Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘feedback’

Cathy: writerly crisis of faith and confirmation of all my fears

This entry is a combination of a couple of recent posts on my personal blog.

on Monday, I wrote:

writerly crisis of faith
Almost two weeks ago, I gave the first 33 pages of my baby, er, children’s novel manuscript to my critique group. We meet tomorrow. During school vacation. At my house. With my gang of mayhem and two other kids added to the mix. And the one person I know outside the group will not be there, so she returned my pages with her comments yesterday.

I’ve done a lot of work on those first 30 pages in the past 6ish years since I started writing this little tale. They are the initial inspiration, and what I always felt really worked about the book. The changes I had made were on the small side, grammar, tense, slight rearranging of things. Now I feel like I have to move a thought bubble that wraps the first third of the novel very nicely and turn into a scene that will be the new opening of the book. Not that that was her exact suggestion, but that’s where my mind took it.

But I love my opening! There’s a great slow build to what happened to make this kid so upset in the opening lines.

I have had other readers who really loved the opening. I have four more readers to hear from tomorrow.

How can my heart be simultaneously in my throat and in the bottom of my gut at the same time? I feel like I have a big envelope to open, and it either has very very good news, or absolutely horrid news to bear. Quite possibly both. And once I open it, I will have to cut my big ball of dough in half, knead it, fold it over and over again into itself, pound on it, and hopefully, a beautiful loaf will emerge from the oven.

I know, mixed metaphor central, but give me a break!

Anticipation is a killer.

On Tuesday, came:

confirmation of all my fears

Great writers’ group this morning — afternoon. We wrote, I was interrupted by kids a variety of ways (school vacation and toddler), and then we got hungry, ate lunch and discussed the first third of my novel, as I mentioned yesterday.

They confirmed all of my misgivings about the manuscript’s current state, and now, boy do I have a lot of work to do. But it’s good, not the dread that my anticipation was giving me.

I kind of wish I was done already…but I guess this is what they mean about 2nd draft work. It’s not just about picking through the first draft and the million and a half edits already done, but about the complete restructuring of the storytelling… focus description into action, rearrange parts, rethink what is important about characters and how they serve the story, get rid of unnecessary adverbs…you know, the big stuff.

So big stuff, here I come. Right after this diaper change….

Psst! And guess what else?  They liked it, too!

Cathy: I can’t even peek.

In my travels over a week ago, I retrieved one well inked copy of my first manuscript draft I had sent to a dear friend in the Boston area for critique and suggested edits.

Many moons ago, I lived in a 2nd floor walk-up on Newbury Street dubbed the shoebox, and he rented a room in the former servants’ quarters on the fourth floor (even more stairs, I had to take them two at a time at a momentum run to survive the ascent) of an old Commonwealth Avenue townhouse that had been broken into condos. We regularly spent entire days walking around Copley Square, sitting on benches on Comm Ave, in the BPL Courtyard, a few regular cafes, Newbury Pizza or each other’s humble abodes, discussing Literature, Art, listening to Mozart, Schubert, old time Rockabilly, Frank Sinatra’s In the Wee Small Hours, and critiquing poetry and plays each wrote. We really dissected each other’s work, at times taking personal affronts, at others, able to make useful and take useful suggestions. Sometimes another friend joined us, but mostly it was just the two of us, picking apart each other’s work in order to build it back up again into something better. That was fifteen and then some years ago.

When he handed back my baby, er, first draft in Cambridge, he very kindly told me it was a great story and excellent characterizations. He gave a few verbal points of interest. But mostly, I noticed just how much ink he laid on each page in my quick thumb through in the dark of the rainy night under a street light.

How very film noir.

I still can’t look at it.

Kelly: Is the Universe Speaking?

…And just what the heck is she saying? I have two close friends who are big followers of the principles in the book The Secret. If you’ve been under a rock and haven’t heard of it, the basic premise behind The Secret is that if you open yourself up to it, the Universe will bring you what you need. Okay, so I admit, I haven’t read the book, and I’ve thought it was a bunch of nonsense. I’ve always believed you create your own luck and drive your own fate. But lately I’ve been wondering if there’s not something to this Universe stuff. Back in July, I talked about When Life and Art Meet Frustration, basically the struggles I have with time in holding down a full-time job (or two), raising twin girls, and trying to live a creative life. In that post, I talked about a couple changes I was considering, one of which was shifting from full-time college administrator to full-time faculty.

So here’s where that pesky Universe thing comes in. Off and on over the years, I’ve considered joining the K-12 teaching ranks. Now that my girls are in school, that’s starting to look more and more attractive. Working their schedule would be quite lovely, not to mention those summers off, and furthermore, teaching at their school would make my life a very sweet piece of key lime pie compared to the hectic schedule I deal with now. A couple weeks ago when I emailed my girls’ teacher about Sarah’s little smarty pants reading display I talked about here, I also told her that I was considering making a move to K-12 and asked her if she knew anything about the alternative certification program we offer here in Florida. She replied why yes, “I was the professional development facilitator for the alternative certification program last year.” Okay, maybe there’s one point for Madame Universe. Last Wednesday we met and talked about my background and how it might benefit me in a switch like this (“Oh, I think you could bring so much to the children!”).  We also talked about what she felt her challenges were as a K-6 teacher. Sure, there are a few, but apparently at this school, not many, as she said, “We have such a great culture here, and I can honestly tell you, it’s not like that everywhere.” The school is an “A” school. She suggested I sit in on some classes to see what it was actually like and directed me to make an appointment with the principal to schedule the visits.

