|photo credit: Rick Kopstein|
Hey all you lovely Teachers Write! campers,
I'm so (effing) excited to see some of my "old" regulars back and meet some new shiny lovelies here at TW! and Friday Feedback.
We won't officially start until NEXT Friday (so don't be sneaking any excerpts in the comments for me to read, but DO say hi and/or introduce yourself so I start getting a handle on the names**). But, I did want to take a luxurious moment to introduce myself properly to any newbies, and explain THE RULES of Friday Feedback fully here, so I don't take up any space on next week's post, since next week I'll only be "half" here (I'll explain below), and besides guest author, Amy Fellner Dominy, has a ton of amazing stuff to say to you about BEGINNINGS (stuff that helped ME -- a seasoned "pro" *coughs* -- this week when I was reading her draft post and getting it ready for posting) so I don't want to bog her post down.
Seriously, you guys, you are SO crazy lucky to have the advice of the amazing guest authors Kate and I somehow get to help us out every summer! If you haven't seen Kate's lineup for any reason, read HERE. I'll share mine at the way bottom below. For sure, all of them are way smarter on this stuff than "seat-of-my-pants" old me which is why I love doing this so much. I learn something new every week!
So, first, who I am (if you know all this already, just scroll down to the RULES): Well, you can read all about me HERE, but what you really can't read there is that I didn't start writing (again) until my mid-thirties, so I'm an "It's never too late," story.
I'm also a "life-is-full-of-rejection" and "perseverance-is-the-key-to-success" story as you will now see.
I wrote a ton as a kid and a teen, and even into college, but then went to law school where, I'm fond of saying, I had the creativity sucked right out of me. I got married, practiced law, had kids, and then, in my early to mid thirties really missed the creative side of me. Of course, with two babies at home and part time work, I had little time to write. I'd go down to my basement where my computer was between 10 pm and 3 am, when my colicky, night owl babies might actually be asleep. I wrote furiously, not knowing where I was going with it, or whether I even had a book in me. It took me about 5 years to finish my first manuscript, a piece of women's fiction that, after two years of solid rejection, finally got me agented ("Has anyone ever told you that your writing reminds them of Nicole Krauss?"). With great hope and talk of six-figure deals, that manuscript ("mss" often) got submitted to -- and rejected by -- well over 30 publishers! (I still have to breathe through when I type that).
During that time, I wrote a second piece of women's fiction. My then-agent and even a second agent loved that mss even better, so now we were really on our way!
Except that that mss also amassed an endless slew of amazingly complimentary rejections: "gorgeous writing," "compelling story," always followed by a big, bold, neon-glowing "but. . . "
|It's an extraordinary and surreal feeling to have that |
first box of author's copies arrive. . .
(The rest, I say, is an ongoing battle of writing, breathing, hoping, rewriting, and not knowing. But it's all good, I promise you.)
Anyway, I tell you that story. . . well, you know why I tell you that story. The writing biz is a tough one. Writing a good story is hard. It's full of work, tedium, rewrites, rejection, self-doubt and exhilaration. It's that last one that keeps us going.
|It never gets old seeing your|
work on the shelves of a bookstore
If you took a minute to click on that link, you'll see it took you to a pretty lovely review in the Sunday Children's Book Review section of the (effing) New York Times! Like I said, exhilaration.
I hope many of you here will buy, borrow or steal it (okay, fine, not steal it) and read it, and find some moment of lovely connection. If your TBR is too huge and you have any summer road trip plans, it's also out in audiobook and the narrator, Tara Sands, does a tremendous job.
Okay, enough about me, onto Friday Feedback and the RULES:
Every week, as part of the FF post, my guest author or I will prepare a writing-related blog post and at the end, we will share a BRIEF excerpt from one of our Works in Progress ("WIP" often) that will hopefully illustrate a bit of what we are talking about. Because the excerpt we share will be from a WIP, we, too, will often be filled with the self-doubt and fear of sharing that many of you will come here toting in your first days. Read that again.
Why do we subject ourselves to this?
|One of the slides from my part of our NCTE 13 presentation!|
I have a saying: Brave is as brave does. So, we, the "published authors" open ourselves up to the same constructive feedback we hope to give you, because we need it and because, ultimately, it's the eyes of objective readers that help us to see the gems and, sometimes, the flaws we need to see. Otherwise, so much of the work we do is in solitude, in a vacuum, and we plod along not knowing.
To be clear, this FF system is not a perfect one. It is very hard to assess a piece of story out of context, from just a brief sample. And so all feedback here must be taken with a grain of salt. On the other hand, over the years, we've found it helpful and often exhilarating, so on and on we go.
So, back to the RULES: At the end of the blog post, we'll post a brief excerpt and ask you for three specific pieces of feedback in the comments:
1. What works for you?
2. What doesn't if anything, and why?
3. If it's a beginning, does it hook you? If it's not, does it compel you to keep reading?
Now, read that again. Notice the order. If you are a teacher I beg of you, never grade or assess a student's writing without telling them first something that works, what they've done right, before you correct them or offer constructive criticism (which in any writer's mind, especially a kid writer, is akin to telling them what they've done wrong). Hopefully over the course of this summer you'll see how much more open we all are to constructive criticism when we're given some honest praise first.
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 information in the comments.
By BRIEF, I mean brief. Regardless of how short or long our shared excerpts are, please limit yours to between THREE (3) and FIVE (5) PARAGRAPHS, NO MORE, five if they're short, three if they are long (if it's a ton of dialogue, then we will adjust this rule accordingly). This is for our protection and yours. Ours because there can be up to 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, 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. It's the Wild West internets, after all.
Once in while I will do one of my patented SUPER SPEED FLASH EDITS on your excerpt if it lends itself to it, in which I will quickly eliminate unnecessary words that might bog the piece or pace down, change tenses, or combine sentences, etc. Small fixes that don't ever mess with your voice or your words, but illustrate a concept that may help your writing to pop and shine even more. If you don't want me to do a SSFE for any reason, speak up or forever hold your peace.
Oh, and last but not least, even though it is called Friday Feedback, 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 any stragglers beyond that will likely lack comment as I will already be preparing the post for the next week.
And that's that. I will relink to these rules every week. Please read them, internalize them, and try to abide. We have a lot of fun on my blog, but the first goal is always to encourage, and never to tear down.
|Me, super excited, un huh.|
I'm truly super excited about this summer! As I mentioned, I'll only half be here next Friday (it seems to never fail that I am travelling during the first week, alas), as I will be en route to, and at, Eight Cousins Bookstore in Falmouth, MA. I will try to read posts as car internet service permits and will likely stop by late that evening after all my bookstuff is done. Providing I have service where I'm staying on Martha's Vineyard, for my Bunch of Grapes signing the next day. If you are near either of those venues, PLEASE come by and say hi, and let me know you are from Teachers Write!
Regardless of me, you will be in extraordinary hands with Amy Fellner Dominy, I promise you. Plus, we may have a little bookish surprise. . . so put your brave caps on, and get your beginnings ready to share!
And, now, last but not least, after Amy, here's the rest of my amazing Friday Feedback lineup (please click on the links, order their book(s) and/or request them in from your local library): Nova Ren Suma (7/18); Avi (7/25!!! I know!!! Pinch ME on that one too . . . ); Charlotte Bennardo (8/1); and William Ritter (8/8). Each of these amazing and generous authors is donating his/her time to me. Please share their titles and, when you love a book, be sure to spread the word and/or put up a review. ;)
** if you post using an online name that doesn't identify you, please include your real first name in the comments when you post. It's very hard to hold on to a weird, fake online name when I'm trying to make a true connection with a writer.