Wednesday, December 21, 2016

How Hallmark is Helping Me Cope with The Dump (Trump)

This post appears today in the Huffington Post.

True confession: I’m addicted. Not to drugs, but to movies. Hallmark movies.

BLAME THE DUMP!

It all started back in November, not long after our nation managed to screw things up royally by electing the soon-to-be worst President in U.S. history. (I know, I know the Fox-news folks say “Give him a chance.” I say give him a one-way ticket to Russia.)

For those first horrifying weeks after the election, I was in total denial. I couldn’t bring myself to read about the election in newspapers or magazines. I kept shutting off TV and radio news.

Instead, I buried my head in Hallmark movies.

How could that happen?

It was Thanksgiving week and I was having a glass of wine with my television-addicted neighbor. I sipped and suddenly I was watching a Christmas movie. A young woman from Philadelphia is sitting across from her boyfriend in a café. Speaking in a solemn tone, he announces that he has something important to tell her.

She’s pretty sure he’s seeing somebody else. Or he’s married.

No. He tells her that he is the Prince of Moldavia and that he wants to bring her home to his mountainous little country so she can meet his mother the Queen.

HUH? HA!

OK. I was hooked. I kept sipping more and more wine and then on a commercial brake, I raced across the street and finished the movie at home. Total schmaltz. Sure. But lots and lots of glittery Christmas decorations. And smiles. And people saying that the spirit of Christmas is all that matters.

I was no longer distraught over the crappy outcome of the election. I was smiling. I was happy.  I wasn’t sitting around worrying that the country was going into the dumper because of The Dump.

I was addicted.

Since then, are you sitting down, I’ve watched maybe three dozen movies? I’ve had my own little film festival going.  My favorite is "Twelve Gifts of Christmas." It's really sweet. Treat yourself. Watch it!

Meanwhile, my husband -- a progressive political organizer who was instrumental in getting Obamacare passed -- shudders every time I shoot up. He leaves the room, or if I'm watching in bed, he hides under the covers with pillows over his head. 

Still, he’s very good at pointing out to me how “formulaic” these movies are. Hallmark Christmas films – all with picture postcard sets that twinkle and glow like Hallmark cards -- feature a character, generally a woman, who has lost or never had much Christmas spirit. Many of the women are high-powered workaholics from big cities.  Or gorgeous TV news anchors.

One way or another, these women end up in picture-postcard little snowy towns, with names like Christmas Valley, where  they learn the most important lesson: Christmas is no crass commercial holiday but rather the season to rediscover love, especially family love, all over again.

Best to do that baking fruitcake and shortbread and gingerbread cookies, all the while it’s snowing and a fire blazes in a huge fireplace.

And yes, I get the irony that Hallmark is largely portraying the America that voted for The Dump. These films offer up a Norman Rockwell kind of small town life. In this life, there are only the occasional black or Asian. There are no gays, lesbians or transgender characters.

These are not films that portray the America I know. And they don’t reflect the underbelly of hatred and fear that fueled Dump's racist and misogynist campaign.

Still, I persist. Because every movie I shoot up gives me a warm glow in my chest (it helps to drink wine.) I feel myself filling up with a warm Christmas spirit. A family is reunited after some calamity, or a couple falls in love and gets married (usually on Christmas day!) and your (well, I should say MY) eyes start to water a bit.

So are you curious what happens with the Philadelphia girl and the Prince? Naturally, they travel to  pristine, mountainous Moldavia, where the Queen is outraged that the Prince is slumming it. She invites a gorgeous young red-headed duchess to the castle to try to distract Prince Charming. The girl from Philly gets disgusted and she packs up and heads home.

But of course, fueled by love, the Prince chases after her and in the end, the Prince and the Philly girl – now The Princess – drift passionately into their glowing future together.

Writing this post has helped give me some perspective. Last night, I turned off two of the movies and read a novel. It felt like I was home.

And as Christmas will soon be history, I’m figuring my addiction will be cured.

Except then I remember an ad from the Hallmark channel: just after New Year’s they’re featuring a film called “Hidden Figures,” which stars -- amazingly enough -- an all black cast!

That one I’m sure not to miss!


Monday, December 19, 2016

"Hokusai Says"

By Roger Keyes


Hokusai says look carefully.

He says pay attention, notice.

He says keep looking, stay curious.

He says there is no end to seeing.

He says look forward to getting old.

He says keep changing, you just get more who you really are.

He says get stuck, accept it, repeat yourself as long as it is interesting.

