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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Some thoughts on critiquing

Many years ago, I signed up for a fiction writers class. In this class, I found not only a gifted professor but a writing group which met regularly for at least a couple of years and now still meets sporadically. There are some really talented writers in there. None of us were published then and I think almost everyone has sold at least one thing now.

Which brings me to my next point, this group is no longer just a bunch of critique partners, they are my friends. One of them is getting married on New Year's Eve and I think most of us are going. Our submissions to the group have dropped dramatically. Some of this is a function of life but I wonder if some of it has to do with the discomfort of critiquing something someone close to you has written? I know I am never harsh on a critique with anyone but now I worry if I will offend a friend. So I was strangely relieved when I got this as a comment on my last critique.

"You may not want to read it – not as jazzed about this one as much as the rest of your stuff."

Don't get me wrong, I would always rather blow people away with fantastic stories but I also know the likelihood of that happening every time is not possible. She and another critique partner pointed out some pretty big holes. Of course, there was also the guy who said it was the best thing I'd ever written and then tried to make it go into a world ending scenario with a new Adam and Eve which lost me a little. It wasn't that I didn't like what he said but he didn't give me any concrete ways to make the story better which in the end is what you want when someone reads your stuff. I don't know if anyone else has experienced this but I wonder how the friend phenomena extends to book reviews? I don't think I could give any of them a bad book review even if I hated it (none of them have published a book yet so I can say that without fear at this point). Sure, before it is out I can critique like crazy because I want it to be the best it can be, but what about after?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

How many days until Christmas?

In case you don't have a six-year old to ask you this question multiple times each day since before Halloween, the answer is 12 and that would be not including today. Since that is always his follow-up question, whether I am including the current day or not. If you are not reading this on Tuesday, subtract how many days after that from 12.

I know why he is excited. I can remember well wiggling in bed, listening to a Christmas record, trying to fall asleep so Santa would come but then also dissecting every noise in case somehow I'd faked him out and he'd arrived while I was still awake. Then, all you had to do was leap out of bed at an ungodly hour in darkness, pull your parents out of their bed, and then go discover what Santa brought you.

It's a little different on the other side. There is a lot more work as an adult. Someday, I want to become that mother that hums while decorating with the smell of baking cookies in the air. Then tucks her little ones in bed with a holiday story. Right now, I'm the mother that yells at her daughter to go to bed while sitting at the table with her son trying to help him finish creating his 3-D model of a flower he created that is due tomorrow that we both forgot about. As for the cookie smell, Ha. I had to carry the garbage out because a different sort of odor filled the air.

I also have this splitting headache but worse than anything else, I don't have a book to read. It is that awkward time of year when I don't feel like I can buy myself new books. My birthday is a week before Christmas and then, of course, there is Christmas. All those who love me and even those who barely tolerate me but feel obligated in some way to get me a gift, know I love books, all shapes, sizes and forms of them. So I get books, I get gift cards, and hopefully I'll get some Kindle credit. Because of that, I don't feel like I can buy books today or tomorrow or at least until my birthday. But even then I can't buy the ones I really want because I put them on my Christmas wish list. Sigh, high class set of problems but feeling stymied anyway.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

but I'll still have my teeth

Anybody ever heard of a gum graft? In case you are begging for enlightenment, let me tell you a bit about it. It is for anyone whose gums are excessively receding. If you lose too much gum, your teeth get loose and will eventually fall out. To correct this, they scrape skin off the roof of your mouth where it is more tough and elastic and then sew it to your gum wherever you need it. Then, in the healing process, your gums, who need the stuff, grab onto it and incorporate this new tissue as their own. Anyone want to sign up?

I had the privilege of paying for a gum graft two days ago. Now, my diet is restricted to soft foods for a week because of the stitches. The pain's actually not too bad but I am missing crunchy food. The dental hygentist suggested mashed potatos and mac and cheese. Doesn't sound too bad if I had the metabolism of a 20 year old. Instead, I'm turning 40 next week.

The age doesn't bother me so much. You could slap a 100 on my age and I wouldn't care EXCEPT, for the new aches and the health procedures. I had my first mammogram a couple of weeks ago which, in this digital age, was not nearly as bad as the torture I've heard can occur with the older machines. Even without the pain, there is the level of discomfort while someone handles your breast and shoves it into position. My coping strategy included not making eye contact and throwing out a lot of one liners. The radiologist probably sat behind her little shield, rolling her eyes. The thing I can say for it was it was over fast. 

Not so the gum graft, but it was accompanied by laughing gas. I am certain I had the most fantastic idea for a story while staring into the bright light that fuzzed at the edges. Not that I could tell you what that idea was now. I tried my best not to think of the abusive dentist in Horrible Bosses ( a very funny movie but I felt like I needed a shower after watching it) during the procedure.

I also know it's just a matter of time before someone suggests a  colonoscopy, which sounds to me like the fifth level of hell. That being said, I'll do them and probably whatever else the doctor suggests. I just heard on the radio last night that dancing can stave off Alzheimers, which runs in my family. A bit of waltzing may be in my immediate future.

