The Author and the Creative Writing Class

It’s rewarding to walk into a classroom and have a student say, “You’re the published author.” For someone whose dream is to write for the young adult audience, it’s especially thrilling.
I would know. I do. And it happened to me.
The next words from this thrilled student’s mouth? Care to guess?
“What did you write again.”
Yep. The face was memorable but the book title was not.
Although, several students recognized the cover of the book I had discussed with them in November, months before.


And then there was the creative writing class.
What I Expected
When the middle school English teacher gave me “freedom” to teach whatever I wanted to her creative writing class, I smiled. Maybe I sent the clouds scurrying from the radiant beams of joy.
“We’re finishing up a unit on mystery and suspense,” she wrote. “They have stories to read to the class.”
Long stories. I was impressed.
The fact many of the stories read more like horror? Not as impressive to my anti-scare self.
Based on the reaction from the regular English students (noted above), I expected the writers to fall all over me.
Not even a smile when I mentioned I was a published author. Oh-kay.
I did get a positive reaction when I told them we wouldn’t be moving on to the poetry writing unit. Cheers all around.
When I offered to comment on their rough drafts to see if they might want to make changes before they turned the story in two days later? Not a single taker.
My published status meant nothing to these young writers.
“I would have flipped if a published author offered to read my stories,” a little voice inside me whined.
Reality Bites
The forum the teacher used for sharing the stories invited only positive comments once the author finished their reading.
“I liked the description.”
“Loved how real the characters were.”
“You did a great job building tension.”
Sometimes what they said was even true.
I itched to mark up these stories. Several of them had great premises. Others were a mashup of every police show and horror movie the student had seen.
My lips were sealed.
And I didn’t get to comment on even one story of the nine that were read over the first two days I worked in the room.
Happily Ever After
None of these stories had a happy ending. Apparently, suspense stories involve the narrator dying (in two cases), lots of minor characters’ deaths (in over half the stories) and fathers who were really mass murderers (in three instances).
Yikes! Should I report this to the authorities? Perhaps these stories had a hint of auto-biography in them.
I offered the class two choices for our Friday writing activity. As I expected, they chose the “finish the story” write around.
I selected nine young adult genres (not mystery or suspense), and wrote down a first line. Most of these I took from published books of that genre. A couple leapt from my imagination reservoir.
And they wrote.
But the suspense unit was still too fresh in their minds. With the exception of a few stories, the variety of authors chose to steer the contemporary diary toward suicide and murder. In fact, the actual horror story was less horrifying than some of the others.
On this occassion, however, a few of the students asked me to “finish” the stories that didn’t find resolution.
There were three. Two of them didn’t involve murderous parents or homicide in any form.
It was great fun pulling all their threads together. My favorite? The fantasy, of course. Although the steampunk story had a more interesting plot line.
An author teaching creative writing might not be the smooth fit you’d imagine. Even if imagining is what you do for a living.

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Rewrite, Revise, Repeat…Is it Done Yet?

Rewrite_revise_repeatGood writing is rewriting. I’m not the originator of that wisdom. It seems like I might be a poster child for it, though.

When did I finish this young adult fantasy novel again? Oh, right, before NaNoWriMo last year.

It was ready for a little polish and then off to the beta readers.

Or so I thought. Until I got a critique on the first 20,000 words from the amazing Jami Gold.

It had major character arc issues.

So, I spent December tweaking things, getting a little feedback on the opening from my online critique group.

In January, I went through it all again, trying to spiff it up slightly. I don’t like sending mediocre writing out to readers.

Off it went to four beta readers in February.

And only one of them loved it.

The non-genre readers had issues with some of the fantastical happenings (it is a FANTASY after all), but thought the characters read fairly well. He wasn’t impressed with the ending.

The fantasy genre read-aholic thought the premise was great. He didn’t think the characters arced very much. Everything happened for them too easily – even though the stakes couldn’t get much higher.

Months later, the soon-to-be-published YA Fantasy writer returned the manuscript. Shredded. (No need to mention my writing confidence was also ripped apart. But that’s part of becoming a professional writer.)

Much of the stuff she address was tight writing, which I address most in my editing and polishing phases (which happen once all the revision and rewriting is finished).

The story had so much potential but was weighed down by wishy-washy characters and too few moments of accelerating tension.