He says keep doing what you love.

He says keep praying.




He says every one of us is a child, every one of us is ancient, every one of us has a body.

He says every one of us is frightened.

He says every one of us has to find a way to live with fear.

He says everything is alive -- shells, buildings, people, fish, mountains, trees.

Wood is alive.

Water is alive.

Everything has its own life.

Everything lives inside us.

He says live with the world inside you.

He says it doesn't matter if you draw, or write books.

It doesn't matter if you saw wood, or catch fish.

It doesn't matter if you sit at home and stare at the ants on your veranda or the shadows of

the trees and grasses in your garden.


It matters that you care.

It matters that you feel.

It matters that you notice.

It matters that life lives through you.

Contentment is life living through you.

Joy is life living through you.

Satisfaction and strength is life living through you.

Peace is life living through you.

He says don't be afraid.

Don't be afraid.


Love, feel, let life take you by the hand.

Let life live through you.  


For a wonderful illustrated reading, go to You Tube.



Thursday, December 15, 2016

Even Thomas the Train Engine Stereotypes Women!


My grandson is now off the charts crazy about his new “Thomas the Tank Engine Busy Book.”

That’s too bad because as my son-in-law quickly discovered, the book sends all the WRONG messages about little girl trains.

It seems astonishing that a book like this would be published. I mean it’s almost 2017. But then again it’s not so surprising if you consider that a misogynist was elected to the White House.

After talking to my daughter the other day, I feel it’s important to urge other parents: DO NOT BUY THIS BACKWARD LITTLE CHILDREN”S BOOK because it reinforces some of the negative messages about women that we are trying so hard to dispel.

Thomas the Tank Engine, for those who don’t know, is a very popular character. A bright blue engine with a big smile, Thomas appears in dozens of books and is licensed for an array of other kiddy toys and other products. I remember my son, now 27, had a cute little blue pail that featured the popular little train.

Thomas has has an array of other trains as friends.

In this busy book, there’s Percy and James and Gordon. These brave little trains are “eager to be Really Useful Trains.” And so they are, picking up and delivering important cargo.

A fifth train, “Sleek and shiny Spencer, delivers passangers of the royal kind.” He has “pride for a job well done.”

Ah, but then the female trains are introduced. 

“Wise and older Edward always has good advice for Emily, who really is a very nice engine but who can be a bit bossy.”

Bossy, huh? How so? Because Emily has her own thoughts and opinions about how to be a train? Geesh.

A couple of pages later Rosie appears.

“Cheeky Thomas and lively Rosie make a good pair. Although Rosie’s enthusiasm for everything Thomas does can sometimes annoy him, Thomas has come to realize that they are Really Useful Engines.” Poor Thomas, having to put up with that annoying little Rosie. Lucky Thomas, that none of his male friends annoy him!

Finally, there is Mavis: “Thomas knows he can rely on this strong-willed yet friendly diesel...” Come on now. If we said Thomas was strong-willed, would that be perceived as a negative quality? Why can’t women be strong-willed too? And “yet friendly.” Does that quality offset her knowing her mind and sticking to her goals?

Who wrote these lines? The book is published by Phildal, a company based in Quebec.

My daughter’s solution, for now, is to read only those parts of the book that are not objectionable.

But as soon as my grandson loses interest, this book will disappear for good, as well it should.


This piece appeared first in the Huffington Post.





Monday, December 12, 2016

This is Chapter One

So I am preparing to figure out how to publish Sister Mysteries. My husband says, do it as an ebook. My friend and fellow writer Sharon Flitterman-King says, go to Troy Books, as her new book, Articulate Terrain is coming out of that publishing company shortly.

While I muse over the possibilities, I thought I would try to hook your interest in the novel. Once again, I am putting it on a blog. Stupid, most people say. A waste of time, others insist. People don't read long long long long blog posts.

OK, call me stupid. Call me stubborn.

All I'm asking is that you give it a try.

And if you would, let me know how far you read before you go to another site.


Friday, December 09, 2016

The Keys to Happiness


I have come here to raise my eyes.
I have come here to keep them riveted on heavenly light.
When I feel my eyes, that window, when I feel
my eyes my heart my soul closing, I take 
a small breath and say a simple prayer
Help me keep my spirits, my breath, steady,
help me keep my heart open to hope and possibility and the beauty
all around me




No matter that icicles drip
lower than the windows. No matter 
that the snow is deeper on this November day
than it is in much of January.
This is plain white, the snow the snow
the soft the soft soft soft fluff of cotton.
All is right with the world when we are
wrapped in cotton warmed by
others. Loved this way, our inner eyes 
open to the moonlit trees at night
We see pink and lemon sunrise and
turquoise oceans and cozy fires and warm foamy
baths and tender new grass and chocolate puppies 
and purple tulips and two people kissing under a starry sky.

