Please Critique Me

Please critique me,

I don’t mind.

Please be honest,

but be kind.

I  have just finished reading Alan Ziegler’s, The Writing Workshop Note Book.  This book is one that I will add to my desk top. It is more than just a guide for you if you are attending a  writing workshop. It introduces you to the mechanics of a writing workshop and it provides tips for reading, writing, critiquing and teaching the craft.

Ziegler acknowledges that writers’ have different approaches to writing by sharing examples of students he has taught, writers he has known, as well as what he knows about historical writers of the past.  He encourages you as a writer to find your own style and voice.

Interlude 1 is a collection of writing exercises that provide inspiration for all writers, no matter what you write.  One suggestion has already helped me create a long list of new pieces for my memoir collection.

The section called Prepping for the Workshop, is an approach to revisions.  It provides guidelines for critiquing the work of others, but you will also go back to it frequently  to revise your own work.

The closing section has advice to help you accept the critiquing process and to get the most out of it.  Zielger shares several short antidotes about his own experiences that will amuse you and remind you that everyone can benefit from thoughtful critiquing.

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Read to Write

I took a writing class one time at a nearby bookstore. When the discussion leader asked us what we read, one of the participants said, “I don’t read. I’m too busy writing. I haven’t read anything in years.” I found this unbelievable. Reading other’s work is the best creative outlet I know. I seldom read anything that doesn’t prompt me to make a note of something that I might write later.

Reading other blogs has become one of my favorite ways to come up with ideas for writing. Recently J.T. Weaver, one of my favorite bloggers shared a story about his son playing soccer. It reminded me of watching my 4-year-old granddaughter play with her team. (I’ll share that story later.) Another of his stories about planting tulips with his daughter once again reminded me of my 3-year-old-grandson helping pick potatoes. And even less directly, J.T.’s blog prompted this blog post. Thank you J.T.

How does one write, even fiction, without reading?

 

Death Valley is Alive —

A week ago we drove across Death Valley.  The name of this National Park conjures up images of olden-days; hardened criminals, no water and dirt roads.  In Lone Pine, California, just outside of the park, we met people that were hesitant to take the drive across.  What a shame.

144 - CopyApril is the perfect time of year to drive through the park.  The wild-flowers are alive.  I assure you that you can drive through the park—yes there are good paved roads—but not at 65 miles an hour and expect to see the flowers.  But if you slow down and stop when a glint of color sneaks into your vision, you will find them

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140 - CopyAnd if the flowers don’t captivate you check out the views-

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Get Out of the Way

Recently I discovered that writing a novel is like raising my children.  There came a point in time when I had to allow my children enough independence to be the people they were meant to be.  My novel is at that point.  Despite all of the planning and outlining I have done; despite all of the characters I have carefully developed; and despite the beautiful complex settings I have imagined, my novel has decided to take its own course.

No matter how hard I try not to hover like an anxious parent with a scrawny child, I find that I am still devoted to my original plan.  I try not to fight my muse.  But when I want my character to walk up the hill and he is determined to walk down it instead, I still fight at first.  But little by little I am learning to give in.  Page by page I am learning to let go.

I know that letting go is essential.  I know that when the first draft is completed I will have to start the rewriting process.  I know that there will be sections that I consider beautiful prose that will end up in the scrap pile.  I know that when the characters get done telling me who they are and what they are going to do, that there will be earlier sections that no longer fit.  It isn’t always easy.  But just like raising children, one must eventually let go.

So for now, I am trying to “get out of the way” and let my novel be the story it was meant to be.

 

Written for J.T. Weaver’s The 270  and Thom’s Three Word Wednesday.

J. T., I think I achieved the goal, exactly 270 words in the body of the post.

The three words this week are:  anxious devoted and scrawny.

 

 

The Short Business E-mail (270)

Today the short business e-mail has replaced the memo of past generations.    Things have not improved much since the hand written MEMO forms of yesteryear.   Today’s messages aren’t smudged from the carbon backing and they aren’t handwritten, but they still arrive making little sense or none at all.  And the senders seem to have no filters.  They send personal messages within business correspondence.  I receive these short emails from businesses, charitable boards, hobby associations and even government entities.’

 A memo-type email should be short, well written and contain useful information.  A well written message saves time, reduces misunderstandings and makes a good impression.  It should be sent only to people who need the information.  Make sure that the recipient knows both the name of the person sending the message and the organization involved.  When sending the message to multiple recipients respect their privacy.  Use the blind carbon copy (BCC).

 Choose your words and your tone carefully.  What seems funny when you are face to face with another may come across as rude, silly or disrespectful in an email.  Make certain that the acronyms that you use are appropriate for the recipient.   