So, I spent the next two weeks slicing and dicing the beta manuscript.

Here are a few examples:

  • The first scene was completely scratched and rewritten (for like the fourth or fifth time)
  • The order of the first two scenes was switched (suggestion from my target audience beta group)
  • Several scenes were tossed into the “cut scenes” file (making it a hefty 15,000 words)
  • A few new scenes were added
  • Nearly every scene was intensified with more emotions (teenagers = drama)
  • The end was completely rewritten (for the second time)

In short, anyone who read the original story probably wouldn’t recognize it in the pages of the rewritten story.

Next stop, revision with a red pen.

I print out my manuscript and read it aloud. Every sentence comes under fire.

I’ll address grammar issues if I find them. Obvious word repetition will fall beneath my sharpened editor’s blade.

But mostly, I’m cleaning up the language. Clarifying meaning. Focusing on the individual voice of each passage.

Does that SOUND like something my seventeen-year-old heroine would say? Would a fifteen-year-old surfing science geek think or talk that way?

good writing meme

After that, the manuscript will get two more rounds of edits. It’s during these final polishing rounds that I will search for obvious areas of “telling” rather than “showing.” Major word repetition will be rooted out.

After that, will it finally be done?

Nope, but it will be ready for marketing to agents, editors and publishers. Once they buy it, it will go through several more rounds of editing.

Because every writer knows – a story is never done.

Newbie Author Seeks Publishing Contract

In the world of authorial experience, I’m still a newbie. One published short story, an independently published novella and a contract for another short story: those are my publishing credits.

As for writing, though, I’ve had a long and arduous journey. And I’ve written close to a half-million words since doing this “writing thing” full-time. Some people say once I’ve written a million words, I’ll finally be through my apprenticeship.

Hopefully, I’ll have a few readers who love me by then, too.

I spent my first year polishing and perfecting the first novel in a young adult fantasy series. I wrote the entire trilogy at the suggestion of a writing teacher I regard highly. It helped to disgorge the full story.

DOW CoverIf you’ve written one novel, you know the exhilaration (or maybe utter exhaustion) of typing the final sentence. Since I started writing full-time in July of 2013, I’ve written four 70,000+ word novels (all young adult fantasies) and a 40,000-word historical fiction novella. Every time I finished the first draft, I wanted to sing and dance (and take a LONG nap).

My first novel made the rounds:

  • It attended a first ten pages workshop. The beginning got rewritten.
  • It went to another class about hooking a reader. Another new beginning.
  • The first twenty pages and a synopsis were submitted for critique by a published author of the fantasy genre. More work was needed.
  • After pitching the idea at a writer’s conference, I sent the first fifty pages to an agent.

Even before I heard back from her (“The story has potential but isn’t right for her needs”), I knew the story needed a complete overhaul. Why? I had been learning about structure, conflict, and character motivation.

The first novel was a novelty, but it wasn’t marketable. It needed to be rewritten.

doomsday1Meanwhile, I had birthed a new, exciting idea. There were dragons and volcanoes and a snarky teenage girl. Who could ask for more? So I wrote that novel.

The first third of this novel found its way to a professional editor for a developmental edit. Guess what I found out? The story was strong. The characters? Not so much.

I’m climbing the learning curve, but it’s a steep one. Writing a novel is no easy task. It’s complex. A brain surgeon probably needs fewer hours to learn how to remove a tumor than an author needs to perfect a novel-length story.

That novel is still in the process of being revised. My beta readers enjoyed it, but they found flaws. Namely: everything happens too easily. That’s right. I like these characters and I want something to go smoothly in their otherwise crappy lives. But smooth sailing doesn’t make a good story.

“We learn the world is at stake too early in the story.” When a volcano erupts in glorious splendor in the first scene and the seer envisions a dragon in the second scene, things are moving along. But not doomsday in the fourth chapter. Even if it’s in the title of the book.

And the characters don’t grow much. What? They save the world but seem unchanged? More. Development. Needed.

So, that’s what I’m working on this summer. The Willamette Writer’s Conference nears, and I’ll be pitching this new project to an agent and an editor.

Have I moved from the apprentice stage of writing? Will this novel be deemed “saleable”?

I hope so. But, if it gets rejected, I’ll send it to another group of critiquers, get more feedback, make more changes, and NEVER SURRENDER.

