Criticism

All posts tagged Criticism

On begging for help.

Published June 19, 2013 by mandileighbean

For a long time now, I have been trying to start a second novel.  I thought I was on my way with a story about an aging musician and his younger lover and their romantically tragic and addictively dramatic lives, but there seemed to be a real lack of interest from a few of my regular and trusted readers.  It has been driving me crazy.

DID2I added a poll to my author Facebook page and in accordance with my fears, few were interested in the romantic tale.  According to the results, more were intrigued by a brief description of a plot involving a young man and the mysterious death of his fiancée.  You have to give the people what they want, right?  Thus, I have started writing my second novel, which has a working title of Moody Blue.

I am going to post the beginning of what I have here, in hopes it will be read and feedback will be left.

As always, enjoy and please let me know what you think.  I’ll beg if I have to.

DID DID1

MOODY BLUE

by

Mandi Bean

Chapter One

Human beings respond to traumatic events in different ways. Some people will remove the entire episode from their memories and completely block it from their minds. It is like they passed out and completely lost conscious for the event – like at the moment of impact, when the glass shattered from the outside in and the metal frame of the car and crumpled and crunched impossibly loud, their eyes slipped shut and they missed everything.  When they next opened their eyes, there were bandages, gauze, and scars and a hazy kind of recollection that would be terrifying and incredibly detrimental were it to clarify.  Thus, every day is a struggle varying in difficulty to keep the terror, the heartache, and the pain at bay. The goal is to simply exist, to continue from day to day as if nothing ever happened. These poor souls operate under the near constant pressure of the past, of the truth, of reality crashing down upon them like a tsunami, and shattering the walls they have built around themselves. Others remember the traumatic event in remarkable detail, able to recall the sights, sounds, smells and sensations at a moment’s notice. Their eyes were open wide and observant, somehow impeccably braced for the crash.  As if time slowed to a crawl, these individuals looked all around and noticed a slight stain on the front of their passengers’ shirts – probably ketchup or dripping grease from a tasty hamburger – and the way said shirts folded upon themselves at the passengers’ thighs when seated.  When the police arrive on scene, these are the individuals who provide the makes, models, colors and license plates of the other vehicles, which slammed into their own cars.  These individuals have accepted what happened and freely live with it, and do so fairly quickly, almost immediately.  Rather than treating the past as some stranger, these people welcome it as an old friend, inviting it to walk beside them daily and help to define the rest of their lives. These people are strong in spirit, undoubtedly, and wake every day fully aware of whom they were, who they are and wonder at who they might be. Still others hold onto one single detail of a traumatic event, and let that one detail define the whole event. They focus in on something minute to keep from going mad, to keep from going numb, and to keep from drowning in their sorrow. Because one thing, one little thing, is easily broken down, analyzed and compartmentalized accordingly. This is the person who cannot determine from which direction the other car came from, or where he was going and why.  He can only stare at his bloodied, trembling hands and mouth soundlessly, doing his best to form unintelligible syllables which were intended to form words but fall short of the mark.  The focus becomes the stained appendages because to try and live with the whole trauma, with all its many aspects and nasty surprises would be suicide for this man, and for people like him. Focusing in and away from the big picture would make waking in the morning and taking that next inhale much easier for these kinds of victims and these kinds of witnesses.

Adam Peterson belonged to this latter group.

The only thing he honestly remembered about finding his fiancée dead in their bedroom was all the blood. As far as Adam could remember, and let accuracy be damned, the room was filled with orange, burning light – whether from the setting sun or the sun’s rays reflecting over the various pools of blood he could not be sure.  But amid the odd light, he could see Lily in the room, in the blood.   Lily was surrounded by it, transformed into a lonely island of flesh. Adam practically had to swim through it to get to his beloved, trudging through crimson puddles with the coppery smell of it filling his nostrils and forcing his stomach to rise to his throat. He was worried about vomiting, but the worry was not strong enough to keep the howls of pain within his throat, because they traveled with too much power from deep within his chest, beside his soul, adjacent to his very reason for being. It did not seem possible.  Indeed, it was only a few hours ago that Adam had risen, gone to work, and then returned home with every intention of proposing to Lily.  How had everything gone so horribly, tragically wrong so fast?

Adam could never, and believed he would never, be sure as to why he awoke when he did that fateful morning.  Maybe it was the absence of the anticipated obnoxious buzzing of the alarm clock that roused him, even though it also explained why he slept as late as he did.  His eyes inexplicably shot wide, preternaturally realizing something was askew and that his biological alarm clock was slow.   His hand reached out to pull the alarm clock close, desperate to read the time in blaring digits colored a neon green, and praying that it would be earlier rather than later, that there would be time, indeed.  This day, Adam’s luck was in (or so he had thought); he had only slept thirty minutes later than usual.  If he just sped through his shower and skipped breakfast, he’d be golden.  He set the alarm clock back on the bedside table, short and squat and made of some wood composite, gently, much gentler than when he had grabbed it because there was time; there was no need for anger or anxiety.  It would be okay.  He threw the covers and hurried into the bathroom adjacent to the bedroom, whipping the door shut behind him.  In just a few moments, Lily could hear the water traveling through the pipes to beat against the linoleum that made up the bottom of the shower.  She had been awake.  She had noticed that Adam’s alarm clock had failed to sound, had been the cause of the tardiness.  Gracefully, she had leaned over her beloved’s sleeping form to turn off the alarm.  She had done so around 3:22AM, when she had awoken and been unable to go back to sleep.  What was keeping Lily up was difficult to discern and understand, but she had stayed up for the two hours, staring up at the ceiling and breathing evenly.  She could hear Adam breathing peacefully beside her, and he seemed comfortable and untroubled, so she had done her best to match her rhythm to his.

