Thursday, July 30, 2015

In search of....

Wanted: Scathing, honest critiques of my writing. Don't hold back. Tell me what doesn't work as much as what does.

Would you respond to this "want" ad? Would you follow through?

I've been pondering this for quite some time. I've participated in several panels and forum discussions about reviews. I think that we've sufficiently throttled the poor dead horse named Review but here I am discussing it again. I guess I figured it's high time I explain my unusual take on reviews/critiques and why I crave some one and two star shred-fests.

What do negative reviews do for authors (or any artists for that matter)? I'm not talking about blatant, personal attacks so please do not misunderstand me. The reviews I'm referring to are the constructive critiques of creative works.

It is important to know what resonates with people, what speaks to your audience and what doesn't. Critiques/reviews provide this feedback and every creative needs to know what works and what doesn't. Negative reviews are as helpful in this matter as positive reviews. What do we learn from only receiving glowing feedback? Not much and let's be honest, nothing good comes of excessive ego-stroking. Even my favorite novels have extremely negative reviews - just roll over to goodreads, type in "The Hobbit" and check out the one star reviews. Granted, only 2% of the reviews on "The Hobbit" are 1 star crappers but 2% of more than 17,000 means there a sizable number of Hobbit-haters.

Is it too much to ask for some of that hate? Somebody to go through and shred everything I write, to point out all of the glaring errors and wretched holes in my work?

Apparently the answer is yes.

Is it fear of hurting my feelings? The fallout of too many artists losing it over negative feedback? I'm still trying to sort out the why of it but I know I'm not the only one. So here I am, on behalf of myself and some of the most solid creatives I know, asking all of you who value what we do to let it all out, to give us the brutal truth we need.

Maybe then we can weed out the crap that's flooding the world, like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey. Just sayin.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

For my beautiful, talented, headstrong daughter....

It is no secret that I have a daughter. She's beautiful and talented and headstrong and I love her. Maybe that's just me being a proud Mom but I will let you decide.

She plays softball. This was her first season and she fell in love from the get go. She was fortunate to be placed on this incredible team where the girls got along from day one. At their first tournament game on Thursday they sang and danced and goofed off as a team. Nobody sits alone - EVER. They cheer for each other so loud that it echoes across all of the fields. They rallied and won in extra innings.

But, we live in the Midwest and as most Americans know, this summer has been one of the wettest I can remember. There have been a lot of rain outs. A LOT. This weekend (July 16th-19th) was set at the beginning of the season to be the alternate date for tournaments so, as a sports-friendly family, we purchased her plane tickets to visit my parents for July 20th. Unfortunately, the league now wants to play the championship game on Monday evening meaning that my daughter, and at least a few other girls, will miss the biggest game of their season because the league has opted to give deference to supplemental league play in which only a handful of the girls are participating. My kiddo was initially in tears but it did not last long. Today as she sits here waiting to play her next tournament game, knowing that if her team advances she will not be able to advance with them as the schedule stands now, she is working on alternate ideas. This is her plan:

1. Write a letter to the league to give to the league official prior to the tournament game tonight:

Dear DYA,

Hello my name is ****** and I have been given permission to write this letter and am doing so willingly. I am very upset about the tournaments and that the championship will be on Monday instead of being today or tomorrow.
I am a one of the softball players and have been there every game. I have been working hard and having fun this season and I was really looking forward to tournaments. In the beginning of the season everything said the season would be done by mid-July. The rain dates were listed as the 16th-19th so my family purchased our plane tickets for the 20th so I wouldn’t miss anything. Now that the championship is on Monday I won’t get to play if my team makes it. I am not the only girl who did so. I don’t think it’s right for girls who want to play softball and have played all season to miss out on the biggest game of the season.
            What I think we should do instead is push the Allstar league back because it is only a supplemental league so it should come after our league not before our league.
 I would also like to say something about fall softball in this letter. I have signed up for fall baseball since there is no fall softball. It is so sad that boys get a fall baseball league if we don’t get a fall softball league. There are not enough fall sports for girls. Why?



Not bad for a ten year old, eh? Did I mention that there is fall baseball in this league but no fall softball?? She's fighting that too.

