OUTSIDE THE LIMELIGHT’s new first line


Well, I am very excited right now about a very small (to you), writerly thing. I came up with a new first line for the opening chapter of my forthcoming ballet novel, Outside the Limelight.   The old first line was sending the story in sorta the wrong direction, and it was using the wrong authorial voice anyway (literary versus conversational). It was killing me. I saw its flaw, but it was a subtle thing, and I didn’t know how to fix it. For, like, twelve months, I looked at it, stumped.

The funny thing, is, for first lines, it’s rather dull. Ready for it?

Here goes.


It all starts and ends with the artistic director.

And that’s it.

You are likely scratching your head over my enthusiasm, especially if you enjoyed the first line of  my first ballet novel, Off Balance (“On Saturday night Alice Willoughby’s world, her glittering soloist’s career, came apart with a single misstep executed in front of 2000 spectators at San Francisco’s California Civic Theater”) and/or the first line of my Africa novel, Black Ivory Tango (“The first thing I noticed was the AK-47, cradled in the arms of the Gabonese military checkpoint guard”).

But the very cool thing is, with this one line, the whole story gets this little slant, this nub of extra emphasis on the artistic director and how he is going to dramatically affect these two dance sisters’ lives, and ooh, {{shivers!}} that totally works.

Want to see the old first line? Although, by itself, it’s rather dull (what had I been thinking?) so here is the second line, too.

“Four hours to curtain, the stage looked barren with just one dancer and partial lighting streaming from the sidelight booms and a few overhead fixtures. The calm pervading the darkened 2000-seat California Civic Theater would dissipate in a matter of hours, but right now this place that manufactured art, artifice and illusion, with its dark, hidden wings, scrims, sets, pulleys, was largely silent, expectant.”

Okay, pretty writing. Elegant. But, in truth, for an opener… yawn.

And now I’ll share the second line of Outside the Limelight, because I’m feeling all bubbly and adventurous about a reveal. (I should also mention that there’s a prologue now, recently added, ironically during my attempt to trim the story’s word count, but let’s not muck up the issue.)

“It all starts and ends with the artistic director. Casting in ballets. Daily rehearsal schedules. Careers. One word from him, an index finger raised, a frown creasing his brow, could change everything.”

Okay, so that was more than two sentences there. Two sentences, five — same difference.


Anyway, you’ll be hearing more about Outside the Limelight as I finish up revisions that are really, really wanting to take a long time — months (even, gulp! a year?!) when I’d been anticipating weeks. But trust me, dear reader. It will be worth the wait. I rewrote the final chapter a few months ago and I LOVE the revision and mood in which the story ends now. Again, there’s something subtle and understated going on, that makes the story even stronger, in that weird way that spending tons of time on a revision can do. When you slow down, way down, answers waft over, and junky stuff wafts away. Pretty cool.

Outside the Limelight will release on October 30th. (You can buy it HERE!) Some time in October, I’ll do a fuller reveal, speak more candidly about the plot, but as the opening scene includes spoilers for how Off Balance ends, I’ll continue to be mysterious a few months longer. Here’s a hint, though. Outside the Limelight Is about sisters. Loyalties. Risks. What happens when the career you’ve trained your entire life for is suddenly at risk. And, as we all now know, it all begins and ends with the artistic director.

George Balanchine and his dancers



1 thought on “OUTSIDE THE LIMELIGHT’s new first line”

  1. I have to share something fun with all of you. Kirk’s Reviews gave OUTSIDE THE LIMELIGHT a starred review, and said this about my new first line – woo hoo! Talk about affirmation that I made the right choice!

    “The quiet beauty of the prose rarely calls attention to itself but carries the reader smoothly through the tale with no bumps in the road (“It all starts and ends with the artistic director. Casting in ballets. Daily rehearsal schedules. Careers. One word from him, an index finger raised, a frown creasing his brow, could change everything”). And the glossary of dance terms at the end of the book proves a marvelous resource for the uninitiated. This is a novel both for ballet lovers and those new to the art.” Here’s a link to the whole review: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/terez-mertes-rose/outside-limelight/

    One last bit of great news. I was thrilled to discover, 10 days ago, that Kirkus had picked OUTSIDE THE LIMELIGHT to be a Kirkus Indie Books of the Month Selection, for January 2017. A HUGE honor – wow, did THAT make up for an otherwise bad week!


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