Best First Sentence Contest: Winner Announced
  • Best first sentence for a novel about a lovely librarian who secretly burns the books she loves because she wants no one else to read them.

    And the winner is — but before I announce the winner, let me say something about the selection process:

    Invariably when I choose a winner for the Best First Sentence Contest (and this is number 6, I believe) I come under a certain amount of fire from some for my selection — this despite the fact that I’m the one who creates the prompt, reads the entries, and pays the prize money out of my bartender wages, and am very happy to do so. Honestly, I love it. I love these contests, and I’m delighted with how popular they’ve become. I plan to run them forever.

    I’m not going to attempt to explain my tastes and my criteria in full. I only want readers to know this:

    I’m looking at these entries as best first sentence for a book.

    I mention that, though it might seem obvious, because I think it’s easy to lose sight of: I myself have lost sight of it. There are, in other words, many sentences that are excellent in and of themselves, but they just don’t quite have first-sentence power. Thus a sentence like the following, which I loved and chose as a finalist:

    Lisa, the lovely librarian, looked at the pile of dying embers that used to be her favourite books and thought, ‘there, now you are where you belong, with the lovers who wanted to leave me.’ (Mark Knowles)

    This one didn’t ultimately have as much first-sentence power as the following, by doc jim:

    She had never thought of herself as possessive.

    Or this one, by Jeanne:

    “She found it at once — and almost by instinct — nestling at a coquettish angle between Mansfield Park and Doctor Zhivago as if to say, ‘I’ve been waiting for you to kiss me goodbye.’”

    (Those, incidentally, were both runner-ups.)

    But the winner is …


    I imagined paperbacks would burn the fastest, but it’s actually the old threaded hardcovers that immediately turn to ash.

    Please stay-tuned for the next contest.

    My thanks to you all,



    April 11th, 2013 | journalpulp | 9 Comments |

About The Author

Ray Harvey

I was born and raised in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. I've worked as a short-order cook, construction laborer, crab fisherman, janitor, bartender, pedi-cab driver, copyeditor, and more. I've written and ghostwritten several published books and articles, but no matter where I've gone or what I've done to earn my living, there's always been literature and learning at the core of my life.

9 Responses and Counting...

  • Doc Jim 04.11.2013

    I demand a recount! Check the chad!

  • I am amazed that you are able to pick a winner from so many good choices every time. I would never want to do that. Thanks for the great challenge!

  • Thank you, Cheyenne.

    It’s good to see you. I loved your sentence.

  • Good choice, Ray, it certainly hits! And congratulations Tara!

  • Thank you, Dave. Tara, incidentally, has yet to respond or claim her prize money.

  • Congrats to Tara! That is a fantastic first sentence. SB and I will have to step up our game next time. 🙂

  • Welcome back, CornFedGirl! And thank you.

    Clickity-clack goes the train.

  • I didn’t know if it was clickity or clickety. It’s hard to spell those made-up words correctly.

  • Please. Clickity. Clickety. Tomato. Tomoto. It hardly matters. It’s all pink on the inside.

    The important thing is that you dropped by. Thank you.

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