2. Arrive at the field early for her game and speak with the girls from the four teams left in the tournament to have them sign a petition to attach with the letter, one to have the games played this weekend and the other to create a fall softball league.

My kiddo knows that her actions may not change things but she wants her voice heard and she's not going to leave for vacation without knowing that she tried. I'm supporting her. Will you?

Friday, July 10, 2015

When life gives you lemons....

...sell them to the highest bidder and buy a six pack of your favorite craft beer.

Sometimes I have so much to say that I can't get the words out. It's been a bit of a hell week (or hell weeks, plural?!) for me and I've written plenty, just not publicly for fear of repercussions that could be harmful to my family. My journals are overflowing with rants to expel the frustrations so they would not seep over into real time where my kids would feel them.

It didn't work. My kids felt it anyway. And they responded in those incredible way.

Let me back up a bit. It's not a secret that I'm divorced but I don't broadcast it out of respect for my kids who are still struggling with the breakup of their family. They've been through a lot and I did not want to pile on more. It seems that divorce still carries a stigma.

In most ways, I am MUCH better off since my divorce. Our marriage was no longer healthy for so many reasons. I am not going to get into the blame game but needless to say, I lost custody of most of my friends in the divorce and I've been left with some serious trust issues. Not that I don't have some incredible friends around here, I do, but they all have their own lives and I do not like to impede those lives. Some would call it "trouble asking for help." I would rather save my "help me" card for something truly dire - say auto wreck by the side of the road - because I have no immediate family in the area.

I'm getting off track again. This was not supposed to be the point of this post. The point is that I had a rough week and I have been dealing with it as best I could in the circumstances and my incredible kids have not complained one bit about not having our usual Wednesday excursion because Mommy's car broke down and needed some serious repairs. They have not complained that I have been preoccupied with getting my car fixed and doing some other un-fun things to try to improve our situation leaving little time to help my daughter sew her Walking Dead messenger bag or teach my son some new painting skills. Not only did they not complain, last night when we parted ways so that they could go with their Dad for the night, I returned home to the most delightful surprise.

Not only was my house clean - and I mean "Mommy clean" not "Kid clean" - I came home to the cutest little arrangement on my bed. How awesome are my kids?

So you know what, bring on those lemons. I'll hock 'em and buy ice cream to share with my kids. 

Friday, July 3, 2015

If I had a million dollars.....

Every time somebody asks me what I would do with a million dollars I can't help but mentally sing the awesome Barenaked Ladies song. Don't know it? You can catch it here. It's a neat little ditty. And it makes me think. What would I do?

A million dollars is a lot of money to me. I've struggled financially for a long time now, never seem to catch up, you know, the whole single mom and starving artist thing do not gel. So, yeah, I daydream a bit about having a million dollars.

So, what would I do?

Obviously I'd pay off my debt. I'd like a house in Seattle, Washington. One with a huge kitchen, a giant library with three walls of floor to ceiling bookshelves and A LOT of windows with an incredible, inspiring view. The kids and I don't need anything intense but we need those three things.

Then I'd help my family, naturally. My parents have been there for me and I really want to make sure they can retire and do what they love for their second careers. Then there's my supremely talented sis and bro-in-law who are chefs (YUMMMMY) who should be sharing their talents on their terms. I do so love watching them cook together, it's entertaining and rewarding. My brother and soon to be sis-in-law could use some love too, just a bit to get them going in the direction they choose.

What about some friends? Those incredible people who actually DID stick with me. You know who you are and I am grateful for you all.

Once they are all covered, I will have lots of money left in that million to do good things. I want to help other people like us, people who work hard their whole lives and just need a little help to get going. I surround myself with talented people who just need a break because we help each other, we push each other and we support each other when it seems that we will never make a life doing what we want to do. There are other people out there like us. And I want to help. I want to level the playing field.

A little too Shiny Happy People for you?

Too bad. I just cannot understand the need to accumulate fortunes that you could never hope to spend in a lifetime when there are people out there struggling to make ends meet, going without food to make certain their kids don't, and drowning in debt working at jobs that make them crazy. There is not enough art or intelligent literature in this world to make it a better place. There is so much money out there just sitting, just fading and collecting layer upon layer of dust when it could be going to better places.

So, what would I do with a million dollars? I'd do my damnedest to change the world.