First Sentences are Important


Our brain is hard-wired for story. Great first sentences drag me into an author’s space and, word-by-word, propel me to the end. There are so many examples out there but the following reads this week reminded me of why I love great first sentences.


My grandmother was a mountain.
(From Carmen Maria Machado’s long-form essay “The Trash Heap Has Spoken: the power and danger of women who take up space.”)

I’ve worked in hospitals for years now and if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that the sicker the patients are the less noise they make.
(From Lucia Berlin’s short-story Temps Perdu in “A Manual for Cleaning Women.”)

Sometimes what you get is not what you thought you wanted.
(Henry Alford’s New York Times Magazine (2010) essay “Appointment in Istanbul.”)

“There’s a lid for every pot,” my mum used to say when explaining my late-30s bachelorhood.
(Biff America (who doesn’t love Biff America) in Backcountry magazine’s “Seeking Love & a Trail Breaker.”)

Grizzly bears are hiding in the cornfield.
(Aaron Teasdale’s article in Sierra “Grizzly Bears are Making a Comeback – and Making their Human Neighbors Nervous.”)

Why I write.

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
― Ernest Hemingway

It occurred to me on a cloudy Wednesday morning that I needed to escape. The kind of getaway akin to being so engrossed in a story I can’t help but cheat and flip to the end to find out what happens. It was essential I lose myself in another place so I could expel an escalating melancholic energy; the sort of malaise that occasionally takes hold when a project I’ve been working on finishes or another I’m excited about falls through. Continue Reading