DID3

On a rough week.

Published January 20, 2013 by mandileighbean

This week was an emotional rollercoaster of sorts, to be sure.  From the beginning, I knew that it would be exhausting because of parent/teacher conferences and I did feel especially drained, and I suspect that to be the reason why I felt particularly emotionally vulnerable.  I was uselessly anxious and worried about an observation that has yet to occur and find myself increasingly unsure of myself.  My confidence wavers not only from day to day, but from class period to class period.  I console myself by shrugging it off as part of the onslaught of nervousness that it is the first year of teaching, but in my darkest moments, I worry that I am not emotionally or intellectually cut out to be in education.  I do not want to live my life endlessly yearning for Friday or for June; I want to be happy and even more than that, I want to be loved and feel wanted.  With this emphasis on the simple things, I surprise myself by being so taken and so absorbed by the smaller complexities of American life; bills, societal pressures and expectations, employment, etc.  I know I am not the only one who feels this way or has these concerns, but I find little comfort in that.  Is it because I am narcissistic?

On December 21st, the basketball hoop in our driveway fell over onto my car and cracked the windshield.

windshield1

It was not, though there were those who believed otherwise, the end of the world.  But then, nearly exactly a month later, the basketball hoop fell over onto my car again, with strong winds being the culprit, and completely shattered my windshield.

windshield2

Tiny shards of glass wink in the light from the dashboard and the front passenger seat.  It cannot be driven, and it will cost around $200 to have it replaced.

Apex rejected my short story for publication.

No radio station has called me back about my request for an interview, and the library has not returned my call or my e-mail.  I know I have time, but what if my novel is never successful?  What if I am not meant to be a best-selling novelist?  Can I live with mediocrity?

All of these negative ponderings that gnaw at the corners of my mind like some kind of feral, diseased rodent threaten to overtake me.  I verge on succumbing to the depression and futility, but then there are small moments that save me.  I prayed for snow, and though only a very few flakes fell, I was content because I was awake and outside to witness it.  In the middle of my walk, the flurries landed in my eyelashes and on my fingertips and I smiled bravely, beautifully, and triumphantly up to the heavens.

I have lost seven pounds.  Speaking of my diet, the goal this week was to limit alcohol.  I usually do not drink very much, but this weekend, I was invited to a birthday dinner and allowed myself two glasses of wine, which is more than I usually have.  No harm, no foul; the dinner was a lot of fun and I felt like I belonged there, which means more than extra fat around the middle.

leeandme

My friends are still supportive of the novel, and have provided with me positive reviews.  Whether or not these reviews are entirely honest is a point for debate but is also inconsequential.

review

The music of Bruce Springsteen always makes me smile.  Today, while walking, I listened to a few songs and though I had been crying, the tears dried up quickly, and so did the frustration and helplessness I felt.  Just a few growled lyrics to a simple, optimistic melody can make me feel like I am infinite.

I am writing again, easing myself back into a daily routine.

 

You win some, you lose some.

On promises for swing voters.

Published May 9, 2012 by mandileighbean

I am totally ready for the summer. I enjoy teaching – I think – and I thoroughly enjoy my students, but lately, I’ve been feeling dramatically uninspired. I haven’t always been the consummate professional I need to be. I worry the students don’t respect me, or take me seriously. I am anxious about whether or not I’m performing my job to the best of my abilities and become increasingly frustrated at the lack of feedback. I am paranoid, and over analyze every single passing glance in the hallways. I am unsure of what my future holds in a way that I never have been before. And then, I stuff all of this uncertainty down and away from me because I claim it doesn’t even matter; I’m going to be a famous writer. I try to shift my focus and my priorities, but I’m scared. I’m also lazy. It’s almost like I want to wake, make tea and write all day without putting in the work to be able to do so. I know that there’s a prevailing sense of entitlement that could very well doom me. What I don’t know is how I’m going to deal with it, or any of the heartaches and shocks thrown my way.

That being said, I hope you enjoy tonight’s writing prompt. I think it’s silly, and I’m not sure I did it right. But still, enjoy.

🙂

 

PROMPT: Promises for Swing Voters
  You are running for president of the writing community. What promises do you make to swing voters in your direction?

Authors! Writers! Wordsmiths! Lend me your ears!

Seriously though, I have a few ideas which I believe will benefit the entirety of our close-knit writing community. Admittedly, our community is fairly awesome as is, but there are always areas for improvement. That being said, I propose that any member of the writing community that continuously confuses there, their and they’re shall have their membership immediately and permanently revoked. Is it not a safe assumption that vast majority of the writers within the community are educated, at least well enough that spelling errors should be few and far between?

I am not a tyrant, friends – mistakes are bound to happen! All will not be punished severely. However, those not in favor of the Oxford comma will be upset because it will be mandatory; that particular writing tool makes perfect sense and should be used. Conversely, those who comma splice will find company among those who confuse they’re, there and their. Writing is a craft which must be practiced daily, so while mistakes will be numerous, the quality of such mistakes will be noted and judged.

When I close my eyes and envision the perfect writing world, everyone with talent – real talent – has an agent and thereby a fighting chance. It perturbs me that successful writing is more a vicious cycle than anything else. Publishers look favorably upon writers with agents, but a writer can only easily attain the services of an agent if a writer has been published. If an aspiring author asks someone how to get published, I think the answer would be: “Be published” and I ask you, what kind of answer is that? That’s not to say getting published is impossible, but many promising writers are discouraged, so let’s end the vicious cycle and the exclusivity which is based on mere opportunity rather than more appropriate standards such as talent and tenacity.

That’s the kind of writing community – nay, the kind of world – I’d like to live in.

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