Opening Lines Part 1 – What Grabs You?

Laura: Should one start a piece of writing with a question?

Last year, in my quest to write the best possible opening for Truth Or Dare?, I learned that the first line of a story should have its reader asking questions. I knew the first paragraph should hook them and reel them in, as it is a fundamental of writing, but actively writing a line that makes the reader ask questions was something I hadn’t considered. With this in mind, The Romaniacs, Laura, Jan, Debbie, Celia and Lucie, have chosen opening sections from some of our favourite books.

These are mine:

1984. George Orwell. ‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.’

My Sister’s Keeper. Jodi Picoult. ‘When I was little, the great mystery to me wasn’t how babies were made, but why.’

The Lovely Bones. Alice Sebold. ‘My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6 1973.’

I love these three books and they have stayed with me since I first read them. Do these first lines have me asking questions? Yes. ‘Thirteen?’ ‘Why?’ and ‘What’s happened?’ Of course, you could be asking entirely different questions. Are you?

Sue : Whenever I read the opening to The Lovely Bones, I always say it in the girl’s voice from the film – very powerful.  I’ve not read the book but might give it a whirl.

Celia: Like Laura, I love unanswered questions and snaphots of characters that make me want to get inside their heads. I wanted include my favorite children’s books, but maybe that’s for another time – so here are my top three ‘grown-up’ opening lines.

Alexander McCall Smith – The Sunday Philosophy Club. Isobel Dalhousie saw the young man fall from the edge of the upper circle, from the gods. His flight was so sudden and short, and it was for less than a second that she saw him, hair tousled, upside down, his shirt and jacket up around his chest so that his midriff was exposed. And then, striking the edge of the grand circle, he disappeared headfirst towards the stalls below.

John Wyndham – The Midwich Cuckoos. One of the luckiest accidents in my wife’s life is that she happened to marry a man who was born on the 26th of September. But for that, we should both of us undoubtedly have been at home in Midwich on the night of the 26th-27th, with consequences which, I have never ceased to be thankful, she was spared.

Alan Plater – The Beiderbeck Affair. The school had been built during the 1960s and named after a councillor who had performed great service for the area. The voters, astute critics all, re-named it San Quentin High within a week of the official opening by a smooth man from Whitehall with a sharp suit and a forward-facing haircut. He seemed under the impression that he was in either Bradford or Wakefield and such transgressions are not forgiven in  the outer limits of Leeds. The consensus opinion afterwards was unanimous: the fellow was a hundred-carat prick, certain to go far. He did.

Laura: I remember watching The Beiderbeck Affair a few years ago. James Bolam and Barbara Flynn were the main actors. The opening of The Sunday Philosphy Club has intrigued me, Celia. I will be taking a look at that one.

Lucie: Opening lines are very important, as the others have agreed. The amount of times I have re-written the opening few lines of my first book and it probably still isn’t quite right. I like snappy, sarcastic and witty first lines. I like these types of books, too. I also like the opening lines to make me ask questions. I want to be dragged into the story, with no control over whether I should stop and read anything else. I want to not be able to put it down.

The following openings are just a couple of my most recent favourite. 

Jane Lovering – Please don’t stop the music: ‘You know you’re in for a bad day when the Devil eats your last HobNob.’ (I love how this catches your attention straight away. You tend to re-read it – ‘did she just say, the devil??’)

Marian Keyes – Watermelon: ‘February the fifteenth is a very special day for me. It is the day I gave birth to my first child. It is also the day my husband left me. As he was present at the birth I can only assume the two events weren’t entirely unrelated.’ (Straight away you get the authors voice through here. You get what the tone of the book is going to be.)

Stephenie Meyer – Twilight: I’d never given much thought to how I would die – though I’d had reason enough in the last few months – but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this. (This makes the reader ask questions from the offset. Why has this person died? How did it happen then, if it’s not how they imagined? What did they imagine would happen?)


Spooky that I considered Lucie’s suggestion of Watermelon by Marian Keyes as one of my choices. It was a great opening and a novel that didn’t disappoint. After much deliberation, I’ve chosen a diverse range of my best opening lines but one thing they all have in common is the opening raises a question in my mind. I have to read on, which, after all is the whole point.

Number one (and no surprises as it’s in my top five novels of all time) is Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Bronte.  

