So Long and Thanks for Reading

After 200 first lines and 597 posts over almost four years, it is time to say good-bye. I wanted to thank everyone who has stopped by the First Lines blog, I hope you found something useful here. I'll keep the blog up for any newcomers searching for inspiration. You'll find prompts and exercises and interviews and book reviews here. Please have a look around, and I apologize for never organizing it better. It was a constant on my 'To Do' list. Which brings me to why I am ending the blog: my life is busy and I want to start a new project or two, which means I have to let go of a few things.

But I did want to leave you with one last exercise. Though I suppose it is not so much an exercise as it is a way of life. At least, it is a way of life for this writer.

#1. Go new places. Try new things. Never stop growing and learning and experiencing life.

#2. Explore your inner world as much as you explore the outer world.

#3. Observe. Always. Don't put an obstacle between yourself and the world, whether it be a digital device or a judgement. (Being alive is fascinating - I'm not so sure Facebook is.) As for making judgements go back to #2, the more you learn about yourself the more you will realize we are far more alike than we are different. (This is both freeing and disturbing, I'll admit, but it is also the foundation great art is built on.)

#4. Write. And not only for publication or imagined accolades. Write for the sure joy of it.

Prompt #199

Since the incident George preferred to work alone, even though it made being a moving man difficult.


"The universe is made of stories, not atoms."

~Muriel Rukeyser


"Act as if what you do makes a difference.
It does."

~ William James

Dialogue Prompt

Use this line of dialogue in a short story:

"By Friday I might be jumping around."

Prompt #196

When Rick got home there was a woman he had never seen before sunbathing in his backyard.

Dialogue Prompt

Use this line of dialogue in a short story. It can be the first line, the last line or any line in between.

"But I don't know how to drive."

Prompt #195

Jack watched the fish tank while he waited for Hannah to come back.

Writing Adventure

We haven't gone outside on an adventure in a long while. Let's take advantage of summer and grab our notebooks and an iced tea and head to a nearby park or beach. Get your writerly self outside! Go somewhere you can relax (it's summer!). Settle yourself in a scenic spot and have a long slow look around. Now open your notebook and describe the scene.

Now close your eyes and become aware of your surroundings. Take in the "view" using your other senses. Now open your eyes, pick up your notebook and describe the scene a second time.

How are your two descriptions different? What did you notice the second time that you didn't notice the first?

Now sip that iced tea and relax. (I told you were we going to relax.)

Dialogue Prompt

Use this line of dialogue in a short story. It can be the first line, the last line or any line in between:

"I'm ready!"

Getting Words Written

It is what links all modern writers. We all struggle with how to get words written in this crazy-busy, highly distracting modern age. So, stop hanging your head and feeling shameful - you're not alone. Luckily, I have discovered a few tricks that keep me writing and I'm going to share them in the hopes that they help you finish your masterpiece.

Still my best and favourite:

I turn off my phone. I wrote most of my first novel with my phone turned off. It was the only way to train my friends and family that my writing time was serious. It also taught me to take my writing seriously. I still turn off my phone when I have a deadline or when I am stuck and really need to concentrate. Trust me, they'll leave a message or call back. Probably both.

A Secret I Wish I Had Discovered Sooner:

Set a timer. I love this and have been using a timer a lot lately. I am amazed how much more I can get done by setting a timer on my desk. And I don't mean I do timed-writing practice where you have to keep your pen moving. I use a timer like a bargaining tool with myself: I'll say to myself, okay if you write for forty-five minutes you can take a ten minute break to surf the Internet. This keeps my bum in the chair and my brain focused on my work. Give it a try!

Finish the Things You Start:

You're a writer. You're creative. Ideas pour from you like water over Niagara Falls. I know, I know. But it is a mixed blessing because if you are always starting new projects, it might mean you're not getting many things finished. So be selective. Work on the stuff that speaks to your heart in the deepest way and bring those projects to completion before moving on. And don't forget to celebrate when you finish a writing project!

