Probably Not So Popular Opinion

I usually look forward to Fridays here on ye old blog.  Well let’s not kid ourselves.  I look forward to Fridays in general and I know I’m not alone in that.  Fridays are meant to be wind down days.  If you can work from home you probably do (I, sadly, do not have that luxury).  Certainly you work with less vim and vigor than you probably do the rest of the week.

I have been looking forward to Fridays here on the blog lately though, because that’s when Write on Edge posts the link-up for the Red Writing Hood prompts that I’ve been participating in lately.  It is not my intention to be bragging (so if it sounds that way, I’m sorry) when I say that I usually bust those short fiction pieces out in the course of an hour or so.  The hard part with those prompts isn’t writing the pieces, it’s deciding what I’m going to write about.  Sometimes the prompts seem so vague and indecipherable.  I usually figure out something eventually though.  Most of the time I just have to kick my literal thinking mind out of the way and let it be a little more – well, vague.

This week though, that just didn’t work out.  This week’s prompt goes something like this:

This week we’d like you to stir up some conflict, using the following quote as inspiration.

“It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence.”
Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948)

Well…  Not “something like” that.  That’s a cut and paste, so it goes exactly like that.  Only the problem is I’m not sure if I truly understand the quote, and what I think I understand of it, I do not agree with.

Honestly, the quote seems to be self-contradictory.

I do not believe in violence, period.  There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it.  I do not believe in violence.

I also do not really see a connection between “be violent, if there is violence in your heart” and a “cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence.”  How these two things even relate to each other, I do not know.

When I read the quote though, the first thing that comes to mind is some of the recent political protest activity that has happened around this here country of ours.  Thinking specifically of the “occupy” protests or, going back a little further, the Oscar Grant riots that happened here in Oakland a while back.  Things that were supposed to be “peaceful” but turn violent without much provocation.  Things that I heard lots of people argue in favor of, under the guise that “you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.”  Sounds like a “cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence” to me.

Only we aren’t impotent.  We can do something.  There are steps we can take that don’t involve breaking laws and destroying public or private property.  There are ways we can get our point across without belligerently disobeying the police.

Angry does not have to mean violent.  It does not have to mean disruptive.  It does not have to be destructive.

Impotence is laziness.

Impotence is an excuse.

If anything we tend to use violence, not nonviolence, as the cover for impotence.

WOE: Mentor

The Write On Edge prompt for this week was simply the word “mentor”.  Now those of you who’ve been around for a while and already know a thing or two about me, might have suspected I would write about Lil’B and my mentor-ship with him.  You might be surprised that my relationship with him is not the first thing that popped into my mind.  Those of you who have really been around for a while, I think I might have written about this experience once before and if this is old news, I’m sorry.

Do you have a mentor, or are you a mentor for someone else?

Now write about an experience with your mentor (or the person to whom you are a mentor) that shows us what that relationship means to you.

500 words maximum, please. And remember, this is a non-fiction prompt.

 

My family moved three days after my seventh grade year started.  I walked into the school office where I was enrolled in the school and given a class schedule with mere minutes to spare before the tardy bell on my first class and the secretary told me how to find my first classroom.  Somehow I was expected to make my way from class to class entirely on my own after that.  I really don’t even know how, but somehow I managed to get from one class and classroom to the next that morning.  And I either managed to do it without ever being tardy, or I looked sufficiently shell-shocked that my teachers had pity on me that first day (I never had detention.)

Finally, after my third class of the day, it was time for lunch, or so the NCR copy of my class schedule told me.  The problem was, unlike the rest of the line items of my class schedule, this item listed no room number other than “CAF”.  It seemed simple enough though, I would follow the rest of the students in my class.  Surely we would all be going to lunch at the same time.  Surely we would all be going to the same place.  Only it wasn’t just my class in the hallways.  And it wasn’t just time to wander to the cafeteria for those who were in the halls and very soon, I lost track of the heads I was following as they bobbed through the crowd.

I found myself back in the hallway near the office, completely lost.  I held the grubby paper in my hand knowing that I was supposed to be in the Cafeteria, but having no idea where that was, when I heard a voice form behind me.  “Are you lost?” she asked.  I turned, expecting to look up at the teacher but surprised to look her straight in the eye.  She looked grandmotherly to my twelve-year-old eyes, with curly hair and big square framed glasses.  After pointing me toward the cafeteria, which happened to be just down the hall and sending me on my way with a pat on the back, I was grateful, but thought little else about the kindly woman who had helped me.