“There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.”

And very like Sue’s comment about the ‘Lovely Bones’ and how the girl’s voice stays in her head, The Secret Life of Bees’ by Sue Monk Kidd has the same effect for me (both the book and film) and is my second choice…

“At night I would lie in bed and watch the show, how bees squeezed through the cracks of my bedroom wall and flew circles around the room, making that propeller sound, a high-pitched zzzzzz that hummed along my skin.”

My final choice nearly included the opening of Precious Bane by Mary Webb. However, seeing as I struggled to read further than the first few pages I thought I’d better stick with a book  I’d actually finished!

So instead, here’s the opening of ‘If nobody speaks of remarkable things’ by Jon McGregor.

“If you listen, you can hear it.

The city it sings. 

If you stand quietly, at the foot of the garden, in the middle of a street, on the roof of a house.

It’s clearest at night, when the sound cuts more sharply across the surface of things, when the song reaches out to a place inside you.

It’s a wordless song, for the most, but it’s a song all the same, and nobody hearing it could doubt when it sings. And the song sings the loudest when you pick out each note…”

This is a real ‘Marmite’ book; you either love it or hate it. For me, it was an intriguing opening that hooked instantly and continued to grip me with its vivid descriptions and gripping pace to the end. 


The first opening line I’ve picked doesn’t paint the rosiest of pictures but it reeled me in as I instantly wanted to know “Why?” The novel itself affected me, emotionally, for days. 

Maggie O’Farrell – After You’d Gone:  ‘The day she would try to kill herself, she realised winter was coming again.’

My second choice simply made me think, “Ah, bless…” and want to root for the character from the outset.

David Nicholls – Starter for Ten: ‘All young people worry about things, it’s a natural and inevitable part of growing up, and at the age of sixteen my greatest anxiety in life was that I’d never again achieve anything as good, or pure, or noble, or true, as my O-level results.’

My third choice hooked me because this character got straight to the point, no messin’.

Susan Howatch – Penmarric : I was ten years old when I first saw the Inheritance and twenty years old when I first saw Janna Roslyn, but my reaction to both was identical. I wanted them.

So these were ours – we’d love to hear some of yours

Hero or Anti-hero? Help me find Mr Right

Well, I thought I’d finish the week as we started it; with a post about ideal men.

I think about men quite a lot these days, obviously when I’m writing, but also because I’ve found myself single again after twenty-two years with someone I thought was Mr Right. After months of sorting practical matters, soul-searching and re-discovering the girl I used to be, I’m coming through the other side. Being an eternal optimist and true romantic I realise not all men are swines or lack scruples and integrity. So here I am; a peri-menopausal, middle-aged old bird, with two sons, a cat and Labrador puppy, about to start contemplating whether I’ll find my ideal man again.

According to friends, I’ll discover him in the most unlikely of places and when I least expect it. If all else fails, Sainsbury’s on Friday night (‘singles night’) is a sure bet. It seems a little drastic to go browsing for more than just food and hit on some poor unsuspecting guy who happens to pass me along the frozen food aisles. What am I meant to do – somehow bump trolleys, check him out while giving the inside of his basket the once over, to see if it’s full of microwave meals for one and thus make him a prospective beau? Really, I’m not that desperate.

I admit; I rather like being single, being able to do as I please. So it’s going to take a rather special man to get me to give up my independence, persuade me to hand over the remote control and switch off the electric blanket that stays on all night if I choose! And just say I did go to the supermarket to pick my ideal man off a shelf. What would he be like? I suppose there are some basic pre-requisites;

–          Somewhere between Shrek and Pierce Brosnan would be good.

–          No grease monkeys – and he must have clean hands and short nails

–          Clean shoes. (Yes, you may laugh but my Nan always told me you can tell a lot from a man by his shoes, and I don’t just mean the size of his feet!)

–          A man with the same values as me

–          A man of integrity

–          Patience and understanding are imperative; especially as it’s probable at our stage in life we’ll both have baggage and children.

–          The ability to make me laugh. Give me laughter over looks any day. Well, dashing good looks, charm and the appeal of an Alpha Male are all well and good if it’s simply going to be a fling or dalliance, but if I want a man to spend the next twenty-two years with, I’ll want one with a bit more substance.