Let's face it, it's not the easiest thing in the world to be a writer, is it? But if you don't tell your stories, who is going to? Exactly. Okay, everybody - back to work!

Prompt #191

Roger knew there would be big trouble at home if Becky found out where he had been.

Dialogue Prompt

Use this line of dialogue as the first line, last line or any line of a short story:

"I could have drowned!"

Prompt #190

Just when I thought nothing else could go wrong, the doorbell rang.


"On writing - a matter of exercise. If you work out with weights for fifteen minutes a day over the course of ten years, you're gonna get muscles. If you write for an hour and a half a day for ten years, you're gonna turn into a good writer."

~ Stephen King


All writers have work locked away in drawers or filed away on our computers that we have giving up on. For whatever reason we could not bring that short story, novel or poem to life, but we also could not bring ourselves to throw it away or hit the delete button (smart decision - never throw anything away!). Today I would like you to dig that piece out and have another look at it. I did this recently and am having so much fun working on my story again. Suddenly I can see where it is weak and what needs polishing. Sometimes all we need is time. When we look at our work with fresh eyes instead of seeing all its faults we see all that is wonderful and worth saving about it - and that infuses us with the energy to start another draft.

If you have any creative breakthroughs, I'd love to hear about them!

Prompt #189

Craig laughed when I told him, which was no surprise; he never takes anything I say seriously.

Dialogue Prompt

Use this line of dialogue in a short story:

"Last night I won fifty dollars."

Dialogue Prompt

Use this line of dialogue in a short story. It can be the first line, the last line or any line in between.

"Shut up!"

Prompt #187

Saul cracked one bloodshot eye open to glare at the dripping tap.

Did You Notice?

Did you notice that I figured out the line break thing and the blog looks neat and tidy again? Can you feel me smiling? But I didn't do it alone. So, I'm giving a giant shout out to Mario who helped me. Thank you Mario! You rock!

Dialogue Prompt

Use this line of dialogue in a short story. It can be the first line, the last line, or any line in between.

"I was joking! I didn't mean for you to actually do it."


"A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit." ~ Richard Bach

Edgy and Dangerous You

Sometimes it happens that you are writing a story about a man and his dog and suddenly (or so it feels) the story takes a sharp turn to the left and it is now about a bank robbery gone wrong. That is okay. Not everything has to go according to plan (actually, very little goes according to plan in my life, let alone in my writing). Go with it. See where the writing takes you. It may be that you started out with a rather safe story you thought your writing group would love and now you have a story that you feel is so edgy and dangerous you should hide it under your bed. Great! Your writing should be a little dangerous at times. It should wake you up to the possiblities in the world. It should wake you up to the possibilities within you.


"Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now. There are only so many tomorrows." ~ Michael Landon

Prompt #184

Use this as the first line of a short story: It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

Dialogue Exercise

Use the following line of dialogue in a short story. It can be the first line, the last line or any line in between. “It’s this way.”

Warning: Rant Follows

I've got to tell you (well, I don't actually, but I'm going to) that I am frustrated with the new Blogger format. For some reason it will not allow me to make line breaks the way I want to, which is why my post have looked different recently. My words are bunched up together. They're huddled together like scared children. My posts look - dare I say it? - well, they look ugly. I apologize. I know my blog is suddenly as awkward as a teenager with a bad perm, but I am trying to fix it. (Note- This is exactly what I am talking about. I wrote this as three paragraghs but Blogger has lumped it together as one clunky paragragh. Does anyone know how to fix this?)

Prompt #183

Use this as the first line of a short story: Only a fool would have said no.


"I'm not trying to entertain the critics. I'll take my chances with the public."

~ Walt Disney

Prompt #182

Use this as the first line of a short story: Chelsea realized she was wrong, but could not admit it now.

How are you doing?

According to my calendar it is April. According to the actual weather it is flipping between spring, summer and winter a few times a week. But I'll trust the calendar. Spring is a good time to review your writing goals for the year and see how you are doing. Are you getting the amount of writing done that you would like to? The kind of writing you'd like to?

