Accomplishments and Records

First Impressions Are So Important

first-linesThe Lyttle Lytton Contest honors the author who writes the worst opening line to his or her novel. It is named in honor of Edward George Bullwer-Lytton, who opened his 1830 novel Paul Clifford with the immortal words, “It was a dark and stormy night.”

Recent winners include:

  • 2014 – “‘Together, we will beat them all,’ she whispered, caressing the circlet-girt fontanelles of her #royalbaby.” (Alex Thorpe)
  • 2014 honorable mention — “Birth defects affect us all, but particularly families with children who have birth defects.” (Rowan Jacobs)
  • 2013 – “The men greeted each other, wearing various smiles on their faces.” (Noah MacAulay)
  • 2012 – “Agent Jeffrey’s trained eyes rolled carefully around the room, taking in the sights and sounds.” (Davian Aw)
  • 2011 – “The red hot sun rose in the cold blue sky.” (Judy Dean)
  • 2010 – “”I shouldn’t be saying this, but I think I’ll love you always, baby, always,” Adam cried into the email. ” (Shexmus Amed)
  • 2009 – “The mighty frigate Indestructible rounded the Horn of Africa and lurched east’ard.” (Pete Wirtala)
  • 2008 – “Because they had not repented, the angel stabbed the unrepentant couple thirteen times, with its sword.” (Graham Swanson)
  • 2007 – “It clawed its way out of Katie, bit through the cord and started clearing.” (Gunther Schmidl)
  • 2006 – “This is the cipher key for all that follows: |||||| || |!” (P. Scott Hamilton)
  • 2005 – “John, surfing, said to his mother, surfing beside him, ‘How do you like surfing?’ ” (Eric Davis)
  • 2004 – “This is the story of your mom’s life.” (Rachel Lambert)
  • 2003 – “For centuries, man had watched the clouds; now, they were watching him.” (Stephen Sachs)
  • 2002 – “The pain wouldn’t stop, and Vern still had three cats left.” (Andrew Davis)
  • 2001 – “Turning, I mentally digested all of what you, the reader, are about to find out heartbreakingly.” (Top Changwatchai)

In addition to the main contest, others are offered from year to year. The winners of those are:

  • Freeform contest, 2007 – “Scaling Everest was, by far, the most amazing and transformative experience of my life. Unfortunately, this is a thesis on context-free grammars.” (Jonathan Blum)
  • Paragraph contest, 2006 – “The evil Intergalactic Emperor surveyed the destruction he wrought. ‘Booyah!’ he cried with glee. ‘I’m in ur base! I’m killing all ur mans!’ ” (James Wall)
  • Paul Clifford contest, 2003 – “It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents – except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness. Steeling himself for battle, Fyandor, the oldest and bravest of the lamps, proclaimed, ‘Nay, foul wind, this will not be the night of our extinguishment!’ ” (anonymous)
  • Last line contest, 2002 – ” ‘Lawd a’mighty,’ howled Caleb, to the consternation of those few who still remained in the helpless, drifting lifeboat, ‘some of y’all are lookin’ mighty tasty!’ ” (Mark Silcox)


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