WomensMemoirs First Paragraph Contest: Announcement of Bronze Winners, Part 2

by Pamela Jane on September 30, 2014

catnav-news-active-3Post #109 – Memoir Writing News – Matilda Butler


First Paragraph Bronze Winners, Part 2 Announced by Pamela Jane Bell

Pamela has done a great job of highlighting today’s Bronze winners and I’m eager to share the names of the winners as well as their entries. But first, Pamela and I want everyone to know how thrilled we are that so many of you submitted first paragraphs, and we have been impressed by your passion and commitment as well as by the diversity of your experiences.

Last week we announced the first of the Bronze winners. If you didn’t see them, CLICK HERE.  We hope you’ll take the time to congratulate all the winners — last week’s and this week’s. There is much to learn from these paragraphs.

Schedule of Announcements of Winners
In future posts, we will be announcing the other winning entries, as follows:

October 7, 2014:  Announcement of Silver winners and publication of their first paragraphs with highlighted sentences or notes that readers will especially appreciate.

October 14, 2014:  Announcement of Gold winners and publication of their first paragraphs along with a brief discussion of facets of these entries, facets that helped bring them to the Gold level.

October 21, 2014:  Announcement of Grand-Prize winners and publication of their first paragraphs accompanied with a discussions of what made these entries rise to the top.

A Reminder about Our Prizes
Each category of winners has its own set of prizes. All the prizes were described last week, but we thought we’d mention what the Bronze winners receive.

Bronze Winners

a. Author’s name and book title listed on our website

b. First paragraph published and noteworthy sentences bolded and/or a comment by Pamela Jane

c. Bronze Certificate will be emailed to each Bronze winner

d. $40 off coupon for The [Essential] Women’s Memoir Writing Workshop: 21 Online Video Lessons with 8 hours of instruction and more than 40 exercises. The video lessons sell for $109 but we have them on special right now for $79. With the $40 off, the lessons are just $39 or just $1.86 each. (Details for using coupon will be emailed to each Bronze winner.)

Okay. That’s it from me. Pamela, take it away.


Pamela Jane BellBy Pamela Jane Bell
Regular guest blogger, children’s book author and coach. Pamela is currently seeking an agent for her memoir.

Announcing First Paragraph BRONZE WINNERS, Part 2

(Please note “m” is memoir, “f” is fiction)

Karen Hartley m.

Pamela: Karen’s memoir opening, told in third person, presents an interesting premise, that of a person (Olivia) who is trying to understand her own feelings, and a friend who is trying to help her accomplish this. I am curious to find out what lies behind Olivia’s anger about not having grown up in Brooklyn, or been allowed to. Does she like cities, or feel she was missing culture by living somewhere else? Was she taken from one parent or family and placed with another? Did her family move too often? Karen entices us to read on.

Karen Hartley for “Interrupted Destiny”

The last day of Sophie’s visit found her and Olivia having lunch at Roxanne’s restaurant. Sophie’s flight back to Florida would leave early that evening. Friends since childhood, they were now ending their yearly visit. They alternated; one year Olivia went to Florida, the next, Sophie came to San Francisco. 

Sophie kept trying to encourage Olivia to write down her feelings of anger and frustration about not having been allowed to grow up in Brooklyn, her birth place. Since nothing she said seemed to be able to convince Olivia, she tried a different angle…

Memoir Writing Contest Award

Patricia Hollinger m.

Pamela:  Patricia’s opening is colorful, suspenseful, and expressive.  Her voice comes through loud and clear, even if she is having difficulty talking!

Patricia Hollinger for “The Quest of the Questioning Daughter” (working title)

Upon awakening I couldn’t speak. Surely someone had inserted a tongue twice the size of my own during my sleep! “I nud som elf” I attempted to cry out. When I opened my eyes a comet ablaze with light surrounded my peripheral vision. And….I couldn’t even yell for “Help” with this huge tongue that had a mind all it’s own.

Trilby Malinn Idzerda m.

Pamela:  I found Trilby’s opening excellent; in reciting what she’s reading in the chart she took Chekhov’s timeless advice: “If you wish to move your reader,” he wrote, ”you must write more coldly.”  The chart is, in a sense, a cold fact but it tells us a great deal about how the narrator is feeling and what she is going through.