Check in and have a little progress report session with yourself. See if you are where you want to be, and if not, make the necessary adjustments to get back on course. Or, adjust the goals if you have found them to be unreasonable. (You might want to toss your copy of, "How to Write a Novel in 30 Minutes." Just a suggestion.)

Or, maybe you will find your writing has shifted in a new and unexpected direction. Maybe you are discovering unexplored territory, breaking new creative ground within yourself. Maybe goals are not appropriate for what you are doing right now. Maybe what you need are wide open spaces inside yourself with no deadlines and no expectations. Maybe you are making the map as you go along - word, by exhilarating word.

Wherever you are, be kind to yourself and keep writing.

Prompt #179

It was Henrietta's goal to invent a colour no one had yet seen or even imagined.

Random Exercise

Write a short story using these three words:

sparkle, chase, window

Random Exercise

Make a list of ten items that are blue.

Do that before reading the rest. Hurry up! And no peeking!

(Okay, now use #2, 5 & 7 in a short story.)

Have fun!

Week # 177

As soon as Jeff opened the door he knew he had made a mistake.

Dialogue Exercise

Use this line of dialogue in a short story. It could be the first line, the last line or any line in between:

"That guy is a thug!"

Description Exercise

We haven't done a description exercise in a long time. So, it's time to sharpen your pencil and open your eyes (and ears and nose, etc - you know I am big on writing with all five of your senses alert and alive). I want you to try describing a sunset. I would suggest you first watch a sunset. And I mean really watch it. I'll warn you, this exercise may be cliche-inducing. So be aware of that and steer clear of those tempting cliches.

Have fun!

Dialogue Exercise

Use this line of dialogue in a short story:

"The warlocks are coming."


"Writing can be a crucial skill, like cartography. Everybody lives in the middle of a landscape. Writing can provide a map."

~ Phyllis Theroux

The Power of Fifteen

As a yoga teacher I am often asked the best way to get more flexible. I always tell people the same thing: you will get better results by stretching for fifteen minutes every day than by going to one yoga class a week. It is just the way the body works. Tiny bits of daily effort can add up to big results.

The same is true with your writing. If the only time you have to write are fifteen minutes squeezed in each day during your lunch break, then write your heart out for those fifteen minutes. Over a year you will get far more words written than someone who insists on having two full, undisturbed hours which they can only carve out every few weeks. (I say this with absolute authority because I have tried both ways.)

So, if you feel you are not getting enough time to write, try finding fifteen minutes in your day - every day - and write in that time. You might surprise yourself with how much you get accomplished. You may even write your book that way. There is a children's book author who got her start writing on her lunch hour. Her name is J. K. Rowling. As I said: tiny bits of daily efforts can add up to big results!

Week #174

Bill had never ridden a horse before, but today was turning out to be a day of many firsts.

Week #173

I noticed she had her mother's eyes, but they were not as cold.


“When I was five years old my mother told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment. I told them they didn’t understand life.”

~ John Lennon

This Little Writer Went to the Market...

If you are looking for places to submit your fiction to here are a few of my favourite sources:

New Pages (note: I am experiencing a blogger glitch and can't get the link to New Pages to work so go to:

New Pages has a great, "Call for Submissions" page that is regularly updated. There is also plenty of info on the site about literary magazines, contests, conferences and publishers.

Prepare to be overwhelmed. With 4,153 markets for fiction writers and poets, you are sure to find a home for your disco-inspired vampire love story set in outer space.

Places for Writers

A Canadian site with calls for submissions. Not as big as the previous two but I've been a huge fan of this site for years now. And I'm not just saying that, eh.

The Practicing Writer e-newsletter

Do yourself a favour and click on over to Erika Dreifus' website and sign up for her free monthly e-newsletter, The Practicing Writer. It is chock-a-block with great info on contests (with no fees!) and calls for submissions (to paying markets!). It is also filled with interesting goodies about the craft and business of writing. I look forward to reading it every month. And a bit of insider information here: I found the publisher for my novel, The Last River Child through Erika's newsletter. No lie!

