Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Half and Half

"The only way to write a book, I’m fond of telling people, is to actually write a book. That’s how you write a book."

- Anne Enright, Q & A after a reading from The Gathering, Seattle Public Library, February 19, 2008

Since my last post, I feel like a writer. I love writing. I want to focus on writing. But since I began this blog, I’ve never failed to write a post about a sub day, so I’d feel incomplete if skipped one. I’ve decided this post will be half-teacher and half-writer. Feel free to read the part that interests you more. Or both.

Okay, this is all I’m going to say about the last couple of days subbing gym. I covered for the same absent teacher*, and even though she knew she’d be off for two days, called each absence one at a time. The first day was at the Montessori School. The little ones were happy to see me, so I got more hugs, “Watch me”, and hand holding.

The second day was at the rally** school from last week.

After I parked my car, two middle school girls saw me. One asked, “Are you subbing today?”

I said, “Yes, for gym.”

“Oh!” One girl complained. “I don’t have gym today.”

Her reaction made me feel good.

When I entered the office, the principal asked, “Who are you today?”

That question always makes me laugh because it’s like I’m not the real me when I sub. But it especially makes me laugh when I’m wearing sweatpants and a running jacket. Do I dress this way when I sub Math? Does the woman think I’ve given up on life?

After two kindergartens and one fourth-grade with the gym teacher/coach, I traveled to the Montessori School. After dealing with the three-year-olds for thirty-minutes, it was time for lunch. During lunch, a stomach bug slammed me. I decided to endure the last two classes, and then hurried home to suffer more comfortably.

While I didn’t take myself off the sub list today, I willed the phone not to ring. It was working too, until just before 8 am, when my husband was ushering the kids out the door to take the bus. It read the dreaded “Private Caller”. Technically, I can get calls until 9 am, but I’ve never had a call after 7:15 am. I decided not to take the call. Although I still feel guilty for not taking it, I don’t think I would’ve made it through the day.

My days “off” are supposed to be heavily devoted to writing, but I was supposed to have my critique group tonight. Of the six pieces submitted, two came via e-mail two days before the meeting and one came the day before the meeting. I think that’s unfair. Since Sunday night, all I’ve wanted to do is add muchness to Eve as soon as I realized that she should be muchier. (Read yesterdays post lest you think I’ve lost my mind). Burdening me with last-minute chapters to read delayed work on The Disappearances.

Soon I realized that there was no way I was going to be able to sit through tonight’s critique, so I let the host know.

Although I doubted that I could string two words together, I worked on my manuscript. And worked. I added dimension and growth to Eve and the story. It’s nearly THERE. It feels so good to be in the thick of something again. As soon as this is done, I’m fired up to write something new.

By noon, I couldn’t function so I slept for an hour. When I awoke and checked the laptop, I noticed that The Authoress posted April’s Secret Agent contest. This filled me with dread after the one commenter was mean during the March Secret Agent Contest.

Here’s my new entry, which you may have already seen:

So far, the comments have been positive. There was a request to change the second sentence (which I think KarenG had already suggested in a previous post***). Here’s what it looks like now:

Walmart was the first to disappear. The chain of destruction that began with one local Walmart was something I could never have made up - I’m not that good of a writer.

Like when anything extraordinary happens, it started off as an ordinary night. I sat with my knees folded on the rickety olive recliner, with Adam sprawled at the foot of it. We were supposed to be finishing a boring book by reading alternating chapters and sharing them.

It was also suggested that I delete a later sentence: “That wasn't the sky you'd normally get on a foggy night.” I agreed, and it’s gone.

Better? Worse? What do you think?

This feedback had me thinking about critique groups. Meeting only once a month with six other people – all whom write adult and one who writes fantasy, may not be the best way to spend my time. Although I’ve appreciated their comments, I may do better sticking with quicker feedback from someone who writes in my genre.

Whom do you rely on for feedback?

And speaking of genre, I’m having a difficult time deciding the category for The Disappearances. Any suggestions?

*Same teacher and subject, but different day:

** Rally post:

*** Karen’s advice along, with many other helpful comments:

**** About the mean commenter:


  1. How much class can this one teacher miss?? You are practically doing her job!

    "But it especially makes me laugh when I’m wearing sweatpants and a running jacket. Do I dress this way when I sub Math? Does the woman think I’ve given up on life?"

    This made me laugh out loud and I even read it to my roommate (and she laughed, too).

    I do hope you're feeling better and I'm glad to hear that you are enjoying your writing time (as much as possible when you're ill, anyway).

  2. Don't feel bad about not picking up the phone and missing your critique group. Everyone gets sick sometimes, and even if you're not too sick to go somewhere, it's still good to get a rest and recharge your batteries. Seriously, we all need that sometimes, and I think there's a lot of that going around right now.

    I'm so glad to hear you've made such good progress on your wip - yay!

    Maybe you could look into an online critique group?

  3. Finding the right critique group is tough. Good for you for recognizing that you would get more from working on your stuff rather than sitting through the group. I don't have all the answers but I do now that we have to put our writing first - no matter what.

  4. I think it's great you put your writing on Miss Snark's blog. :o)

  5. Hi

    Oooh I hope your tummy bug is all better now. :-)

    I really thought your first para worked well the first time - I'd maybe just remove "of" in "I'm not that good OF a writer"

    "I'm not that good a writer".

    and having two Walmarts in one para is one too much! :-) I think your first line is the best - it's snappy and immediately puts the reader in the thick of the mystery.

