Sunday, March 26, 2017

Writing Critique Buddies

I’ve been very lucky to have wonderful beta readers. Some were other writers, and we exchanged feedback on each other’s work. Some were not writers and their feedback as discerning, thoughtful, and articulate readers—can only be repaid by the special place I hope they get in heaven.

But there are some pitfalls I have learned, from my own experience and hearing about others’, which I hope to share here. Rather than couch such in the negative, I decided to phrase the points in the affirmative. You can deduce what not to do from it. Goodness, the very act of a thoughtful exchange is as generous and as positive as can be. Let’s keep it that way.

·         When agreeing to exchange manuscript critiques it’s best to keep the number of helpers who come forward small, so that on your end you can give thorough feedback, the kind you would like to get.

·         Do point every typo, misused word, and spelling mistake. These little escapees from proofreading are often caught by other readers. Although this requires nitty-gritty kind of reading, you should treat the manuscript as your own. You wouldn’t want yours to go out on submission that way.

·         It’s fine to state something reads so perfectly to you that you have no suggestions. This happens rarely, but it does happen. Being a critic will sometimes mean only enthusiastic praise. It's better than coming up with “something” to negate for the sake of it.

·         Apropos the point above^, it’s nice to begin and end with genuine positive comments. It’s even more helpful to be unsparing at the meat of the feedback. The rare times works-in-progress come your way flawless are exactly that, rare. Best help is real help.

·        Yes, that--

Above all, helpful feedback is specific. This old post got more hits than most of my blog posts, and so I point to it, again.

If you are offering feedback not as an exchange, your generosity is legend with me. Books, also, take a small village.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Spring Has Sprung

The word for spring in Hebrew is Aviv. You may have heard it as a proper name, even more in its feminine form, Aviva. You may have heard of Tel Aviv, Israel’s largest city, whose name means Spring Hill. The root  of the word (letters AVV) pertains to a young sprouting plant.

But I so prefer the English word, spring.
It has more energy and connotes active bursting and flowing forward. The sound of it, beginning with constipated consonants jammed together, (SP) and opening to a forward flow, (IN) ending with what feels, to me, a sort of exclamation,(G)-- make it an ingenious sound for what is, really, an idea.

The idea is that we emerge from a bottled up state, a freeze or hibernation of sorts, and like just uncorked champagne we pop, gush and flow, hands stretched in an upward motion that says ---

Do you feel it yet? Spring, officially, just got here.

May creativity and life conquer all.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Why Do I Love My Cats?

It’s not a state-secret that I like cats. But I LOVE my cats.

I have some dear friends who do not like cats. One doesn’t like animals, period. A second has always had a dog and just doesn’t care for cats. A third loves dogs, but only English bulldogs for some reason, and cats are “aloof to the point of being appalling,” so sayeth he. A fourth professes to like cats a little, but is allergic. 

I don’t have to explain my admiration for domestic felines to avowed cat-fanciers. But I do find myself justifying my admiration of the species to many of my friends. Why do I like cats? They’re beautiful, graceful, smell good, and, what can I say-- are self-cleaning. Most admirable.

Why do I LOVE mine?

Because in addition to all the above, I take care of them.

It was a revelation to discover that at the root of abiding love is the experience of taking care of the beloved. Not what they did for me, but what I did for them.

That explains a lot. We take care of young and very old humans in diapers. We pick up after them and let them scream at us. And then, when they have worn us out, we love them even more.

It isn’t what is most glorious or glamorous; it’s the care they made us extend.

For once, I have some insight into the divine love for creation.

And before I get too sappy and waaaay too lofty here, I’m heading to clean the litter box.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

International Women’s Day

Tomorrow, says my wall calendar, is International Women’s Day.
Blimey if I know what that means.

I mean, I’m a woman. I was born one, and never changed. I’m also inter-national. I hold dual citizenships, and I was born with that, also. I’ve lived in different countries, and I speak more than one language.

So it’s my day, right?

I dun’ know. Why am I not feeling it?
©Noam Nadav

It occurred to me that the powers who declared this celebration could have done a better job to mark it. For the likes of me, who would rather eat soap than go to rah-rah marches, here are some of the celebratory ways I could relate to:

*On International Women’s Day— all stores shall sell all products designed to be used by women at half the price. And you’d have to be a woman to buy such.

*On International Women’s Day— every person who is not a woman will salute every woman they pass. Better yet, they’d bow down.

*On International Women’s Day— it will be mandatory to have free chocolate truffles dispensaries at every street corner for women only, and you’d get fined using it if you don’t, at the very least, look the part.

Now that^ would be a day to celebrate being a woman.

Until, and when, those who declare holidays in the land come to see the wisdom of my suggestions, I will celebrate International HUMAN Day instead.


Don’t mind me. Have fun.