Perhaps it’s my own experiences that have made me more realistic, but I’m not expecting, nor do I particularly want, whisking away by a knight in shining armour on his white horse for a lifetime of happy ever after. I think like many women these days, and certainly the Romantic Novelist, the idea of the predominant Alpha Male has evolved somewhat over the years. We writers focus more on the psychological and spiritual aspect of our heroes in order to make them true to life and want our readers to be intrigued and have sympathy. We’ve developed the structure of a story so the main character has more of a clear character arc and changes throughout the course of the novel, until the climax shows him to be a true hero at last.

Like the hero character of Romance novels, my ideal man will have emotional depth and flaws. Give me a tortured soul over a brave heart any day. Flaws and the complexity of the character are what will hook me and really get hold of my heart. Imagine a man who has the propensity to bruise my heart or make it bleed and truly hurt you…

I know put like that it sounds a frightening prospect and you may think having been hurt already it seems a rather macabre way to look at a potential suitor, but perhaps it illustrates the point better if I tell you the first hero character I fell in love with in a novel was Mr Rochester from Jane Eyre, closely followed by the fathomless, brooding and unforgiving Heathcliffe in Wuthering Heights.

Neither of them might be instantly loveable, yet they both have the ability to grab me by the heart and pull me to them in a heart-stopping, emotion-wrenching, all-consuming kind of way with their complex characters. Mr Rochester might be horribly flawed but I see his vulnerability and forgive him, knowing he is trapped by his predicament in a wretched life.

It’s ironic that by the end Mr Rochester shows he’s the archetypal Alpha male and redeems himself when he saves his mad wife from the attic, in the process losing his house and to the peril of his own well-being. Do you see what I mean? How could I not love him?

Is it simply something that captures my romantic, creative mind about the anti-hero? Or is it the same for you? Don’t we all just love the underdog? And isn’t it the case anyway that lots of men might look perfect from a distance, but beneath it all they are probably an anti-hero, or at any rate a struggling knight-in-the-making. It’s when you get close enough to touch them that their flaws become more obvious, just like the rest of us.

Well, I’d better get back to my quest to find my own terrific hero and happy ending. Perhaps instead of  looking for Mr Right, I’ll try for Mr ‘Right Enough.’ Or maybe I’ll do what was suggested to me by a friend.  She said if I kiss enough frogs, one day I’ll find a Prince!

Bye for now

Debbie xx


PS – We’d love to know what your ideal man is like, both in life and the kind you like to read about.

Is it the anti-hero with the troubled persona or the charismatic hero who always gets it right?



From Sorrento to Sainsbury’s Cheese Counter…

I recently met up with some ex-work colleagues for a pizza and a bottle of wine (alright, it may have been two bottles…) and we started discussing which places held the fondest or funniest memories for us. Most tales were holiday or honeymoon related, incorporating more than a splash of romance.

A favourite of mine was Sorrento, in Italy. The first time Dave and I visited there together, I can remember wondering when the oxygen masks were going to drop, as our coach began the long, slow, incredibly bendy steep climb up to our hotel. My apprehension soon vanished though, when I saw the spectacular view out over the bay we had. We used to sit in the lush gardens in those very chairs pictured below. It felt like the whole world had stopped turning. Picture postcard perfect.

Of course, Paris and Rome were mentioned, justifiably so, as were Las Vegas, Barbados and The Maldives. So too, several beautiful British locations including Cornwall, Loch Lomond and the charming Yorkshire Dales…

Then, suddenly, the lone male voice from the head of the table piped up: “Sainsbury’s cheese counter!”


We all sat there awaiting the punchline.

“It was where Gillian, my wife, worked when I first met her,” he said, wrong-footing us all, “I dread to think how much cheddar I bought, trying to pluck up the courage to ask her out. My fridge was packed solid with the stuff for weeks. I still can’t walk past there without grinning.”

Well, it might have lacked the grace and glitz of its conversational predecessors, but it certainly drew the biggest collective sigh of the evening.

Honours even, I’d say…

Which place, I wonder, holds special memories for you?

Jan x

Waiting for a sign…

I’m not very good at waiting.

I try distracting myself with other tasks. Yesterday, I even washed my car. It had been so long, and my car was so dirty, half the neighbourhood came out to watch and take photos. It may end up in my local paper. I thought it was going to get to the point where I’d have to do some ironing…

But no. As of today, the wait is over. Or just beginning. I don’t know yet, do I? And I can’t find out today.