So, as I dodder off into the nursing home, I'll be dancing. At least my partners will see me smiling at them with a full set of teeth.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Do I really have anything to say? (Insecure Writer's group #2)

Hello, why yes, I am an insecure writer on so many sad, sad levels. This blog hop was created by Alex J Cavanaugh  as a way to provide Insecure Writers Support .  I totally stole those links because I still have been too lazy to learn to do it. Except that it isn't really laziness, technology frustrates me in that things that seem pretty easy to others often elude me. People have offered to help but I'm worried if they try to show me and I can't get it, I'll look stupid. I have spent at least an hour trying to figure it out before, but like some of the higher math classes, some concepts seem to hit a brick wall in my head which leaves me jumping on the other side trying to see over it and all I get is tired and frustrated.

I'm feeling like that about writing too. I finished nano and part of me is excited about getting in there to do some clean up but then another part of me asks if there is any point to it? My pattern seems to be to work at something for a little while and then I just want to be done. That would be fine if, five drafts in, my work was published, critically lauded, and sending me royalties (really, I'd be happy with the first and last or actually just the first).

Most of the time, I send it off, hoping that it is good enough so I can stop revising, and it usually isn't. Which then makes me wonder if it is just that my stories will never be clean enough to communicate my ideas. Or is it something even more horrible?

Could my ideas suck? Maybe nothing I write has any real substance. Other kind writers and friends clap me on the back (metaphorically speaking) and say they love the stories but the rejections keep coming. After paying for an editor to give me suggestions and revising it accordingly, my YA novel (my first nano novel) was rejected by over 30 agents. Not all of them requested the full novel but at least five of them did before rejecting various versions. I made so many "Improvements" in that book, not knowing what wasn't working, that it is a mess now.  I shudder when I think about going back to try to clean it up. Not to mention that the request is not to resubmit to the same agent and I don't think there are any left that do YA that I didn't hit up at one point or another in the revision process.

So I move on to the next project. I've been published a few times on my short stories ( a very small percentage given the amount that I have submitted) so I think that maybe I need to only focus there.  Only, every short story is part of a novel in my head. The question becomes will anyone but me ever care if I don't write the stories? I know it is perseverence, dedication, and hard work that make it happen but I've had a long, dry spell and I'm feeling a bit parched.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

well hello wolverine

Hugh Jackson has a one man show going here in nyc. We did not get in to see that but we did get to see him when he came out the side door. Technically, my sister at 5'9 got to see him and I at 5'2 got to see the top of his grey hat. That was the prelude to seeing a show called seminar about aspiring novelists and their very rough teacher. It had Alan Rickman aka prof snape, Hamish linklater, and jerry O'Connell. It was a sobering look at how bad you have to want it to become successful in this business. Def worth seeing. We had the worst seats ever. High up with this iron railing in front of us. Then we went to a bar called Jo allens and had the tartest most wonderful cosmos. They also prepared this tostado  with fried eggs and chili. Despite how it sounded it was delicious. We sat next to an actor at the bar who is performing alongside Bernadette peters in follies. He was a veteran of the stage and certainly knew the ropes.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

captains log-nyc

it is a strange universe I have entered. On the transport, two individuals spent the entire trip slurping and sucking on one another's faces. I feared cannibalism but when they stood at the end of the flight neither seemed to have been injured. The moon seems closer here as in its half phase it seemed to be twice normal size and was a lovely peachy orange hue. In the city itself when we went to a place called smiths to eat past midnight, it seemed no different than the drunken courting rituals at home. Finally fell into bed around 2 am after checking for bed bugs. The show selections begin tomorrow. Blogging with tablet so pardon any errors.

Friday, December 2, 2011

I want to be a part of it, New York, NEW YORK

I will not be sorry to see this year go. It has included moving back to my home town due to my mom's cancer diagnosis and the death of both my parents. In an attempt to put a happy spin on the end of it, my sister and I have been planning a NYC trip for my 40th (yes, that is this month) but having trouble deciding when to go.

The point of the visit is to see so many plays my eyes bleed. Okay, exaggeration, but to cram in as much Broadway and off-Broadway as we can get in a couple of days. The problem with the scheduling was that we were trying to go during the week and they only do matinees on Wed. which limited us to only two shows.

So, in our phone conversation yesterday, with frustration building as each of us typed in different dates and read back to the other potential flights, she says, "This would be easier if we were more spontaneous and didn't have to have everything all planned."

Her comment made me think of all the ways marriage and kids have changed my life because once I was that spontaneous person, so I half-jokingly said, "Well, they do matinees on the weekends, let's just go tomorrow."

She got quiet and then said, "I think I can do that."

At which point, I began searching frantically for my phone that holds my calender ergo, my life. Some things had to be shifted but I'm leaving on that proverbial jet plane tonight for the Big Apple.We will see at least four plays and be back for my daughter's first basketball game Monday night.  

Much love to the husband for allowing the dedication of the funds. Also kudos to him since when the children began clamoring for me to stay (which made me feel worse than I thought it would), he promised them all sorts of non-Mom sanctioned activities starting with eating out or ordering pizza all weekend, no cleaning, and a movie-video game fest. I have had to play the part of outraged mom every time they mention it and have gotten to hear some good giggles out of them. Looking forward to the trip, not so sure, about what I'll be coming home to. Gulp.