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From the first sentence, we know if we are in confident, capable hands. The best writers establish authority immediately. There is a clear sense of control, which is earned with particular language, tone, detail, cadence, and by creating urgency—a simple question of “Why should I keep reading?” We will look at successful and unsuccessful openings, analyzing how the author has or hasn’t firmly captivated the reader. With the close readings, we will subject the texts to the same cold-reading standard I have at Tin House, where we receive upwards of 20,000 submissions a year.
ROB SPILLMAN is editor of Tin House magazine and editorial advisor of Tin House Books. He was previously the book columnist for Details magazine. He has written for Nerve, the New York Times Book Review, Premiere, Rolling Stone, Spin, Sports Illustrated, Vanity Fair, and Vogue, among other magazines, newspapers, and online magazines. He has also worked for Random House, Vanity Fair, and the New Yorker.