Remember to read all submission guidelines and observe them. Good luck and let me know when you get that sweet acceptance letter so I can congratulate you!

Dialogue Exercise

Use this as the first line, last line or any line in between of a short story:

"You never would have done that when we were married."

World Happy Day

Did you know that February 11th is World Happy Day? It was news to me so I thought I would pass it along. Learn more here.

I thought this was a great opportunity to give some thought to what makes you happy. Too often we fill our days with endless 'to do' lists. I suggest making a list of the small things that bring you joy and then see what happens if you skip a few items on your 'to do' list and instead do something from your what makes you happy list.

If we all make a commitment to do that, think how we might change the world.

Be happy!


"People say that what we are seeking is a meaning for life. I don't think this is what we're really seeking. I think what we're seeking is an experience of being alive."

~ Joseph Campbell

Dialogue Exercise

Use this line of dialogue in a short story. It can be your first line, last line or any line in between!

"If you can guess my middle name I'll let you buy me a drink."


"The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive."

~ Thich Nhat Hanh

A Writing Log

Sometimes I wonder what I am doing on my writing dates. I know that I am spending a good chunk of time at my desk, but it doesn't feel like any work is getting done. To stop myself from just sitting there, staring out the window and calling it 'writing' I keep a writing log. After every writing session I jot down what I worked on and how much got written. This way I can't cheat. And it makes me much more productive when I know someone is looking over my shoulder - even if that someone is only me.

Dialogue Exercise

Use this line of dialogue in a short story. It can be the first line, the last line or any line in between!

"It was easy."

Show Up

I am often asked where I get my inspiration from and I never have a proper answer. I still don't, so don't get your hopes up that I am about to give away some heavily guarded writer's secret. I suppose I find inspiration everywhere. There is a quote I like (though I can't remember who said it) and I've probably used it on the blog before, but it goes: "All art is inspired by either nature or other art."

I agree with that. So I think that is a good place to start. If you want to be inspired take a walk outside or go to an art gallery or to the symphony or read something great. Those things work for me.

But don't wait to be inspired before you sit down to write. That's really what I wanted to say to you today. If you make a commitment to write once a day, or twice a week or whatever - do it. If you have made a writing date with yourself, keep it. Because what I have consistently found over the twenty plus years that I have been writing is this: when I show up consistently and faithfully so does the muse. Really. And words and stories and books get written that way.

No one hates to be stood up as much as the muse. Trust me. Show up for her. Show up for your writing. Show up for you.

That Calls for a Celebration

Geez, I just noticed that yesterday's post was the 500th one for this little blog. I have been rambling on for over 3 years now. Thanks to everyone who stops by. You are all delightful. Feel free to break out the champagne on my behalf now!

Week #168

When Aunt Velma was sixty-eight years old she announced, one Sunday over a roast beef dinner, that she intended to learn how to ride a unicycle.


"We have an innate desire to endlessly learn, grow and develop. We want to become more than what we already are. Once we yield to this inclination for continuous and never-ending improvement, we lead a life of endless accomplishments and satisfaction."

~ Chuck Gallozzi

Good News

I am thrilled to report that I contributed to an article in the February issue of the awesome magazine (and essential reading for all writers) The Writer. The issue is on newsstands now. The article is called, "40 Prompts to Get You Writing." There are oodles of inspiring ideas in it.

Check out the issue here.


"Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out."

~ Robert Collier


Have you set any writing goals for 2012? It is tempting, but vague, to say you want to be a writer. Or to declare that you want to write more. One reason that people don't reach their goals is that they are not clear enough on what they actually want.

So give some thought to:

- what sort of writing would you like to do
- what projects would you like to start or finish
- decide how much writing would you like to do by this time next year
- decide how often you would like to write each week and for how long

Just as you would not set out on a trip without a map, plot a course for your writing. Aim yourself in the direction of success!

Week #166

In these times of economic woe even the cloud factory was in difficulty.


"The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one."

~ Mark Twain

What big goals do you have for yourself and your writing this year? How can you break it down into small steps and get started today?