Because today I saw one magpie on my way to work. My lucky top is in the wash, and then needs to go in the never-to-be-ironed ironing pile before I can wear it again and I didn’t even get out of the office for a coffee.

Now… if it had been yesterday, that would have been a different matter. Yesterday, I was wearing my lucky top, I saw two lots of two magpies (that doesn’t count as four, because I saw them separately. Two pairs, double joy.) When I went into Costa Coffee, my favourite table was free – and it’s not just my favourite table, it’s my lucky table. If I sit there and check my emails – I’ll get good news. It’s happened three times now so it’s definitely true.

But this particular email, the one I’ve been waiting for, didn’t come through yesterday; it came through this morning, when all of the signs were wrong… Does it mean it’s definitely bad news? And will it really make a difference if I wait until the signs are better to open it ?

I could borrow next door’s black cat – force it to cross my path, lay a trail of cat treats. But I’m never sure if that’s good luck or bad luck?

Or I could drive around until I see two magpies…


Or I could just open the email.

Why do we writers put ourselves through this? End up reduced to the point of pushing a black cat along in front of us, buying twelve magazines in order to find one that has good stars for the month? Or is that just me? Please tell me some of you have lucky exam pants or lucky interview socks, or a special pen that’s the only one you can use if you want a piece of writing to go well?

It’s probably a rejection. I shall prepare myself for it to be a rejection. I have wine, I have chocolate, I can cope.

But what if it’s a yes? What if this is the one? The good news, the acceptance, the winner, the squillion pound book deal? Isn’t that why we put ourselves through it? Because of that What If? The rejections mean a momentary pang of disappointment. But an acceptance – the acceptance – could change my life…

If the signs are right, of course.

So will this be a yes? Only one way to find out… see you all later, I’m off to open some emails…

Vanessa x

Research – Some love it, some hate it

I briefly spoke about research on my blog recently, so I thought I would speak again in more detail here.

Before I started my writing journey, I had absolutely no idea how much research went into writing a book. It’s a made up story, surely it’s just a case of writing it? This was how I used to think. When you are a reader, you tend to just read it. There is no thinking, ‘I wonder how she knows that’ or ‘is that realistically the amount of time it takes to sell a house.’ I never used to read and think these things. I was so wrapped up and lost in the story, I would simply read. I didn’t appreciate how much research had gone into writing just that one scene, or chapter or even the whole book.

The story has to be viable and believable and most importantly, realistic. This might not necessarily be the case if you are writing paranormal or the like, but for me, I write contemporary romance and so far all my stories are written about real, everyday life. So it needs to be realistic.

A lot of research went into my first novel. Even when I was in my most recent draft stage, I was still spotting things and having to go off and check. Research for me has come in many forms. For example, the first book saw me speaking to a policewoman, both an estate agent and a lettings agent, a doctor, two people who had suffered grief in two very different ways and a widow. I not only had to speak to people about technical things to make sure what I was saying was right, but also, to a number of people purely to make sure I was getting the emotion and ‘feeling’ right. There is nothing that worries me more, when writing a book, than if a reader reads it and thinks, ‘well she obviously didn’t do her homework’ or ‘that’s just not how it feels.’ Each and every person and organisation I have spoken to have been an immense help in making sure I get it right.

I must say, I am enjoying the research for my second novel very much. And it has nothing at all to do with the fact that it means dreaming up a hunky paramedic and eating cakes. Nothing at all!

Bakery drawing

I am only in the first draft of the novel but so far I have been working very closely with a lovely paramedic who has been helping me get all the technicalities right and making sure I am not way off the mark. From what to do when a call comes in, to shift patterns and annual leave. I have spoken with a lovely lady who runs her own baking business and makes wonderful cakes in all shapes, sizes and flavours and I am currently deciding which cakes will be in my case that I am ordering – you have to try these things if you’re to write about them, am I right? I found it impossible to find the bakery setting for my story in picture form. I work very well from visual inspiration and so I like to see what I am writing. I regularly look on Rightmove to find the rooms where some scenes take place. But finding a bakery, exactly how it was in my head, didn’t prove successful. So, I took to pen and paper and drew my own. It’s not very technical but it helps me to envisage where the heroine is standing and moving around when I am writing about her.