It is a miracle that we are able to 
see what we cannot see.
It is a blessing that these tapping keys are keys
to the world of words that
can make you feel sunlight
even though it’s millions of miles away. 


Monday, November 28, 2016

VOLUNTEERS, DONORS NEEDED TOMORROW, NOVEMBER 29th

Note: another version of this article appears today on the Huffington Post 

VOLUNTEERS IN MEDICINE is a wonderful organization located in Western Massachusetts made up of doctors, dentists, therapists and other health providers who work for free. VIM serves much-needed medical care to people without health insurance. Tomorrow, they need your help!

“We are joining a national day of generosity called ‘Giving Tuesday,’” 
says spokeperson Jeff Bliss. “It’s a day when new donors can have a big impact on Volunteers in Medicine.” 

The group is looking for donors and volunteers so open up your checkbooks and if you're in the Berkshires, consider becoming a volunteer. I have volunteered for VIM in the past and it’s a fabulous operation. It makes your heart feel terrific just being there!

VIM is also asking that you pass the word through your friends, colleagues, and loved ones.

 “We’ll raise money to support all the volunteer doctors, dentists, and other healthcare workers who provide service in our medical and dental clinics,” says Bliss.



How can you be part of it? Here are a few simple ideas:

               Send a quick note to anyone you are willing to reach out to via email or social media. Ask them to go to VIM’s website and make a gift of any size to support the important free healthcare being provided. There are so many hard- working people who still cannot afford health insurance or who have recently have lost their insurance. 

               Encourage those you know to consider volunteering some time to help keep this clinic supported. Not only healthcare professionals, but receptionists, fundraisers, and other types of support are always welcome.


As all of us are sick to death with negative news (especially coming out of Donald Trump) here is a way to put yourself and your money to work. Donate on behalf of one of your loved ones or friends. Pass the word on via Facebook, email or whatever other social media you prefer!

It never ends,trump's lying!

i know i should try to be calm when writing but this morning's news from trump is overwhelming and sick. it makes it hard to breathe. how can we compete with his endless lies? the saddest thing is how many people on twitter will now believe what he is saying about winning the popular vote. it feels more and more like he is some kind of dictator and his words are just propaganda. there is no more to say except to repeat it over and over again and again and again how he lies how he lies how he lies




Sunday, November 27, 2016

Many years later, the mystery unfolds...



Here he is, many decades later, with a growing family.


Here he is with wife and daughter.

 n

Here he is with grandson, Noah Kirsch.


Hurrah for Ric, father, grandfather and great grandfather who gets better with each passing year!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Who Is This Mystery Man?


In WWII, he served in Germany and Casablanca. Here he is on furlough in Paris, at the Arc de Triomphe.

In Morocco, he was assigned to the Military police.

Was he a spy? An actor playing a spy?

Or just one handsome American boy rocking around Europe after the war.

Here he is shortly after the war, working as a radio broadcaster. More often than not, he operated out of his car.

Who is this mystery man?

All will be revealed. Stay tuned!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Don't Just Sit There Scared Shitless

Ok it's taken me all this time to listen to Jon Oliver's extraordinary "Last Week" show. It's been impossible for me to look at HIM (strawberry hair yellow face and clown-like and mean disposition) and to think he will replace Barack Obama (coffee skin, black white curly hair, funny and low-key disposition) The thought of Melania at the swearing in is too much to contemplate so I don't.

There are not enough words in the English language to express the election of a racist and misogynist
as our President. I am going to DC for three days this week just to soak up the last juices of an eight-year presidency that saw the passage of the Affordable Care Act, among  other accomplishments.

I wish I didn't know that two million more Americans voted for Hillary than for Dump.  When I try to think about him in the Oval Office, giving the State of the Union Address, my stomach contracts. I get depressed. I get scared. And then it's back to the stomach contractions for another go-round.

Let's do what Oliver says: put your money to work donating to advocacy organizations and media outlets. You know what they are. Get to work, volunteering. Write your Congress person. March in Washington on January 21st. Stop relying on Facebook for news because too often the crap is a crackpot rumor. Don't believe anything coming down the Trumpike.