Trilby Malinn Idzerda “Wife at Bedside” (working title)

“Wife at bedside…wife at bedside…wife constantly at bedside…”  That is how his chart read.  Where did they think I was going to go?  I was afraid to step away from his bed to go to the bathroom four feet away.  The nurse had told me privately that there were so many tumors loose in his chest that one could attach to his heart at any moment, causing him to bleed out violently through every orifice.  Numb with horror, I nodded.  I hadn’t been breathing for the last two weeks anyway.  After it was over, I would write in my journal:  “I am some whitened zombi wandering loose, dead skin trailing like a bridal veil.”

Karen Kritzer  m.

Pamela: Karen’s first sentence is arresting, and the following sentences are descriptive, but also deceptively benign.  We’re happily trotting along through the paragraph with her when suddenly we are confronted with a frightening scene.  This scene is especially effective because the fearsome image of a father lining his children up against the wall while pointing a gun at them is contrasted by images we think of as cozy or homey, such as “shadows danced on the wall,” and “the fire back lit our family portrait.”

Karen Kritzer for “Spitting on a Seed to Grow A Garden” (working title)fireplace

I might as well have been stillborn.  In a litter of six kids, me being the middle child, the attention I got was peripheral and unfocused.  Like the last slurp of a dripping teat, I grew to savor the small victories, the tiniest of accomplishments.  I grew into my tomboyish frame and assumed a transgendered familial role.  I was nurturer to my two sisters and yet, with my older more aggressive brothers, I could still whip them into a frenzy with my brash male dominion persona.  I was  the best of both worlds in a family that didn’t belong anywhere in particular.  And we all kinda liked it that way.  Until the day my dad came home with a gun and told us to line up against the fireplace wall. All 6 of us, oldest to youngest, stood tall and I nervously watched as our shadows danced on the wall as the fire back lit our family portrait of terror.

Maddy McGuire m.

Pamela: Maddy’s opening is vividly, breathlessly descriptive.  The first paragraph and her ability to describe her physical sensations in a way the reader can fully enter into definitely got my attention.

Maddy McGuire for “Through the Furnace”

Heat rushes through my veins, burning fire waves up into my throat, taking my breath away and rendering me ecstatic. My breath is infused with chemical warmth, every nerve ending tingling with joy as the pleasure comes in fast-succeeding ripples. So intense I forget to breathe; overwhelmed with stimulants, euphoria flooding my brain, I feel myself going under as my pulse races uncontrollably. I don’t fight it; if this is death I don’t mind dying…

Mary Law Meinelt m.

Pamela: This is a great first paragraph; it has elements of suspense:  “Nothing could have prepared me…,” poignancy and, finally, surprise: “She seemed older than the picture I’d discovered earlier, that girl in a model’s pose, next to the photo of me with pigtails when I was ten.”  Mary leaves the reader wanting to know more.

Mary Law Meinelt for “A Big Life” (Working Title)

Hearts Live by Being Wounded

Nothing could have prepared me for Brenda’s entrance, sporting a short white fur coat that framed a face glowing from the December chill. It wasn’t her beauty or the coat Daddy had just purchased as her Christmas present that took me by surprise; it was her smile of ownership, not of the coat, but of my daddy who wore a grin as he followed her through the front door into the living room.  It was the way she carried herself, a knowing, her self-assurance, sparkle, the way her dark brown curls swayed as if caught in a breeze.  She seemed older than the picture I’d discovered earlier, that girl in a model’s pose, next to the photo of me with pigtails when I was ten.

Joannah Merriman m.

Pamela:  Joannah’s voice is inviting and her opening is intriguing and mysterious (what on earth happened to her father?)  I have the sense the author will take us on a wild adventure and I want to go right along with her.

Joannah Merriman for “Wild Rosemary”

March 2003.  A yellow legal pad rests on my father’s hospital tray table:Yellow Knife

“My illegal and harmful injury to my wife’s hands – both of them – tho (sic) only one needs a cast – happened as follows: . . .”

Two weeks before the event that sent him to the psychiatric ward, he went on a weeklong wolf-hunting trip in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.  The trip was one of two he had arranged in the space of two months, and I had to dig out an atlas to even find where he was going.  Yellowknife?  It was in the middle of absolutely nowhere, that nebulous far north geographical space unknown to many inhabitants of the rest of North America.  He came back less than a week later without having even glimpsed a wolf, his face showing the evidence of frostbite and windburn, muttering that someone had broken his gun.  His gun was fine, but clearly he was not.

Hazel S. Muller m.

Pamela: I like the contrast of the darkly dramatic title followed by the mundane first sentence: “There you go Mrs. Muller…”  These contrasts set up an intriguing opening in Mary’s first paragraph.