    And I really think the "foggy sky" sentence of your original bulked up the oddness and strangeness of the walmart disappearing.


    Just my opinion as always - it is up to your gut instinct to follow - your inner voice will tell you what works!

    Oh I think this works as YA fantasy.

    Take care and GOOD LUCK!!!!


  6. Hi Theresa, I hope you feeling better.
    I agree with Old Kitty on taking the 'of' out and about keeping the foggy sky sentence, by the way thats the one my daughter liked.
    I would always feel the potential readers would be the best critics for anything we write.
    I think writers can kept caught on technicalities, would you try and find a few people in your target age market that you trust?
    Kids don't tend to lie or try to massage your ego, I find.
    Thats just my tuppence worth, but have faith in your own talent and go with your gut instinct.

  7. I'm sorry you're sick. There's nothing worse when you're a teacher. And I get what you're saying about crit groups. I've had the same betas forever it seems, but when I think of finding or joining a crit group, I break out in a cold sweat.

  8. Tiffany, this is the fifth-time I've subbed for this teacher during this school year. I know that once her child was sick, but I don't know why she was out this week. The nice thing is that she works with someone else, so I'm never alone. It makes it easy, considering I'm dealing with mostly 3, 4, and 5-year olds.

    I'm glad you and your roommate got a laugh.

    Susan, I'm starting to think one-on-one critique may work best for me. Tiffany was looking at Indigo, but now I'm thinking of switching to this WIP. Aubrie also offered to look at it.

    Rebecca, I think you're right. Doing a critique group takes too much time away compared with the benefits.

  9. Niki, I may be a brave or crazy for entering these secret agent contests. I'm not sure! After this, I'll take a break for a few months because I don't have anything new and you cant reenter the same piece for six months.

    Old Kitty, I'll take out the "of". I don't know why I didn't see it before. You and Brigid's daughter like the sentence, so I'll put it back.

    Thanks for leaving a comment at Miss Snark's First Victim's blog.

  10. Brigid, thanks again for showing it to your daughter. Getting input from the target audience is key.

    Sarahjayne, do you break out in a cold sweat because you're worried about feedback or the burden of so many people's work? For me, it's the latter.

  11. I love your first sentence! It really caught my attention and I asked myself: did it really just disappear? Or did it go out of business? What's she talking about?

    And I agree with taking out the second sentence. I love your teen voice. I can tell you work with kids and know how they talk in your writing. :)

  12. Oh, I get the "Who are you today?" question all the time! Sometimes I want to say "Batman" or something ludicrous, just to show them how funny their question is.

    I still like this excerpt, it makes me want to read the book! I think my book is just shy of YA, my characters are mostly in their early twenties, so I still maintain that almost-teen voice to cater to younger adults. So I get a lot of practice in with establishing voice. That being said, if you ever want me to look over any part of your book, I'd be more than happy to. :)

  13. I agree with Kitty and Brigid. I liked the foggy sky, it lent to atmosphere.

    I don't have a critique group. Wish I could find one. But then I don't feel qualified to critique either. I like something or I don't. I liked this.

  14. Aubrie, I'm glad you think I've got the teen voice. When I began writing, I struggled with it.

    Shelley, picturing you saying, "Batman" is great!

    Thank you for offering to look at the manuscript. I may take you and Aubrie up on your offers.

    Ann, I put the clear sky on a foggy night back! It's 3-1 (4 if I count Brigid's daughter).

    You should have a beta reader if not a critique group. You'd be surprised what you see in other people's writing that you don't see in your own. And it makes you a better writer as a result. It's hard when you don't like something to 1) get through it and 2) stay positive for the writer about it.

  15. We made a schedule for one of my crit groups--if you didn't get it in by X day, you didn't get a crit. That worked out well--it eliminated the late person from feeling guilty for being late, and the critiquers from feeling rushed.

    Off to check MSFV now!

  16. I like hearing about your sub days. And we always ask the subs that at our school too: "Who are you today?" :)

  17. Beth, I like the deadline idea. Sending it 24-hours after have a whole month is making it harder on the six other critique members.

    Thanks for leaving a comment at MSVF.

    Elana, the question is valid unless I'm in sweats. Then it should be, "You're subbing gym today?"

  18. Count me in on liking the foggy sky sentence as well.


  19. Bless your heart Theresa. There is nothing I would rather avoid more than a stomach bug....yuck.

    Why didn't the teacher just call in both days? That doesn't make much sense.

    I linked to your blog today my writer on fire bloggin' bud

  20. Thanks, Lola. I'll keep it.

    This like what Stephen King says - if two people like something and two people don't, it's a wash. But if four people don't like something, change it.

  21. VKT, thanks for linking my blog. I think you just posted as I was responding to Lola.

    I don't know why the teacher didn't just take off both days! The other gym teacher knew it the day before, and I was wondering if I'd get the second day. Imagine, I could've slept in!

  22. I just went back to check out the post about the mean comment.....she is just jealous of your no attention to about how many POSITIVE comments you get...!

  23. Thank you, VKT! While that may not have been my best opening, at least everyone else was constructive!

  24. I must admit, I skim over the teaching posts (sorry, I just can't go back to school) and devour your writing posts. I think you're a talented writer, and hope you get more time to write and less teaching! But that's just me.

  25. KarenG, I think people read based on their interests. I guess for my writer-teacher readers, it's good either way. Hopefully.

    Truthfully, I follow more writers than teachers, but I don't know if that's because most of us have found one another on writers' blogs because there are more of them than teachers' blogs.

    I've noticed that my writing posts get more comments.