Sigh.

Let's work toward a comeback in 2018. Let's hope for the best. Let's be prepared for the worst as in the Supreme Court of the United States. Let's hold monthly candlelight vigils in every major and minor city across the country. Hold regular protests on the Washington mall.

I always wondered how scary dictators ended up running things in all those countries around the world.
We never thought such a thing was possible here.

Clearly, we were wrong.


A Bounty of Song in Berkshire County

On Sunday afternoon, November 20, eighteen members of the Hevreh of Southern Berkshire community gathered in Great Barrington, Massachusetts to give a fabulous choral concert. The singing group, known as Berkshira, is directed by a first-class choral director named Arlene Symons, whose lifelong work has been singing, piano playing and choral direction. One of the choral concerts she directed several years ago -- which combined youngsters with seniors -- was featured in a documentary that earned an Oscar.



So here now Arlene has turned her energy to making a grand chorus out of amateur (reading music is NOT required) singers in Berkshire County.  The name Berkshira derives from the Hebrew word "shira," which translates as singing, or song. Arlene is all about song.

In some magical fashion, Arlene takes raw talent and enthusiasm, plus wonderful old time songs, and voila! She produces the kind of concert that earns standing ovations.

Our concert on Sunday -- which was held in spite of a blow out blizzard -- attracted a huge crowd, and was so successful that we are "booked" for another concert in May! (We will remind you then.)

This post originally appeared in The Huffington Post.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Two Drops of Ink, a Lovely Literary Blog

If you're in the mood for poetry and other literary writing, I kindly suggest you take a look at Two Drops of Ink, a fabulous literary blog.

I thank Linked In for bringing it to my attention.  The minute I saw its gorgeous look -- and after I saw the list of its highly successful contributors -- I knew at once that I wanted to submit my work.

Here, today, the site has published a poem of mine called "Red Bird Alert."

So on behalf of a great blog, I am calling all writers to send your work to them. The Editor-in-Chief, Scott Biddulph, responded to my poem with incredible insight. His comments couldn't have been more helpful and will be useful as I go forward.

The internet has done wonders for the writers of the world. Getting our work out there into the universe has never been easier. Come and join in the fun!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

This Holiday, Help Fight the Menace that is Donald Trump and his fellow thugs!!!

So like everyone else, I get a horrible gut wrenching feeling in the pit of my stomach every time I think about it. Donald Trump. Four years. The f----- White House.

Yesterday it happened when I turned on NPR and heard my beloved President Obama giving a news briefing. The thought of him and Michelle not being in DC anymore makes my heart ache. Part of that is because Rich and I were among the millions that thronged to the Washington Monument on January 20, 2009 to see the first black man take the oath of office.

But now what? what can we do?

So here is an idea, courtesy of my daughter, Jocelyn, and her husband, Evan.

I have decided to promote this idea as far and as wide as I can. I hope you will too!





"Hi All -- 

Back from Denver and into reality. Evan and I are thinking about what we can do to help cope with the election results and to try to protect our country and the world especially for our son. After a sad and compelling Last Week Tonight episode we feel like we have some ideas about practical things we can do. I encourage you to watch it if you're interested.

In the meantime for the next 4 years we plan to give everyone gifts of donations to major organizations that fight for our rights and protect those that need protection: planned parenthood, ACLU, the Trevor project, and others. We also plan to subscribe to high quality new outlets (new York times to start) so they can afford to do the journalism we need to know about what is going on in government.

Please consider similar donations in lieu of gifts to any of us. Hoping this small effort on our part makes some difference.

Thanks Jossy and Ev for this wonderful idea!"

Love you,

Mom xoxo

This post appeared first in the Huffington Post.





Monday, November 14, 2016

So you wanna be a writer do you?

Maybe you are a beginning writer. Or a writer with half a novel tucked in your desk drawer. Or someone who has always dreamed about writing but wasn't sure how to take the first steps.



Check out my snazzy new website to see what kind of class might suit your needs.

I can help you to improve your writing no matter how long you've been at it. As a working professional for the past four decades, I have published in virtually every category of writing:

Journalism
Journal writing (including visuals)
Public relations
Book reviews (New York Times)
Poetry
Newsletter writing and editing
Magazine writing
Memoir
Personal (first-person) essays
Novels
Short fiction
Written scripts for public radio
University papers
Doctoral dissertations
Blogging (The Huffington Post)

I am currently teaching a writing class called Torah Matters at my temple, Hevreh of Southern Berkshire, in Great Barrington, MA. I am also leading a writing workshop for a half dozen women with developmental disabilities at a phenomenal residence, Riverbrook, in Stockbridge, MA.