Hazel S. Muller for

“Sucked into the Black-hole of Back Surgery, Incompetence, and Paranoia” (Working Title)

“There you go Mrs. Muller, your surgery is set for Wednesday, July 16. Be there at 7:45 a.m.” Dr. K’s nurse handed me a handful of papers. With my back aching to a tooth grinding level of pain I took them in my left hand and headed for the door.

I sat for a few moments before turning the key to start the car. A slight feeling of apprehension tickled my spine and a quick wave of cold and goose bumps ran over my arms causing me to shiver. “Anxiety” I told myself, started the car; skipped picking up a prescription at Walmart and turned off on the “old highway” at the top of the hill. There are a lot more trees and green vegetation that way, more life as it were.

Cristina Michele Pina m.

Pamela: Cristina’s title is very intriguing and also funny – and well-done humor is something publishers are always in search of.  I especially liked the bolded phrase below.   A love-hate relationship with Freud sounds like very fertile ground!

Cristina Michele Pina for

“Confessions of a Neurotic Psychotherapist in Training”

sigmund-freudEven though therapists today have deviated from psychoanalytic theory,  they will always carry the voice of Freud in their unconscious — no pun intended.  As I mentioned, I have a love-hate relationship with Freud. Why? Because the guy is insightful, full of fun facts, and accurate in many ways. How he had this much insight at the turn of the 19th century is just beyond me and fascinating.  I have had moments involving different people and circumstances, where an “Ah yes…Freud moment” comes to mind, causing me to walk in circles in the library of my mind, saying to myself, “interesting… interesting… quite right… quite right…indeed!”  Why do I hate Freud? Because the guy is depressing as all hell! Freud is a Debbie downer.  He can see through your soul with such precision, but he can’t help you.”

Carol Powers f.

Pamela: Carol’s novel opening brings together a fascinating period in history, the occult, and a seemingly innocent train journey that apparently landed the narrator in pretty hot water.  I definitely want to see the story she will weave from these elements!

Carol Powers for “Through a Tarot Wormhole: The Tower”

It all started with a deck of Tarot cards. And a cell phone. And a train trip to the Netherlands to surprise my boyfriend. Three pretty innocuous things, right? Well, maybe not the deck of Tarot cards. Plenty of people still think they’re evil — the Devil’s work. Like a picture on a piece of cardstock could have all that much power. I guess my cards do, though, come to think of it. One sent me back in time.  But they’re certainly not evil. You’ll see. I’m not supposed to tell anyone. It’s a huge secret. I’ll end up in a witness protection program or worse, if anybody finds out. But somebody needs to know what happened to me. I was lucky this time. It was a pivotal point in history and everyone knows the story. Or they know what they think is the story.  June 6, 1944. D-Day.

Betty Robinson m.

Pamela: I was drawn to the matter-of-fact earthy tone of Betty’s opening paragraph – very fitting for a farmer’s daughter!  The bolded sentence at the end of the first paragraph promises a story told with refreshing directness, and a bit of wry humor.

Betty Robinson for “A Country Girl’s Diary”

I grew up with an unusual perspective of life. I saw the world through the eyes of an Oklahoma farmer. What Dad knew, he taught me. What he didn’t teach me, I learned the hard way. What I learned the hard way is what I want to share. My dad wanted a son, what he got was me.

Phyllis St. George m.

Pamela: Phyllis’s title is colorful and compelling, and her first sentence is lively, even boisterous, which gives us a sense both of her style and her family.  I was especially intrigued by the bolded sentence, below.

Phyllis St. George for

“Searching for Neutral Ground: A Novel about Finding a Safe Place in a Family of Psychopaths”

I was born into a family of psychopaths — right square in the middle like a fulcrum. Frankie my older brother liked to kill cats. My brother Ronnie was the oldest of us by four years because a baby died in between Ronnie and Frankie. The police brought him home more often than not because they thought he should be home after eleven and not shooting hoops by himself in the park. My earliest memory of Ronnie is waking in my bed and seeing lizard-like eyes staring at me. On the other side of me lifted dangerously high in the air are my younger sisters. And I, the fulcrum, pinned in the middle between two fearful and painfully shy girls and two violent bullies, was the critical piece that determined how far the objects moved and how much force was required to move them so I could make my escape.

Sonia Usatch-Kuhn m.

Pamela:  Sonia’s opening paragraph paints a richly visual scene while inspiring the reader’s empathy for the narrator.  We are definitely with the writer by the end of this strong and well-focused first paragraph.