That manuscript still isn’t perfect yet? – Part Three of my Manuscript Critique

You might be sick of reading about my numerous critique experiences. I know I’m tired of rewriting the manuscript.

Remember I mentioned rewriting the first pages of this manuscript. That rewrite was for a class given by Kristen Lamb.

If you don’t follow her blog, I suggest you follow this link and sign up. If you need to learn about craft or building an author platform, I suggest her classes and her book, Rise of the Machine-Human Authors in a Digital World.

Having met Kristen’s red pen before, I expected a good ripping from her. Good thing I had that sand-papery experience with Ms. Hughes to toughen my sensitive writer’s psyche, right? And don’t forget my friend Becky lambasting what I considered a polished manuscript.

First of all, Kristen called me on the phone to talk about my initial beginning. “Too much telling. Show me how crappy her life is” was the gist of that conversation.

Immediately, I sat down and cranked out a new beginning. I let it sit overnight and then reread it. Not quite where I wanted it to be, so I tweaked it and completely junked the first sentence. After one more go-through, I sent it off to Jedi Master Lamb.

Her response: “Here you go. Much better but watch the 1) odd sentence construction 2) too much physiology and 3) brain-holding.”

You know what rocked me the most about this short and sweet statement? She mentioned the odd sentence construction which was something Alex Hughes also noted. My. Sentences. Suck.

Epiphany: No matter what you think about your sentences, Shari, they are constructed in a way that obscures your meaning.

Time to stop trying to write with variety and just put the words down on the page. Say what you mean to say, Shari. Nothing more. Nothing less. And certainly nothing fancy.

If you’ve taken many creative writing classes, perhaps you have a voice in your head that says “Another subject-verb-object construction? Boring!” According to the professionals who critiqued my manuscript, I need to duct tape this person’s mouth closed and throw her in the basement with my inner editor.

On to number two. What does she mean about “physiology”? Do I have too much heart-pounding? I know there were a few areas where Alex said “choose one” about physical responses. I think Master Lamb is nailing me for the same thing.

Less heart pounding for the character and more for the reader. Got it.

“Brain-holding” stumped me. Given the context, it is obviously something in my writing style. Is she talking about over-explaining? Or am I spending too much time inside the character’s mind? I don’t know.

What do you think? I know you didn’t get to read the pages, but since she didn’t mark them so I knew where I was doing the “brain-holding” I don’t know if seeing them would help.

What is brain-holding in regards to a manuscript? Do you have problems with any of these three areas? How do you improve going forward when someone has pointed out shortfalls in your writing?

Be Careful what you wish for: Manuscript Critique Part Two

Willamette-Writers2Last week, I talked about my meeting with author Alex Hughes at the Willamette Writer’s Conference. It left me crushed and questioning my calling to the young adult fantasy genre.

This wasn’t the first, last, or only critique of my manuscript. I’ve mentioned my wonderful beta readers before. They gave me something similar to a critique.

Of course, none of these people have anything on my friend and fellow writer, Becky Bean. We attended the writing conference together and she volunteered to take a look at the first fifty pages of my novel before I sent it to the agent.

When the email including the critiqued pages begins like this: “Love the story, love the setting, love the way you play with the absence of words, rather than overstating it.”

Every writer’s dream, right? She lulled me into believing I’d finally found a true believer. After all, what could she possibly say to negate all the “love” she just spilled on me?

“The story’s kick-ass – the exact thing I would have devoured in high school.” It sounds like another compliment of the highest order, right?

Top three pages - the other 18 look just as lovely
Top three pages – the other 18 look just as lovely

Or not. Don’t get me wrong, I believe Becky believes all these things about my story. She also knows that pumping me up with lots of happiness isn’t going to improve my story. And I appreciate her for being strong when she sliced the story apart.

Reasons we need other people to read our stories:

  • We know the background and what we’re trying to say. We think we put the important bits into words on the page. Readers can read it and be totally lost. Someone has to find where missing information keeps the reader from suspending disbelief.
  • The character is shouting inside our mind. We’re transcribing the conversation. Sometimes we miss a few essential phrases. Someone needs to tell us when something makes no sense or seems out of place.
  • We know what will happen next. We need to foreshadow the important events, at least in subtle ways. Someone must tell us when something came “out of the blue” and fell flat.
  • Our setting is as clear in our mind as our kitchen is to our eyes. We’ve heard we shouldn’t over-describe, so we include only the barest essentials. Sometimes we leave out something the reader needs to fully visualize the scene.
  • Our description or introspection or exposition can go too far. Or it can fall short of making our message clear. Someone needs to tell us when things are overdone or unclear.