In January, I will be teaching a half-day workshop at the Lenox Community Center, in Lenox, MA.

Maybe you know someone who wants to write but has been too shy to try. I hope you will share with them my new website, http://www.claudiaricciwritingclasses.com

I have taught thousands of students how to write, as well as dozens of adults who came to writing later in life. It's never too late to write your heart out!


Wednesday, November 09, 2016

A Spanish quote offers solace...

The Spanish quote reads "Quisieron enterrarnos, pero se los olvido que somos semillas."

Translation: "They tried to bury us, but they forgot we were seeds."

Still, as my activist husband Richard Kirsch suggests, "Right now I feel like a seed buried deeply underground."

Richard was instrumental in helping to pass the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. The program, which became law in 2010, now provides health insurance to approximately 20 million Americans who would otherwise not have insurance.

Trump has vowed to repeal the ACA.


I wonder how many people covered by the ACA voted for Trump. Perhaps none.

I wonder how many of those who are insured face life or death illnesses, and how they will manage to get treatment without insurance.

I wonder if I might wake up tomorrow to find out this election outcome was some kind of nightmare.


Monday, November 07, 2016

More profound poetry from ancient Persia

Every once in a while along comes a poem and it stops you in your tracks. You read it over and over again and feel the words sinking into your blood and running through your veins. You are astonished that someone has written exactly what it is you needed and wanted to hear. You wish like heck that you'd written it yourself, but most of all you're just so glad somebody else did.

In this case, the poet who wrote the poem I have in mind lived hundreds of years ago. Hafiz, who lived from 1320-1389 (about 100 years after Rumi) is a highly celebrated Persian poet. Wikipedia claims that Hafiz' work can be found "in the homes of most people in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan," and that people "learn his poems by heart and use them as proverbs and sayings to this day." Westerners learned of Hafiz' poetry largely thanks to Goethe, and later to Ralph Waldo Emerson, who translated Hafiz' work in the 19th century.

According to the book where I saw this poem (see citation below), an Indian teacher named Hazrat Inayat Khan, who is said to have brought Sufism to the West, once said of the poet "the words of Hafiz have won every heart that listens."

And so Hafiz has won my heart with a poem called:

"Now is the Time."

Now is the time to know
That all that you do is sacred.

Now, why not consider
A lasting truce with yourself and God.

Now is the time to understand
That all your ideas of right and wrong
Were just a child's training wheels
To be laid aside
When you can finally live
With veracity
and love.

Hafiz is a divine envoy
Whom the Beloved
Has written a hold message upon.

My dear, please tell me,
Why do you still
Throw sticks at your heart
And God?

What is it in that sweet voice inside
That incites you to fear?

Now is the time for the world to know
That every thought and action is sacred.

This is the time
For you to deeply complete the impossibility

That there is anything
But Grace.

Now is the season to know
That everything you do
Is Sacred.


from The Gift, Poems by Hafiz, The Great Sufi Master, translations by Daniel Landinsky.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Advice from the 13th Century

By Rumi

“When I run after what I think I want, my days are a furnace of distress and
anxiety.

If I sit in my own place of patience, what I need flows to me, and
without any pain.

From this I understand that what I want also wants me, is looking for me and
attracting me.

There is a great secret in this for anyone who can grasp it."

Rumi was a Persion poet who lived in 1207. His poetry is some of the most profound that's ever been written.

Friday, October 07, 2016

A Novel Idea: Start With a Sizzling Opening?

Lately I’ve been thinking about the novels that I’ve loved most, and the way they open. I’m up in the air about whether to rewrite my third novel, Sister Mysteries. I am trying to decide whether to start the leisurely way, which is how the book is now (several readers have liked it.) 

Or should I revise, starting with the protagonist -- a nun who in 1883 is falsely convicted of murdering her cousin – facing the gallows for her alleged crime. The opening scene would start with her rotting away in a filthy California prison.


It might seem like a no-brainer. If you’re trying to sell books, obviously you want your first pages – your first paragraph -- your first words -- to do their job: nab the reader’s attention and hold them fast. Clearly, modern readers – accustomed increasingly to 140 characters and Instagram and sizzling You Tube sound bytes -- have absolutely no patience.

