In the Beginning: How to Write Great First Lines and Paragraphs with Mary Cantrell, Rachel Hall, and Anna Leahy

Jun 20, 2023 9:00AM—12:00PM


Write On, Door County 4210 Juddville Rd. Fish Creek, WI 54212

Cost $60.00



Whether writing a poems, an essay, a short story, or a novel, every writer knows that the opening is all-important. It engages the reader, sets the tone, and launches the story, essay, or poem in a particular direction. In The First Five Pages, Noah Lukeman argues that readers make up their minds about a book within the first few pages “and 99 percent of the time, they’re not going to change it.” But what makes a great opening? And how do the decisions a writer makes about the opening suggest the form and direction of the larger project? It’s not as easy as the advice to Alice from the King in Wonderland merely to begin at the beginning and stop at the end. Mary Cantrell, Rachel Hall, and Anna Leahy will discuss their own processes for beginning lines and sentences and will share some of their favorite openings from poems, essays, stories, and novels. Afterwards, they will provide prompts to help you write your own great openings.

Class meets in person: Tuesday, June 20, 9 am – noon.

Class size: Limited to 12. Minimum five.

Member Discount: Write On members receive a 10% discount on all classes and workshops. To become a member, please click here. To receive the discount, members must log in to the website using their unique password and enter member10 in the promotion code box. The code is case sensitive.

Teaching Artists: 

Mary Cantrell is a professor of English at Tulsa Community College. Her creative work has been published in Big Muddy, among others. Her academic publications include “Teaching and Evaluation: Why Bother?” in The Authority Project: Poweer and Identity in the Creative Writing Classroom, “Theories of Creativity and Creative Writing Pedagogy,” co-authored with Anna Leahy and Mary Swander in The Handbook of Creative Writing, and “Assessment as Empowerment: Grading Entry-Level Creative Writing” in Teaching Creative Writing. She also contributed to the article “Diggers in the Garden: The Habits of Mind of Creative Writers in Basic Writing Classrooms,” published in Teaching English in the Two-Year College

Rachel Hall is the author Heirlooms (BkMk Press), selected by Marge Piercy for the G.S. Sharat Chandra book prize. Hall’s stories and essays have appeared in a number of journals and anthologies, including Bellingham Review, Crab Orchard Review, Fifth Wednesday, Gettysburg Review, Natural Bridge, and Water~Stone. In addition, she has received awards and honors from publications such as LilithGlimmer Train, and New Letters and from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts, Ragdale, and the Ox-Bow School of the Arts. She teaches creative writing and literature at the State University of New York at Geneseo, where she holds two Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence—one in teaching and one for her creative work. she is at work on a collection of stories that explores gun violence. Follow her at @Rach_H_writer or at

Anna Leahy‘s latest book is What Happened Was:. She is also the author of the nonfiction book Tumor and the poetry books Aperture and Constituents of Matter. She is co-author fo Generation Space and Conversing with Cancer. Her essays have won top prizes from the Mississippi ReviewLos Angeles ReviewNinth Letter, and Dogwood. She directs the MFA in Creative Writing program at Chapman University, where she edits the international Tab Journal