I wouldn’t suggest handing your manuscript to someone whose writing you didn’t know and respect. After all, if they can’t formulate a decent story, how can they help you?

Becky’s writing voice is authentic and her style is hilarious. She’s an avid reader of fantasy. In addition to all that, I know she wants to help me get my work published.

Did I agree with everything she said? Let me answer that this way: Do I agree with anyone on the planet 100 percent of the time? No. There’s your answer.

When the things she said lined up with the first critique, I had to consider them. I didn’t want to make some of the changes. It wasn’t true to my original idea. So, do I let it ride and risk the rejection letter? Or do I stop my whining and buckle in for the long haul?

What’s your experience with having people you know critique your writing? Do you feel a stranger has enough distance to do a better job?

Don’t ask for a critique unless you want your writing shredded

Writer’s need to develop rhino skin, it’s true. If you want to improve your writing, you will need other writers to critique it. Early and often, you should subject yourself to (constructive) criticism from writers you admire.

“Be careful what you wish for”

Recently, I paid to have a published author of urban fantasy critique my novel. I submitted a two-page synopsis of the novel and the first twenty pages several weeks before our meeting.

Then I took a class “The First Five Pages” and completely rewrote the beginning of my story. What was I thinking?

When I entered the business center a few minutes before my scheduled appointment, I already had an agent’s business card. She wanted the first fifty pages of the novel I had asked this author to critique.

That had to mean my manuscript was read, right? An agent loved the premise and main story and character arc. Time to move to the next level with my book. So, I was reading for whatever this other writer had to say about my manuscript. Right?

I handed Ms. Hughes my new beginning. She read it quickly and commended me on improving the story. She pointed out a few areas where my language might be confusing to my readers.

Top three pages - the other 18 look just as lovely
Top three pages – the other 18 look just as lovely

In front of her, she had the pages I had sent her. White margins no longer existed on the first three pages. Her comments were scrawled everywhere.

First, we discussed my synopsis and how it lacked the essential component of introducing the setting. In a fantasy novel, this is element cannot be overlooked.

“I almost stopped reading when I saw it was a destiny story,” she said. “These have been overdone.”

The context cleared. She read my manuscript with a bias against the premise from the outset. Of course, she realized by the end of the synopsis that this didn’t sound like a “girl must find her destiny” story.

We talked for thirty minutes. She pointed out areas where she was confused. More details need to be added prior.

“It needs more setup,” she said. Then turned to a page where she lined out several paragraphs of setup. “This information isn’t essential at this point. Add it in when she actually goes to the city.”

Too much detail. Not enough detail. Details in the wrong place.

In fact, there are only six sentences in the entire twenty-two pages that she commended. Am I sure I’ve selected the correct career path?

I agreed with 80 percent of what she said.  I was stunned by 20 percent. The fact that my writing style with metaphoric actions can be confusing to fantasy readers stopped me in my tracks. Am I writing in the correct genre? I had to wonder.

She suggested two resources – one for story structure (guess I didn’t have it down after following the advice and guidance of Brooks and Bell) and one for sentence structure. “Your sentence construction is really holding you back.”

At the end, she stated that taking a few classes on world building might be a good next step. “All fantasy writers struggle with this in the beginning.”

Do all of them have an agent’s request for pages of the manuscript lying flayed before them?

What had I gotten myself into? A world of revisions. Or the chance to walk away from this project because it was too far from ready to be read.

If the choice seems obvious to you, come back next Friday to see what other murderous (or manuscript-enhancing) things await this novel I keep touting about on this website and Facebook.

Will Daughter of Water get a second look from me – meaning more rewriting? Or will I choose to toss it in the trash and move on to the next great thing (of which I have 35,000 words currently written)?

Writer’s Conference Reflections

Willamette-Writers2A puff of chocolaty goodness wafts by me when I open the door into the conference area. My mouth waters. Stillness underlies the hum of excited voices.

This is my first writing conference. Professionals attend conferences to network and build skills in their area of expertise. I may be pre-published, but I am a professional writer. Time to break out of my writing solace and enter the business world.