Sonia Usatch-Kuhn for “Dance the Steps”


“I’m very sorry for your loss,” the driver utters in a low voice, like a line from a play he had memorized for this occasion. He is in official funeral garb, everything black except his shirt, which is white as the snow that had fallen yesterday. Tall and balding he wears no overcoat on this bitter cold Tuesday, January 15, 1957. He opens the limousine door. My mother moves her already lonely body slowly into the back seat of the passenger compartment. And I, like a wounded bird, fifteen years old, nestle close to her on the black leather seat. My blue tweed woolen jacket is no match for the chill enveloping me as my mind struggles to erase two images of my father—one, when he was dancing with me just two nights ago, and the other one of him never dancing with me again.

CONGRATULATIONS We congratulate each of these authors and we hope you’ll post your best wishes and thoughts to them in the comment section below.

COME BACK NEXT WEEK Be sure to return next week for the Silver winners, their first paragraphs, and Pamela’s highlights about what she likes most about each.

Please Note Future Prizes as follows:


a. Name and book title listed on our website.

b. First paragraph published and noteworthy sentences bolded and/or a comment by Pamela Jane.

c. Silver Certificate will be emailed to each Silver winner.

d. Free Kindle version of one of the four ten-time award-winning anthologies in the SEASONS OF OUR LIVES (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter) series


a. Name and book title listed on our website.

b. First paragraph published and individual comments by Pamela Jane.

c. Gold Certificate will be emailed to each Gold winner.

d. Choice of free copy of either Writing Alchemy: How to Write Fast and Deep — or — The [Essential] Women’s Mention Writing Workshop: 21 Online Video Lessons


a. Name and book title listed on our website.

b. First paragraph published and individual comments by Pamela Jane on the paragraph.

c. Grand Winner Certificate will be emailed to each Grand Winner.

d. Free Kindle version of one of the four anthologies in the SEASONS OF OUR LIVES (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter) series;

e. Choice of free copy of either Writing Alchemy: How to Write Fast and Deep — or — The [Essential] Women’s Mention Writing Workshop: 21 Online Video Lessons

A Word About the Kindle eBooks Silver and Grand Winners will receive one of our four award-winning, best-selling Kindle ebooks: Seasons of Our Lives: Spring Seasons of Our Lives: Summer Seasons of Our Lives: Autumn Seasons of Our Lives: Winter


Every First Paragraph entry was read and rated when we received it.  In addition, all first paragraphs were read and scored a second time, and cutoff scores were established for the Honorable Mentions, Bronzes, Silvers, Golds, and Grand Winners.

Of course, we think you are all winners because you had the courage and confidence to share your writing with others.  We urge you to enter other contests we’ll be holding.   And most importantly, keep writing!

Womens Memoirs Logo, memoir writing

Pamela Jane is the author of thirty children’s books published by Houghton Mifflin, Atheneum, Simon & Schuster, Penguin-Putnam, Harper, and others. Her newest book for adults, Pride and Prejudice and Kitties: A Cat-Lover’s Romp through Jane Austen’s Classic was featured in The Wall Street JournalThe Huffington Post, and BBC America, among other places. She recently finished her memoir Shout!  How I Lost Everything and Found My Voice: A Writer’s Journey.

Just in time for Halloween! Pamela’s recent Halloween picture book, Little Goblins Ten, illustrated by NY Times best-selling llustrator, Jane Manning, is based on the old country rhyme, “Over in the Meadow.” Here’s what’s being said about it:

“…trust the team of Jane and Manning to conjure up an impressive new vision in time for Halloween —Kirkus starred review

The classic counting rhyme ‘Over in the Meadow’ goes spooky in this Halloween riff, which should endure well past Oct. 31 —New York Times Book Review

Jane has fun playing within the nursery rhyme’s parameters…Manning’s quirky and expressive monster families are 10 kinds of cute.” —Publishers Weekly

[MATILDA SAYS:] Pamela is one of those fabulous authors who is always eager to stretch herself. She is a successful writer of children’s stories, has published a popular book for adults that is a spin on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and has just now completed her memoir.

I’ve especially enjoyed several of her children’s books and urge you to consider giving her Little Goblins Ten as a Halloween gift to your children, grandchildren, or great grandchildren. Candy is cool. But books are even cooler. What fun to imagine sparking the interest of the young children in your family in stories and storytelling. It would be special if they will grow up to become writers.

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