 Keep business emails professional.  Don’t use your business email for personal messages.  Do you really want the boss to know that you and Max went out for drinks four times last week?

 Before you hit that “SEND” button, reread the message out loud. Check spelling and grammar. Re-check the recipient  field because nothing is worse than sending a message to the wrong person.

This post originally started out as almost 900 words.  I have rewritten it to fit               J. T. Weaver’s challenge to write a post using 270 words or less.  

The Mackinaw

I remember the first day I met him, only because it was my first day in the office and I didn’t know what was expected of me.  The day I met him however, is very different from the day I noticed him. The day I noticed him came later.  He had just come from Hurricane Ridge where he had been preparing the slopes for the weekend skiers.  He wore a red plaid mackinaw wool coat and his prematurely silver hair was still damp from the mountain’s exposure.

He stood at the reception desk just outside my office so it was easy for me to scrutinize him without his knowledge.   He wiped the moisture from his glasses before the receptionist sent him in. I couldn’t help but wonder what it was like to work up on the mountain all alone isolated from everyone else.

I grew up in a warmer climate and I never learned to ski.  Knowing that he often spent hours up there grooming slopes and maintaining equipment made him seem a bit mysterious to me.  I could tell that he loved the job, even if he never admitted it.  He was so faithful to it.  It wasn’t unusual for him to slip into the office late in the afternoon,  to pick up payroll or payroll reports, just before we locked the door.  I’d quickly instruct him about deadlines for mailing whatever report was due and he would be on his way–at least in the beginning.

I’m not sure when I realized there was something important happening between us.  I should have been aware sooner than I was.  He’s a very observant sort of guy.  One day he came in to the office and I had my hands wrapped around my coffee cup to keep them warm.  That year at Christmas he gave me gloves.  I’m guess I am a little dense, because it wasn’t until many years later that I realized that was really a very personal gift.   Even the first bottle of perfume didn’t send up my sensors.

Had I noticed him?  You bet I had, but he was nice to everyone.   I figured I was just another bookkeeper to him.  And there’s a bit of an age difference so I didn’t expect him to pay any attention to me.

Then one day he took me out to lunch.  Of course he was wearing that red plaid coat.  I, in my isolated little world, thought of it as a business lunch.  And it wasn’t until several lunches later that I realized –oh, this is more than just a business lunch.

I hadn’t planned to ever marry again.  And for a long time, although I was attracted to him, I saw him more as an escort than anything else.  My job included membership in a number of professional organizations.  That meant there were often social functions to attend.  Social functions can feel pretty awkward if you always have to go alone.  At those times he traded the red wool coat for a sports jacket and he became a great escort.  Not only is he interesting and charming, but in the early days, nearly everyone in town either knew him from his work on the ski lifts or from his construction business. He often knew more of the people at the event than I did.   He is such a social person that I never had to wonder if he was having a good time.  He could and still can start a conversation with anyone, anywhere.

I can’t pinpoint when I realized I wanted more than an escort.  But I have to admit there is nothing like new love.  I will always cherish those early days.  Days when he would show up at the office at noon or at closing time with a couple of sandwiches from a deli or fast food restaurant and we would drive out to Ediz Hook and watch the waves bounce off of the rocks or watch the sea gulls fight for crumbs.  During the colder months he always wore that red plaid coat as we walked along the beach and talked.

There was a time when, in the mornings before work, we would meet for coffee at Birney’s.  In the winter it always made me smile when he came in wearing his red plaid coat.  We’d hold hands across the table while we read the newspaper and the time to go to work always came too soon.

For years winter months brought out that red plaid coat.  Our lives together have grown, but when he retired it was as if that coat retired too.  It seldom comes off the hanger now.  Every time I clean out the coat closet, I think, it takes up a lot of room, but it makes me smile.  And I can’t imagine not seeing it there when I open that closet door.

Three word Wednesday:  Faithful, isolate, scrutinize.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Quick Storage Tip for Christmas Lights & Garland

I was hoping for an outrageously gorgeous New Year’s Day.  That didn’t happen.  Instead of getting all jittery about it, I decided to put away my Christmas Decorations.   I have a tip for you when you store your tree lights, strings of beads and garland.  Wrap these decorations around your empty Christmas wrapping paper rolls.  I use a piece of painters tape at each end.  This not only keeps them under control while they are stored, it recycles the cardboard rolls.

Words for Three Word Wednesday:   Gorgeous, adjective: Beautiful; very attractive; very pleasant.Jittery, adjective: Nervous or unable to relax.Outrageous, adjective: shockingly bad or excessive; wildly exaggerated or improbable; very bold, unusual, and startling.

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