Day Two - November 10th
Saturday's activities began at 8:30 AM, and got down to the business of critiquing almost immediately. A story was read and those who had a comment would make it. Jane was the last to speak. Her ability to critique, to pin-point a specific problem, to make a helpful suggestion is nothing short of genius.
One by one women read their pieces; PB stories or a chapter from a WIP. A few women had Jane read their stories. After three pieces were read and critiqued we'd take a small break.
As I listened to the stories I once again had a fit of doubt. I was hearing some fabulous stories and excellent writing. I was convinced I was out of my league. Again I shuffled through my papers trying to decide which one to read. I was heartened to find the lady I was sitting next to was experiencing the same thing. She leaned over and whispered, that the story she wanted to read was one of her favorites but she don't think it was publishable. She also said she was nervous about reading it.
All too soon she was reading her story. It was hilariously funny! We all agreed it would make a wonderful PB. She was relieved.
And now it was my turn. By this time I knew that none of my stories are anywhere near PB quality. But there was nothing to do except plunge in. I decided to read one of my retold Anansi stories and explained a little bit about the trickster spider.
Being from the Caribbean I've heard Anansi stories. And I have this wonderful old book of Jamaican tales written in Calypso. They are difficult to read and even harder to translate. Because they have a great deal to do with food and its acquisition, one of the problems with the original stories (in this day of PCness) is that the majority of them are violent, bloody and cannibalistic.
I decided to read my little story called "Why Dogs Beg." And I decided to read the conversational parts in Calypso. What was I thinking! My hands were shaking, I'm sure my voice was quivering. But like the woman next to me I was surprised and delighted at how well the story was received. Jane's only comment was that she thought it ended a bit to quickly and she gave me an easy solution to the problem. She also had a publishing suggestion for me.
I had passed through my initiation. I was finally beginning to feel that I might fit in, that I might be among peers. I even began to feel that maybe, just maybe, I might actually be a fairly decent writer.
Somewhere in the middle of our readings lunch was delivered; a boxed lunch containing huge deli sandwiches with pickles, potato chips and a cookie.
After all the stories were read Jane talked about publishers. She went through the list provided by SCBWI and told us what she knew or didn't know about the editors. She warned us it's all terribly arbitrary and subjective. An editor could be having a bad hair day or have gotten out on the wrong side of the bed or may be sick or be having personal problems the day he/she reads your story and summarily rejects it, even if its a wonderful story and worthy of publication. She said editors don't seem to understand how time can affect a writer. By the time they get around to you and your story for editing and/or revisions, you have moved on to something else and it can be quite difficult to get back into the mood to work on the piece they accepted 2 or more years before.
Dinner was served. Linguine and Alfredo sauce, salad, rolls, chicken pieces to go on top of the salad, cheese cake for dessert. At the dinner table we shared stories about our lives, our background, our interests. We were a diverse and eclectic group of individuals, and yet there were things that overlapped. Some of us liked to bird watch and go barefoot. Some of us had lived in the tropics, though in parts of the globe. Some of us had grown up in musical homes. And that got me to talking about my father.
As I told a few stories about the remarkable man he was I realized it was his birthday. On Saturday November 10th he would have been 91 years old. He was being remembered by me on his birthday to a group of writers. Even now, as I write this, four days later, a few tears leak out of my eyes. Eighteen years after his death, I still miss him. But for a moment, around the dinner table he was, in a very real way, right there with me.
Stay tuned for day three.