Without giving too much away, I have been on a number of sites to get information about a sensitive subject, of which is my heroines past and has shaped the person she is today and I am also about to contact a lovely lady who has offered to help with another very sensitive subject, this time, linked with my hero.

It is hard, once you grasp onto something, to know where to draw the line. In both books so far, I deal with very hard, emotional situations and topics and so I have to speak with people about their own experiences and it can be very hard. I would like to just say that all the people that have helped in this way have always offered to talk to me; I will never force anyone to talk about or expose any part of their experiences that they don’t want to. But it is important for me to really write it true to the character, and this means me hearing it from first hand experience. This is the hard part of research for me. I find it emotionally draining sometimes and it is very hard to hear. These people have all been so brave and I thank each and every one of them who have helped so far, and those who will in the future.

I do love doing the research that involves ogling hot men, eating cake and taking pictures of scenery, buildings and objects. I also very much enjoy learning about new professions. I had no idea how much goes on behind the scenes with paramedics. It has consumed my mind and I cannot pass a hospital, ambulance or green all-in-one without thinking, ‘do I need this?’ ‘can I use this?‘what are they doing?’ ‘what are they saying?’ Even my daughter now, as we drive, point out the ambulances to me! And even a recent situation in a pub where there was a need to call an ambulance to the group of women I was with, once everything was OK and the lady who was poorly had recovered and was laughing and joking, I couldn’t hold back from throwing in a few questions to the paramedic and asking for his email address. *I stress that the lady was indeed OK, and she was joking about me grilling him with questions. I was not doing this whilst she was feeling poorly*

As you can see, I take research very seriously and try to pluck it from any situation. You have to. I now carry a notebook and a pen everywhere I go, just incase. You never know when you will bump into someone who can answer a few questions for you or give you a number/email of someone who can.

This is my desk at the moment with all my research and planning for book two. I have my visuals, my paramedic shift rota, my month planner, beginnings of my timeline, spider graph for hero and heroine and the starting’s of a family tree for both hero and heroine. None of which will physically be in the book, but it is all needed to frame the basis of the story. And this is only the beginning….

Love Lucie x

Do you like to do research? Does it consume your brain like it does mine?

Romaniac Hunky Heroes but Who Are Yours?

Mondays can be a drag, so we thought we’d brighten up the start of the week

with some eye candy.  

What do you think?  We would love to know who your hero is.

Celia’s Hero: Here’s Roger Daltrey; the man who haunted my teenage dreams. Finally got to see him for my 40th birthday, and he was wearing…beige. At least it wasn’t an anorak. Still amazing after all these years, even though he now spends less time strutting than running a fish farm, apparently. Am sure I could cope with the scales getting everywhere – all that smouldering, and you’d never be short of something for dinner.

Sue’s Hero : Although heroes have come and gone over time, for a good twenty years or so now, one has endured.  I first set eyes on him in ‘The Untouchables’ and then later on in ‘Godfather III’. He has starred with Al Pacino, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Dustin Hoffman to name but a few. He played a true romantic hero alongside Meg Ryan in ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’ and in real life he is a devoted father of four. My hero is the gorgeous Andy Garcia.

Vanessa:  I used to get crushes on heroes from books, especially a bad boy turned good … Rupert Campbell-Black, the handsomest man in England was a great hero – but only after he fell in love with Taggie and stopped being so mean. But the greatest, for me, is the lovely Mr Darcy. For so long, he had to stride around solely in my imagination, being all scowly and yummy. Then, one happy day in 1996, the BBC brought him to life for me in the form of Colin Firth. And as an extra special treat, they even added a wet-shirt, striding out of a lake scene … sigh

Liz’s hunky hero is the delicious Gerard Butler


Catherine needed just one word to describe Tom Hardy – ‘Drool’

            Jan : The first time Rupert Penry – Jones rattled my radar was when I saw him in Spooks, playing Adam Carter. Phewee…

Lucie: Seeing as Liz got in before me with the absolutely gorgeous Gerard Butler, I’ve agreed to let him go *sigh* and drool over my other favorite hunky man….Bradley Cooper. Ah, those eyes….


