|Come on in. The water is fine.|
It took me nearly 35 years to be brave.
To put myself truly out there in the world and try new things, believing I was capable of them.
Not that I was living under a rock or anything.
I mean, I had gone to law school, had a decent part-time career while I was raising my two little boys.
Be a writer?
That was a pipe dream, something I had tucked away long ago for more practical, attainable things.
So when the writing bug started to gnaw at my toes under the covers at night as I started to finally fall asleep, I made excuses, blamed others, thought, maybe in a few years because who has the time to do that NOW?
First I was working full-time in big NYC law firms, then part-time (as many hours as I could muster the ability to focus primarily from home) while I had one still-colicky toddler who refused to sleep, and another baby ready to pop from my belly.
I don't have the hours in a day.
My husband doesn't encourage me enough.
I need to be exercising.
I should be cleaning the house. . .
Besides, WHAT DO *I* HAVE TO SAY?!?
And I knew that the difference between people who do and people who don't was always going to be that those who do don't find the time, they MAKE it.
That first manuscript, THE JETTY, a piece of contemporary women's fiction, garnered some decent praise when I finally put it out there -- e.g. became a Top Semifinalist in the first ever Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest and even ultimately got me agented after two years of that unique hell that is agent-query rejection.
That manuscript, THE JETTY, now sits in a "drawer."
Unable to sell it, but now agented and encouraged, I wrote a second manuscript that my agent loved better, but that one, too, has never (not yet?) sold.
It was my third manuscript, THE PULL OF GRAVITY (a Bank Street Best of 2012, and, of course, a Nerdy Book Club* best, 2011. . . ) that sold to the legendary and extraordinary editor Frances Foster, at fsg.
And, after that, THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO (to the wonderful Elise Howard at Algonquin YR).
And news some of you might not know because we haven't announced the formal details yet. . .
but my third novel just sold and I'm uber excited about that!!!
For me, writing and selling good stories continues to be a, well, let's just call it a "less-than-simple endeavor." There are days (weeks, okay possibly months and years) when I fear that I will never write another sellable story again.
But this I have learned. This I KNOW: I sure never will if I don't keep trying, if I don't put myself out there to be brave.
That is, in fact, the spirit behind Friday Feedback. Why I started the feature a few years ago. Long before you heard of me, before Teacher's Write was a deliriously wonderful part of my summers.
|From 59 Reasons to Write by Kate Messner, with contributions from|
your friendly Teachers Write authors!
Because I know that so much of what we do, we do in solitude, and getting feedback -- and encouragement -- is such an important part of the process.
The concept of Friday Feedback is simple: Brave is as brave does.
So we, the published authors, open ourselves up to the same constructive feedback we hope to give you. Because, yep, we still have doubts and fears, not to mention benefit from the eyes of objective readers who can help us to see both the flaws and the gems.
Please be clear that the feedback you receive here can be less than imperfect. Often the excerpts are from rough (ROUGH!) first drafts, and either way, it is nearly impossible to assess a piece of story out of context from just a brief few paragraphs. As such, the feedback offered must be taken as intended, with a grain of salt, as merely suggestive or "food for thought."
Having said that, over the years many have found it not only helpful and encouraging, but even exhilarating, so on we go!
YOU and me, together. Being brave.
Before we start, PLEASE READ ALL THE RULES (apologies, for the sudden highlighting. Blogger does that to me when I cut and paste):
At the end of each week's Friday Feedback blog post, my guest author or I will post a brief excerpt from a Work in Progress (WIP) and ask you for three specific pieces of feedback in the comments:
1. What works for you and why?
2. What doesn't work for you if anything, and why not?
3. If it's a beginning, does it hook you? If it's not a beginning, does it compel you to keep reading?
******Now, take a moment to read the order of those three questions again. *****
Notice the order!!!
If you are a teacher I beg of you, never grade or assess a student's writing without FIRST sharing something that works. Something the student has done well, or "right" before you correct them or offer constructive criticism as to what they've done "wrong."
And, yes, there is always something right. There are always gems to be found.
Hopefully over the course of this summer you'll see how much more open we all are to constructive criticism when we're first offered a bit of honest praise. . .
4. Once you have done that, you're invited to post your own BRIEF excerpt in the comments and we -- my guest authors and I, and even other Friday Feedbackers -- will offer you the same limited information in the comments.
5. By BRIEF, I mean brief. Regardless of how short or long OUR shared excerpts are, YOURS must be limited to between THREE and FIVE PARAGRAPHS and NO MORE. Five if they're short, three if they are long (if your paragraphs contain a lot of single-line dialogue, then do feel free to adjust this rule accordingly).
Please note that this Rule #5 is for our protection and yours. Ours because there can be 30 or more excerpts shared in a given day, and that's a whole lot of reading and feedbacking for my guest authors and me to give, and yours because I don't want there to be enough up there that, if someone "lifted" your words from my blog, you'd feel a significant piece of your story was plagiarized or stolen. We are on the the Wild West internets here, after all.
Once in while, in addition to the three pieces of feedback given above, I will do one of my patented "SUPER SPEED FLASH EDITS" on your excerpt if it lends itself to one, in which I will quickly eliminate unnecessary words that might bog the piece or pace down, change tenses, or combine sentences, etc., namely small fixes that can have big impact while not messing with your substantive word choices or own unique voice.
I do these when I hope they might serve to illustrate a concept that may help your -- and other campers' -- writing to pop and shine even more. If you don't want me to do a SSFE on your writing for any reason, speak up in a note or email to me, or forever hold your peace.
Oh, and last but not least, even though it is called Friday Feedback, I know many of you have summer jobs and commitments, and so you are welcome to post an excerpt through SATURDAY, and at least *I* (I can't guarantee my guest author) will give you feedback through the weekend. Please do NOT post past Saturday night, as by then I will already be preparing the post for the following week.
So, without further ado, here we go with ME in the hot seat. This excerpt is the opening of a YA ms I'm working on called (so far) THE SMALLEST SLICE.
What works? What doesn't? Does it hook you at all?
Jojo Bhatt is late.
She enters the cool shadows of the steps to the subway, her heavy backpack slung over her shoulder. There’s not much in the backpack to make it so heavy. No textbooks or homework or anything.
Jojo doesn't need those things today. Despite how it looks, she won’t be going to school, or back home later for that matter.
Jojo descends the steps calmly, catching her muted reflection in the plexiglass frame of a poster for some new Broadway show. It is her father’s brown skin and black hair that blur by. No single trace of her mother. She moves faster so as not to catch the blur in the next panel – this for a new luxury condominium uptown somewhere. As she reaches the second flight of stairs, she hears a train roar in, the squeal of slowing brakes, the bing of the bell, the hydrolic hiss of the doors sliding open.
Normally, she would run for it, but today she can be late. Today, she simply doesn’t care.
When Jojo reaches the bottom and the entrance to the platform, the worker in the token booth, an older man with a shock of gray-white hair, turns and looks at her. She holds up her metrocard and scurries past, her heart starting up a little though she knows she has nothing to worry about. At school, she’d have a problem, wouldn’t get past the security guard or the metal detectors. But there are no bag checks or scanners here.
Happy summer 2015 all you shiny TW campers! So glad to have you here. . .
* if you teach kids reading or share books with kids and are not a member of the Nerdy Book Club, you are plain silly.