I Won! (And Other Good News)

Remember when I posted about the Santa Barbara Writers Conference best opening contest? I said you couldn’t win if you didn’t try, so I tried, and I won! It was a totally unexpected gift—a full scholarship to a week of workshops and panels across the street from the beach. I was pretty proud of my sentence, too:

We compare scars like war veterans, replay our history by the marks in our skin. At night, quietly so Mom can’t hear, we trace the raised flesh road maps of our lives and whisper our stories into the dark.

I’m here now and so far it’s been great. I’ve walked along this gorgeous beach path (my phone camera doesn’t do it justice) every day. I saw a pod of a dozen or so dolphins, including a baby, swimming just off shore, pelicans dive bombing for dinner, and lots of little crabs. It’s even been warm enough to walk barefoot on the sand and in the surf. Plus, you know, all the great writing stuff: meeting other writers, hanging out with a fellow Book Pregnant member, listening to smart talks, including a keynote from Dorothy Allison, my hero, and soaking up the community of people all focusing on the the thing I’ve chosen to do with my life. It’s inspiring, really. And I think I might want to live in Santa Barbara.

I wanted to share with you, too, the places Hand Me Down and I have appeared in the last few weeks.

  • Woman Around Town interviewed me and then wrote this wonderful article, Hand Me Down: Melanie Thorne’s Novel of Survival and Triumph about me and the book and the intersection of fiction and reality. “As a novel, the story is shocking enough, more so when we learn that 80 percent of what happens in Hand Me Down is autobiographical.”
  • On Campaign for the American Reader, I talk about two books I loved recently and why: The Rules of Inheritance by Claire Bidwell Smith, (whose blog I also love), and the newest Sookie Stackhouse book, Deadlocked, by Charlaine Harris.
  • Jennifer Weiner, amazing author and women’s lit champion, retweeted two of my tweets to her forty-something-thousand followers, said she couldn’t wait to read Hand Me Down, and is now following me!
  • The wonderful Amy Sue Nathan, author of the soon-to-be-published novel, The Glass Wives, interviewed me for her blog, Women’s Fiction Writers. She asked great questions about truth in fiction and the label of women’s fiction and I had a lot of fun.
  • Curled Up with a Good Book posted a great review. “Clearly, this young protagonist is a survivor who has not been destroyed by her experiences.”
  • Hand Me Down was featured on School Library Journal as a pick for their Adult Books 4 Teens list.
  • @FuzzyBlackDog, a lovely reader I don’t know, tweeted this: Just finished “Hand Me Down.” Wow. Heart wrenching, chest clenching, make you squirm in your chair novel. Well done.
  • Booking Mama posted a review in which she said many good things, including: “I appreciated the author’s storytelling abilities as well as her prose, but it was the character development of Liz that really stood out to me. I thought Ms. Thorne did a wonderful job of creating a realistic and likable teen, and it was her honest voice that really captured my heart.”
  • Read part of page 69 of Hand Me Down on The Page 69 Test blog and my comments about how it illustrates some of the themes in the book, particularly the bond between the two sisters in the novel.

Phew. Am I a lucky author or what? I’m so honored to have been talked about and to, and I love all the attention my book baby is getting out there in the world. What’s more, this doesn’t even include all the reader emails I’ve gotten, the responses from the wonderful women at the book club I visited, or my feelings about all of it, which I’m not sure I could articulate just yet.

I have to get up in the morning so I can go to another wonderful workshop, so I’ll leave you with all of this fantastic news and my cup of gratitude spilling all over the place. What’s even better than the list above? I’m pretty sure it’s incomplete. There’s so much good news I can’t remember it all. But I’m holding it, carrying it in my chest so I can linger over the joy of it all later. Thank you.

Santa Barbara Writers Conference Best Opening Contest

The Santa Barbara Writers Conference is holding this Best Openings Contest and there’s one day left to enter! Beginnings are so important, as any writer or reader knows. Dorothy Allison says this: “You’ve got to write a first line that will haunt you. It’s got to be magic.” The challenge is that magic is subjective.

I entered the following start:

We compare scars like war veterans; replay our history by the marks in our skin. At night, quietly so Mom can’t hear, we trace the raised flesh road maps of our lives and whisper our stories into the dark.

This came out of a scene I was trying to write for Hand Me Down that eventually turned into the car accident scene in chapter three, without this line. But I love the idea of Jaime and Liz comparing scars—the physical reminders of the traumas they’ve survived—so I would definitely like to use this later as an opening. The chances of winning this contest are small, but you can’t win if you don’t try, right?

What is your favorite opening that you’ve written? Why not send it along to this contest? It can’t hurt and you might get a sponsored trip to a great meeting place for writers! And/or feel free to post it here!