This is my first guest post for Mallory Hearts Cozies, for my debut cozy mystery Death by Diploma, so today I've been thinking about firsts. We are traveling in Seattle and Alice in Chains (Man in the Box) is playing on the radio, this great grungy song in the Grunge capital of the world--I was in college when this flannel-wearing, Nirvana-loving movement began, and I can hardly believe it's been over 25 years since that happened. A whole new genre of music: a 'first' for this area of the Northwest.
We also just passed the Boeing factory, and I was commenting on the amazing thought processes of people looking at birds and saying, I want to do that too! And now it's happened. I think Leonardo Da Vinci even had a blueprint for an airplane in his drawings? I don't know if DaVinci was able to create an actual plane or a working model of one, but at least the Wright Brothers figured it out. That 'first' has been so important to everyone.
My late father, who opened the first used bookstore in the country, circa 1966, used to collect first editions of pulp fiction, or any first printings of his favorite book. He taught me how to spot a first edition--simply open past the title page and look at the little ditty telling you about the publisher and place of publication. If it just has a year, say 1976, and nothing else, it's a first edition. If you see multiple years or listings like 'first printing second printing', it is not. Fun useless trivia for my fellow lit lovers...😘
The family trip I'm on right now is a whole boatload of 'firsts' for them too (not me, but that's another blog involving a disastrous one-minute marriage in my early 20's): first time in San Francisco, first time in Seattle's Pike's Market, first jaunt up to the top (well, almost top) of the Space Needle.
These firsts are important for us as travelers, but also for me as a writer. Every time I hit the road, there're more opportunities to people-watch, eavesdrop (my favorite writing tool) blog, and just take myself out of my daily schedule, which is write, parent, write, market, write, parent, do laundry, lather, rinse, repeat. It's difficult to find the 'firsts' I want in that assembly line schedule.
As writers, we all want to do something first, to write a story that's never been told, introduce a style that's never been seen. I taught Creative Writing for many years, and if I learned anything, it was to try and find a 'first' in the WAY I was telling my story. There are no storylines that haven't been done, in myth or legend (or probably by Shakespeare), but if I can give my characters a new way to react to an old problem, or a different setting in which to face that old problem (New occupation. New planet?) or if the characters who are facing the problem are different (new race, new gender, new orientation.) from the usual, then the story becomes its own brand of 'first'. For Death by Diploma, since it is first in the Chalkboard Outlines cozy series, the whole BOOK is about firsts. It's Emma's first time in Colorado for her first teaching job, after her first (hopefully only) divorce, and it's fer shure everyone at Pinewood High school's first MURDER, so there ya go: firsts galore!
I've decided that if I can follow the best old adage regarding firsts--you know the one--Today is the FIRST Day of the Rest of Your Life, if I can live by that, then I'm doing okay.