Women outnumber men. The largest demographic seems to be the over 55 crowd. This statistic gives me pause. Did they wait to pursue their dream until life settled down?

Everyone is a stranger and yet, strangely, invisible camaraderie pulls us together. The thread of love for words or creating worlds or setting our imagination free knits the crowd into something amazing.

Gawking like a foreigner, I locate the priority one item on my list. It’s just to the right of the main entrance. Yes, the ladies’ restroom. Who can concentrate on anything when the bladder screams like a crowded rollercoaster?

Highlights from the weekend will be covered in this post. Over the next several weeks, I will embellish on certain points that impacted me the most.

Sessions

The planners organized things according to different segments of writing. On the “TV Guide” schedule of events, categories like “literature,” “genre fiction,” “nonfiction” and “business of writing” head the colorful columns. It’s not surprising that most of my choices come from the literature column.

StoryEnginewebConveniently, that will keep me in the same conference classroom for the entire morning. It’s the room where the amazing Larry Brooks expounded his structural genius. (I found out he grew up in Portland, OR, and went to high school with Sam Eliott – of the Dodge voice track.)

Most of the sessions ask us to participate, which gave them a workshop feel. Write the definition of a premise. List the words you know you overuse in your writing. Things that help attendees ingest the information and immediately apply it to their writing.

Presenters ranged from authors to agents, from editors to social media gurus. Each one shared their expertise and opened themselves to questions about their topic. Some of them even rubbed elbows with the masses after the session.

Panels

The first session I attended was a panel of three agents. For an entire hour, those in the audience could ask any question burning in their minds. To say it was an eye-opening introduction to the writing world might be understating things.

Agents might respond to my query in eight weeks. After I send them the full manuscript, it could be another two to three months before I get the phone call offering representation. Or the rejection letter.

Say I sign with Ms. Ideal Agent. I have a contract. But not a publishing contract. It might take as many as 18 months for my advocate to find the perfect publisher for my novel. 18 months? That’s crazy!

After I get a real contract from a publisher, it could be another 18 months before my book makes the shelves of the Barnes & Noble at the mall. Talk about a LONG process. No wonder so many people are independently or self-publishing.

I’m hardly a mathmetician but that looks like almost three and a half years from original query to holding a published novel in my hand. That’s the math if my first querying attempt nets a manuscript request which leads to agent love. So that whole five year timeline from finished to published makes more sense now.

No wonder people are self publishing books on Amazon like there’s no tomorrow. Five years is more tomorrows than some people have to invest in a writing dream.

Critiques

For an additional fee, writers could submit twenty pages of their manuscript and a short synopsis to an agent, editor or author of their choice. This had to be done six weeks before the conference for best results. Some people walked in with a manuscript to get a critique on the spot, but since the windows for meetings were ten to fifteen minutes, I doubt it could have been in-depth.

I surfed the conference webpage to find someone who wrote or represented my genre. The closest I could find was a writer of adult urban fantasy. I booked her and whipped out a synopsis (which I felt clueless about producing) and submitted the pages.

I was her last appointment for the afternoon because she was presenting a class on hour later. We spent more than 30 minutes discussing my manuscript weaknesses. It was well worth the money spent.

More on this process later.

Pitches

Isn’t being discovered the reason pre-published writers attend conferences? Based on the number of attendees presenting to three or more agents or editors, the answer must be yes.

Fortunately, I attended a session taught by the agent to whom I presented my work. My pitch seemed to already meet her guidelines. It pays off to spend hours researching.

Pitch sessions lasted ten minutes (which is a long time in the real world of pitching ideas). The group of authors entered the room and shuffled to the round table where their industry professional sat waiting.

A surreal process really. More specific details about my own pitching experience in a future post.

Attending this conference opened my eyes to many things about my chosen path:

  • It is packed with thousands of others hoping for the same outcome
  • It takes fortitude to stay the course in the face of rejections
  • I don’t know as much about the craft of writing as I thought
  • The business of writing? I know nothing, Jon Snow.

At this juncture, I intend to attend this conference (or another local one) next year. I hope to network more at that future event. I may need to take a class: “How introverts network with other introverts.”

Is there a specific aspect of the conference you would like me to share information about? Have you attended a conference? What advice do you have to help me build networking skills?