Debbie : Sorry girls. He may not be Hollywood, but a bit like Sue, I’ve loved this man for twenty years of my life. For me, any man who looks like this, stands the test of time and can serenade is a hero …

…for me anyway

Laura: Top Gun, (Pilot’s uniform), A Few Good Men (white uniform), Mission Impossibles (black uniform), Risky Business (socks and pants) – such a versatile dresser and I’d be his wingman any day. Tom Cruise.

When making a wish turns into romantic arson…


I’d only been living in my new house for three weeks when I set fire to the neighbour’s garden.

My housemate and I had made a last minute, spontaneous decision to go out for a few drinks on Saturday evening. During the several hours it took to apply our make up just right and curl our hair to create enough volume, we decided to take a little break. And that’s where it all went wrong.

So there we were, stood with our hair in curlers and make up half applied, glasses of wine in hand and wearing what can only be described as an interesting ensemble of clothes. Sporting a dress over jeans whilst wearing one purple shoe and one red shoe, I had not got round to asking my friend which of the collection I should wear when she told me she had an idea and we ventured downstairs and into the garden.

The Chinese lanterns I had seen before had been floating beautifully and peacefully into the sky with a sense of calm, but then those lanterns hadn’t been touched by our powers of destruction. It also hadn’t been windy when I had seen them, which was the leading problem in our disaster.
It took some time to light the lantern with the breeze but eventually we got there. 

Following the normal tradition, we made a wish and after several attempts of letting go it eventually began to float into the air. Our eyes followed it upwards when suddenly a gust of wind appeared and carried it around the side of the house at high speed.
Both my friend and I looked at each other in horror before rushing out of the garden to follow the lantern.

Conscious of the flammable fire trap we had just released into the street, I didn’t stop to think about what I must have looked like. Instead, without sparing a thought on my curler crowded head and mismatching dress, jeans and shoes combo, I clambered after the lantern as the wind pushed it towards a car driving down the road. Bouncing off of the car it wrapped itself around a lamppost. The wine swished out of my glass as I reached to grab it, missing it as it slipped
back into the wind and went hurtling into a neighbour’s front garden.

The branches of a perfectly pruned plant pierced the lantern and poked into the flames. Within seconds the smell of burning spread across the street as the angry flames consumed the plant. There was nothing peaceful about this lantern.

Just as I was contemplating whether or not to attempt the ‘drop and roll’ technique to put out the flames, the door of the house opened.

How would I ever begin to explain this? Even with the most logical of explanations, my neighbour was never going to take my apology serious whilst I stood there like a piece of Velcro that had jumped in the wardrobe. All we were trying to do was set off a little peaceful lantern in the hope our wishes may come
true. Who was to know it would turn into arson?

Feeling a swish of panic fly through me, I looked up at the door with an apologetic expression and opened my mouth to begin my explanation, but my words wouldn’t come out. As I stared at the person standing there, it dawned on me. Perhaps my wish had just been granted…

Going back to our roots?

I guess we’ve all got different memories and experiences of school. Some probably starting scribbling stories as soon as our fat little fingers could clutch a pencil, some of us preferred putting the pencil up our noses. I love being part of school life, where both of the above are happening daily. That’s why I’ve chosen World Book Day to write my blog. As you read this I’ll be leading a day of wild fun dressed as Super-Punctuation-Woman, covered in commas, exclamation marks and the like, wearing tall boots, lycra and a red cloak (it’s Dad’s Day in school too – what can I say?) and we’ll all be working like mad to bring the reading buzz into the children’s lives, followed closely by the writing buzz. But – and this comes straight from the mouth of my street-wise Year Five and Six book club – the thing that inspires their reading and writing more than anything else is the chance to talk – to share ideas, argue, steal good words from each other, write crazy plans that are messy and full of pictures, and generally relax and enjoy it.

The Romaniacs, to me, is like being back at school, but with a grown-up (well, almost) group of friends who love to talk, even if it usually has to be online. We discuss anything and everything, and one of the great things about being with a trusted group is that you can say what you think without rehearsing it to see if it’s ok. This sometimes makes for foot-in-mouth moments but it’s never boring. So my advice to would be writers, whatever age you happen to be, is to join a group and get talking.

What turned you on/off about writing or reading at school?
Do you think talk matters, or is silence golden?