I ate my lunch as quickly as I could, having spent half my lunch period looking for the cafeteria, then made my way to my next class, Music.  Lo and behold!  I walked into the kindly teacher’s classroom.  Music very quickly became my favorite class of the day and I spent many afternoons after school in that classroom, helping clean up and organize.

The next year I spent my first class each day as a student aid.  I chose the music teacher as the one I would assist.  Though my family lived only a few blocks from school, I was always a few minutes late to class (some things never change) – and yet, I never had detention.

 

Critical

The critiques were pretty painless last night.  I made a “joke” about being nervous to our leader and so she “let me off the hook” early by making me first.  I’m actually grateful for that.  I was able to get it out of the way and relax about it the rest of the night.

I wasn’t bothered by any of what they said, in fact I anticipated some of it.  There are some areas in The Teacher that are entirely too detailed and serve no purpose for the story.  What I now have to decide is whether to cut them down, or to make them serve a purpose.  While I personally kind of like some of the details, there was a consensus among the group that a few specific areas needed to be “condensed” and what the leader told us the first night was, “take what you want and ignore what you don’t, but if there’s some consistency in a particular area, you should probably revisit it,”  so I guess I will.

A lot of the other comments were about wanting to know more about certain things that are actually already addressed in other areas of the book.  That’s one of the downfalls in the way this works.  I get to submit 25 double spaced pages, three separate times.  They do not have to be the same pages, so I can have up to 75 pages critiqued.  But the first draft of The Teacher is 418 pages.  You can’t expect to know everything about the story and the characters and their backgrounds in 25 or even 75 pages of a 400 page novel.

So all in all, I feel pretty good about the feedback.  I agree with a lot of the comments that require changes and feel good about what I covered in other places that they asked for.  While I may not be as close to Book-Deal ready as I had thought/hoped, I do feel good about what I’ve done and what I can do to improve it.

So…  full speed ahead!

Wish Me Luck

By the way, tonight is the night.  In two and a half hours I’ll be at my writing workshop thingamajig and I’ll be getting my first, formal critique/feedback on my manuscript.

The tension mounts by the minute.  I’ll be taking some Ativan later (yes the anxiety is that real).  I want to take it now, but I’m afraid if I take it too early, it’ll wear off too early and that would be bad.

In the end it will all be fine, but that doesn’t really help me much right now, so…

Wish me luck!

Holy Hectic, Batman

What a day this has been.  After all those comments I made last week about not putting off the critiques until the last minute, I haven’t been able to get around to doing them until today, even though I got the samples earlier than last week.  And I’ve only been able to do one.  The other one I haven’t even cracked open yet.

I admit I’ve really been putting off doing it because it’s just so tough.  I want to be helpful, but fair, but honest, but constructive, but nice.  This does not come to me naturally, y’all! (I can’t believe I just used that word.)

I noticed last week that a lot of people did their critiques and comments electronically, using the review options (track changes and comments) in Microsoft Word and then printing out the hard copies for the writers.  The first of the two samples and the only one I’ve touched so far, the writer asked us to do it that way.  I’m not sure if that slowed me down or if it would have taken me a long time anyway, but it took me three and a half hours to do my critique and comments on an 18 page sample.  And that’s after having read the story last night.

There were a lot of technical problems with the story and some confusing points that slowed me down and I had to figure out how to comment on those in a positive and constructive way that still said, “You need to change these things.”  It’s not easy!

In addition to that, I had actual work to do today and errands to run at lunch, and blogs piling up in my reader and my own mental blocks against doing this in the first place, all standing in the way, holding me back.

I just don’t want to do them.  Not because I’m being lazy.  I just don’t want to tell people I don’t even know what I think of their writing…  but I want them to do it for me.  And I want them to like what I’ve done and have only great things to say (which is probably too much to expect) and I want them to be supportive and encouraging.  I don’t really believe in karma or good juju, or whatever.  I just don’t.  And yet, I do believe you get what you deserve.  You get what you give. (That’s different, right?)  So I’m doing the critiques and trying to be genuinely helpful in spite of my own insecurity and my fear of coming across more harshly than I mean to and hoping that they won’t, or that I won’t take it that way.

And so here we are on Tuesday night.  I’ve done one critique and have another one to go and yet, twenty-three hours and forty-five minutes from now, I will already be in the work shop, either listening to what they thought of my sample, or telling them what I thought of theirs, and I haven’t even started on the last sample, yet.

No pressure here…