Crushing Critique

TSSBinseller

“Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it,” Clint Eastwood’s character says in Heartbreak Ridge.

A few weeks ago, I was flattered and honored when a writer (and editor) whose work I deeply admire and respect offered to read five pages after I commented on her blog that getting worthwhile critiques seemed impossible.

I really wanted to send her the first five pages of my work in progress. After I spend five days scrubbing the vomit into a semblance of writing I would be willing to claim, I still didn’t feel it was ready for an editor’s eyes.

Instead, I sent her a short story (previously published here) that I submitted to the literary journal at SNHU. Of course, it had been rejected, but the reviews and comments were so contradictory that I had no idea what was really wrong with it.

Aside from giving me her brutal and honest critique (for which I’m grateful), Kristen also used my story for the basis of one of her blogs. Read what she had to say here.

My reaction was comical. I was afraid to read her comments. Then I saw the blog and became defensive.

“I had to write the story in less than 1200 words. I didn’t have time to set the stage.”

We’re great at justification, aren’t we?

The truth: my writing lacks depth. Even though I feel like I have a handle on basic story structure, I’m not able to convey that same sense through my story.

The worst thing was the redundancy. I literally cringed each time she pointed out “you already said that.” I do the same thing on student papers. How did I miss this flaw in my own writing?

Seriously. This story had been written, critiqued, re-written, graded, revised and re-worked, but I still missed the redundant use of words. What do I mean? For example, “ineffectual thrashing” is a phrase I used. Her comment: “Most thrashing is ineffectual.” Duh. What was I doing? Think of the extra words I could have used to set up my basic situation if I hadn’t been wasting them repeating what I already said.

I didn’t agree with all of her commentary because some of the repetition was for effect (but it must not have been very effective, so what did I do wrong?)

I’m glad to know some weak areas to focus on (in the rewriting stages), and I happily ordered one of the books on story structure Kristen recommended. Do I wish she would have liked my writing? Sure. Would having her compliment me have truly been helpful? Not in the least.

Thanks, Kristen, for taking time to give me the constructive feedback I’ll need if I’m ever going to improve my writing to a publishable level.

(This was previously published on my WordPress blog on March 27, 2013. It received a number of likes, so I thought I would put it up for any new followers.)

Crushing Critique

“Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it,” Clint Eastwood’s character says in Heartbreak Ridge.

A few weeks ago, I was flattered and honored when a writer (and editor) whose work I deeply admire and respect offered to read five pages after I commented on her blog that getting worthwhile critiques seemed impossible.

I really wanted to send her the first five pages of my work in progress. After I spend five days scrubbing the vomit into a semblance of writing I would be willing to claim, I still didn’t feel it was ready for an editor’s eyes.

Instead, I sent her a short story (previously published here) that I submitted to the literary journal at SNHU. Of course, it had been rejected, but the reviews and comments were so contradictory that I had no idea what was really wrong with it.

Aside from giving me her brutal and honest critique (for which I’m grateful), Kristen also used my story for the basis of one of her blogs. Read what she had to say here.

My reaction was comical. I was afraid to read her comments. Then I saw the blog and became defensive.

“I had to write the story in less than 1200 words. I didn’t have time to set the stage.”

We’re great at justification, aren’t we?

The truth: my writing lacks depth. Even though I feel like I have a handle on basic story structure, I’m not able to convey that same sense through my story.

The worst thing was the redundancy. I literally cringed each time she pointed out “you already said that.” I do the same thing on student papers. How did I miss this flaw in my own writing?

Seriously. This story had been written, critiqued, re-written, graded, revised and re-worked, but I still missed the redundant use of words. What do I mean? For example, “ineffectual thrashing” is a phrase I used. Her comment: “Most thrashing is ineffectual.” Duh. What was I doing? Think of the extra words I could have used to set up my basic situation if I hadn’t been wasting them repeating what I already said.

I didn’t agree with all of her commentary because some of the repetition was for effect (but it must not have been very effective, so what did I do wrong?)

I’m glad to know some weak areas to focus on (in the rewriting stages), and I happily ordered one of the books on story structure Kristen recommended. Do I wish she would have liked my writing? Sure. Would having her compliment me have truly been helpful? Not in the least.

Thanks, Kristen, for taking time to give me the constructive feedback I’ll need if I’m ever going to improve my writing to a publishable level.