Tuesday, September 27, 2016


Why are revisions so difficult? Because a real revision (not tweaking here and there) requires seeing in a whole new way. RE—VISION.
By the time a story is submitted, it’s been revised and tweaked many times. So when it returns with an R & R (revise and resubmit) request, what writers consider as good a non-acceptance as there can be, it’s because it’s not the other R, the final one. (Rejection)
Revision! Yippy! But now I have to look at the story in a new way.

Maybe what I thought the story was about turns out not to be. Maybe a character that meant so much to me doesn’t serve the story well. Maybe a sub-plot is more of a main plot, or the plot isn’t a plot at all.

But…they liked it enough to want to see it again. Now, if I could only figure out why or what they liked… because a house once carefully constructed now feels wobbly, and the removal of a few of its support beams threatens to make the whole come tumbling down…

This is where Re-Vision is crucial.  To let go of the house I built and carefully decorated, I try to imagine the inner-walls in different places. Try to imagine a different entrance. Imagine re-doing the upper floor.

Well, that about describes the process from the outside. From the inside—there are no words, except—

It’s hard.


I just got through it, again. The house is still standing. Have faith, you can do it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


“Everyone is kneaded out of the same dough,
but not baked in the same oven.”
—Yiddish Proverb
Aside from the notion of whether it is nature or nurture that shapes personality, and with it, destiny, there is something that every writer must struggle with and every reader must decide whether to accept or reject: how stereotypical can a character be before we call the narrative racist, or sexist, or simply poor and formulaic? There is nothing to make the character singular and thus fully fleshed out.
And the other side of the coin is really the same question, only read in reverse: how unusual can a character be before we exclaim that such person would never do this or say that? Would a twelve-year-old use proper archaic English they could have only glimpsed from Shakespeare? Would a four-year-old remember something that happened when they were two? Both are possible, but not typical, and many would say are unbelievable.
I ask, because I have read enough reviews, given reviews, or gotten feedback, and have seen both reactions. “Formulaic,” and “unbelievable.”

Classical musicians face similar balancing dilemmas when interpreting well-known pieces of music. A piece of music must sound different and new, thus it lives. But it can’t be so singular that the composer wouldn’t recognize it, and the listener would have their expectations smashed.

I like the Yiddish proverb above, because it reminds me of this delicate balance: similar, but not the same. Made of the basic stuff, but formed into a different shape.

A delicate, almost undefinable balance. A good visual is the tightrope walker. I think of her as I dialogue with my characters, and pray I don’t miss a step and fall off.

©Tightrope Walker by Seiltänzerin (1913)

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Ethical Questions

There are places where we don’t expect high ethical conduct, and are pleasantly surprised to find it. (Example: Does anyone expect insurance companies to be driven by high moral standards? The astonishment of positive encounters with such suggests we don’t.)
Then there are situations where ethics are a must, because trust is the foundation of these alliances. (Example: with physicians, therapists, or teachers. The astonishment of negative encounters suggests we had assumed the very best ethics from them.)

Having had, personally and through friends and family, some positive and negative experiences lately, I got to thinking about ethics and the gap between what we say and what we do. I say “we,” because while I am not guilty of most of the mentioned below, I can’t and won’t exclude myself from the abundance of failures, often explained as “that's how it’s done,” and “this is the real world, darling.”

But it got me wondering, and questioning. No reasoned answers in this post, just questions. I would love yours: the questions and the answers, if you’re so inclined.

These are all examples of things I have come to realize happen all the time.

*Is it all right to play editors against each other in a bidding war for manuscripts?

* Is it all right to look for a job while you still have a job?

*Is it all right to look for an agent while you have an agent?

*Is it all right to look for a spouse/partner while you have a spouse/partner?

*Is it all right to say publicly you are an in-network provider but say privately you will only treat privately “on the side,” for much more $$?

*Is it all right to take a friend’s confidential confessional life story and publish it without their consent?

*Is it all right to ghost-write and for $$ let the payer put his name on it?

* Is it all right to promote a friend’s product/book while having a less than high opinion of it?

While most are legal, I’m not one to see any as truly ethical.  What do you think?

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

When the Universe Sends a Message…

After the dry spells, the rain must-needs-come.  
(Paraphrasing Matthew 18:7)

This August I got some revision work done, and critiques for others. What I couldn’t manage were original stories. I was as dry as a California summer, which also happens to be where I live.
But September, and its promise of rain, did not disappoint.

Walking with a friend, we chanced upon a group of lady-walkers. I suppose we were a group, also. A group of two to their five.

My walking companion recognized one of the ladies, and a lively hello and a series of introductions followed. At some point the fact of my writing for children was mentioned, and the next thing I knew, one of the newly introduced ladies exclaimed, “Are you THE writer of the wonderful….” 

That book was published five years ago and had a very limited release. The publisher closed its doors shortly after. I hand-sold copies to bookstores close by, and they always sold out. I also gave a few to friends. I still have some left, as do a couple of the local stores, and Amazon.

I confess I was surprised. I don’t expect, nor do I get, my name recognized. Especially in connection to this modest release.
The lady proceeded to tell me she read it to her grandchildren many times, and it’s one of their favorites.
 All right, now I should be blushing. But instead, as soon as I got back home, I felt inspired to start a new story.
A chance encounter broke the dry spell. The party’s on, and I’m back! 

Sometimes I just need to know someone is reading what I wrote.

Welcome September, and welcome rain.