I was reminded of this recently when an older woman I know said she couldn’t find anything she wanted to read. This woman is bright, and an avid reader, and she has a Kindle, and so I suggested she sample one of my all-time favorite novels, The Mill on the Floss.

Ah, but I’d forgotten George Eliot’s language, and I’d certainly forgotten that sturdy first paragraph:

“A wide plain, where the broadening Floss hurries on between its green banks to the sea, and the loving tide, rushing to meet it, checks its passage with an impetuous embrace.  On this mighty tide the black ships – laden with the fresh-scented fir-planks, with rounded sacks of oil-bearing seed, or with the dark glitter of coal are borne along to the town of St. Ogg’s…”

That second sentence keeps going for another four typed lines!

Uh, well, gee, I said to her, it really is a such a great great story.  And really worth the effort, despite what you might call its “antiquated” language.

I could tell from her face she wasn’t buying it. The book, or my attempt to sell it.

So why should I be surprised, considering the way so many modern best-sellers lure the readers in? 

Consider the prologue to Anita Diamant’s New York Times wonderful bestseller, The Red Tent:

“We have been lost to each other for so long. My name means nothing to you. My memory is dust. This is not your fault or mine.”

Or more to the point, get a load of Chris Bohjalian’s shocker in his national bestseller, Midwives:

“I used the word vulva as a child the way some kids said butt or penis or puke.”

There aren’t too many folks who would stop reading after that.

So here I sit, perusing great works from the past, as well as a bunch of modern “winners” from the last few years.  The more I read, the more I’m confused. Because I am at heart, a purist who wants to take the high road.

And then I laugh.  
The high road is increasingly a very lonely path. Literary fiction is a dying thing. The number of books sold each year in that category is miniscule. Recently, a prominent literary agent – formerly the President of Harper Collins -- told my husband (who is writing a non-fiction book) that Farrar Straus considers it “acceptable” if a work of literary fiction sells a mere 3,500 copies.

The more I think about it, and the more opening lines I read by my literary heroes, the more I’m convinced that if they were querying New York agents today, they very well might get polite form letters, rejecting their masterpieces.

Consider what I call Steinbeck’s “long-term weather report from the Dustbowl” approach that begins The Grapes of Wrath:

“To the red country and part of the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth. The plows crossed and recrossed the rivulet marks. The last rains lifted the corn quickly and scattered weed colonies and grass along the sides of the roads so that the gray country and the dark red country began to disappear under a green cover. In the last part of May the sky grew pale and the clouds that had hung in high puffs for so long in the spring were dissipated.”

I absolutely love this writing, but I wonder how many busy agents looking for blockbusters like Lovely Bones would give Steinbeck his due?

And then there’s the less-than-compelling coal-to-diamonds discourse that Joseph Conrad delivers to us on page one of his fabulous novel, Victory.

“There is, as every schoolboy knows in this scientific age, a very close chemical relation between coal and diamonds. It is the reason, I believe, why some people allude to coal as ‘black diamonds.’ Both these commodities represent wealth; but coal is a much less portable form of property. There is, from that point of view, a deplorable lack of concentration in coal.”

Holy cow. How did this book get published?

Well, so, we are in another era. Recently, at a reading of his work at SUNY Albany, where I teach, author Walter Mosley admitted to the audience that he doesn’t buy a book if the first line doesn’t grab him.

I thought that was fascinating, because I bought Mosley’s wonderful novel, Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned after just that experience: I picked up the book and couldn’t put it down. My students always adored the book, and I used it for years.

Curiously, though, one of my students was generous and kind enough to buy me a copy of another of his novels, Known to Evil, and she even got it autographed! 

I decided to put this book to the same test Mr. Mosley uses on novels.

Here are the first lines that he writes:

“Don’t you like the food?” Katrina, my wife of twenty-three years, asked.
“It’s delicious,” I said. “Whatever you make is always great.”

Uh, is it any wonder that the book has been lying toward the bottom of the pile beside my bed?

Perhaps the point here is that once you are a well-established writer, with lots of books and tons of readers, you don’t have to worry so much about the powerful lead. Readers will flock to your work because they just will.

Others of us don’t have that luxury.

So here I am, unsure whether to start with the existing Chapter One, or switch it to a later chapter and turn the story around, starting with the nun in jail. My best reading buddy, who has read the many versions I have produced with this challenging novel, says she thinks I would do better to do the revision.

For the first time in my fiction-writing life, I am feeling lazy.

And I really love the opening.

So you know what they say, or maybe what they should say.

Don’t judge a book by its first few pages.