first lines

“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.”- Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)


I spent a whole year writing first lines, trying to capture this type of power.

first lines

“124 was spiteful. Full of baby’s venom. The women in the house knew it and so did the children.” Toni Morrison, Beloved (1988)


I had an elder sister and mom taking literary courses at City College. I was all of 9 when this novel first appeared on our bookshelves. Marvel at this pic, wondering why it sent shivers up my spine. Years later, the actual words would have the same effect.

brooks photo 2

Gwendolyn Brooks


One wants a teller in a time like this

One’s not a man, one’s not a woman grown
To bear enormous business all alone.

One cannot walk this winding street with pride
Straight-shouldered, tranquil-eyed,
Knowing one knows for sure the way back home.
One wonders if one has a home.

One is not certain if or why or how.
One wants a Teller now:

Put on your rubbers and you won’t catch a cold
Here’s hell, there’s heaven. Go to Sunday School
Be patient, time brings all good things–(and cool
Stong balm to calm the burning at the brain?)
Love’s true, and triumphs; and God’s actual.

“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally and inhumanly sensitive. To them a touch is a blow, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is god and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create- so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or building of something of meaning, their very breath is cut off. They must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown inward urgency they are not really alive unless they are creating.” -Pearl S. Buck