.

I think what bothers me is the calculating tone of the hook and - behind it - that calculating tone of the advice. It reminds me too much of those old books-on-dating that included pick-up lines.

God knows I'm easy, but I'm not that easy.



  1. You missed a nasty faculty virus, Ron. Many of us were in fact at the level of drinking through straws.

    Pick-up lines--what a great way to look at predictably over-hooky openings. I shall remember that one when self-editing.

  2. Not JUST a faculty virus! I don't need the craft book to buy me dinner, but I'd love it if it could drop by with Saltines and apple juice.

  3. Thanks RON for helping me spend a half hour with my YA shelf. It substantially increased over the winter residency (Thanks Alexandria for the "you should read this" list). I picked up 26 books.

    I like this line from Chris Lynch's Inexcusable: "The way it looks is not the way it is." Granted it isn't very concrete, but it has me agreeing with Lynch the first sentence, because it is a truism.

    Also, Zusak's Getting the Girl: "It was Rube's girl's idea to make the beer ice blocks, not mine." I mean, beer ice blocks? Who doesn't want to find out what happens with that???

  4. Jason, what books did you pick up?