Library Literary Contests

First Line Literary Contest

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." - A Tale of Two Cities

"Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board." - Their Eyes Were Watching God

"All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." - Anna Karenina

Just in time for Summer Reading, the University of North Florida's Carpenter Library invites Ospreys to compose their best opening line to an imaginary novel. Any topic or genre is acceptable, as long as your first sentence is original and draws us in, leaving us craving more. All UNF students, faculty, and staff are welcome to participate.

For inspiration, check out this list of "83 Opening Lines Of Famous Books That Will Make You Want To Read Them Now."


Contest Rules:

  1. Participants must be a current UNF affiliate (student, faculty, or staff)

  2. Entries must be submitted by the deadline

  3. Submissions will be judged by a blind review panel composed of UNF Library faculty and staff 

  4. Participants may submit multiple entries, but can only win one prize

  5. Submissions must be one sentence in length, with a maximum of 300 characters

  6. Submissions that violate privacy, promote illegal activity, or incite violence will be disqualified

2021 Contest

First Line Literary Contest graphicOur inaugural First Line Literary Contest received 110 entries from students, faculty and staff. Thank you to all who entered! The winners were as follows:

First place:

I was on the fence about it —literally—I clung to the chain links.

Emmary Barnett – Undergraduate Student, English

Second place:

There were very few moments that stood out in Archibald Humphrey's life, but had he known this one would be his last, he would've chosen a better tie.

Justin Crandall – Staff Member, English Language Program

Third place:

It was the sixth Saturday in June and the cicadas had ceased their summer song.

Catherine Dolak – Undergraduate Student, English


Runner-Up First Lines

Out of the ashes and smoke came a memory that had been long forgotten. – Kellie Holden, Undergraduate Student, Biomedical Sciences

The doorbell rang at half past two, the dog barked thrice, and I nearly died.  – Kellie Holden, Undergraduate Student, Biomedical Sciences

The fetid smell of my own corpse followed me around the house and I marveled at the unfairness of it all. – Amber Davis, Undergraduate Student, Biology

Mother taught me to always pick wilted flowers for the dead as they never seemed to mind a bouquet of day-old daffodils. – Timothy Cheney, Staff Member, CCI

She created man and the stars wept; for all that was holy was lost. – Daphne Hall, Undergraduate Student, English

Maybe if I start at the end this won’t hurt as much. – Kaitlyn Vlasto, Undergraduate Student, Biomedical Sciences

As my trembling fingers fumbled around in my back right pocket, I mumbled a silent prayer, pleading that my worst nightmare had not just become a reality. – Hannah Harwick, Undergraduate Student, Business Management

All gringas were the same, with the straw colored hair and the familiar gaze of colloquialism in their hungry eyes. – Christina Smith, Graduate Student, Educational Leadership

2022 Contest

First Line Literary Contest graphicOur second annual First Line Literary Contest received 96 entries from students, faculty and staff. Thanks to everyone who entered! The winners were as follows:

First place:

They say that death is inevitable, but I have better things to do with my time.

Caitlin Zarzeczny – Graduate Student, Psychological Science

Second place:

There are no more broken hearts around here, only pacemakers and pain killers.

Akintoye Oyedola – Undergraduate Student, Information Technology

Third place:

There are two things that keep me awake at night: the crow in the old oak tree and the dead man in my attic.

Elizabeth Tarter – Undergraduate Student, History


Runner-Up First Lines

Life is like a frog on a window. – Carter Mudgett, Undergraduate Student, Communication

My Aunt Tina hated the water, but yesterday on her 94 birthday we saw her standing at the edge of the dock  naked and dancing.  – Beth McBride, Graduate Student, Education - Curriculum and Instruction

Jared said that Angie always smelled like flowers, but five minutes into my blind date with her, I figured he must have meant cauliflowers. – Alyssa Ortiz, Staff Member, Enrollment Services

For all her hindsight, you'd think she would have some insight. – Ainsley Ballou, Undergraduate Student, Communication

May 23rd, 2025: the day no one died. – Jake Tedder, Undergraduate Student, English

“It all started the summer I cut my own bangs...” – Lauryn Sims, Undergraduate Student, Transportation and Logistics

I was stranded on the ocean, rotting slowly on a raft of haggard hopes and dead dreams. – Hannah Frison, Undergraduate Student, Chemistry

2023 Contest

Our third annual First Line Literary Contest received 82 entries from students, faculty and staff. Thanks to everyone who entered! The winners were as follows:

First place:

Having been betrayed by my wife, best friend, both parents, and even my cocker spaniel, I have no one left to confide in except you, dear reader.

Charles Vollers – Undergraduate Student, Interdisciplinary Studies

Second place (TIE)

On the day of my wedding, I wore a beautiful white dress, a radiant smile, and a device capable of bringing down a small government.


In the depths of a forgotten world, where dreams entwined with reality and secrets whispered on the wind, a single spark ignited the flame of destiny.

Kimberly Laynes – Graduate Student, Computer Science

Third place:

I am hidden away--please don't tell anyone you've found me; do it tomorrow instead of today, let me sleep for the moment.

Carter Montgomery – Staff Member, Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work


Runner-Up First Lines

The old house stood silent, its windows veiled by shadows, harboring secrets that whispered through its aging walls. – Jeannie Ly, Undergraduate Student, English

Truth be told, I'm a liar. – Hannah Frison, Undergraduate Student, Chemistry

The tired young girl ran desperately through the vast, empty plain, the cold rain washing her wounds, the remnants of the past she was escaping. – Colleen Hiltonen, Undergraduate Student, English Education

“Roses are red, violets are blue, he told me it would only hurt for a second but that was 4,992 seconds ago.”  – Lauren Harris, Undergraduate Student, Interdisciplinary Studies

Something deep within me is rotting and rusted, and the only thing I can do about it is let it happen and hope to god somebody notices. – Rose-Ayliyha Hester, Undergraduate Student, English

In the depths of the ancient forest, where shadows writhe and whispers abound, a chilling breeze carried the haunting words: "Beware, for in these woods, the trees hunger for souls." – KaNise Henderson, Undergraduate Student, Graphic Design and Digital Media

In the oppressive swelter of a Florida summer, where the air clung to my skin like a second layer of existence, I stumbled upon a weathered journal that whispered secrets of buried treasure and unsolved mysteries, beckoning me into a world of adventure I never knew I craved. – KaNise Henderson, Undergraduate Student, Graphic Design and Digital Media

She could see nothing in the darkness of the room that hid her, and all she could hear were footsteps. – George Boston, Staff Member, Graduate School

It all started with a greasy cheese pizza and a Sprite on the cusp of a Sunday morning. – Hannah Frison, Undergraduate Student, Chemistry

“…In addition, employee morale has plummeted since the local union representative was devoured by wild dingoes at the annual company picnic.”  – Charles Vollers, Undergraduate Student, Interdisciplinary Studies