Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Constructive Feedback

Ever been asked to give feedback to an essay, a story, or a novel-in-making?
I bet the answer is yes, many times yes, whether you’re a teacher, a parent, a writer, or someone who knows someone applying for something. Bet you’ve asked others for such, also.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I thought I’d expound on what sort of feedback I find useful on the receiving end. By extension this post also touched on what feedback is not helpful, which, ahmm, is the opposite of what is. All right, this last sentence could be revised. 
Feedback isn’t helpful unless it is specific.

Example: “Where aunt Edna doesn’t care for the soup little Pooky made, you could make it a lot funnier. Aunt Edna could be trying to not show her distaste by contorting her face in order to swallow that swill, while Pooky lists the ingredients.”
{Not helpful: “The story could be funnier.”}

Example #2: “Use evocative and active verbs, such as a play on “soup.” Think spit, swallow, swerve, spin, stir, slam, slide, strike.”
{Not helpful: “Use varied verbs.”}

Example #3: “The part where Pooky is thinking about how good her soup will turn out to be could be cut. One sentence showing her doing the Soup Sashay says it, and more visually.”
{Not helpful: “Some parts can be cut.”}

 I think you get the idea. Specific, even including suggestions, is helpful. The writer doesn’t have to accept the specific suggestions, but it is clearer as to what/where/why/when help is needed. As to the who, that’s a given.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


“There were grammatical errors even in his silence.”
Stanislaw Lec

I’m on record that the hardest of all the technical aspects of writing, for me, is finding and discarding typos.

It isn’t a matter of poor typing (no court stenographer, I) or missing le mot juste. It is about seeing, or NOT seeing, to be exact.

Here are some helpful hints from wise and experienced people who write. These suggestions apply to proofreading one’s own writing. For some reason proofreading another’s is much easier, and may not necessitate all the techniques below. But for my own writing I find that I need all of them, twice.

·         Enable mechanical spell/grammar check programs, but don’t count on them nor follow slavishly
·         Read out loud, correcting on the spot
·         Change the font and font size, and re-read
·         Put away in the drawer and re-read a few days/weeks later
·         Get a kindly friend to read and correct, specifically one who is a good proofreader

Obviously the last two suggestions can’t be practical for sending quick Emails or posting replies on chat boards. The last one, enlisting another pair of eyes, should only be called upon for the most important writing, as you’ll risk running out of friends.

And here’s the kicker: even after all that^, let go of the idea of perfection. The average number of typos in published books by major publishers is seven per book. Those were read by editors and line editors.

Doing what I can… Good luck.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


California is coming out of a four-year drought in style.

 Raindrops are falling on my head

And just like the guy whose feet
Are too big for his bed
Nothing seems to fit
Those raindrops
Are falling on my head
They keep falling.

©Mack David 1969

 I look out my window at the kinetic water drops dancing on our deck. Then I follow my cats’ contemplative gaze onto the glistening green hills in the distance. I look at my kitties again, and wonder what they see.

 They may be wondering when I will open the cat door and let them wander out. Conversely, they may be wondering why some crazy young humans are skipping over puddles across the street, relishing getting wet.

Unlike us, I have no evidence my felines are contemplating how only a few months ago everything was bone dry, how saturated the ground is now, and what does it, if anything, say about what will be.

Also unlike us, I doubt they see the end of the draught as a metaphor for life. I’m thinking how it is about time my writing life could use a welcome downpour. Offers to publish, inspiration for writing something in a way that’s never been conceived of before, new readers.
 Could happen.

The gates of heaven opened to bless us mortals with rain. I’m witnessing now. Come; let’s go sing in the rain.


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Follow and Unfollow, Friend and Unfriend…

A short time ago I spent a bit of time navigating the process of unfollowing some of the blogs on my Blogger Reader’s List dashboard. In the spirit of new beginning, it was clean-up time.
 A few were blogs that have been sprouting copious posts to the point where I could no longer find any other blogs when I checked the list. These bloggers, who chose the take-over-by-blitz-blogging, had an interest for me at one point, and I admire their owners’ dedication. But, like everything else in life, moderation is key to health and wisdom in my life and you ain’t getting’ me with a flood, darlings. You got to leave room for others now and again.

But most of my unfollows were blogs that had gone dormant, and have stayed thus for what I realized are not weeks or months, but years. I have kept them on because I loved those blogs. They didn’t bother anyone.

They were there not only so I can click and re-read old posts, but also just in case they woke up.
 I wanted to be there if they did, and welcome them back with a hug and a kiss.
But when they stayed quiet for ions, I eventually had to conclude these blogs were not sleeping. They were dead. Not their owners, I don’t think, but the blogs. Seeing them on the side of my dashboard used to make me feel good, but then it got sad, and sadder. It’s not that there was no point— it was depressing.

 I have yet to unfriend anyone on Facebook, and unfollowing was a new experience for me.

Let me tell you, unfollowing each of these dead-blogs was painful. It was a death all in itself, sort of.

Who said housecleaning is easy?

On the happy side, I have more room thanks to saying goodbye to the prolific sprouters, and more clarity on the side dashboard to check the others. And you know what? I can now ADD new ones.