So off I went to the principal’s office to make an appointment. “Oh, she’s available now!” said her secretary. “Would you like to talk with her?” Two points for the Universe?  I wasn’t quite prepared for that, but told myself what the heck, since I’m already here, I might as well. Lovely woman, Principal Johnson. We talked easily, and I told her my thoughts. We discussed my background and what would be necessary for certification. “Given your background, there’s a good chance you could simply take the General Knowledge exam, pass it right away, and voila! You’re certified!” Hmmm…interesting. She started making some suggestions on classes I should visit and then stopped mid-sentence. “What did you say your master’s degree is in?” “English.” “Hmm, I have a 4th grade English and Language Arts teacher going out on maternity leave in December, and she’s decided to become a stay-at-home mom and will not be returning.” Okay, did Madame Universe just offer up a slam dunk, here? Seriously! What are the chances that (1) my girls’ teacher was the professional development facilitator for the program last year, (2) the principal just happens to be available to talk, and (3) said principal just happens to have an opening coming up in my subject area? And just for a few more giggles…the teacher who’s leaving? Her last name is Nelson. My maiden name? Nelson. And guess whose class my girls’ teacher’s daughter is in? Yep, you guessed it. Ms. Nelson. Do I need to go read this darn book?

Now to toss a different crouton onto the salad….I’m down a staff member and will start interviewing to fill that position soon. Today, I reviewed all the applications. I have 32. Nearly two-thirds of them are current Duval County school teachers; nearly two-thirds of those are current Duval County elementary school teachers. Are you catchin’ what I’m layin’ down here? (Sorry, I work with college kids…sometimes that stuff just comes out. 🙂  First, I have that danged Universe concept potentially throwing open the doors for me, and then boom! She throws me a curve ball. Why do they want out when I’m thinking about going in? Is this just a “grass is always greener” scenario?  So what gives? Fill me with your knowledge, my friends. I’m open to advice! I’m spending the day in Ms. Nelson’s class on Monday.

Jenn: I wish I could answer that, Christa

I am feeling a similar funk. I’ve submitted 5 chapters to my editor today, and now I’m tired. I don’t think it’s worth it, but what do you do when you’re too far into it to stop, as you and I are? With partially complete or in your case, fully complete pieces of work?

This is my Spring Break. I should be on vacation. I should have taken my daughter to Iceland. To somewhere, ANYWHERE. Instead, she’s in daycare as usual (rationalization: it’s good to keep her on her schedule), and I’ve spent half of my break sitting at my kitchen table, expending about 100 calories per day, no exercise, horrible eating habits, ignoring everything, and writing. Mabe it’s too much of a good thing? This is what I planned to do for Spring Break, so why do I feel like a loser, misfit, failure of a mom?

I think it will help when the editor gives me some feedback, which she hasn’t yet. I keep e-mailing chapters in and waiting. I have four more nearly done, and two more I’d LIKE to get finished by the time Friday rolls around, and one I’d like to look over and research because it’s my lecture for Tuesday, and getting that in great shape beforehand will make my life easier afterwards. But I am PROMISING myself to spend the weekend with my daughter, doing NOTHING and everything, and relaxing for at least two out of ten days.

I suppose I should also realize that this is a finite project. If I reach my goal and turn in 11 chapters, that means only 9 more to go by the time summer rolls around. And SO WHAT if I lag behind. My editor wanted the book written within a year (staring in February), so why do I have myself on this kill-yourself schedule? Probably because I’m deathly afraid I’ll run out of steam and walk away.

Which wouldn’t be a bad idea. How many books on natural disasters does the world need? There are four perfectly good texts out there. Why am I doing this? Are we having fun yet?

Miranda: Show and tell

Light Through the LeavesSome weeks ago, when I mentioned that I dabble in painting as a foil to writing, Bethany (too kind) asked to see some of my work. I’ve posted a few pieces at my Flickr site, just for fun.

It’s easy for me to share my painting, because I am a total amateur and have very little invested in the outcome. It’s much harder for me to share my writing, although over the years I have come to understand that feedback is an essential part of bringing a peice of writing to its fullest potential–at least for me. Sometimes the picture in my head hasn’t made it onto the written page, and it takes a fresh pair of eyes and a new perspective to show me where those rough spots are, and/or if the whole thing just falls flat. (And while exposing the creative self feels horribly vulnerable, it gets easier the more that I do it.)

All this makes me wonder: what processes do you all have for soliciting feedback on your work? Do you have a trusted group that you like to share with? Share things only with your spouse? Do you like to send things out for review in the early stages, or wait until a piece is fully polished? Would it ever be of value to have a way to post content for responses on this blog, specifying the type of feedback you’re looking for?

I hope everyone has a good week, though the politicos among us may well be distracted by watching/reading/listening to the primary news!

%d bloggers like this: